What I see on the rails to trails.

What I see on the rails to trails. But this story isn’t about deer.

The old lady’s neck is as big as her head, and her husband has my morning routine memorized.  They had joined the gym in summer when I was jogging the local rails to trails.

“Cutting your run short today, eh?  I can tell ‘cause your face isn’t red.”  Okay, old man.  I don’t need you calling me out on my general sloth-like nature or my face.

“Finally wore pants today!  It is just a little cold out there.”  Nosey old woman!  Maybe she, in the process of building that block head/neck over the last 70 years had already learned that running shorts and -2° are bad for business, for lady business.

Yes, they weirded me out.  At first.  But these old people have been looking out for me, so woefully young and naïve at 33.  Gradually, I have opened up with them about the weekend forecast, and they have confided in me about poor gym etiquette.

“He was hopping around here like a flea!  I told him you gotta wipe stuff down.  He said he don’t sweat.”  She rolled her eyes as she said it.  I tried to be outraged, but it was hard to hear over my own blood pressure.

“Who doesn’t sweat in here?  I sure do!”  That was my reply.  She was working her deltoids while her hubs was on the incline press machine.  I noticed their jeans and knew I was the only one with blurred vision and streams running toward my crack.  We all mutually dropped the conversation in favor of annoyance at the discourteous, new “flea.”

This has become my routine.  I go to the gym, where their 1994 Chrysler minivan is parked next to the door.  She greets me with some degree of sarcasm regarding my attire and the cold.  He says hello while giving me side-eye so he knows how hard I’m working.  We watch Kickin’ It with Kenny on Cleveland Fox 8’s morning show (today, Kenny was at a pottery/design studio in Lakewood (Kenny has to work extra hard to make up for the morning show lady who used a racial slur earlier in the week (Yeah, I know))).  The old folks and me, we have this chemistry like old, wet dynamite!  There are 2-5 other gym-goers who make up the 7am regulars.

Change is good, they say.  If your sideburns take up half of your face or your socks maintain the shape of your foot without an appendage in them, change is very

good.  When your fitness gym merges with the medical rehab gym?

I heard a clatter in the stall while changing my pants and thawing my water bottle in the sink.  I knew it was the old lady because that’s the kind of bond we have now.

“Full house,” she said as she shimmied out of a stall.  The parking lot had been unusually full.  I agreed and asked what was going on.  “People down from the rehab place, I guess.  They get a cheap membership. Froze your water again?”

My shoes because they take me places.

My shoes because they take me places.

None of this was news because it had already been news.  I work in a town of 4,000, and it’s the biggest town in the county.  What doesn’t make the paper, makes the local gossip.  But this transition had made the paper.  Farmers losing the odd body part to a greedy piece of farm machinery or strange haircuts are fodder for gossip.  Redefined gym/rehab?  No problem.  I spent all of my life with a mobility impaired parent and half of my life pushing 350lbs worth of the other parent through public places in a wheelchair.  I respect the tenacity and courage it takes to keep moving when moving becomes hard for whatever reason.  That is my philosophy.

Philosophies are so beautiful in the head but evaporate when a half-crippled elderly man almost rolls the stationary bike on top of himself.  Twice.  I mean, absolutely the 40-something, Selleck-stache-donning regular who climbed on a treadmill was flashy.  But did the old dude next to him have something to prove?  The old man stopped his treadmill, stuck his arm through his man purse, and stood watching the ‘stache for long enough to make me uncomfortable.  Was my turn coming?  Yes.  Why did a crusty fellow stand at the back corner of my treadmill for a full minute?  I don’t know.  I told myself not to worry.  Geriatrics know how to manage themselves as evidenced by my other two senior gym friends.  The side-eyeing, routine-memorizing, whip-cracking old man friend of mine manages even if modern social cues are a mystery to him.

I tried to block it all out.  I tried to watch Kenny and listen to my run mix.  I tried to believe the best about people and their capabilities.  I worried about how long it would be before a hip broke.  Shouldn’t they have had spotters working the recumbent bikes?  Where were the seatbelts and helmets?  Ellipticals should have been rolled out to the curb.  The older folks were hobbling around down there with their jeans and adaptive devices as Contemporary Christian blared, and the triumph of humankind reduced to shriveled limbs being flung over gym equipment with hopes for the best.  I let my stress pound out of my feet while keeping fingers poised over 911.

Change happens.  My original old people are still there setting the standard.  He has started wearing those pants that unzip around the knee, but he keeps it classy.  She’s wearing old-school Reeboks with her American flag tee.  I look young and supple.  And if I have to sit in my car after my morning run to make sure the bow-legged octogenarian limping along while carrying his cane makes it to his vehicle without serious catastrophe, then that’s my new routine.  Even though donuts go straight to the thighs, time and gravity are the real villains.  But this is a feel good story.  Go help an elderly person onto a stationary bike, and be fulfilled.


The Day My Gym Went Denim

Of Age and Indigestion

At 33, lines, gray hairs, and saggy skin are creeping into my mirror.  It’s crap really.  In some kind of ultra-mature (totally naïve) decision-making scheme, I never exploited this body when it should have been exploited.  No booty shorts, no grinding, no alcoholic binges followed by haphazard pees in bushes.  And my lack of embarrassing, drunken, hormonal, stupid, peer-pressure-driven regrets is one of my biggest regrets.  When the dude finished my ear piercing after my last birthday and declared, “Whoa, you clot crazy fast,” I realized that I’ve been missing out.  In what shenanigans could I have engaged and never would have had to consider bleeding to death as a possible outcome?

While I was working an event today, an older woman stopped mid-sentence and said to me, “You’re so pretty.  I’m sorry if I’ve embarrassed you, but I try to say kind things when I think of them.”  I’m sure I had blushed, which in itself demonstrates that I have not had enough mornings waking up naked and drooling beside a hairy stranger.  Those compliments will be fewer as I shift into a more mature woman—-if a more mature me is possible.  More than that, her compliment reminded me that after spending the last 10 years of my life caring for my chronically ill parents, my focus has moved beyond the gray hair I see in the mirror and body shot fantasies and into the realm of self-improvement, that kind in which I too try to share kindness with others and even share my chocolate chips.  Words like intentional and gratitude have entered my vocabulary alongside skank and curses.  Beer is no longer worth the bloat.  Naked strangers are not worth the risk.  Orange juice and ibuprofen work up an ulcer, but I take them together regardless.  I run not for fun or for exercise but for sanity.  This is full-blown middle-age.

What do I really regret?  Instead of telling me I’m pretty, I wish someone had said, “Why so serious?”  Couldn’t someone have told me that you can choose not to take risks, but hard things will still happen?  People you love will pass away, whether from your immediate, ever-changing life or from their own stilling hearts.  Individuals you love with your whole self will let you down.  Beloved cats and dreams will get squashed.  Cancer might grow.  Gray hair sure as hell will.  Babies may or may not come into being.  Muffin-tops will triumph.  Weird hair that disgusts you will grow on your body in places you’d rather not inspect.  Your mother’s sayings will make sense, and you will find yourself telling people, “Fish and friends stink after three days.”  You’ll drive the speed limit because tickets and gas both cost too much.  Sharing tales of indigestion will become a bonding experience among peers.  Dancing in costume with a period English country dance group will seem like a decent way to spend the weekend.  And even with your incredible clotting speeds, you will still wonder which activities may result in bleeding to death.

500 words later, what I really want to say is, why so serious, people?  We’re all somewhere on the spectrum of age, responsibility, and maturity.  Until we gasp out that final fog of carbon dioxide, there’s time to craft a life we love with people we love.  Priorities and perspectives shift to bring new ways of existing into focus.  There is time to wear halter tops and highlight your hair along with expressing care and achieving goals.  And if you don’t believe me, if you don’t think it’s true, if you don’t see that life instead of death should be our motivator despite droopy appendages reminding us of mortality, we can talk about what Doritos do to my digestion.  You’d have to be a deity not to have a wrecked colon after eating those.

What’s in a blog?

What do people blog about?  I don’t know, as it happens.  It is a cold, rainy day in rural Ohio, and immediately after driving in to my office to think over the merits of chocolate, peanut butter, and blogging, the pervy music store owner across the street decided to broadcast Christmas saxophone slow jams through this tiny town. There are very few things that will disrupt my concentration more quickly than “O Holy Night” being soulfully rendered on a woodwind.  So until I am capable of organzizing real words in a worthy bloggity blog, I will drop a couple of thoughts here like dropping a couple of kids off at the pool.

Things that I believe are worth considering:

Cats wearing tiny pants.

Alligators with dentures.

Balding alpacas experiencing hair-loss only on their heads.

Do we wash pants because they are dirty from the inside out or outside in? And why don’t some people understand that if pants experience dirt from either internal or external sources, they should be washed?

If contemporary Christian music is playing in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it sound just as terrible?

In describing someone about to open a business, I used the phrase “pregnant with capitalism.” Using medium to large-sized words in a sentence will always make you feel smart.

In America, we often talk about following our dreams and hanging on to our dreams.  Last night, some very tiny chickens laid eggs the size of their own bodies, and I felt really disturbed.  That’s a dream that I’d like to let go of.

Speaking of eggs.  Women think they have it tough.  What if we laid eggs?  Add that to the list of socially awkward bodily functions, and suddenly all other lady business looks like a stroll in the park—albeit a cramp-crippled stroll of rage through a park with a chipping, lead-painted merry-go-round.

Is anything offensive to a dog?