My first gym was the cellar of a carpet dealership which had discovered, inconveniently late, that the premises they had leased tended to flood in the rain. This is bad for carpet, so they sub-let to four guys who imported a lot of used, rugged weight equipment and tailored their membership fees and marketing to people who didn’t mind working out in a place that squelched occasionally. It whiffed of mildew and jockstraps on the best of days. I loved it. There was no bullshit involved and the only media technology was a speaker hookup that delivered the local classic rock station. Not my idea of music, really, but the Top 40 of that era are still etched in my memory, as are countless Greaseman monologues.
Fast forward to 2012 and the place I signed up after the Weight Room closed. What used to be a muscle gym has submitted to a franchising deal involving various soothing amenities like a set of massage chairs (forsooth) and a Tootsie Roll dish on the front counter. Don’t get me started on this, just don’t. They also have — it was really going on before the franchise deal — an array of television screens all round the place, which used to just upchuck a tired loop of music videos but now flail us with Fox, CNN, and various cable stations carrying the money channel, infomercials, Dr. Oz, ESPN, some clone of Jerry Springer, Court TV, and what I think is the TNT drama network. During the hours I am in there the TNT screen usually features what I think of as the Gay Vampire Hunters, since it is some show about supernatural hooey with no women in the cast but a lot of men who favor one another with exhausted, meaningful gazes.
What all this has to do with working out I have absolutely no clue. In front of the “cardio” machines, soi disant, there is a place for this sort of thing but in the area where people are at risk of dropping an Olympic bar on their chests (if they are doing it right) who the fuck needs a soap opera?
I once again think of Aldous Huxley’s animadversion about radio dramas, in which he noted morosely that Americans were becoming conditioned to expect “daily, or even hourly, emotional enemas.”
Trust an erudite Brit to find such a circumlocutive phrase for a load of crap. Lucky Aldous; he never had to get to a welded barbell by pushing aside a pencilneck who had been hypnotized by an infomercial.