Overstuffed with turkey, bacon, stuffing, mashed potatoes, veggies with bacon, bacon with veggies and capped off with mincemeat and sour cream raisin pie — pre-soaked with beer, mid-soaked with wine, post-soaked with another beer —- a restless meat sweat sleep was interrupted by my alarm going off like the soundtrack from Psycho – with a lot less water. Christmas day was as nice as it could possibly be with the house overstuffed with people overstuffing with everything edible in sight. But as I rolled out of bed to fumble the touchscreen of my screeching phone with nothing less than my very drowsy and inaccurate fist, Siri greeted me with a “Good Morning, it’s 6:30 and 24 degrees”. I shivered a bit, dislodging a perturbed gas bubble from deep within the flabby center of my earth. There wasn’t a single taste I could recognize.
The original idea was simple enough; I scheduled a training session with my corn-fed Vernonia trainer, Jacq so he could exercise the demons I would summon on what is supposed to be a holy Christmas day ritual. If you think about it, logic and therefore math needs edges to cleave against in order to come up with a result; I mean, 2+2 can equal 4 but human nature will throw in some turkey gravy and a sip of wine suddenly causing the results to fluctuate wildly and exponentially. Less than 8 hours later you throw in a “Pump You Up Hanz Type” the whole stinking idea of training at the crack of dawn seems like inviting yourself into the very depths of a medieval torture chamber complete with apps to tell you how big of a whiney ass you were afterward. The coffee maker screeched and squawked in sympathy.
When I entered the laundry room it quickly became apparent that with the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I forgot to launder my gym clothes. Pretty much my entire ensemble was still sitting in the “I’m still dirty” laundry hamper. So I picked out the cleanest, dryest articles I could find (not a lot of choices) and stuffed them into my gym bag… except for the shirt. No way I was pulling a 5 day old, fermented sweat rag over my head and past my nose. Not the day after an over-indulgent Christmas, with disposition and stomach on the verge of complete and total rampage; just not a good idea. So I marched back upstairs to my dresser and pulled out an old t-shirt my daughter gave to me. I had used this shirt many times before in the gym to work out. Nothing fancy; pretty much the kind of shirt you’re not afraid to ruin. My daughter’s country cover band, Slicker, had a show in Canby and after “making” me dance with an untold numbers of – apparently unattached – women (my wife was not there but apparently my daughter Jessica thinks it’s funny to risk my well being – evidenced by her laughter behind the microphone) she walked up and handed me this t-shirt. It was black with a dark green logo. It would live in my dresser unused… until I started working out.
So the past few days had been a bit cold and more than a bit slick up on our little hill in Sherwood. Freezing rain, a pinch of snow, melting, and more freezing had created a fantastic sparkly winter wonderland of potential contusions on my ever sloping driveway. The ice on my car door exploded in shards as I yanked it open; my breath announced itself in a visual fog as it entered the car before me. My car lit up as I turned the key; suddenly announcing with beeps and flashes that it’s 24 degrees and it can’t see shit. Yes, my car likes to see —- it seems to be a manufacturing trend these days. So I sit there as my breath fogs up the windows that I am desperately trying to defog, and fumble helplessly as the wipers that couldn’t sense that I didn’t have the good sense to turn them off the day before, immediately hopscotch their way across my windshield with a sound similar to a rolling coffee can full of gravel. The fancy heads-up display informs me of possible ice.
The drive up my driveway was relatively uneventful as my headlights set off sparkles seemingly into the star-filled sky. As my car found it’s “AWD” footing on the ice-covered roadway I began looking for shadows. Canter lane is a dead end drive with 23 homes and it seems everyone in our neighborhood likes to walk in the dark; in virtually any kind of weather. So I’m wiping my watery eyes, looking edge to edge, slipping and sliding at what I consider to be a safe speed for man or beast when I saw something. It was just a flash in my headlights and then a shadow of movement. I hardly had time to focus when I saw him strolling casually across the dark and icy roadway; less than 20 feet from my icicle-laden bumper. “Oh shit, it’s Odi” I cried as I applied my high tech anti-lock braking system. Immediately the whole world went into a panicked anti-lock stutter as everything seemed to go slower – except for Odi. Nothing in the space-time continuum goes slower than Odi. Odi is a neighbor dog; a black lab, which makes him almost impossible to see in the dark. I know this very well because I also have a black lab. When I throw the ball at night for my lab it’s simply a game of trust. She trusts I’ve thrown the ball, and I trust she will find it. There is no perceptible visual evidence to be had of black labs in the dark.
The chatter of the anti-lock slow-motion world is quite interesting; because you can still kind of steer the car. So try to imagine a 360 pan and scan shot around Odi as he moves (at his normal speed because everything else is slow motion; not Odi) across the road, my car chipping and chirping in a frosty ballet, just inches beyond his tail. Eventually, I came to a stop in the middle of the road and sat there for a moment. Finally stepping out I looked in the dark for a black lab who, by all appearances, was heading home. After slipping and stumbling for a bit I finally realized Odi was probably in his nice heated house by now looking at me through the window. Small bits of fog from his nose pressed against the pane glass, as he gazed out at the stumbling familiar man, fading in and out of his own labored foggy breaths.
Figuring Odi was alive and fine and also figuring I may freeze to death at any moment I scrambled back into my car. By this time my legs were rubber and my stomach was working on involuntary contingency plans. My mouth and tongue felt like they were wearing sweaters. I reached down into my center console and found my stash of “unusually intense mints”. By the time I got to the gym I had eaten a dozen or so. Suddenly, my mind started inventing scenarios like… Jacq will not show. I imagined he went home and did the same thing I did. Ate and drank too much and with the weather and all, decided not to come to work. Nope; this boy enjoys what he does – counting off reps, deciding exercises routines, saying the word “skaaaa wheeeeze” and asking questions… like “what weight did you do last?”
I grabbed another few mints and headed to the gym.
When I got to the locker room I opened my gym bag; the odors coming from it was rather brisk; like a walk past the backside of an overworked dryer. I slipped on the black shirt with the green logo (because it was clean) but hesitated a little before putting on my gym pants… You can imagine my recoil as I discovered one of the legs was wet.
After stretching for 10 minutes Jacq walked up to me and said: “Hello Darrel, are you ready?” I stood up and angled myself into my best estimation of downwind from him. “I’m so ready, Helen is looking for another name” His confused look indicated he was decades away from that awful punchline (young people, you can google it). He kindly repaid me for my lame attempt at humor at the dumbbell station. Appropriate don’t you think? I cannot begin to inform you of all the threats my body made while I gremised and grunted at the bench press. It was like that scene from Alien, or maybe Scanners – you know when that guy’s head explodes. All of the pain and pleading was bracketed in seemingly mundane bits of casual conversation. Normally, Jacq would maintain his composure but on this day, he started chuckling. “…comon, Ska-weeeze, 3, hee hee, 5, elbows in, hee hee, 7…” The more I grunted and sweated the more he realized there was poison to expunge and by God, he would expunge it through my arms. “Ok, we’re gonna do push-ups… “ I wiped the sweat off my forehead and got down on the floor.
“Nope! —- I want your feet up on this bench and your hands down on the floor. Keep your ass up, press down to your nose and push back up”
I looked him up and down… “Can I get my money back if this doesn’t work?”
He just pointed at the floor and made me do 3 sets of 10.
I’m not completely sure from a medical standpoint if it’s Ok to hallucinate during exercise but I do remember a distinct vision of me approaching Jacq’s quiet country home in Vernonia, knocking on the door, and presenting two deformed appendages to his mom and dad screaming “Your son did this toooo meee”. Then I apparently came to and Jacq waved me to follow him as he said: “We’re moving on…”
Next on the fun factory of health and wellness was pull-ups and hand dips. After straining through a set while he counted “1, 2, 3, elbows in, 5, 6, Ska-weeeze…” I finished the set and pulled my shirt up to wipe my brow. That’s when he chirped up and said…
“Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask you a question.”
I pulled my shirt back down past my belly and replied: “Oh yeah, what would that be?”
“I’ve noticed that shirt with the green logo that says – ‘Lucky Devil’”
I grunted as I did another pull-up. “Yup, my daughter gave me this”
He laughed as I strained for another rep: “Isn’t that a strip club in Portland?”
Suddenly my mind’s eye flashed back to several drives over the Ross Island Bridge and an episode of Portlandia… all the air left my body as I suddenly came crashing down on the pull-up bar; the counterweight clanking on the stack.
“Ummm, as a matter of fact, I think that is the name of such a place —- but I just work out in this… from time to time… over the past year.” I mumbled.
The realization washed over me, that all this time, I was kicking up a little more stink than I could have imagined. Parading around a crowded gym with the name of a strip club across my chest. Technically, the shirt was peddling a cinnamon whiskey abomination that few people have heard of, but in either case, it’s apparently about bad taste. Just then, another bubble of evil welled up from within my stomach.
It tasted like mint.
Happy New Year.
Copyright © 2017 Darrel Boyd