Friday, January 16, 2009

Our Virgin Of The Broken Pinkies

After a great deal of nagging, I finally bought a membership at the local gym. The first thing I notice when I walk into the gym is that it's almost completely populated by beefy muscle-guys. There are also a couple of markedly skinny young men who you know are following some Hero of the Beach end-game. But this gym is not "Curves."

The man at the counter invites me to look around the gym and get myself familiar with the equipment. Every man turns around and stares at me as I walk by. The weights are huge, and the entire place smells like jock. Baha Men play in the background. One huge man wipes down the sweat off some piece of equipment that features weights the size of truck tires.

My childhood was defined largely by weights and big cans of protein powder. My father was a body-builder. Six-pack, biceps, tan, shaved chest. I have a baby picture of me sitting in my swing set, looking at a body-building magazine in my hands. The swing set's mechanism was disabled and another chair propped my legs up, so the whole thing served as an ottoman; I had my sedentary inclinations indulged for me at a very young age.

I am told that it is required that I bring a towel with me to wipe off my sweat off the equipment. I picture myself getting taken aside by an old boxer, trained in the arts of hand-to-hand combat, and becoming a famous jewel thief.

I become conscious of the fact that I have just stepped into what will become no doubt another humorous footnote to my life. I haven't eaten since 9:00. I'm trying to lose weight. I'm dizzy.

I smile for my ID card photo and head home. On the way, I suddenly get the impulse to visit my old church. I haven't been there since I was 12, though I lived in the neighborhood. The area is cold, empty. Presumably there are students in the parochial school next door. But other than a retreating delivery man, not a sign of life.

The church has long, tall gates around it now, which are padlocked in intervals. I thought maybe I could go into the church and sit for a while, but that is apparently impossible.

A number of people I know look back at the traditional religion that was grafted onto their childhoods with an instinctive disgust. Standing in front of the gated church of my youth, I have the sudden impulse to fling myself upon it and cry. I want in. But even if I got in, would it even be the same as I remembered? Or would I feel alien, like an interloper?

I look for the statue of the Virgin Mary with the broken pinkies. I knew the boys who broke those pinkies off her hands. I get a compulsion to find one of them and beat the shit out of them, though they are probably my age and either in jail or a fucking accountant or something.

Next door to the church is a relatively new, sprawling senior citizen complex. I look for notices in front of the church announcing some sort of services, but there aren't any.

I get paranoid, and wonder if the church is closed for good. Just like Circuit City.

I end my trip at a stop at McDonalds. At this point I can't tell if I'm numb and shaky from the extremely cold weather or the fact that I need food. I order a spartan two plain hamburgers and a small coffee. The calories are relatively low, and the burgers will provide the right balance of protein and carbs. I frown at the lightness of my coffee, and picture the half-and-half indiscriminately poured into the beverage as adding unnecessarily to my caloric intake. I vow to go black.


  1. I recommend Carol Lay's "The Big Skinny: How I Changed My Fattitude" available from .
    (You can also preview the book there as well.)

    It chronicles her battle with weight loss, how others can follow her regimen, and includes recipes in the back!

  2. I know there will be an inordinate amount of "once you go black" puns.

    To add other sad connections, I will say:

    A) In addition to that old boxer at the gym, did you find a man in the church pushing a broom who was irascible, but willing to train you in martial arts?

    B) Curves sucks. Their hours are generally horrible and all of the ones I've seen are about the size of a normal living room, with about 5 machines.

    C) My wife loves Women's Workout World. Aside from the fun alliteration, they are decidedly low key (filled with old and out of shape women), have normal people doing the training, and you don't have to sign up for the classes. They just hold the class in the middle of the floor and you can join in whenever you feel like it.

    Also, this may not be much of a draw for you, but they have a nursery/play room for children. You can drop your kids off for $1 and they'll watch them for as long as you're there.

    Oh, and it's cheap. Anywhere from $20 to $30/month, depending on the plan. We pay $25, and that includes a nutrition plan you can download off their website.

  3. Baha Men were playing in the background? Is it too late for you to get a refund?

  4. "and includes recipes in the back!"

    I wish comic books included recipes.

  5. "I know there will be an inordinate amount of "once you go black" puns."

    You know, I didn't realize the potential for that pun-nery until I re-read the post.

  6. If you can stomach some more work out tips I have a couple.

    Don't be too hard on yourself in the first two or three weeks starting out. Your body will be stressed enough with the new routine so if you feel you need an extra big Mac or creamer in your coffee go for it. Give your body time to adjust to the new levels of activity then start moderating your favorites. The point of working out and eating healthier is not to never eat a Twinkee again but to be able to indulge in your favorites once in a while. Also interval training is key to ramping up your metabolism, and and easy way to do this is every minute that is divisible by three ,3, 6, 9, 12 and so forth sprint on the treadmill or elliptical for that minute and then resume what ever pace you feel you need to recover during the other two. Anyway I'm rambling good luck, don't get discouraged and also take the next couple of weeks to slowly build up to the level you want to maintain in the gym, there is nothing wrong with starting at 60% and working your way up.

  7. Anonymous6:47 PM

    You won't lose thee right weight by going hungry for long stretches. Just eat fruits and vegetables to your heart's content while avoiding soda's, coffee (ouch. Believe me, I KNOW) sugared drinks (watch out for those "juices" They almost all have high-fructose corn syrup in them) and only eating fish or grilled, skinless chicken if you HAVE to have meat; Whole grain brown rice or wheat bread when you just NEED some carbs. You'll feel full of energy, not get headaches and mood swings from hunger, and you'll find you're eating a LOT, but losing weight. I did it for a month with my wife and lost 15 pounds. And I was never starving, which is the worst. It just takes some planning ahead, but it's totally worth it.

  8. I took weight training in High School, and I quite enjoyed it. We only had to do 6 routines (upper/lower) and many, of course, didn't...but I did and I actually gained some definition and strength. I tried to duplicate that by joining my local NYSC, but found that without knowing anyone there I didn't have as much fun, I have done far too much damage to my joints over the years to ever effectively workout, and I'm most likely stuck in my present shape...and couldn't care less. I'm large and in charge...and I can still kick people's butts!

  9. I've often wished that Warren Ellis would slip recipes into his comics. I mean, in the back of Doktor Sleepless, he puts all those scary news stories about how the machines are going to rise up and eat us, and it's like, dude, can you at least give us your chocolate cake recipe to go with that? (And you know he has one dammit, and it's probably delicious)

  10. Wait, stop.
    You're trying to LOSE weight?
    Please, please, PLEASE tell me that you're joking.
    Being fit is one thing, but unless you've gained, like 100 lbs. since MoCCA last year, you DO NOT need to lose weight.
    Please just be healthy and fight the fights worth fighting.

  11. Damn, that's about the best piece of writing I have read so far this year.

  12. Anonymous1:32 AM

    And now, having read this again, I wish i could take back the inane diet recommendations. Sorta.

  13. I have checked out any number of gyms in my life, and, as a long time runner, long since learned to check out the vibe of the gym to know if I would feel comfortable there. Its about 10 times worse for women, since some of the gyms are such "boys worlds".

    If there is anything that the fitness industry has been working on for the last decade, its making female friendly gyms that are a lot more uplifting and encouraging. I'm not saying that you can't go that that one, but given the vibe I'm getting from your post, it might be easier to get started on a fitness routine and for you to, gasp, actually enjoy it more so at a gym like that.