Back in the Saddle Again (again)

December 27, 2011

ImageSo It’s been a tough year.  I got fired (from a job I hated anyway) in March, and I’ve been out of work till last week. So now I have a potentially great job, one which offers substantial income, challenge and overall satisfaction.  I celebrated by returning to the cycle room.  I’ve been dabbling in it, riding 90-minute sets on two straight days in November, but I really haven’t been going (or posting) with regularity.  And the waistline shows it. 
    I was off work today–another unfamiliar perk of a real job: time off for holidays.  Woke up early enough to quick shave and wash the hair before donning cycle shorts and hustling a gym bag out the door.  Checked the instructor on the website when I was brewing coffee; saw Renee’s name, but it didn’t register any alarm bells.  I got to the gym and started going thru my warm-ups: leg stretchers, ab crunches, etc. 

Aerosmith shuffled onto my iPod while walking into the cycle room: “Back in the Saddle,” perfect.  Then I saw Renee and I remembered.  She’s a part of the cadre of women of a certain age cycle instructors employed by 24Hr fitness.  She’s enthusiastic, friendly and just doesn’t have that certain indefinable something that makes me want to work out.  Her issue today was music. She played LAYLA by Derek and the Dominoes (Eric Clapton).  The full MOR radio version, all the way thru, including the iconic piano closing sequence.  7 plus minutes of inconsistant (or no) beat.  She also played two torch songs by Adele and Styx’s “Blue Collar Man.”  The last time I liked THAT tune, I was drinking underage in a hole in the wall called the Carpet Club in Massachussetts as a pimple-faced high-schooler in 1979. 

I never broke a real sweat.  I kept looking around to see if anyone cared, but they were all just churning atop their bikes, looking straight ahead and following Renee’s FM radio lead.  I considered speaking up, or making a discreet trip up to grab some paper towel, and asking her to take a vote on the music.  But I didn’t.  And that’s the thing about Renee, she just doesn’t invite engagement.  Diane B. at Balboa carries on a running dialogue, filled with wisecracking and back and forth with her classes.  She also plays classic rock, but she finds the hip-hopped versions of them.  She found a great extended beats version of the Doors’ “L.A. Woman,” and I enjoy that one. 

Anyway, overall, it’s good to be back.  I have more regular hours, now that I’m not sucking waste in the car business.  So working out should be more time-available, in the parlance of our times.  Later.


Live to Ride

December 27, 2011


Jumble Jumble

February 4, 2011

Kind of an uneven week.
Started with a no-show from Jeff B. on Sunday at Imperial. Made it down early enough to be in the middle of the Pass Getter regular pack. Even had time enough to pick a bike and set it up before the pass disbursement at 7 am. So, after an hour of warm up stretches and ab machine crunches, I went in to assume the position. Eight o’clock came and no Jeff B. We all continued our warm up spinning, hopeful and expectant. His bike was in position, probably pulled there by one of the long time regulars. At five minutes past the hour, one of the ladies dismounted and walked out of the room. Five minutes after that, she came back in and started packing her shit. Then she tilted her bike up on its wheels and rolled it back into the far corner. No announcement was ever made. But we all knew the score. About eight of us stayed bravely spinning. I added resistance and even did some interval work, including a couple of standing runs. But it felt ridiculous. The lights were all on, and we just all grimly ground it out. It wasn’t the same; much like sex while wearing a condom. I wished I had a patch cord for my iPod. Like Buddy Holly, I might’ve jumped onstage to lead the show. But maybe not. It’s an extrovert’s deal to lead a class like that. The girl at the desk said “car trouble” when I asked why Jeff B. hadn’t made it.

Monday was better. Caught Tiffany’s set at Balboa. She worked us all pretty hard. My shins actually started sweating. Think of that: the thin layer of skin covering the shin bones puts out perspiration. Now that’s working out!

Tuesday was blah again. Steve K.’s 8 am set at Rancho SD drew a total of 8 people. He still went for it, but he didn’t give his usual spiel about how his class is different from others. He worked hard and kept up a running monologue, but it seemed like he was working out to work out, not to lead a class that was mostly non-existent.

Wednesday was a downer. The only 7:30 class in the county (Imperial) was booked up 2 weeks ago. So I couldn’t work out in Cycle class after work.

Thursday was a little better. Went up to Miramar and got the last pass at 7 pm for the class that was starting right at that moment. Walked in and got the last bike: a broke dick machine, right in front of the instructor, first row, with no mirror view of my form, no toe clips on the pedals and a seat post set screw on the bike frame that was stripped out and wouldn’t tighten. Still gave it a full-tilt effort. The instructor, Tom, came over and tried to help on the seat post issue by taking one of a totally broken bike off to the side. He was trying to lead the class and help out as well, so I didn’t bother correcting his mis-guided effort. It wasn’t the post that was defective, it was the threads in the frame mounting for the set screw. A few minutes later in the ride, Tom also tried to direct me to lower the handle bars. I always ride with them riding on top of the headset set screw. I like riding almost upright.

“It’s good, leave it,” I said gruffly to Tom.

“Ooookay,”  he replied.

Still got an okay ride in. Told the desk clerk about the two broke-down bikes on the way out.

“Okay, Josuay is coming in tomorrow,” he replied, “I know he’s working on the treadmills, not sure if he’ll get to the bikes or not.”

Told him I was happy to be able to walk in at the last minute and get a pass.

“This is the only location where you can do that,” I said.

It’s true. He grinned happily. Hope that little positive input will translate to Josuay getting to those two bikes.

A Touch of Jade

January 26, 2011

Something about Mission Valley Center location just unsettles me. Don’t like any of the machines: they have none of the newer combo stair/walker/run ellipticals I like, and none of the newer Ab crunch machines. Also, there’s always a ton of people in there. It’s only a single floor and the space is small. Reminds me of the gyms in high school and college, where they had a small auditorium-sized space with machines and free weights jammed right up against each other. It must be incredibly expensive to lease that much space in a shopping mall. So I should give them respect for paying out. But it just doesn’t appeal to me. The people there are also more plastic than usual. It’s a mall, after all.

The only reason I go at all is the Tuesday night Cycle class. Nice to be able to make it to a class after work and not rush through the locker room suit-up. At the Imperial location, I’m usually walking into the class after every one else is on the floor already. Mission Valley is ten minutes away, National City is almost twenty.  It makes a difference.

So anyway, I walked into the cycle room last night and saw a sharp-faced younger guy setting up in the instructor area. Something about him was familiar. When he flicked on his wireless mike and told us his name was Jade, I remembered him. I caught his set at Hillcrest in December. He wore a ball cap that time. Last night, he was hatless, his thick mousey brown hair cut medium-short, like John Lennon when he cut his long hair for charity or protest right after the Beatles broke up. Jade was subbing for Cody last night. Cody takes a lot of time off, apparently.

Jade was typically energetic. He led us is running sprints, seated sprints and heavier climbs. Very disconcerting to look over and see his legs moving in a blur no matter what the drill. He really is just muscle and bone. He told us–as we were setting up our bikes–that he grew up mountain biking in Colorado. His quadriceps are cut on both sides of each leg. He kept up a constant running commentary, on every thing from correct riding position to the methods used by instructors to hook up their iPods to the club-supplied stereo system. One instructor apparently brought in a mini television which had RCA jacks to allow the line-in hook-up.

He worked us pretty hard. The women, usually amongst the most gung-ho in the class, emitted groans when he called out for resistance and pedal speed increases at the fifty minute mark. Sweat dripped off my nose and upper chest, hitting the floor for the first time in a long time. I usually gauge my work out by sweat. Last night was a return to the strong effort and heavy sweat.

Walking out, I saw Jade standing in the gym’s fitness counselor area, lining out the pass cards on a counter like he was playing Solitaire. I wonder if the instructors get paid off the number of cards they collect. It would make sense: a commission based on how many take the class. I need to ask one of them: maybe Steve K. when I next see him.

Tonight We All Got A Brazilian

January 24, 2011

Climbing the stairs at Imperial, clock overhead almost reading 7:30, and the Zhumba crowd clumped up waiting to get out through the door: a little four-foot woman in cycle pants and a ball cap stood talking in the doorway. Not really getting in the way, just kind of holding the door open and talking to several of the female regulars in the class. After she went inside, I held the door open for the streaming ladies–cuz they’re ladies, they work out to keep in shape and hey, you just never know.

Once inside, grabbing for a bike, jockeying for my favorite floor position, I noticed the little woman in the cycle pants and ball cap setting up where the instructor usually spins. Whaa??

“Good evening, my name is Sonia, and I’m subbing tonight. How many of you haven’t taken my class before? (most of the hands went up) Well, I like to push you, and I will get in your face. If I say ‘heels,’ you need to make sure you are riding with your feet flat, if I say ‘knees,’ you need to make sure your riding with your knees straight. So come on, let’s get started!”

She wasn’t kidding. She broke her patter several times to call out slackers.

“You!” she pointed, “increase your resistance. I can see you don’t have enough on the wheel.”

At one point, during a standing climb, she rolled her bike over to face myself and 8 other riders clumped in the front/middle corner.  She mounted the bike and started churning away.

“All of you here,” she made an encompassing sweep with her raised hand, “need to increase your resistance. You’re cheating, and I don’t like cheaters.”

Finally, an instructor who uses the open plane of the wood floor to her advantage. She could never have rolled her bike over in one of the dedicated rooms.

She has an accent, Spanish sounding. Three quarters of the way through, she started playing Salsa music with a hyper-extended beat.

“Is anyone here Brazilian?’ she called out.

She likes to sprint. When she does, her legs churn at an incredible rate, double the speed of anyone else in the room. When she rides intervals: standing to sitting and repeat, she doesn’t really sit. She stays suspended just above the seat, hanging in space with her legs churning lightning fast and her knees almost fully bent. At four-foot, and not an ounce of fat, she can’t be holding too much weight up, but it’s still an incredible feat.

She thrashed us all and then thanked us. As she was taking us through cool-down at the end, she warned us not to skip that step. Don’t get off the bike too quickly, she said.

“I see too many people downstairs—-” and here she clasped her hands in a prayerful triangle and pantomimed keeling over.

I can imagine.

Just Like a Line to Buy Concert Tickets

January 23, 2011

Got up early and motored down to Imperial. Walked into the gym at 6:45 a.m.  Nobody in the lobby waiting, but my name was number 9 on the list when the counter girl wrote it down for me. So I asked her how early the first person showed up.

“I’m just curious,” I said, and repeated it reassure her. She looked worried, like she was being asked to give out Non Public Information.

“I would say, 6:35,” she replied.

Thanked her for the info and went upstairs to set up my bike. At five minutes till 7 a.m. all the regulars stood in the lobby, clumped in a loose line up to the counter. They huddled in little conversations of 2 to 3 people. They act like they’ve been coming to the Sunday class since time immemorial. I don’t  come to the gym to socialize or interact with people on any level, but it would be nice to feel accepted into their club.

The counter people at Imperial know me now, and call me by name. And I don’t mean they’re looking at a screen to read my name before they greet me. It’s a bit un-nerving. While standing under the pre-swim shower, the one counter guy (out of all the females in that position down there) walked by and greeted me by name. And I didn’t know his. Suppose I should just make some self-deprecating remark and ask for his name. It takes an effort to be a human being. I just want to remain isolated in my work out.

Jeff B. went heavy on the disco and 70’s MOR rock today: Foghat (original mix “Slow Ride”), Journey (a dance mix of “Don’t Stop Believing”) and A Taste of Honey’s “Boogie Oogie Oogie” revamped into a club mix.  It was fun. Some sang along. I didn’t sing, but followed along line by line in my head.

In other news, I retitled the novel again. Whenever the work pace slows, I retitle it or change the cover picture. Nevertheless, it fills 2.5 notebooks now, not counting several stray Word and Lotus docs. Just need to get it done and move forward. It’s scary. I’ve had something on the burner most of my life. But it’s time to get it out there. I’m gonna be fifty in June, and that’s my drop dead deadline. Gotta make it happen.

Tommy, Can You Hear Me?

January 20, 2011

Went back to Grossmont this morning to catch Steve K.  Could’ve caught him yesterday at Rancho San Diego, but I refuse not to sleep in on my first real day off. By ‘real day off,’ I mean a day of no work with another to follow. So yesterday, I ended up taking Timothy’s class at Imperial. What a gray day it was! The sky looked like dishwater. Was half afraid it would rain, but it did not. Timothy was a different animal. He warmed us up for 10 minutes of seated flat road style resistance, then punished us for the remainder of the hour. He’s very big on standing up straight and pedaling with no head and shoulder movement.

“Position 2,” he calls it.

It’s tortuous, and the Geneva Convention should look into it. But we all went along for the ride. At the forty-five minute mark, my right toes started cramping so bad I had to stop several times, and literally limped across the finish. Dialing the resistance down a bit, I was able to huff it out, but just barely. It made me feel old. It made me think of Tommy–the tall, skinny, shave-headed, bespeckled guy who spins at Grossmont. Tommy always starts the class, and seems to want to keep up, but he never finishes. Is that to be my fate? An old, broken down version of an athlete who only gets points for making an appearance, for putting up an effort, no matter how predeterminably doomed it may be?

And yet lo, Tommy made it out this morning for Steve K.  Cranking out ab crunches with a view of the parking lot, I saw him come up the walkway. An older, gray-headed man came down the walkway, leaving the gym as Tommy was coming up. Tommy greeted him and they exchanged cordialities in passing. Tommy seems to be well-liked and moves well amongst the gym population.

We all set up our bikes and began grinding away. Steve K. did give out his usual “this class is different, it’s more like an actual road ride” spiel. He doesn’t dispense this speech at Rancho anymore unless he sees enough new faces in the crowd. He did make us work, but nothing like his fabled Wednesday class. Getting kind of sick of hearing that class put up on a pedestal.

Tommy vanished around the halfway point again. I didn’t see him leave this time. Usually, I spot him as he dismounts and rolls his bike back against the wall.

After fifty minutes of fitful torture, Steve K. made one last reference to his Wednesday class.

“Back off the resistance and flush those legs out,” he said, still pumping away himself.

“If this was my regular Wednesday class,” he added, “I’d make you keep going.”


Cat Walk

January 19, 2011

Saw my disowned cat this morning. He stepped through my open screen door and stood just inside my place. The door was open because I was rushing out to get on with my day. His name was Pumpkin when I paid $80 to a rescue lady/society/club for the privilege of giving him a home. He hid under my son’s bed for the 1st five days he lived with us. When we lost the house, he came with us to the apartment. All was well until he started staying with a carpet bum friend of the landlord in a studio apartment off the wing of the building next to mine. Kym was the guy’s name. He was living in my apartment when the landlord showed it to me. Kym started sleeping in a hammock out in the grassy common area in front of the apartments after I moved in. I saw him out there, bundled under several sleeping bags in the early hours before sunrise.

When the heavier winter cold hit, the landlord let him move into the vacant studio apartment. He didn’t work until the landlord started making him pay rent. Then he started overhauling automobile brakes and suspension in the dirt parking lot. He liked to use his cell phone on speaker function. So everybody got to hear the conversation. His calls to his customers were memorable.

“Well, so you think I should replace the master cylinder?”

“”Yeah, I think you should replace the master cylinder, if you don’t want to die!” 

Kym took over my cat gradually, first seducing him with food handouts from the meals he frequently cooked for the landlord. He renamed the cat “Morris,” after the 9 Lives advertising icon. Not only did he presume to rename someone else’s pet, but he boasted to me about it.

“I call him Morris,” he grinned, “he comes to it [when called].”

That was probably his only way of getting to me. I used to walk away from conversations with him. If I hadn’t, he’d be talking to me still. Tall, skinny, with blonde hair growing long around the open skin of his balding pate, he looked like Jimmy Buffett might if he’d just kept drinking without any ambition to entertain or succeed. He spent thirty days in jail for a “misunderstanding” in a bar down the street. The fellow that Kym pulled a knife on didn’t understand that he was only playing.

So my cat began staying in Kym’s studio apartment. He has a distinctive yowl. He doesn’t meow; he makes an insistent squalling noise. Every time I walked by Kym’s apartment, my cat yowled at me from behind the screen door.

Then, predictably, Kym was gone. Moved out or kicked out, it doesn’t matter. He once told me he inherited forty acres of land in Virginia from his father. Obviously, he prefered the life in Southern California to Virginia. But maybe he finally decided to take the land over the outdoorsman life.

Just like that, my former cat was homeless himself. He started huddling on the doormat outside my apartment. But now he had fleas: a fact manifested after he spent a night indoors at my place. The couch and the rug were on fire with the tiny biting pests in the morning. So he couldn’t stay. And anyway, he had chosen his own course when he moved in with Kym. I have prefered cats over dogs in my adult life. But a cat chooses you, and that’s that.

So now, I see my former cat huddling 3 doors down outside the Mexican family’s apartment. They already have a cat, but the little girl who lives there puts out a bowl for him. He should probably move on, but he’s apparently too domesticated to go feral. Maybe he thinks he’s got nowhere else to go.

New Favorite

January 17, 2011

I really like the Imperial Ave 24Hr location. It’s very clean, which must be a challenge considering all the humans sweating inside. It’s one of the most fully populated locations.

Its popularity sometimes makes it challenging. Drove down there yesterday morning to catch Jeff B.’s 8 a.m. set. Got there at 7:53 a.m. and found the lobby full  of familiar faces. The whole crew was there: Whoop Dogg, the Blonde Housewife, the super skinny Asian Guy, the Obese Black Couple and 6 or 7 other regulars. Told the desk girl my name so she’d write it down on the priority chart. Ended up snagging the last pass that wasn’t reserved. Guess I’ll have to start getting there at 6:30. I refuse to pay another reservation fee, especially on the one day I’m guaranteed off from work.

One class I do and will continue to reserve is the 7:30 Monday class with Nicole at Imperial. Walked through the gym door at 7:20 and had to fight my way through the Zhumba departees while climbing stairway to classroom at 7:28. Nicole brought some new music tonight. Kind of embarrassing to get singled out while she did her usual pass  collection walk-thru at 8:03.

“Looking good right here!” she yelled into her mike while pointing at me. Was a foot away from her at the time.

She led us through some seated ladders tonight. She did bring us up to standing during several drills, but the emphasis was on seated power climbs and lighter resistance sprinting in the saddle. Had  sweat beads forming and running down my biceps. And that’s good.

Tomorrow night, I need to finally take on Cody’s class at Mission Valley Ctr again. Been putting it off, calling in and moving my reservation back and back again. Not tomorrow. It’s gonna be on.

Ever Since High School

January 14, 2011

The thing about Diane B.’s class is: it’s  a little like high school. All the cool kids know each other by name. And they talk about things that happen outside of class: people they know, tail gate party incidents, etc. And Diane B. is up there like some Amazon, her six-foot frame spinning away and calling cadence and ordering resistance changes while all this inside shit is going on.

“Carl, I saw you got a new car,” she says into her headset mike, “how much did it cost?”

Too much,” replies Carl with a laugh.

“I can’t hear the music over the sound of Carl’s ego!” calls Jackie from the corner.

“Teacher, Jackie’s picking on me,” Carl calls in reply.

And all the while, the music is pounding, and we’re up and down in time, pushing and pedaling, sweating and breathing heavy. The verbal interplay darts around us like flies.

Wish I could catch more of Diane B.’s Wednesday and Friday class. But I leave after only a half hour to get to work on time.  This morning, I actually made it through all of the Us vs. Them standing drills. Because she squeezed them into the first half hour. Usually, she starts those drills at 6:40.  Had to blow my nose for the last fifteen minutes of class, but I didn’t dismount. No wasting time for clear breathing when there’s only a half hour available to work out.

One nice thing about a class that starts before dawn is: no worry entrance. You can breeze in 10 minutes before class time and get a pass at the front desk.

So, I got a half hour in today.  Better than I’ll do tomorrow. No dawn patrol or after work classes on Saturday. Guess I’ll have to get to Imperial on time Sunday. For a change.