Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Nowhere, America: Getting Back in Shape

Getting back in shape...

 Kenny's truck pulled in at 6:30 am; just as I knew it would.  I could hear the thundering exhaust of his 1971 Ford Ranger from my kitchen. 

 That big, yellow beast of a truck has been in Kenny's possession since his freshman year in high school.  He gets it muddy, he romps on it and runs it hard; but he also takes very good care of it.  I’m convinced that he has dumped enough money into the beast to buy a brand new truck -- but Kenny wouldn’t dream of getting a new truck.  That Ranger is his baby, his pride and joy.

The damn thing sits tall --- so tall that you almost need a step ladder to get into it; which means its cornering capabilities are all shot to hell.  But, it wasn’t built for speed anyway.  This truck is built for muscle, a blunt force trauma kind of pickup.  It’s large, oversized tires could navigate easily through thick, deep mud and pancake dimwits and large, unsuspecting animals.
 A tow package in the back and winch in the front with a heavy black grill guard that would remind you of something out of a mad max movie, the beast has earned it’s keep by providing Kenny a rather lucrative side business.

 On the outskirts of town is a road simply known as the “Y”.  The left fork of the Y is just another quiet dirt road that leads to one long stretch of fields after another with the occasional house along the dusty way.  The right fork --- well, I honestly have no idea where it goes.  On a rainy day the right fork becomes a quagmire; a marshland siren whose irresistible calls sings out to all those who firmly believed that they had in their possession an off road vehicle worthy of its swampy terrain.

 Having never (until very recently) owned a truck, I knew that I was not worthy of such a challenge and so never bothered to find out where the right fork of the Y actually went.

 Kenny, on the other hand, had driven his old Ranger through it several times.  After a while, perhaps out of boredom, he quit plowing through the mud with his truck and just hung out and watched everyone else try to navigate the Y.  More often than not some poor soul would succumb to the deep, muddy Y and for a small twenty dollar fee; Kenny would hook the latest victim up to his beast and pull them out of the morass.

 Most of the time it was someone from out of town who had heard about the legendary Y that Kenny would make his money on. 

 Any weekend that it rained, Kenny would drive out to the Y and see if there was any money to be made.  It was usually Saturday night when he got most of his business.  It never failed, whenever somebody from out of town began to brag about their truck one of the locals would challenge this person to take on the Y.  If this person said no, then he was not deemed a true truck owner by said locals, asserting that the truck in question was just for show and “too fancy” to git ‘er perty little fenders dirty.....(Yeah, none of the boys are ashamed to admit that they love baiting the hook.)
 If anyone did accept the challenge Kenny was sure to receive a phone call.

 “Bring your truck, Kenny.  This boy ain't got a shot in hell.”

 I truly believe that Kenny will hang on to the old Ford even after it has fired up for the last time.  In fact it wouldn't surprise me in the least if he were to request to be buried in it.  I don't get the attachment, but, I guess I'm not a true truck owner.

 “Mornin'” I said.

 “And a good mornin' to you,” said Kenny, “What do we have here, sausage and eggs?  Awesome!!!  Got some rice cooking?”

 “Already done.  Hot sauce is in the fridge.”

 “What about you?” asked Kenny, “Not hungry?”

 “No.  I thought I'd eat after I finished my run.”

 “Good. (belch)  That's what I like to hear.  You go on ahead, I'll clean up here and then get to work.”

 “Just leave the dishes in the sink; I can take care of it.  Besides, you’re doing more than enough already.  Did you manage to get everything into the back of the truck?”

 “Oh yeah.  I'll have your home gym set up in no time.  You still want it in the shop down east, right?”

 Dammit.  Why does he always do that?  Kenny knows damn good and well that I have no sense of direction.   If you were to drop me off in the middle of an unfamiliar field on a cloudy day and tell me to head west to get home then you better have a search party ready to find me, ‘cause it ain't happening.  It's safe to say that I have no future in the Pathfinders.

 Did I just say “ain't”?  Wow.  I’m unintentionally reverting back to old ways.  I guess I really am home.

 “I'm messing with ya.” said Kenny, “I know where you want it.  I just can't figure out how in the hell someone who grew up in a small farming community can't have a sense of direction”

 “Yeah, I gave up trying to figure that out.” I said, “What do I owe you for this?”

 “I got it for free,” said Kenny, “Slim, or should I say Slim's wife, needed it out of the basement.  All I had to do was pick it up.”

 “Yeah, but you're still going to assemble it.” I said, “I need to at least pay you something.”

 “You just get your ass off the couch and use it and that will be payment enough.  Exercise is good for the soul.”

 That is unless you're exercising with Kenny.  Out of the four boys, Kenny was by far the most athletic.  He's not very tall but he has wide shoulders packed with muscle and he's quicker than all get out. His thick, heavy hands, if you are ever unfortunate enough to get hit by them, are like bricks.
 He would have made a good wrestler, if our small 2A school would have had wrestling.  He would have made a really good running back --- if he would have had any interest in going out for football -- or any sport for that matter.

 But Kenny had absolutely no interest in sports.  It was just him, the garage, and that 71 Ford Ranger.  It’s a wonder that he didn’t marry that old pickup.

 Since he got out of high school he has taken up running, lifting weights, and scuba diving.  I've tried to do all three with him and found that I had neither the strength nor the endurance to keep up.

 He would go on six mile “Motivational” runs to start his day.  He would lift weights until his muscles twitched and burned.  He knows nothing about moderation; it's always go hard or go home.
 Me?  I do just enough to not have a beer belly.

 “You know,” said Kenny, “That incident at the gym was a freak deal. In all my years of working out I have never had that happen to me.”

 “Dude, it was vile.  I'm never going to that or any other gym again.”

 “I know, I know.  That's why I'm here now to put together your home gym.”

 Kenny had talked me into going to the gym after work as a way (in his mind) to not only get in shape but to get in what he refers to as some much needed social interaction as well.

 Yeah, the social interaction part, at least until the incident right before I quit going, never happened.  Just like at work when I'm writing my code, I put in my ear phones and tune out the rest of the world.

 When I'm at work, I have a job to do and idle chit chat does nothing but keep me from my work.  I find chit chat at work most aggravating.  I have deadlines dammit, and I simply must stay on task.

 I have the same approach at the gym.  I'm there to do a workout; to be in, out, and gone in one hour or less.  I don't have time to socialize.....Not that I really want to.

 I especially don't want to talk to any of the women there.  My list of awkward social failures with the opposite sex is painfully long.  Small talk with strange men that I don't know is difficult.  Small talk with a woman is virtually impossible.  It's even worse if she's beautiful, but if you add intelligent on top of that?  I turn into a dim witted, stuttering moron.  I'm not afraid to admit it.  I'm intimidated by a smart, beautiful woman.

So the day I brought Lacey home (who is, by the way, beautiful and extremely smart) to meet the family you'd have thought that I had won the lottery, cured a disease, maybe saved the world, or all three simultaneously.  My family treated Lacey as if she was royalty and my mom (in a near state of euphoria) correlated me getting a girl friend to that of finding the Holy Grail. Later she would pull me off to the side and told me that if I screwed this up that she was going to have me tarred, feathered, and shackled to a river bank for all to see. Well, okay then.

Yeah...It's safe to say that, before Lacey, my family was a little worried about me. 

But I’m drifting off topic here….Back to the gym.

 So I make sure that I have my ear phones in as I'm walking into the gym.  I don't want to talk.  I just want to do what I have to do and get the hell out.

 By the end of my first week at the gym a middle aged gentlemen was desperately trying to make my acquaintance.  He would wave and smile.  I would wave, grimace, and bury my ear phones deeper into my ears.  That's as far as this bit of social interaction is going to go, buddy.

 But my new (can I be your) friend was persistent.  Every day that I went to the gym the man made sure to wave and say hi. I would wave, smirk/grimace, and continue to go about my day.

 He seemed like a nice enough man who had sadly fallen out of touch with today's fashion trends.  Not that I'm really all that judgmental about what people wear. It will not matter what the trends of the day are, I will always wear my flannel shirts and carpenter's pants --- it is what I'm comfortable in.

 But this man kind of stood out with his short shorts, knee high socks, head and wrist bands.  Rest assured folks, a chick magnet he was not.  And the severe comb over did nothing to help in the way of attracting the ladies.

 Then a terrible thought occurred to me.  Can he see through me?  Does he recognize that I'm socially inept, and so, feels that he has found a kindred spirit with which to hang out with?

 If I bury my ear phones any deeper into my ears I'm going to rupture an ear drum.....

 This awkward hello/goodbye routine went on for a couple of weeks.  Then that horrible, horrible ---- horrible --- awful day reared its ugly head.

 I was getting ready to enter front door of the gym when I reached into my back pack for my ear phones ---- they weren't in there.

 A wave of panic crashed heavily upon me the instant I realized that I had left my precious ear phones at work.  I was Linus without his blanket or, perhaps more accurately, Gollum without his precious.  I broke out in a cold sweat.

 What am I gonna do?  What am I gonna do?

 The gym beyond the double doors had abruptly turned into a social mine field.

 “Excuse me.”

 I jump back, startled.  I turn around to see a cute little blonde with a perfect smile.  My stomach lurched and I could feel my hair raising on my head.

 “I'm sorry,” she giggled, “Did I scare you?”

 “Um, uh.....yeah.” Jesus, you idiot, think!!!! “I was um, d-daydreaming.”

 “Yeah, I do that all the time.”

 My God, she's beautiful; with green eyes.  In my book green eyes automatically turns a woman into goddess.  I'm going to throw up.

 “Can I get by you?' she asked.

 “OH....yeah, yeah.  Here, let me get the door for you.”

 I opened the door, slamming it into my own foot.  As she walked by she smiled that perfect smile and flashed those sparkling green eyes.

 “Thank you.”

 “Sure....er, I mean, you’re welcome.”

 I closed the door behind her.....I’m going to shit my pants.

 I can't do this.....I can't do this.


 I touch the wedding band on my finger and found comfort in it; odd considering I walked out on the relationship – the only relationship that I'm quite certain I'll ever have for the rest of my life.

 Then I hear Lacey's voice, “Kyle, you can't shut out the whole world.  You have to go out and see what it has to offer.”

 See what it has to offer......Right.

I mean, let's be rational about this.  No decent woman is going to take the time to talk to a married man, right? Right….The ring is my social savior.

 And what about the men?  My only hope is that they like talking about baseball.  I at least have my Cubs hat on, so maybe if I have to talk to another guy, he will pick up on it.

 I walk through the lobby like a man who looked as though he's desperately trying to not pass out.  Well, at least that's how I felt I looked.  I get in and out of the locker room as fast as I can and make my way to the bench.  I feel fortunate that today is a chest day; which happens to be the quickest of all my workouts.  Maybe I should do just three sets instead of four; that would get me out of here even faster.

 I've always been a low weight, high reps, kind of guy.  The overriding reason for this approach is that I don't need anyone to spot me.  I work best alone and my goal to keep it that way.

 But I could already tell that my well planned out routine was not going to happen today.  My middle aged, shorty shorts, comb over, friend noticed that I was not wearing my ear phones on this day.  To my complete dismay, I could see the flash of excitement in his eyes as he planned his next move.

 He waved and said hello, (that would be the first time I actually heard his voice) and I nodded as I put a 45 pound plate on one end of the bar.

 “Chest day?”  Shorty shorts asked with an almost creepy smile.

 “Yup.” I grudgingly answered.  Monday is always chest day and I'm quite certain that you are already aware of that Captain Comb Over.  Now if you would kindly let me be.....

 “You know,” (shit, here we go) “I've noticed that I have never seen you max out.  I could be your workout partner if you ever want to do that.”

 “Um, thanks, but I'm a low weight, high reps kind of guy.”

 “Ah, built for endurance,” said Shorty Shorts, “That's cool.  But wouldn't you at least like to know how strong you are?  It's a good thing to do every once in a while to gauge your progress.”

 Progress towards what?  I'm not planning on trying out for a football team or anything.  I just don't want to have a beer gut.

 The look on the guys face absolutely reeked of (perceived) desperation.....Will you be my friend?
 Despite how badly I want nothing to do with the man I just don't have it in me to be an asshole.  I would rather endure a few moments out of my comfort zone than to make someone feel like shit.

 Being an introvert, there are enough people as it is in this world that think of me as a stuck up prick, I don't suppose I need to add another individual to that long list on this day.

 “Um, okay.  I suppose it wouldn't hurt to deviate from the normal routine today.”

 Shorty Shorts claps his hand together, gives me a thumbs up and an ultra cheesy car salesman smile.  I feel, aside from massive regret, a slight tinge of self-consciousness and embarrassment as it feels like everyone in the room has focused their undivided attention on the two dorks about to play he-man on the bench press.

 “That's the spirit....Change is good.”

 No, Captain Comb over, change is most definitely NOT good.  Change throws me off task and screws up my well planned routine.  It's change that completely screwed up my life and has nearly turned me into a basket case.  It's change that has cost me my marriage and the best thing that ever happened to me.  It's change that.....

 “SO!!!!”  (Shit!  I’m startled out of my daydream and back to painful reality) “What weight would you like to start at?  I see you start every workout with 135.”

 “Um, yeah.” Yes. I start every bench routine at 135; WHICH IS WHAT I SHOULD BE DOING NOW!!!! “I really don't know.  I haven't maxed in a long time.”

 “Well,” said Shorty Shorts as he rubs his chin and, I’m guessing, making his best attempt at looking thoughtful, “How many sets do you do and reps for each set?”

 “Four sets at fifteen, twelve, ten, and eight with thirty seconds of rest in between.”

 “Ok, ok....That's pretty good.  You want to try 185 and see how it feels?”

 “An extra fifty pounds?” I ask dubiously. “That seems like quite a jump.”

 “Dude, if your popping fifteen reps at 135 then 185 isn't going to be a problem.  Besides, I'm spottin' ya.  You've got nothing to worry about.”

 “Um, well, ok.”

 It turns out that Shorty Shorts was right.  One hundred and eight five pounds was actually pretty easy.  I felt an incredible surge of confidence as I pressed the bar up and effortlessly put it back onto the rack.

 The only thing that I felt was strange about the whole thing was how Shorty Shorts spotted me.  Most spotters stand directly behind you; Shorty Shorts stepped over and straddled the bar coming out from the bottom side of the bench; positioning him off to one side of me.  I wasn't sure how he planned to pick up the bar if I lost it. I was of the opinion that he had placed himself in an awkward position and, fearing the possibility of a bar slamming down on my throat, I decided that I would go a little bit less than what I felt my max would be......Better to be safe than sorry.

 “Hell, that looked easy,” said Shorty Shorts as he gave me a high five. (Awkward) “How about giving two hundred a shot?”

 “Oh, yeah.  I think I can do that.”

 Suddenly, the anguish and anxiety of deviating from my routine had given way to a sense of achievement and optimism.  I actually found myself excited for the next attempt.

 The two hundred went on and I laid back on the bench as Shorty Shorts took up his unorthodox spotting position.

 “Ready?”  asked Shorty Shorts.

 “Yeah, I got this.”

 I took the bar off the rack --- and it felt good --- I totally had this.  I lowered the bar to my chest but, for reasons unbeknownst to me; I looked off to the side towards Shorty Shorts as the bar touched my chest.

 There.......Right there, inches away from my face, I discovered that Shorty Shorts was not only sporting shorty shorts, but sporting shorty shorts sans underwear.  What dangled before me will forever scar me; a reason for years of intense therapy;  the stuff of nightmares.

 It felt as though I had come face to crotch with the world's largest scrotum.  It just hung there like a deflated punching bag ---- wrinkled --- hairy ---- purple ---- ugly.

 I turned my face away and held my breath.  The thought off accidentally inhaling a loose hair mortified me. (I know, disgusting....I can't help that that is what I thought)  I pressed the bar up as hard as I could, slammed it into the rack, and tried not to think about throwing up.

 I practically launched myself up from the bench....I felt sick....real sick.

 “Man, dude,” squelched Shorty Shorts, “You made that look easy.  You wanna go for 220?”

 “Um, uh.....” shit, Kyle, think....”I better not.  I felt a little pop in my shoulder.”

 “Ah, that's too bad,” said Dangly Ugly Scrotum Man, “Maybe next time.”

 “Yeah, yeah......We'll get it next time.  I'm gonna hit the can.  I'll be back.”

 “Alright man.  I'll hold your spot for ya.”

 Right.  You do that.

 I high tailed my ass into the locker room, grabbed all my shit, and booked it out the door.  That was enough social interaction for one day and, quite possibly, forever.

 Needless to say, I haven't been back since.  It's the home gym for me from here on out.  My workout, my schedule, my routine.........and no ugly scrotums......

 Ugh.....I feel kinda sick.....