So I had a birthday recently: officially Medicare-eligible, officially nine months and a bit out from getting both hips replaced. That’s long enough to gestate a human infant, it should count for something, yes? The Engineer and I celebrated in the only way I know how — no, this is not about that last post — I sandwiched myself into the plate loaded sled press and banged it up for the first time since getting filleted like a trout.

I am here to note that no PT exercise in the clinical repertory wakes up your gyroscoping butt muscles like a set of squats, even Smith squats. You do ’em on Wednesday, you’re more sure-footed on Thursday.  Feck those things with the little rubber bands. Likewise, nothing lifts your spirits like seeing that sled go up. It’s my goddam name. I’ve been feeling rudderless, nameless, almost nationless, till this. Even with all my other weights back in their old range, I’m just not me until I’m under that stack of wheels.

It’s going to be a long hike back to my max (see header photo), but one plate at a time.


When I pulled up to the gym there was a huge tank truck, emblazoned with the logo of a local septic system company, parked at the entry. Two guys were standing to one side of it, making what looked like an experimental effort to join three pieces of four-inch reinforced hose into one long conduit, something that I could only regard as a bad sign.

I asked the Minotaur who guards the front desk what the kaka-sucker was doing in front of the place. “For suckin’ out members we don’t like,” he said,without the hint of a facial expression, while I signed in. He’s like that.

Eventually they threaded the spliced hose through the front doors, across the floor between the array of Nautilus machines, and toward the restrooms in the back. By that time I was on a warmup bike and out of the direct path of action, but when they started up the compressor on the tank truck, all I could think of was the lost city of R’lyeh rising to the surface, dripping with the slime of ages, or the parts of Dante’s Hell where the demons and damned souls are wading in ordure. You know you can’t hold your breath and exercise, right?

I don’t know what it was about and I don’t want to know, but I want some kind of blue ribbon for hanging in there. They were gone before it was time for me to start chucking  kettlebells around.



The Ministry Of Silly Walks


I was halfway through the first giant set on the TRX, a bondage exercise device that allows you to either work with or offset your own bodyweight, when I felt a looming presence at my left shoulder. I was already burning it up hard enough that my arms looked as if I had just hoisted myself up out of the pool, but I could sense the radiating body heat of another large person. Arnoldo was checking out my form again.

I have written elsewhere about Arnoldo. He is as harmless as they come for a former Salvadoran guerilla who once hid out in the jungle with a machete in his belt and sports an array of jailhouse tattoos. No, really. He apparently met Jesus in the Salvadoran jail (I hear Jesus hangs out in jails a lot) and became a man of peace, a giant, thigh-armed pussycat, the sweetest-natured motherfucking jacked side of beef ever to scare the crap out of a spindly gym manager just by walking in.

“You getting better,” Arnoldo said.

We go back years. People who speak good Central American Spanish tell me they can barely understand him, he comes from so far back in the woods where the cradle tongue is Quechua or something.  He likes everybody. He greets everybody. When I explained by simple word and gesture that I was having surgery, he was concerned and gave me a hug. When I came back, leaning on the walker, he met me in the free weight section, grinning like a pumpkin. It would give small children nightmares.

He always asks after the Engineer, who only works out with me on Sundays. If he sees the Engineer without me, he’s concerned. Arnoldo is a role model.

I explained I was finally able to handle some real intensity (“I can work hard now”), and he watched carefully as I got through the rest of my giant set and nodded approval.

This is going fairly well. I am not real zippy getting down on the floor, for example, like if you drop something that rolls under the desk, but I can clock nearly three miles in an hour and kill a hill that is about a one in three grade without stopping. Then I have to apply ice packs, because my thighs swell up, but it’s worth it to see my heart rate dropping and feel the exhilaration, the sky-riding buzz that comes with every limb asking if you maybe want to stop this and your heart saying Fuck No. The physical therapist seems all over it. Last time she had me display my speedwalking gait and gave me exercises to expel the irregularities in it.

She gives me assignments about gait in general. This results in a Python-esque neighborhood spectacle that probably already has various folks in the local civic associations keeping an eye out in the mornings; first I walk sideways, then I perform a zigzag lurch that unplugs the tendency of the inner thighs to clench against instability, then I do it backwards, which requires a scouted stretch of even sidewalk and the absence of, for instance, dogs.  Probably the most amusing of these is the high-stepping march which I do with my walking poles balanced before me like a kid playing at being a Wallenda. I am all ready to explain that I am from the Ministry of Silly Walks.

The other day the trash collection guys spotted me sidewinding and one remarked “Never thought of walking like that.” “New hips, breaking them in,” I explained. “Lady told me to do this.” He gave me a thumbs up.

I am aiming for the Hill Of Death, a nearly one-in-two with a heart-sinking switchback that fools people into thinking they are at the top instead of about to angle onto an even steeper incline. Secret path up from the parking lot at the nearby nature center. The lot is actually adjacent to the place where my PT winds up in two weeks, and I am having thoughts about showing up for my appointment straight off the effort. Probably won’t quite make it, but wish me luck.

What’s your stretch goal this week?


Holy Sh t

There is an interesting gimmick to riding in motor vehicles when you have just had your own chassis upgraded. Nothing really hurts any more but I can only characterize the experience of healing hip implants as having a hair trigger butt. It feels as if any scooch or squinch or wrong move is going to set off at the very least a nasty cramp, and nothing that pulls at the knitting scars is good, so hoicking yourself into a car, especially a low lying one, is not the thoughtless maneuver you would normally expect.

First you get a trash bag. Just the standard plastic kitchen drawstring thing, folded in half. You put it on the seat before turning and addressing the open car door, leading with your can. One hand goes on the dashboard, the other on the seat back, and down you go on the bag; when you pivot, the layers of slick plastic act like K-Y for your trouser seat, and you can concentrate on whether your legs will lift at the hip enough to tuck inside. In my case, the left is still a little bit of a stinker. The physical therapist thinks the nerve got bruised while they were hauling on retractors and lifting my femur up to meet the bone saw, which I can kind of see. I’ve had nerve entrapment from overuse that put my whole hand offline. If I get two or three fingers under the knee, the left leg goes where I need it to.

Today  it got more interesting because I wanted to drive. Snaking under the wheel of a Honda Fit, which is kind of a Gemini capsule or escape pod, requires suavity. And it’s amazing how unfamiliar the pedals of a car can feel after nearly six weeks.

But I really can’t justify touching people for rides any more, and I have more therapy tomorrow, and today I was cleared to go to the gym.

Some notes on accessibility. There is one, count it, one crip space at the gym, which miraculously wasn’t taken (on Sundays, misuse of this space is a cottage industry for a local cop who was once a member). The space is at the end of a row, right-angled so that the rear bumper of someone’s sedan is usually overlapping the approach. You can nudge over into the zebra striped area blocked out on the driver’s side of course. This was my first foray into getting a folding walker out of the back seat, snapping it open and rolling it up to the double doors of the gym. Note to self: without training partner, consider rapping forlornly at the glass front until someone from the desk notices and opens the heavy ass things.

Never mind actually getting the walker in between most of the crammed-together stack machines, where my writ runs right now. (I’m good with walking poles in the house, but public spaces are full of gormless idiots who need the visual cue of a walker to realize you are a crip.) I worked out a route from station to station eventually, knocking out parallel rows and stack chest presses, alternating with some of the fey little PT exercises that have been moving me along, like box squats on the seat of the chest press, or bent-knee leg lifts in between sets at the tricep cable.

The free weight rack almost stumped me, because all the benches are too low for me to decant myself onto, but I recruited the Engineer to throw his arms around my midsection from behind so I could curl and shoulder-press a pair of small dumbbells without overbalancing. It looked like an especially kinky sexual position but everyone is minding their own business in there.

I had the same problem in the waiting area up front while my lad was finishing up with a few core exercises. I ended up leaning on the front counter. and explaining to the beardless youth thereat that I was sporting brand new hips and the flimsy armless chairs weren’t safe for me.

“How long ago?” he asked. I told him a little over five weeks. “Holy shit!” he burst out, eyes widening perceptibly, just as the Engineer showed up to escort me.

See, it is moments like that that get me through.

I sashayed out with the tassels on my walker dancing in the spring breeze. It folded up and went in the back seat for me just fine.

The country is headed for hell in a bucket, the ice caps are melting, and there is a lot of very bad music on the radio, but it is still possible for an old broad to meet the energy of youth with dogged persistence. Together we will persevere.




Marble Statue Of Aphrodite By Cnidus At The Palazzo Altemps ...I didn’t quite look like that in the surgeon’s office today, when I got the staples taken out, it was more of a drop trou thing.

But he said something that I am still smug about.

We were comparing the two sides, the left with its multiple injuries over the years, still way more sore than the right, where he spent the extra hour scraping the bone surface smooth and shaping it for the artificial joint. “Your bones are hard,” he said in a complimentary but slightly exasperated tone. “They’re like marble.”

All those years of lifting. Pays off.

Some people like their hair or outfit complimented. I have always fantasized about listening in on my own autopsy and hearing the med students say “Wow, will you look at that.” Close as I’m going to get.

Being A Crip

1. Rock On


This whole “not being able to walk without leaning on something” gets fucking old at a rapid pace.

For months I’ve been using one of my Alpine poles to keep from loading my left leg wrong and making myself yip (unexpected, sharpened-screwdriver jabs of pain would erupt at any point in the region of my ass or groin); then I really felt the need of one whenever I went anywhere just to allow me to walk at a decent clip. Then I went off the painkillers (Advil and so on) because I was fairly scared of ending up like Mr. P, , the trainer at my gym who took fistfuls of the stuff dealing with residual pain from a broken pelvis after a car crash, and ended up in the hospital with a hemorrhaging ulcer. Ugh. That meant I needed two poles. Which is now how I get into the gym, looking absurd as I pole my way from one weight station to the next and then slam everything I can while working around the hot spots. Lately, around the house I’ve been using a walker a client lent me, which I blinged out with a rhinestone bell and some bike tassels.

It came in the nick of time because last week as I was snailing my way out of the gym, the old bicep tear I incurred dropping a forty pounder decided to lodge a complaint about my arm being used as a leg. A nasty pinging sensation in my right elbow made it feel more like a tricep strain but the next morning the old scar area felt swollen and I couldn’t straighten out my arm.

I only had the Minotaur to work on in about three hours so I weighed the priorities, slammed some Motrin and swathed my arm in Rock Tape, a wonderful invention which is to an Ace bandage as a pantyliner is to an old lumpy Kotex. It supports everything and helps the swelling drain by lifting the skin over the lymphatic capillaries, and the minute you put it on the pain backs off. It comes in nifty designs. The leopard lasted several days, though I just replaced it with some sassy Coco Chanel polka dots.

I now have one uninjured extremity, my left arm. This continues to suck.

2. Spanish Guys (III)

Being a crip gives you some interesting insights into human nature.

When a woman is limping painfully and unsteadily across a snowy, ice-packed parking lot or sidewalk apron using two poles, people have a spread of reactions.

Younger people, especially hot young women in Spandex, go clip-clopping by as if they don’t see you, and even if you are only a few paces behind, don’t appear to think of holding either of two sets of double doors. A lot of guys well into their thirties are the same way, whitebread guys anyway.

Older people get it. Only the older women coo and poor-thing you while offering to open the door, and I can kind of do without that.

And then there are the young Latino men, a large population at my gym location, who will trot over to a door if they see me near it, to say nothing of the almost beardless youth who saw me from several yards away and ran up (calling out in broken English) to give me his arm, like the classical Boy Scout helping the old lady cross the road. Until the last snow melted, another “Spanish guy,” as people around here tend to mass-identify any men from the Latin countries, popped out from behind the desk every day to bird-dog me out to my car, handing me down from the curb past an obstacle course of packed slush while I hung onto a credible set of solid forearm extensors. Life could be worse than being eased into your car seat by a muscular youth named something like Carlos or Ramon.

If this is what we get from immigration, open the goddam borders.

3. Tagging Along


If you think getting a little courtesy from the young and undamaged is hard try getting a crip tag.

By the time I saw the rheumatologist — the one who tested me for lupus, rheumatoid, ankylosing spondylitis and every other thing  before concluding I was just busted — I was already teetering painfully on the damn sticks. I asked if she would write me for a crip tag to hang on my mirror so I could park in disabled spots, and she said absolutely and gave directions to her staff and it all seemed excellent.

On the way out they charged me $25 to “process the forms with the doctor’s signature.”

Okay, fine, everyone has a nickel and dime racket. Whatever. Only when I got home the forms were blank.

I filled in my part and called the office back. Oh dear yes I would have to mail the forms back. Could they just send them on to the state from there? I asked. Oh no, you have to take them to the DMV in person. Well we don’t really know. Here’s an 800 number to call.

The number was not in service.

A week and some later I called the office, reminding the person who answered that I had sent back the forms and had they been sent back to me or the DMV or what?

Oh, I left you a message a few days ago to find out what we should do. she said.

The hell she did. I have caller ID and there wasn’t the trace of a call. She maintained that they could not be mailed to the state office. “Send them back here then,” I said.

When I got them back I detected some small print, the kind that often escapes my blind-four-ways eyes, stating that the forms could be immediately processed at a DMV window OR mailed to the main office in Richmond.

The damn thing just arrived yesterday, six weeks after I asked for it.

At least this is better than my client whose first surgical consult was with a Dr. Dick who declined to operate on her unless she lost thirty pounds — something that I had seen her struggling to accomplish for two years with a personal trainer and a mean, joyless diet. She asked him if he at least could give her a tag so she could spare herself the length of the Safeway lot on a bad day, and he said “No, I want you to walk so you’ll lose the weight.”

I sent her to the guy who’s doing me next month (I had already seen his work) and he didn’t blink at her weight and was brandishing forms for a tag before she could finish asking. At least some people get it right.

I always knew disabled people take a lot of shit because after all I work with hurting bodies, but you still kinda got to live it to get it.

Twelve days.





Nymph, In Thine Orisons Be All My Sins Remembered

I really fucking hate it when someone tries to bring me to Jesus just as I am gearing up for a set on the parallel footplate stack sled machine.

See, I had just one skinny hour in the middle of the afternoon today, on account a good regular client called and asked desperation if I had time for him in his hour of pain, so I whirled into the gym, knocked out my twenty minutes on the resistance bike, stretched, and hit the weight stations. Days like this you do not mess with things that need plates loaded. I was knocking out my second round, not as good as an angle press (see header) or a Smith squat say, but it will get you through, and this amiable white-polled geezer, not bad looking for seventy plus, tall, slightly stooped, mooched up on the other side of the footplate to ask about my stretch movements. Was it for the body problem I had? (Sadly, some days my old leg injury still means I carry a walking pole into the gym, inevitably when a low pressure system is bearing down; people must be fairly mindfucked to see me using a light cane and then jamming up a sled with ten wheels on it, but that’s their problem.) Yeah, I said, explaining about dance stretches and the proprietary workout I had lifted them from, while he nattered about his wife going to Curves (blergh) and then suddenly asked “Is the Bible ever a part of your thinking?”

No, I said, I am a Pagan on even numbered days and an agnostic on odd ones.

He forged ahead regardless. It didn’t matter, had I ever…

Not interested, I said. Really not up for talking about it right now.

Well had I heard about the woman with an issue of blood…

Ferfrigsake you Morlock, do I look like someone who doesn’t have a degree in Languages and Literature and hasn’t made a study of comparative religions? Oh right, I’m on this weight machine in a string tank.

And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, 26And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, 27When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. 28For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole. 29And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague. 30And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?

You septuagenarian opportunist, you saw me limping on a wet day and now you want to persuade me that Jeebus will heal me. Right? I HAVE TWENTY MINUTES TO WORK OUT AND THIS IS NOT THE TIME.

He reluctantly buggered off before I could tell him to bugger off. Or point out that he was in my house of worship, goddammit, and he was interrupting me at my prayers.

I gotta say, my workout volume was pretty massive, given the brief time I had.

He comes at me again, I won’t be so nice. For Christ’s sake. In a manner of speaking.



Ear Defenders

I have been bitching for years about the universal plague of the earbud, the solipsistic me-world accessory that isolates other gym members in their own little music bubble and makes them impervious to things like friendly conversation or requests to “work in” on the machine they’ve been hogging for three sets without getting off in between. Well, you can talk to them, but you have to cause an international incident by raising your voice and waving your hand in front of their faces and repeating yourself when they fork the gross wax-glazed bud out of their ear and say “Huh?” like an old deefer in a retirement home.

Only I seem to have joined them. No, I don’t stick things in my ears. Never have, never will; it’s disgusting, and TOO GODDAM LOUD. I don’t need my music inside my bodily orifices; I really don’t need it in the gym at all. Which is sort of the reason. Gold’s was bad enough — they had their own disgusting radio station peppered with repetitions of the same ads every fifteen minutes,, for teeth whitener or Spandex leggings or what not. Back at Planet Fitness, where I reluctantly retreated after the millionth commercial and one too many rude assholes and a paucity of warmup bikes — they pick a Sirius station, and on Sundays I can stand the classic rock, which sort of takes me back to my roots at the biker gym that was my home in the 80s. The current top forty, however, can take a hike. It either sounds like a bad case of fleas or someone banging his head on a wall for eternity, and one of the current songs features a talentless female vocalist ascending to a dramatic peak note — practically in whistle register and grotesquely flat. I was raised on real music, goddammit — Mozart and Bruckner and Schumann and Brahms. I don’t know why people need to fray their nerves with this amateurish shit all day. No wonder society is in a mess.

So what happened was, I was reading the Twitter feed of Steven Silberman, who wrote the book, literally, about autistic people finding their place in human culture, and one of his autistic tweeps posted about wearing his Ear Defenders in the subway and meeting a gradeschool-age autistic kid who was excited at the sight because he wore them too.

I perked up. I have always gravitated toward people on the spectrum, though I didn’t usually know it because “on the spectrum” hasn’t been a term for most of my life. But forex, my first decent boyfriend (my “transgender ex,” as it turned out) ticked all the boxes for Aspie whiz kid with tics and quirks — could play reams of Bach and Beethoven by heart, chess maniac, used to make weird rolling movements with his hands and hum to himself, wore clothes until they were in tatters because they were familiar and soft. The Congressional protest candidate that I worked for in the oughts used to routinely stim while driving the car, holding his hand over the air vents and waving it continually at the wrist; couldn’t remember a face for five minutes; couldn’t shut up once he started talking, did statistics for a living, handled carefully planned public speaking with grace but had genuine meltdowns when there was too much unscripted interaction. (I earned some kind of an award for stage-managing his candidacy.) He had had a ham radio call sign since his teens — a hobby that was home to autistic people before the digital age gave them a larger playground. I was always sorry that I couldn’t coax him, a man born long before adult autism diagnosis was a “thing,” into getting evaluated, but like neurotypicals (that’s me and pro’lly you) of his generation, could only hear me suggesting that he had an awful defect instead of alternative wiring.

The common ground is that I get the characteristic low threshold that autistic people have for sensory input. I get a violent headache and throw up if I view 3-D movies or even the vivid animations that often precede a feature film. I cannot be near anything like a disco or party and, lacking any desire to attend a rock concert, can detect (and be crazed by) a loud stereo two houses away that the Engineer can’t even hear. This is a “thing,” too, though it is kind of mortifying that it is termed “high sensitivity,” which sounds like I am trying to align with a cohort of tender weepers who swoon if you say “fuck.” Whatever. It makes me a good bodyworker and ruthless lifter who says “fuck” a lot in the presence of excess commotion. Maybe that is its own neurotribe.

I stuck “Ear Defender” into the search bar.

A few days later this wonderful pair of orange things showed up.


They look like the headphones that a lot of gym peeps wear, they’re just not connected to anything. No one else has to know that. They muffle 37 decibels, are considered adequate for driving monster trucks or light shooting, and I can attest that while they do not obliterate the vile noise that pours from the gym speakers, they move it way up the road. Also, I don’t have to overhear screamingly banal conversation from the schlubby housewives and shuffling pudgy men who use the machines backward and operate the bikes on zero resistance in slo-mo just so they can tell their doctors they “work out.” I miss the days when only goons and buff gay men (and me) hung out in gyms.

Now I get to be the one saying “Hm?” What the hell. It’s nice and quiet in here.


Stick ‘Em Up

OK, this thing is the everlasting balls.


It is called, succinctly, the Massage Gun, and it pretty much is what it says on the can. I think it probably evolved from a kludge job on a power chisel (stick “massage gun” into the YouTube search field and you will see what I mean), only instead of a chisel there is a hard rubber ball on the business end. It pummels your muscles with several zillion turbocharged percussions a minute, sounding and feeling, from the handle end, a lot like an electric hedge clipper. You literally see the flesh rippling out from the point of impact as if someone were dribbling a Superball off a dish of Jello.

So far, only the Minotaur and I can take this. Oh, and the Engineer, who is built for comfort not for speed and needs at least a four pound maul to get through to his muscles most days.

It was actually the Minotaur who tipped me off. He is a Masters competitor in Olympic lifting, with a string of records and a state Hall Of Fame to his credit, and lately I have been having to wale on him every blessed week because there’s a competition coming up. One day he described using a gadget like this — several companies are in the market now — at the power gym where he goes through his paces, starting with things like squatting five hundred pounds for triples. Oh yeah.

Someone had told him this product was the best bang for the buck. Well, as John Carter of Mars says so often in the books, with me, to think is to act. At least. to see this thing demonstrated on the website’s video was to click the Order button.

I’ve tried it on a half dozen clients and they all yelled something like “Uncle!” or “Christmas!” after around five seconds. Me. I put my feet up after a hard day’s work. brace that baby against the wads and knots of chronic pain that nothing else seems to reach in my thighs (in my business, the junkies become the dealers, and I’m having trouble finding capable dealers), and let it rip. The cats think it is a weird purring animal.

I think the LED over the percussion ball is a nice touch. Sort of like the laser sight on the Engineer’s cordless jigsaw that helps you make an exact cut, even though with this baby, you really have to go by feel. No one on this earth has a precision ass.



Def Not My Workout

But at the end of a freaking surreal year, it may be just the envoi we need here.

Bonus cool: the glass artist, Jen Detlefsen, is the Navy Vet daughter of Secretary of Strip Mining the Interior Ryan Zinke, who does not seem to share her father’s politics.

The Princess Industrial Complex isn’t going anywhere. Instead of fighting against a landslide of pink, I choose to rewrite the narrative of what it means to be a princess, and in doing so reject pink’s stigma as a color of weakness and frivolity. Enter a decadently adorned, glittering space in which femmes of all types are welcome to build strength, backbone and confidence. This journey is just getting started – get your glow on and share how you #liftlikeaprincess with me.

Not really something I plan to try (I am across the street, up six flights of stairs and on the other side of the building from femme, and still remember being the butchest thing and the only chromosomal female at a cookout hosted by a trans woman and her friends). Though I could get behind one of those cast glass kettlebells — two of my favorite things in one package (glass art and weights). If only they weren’t pink. And if only Virginia Beach weren’t at the other end of the state.

May you have the power to lift all your burdens lightly in the New Year.