Monday, June 9, 2014

Can I work in?

As you can see, I'm back at the gym.

No, that's not a selfie.

For the last 7 years I had been swimming, 5 days a week, at the Playa Vista Condo Complex. They have an outstanding outdoor heated pool that is virtually unused by the complex's 7500 residents. On many occasion I found I had the whole pool to myself. If it weren't for guard by the gate I would have taken advantage of the solitude and swam in the buff.

But last week, much to my dismay, my brother up and left for an apartment in downtown, so he wouldn't have to commute on the Santa Monica freeway.

There are many things we Angelenos do to avoid spending time on the freeway. I'd let them amputate one of my toes for example if it meant never having to get on the 405.

Fortunately there is an LA Fitness Center right across the street from Playa Vista. And they have an outdoor pool. A more crowded pool with cloudier, dirtier water, but a pool nonetheless.

So I did what I swore I'd never do again, I joined the gym. I know in Los Angeles they like to call them health clubs, but for this upstate New Yorker they're gyms. And I hate gyms.

My aversion to gym culture was grown right here in Southern California.

Years ago, I worked next door to the Gold's Gym in Venice. This was, and is, the Mecca of bodybuilding. Chiat/Day employees were offered a 50% discount on memberships so I opted in and spent my lunch hours grunting it out with guys who eat metal plates for breakfast.

It was quite humbling.

Once, on a shoulder day, I was benching somewhere between 225-235 lbs., a woman with a jaw that looked like one of those cement barriers set outside a foreign embassy in places like Yemen, asked if she could work in with me. She promptly loaded up the barbell with 300 pounds and emasculated me with a simple, "No, I don't need a spot."

Anyway, now I'm back at a gym. With the musty smells.The sleazy salesman. And the mirror-hogging preeners.

Last week, as I was getting dressed, I watched a guy concoct some kind of protein shake in his handheld manual protein shake maker. He carefully measured out the powdered Ornithine, sprinkled in some Arginine, a handful of whey, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and jigger of liquified rhino toenail.

That's the other thing people in Los Angles will do. They'll swallow anything and everything if they think it will make them look and feel younger. Not healthier, younger. You know, for their next glossy 8X10 headshot.

With all the ingredients in the mixer. He removed his shirt, stood in front of the mirror and began shaking the elixir. Not just shaking it. He literally genuflected in what was clearly a well-rehearsed routine. He'd shake the cocktail above his head, then bring it just below his waist. And then, at shoulder height, he'd shake to his left and then to his right.

It was a little Zumba. A little OCD. A little sickening self-admiration.

As you might expect, it went on for minutes. It could still be going on right now.

As I left the gym, I was tempted to make some snarky remark to Mr.Watch-Me-Make-My-Lunch but the guy looked a little like the one in the picture above and I thought better of it.


Alan Berkes said...

Rich, you're making me reminisce about my days at Gold's with the same jaws you encountered. It was fun to "pump" up at lunch with the real "Hulk" Hogan and the fake "Hulk" Lou Ferrigno.

Jeff said...

I don't remember giving you permission to use my picture. Alright, I'll let it go this time.