Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Let's Get Physical

Fortune does not favor my family. Tragic deaths are commonplace, from falling off the Fort Peck Dam to being mauled to death by bulls. Those who manage to avoid fatal accidents usually find themselves stricken with any number of diseases: my grandfather has diabetes, several aunts and uncles died from cancer, and my mom has a dead leg or something–though I'm not entirely sure about that one as I tend to not really pay attention to other people's problems. Anyway, sometime around freshman year of college, I started running regularly in an attempt to prevent premature disease. I lived in Boston at the time, and since New England winters are more brutal than a Cannibal Corpse concert, I turned reluctantly to the necessary comfort of the gym for my running needs.

Four years later, I still run at the gym regularly, and I can honestly say I'd rather be stabbing myself daily in the neck with a fork than to continue my torrid affair with the gym. And yet, night after night, I find myself in a race against no one, running on a treadmill under halogen lamps while 90's dance remixes blare from overhead speakers. I'm also a complete night owl, and it's not uncommon for me to get my running time in after midnight. My gym is conveniently open round the clock, and it's generally desolate during those late night hours–save for a handful of seemingly unavoidable weirdos.

It begins as soon as I walk in the door. The fella who runs the desk during the night shift is a tiny little thing, elf-like in both size and demeanor. Oftentimes, I can barely see him behind the counter.

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I'm not altogether convinced he isn't descended from mythical creatures. His ears are a little too pointy, his manner a touch too sprightly, his eyes entirely too sparkly. He simply can't be entirely human.

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At this point I'm already rethinking my plans to exercise in favor of a pint (ok, gallon. Let's be serious here) of Häagen-Dazs, but I soldier on. The locker room is usually empty at night, and thankfully so. On the rare occasion I visit the gym during the day, the locker room is by far the worst aspect of my trip. Let me interject that I'm perfectly comfortable with the human body, but my gym seems to be a bit too open with the nudité, and the effect can be somewhat overwhelming. I try to keep my eyes on the ceiling and get changed as quickly as possible. Look, dudes are gonna be naked, and that's fine. It's a gym locker room. Life is full of dicks, both figurative and literal. What I have a problem with is that there's always one naked guy who feels the need to get chatty, and more often than not he feels the need to get chatty with me.

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There should be a rule against having any sort of conversation while in the buff. I'm sorry, naked guy in front of me, but I can't listen to your story about the neighbor's dog killing the paper boy when your junk is TOTALLY RIGHT THERE IN MY FACE. The locker room is for changing into athletic apparel, not parading around like some fleshy, manscaped peacock. Now excuse me while I go scrub my eyes out with hydrochloric acid.

My ultimate goal is to run in peace, but even after I solve the Gatekeeper's riddles and battle past the Naked Hordes, it's never quite so easy. I came close last week, though. I had the entire upper floor of cardio machines to myself, and it was glorious. For a time it appeared I'd be able to run in blissful solitude. However, several minutes into my run, I was joined by another. He chose the treadmill right next to me, which is something I'll never understand. With several dozen machines to pick from, why choose the one neighboring mine? But hey, free country and all that jazz.

He began to run, and it quickly became clear this was not an activity he engaged in often.

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Now, I'd assume running to be a pretty self-explanatory undertaking, but apparently it's more difficult for some to master. The guy started glancing my way with increasing worry on his face. He seemed to be taking cues from me, matching his machine's settings to mine, searching my face for reassurance, as if he expected me to be his Sherpa through the trials and tribulations of gymnasia.

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10 minutes in. Homeboy was spiraling out of control.

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15 minutes. Heart attack imminent.

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20 minutes. Time to find a new machine. Peace out, dude.

Of course, it doesn't stop there. Some nights, I find myself sharing the cardio machines with a charming young woman with talon-like fingernails and painted-on eyebrows so high they seem to be escaping from her face. She comes dressed in street clothes, and walks leisurely on her treadmill, all the while literally screaming into her cellphone in Spanglish.

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I've considered saying something to her, but there's no doubt she'd claw my face off with her neon painted claws. Usually when I see her, I just head downstairs to the weight room, grab some 5-pound weights, and work my noodle arms while I wait for Señorita Yappyface to wrap up her conversation. The weight room isn't without its dangers, though. When I'm down there, what generally ensues is something akin to that scene in Jurassic Park where John Hammond's granddaughter is hiding from Velociraptors, but instead of dinosaurs, I'm evading juiced-up meatheads and the little beads of sweat they fling in my direction as they grunt their way through upper body circuits. Depending on how many Herculean behemoths are pumping iron on a given night, it can be like dodging rainfall. Warm, salty rainfall.

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It might sound like I'm complaining excessively, but I feel like with a little common sense, everyone can have an enjoyable gym experience. And by everyone, I mean me.

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Simple as that. Now hit the showers. Just please don't choose the shower stall next to me.

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Have You Met My Friend Gin?

I have a confession to make. In my ripe old age of 23, I've more or less lost the ability to party hearty. When it comes to my choice of alcohol, I'm more inclined to nurse a bloody mary at home, wrapped in a leopard-print Snuggy watching reruns of Wings than I am to do jello shots in a dive bar somewhere. But when Saturday night rolls around and my friends call me to hang out, I have to begrudgingly oblige, lest I become a complete recluse. The Boo Radley of Northwest Portland, if you will.

For the most part, I've learned my limit and can walk the fine line between being merrily drunk and utterly schwasted. I can normally take care of myself, but problems arise when people start to buy me drinks. Truth be told, I'm not quite attractive enough to rely on strangers purchasing me drinks on a regular basis, nor do I have the charisma to work free drinks out of people very often, but if there's a drag queen in the joint, it's all over.

I'm not sure what it is about the drag queens. They always seem to find me and attempt to liquor me up with appletinis. I'm beginning to think I have some sort of drag queen tracking device embedded in my neck, or maybe I emit some sort of drag queen pheromone, I don't know.

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And that's when everything goes downhill. What ensues is something akin to an 80's movie montage, and for the next several hours I'm lost in a fog of free cocktails and Aqua Net Super Hold. Later, after the bars close, I can always tell how much trouble I'm in by gauging one of two things: the first is how insatiable my craving for Denny's breakfast is, and the second is how many times I freak out from imaginary squirrel attacks. The latter is far more distressing, as there's no telling how many times I'll see vicious, fictional creatures leaping from tree branches into my face.

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The Denny's thing is probably more upsetting long-term, however. In my waking life, I pride myself on eating as healthy as possible. For example, I might only have three donuts for breakfast instead of four, or I'll eat Taco Bell for dinner instead of McDonald's for a sixth night in a row–because being an adult means making adult decisions. Boozy Adam isn't as inclined to make such judicious choices, though. Many a Saturday night I've found myself hunched over a sticky Denny's table somewhere, struggling to make sense of the menu, wishing the tiny words would stop moving around like caterpillars, before finally giving up and making my decision based on the photos alone, pointing clumsily for the waitress at whichever entree has the most melted cheese and the highest content of animal fat.

Last time this happened, I ended up ordering something called the Hooburrito. If you aren't familiar with this abomination (and I pray to Vishnu you aren't), allow me a moment to enlighten you. The Hooburrito is a burrito stuffed with crispy chicken strips, onion rings, pepper jack cheese, barbecue sauce, and some sort of nondescript melty cheese sauce–basically a heart attack wrapped in a tortilla. To make matters worse, it's actually named after and endorsed by Hoobastank.

Yes, you heard me. Hoobastank. Hoobastank. Denny's has a dish designed by FUCKING HOOBASTANK. Apparently Denny's has a whole bunch of shitty items endorsed by terrible bands, but the Hooburrito takes the cake. It's the most disgusting thing I've ever seen in a restaurant, hands down.

And you know what? It was amazing. Like, top 10 meals of my life amazing. I'm sure it was the alcohol talking, but that damn burrito was so delicious I cried. I took one bite, and literally teared up. It was like seeing the smiling face of God.

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And, as is always the case, I woke up the next morning in complete misery.

Now, I don't know what it's like to be pregnant–and thankfully I'll never have to experience the glorious miracle/disgusting agony of childbirth–but I imagine it's like being bloated on gin n' tonics and Hooburritos. Of course, I also used to think that girls peed out their butts, so I obviously I have a loose grasp on the female experience at best.

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Clearly my body is begging for me to treat it better, and I suppose sooner or later I'm going to have to start listening and stop filling it with garbage, but my brief love affair with the Hooburrito will remain a sparkling high point in my life. A delicious, painful experience I'll never forget. I'm getting choked up just thinking about it.

Wait, nope, that's more Hooburrito. Excuse me while I vomit.