The Economist vs. US Weekly


To me, life is a tug-of-war, a daily struggle between the gym and the bar.

It’s yin vs. yang, boy vs. girl, right vs. wrong.  It’s all the classic questions:  Mary Ann vs. Ginger, Coke vs. Pepsi, Betty vs. Veronica.  It’s the gym vs. the bar.

And for anyone knows me, the obvious answer is The Bar.  But lately I’ve logging more time in The Gym.  (Boo!)

Or that?

To me, the gym is P.E., and I was never any good–  I deeply disliked–  P.E.  If you’re a theatre geek (even if you’re one who played Little League and wasn’t half bad at basketball, elbowing out your pint-sized opposing teammates; even if you obviously love MLB), you generally dislike P.E.  You’re not gonna shine.  You’re gonna suck at organized volleyball and track and dodgeball, no matter how much you want to be good at the last one.  You’re gonna jump up in elementary gym out of excitement that we’re using the parachute, land flat on your back, knock the wind out of you, and have to go to the hospital.  (So I’ve heard.  I’ve heard.)  You’re gonna look like an idiot in the high school locker room in short shorts, discussing the fall play.  You’re gonna suck at P.E.

And make no mistake about it, the gym is self-mandated P.E. for adults.  It’s eating your brocoli, calling your least favorite relative on their birthday, being an adult.  It’s stretching and weightlifting and hoping you don’t get creamed by a bus on the way out, because Jesus, this would all be for naught?!

Gyms are odd when you think about, aren’t they?  There’s a whole beautiful world outside there, and we stay inside stuffy, sweaty rooms with poor lights, clothed in Spandex (I mean, What?!  Not me) trying to lift 50 25 10 pounds while trying to figure out what the hell Regis and Kelly laughing at on the muted TV.

Oh, sure, there are some people who love gyms–  ‘gym rats’ and people who invariable call that hour on the treadmill “their time”.  Personally, I’d rather curl up with a good book on the deck, catch an episode of Family Guy, or, you know, actually be in a bar.

I’ve joined and quit and joined gyms again along the way.  The Bally’s on Sunset in Hollywood is not where you want to work out; it’s all super-buff-actor-poseurs who will depress you before you even step on the treadmill.  The Bally’s in Hoboken is not where you want to work out; it’s all super-buff-Jersey-frat-heads who will depress you before you even step on the treadmill.  The Crunch in West Hollywood is not where you want to work out; it’s all super-buff-steroid-using-gays-and-their-skinny-model-friends-who-vomit-up-lunch-chickadees who will depress you before you even step on the treadmill.  Sense a pattern here?  (I will admit that going to the gym got easier when I switched the iPod from KCRW’s fascinating but sometimes dry The Treatment podcast to, say, the Killers, MGMT, or hard-driving Springsteen.)

Currently I’m working out at a gym I’ve been a sporadic member at over the years, whenever I’ve dwelled on the East Coast.  It’s a nice gym, not too big, with good, well-maintained equipment.  It’s populated by female divorcees whose idea of a splurge meal is adding Crystal Light to their Smart Water.  My main quibble is there’s only one Precor, but that’s only because I can handle the Precor–  you catch the half-hour Baseball Tonight‘s on, and it almost–  almost–  makes the gym pleasurable.  On Monday mornings at 8 am (yup, the alarm goes off and I think, Damn you, Sunday Night Baseball!), I’m meeting my trainer, a very nice college student / football player who probably doesn’t understand that he’s killing me slowly.  I mean, this guy weighs around 265 pounds of pure muscle and loves a good seven hour run in the AM for “energetic fun”; my body in life can be traced through two developments:  skinny-as-a-rod, E.T.-chest to You’re-too-young-to-have-a-drinkin’-gut-and-Vince-Vaughn-puffy-face.  My trainer (a super nice guy, a super good trainer) doesn’t understand why I’m usually exhausted by the half-hour mark.  I’ve never told him about the time, after our session, I just sat in the car, breathed heavily, and tried not to pass out.  One day I’m going to take him to the bar, and we’re going to see how he does.

See, I guess that’s the crux of the push-and-pull:  In a gym, I’m struggling.  I’ve got little to offer, and I absolutely can’t compete with, Holy crap, the guy over there, how did he lift that?!  But at a bar:  I can sip a dry gin martini, I can serve up a quip–  that, I can do.  (Today at the gym they played Michael Buble’s “Just Haven’t Met You Yet”.  Um, I like Frank Sinatra, I like Harry Connick, Jr., I like Michael Buble–  but that’s bar music.  Trying to life weights to Michael Buble is like trying to drink to–  well, I don’t know any hip club-techno musicians, but you know what I mean.)

The gym is all duty, obligation, this-will-pay-off-in-the-long-run.  The bar is all sexy, fun, this-is-good-for-me-right-now.  Like I said, it perfectly encapsulates a myriad of daily tug-of-wars (not the least of is, salad-vs.-steak).  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to chug a Poland Spring and pretend I’m somewhere swankier than the kitchen.  Maybe I’ll turn up the Buble.

Longtime readers of the blog know that when I haven't got an appropriate photo, I tip my hat to Ken Levine and post one of Jennifer Aniston. Here she is surrounded by people who are obviously no stranger to the gym.


2 Responses to “The Economist vs. US Weekly”

  1. Rock Solid Says:

    Thank you, Wally, for plumbing the depths of your insanity for our reading pleasure. Please, allow me to trot out this old chestnut, “Comedy is tragedy happening to… Wally.”

  2. The Wall of Lobster « Wally's Blog Says:

    […] year (I’ve been watching what I eat, I’ve been watching what I drink, I go to the gym in the mornings–  I’ve never felt worse) the simple goal was to break my own record.  I started […]

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