I told the vet my problem about my grandmother and the vet, who needs to be sainted immediately, said Canela can stay there so that I can go be with Mommom. They will monitor her, feed her what she needs and give her the medication properly. They will groom her, play with her and keep her out of the cage most of the day. They also have 24 hour care, which is really good. Honestly, they will probably take better care of her than I would. This way I know that if anything changes or happens that it will be taken care of immediately. This will give me the peace of mind that I need in order to go be with my grandmother, who also needs me.
I'm still not thrilled about any of this. Believe me. This has been very hard. But I feel a little better. I feel less like a horrible person.
My grandmother told me she is dying of a broken heart and it can't be fixed. What can I do with that? And please don't tell me stories about perfectly healthy people dying soon after their spouses. Of course I've heard these stories. Of course I realize that may be happening. This is what everyone tells me when I tell them about Mommom. How is telling me that supposed to make me feel better? Or her? Likewise to the people who asked me about my health and then when I told them, they responded by telling me horror stories about people they knew who died young of what it looks like I have. What the hell is wrong with people? Jesus Christ.
Maybe I need to do another day of no consequences post soon, but I don't want to drum up bad energy.
But thank you for your continued prayers and well wishes for both my kitty and my grandmother. I really, really appreciate it and I do believe that prayer and the sending of good energies works.
Canela says hi. She's sitting in the window slashing her tail at lizards in the yard. She looks healthy, but she's mad that her butt is all wet and sticky. Bless her little kitty heart. They had to give her an enema and I think things got messy, so they gave her a bath, but she still kind of stinks.
Last week Mommom Jewel had a heart attack. I couldn't get up there immediately because I had to finish out the class I'm teaching. Tickets were really expensive so Husband I decided to drive up for a week or ten days or so to be with her.
Now Canela is very sick. She is staying at the animal hospital right now and the cost has been unimaginable, but I'm really just concerned about my beautiful, beloved little kitty.
My heart is broken and I'm sick with worry about my grandmother and my cat and then I feel guilty because I don't want to leave Canela here alone with a cat sitter, because God knows what will happen if I'm not here to watch her and then how could I be so awful to not go see my sick grandmother because of a cat. Yet, in my heart the two loves and worries and fears for both of them seem almost equal. But how can they be? How can I equate my grandmother with a cat? I feel like a terrible person and I don't have a solution. I don't want to have to choose between them. I feel like a horrible person if I don't go see my grandmother and I feel like a horrible person leaving a sick cat. I can't see a solution and taking Canela on the roadtrip with us is not an option, so forget that.
Please say a prayer for my grandmother, for Canela and for me and if you have a solution or any ideas, please let me know.
I've mentioned the crazy people who live near my apartment. There's the scary, one eyed man and the schizophrenic who collects junk and rides around in his beat up car that is wall-papered with stickers.
In my parents' old neighborhood there was a man everyone called "Fetus." Fetus lived alone and of course his house was in terrible disrepair. He had a screened in porch that was sagging and full of holes. He never cut his yard or trimmed his hedges. Kids were petrified of him and with good reason. Fetus, who looked exactly like when Crispin Glover played Andy Warhol in the Doors movie, left his house on foot every single morning except Sunday, carrying an enormous homemade sign with pictures of fetuses on it. He'd carry the sign, which was obviously very homemade and quite disturbing, several miles down A1A, then up a major street, over another huge intersection, where he'd finally make his way to an abortion clinic. He'd stand outside of the abortion clinic all day long looking ominous. What made the whole thing even worse was the way Fetus dressed. He had two pairs of pants. I'm guessing he called them slacks. Both were high-waisted, polyester flares that were too short in the ankles. One pair was maroon and the other was forest green. He wore these with short sleeved, polyester dress shirts, also circa 1968, which he buttoned up to the very top. There was something very sinister about these outfits and he projected a distinctly Norman Bates-ish vibe, except he looked like Crispin Glover's Andy Warhol as I already said.
But the one thing I can say about Fetus is that he was certainly committed to his cause. I would see him every single day, except Sunday, toting his sign up and down the street and standing in front of the abortion clinic, which I had honestly never known was an abortion clinic. It was called a "Family Planning Center" which always struck me as a slightly unsettling euphemism for some reason. I can't quite put my finger on why I found it unsettling and it has nothing to do with my political beliefs. Maybe it was just Fetus standing out there with that damned sign. It looked like he'd had the thing forever and it wasn't much more than a big piece of poster board stapled onto a yard stick and reinforced into stiffness with layers and layers of yellowing packing tape. That sign just screamed insanity.
Periodically I'll see another nut case around town. This one is an old black guy, dressed similarly to Fetus, who drags a gigantic cross on his back up and down the highway. I don't know where he lives, but I've often wondered if he and Fetus were friends. It seems like they would be, though I suspect Fetus would scoff at the man with the cross. You see, it's one thing to drag around a real, wooden, crucifixion-scale cross on your back, but it's another thing when the cross has a wheel. That's just cheating. I think Fetus would agree with me on this one. I'm sure Jesus would have loved a wheel on his cross as he staggered down the Via Dolorosa with blood dripping in his eyes and a bunch of jeering Romans whipping him.
You know what's really odd, is that back in Millpond there was a Cross Man too. I've also seen Cross Men throughout Georgia and I've heard of them being in other places in the South as well. It must be a thing. Some sort of club that gives lunatics something to do, sort of how hamsters like to run in a wheel. I'll bet there's even a special store or a catalogue of some sort where you can order your own cross with a wheel. They probably come in different weights or finishes. Maybe they even offer flashy rims for the wheel so you can really pimp your cross.
My parents' nieghborhood, where I've been staying all summer while my parents RV around the country, has its fair share of the crazy too. Unfortunately we're losing the madam, Velva Haux. The recession has hit her hard and men just aren't paying thirty grand a night to fly high-klass hookers to New Jersey anymore. The last I heard, things were so bad that Velva wasn't just sending her girls out, she was personally serving her clients. Velva has now sold her house and moved to an apartment. It's nearby so I still might run into her while she's buying Rock Star in the 7-11.
Luckily we still have our two other neighborhood nuts to scare the children. The Runner and The Walker are Basura del Este institutions. I can't imagine the place without these two women.
I see The Runner every single day, all over town. I've seen her in the next town over. She covers a lot of miles and so does The Walker, but they never seem to overlap. Maybe they've got something worked out between them where one doesn't infringe on the other's territory.
The Runner looks to be close to sixty. She's bone thin like raw chicken wings. Her skin looks like a used tea-bag. I don't think this woman knows that sunscreen exists, and with the amount of time she spends out in the Florida sun, it is a miracle that she has not exploded in melanoma by now. Her hair is bleached platinum and fried so that it's now the texture of a 1970s, shag toilet seat cover. She wears a hot pink visor, tiny pink running shorts and a cropped tank to show off her abs which I'm sure would be impressive if you could seem them through the shadow cast by her enormous breast implants. These things are the size of musk melons. I imagine she got them around the time breast implants first came out. They're uneven, look hard as rocks and they've fallen considerably. I'm sure this woman's constant running hasn't helped things. She's so small that she doesn't have a lot of skin to spare anyway. Factor in the eight hours a day of jogging (at least) that this woman does and I don't know, honestly how the elastins in her skin haven't cried uncle by now and just given up. It is a miracle that one of this woman's breasts hasn't torn off and gone rolling down the asphalt. Any day now I expect this to happen. Tourists on their way over to the beach will run screaming thinking the implant is some kind of monster jellyfish escaping the ocean and I'll have to explain that no, it's just a calcified bag of old silicone that's finally ripped lose from a sixty-year old exercise addict. We all knew it would happen one day, I'd say. The neighbors would all nod sadly and we'd look at the implant which would have by now rolled into the gutter, covered in sand and bits of palm frond.
But it's not just that The Runner runs all day every day, even in the pouring rain. It's that she does it with a double jogging stroller. Often the stroller is empty and this creates a very disturbing image. It always makes me think that once there were children in there, but that they fell out a few miles back and The Runner, in her state of apparent oblivion (runner's high perhaps?) never noticed. I imagine two toddlers skinned up with gravel embedded in their knees, screaming alone in the bike lane.
Sometimes though, the stroller is not empty. Occasionally its passenger is the most pathetic Bichon Frisee I've ever seen. Tongue lolling out of its mouth, panting raggedly, it looks like it's experiencing simultaneous motion sickness and heat stroke. I know this dog often asks itself how the hell it ended up in this position. I wish someone would drive by and snatch it out of that stroller.
Even more disturbing though is when there's an actual child in the stroller. Sometimes there is. I don't know if the child is The Runner's or not. It might be a grandchild. She could have become a mother later in life or maybe she's borrowing someone else's kid so she can add some extra weight to her lengthy workouts. The child is a tow-headed boy. I've never seen the child awake. He's always slumped over unnaturally in a manner that makes me suspect she drugs the child so he won't cry and beg her to just stop, for once, to just stop running and take him home and for the love of God give him some Apple Juice and let him watch Dora like a normal child. I fear that in twenty years this child will be dumping the bodies of prostitutes in construction sites.
The Walker gives The Runner some competition in the loony department. The Walker is well into her seventies and in very good shape. She's also wiry, but you can tell that it's not because she's an exercise addict like The Runner. She does nothing but walk, and I'll bet twenty miles a day at least, but her motives aren't the same as The Runner's. I'll bet fitness never once crossed her mind. The Walker just wanders, almost ghost-like, aimlessly, everywhere. It's haunting really. She seems like she's looking for something.
Every morning The Walker gets up and decks herself out in her finest. She wears sundresses, flowy chiffon, printed things and colorful high heels. She adds matching jewelry, hair accessories. She slathers on makeup, a lot of it, including eyelashes, rouge and red lipstick. She wears oversized sunglasses. Sometimes she wears a big hat, but other times she goes bareheaded into the noon sun, her long, thin black hair wound up in a high coil, the shape of a tower of soft serve resting in a cake cone, exactly in the middle of her head. She looks rather well put together, if a little cheap and tacky, but this is South Florida so cheap and tacky is standard. The shoes get me. They're high. Sometimes wedges, sometimes full stilettos. None of them can be comfortable, yet she leaves her house and walks eight to ten hours a day in them. Her feet must be so gnarled and twisted. I don't know how she does it. I would love to ask her.
I know she takes breaks. I've seen her resting on bus benches, but more often she stops in furniture stores, where she'll sit in the Air Conditioning on plush leather couches until she is asked to leave. I know this because I've seen it happen more than once. When my mother asked me to accompany her to several furniture stores as she decorated the living room, we saw The Walker several times. Once, we ran into her sitting on a patio furniture display in the garden section of Target.
"She's everywhere," my mother said.
It kind of felt like she was following us. Or maybe we were following her.
I wish I could act like I don't know who these people are, but I am all too familiar. Allow me to introduce my great grandparents and my mom. The back of the picture said that this was taken at Christmas of 1981. It is at the home of my great-grand parents, Poppop Henry and the unfortunatly named Mommom Millpond. They always had Christmas at their house because they had a wood paneled rec room that had a pool table and a bar and they used to actually serve the food on the pool table. Because I come from fancy folk.
I can't believe I haven't introduced you all to my great-grandparents yet, because Lord knows they were some characters. Mommom Millpond is (was?) Memere Marie's mother and Poppop Henry was her second husband and therefore Memere Marie's step-father. I never met my real great-grandfather. His name was Robert, but I'm pretty sure it was ro-BEAR, because that's french for Robert. Things didn't go very well between Mommom Millpond and ro-BEAR. I once heard that he burnt the house down and all the kids got sent to orphanages. Memere Marie was raised by an aunt and uncle in upstate New York. Apparently, Mommom Millpond, whose name was Geraldine, although people who weren't her grandkids called her Peggy, was a very wild woman. I don't know how someone gets Peggy out of Geraldine, but people called one another strange things back then. Take Dot for example. Growing up Memere Marie didn't know her mother, who had somehow made it to Millpond and married Poppop Henry. He owned the town junkyard. Memere Marie met her husband, my mother's father (Poppop June) because he worked at Poppop Henry's junkyard. When Memere Marie turned eighteen she wanted to meet her mother (Mommom Millpond) so she came to Millpond to visit. She ended up falling in love, staying and getting married. Are you confused yet? I know. If only people in my family could have had normal relationships and stayed in them it might have been simpler to explain who I'm related to and how and why, but then I wouldn't have anything to write about.
When they were little, my mother and her siblings named their two grandmothers after the places where they lived. They named them this against their wills. Mommom Peggy became Mommom Millpond because she lived in Millpond in an old house in the colored section of town near the junkyard (in the 70s they moved to the fancy new house off the highway with the rec room and paneling). Mommom Ethel (their dad's mom) was named Mommom Elmwood because she lived at a crossroads, not even a town, called Elmwood. Mommom Ethel was single, so there was no Poppop Elmwood to go with her. She had had a husband, also not my grandfather's father, for a short time. The kids called him Poppop Jones and my mother describes him as the most wonderful man, but he died suddenly at a very young age. I never got to meet him. My grandfather never knew who his father was and Mommom Ethel never revealed the truth, even on her death bed. Poppop June was named after the doctor who delivered him, which means that two generations later, I am named after a country doctor from the Eastern Shore who probably delivered more livestock than actual human beings.
But anyway, back to Mommom Millpond and Poppop Henry. When I was little they lived in the wood paneled house pictured above. I hated going to their house because it stunk. They had two mean German Shepherds that had to be locked away when people came over because they were junkyard dogs who would kill and eat anyone besides Poppop Henry and Mommom Millpond. The male was black and brown and the female was all white and dog hair was all over everything. The offensive odor of their home was a complicated blend with top notes of dirty dog, blended with subtle hints of casserole, rancid oil and Emeraude. There was an after-smell of generic decay, and possibly dog pee. It was awful. I can still smell it if I think hard, but I don't want to.
Mommom Millpond had a unique decorating style. If you've ever been to a Mexican dollar store or have an Italian or Puerto Rican grandmother who lived on Staten Island in the 70s and 80s you're probably familiar with it. I call it Bucca di Beppo chic. My great grandparents had a gold velvet sofa. Their color scheme was an odd Rasta-like combination of red, gold, green and black. There were numerous Catholic shrines throughout the house, elaborately displayed with spot lights, stage-like red velvet curtains and statues of saints painted in life-like colors. There was one where you could flip a switch and it would cry real tears. Plastic vines abundant with soft, hollow rubber grapes wound around the archways and over the gilt frames of reproductions of Italian Renaissance masterpieces on velvet. There was a lot of velvet in that home. And fringe. Mommom Millpond liked fringe. She also really liked angels, so there were many of them in paintings, hanging on the walls, on elaborate plaster urns. The whole house was one great monument to horrifically bad taste Catholic style and it occurred to me as an adult looking back, that the crying saint wept over the hideousness of her surroundings. As a child, I didn't understand why my great-grandparents' house looked like this. I remember feeling a great unease and an unusual sense of perhaps theater. One time I had a nightmare where Mommom Millpond and Poppop Henry's house was a ride at Disney World where I rode slowly through each room in a small cart that wove silently around the ottomans, slowing down as it glided past the shrines, pivoting so that its rider could get a look at the Last Supper cast in the bordello-like glow of the red glass sconces on either side of it. That dream was so unsettling.
Mommom Millpond kept crucifixes in every room. She seemed to like them the bloodier the better - Jesus, rare as a sirloin. Perhaps these added to the horror I felt about visiting my great grandparents. She also planted plastic flowers in the ground outside her house, to save her time gardening, so that they would always look perfect, maybe. I don't know if anyone ever asked her why she did this. The plastic leaves and petals faded in the sun and I remember driving by their house after a blizzard and seeing the stiff fake blooms dusted over with snow and bent from tiny icicles. All these things bothered me.
Poppop Henry bothered me too. He was a gigantic old perv. While Mommom Millpond decorated the house with her kitschy relics of white trash Catholicism, Poppop Henry took over when it came to the rec room. Jesus and Mary were strictly banned. It seemed like Mommom and Poppop had some kind of agreement about this, where he could do what he wanted in the rec room as long as it didn't cross over into the rest of the house where the portraits of the Pope could see the sin. Where the rest of the house was Vatican City, that rec room was Vegas Baby. Running a junkyard for several decades, Poppop Henry had amassed a collection of strange, sexual artifacts. He liked anything with a showgirl or a titty on it: lamps, neon signs, old cigarette machines and beer advertisements. He had an entire closet full of vintage porn and posters of pin-ups papered its walls. I used to stand in front of it and open the door for quick seconds. It was as if I felt like that closet ,with all those dirty magazines and pictures, would hurt me if I looked in there too long, but at the same time I had a vague sense that maybe it would be a little bit of a good hurt, though terrifying. Poppop Henry had a slot machine and a roulette wheel. He had any number of stupid, nasty toys and nick-nacks like a wind-up penis that jumped and spun across the tabletop and a statue of an Indian chief with a huge erection. My favorite, and I am ashamed to admit this, was a set of drinking glasses. When empty the glasses depicted various busty models in bikinis. When filled with a cold drink, the bathing suits would mysteriously vanish, revealing naked women. I could never get over that - completely naked women and they had tan lines, obscenely large nipples and dark, fluffy patches of pubic hair between their legs. Like the closet, I wanted to look at the glasses all the time, as they dripped condensation all over the coyly posed women, but it felt so terribly wrong and I didn't want someone to catch me staring. The longing was almost painful.
And I am sure that when this picture was being taken, that little me, at seven years old was nearby, perhaps peeking into the stacks of 1960s Playboys or trying to sneak a glimpse of bare breasts on a novelty glass. I love how Poppop Henry in this photo, is wearing a completely red outfit from head to toe. I guarantee you he was wearing red leather, zip-up ankle boots to match. Now who on earth would wear a completely red outfit? I suppose it was Christmas and all, but still. And really, I have to address the elephant in the room. What are they doing to Mommom Millpond's boob?
Is it what it looks like? Are they squeezing the old woman's breast through her shirt? Could that be? I mean, Poppop Henry, as I said, was a filthy old lech, but my mother? She wouldn't do that to her own grandmother, would she? It has to be something else. Maybe they're laying their hands on her to heal her. Maybe it's an illusion and what looks like her boob is something white that they're holding up in front of her. I have no idea. Mommom Millpond was around eighty years old when this was taken, so maybe they're helping her out, picking her boob up off the floor so she wouldn't step on it and hurt herself. Lord knows.
All I know is that I'm so grateful that I come from such a long line of ridiculously free spirited, half crazy (sometimes whole crazy), hilarious individuals and that I got to know so many of them and their stories.
Joe was excited. He was effing pumped man. Joe just wanted us to know how much fitness means to him. So much so that he's got his Nana in Jersey City, who's 89 by the way, working out on a Nordic Track he bought for her on eBay. She's never felt better.
It was time to get down to serious business. We had to be weighed and measured. They needed to calculate our body fat with some strange machine that you hold out in front of you. It then does nothing. You do nothing. Your arms start to hurt and then the machine beeps out a percentage that only personal trainers can read.
I am going to be one hundred percent honest with you about my size. I am exactly 5'6 1/2" tall and I weigh about 132 pounds right now. I am a nice, average, healthy size. I am not skin and bones, but I'm not fat. My husband would kill me if I gave out his measurements, but I will tell you that he is pretty average sized and he believes he could lose a couple pounds. His weight is at an all time high, but nothing emergency level. I thought they were going to tell me that I was fine and my husband needed to lose weight.
But no. Oh no.
My husband doesn't weigh enough apparently and I need to lose forty pounds.
In gym world it seems that men need to pack on as much weight in muscle as they can possibly hold, while women need to just waste away until they weigh as much as birds or air.
I think the only thing that could get my body to lose forty pounds is terminal illness and that is not funny and I didn't mean it to be. I am far too tall for it to ever be ok to weight ninety pounds. The last time I weighed ninety pounds I was in the seventh grade and four inches shorter and the school was sending notes home to my mother about eating disorders and malnutrition. The only ninety pound grown woman I know right now is under five feet tall and she's still skinny.
Rich and Joe began devising a plan to get Husband to swell while I withered. It wasn't fair and I was truly offended. When I protested, Joe showed me a chart with weights and heights and something that looked like emergency threat levels. There were about five levels, one being famine victim and five being person who needs to be lifted out of bed with a crane and on the Discovery Channel. I was at four, which was HIGH RISK!!! Threat level Creamsicle. At my gargantuan weight I am apparently at risk for cancer, heart attacks, diabetes, kidney failure, psoriasis, gall stones, cankles, seven chins and being ostracized from society, yet strangely there was no mention of the illness I actually have, so I guess that was from all that agricultural waste I grew up near after all.
Joe looked at me as if he were about to tell me I had three months left to live and I had better get my affairs in order right now.
"You're seriously at risk. You need to lose this forty pounds," he said, "and I want you to know, I don't do this for the money. I do this because
I was speechless. Someone asked me if I put myself through this in order to write about it and this is the point in the story where the answer to that question became yes. It hadn't been. I wanted to know how to use the machines, but it became apparent that I was part of some bizarrely scripted piece of fitness performance art, so I figured I'd just go with it and eventually maybe they'd show me how to use the machines and either way, I was going to write about this.
While Joe was crying over my health crisis, Rich apologized for having to eat his dinner in front of us.
"But this is a good time to talk about nutrition," he added.
"I know all about nutrition. I have a near perfect diet and when I'm not eating properly I know it. I'm not one of those people who comes in here thinking KFC is healthy because it's chicken, ok?" I said.
Joe and Rich exchanged looks and laughed at me sarcastically.
"You eat dairy?"
"Some," I admit.
"Perfect diet huh?" Rich chuckled.
Meanwhile, Rich, and I am not making this up, was heating up a pile of yellow rice, black beans, fried plantains and carnitas AFTER he had already heated up and was eating in front of us while telling us that dairy was not ok, a pile of cheese smothered nachos. For real. And yes I pointed this out. He mumbled some kind of excuse about a fourteen hour workday and not having time and blah blah. Rich lost all credibility, especially when he downed a bottle of corn syrup and chemical filled red Gatorade. I also pointed this out. His answer was electrolytes, blah blah blah.
"So you should drink coconut water. It's all natural, has no coloring, no sugar and more electrolytes than sports drinks." Touche.
"What did you eat before you came?" Joe asked, diverting attention from Rich's 14,599 calorie fat dripping dinner.
"Smoked turkey on a rice cake," I said.
Then they told me something that is actually true - that it's good to eat six little meals per day. I already knew this. And yes, they were also probably right about dairy. I should cut back on dairy, being that I'm not a baby cow. I've often said that the only thing standing between me and a size four is a wheel of brie. But I have a thing for dairy and I think it's because I can't eat wheat, so I feel like I have to have something, you know? Still, they were right, but then they were very much not right to tell me this while eating it right in front of me.
"You need to start in with protein shakes. Whey protein."
"It's DAIRY!!" I said.
"Make it with water or soy milk."
"NO, whey is dairy."
"No it isn't it's whey."
"Um, whey is dairy. It's the water separated from the curds during the cheese making process."
They didn't understand this. One more point for me.
Finally they turned to Husband and asked if we were ready to make a committment to our health and sign up for $1700.00 worth of personal training sessions.
"We need to discuss it, but how about giving us a session so we can see what it's like."
This is when Rich and Joe, seeing that we were cheapskate, yuppie assholes who just wanted a free session with no intent to buy personal training packages, decided to kill us.
First they separated us. Rich took me and Husband went with Joe.
Rich made me first run on the treadmill. This was ok, but he kept turning it up. I remembered the Beavis and Butthead episode where they went to the gym and went flying off the treadmill and into a wall. I imagined myself plastered to the mirror behind me, the mirror splintered around my flattened body. But it wasn't that bad.
Really, I think it was the squats that broke my spirit. He kept making me do them. In front of other people who were definitely laughing. Thinking I was a coordinated person, he tried to make me do squats against the wall with a ball behing my back, but I fell over and over and over because I am not a normal person. I am a spazz. And of course I found it all hysterically funny and Rich didn't. He tried to get me to do Sumo Squats, and the name of these alone had me cracking up. Then Sumo Squats with weights. Then something with the ball again. After that he put me on some kind of leg pressing machine with so much weight on it that I felt some part of my knee literally unhinge. After about twenty minutes I thought I might need to call 911. I felt nauseous. The bathroom at Bulge always smells like barf, and now I knew why. Personal trainers were making people throw up.
Can this be healthy though? I mean, why is it necessary to vomit to get a good workout? Is it because you shed a few extra calories in the process?
Finally, Rich had me on my back, which was somewhat of a relief, but then he was making me do something terrible, which I can't even describe, but it involved him putting my leg over my head and a crunch. By then the only crunch I ever wanted to experience again was in a fresh bag of black pepper kettle chips.
"You're getting red," Rich said, "Great."
He said this while he had me doing something called "fire hydrants" where one imitates a dog peeing. I was red because I was utterly mortified. I was red because I was so weak at this point that Rich had to help me lift my leg and was all up in my crotchal area in an obscenely intimate fashion, while I felt like a sixteen year old, arthritic hound who can no longer cock its leg to mark its territory and must be helped by its owner. People, it wasn't pretty. Did I add that my ass was covered with sweat and my cute little yoga pants were stained so it looked like I wet myself? Because they were.
Forty-five minutes and only one machine later, Husband reappeared looking like he'd gone through a week of enhanced interrogation.
He literally had to help me down the stairs and into the car, while stumbling himself.
"I think I might die," I said.
"Please tell me Joe showed you how to use the machines," I said, "Because Rich only had me on some leg thing and I'm so delirious now that I don't know what it was. It was medieval. That's what it was."
"I was going to ask you the same thing."
"They did this on purpose."
I couldn't walk for four days. I began to think maybe I had severely damaged something and might be seriously injured. I literally couldn't get up and down from the toilet without shuddering in cold sweat agony. Husband wasn't much better. I couldn't bend any joint on my body and so began walking in a manner I called "Robot Frankenstein."
If our session with a personal trainer was designed to make us want to buy expensive packages for more of the same torture, humiliation and general spirit-breaking, it was counter-productive. The hard sell tactics made us mad. The trainers had no credibility and then hurt us so badly that I would never want to give someone money to do that to me. I'd have to be a masochist. I know the whole "no pain no gain" mantra and I know that to get results one must feel some discomfort, but really, I'd prefer to just move and have fun in the spirit of being healthy and not by being motivated by shame and self loathing, where I feel I have to suffer to the point of dry heaving and not being able to sit down to pee, in order to meet some kind of arbitrary fitness goal. The funny thing was, before the "session" we had been going almost every day and felt great. Afterwards, it took us a week to go back to the gym because it took us that long to recover. It didn't make logical sense to me.
Husband I have gone back to our trusty circuit, which Joe and Rich poo-pooed, saying it wouldn't get results. Of course the other patrons still can't read the signs and we still get aggravated with them, but this is working for us and I don't see myself wanting a personal trainer any time soon. At least not one who eats carnitas and doesn't know whey comes from milk.
The gym, which I'll call "Bulge" because that's really what it should be called instead of its actual name, was running a too good to be true special - membership for ten dollars a month. We had to sign up for that.
Husband and I felt we had indulged a bit too much lately. To put it delicately, we had not been meeting our fitness goals and we felt that the obligation of gym membership would get us in gear, especially when we only had to shell out ten dollars a month.
There are fancy gyms in town. In South Florida there are fancy gyms everywhere and they are full of bulimic trophy wives, keyed up lawyers, white collar criminals, former reality TV participants and seventy year old men who drive Lamborghinis and take injections of Human Growth Hormone. These gyms have valet parking, eighty dollar a session Pilates classes, hot yoga, cucumber water, spray tanning and hell, they practically lift the weights for you. They don't allow fat people in gyms like this. Everyone who goes to these gyms was definitely picked first for teams in middle school gym class. There are also a lot of mirrors so that you can admire how ripped and cut and defined you are as you lift your wheat grass shot to your collagen bloated lips. Everyone is white, even the Hispanic people. I have phobias of places like this.
Bulge is about six steps below the fancy gyms, but you can tell it really wishes it were a fancy gym. Bulge is where the wannabes work out: the strippers who aspire to one day become trophy wives, the drug dealers who want to look like rappers, the people who weren't classy enough for reality shows, a bunch of Guidos from New Jersey who want nothing more than to make some money in white collar crime, but just don't have the smarts. They all look like they head over straight from some boiler room telemarketing operation. Most of the guys at Bulge are so roided out that they look like their skin is about to split open.
The people watching at Bulge is unrivaled. I love it. In addition to the usual gym rat types, the low membership rate (ten dollars a month, can you believe it?) attracts a lot of really weird characters. I'd like to be the first to tell you all that David Carradine is still alive. And he's working out at Bulge wearing cut-offs, a silky tank top and flip flops. His work out consists of standing under a pull up bar. Sometimes he holds onto it and looks at the ceiling, but mostly he just stands there.
Bulge is huge. I swear the place must have been a former Sam's Club or something, so it can be a little overwhelming. They have it decorated in neon colors and pump techno music at club level decibels. Most of it sounds to me like the climax scene of a sci-fi action film and when I'm running on the treadmill it makes me feel as if both Alien and Predator are coming for me and I'm trying to get away. When I'm done I always feel mildly traumatized, but maybe that's from the big screen TVs, all of which are permanently set to VH-1. I try desperately not to look, but I can't help it. My eyes are drawn to the sets, especially now that Ricki Lake is doing Charm School.
One thing I've noticed about the gym is that people just hang out there. I'm not sure exactly what they're thinking, but it appears that Bulge is the ghetto version of Starbucks and instead of macchiatos everyone drinks cookies and creme flavored Muscle Milk. I'm not kidding you. The place is always crowded and a good half of the people there aren't working out. I have literally seen people walk in wearing gym clothes, with a towel tossed over their shoulder to stand around and talk to other people for an hour, watching strangers sweating their asses off on the eliptical. Then they drink an energy drink (they have this new one that comes in a can that looks exactly like motor oil) and leave without ever having burned a calorie.
My sister, who spends far more time in the gym than I ever will, has also witnessed this phenomenon. She reports that there is a group of voluptuous women who arrive at the gym nearly every morning, all suited up and looking like they're ready to go. When they get to the gym they sit on the weight benches and exercise bikes and eat candy. They don't even eat Luna bars and try to look healthy. These women sit on the gym equipment eating straight up 7-11 candy. I'm talking Now & Laters, boxes of Nerds, Circus Peanuts and movie theater sized cartons of Whoppers. I'm honestly shocked that they don't go whole hog and bring in the 64 ounce Big Gulp of Mountain Dew to wash it down. They sit and gossip about who got who pregnant, while shooting my sister dirty looks, like her skinny ass is in their way. My sister and I have had numerous conversations trying to understand what exactly it is these women think they're doing and we finally figured it out. The women are going to the gym. That's it. Going. They are AT the gym. When they're done they can tell everyone that they went to the gym. In fact, they GO to the gym every day. It's not a lie. They really do.
So Husband and I, we just love Bulge. We love going, although at first we didn't know what to do. Luckily Bulge has a circuit. It's like "Curves" where you go around a big circle of different weight machines. There's a timer and every minute you switch stations. In between each machine you stand on a block and perform some sort of extremely awkward movement where you feel incredibly stupid and not sure if you're doing it right for another minute, before, to your absolute relief, the minute is over and you can move on to another machine. The whole ordeal takes about forty minutes, after which we then move on to the treadmills and try to do as much cardio as we can before we begin wheezing and having chest pains. This is our workout regimen. It makes us feel better about ourselves for having done it.
The problem is that people don't respect the circuit and just use the machines all haphazardly and out of order and they don't switch when the minute is over. This has to be because they can't read because I swear there are at the very least, thirty large, bright signs pasted all over the circuit area that say if you aren't doing the circuit to stay off of these machines and that the same exact machines are located in the other part of the gym. The signs are regularly ignored. No one does the circuit except us and we are very rigid people who like order and structure, so this disturbs our whole world. It's very upsetting. It drives me absolutely insane, but I'm scared to mention the rules because every person who breaks the rules could easily and swiftly kick my ass.
We began to think that maybe we were the ones doing something wrong.
"We get a free session with a trainer for signing up," Husband said, "Maybe we should use it and the trainer can show us how to use the machine and do everything right."
The next Tuesday night we arrived at the personal trainer's office five minutes early, all ready to go. What we thought was going to be a friendly tour of the facility with some demonstrations, was in fact something far more sinister. You see, Bulge's ten dollar membership is a ploy to lure you in. Once they've hooked you with that, they stop at nothing and I mean nothing, to get you to buy expensive, non-refundable packages of personal training sessions. The tactics are similar in persistence to time share sales. The "free session with a personal trainer" isn't really. It's a two hour long sales pitch/ guilt trip/ ego destroyer designed to break you down, to make you cry and to make you beg them to let you give them your money if only they will turn your blubbery, cellulite pocked, muffin topped pathetic self into one of the almost beautiful people; almost hot enough to pass for the kind of person who could afford to go to the fancy gym with the valet parking.
The trainer looked like a college freshman, a sophomore at the oldest. He was like one of my students and was wearing a tight Ed Hardy knock off tee shirt. Ed Hardy is bad on its own, but Ed Hardy knock off is about as low as you can get. The trainer's name was Rich and he handed us two long forms to fill out asking us all sorts of personal questions about our fitness habits, ideals and our body image.
Rich clapped. He was one of those people who claps and rubs their hands together a lot when they talk and punctuate most of their sentences with "OK!!" and "YEAH!!"
"OK!! So what are your fitness goals?"
"We just want to come to the gym," I said.
"You have a big reunion? Wedding? Vacation?"
"OK!! You need something to motivate you. Come up with something."
"I just want to exercise a few times a week because it's healthy."
"OK!! How much weight are you looking to lose?"
Rich stared at me blankly. For a second the techno stopped pumping through the walls and I heard crickets.
"Excuse me," he said.
"None, I don't want to lose any weight. I just want to be healthy. If I lose weight in the being healthy process then fine. My goal is not weight loss. I just want to be in good shape."
"OK!! You don't want to look hot for your husband?"
I nudged Husband to defend me.
"You know," Husband said, "It's not about that. We already find one another attractive. We just want to be healthy."
Rich became flabbergasted. He had to turn to his script, where he started telling us how a personal trainer could help our sex life. In a couple months we'd start seeing abs and muscles and looking hot.
"All right, so whatever, that's fine," I said.
Clearly, we weren't falling in line. Rich had to take his approach up a notch. He had to make us feel really badly about ourselves if this was ever going to work. We just had too much confidence and self assurance. So far we had been in his office for ten minutes and he hadn't even come close to actually taking us out to the equipment and showing us how it might actually be used in order to obtain these defined abs and toned arms that were supposed to improve our sex life, which had to be bad now being that we didn't have toned abs and defined whatevers, because you know, people who aren't hot apparently can't have good sex. You knew that right?
Rich then switched into Super Hard Sell mode.
To be continued...
"She is not in the least bit fat," reports my mother.
This morning my father called me whispering. I could barely hear him.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"We're having breakfast at this hole in the wall place in Malibu and Sean Penn just walked in!!"
"YES!" my dad whispered.
"Don't take a picture of him or he'll kick your ass," I warned.
Later my mom explained that Sean Penn appeared to be having breakfast with his mom and that he looked like a big dirt bag and was not someone she would ever want to be seen in public with. I understand, but I loved his acting in "Milk." Such a good film.
Also sighted in the past week were Shirley Maclaine leaving a Ralph's grocery store and Lesley Anne Warren who I wouldn't know if she beat me over the head with an expensive purse. At the celebrity wedding my mom had her picture taken with the guy who played Charlotte's husband on Sex & The City. He was also Hurley's imaginary, evil alter ego on Lost and was briefly on 24 and a ton of other stuff. My mom said he was really nice and they talked for a long time about how he survived cancer. I was touched.
That's all for now, but I bet by tomorrow my mom will be drinking cocktails with Russell Brand (I'm reading his memoir right now and it's really funny).
My dear friend, who also has a blog, early today wrote a post on her blog about the time she and I visited a fancy hotel in Miami and spent a good 20 minutes frolicking in the fancy bathroom, which was very similar to the bathroom of the Ritz in San Francisco. I hadn't read her post. I had no idea that she wrote about this at all, yet I felt an overwhelming desire to write my story about the Ritz bathroom this afternoon. HAND TO GOD. We wrote on the same topic on the same day without even knowing it. We have a connection. I'm very excited to be seeing her both tomorrow and Sunday where perhaps we will have to practice telekinesis and remote viewing next.
A few years ago, on a beautiful summer day, Bella and I found ourselves in a boat in the middle of the ocean with a bunch of cool people. Both of us, being highly neurotic individuals, did not want the cool people on the boat with us to know that neither of us were as cool as they were. At first things went well. Now I will tell you that both my cousin and I have a deathly terror of the sea. We both enjoy boats just fine when they are piddling down the Intracoastal. We like them even more when they are affixed to a track and gliding through animatronic pirates and dogs wagging keys in their robotic mouths. Both of us were a bit on edge that afternoon, on the big power boat, blazing through the surf, a fan-shaped fountain of spray erupting in our wake.
It was a hot day. Everyone wore bathing suits. I wore my prized pale yellow bikini with monkeys on it, which is now nine years old and needs to go in the garbage. I haven't worn it since this day, but I can't get rid of it for some reason. Where will I ever find a bathing suit with monkeys on it ever again? I keep thinking I'll find a use for it, like maybe one day I'll get into quilting, learn to sew, and make a giant, waterproof throw. A pool throw perhaps, for when the water's cold. Because that could work, right? And it could be patched together with squares from all the pilled-up seats of all my old bathing suits.
But yes, we were all wearing bathing suits and mine was already well past its prime. As I said, it was a really hot summer day. We decided to stop the boat in the middle of the ocean, literally miles from the shoreline, above a thousand feet (at the very least) of opaque blue water, in four foot swells, which didn't look very large from the deck of the forty foot boat until it stopped and then all of a sudden the stomach-roiling rocking began. Internally, I began to panic. A million terrible images bubbled into my mind: seasickness, sharks, man o wars, barracudas, cellulite, drifting to Bimini and perhaps the biggest terrible thing of all - not looking cool around cool people. Half of the cool people wanted to (gulp) jump off the boat and into the water. The other cool people wanted to sit on the boat and have cocktails.
I weighed my options. Bella weighed her options. It is a well known fact that the cool girls are adventurous. They go rock climbing and bungee jumping. They can drive stick and love upside down roller coasters. Cool girls are fearless risk takers. Well, I'm not a fearless risk taker and neither is Bella, in spite of what she'll tell you about how much she loves the Sky Coaster. When it comes to the ocean, both of us are wary. My theory on this is that in a past life we died together in a terrible shipwreck, but who knows. Although we are afraid of the ocean, both of us really wanted to be the cool girls.
Too often I am labeled as the party-pooping pain in the ass who can't have a good time and who is scared of everything. This day, I just didn't want to be that. I wanted to be that bungee jumping, motorcycle riding without a helmet kind of girl for once. I wanted to jump off of that boat into the blue abyss and so did Bella. We had to do it. We had to conquer our fear and save face.
Bella went first because she is a tad braver than I am. Then, because she did it I had absolutely no choice but to hold my breath and jump in. The water was freezing miles from shore. God only knows what sea predators were swimming beside me and beneath me. The water was so dark, there was no way I'd ever know until I was crammed halfway down the maw of a starving Tiger Shark. I was already seeing my own reenactment on a Shark Week documentary about Florida attacks and I hoped they'd at least get a skinny actress to play the dying me flailing around in the red water.
To make matters worse, those four foot swells created eight foot wells. From the boat, the chop only served to make one mildly queasy. From above, the waves didn't look like much. That all changed once you were actually in the water, with nothing to hold onto and nowhere to stand up. I was treading for dear life and so was Bella but I wasn't even thinking about her. Naturally we were with a bunch of boys who thought nothing of any of this and were practically playing Marco Polo while I half drowned.
When I jumped in the water, I was too panicked to realize that the sheer force of my jump, combined with the waves and current, had all conspired to rip my bathing suit bottoms clean off of my body. I only wear tie bottoms, because these, I've concluded squish the hips the least, thereby making one look less fat in them. Somehow both sides of my tie bottoms came untied at once. The current was strong that day. It felt like we'd managed to stop right in the middle of the Gulf Stream itself and now it was quickly carrying away my bikini bottom with the monkeys on it. I was completely bare assed and panicking and going to die in the ocean and they were going to find my body naked from the waist down, in South Carolina, since that was where the Gulf Stream would probably carry me.
I was South of the boat and the current was pulling my bathing suit bottoms toward, but actually past, the boat. Frantically I dog paddled, half naked, my big white ass shining in the sun for everyone on the boat to see quite clearly, to try to catch my bottom half. Everyone on the boat shouted and pointed. Finally, out of breath, I made it to the boat's swim ladder, where I tried to hold on for a second. I thought if I could hold on, maybe I could get stable and maybe the bottoms would float by again and I could lunge out and get them if I could just get one of the long strings. There wasn't a lot of logic in this thinking, but I had just exposed myself to several people and was floundering in a thousand feet of salt water which was violently tossing me around and washing over my head.
At the same time, Bella was having her own crisis. Wrapped up in her own terror, Bella failed to notice my bare ass and saw only my screaming and desperate race to get to the boat ladder. In her mind this could only mean one thing. There was a Great White Shark. We were its appetizer sampler platter, much like the one at the Olive Garden that comes with fried raviolis AND mozzarella sticks. Bella was going to be a Great White's fried ravioli!!!! She was going to die!!!
Bella's mind went blank. Her fight or flight kicked in and she practically flew up out of the water like a sailfish, running across those four foot swells to get back to that boat ladder to climb to safety. She thought of nothing else but her escape from the non-existent shark that she assumed I was screaming about. She didn't see my bathing sut bottoms bobbing away and she entirely missed my gigantic bare ass looming before her on the boat ladder. Bella was in survival mode and I was in her way.
My tiny cousin, who I tower almost a full seven inches over, literally grabbed me by the hair and jerked me back. Then, she slammed both of her hands against my chest, hurling me back into the waves, this time face up, so everyone who had now already seen my behind, could get a nice detailed shot of my crotch. Once I was out of the way, having become Bella's human shield to an imaginary shark, she scrambled up the ladder and back into the boat. That's when she looked down and saw that I was half naked and by now in hysterics.
At this point in the story, the boat's captain had retrieved my bikini bottoms with a gaff hook, and everyone found this wildly amusing. Except me. I was still stuck bare assed in the ocean being laughed at. I had to hang on to the edge of the boat until Bella could come with a beach towel to shield everyone from another gratuitous crotch shot. That did nothing, by the way, to block the view of my ass to the boys who were still in the water.
So much for trying to be the cool girls. The whole ride back in we had to listen to recountings of Bella's mad scramble up the ladder and descriptions of not just my face when I realized my bottoms were off, but also how my butt looked tossed around in the waves. No one knew Bella had such strength in such a little body. No one knew she'd be willing to sacrifice her dear cousin to sharks in order to save her own ass.
Bella it is for stories like these that I love you so much. Happy 29th Birthday!
When we stay here at Casa dei Sogni, we bring our kitty Canela too. Canela loves having a big airy house to roam around in. When we were here last year, we were often startled, sometimes out of a dead sleep, by Canela howling and hissing like something possessed. It happened almost every day. One day Husband told me there was a black cat with a mohawk outside the back door and that Canela was fighting with it through the glass. This cat, with its fierce hair-do, was Pepper, the neighbor's cat who is lucky and gets to go outside. Pepper is the boss of the street and liked to come over and taunt and tease poor Canela, the unlucky indoor cat, who subsequently grew her own mohawk because she can be fierce and scary too. This went on every single day until we went back to our apartment last fall.
This summer, we wondered if it would happen again; if Pepper could smell Canela here or if she could somehow know Canela had returned. Friday it happened. Once again, the two mohawked cats were throwing themselves against a pane of glass, shrieking like two Tasmanian Devils. And the sick thing about it, was that I was excited. I was all like: "Yes!! Pepper's back! Cat fights!" What the hell is wrong with me that I find this behavior mildly amusing to the point where I guiltily look forward to it? I guess if the cats seemed like they were suffering or if they were harming themselves it would be different, but I swear these two really enjoy talking smack to one another and hitting the glass with their paws. I think it makes them feel like bad asses. Canela sits and waits at the door for Pepper to come and when it seems like they get out of control I open the door and shoo Pepper away. I also toss her the occasional Greenie because she's a cute kitty too. I'm not all evil. Am I?
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