The End Of The World, or, Boiled Frogs

The Friday after my birthday break, there was a big trailer hitched up to Bigfoot’s double-axle extended cab monster truck. The warm marine blue of a star sapphire, this distinctive vehicle may actually have been his fraternal twin and grown as he did; I do not remember a time when it wasn’t parked in the gym lot, its bed usually chockablock with weirdly curved metal arms and flats of bottled water and other gym-owner lumber. The dashboard looks like the floor of a hoarder apartment. Bigfoot scares me sometimes.

This time, the trailer’s maw was open to the gym entrance. My gut sank. Sure enough, my hack sled was already on it. So was the donkey calf raise that I sometimes use for a fake hyperextension if the glute-ham is taken.

And the glute-ham was parked cattywhompus at the end of one of the gym aisles, next to the skid of polished particle board they were using to protect the tile floors as they trundled one machine after another out on a handtruck.

I cannot work out without the glute-ham. After a day of torquing into a massage table, it is the thing that pops my back loose like a string of kid’s toy beads, at least if I am clutching a 45-pound plate.

I cornered Gianni, Bigfoot’s partner. He shrugged. The chain gym they had franchised with, he said, told them everything had to go but approved equipment. This is a process that has been going on slowly for years, like Haydn’s Farewell Symphony, but Gianni and Bigfoot have intrigued me by loading some of their classic — often, custom-built — pieces onto the Monster Truck and taking them off “to be painted” or reupholstered when pow-wows with the corporate drones were imminent. In a couple of cases they painted their old equipment the pansy purple that the chain decreed for all its signature stack machines. Apparently the rearguard action had finally collapsed.

Why do you stay fucked up with these people?” I pleaded. He looked at me not unkindly. “I don’t think they know what exercise even is,” he said, “but I can’t walk away from the money.”

Well, at least he was honest.

There is now no way I can get a serious workout in this gym — despite bald-faced insistence to the contrary from the Minotaur manager, who is himself an international competitor in weightlifting and would not walk into the place to throw up if he didn’t have a job there. As a last ploy he suggested I make the owners an offer for the glute-ham. Temptation flickered, but I don’t need to own a glute-ham, I need a gym that doesn’t post little signs everywhere prohibiting this article of clothing and that lift, doesn’t ship out every piece of equipment that someone might use hard enough to strain a tendon and then they might sue, doesn’t stick up a ferchrissake big blue dome light over the squat rack alongside signs telling people who lift hard and grunt that they are lunks. Damn right I am a lunk. Will grunt for food.

They moved in a bunch of pin-stack isolateral pieces that were better than a fork in your eye, but all represented substitutes for free-weight exercises anyhow. They set up an alleged glute-ham that doesn’t allow a person to fully invert and whose adjustment carriage pokes you in the pancreas if you try. Mr. P, the old, old-school trainer who hangs out on the footplate press, nursing a pain-ridden hip that was once broken in three places, looked at me in mutual despair when I said “What is this piece of shit?”

I went home and yanked bamboo stakes out of David’s dried, abandoned vegetable garden until I felt better. A lot of them were splintering and it felt good to snap them in half. I built up quite a pile. It helped, a little.

To be continued…

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