Front Squats And Heavy Supports

It’s hot again here. Viciously, dissolvingly hot. I realize people check in here from Oz and Andalusia and places where they probably roll up the rug and dance when it is 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, but I maintain that the Washington area has its own brutal brand of summer air — something to do with an absurd level of car exhaust and the BS fumes from Capitol Hill.

Some guy just walked by my front window in slow motion with a towel draped completely over his head. That kind of day.

These are the days when I revive something weird in the gym just to provoke zeal, a property which kind of wilts in the heat. Here is a nice quick demonstration of more or less what I did.

I did them with the bar balanced at diaphragm level over my crossed forearms, a form you can get away with using lighter weights. I am not nuts about that hyperextended hand position because I spend all day at the massage table that way.

It’s funny how slight variations goose your response to exercise. The next day I could already change level at table side without the ominous halting creak that had gotten into my ups and downs. Clients don’t like to hear you huff when you drop to lean into their ilio-tibial bands.

I decided I was on a roll and went for some heavy supports on the bench press. It means what it sounds like — you support a heavy weight in the finish position of a lift, without trying to pretend you can actually execute reps with the thing. I got the Cute Engineer to spot me with a pair of wheels (two 45# plates on an Olympic Bar, for a total of 135 pounds, or what some dimwit once said I should weigh; maybe when I was twelve). I even waved it around a little bit, for bravado. Then we switched places and the bastard cranked out a triple. Mother f###er.

I keep reminding myself that he is fifteen years younger than I am, and a guy, but I have got the bit in my teeth now. Watch this space.


Eche ground the higher that it was and nearer to the Skie,
The sooner was it set on fire, and made therewith so drie
That every where it gan to chinke. The Medes and Pastures greene
Did seare away: and with the leaves, the trees were burned cleene. …
Ovid, Metamorphoses (Golding translation, 1567)

It’s been kind of that way around here this past couple of weeks.

I’m not the only one to ask where all the climate change skeptics are — you know, the ones that declared global warming theory to be refuted by a winter of punishing blizzards. If the blizzards were an argument, what’s this? 85 degrees Fahrenheit at 11 PM isn’t just strange; it’s perverted.

Watching those cracks open in the dirt: you try not to step too close to them, because you get the feeling something might yank you straight down to Hell. Although in Hell, it might be cooler.

I know there are places on earth where it gets a lot hotter, and to be fair, it’s been up over 100 degrees on the Atlantic seaboard now and then in my lifetime; I remember the heat wave of 1975, when I was in Boston, and wouldn’t come out of the library. The day the wind changed you could smell Boston Harbor exhaling inland, and no one cared. This has been a drier heat; there was an actual pleasure in working out in the yard, at least with cold water available, up till the point about fifteen minutes after dinner when it became apparent that the day’s metabolism had been used up and no more would be available till morning.

Still, I have had this insane urge to fill a huge cooler with beer and drive past the poor bastards doing road construction in this already over-asphalted commonwealth, flinging frosty bottles out the windows as I go.

This morning it started raining, gently and steadily, shortly before dawn. By the time I could lace up my shoes and get on the road the gutters were chuckling with braids of racing water.

I covered five miles.

not a moment too soon

Tropical Posting

I have lived all my fifty-four years in a Virginia suburb of Washington, DC, excepting my college relocation to the boondocks of the Upper Hudson valley. That means fifty-four summers in a location which the British Foreign service, at one time, reportedly categorized as a tropical posting. For the Brits this probably meant white wool instead of dark wool, but you get the idea.

For about two days at the end of winter — we just had them — balmy 70-degree breezes lift the new foliage and pellucid blue fills the sky from horizon to horizon. Then the dragon that has been sleeping all winter exhales. Outdoors, in the evening, is OK but any enclosed structure fills up with pressing heat like a tub filling with water.

My air conditioning system is apparently in need of refrigerant — phone call in the morning — so, at ten PM, the temperature in my living room stands at 82 Fahrenheit, and with every fan I can get running, any movement shoves my own body heat back against me like a rude fat guy in an elevator. Later, opening the windows will sluice out the house with night air, but we’ve been warned.

Oh, we lived before air conditioning, and maybe we have all gotten soft now, but I remember lying in front of fans because you couldn’t bring yourself to do anything else. And now that we have greenhouse gases mingling with all the pollen ever invented — a pervasive yellow film that my charming little engineer calls “bukkake tree porn” — even late spring days have a cruel knack of scalding your eyes and sinuses.

Henry Allen, who has been writing for the Washington Post for dog years, rises to poetry in his descriptions of Washington heat. But I have never again been able to find the column, twenty years or more old, containing his bravura description of inhaling in this city in August: “like giving artificial respiration to an old bathing suit… or trying to suck-start the outside exhaust pipe on a Chinese restaurant.”

It’s a hot that knows you here, an insidiously soft, moist, swampy hot, one that creeps under your clothes and squeezes you with nasty intimacy, and I can feel it starting, on April 26th.