30 April 2008

Gym Stories - My Jurassic Experience


Being in the throws, as I am, of the crazy endorphin rush of the first few weeks of heavy physical training, I am reminded of various adventures I have had in gyms throughout the years. I am reminded of little else, BTW, because what these endorphins seem to do is to economize everything in my body to serve the Muscle Building Machine. My IQ has been cut down to just about the level one needs to operate a can opener (still got one up on the cats! Yaaay!) and I find I can do little else but sleep, watch funny things on YouTube and drink wine. It will pass, I know, but right now it’s all very Flowers For Algernon for me.

I am reminded of a similar time, years go, when I was living in San Francisco. I joined a gym that was about a 15 minute walk from where I lived, and I committed myself to going there and heavily working out every morning before work. Since I’ve always been pretty useless in the mornings, I would sleep in my workout clothes so when the alarm went off all I had to do was put my shoes on and run out the door. If I hadn’t done this I would have wandered around my apartment in a fog of half-sleep for 45 minutes trying to find my gym socks. And besides, when you are in the first few weeks of working out it’s best to get yourself out the door before you are fully awake so you don’t talk yourself out of anything. Usually I would officially wake up about the time I was walking in to the gym and then it was too late for any excuses.

So at this time, Jurassic Park was showing in the theaters. It had been on for quite a while, but I had taken some convincing to go see it as I’m not exactly keen on dinosaurs. I have three fears in this life: Flying, Clowns, and Tyrannosaurus Rexes. I find I get along nicely enough keeping to surface travel and avoiding The Circus, and of course there’s the added help that T-Rex and all other dinosaurs are extinct. And you know what I say? Good riddance to them! Look, I love animals and I’ll go out on a limb for some really unattractive and even viscous critters, but I draw the line at T-Rexes. I’m sorry, but I fail to see where a 30-foot lizard with 3-foot razor sharp teeth has anything constructive to contribute to society. If they were alive today my life would be a living hell of having to stand perfectly still while they sniffed through my neighborhood crushing everything they stepped on, so I’m glad the fuckers are all dead.


So anyway, I finally agreed to go and see Jurassic Park with many assurances that it was “just a movie”. Ha! From the moment where that glass of water vibrates because of the coming T-Rex onslaught, I was hiding under my jacket screaming like a child…which might have been endearing if I had actually been a child, but I was old enough to have my own apartment and get drunk after seeing the film, so, well, kind of not so cute, really.

A few glasses of wine later I had calmed down to the point where I was able to go home, put on my track suit, and go to sleep.

Now another thing that happens when I am in the first few weeks of working out endorphin rush is that I get really vivid dreams: Those really realistic dreams where upon waking, you aren’t sure whether it really happened or not. So I ended up having on of these. And unfortunately it was a full-on Technicolor dream about T-rexes stomping around my neighborhood in San Francisco. They were everywhere and I was having to hide from them. And just when one was outside my apartment building peering into my 3rd floor window, my alarm clock went off and I had to jump into my shoes and run. In under a minute I was outside the building heading for the gym, when suddenly I remembered the neighborhood was under siege by dinosaurs.


It was still pitch black outside and I wasn’t more than 15 per cent awake, so I could hear them coming for me. I flew into a blind panic and started running at breakneck speed for the gym as if my life depended on it. All the while I had to keep turning around and looking for the T-Rexes but they were hiding behind the buildings so I couldn’t see them. I knew they were waiting for a clean moment when they could pounce and I wasn’t going to give it to them. I broke Olympic records for 100, 500, and 1000 meter sprints and I may have even broken the sound barrier and I got to the gym in seconds flat, all but throwing myself in the doors upon my arrival. I fell to the floor heaving for breath. One of the gym employees ran to help me up, looking outside and wondering if he should call the police. And it was exactly at that moment that I started to wake up.

“Are you OK? Was someone chasing you?” He asked in earnest.

“No, no.” I gasped, between breaths, “I just didn’t want to be late.” It was a weak excuse but it was all my endorphin-laden half-awake brain could muster.

He looked around the empty gym, then back at me.


I could tell he thought I was retarded, but my only recourse would have been to explain that I thought I was being chased by dinosaurs, so I didn’t say anything. Instead I gave him a stupid grin. So for the rest of my time as a member of that gym, I let him go on thinking I was retarded. Because retarded is always better than crazy.

29 April 2008

What I Put Up With


Recently, I’ve started going to the gym every day. I’ve been a member of the gym for about 2 years but it was doing absolutely nothing for me. I was about to sue until someone suggested that I try going to the place. It sounded aggressive, but I decided ah, what the hell.

To my surprise I discovered that my gym is not just this abstract idea that takes money out of my account once a month and sends me the occasional email about yoga classes; it’s an actual building with sports equipment inside – who knew? All of it makes you feel uncomfortable and imposed upon when you use it, but they assure me that it will all result in health benefits later on.

To get to my gym in the first place I have to climb 6 flights of stairs, which I’m pretty sure is against the terms of the Geneva Convention. After climbing 6 flights of stairs a gym is pretty bloody redundant if you ask me. And there isn’t even an elevator! Why??!! (Apparently I’m the only person who has ever asked).

So here’s the worst part: After spending the better part of my morning running on a treadmill and getting absolutely nowhere, I emerge from the gym and what is RIGHT next door?? A PIZZA RESTAURANT! What kind of sadistic freaks would build a gym up 6 flights of stairs next to a pizza restaurant?

19 April 2008

Self-Tanning, Then and Now


Something really great about women’s magazines in Europe is that they very often give you a really cool prize for buying them. They know that most of us “gals” are children at heart, or at the very least willing to spend a little cash to compensate for shortcomings in our personalities. There are probably a good proportion of women who only buy magazines when they get something cool with it. Sure, the magazines can dazzle us with fancy headlines (the magazine pictured above has a lead story with the title, Men Talk About Their Pubic Hair), but nothing draws the customers in like a little freebie. It’s a brilliant marketing tool. Occasionally it’s really lame things like bad lipgloss (which we as consumers show our distaste for by not buying that week’s issue), but other times they hit the jackpot with excellent things like sunglasses or makeup cases. I got this one in a magazine in England a few years ago and I still use it (It’s the shiny thing next to the angry grey cat):

So this week I was thrilled when I saw Flair Magazine offering “Nutribronze Self-Tanning Lotion”; and not just little samples, either, but a full size product (pictured here to display size and also the color I’ve painted my kitchen walls):

And let me just say, this stuff is amazing. It does give you a lovely tawny glow, just like it says on the package. I'm exactly the target customer for this sort of thing, being a rather pale blue-eyed type. I squint when I see scenes of sunshine on television, and I'm not one to go lying poolside covered with oil practically begging the elements to give me skin cancer. So I really appreciate that there are fabulous creams on the market these days to make it look as if I'm not quiet so challenged in the melanin department. Now I can smear on a little cream and it looks as if I go outdoors occasionally. And let me tell you, this is a far cry from how things were back in my day. Back when I was a teenager, they didn’t have all the variety of different “bronzers”, and they certainly weren’t put out by cosmetic companies. They had one industrial strength “sunless tanner”. It was called “QT” Photobucket, and rather than giving you a tawny glow, it would dye your skin a disturbingly deep shade of orange. The effect was the same on everyone, and yet we’d all go out and buy the stuff, hoping against hope that this time we’d end up looking like the sun tanned beach bunnies on the TV commercial. Basically we were a whole generation of teenagers who looked like Donatella Versace.


“QT” will forever be emblazoned on my mind (and quite possibly stored in some of my skin cells), because it played a strategic part in my ugliest day ever on this planet.

Let me paint the picture for you: I was 13. I was the most awkward combination of chubby and lanky that you can imagine. I was living in England and my mother had left the country on a business trip, so one of her friends from work was staying with me. She let me get away with everything. So no sooner had my mother’s car left the street, than I was down at the corner hair salon getting a haircut which she had forbidden. It was short, but with a long flip in the front that needed to be kept propped with hairspray. It was all part of a makeover I was doing on myself that I planned to show everyone Monday at school. I was going to be a suntanned blonde goddess with modern hair and a body to die for. I had picked out a rather low-cut dress of my mother’s, and I had it laid out and ready to put on the next morning. Before I went to bed, I applied the QT. And instead of a thin layer like the bottle suggested, I put it on extra thick. Because I wanted impact. I wasn’t going to mess around with subtlety.

I have never been much good in the mornings, so when the alarm clock went off, I slipped on the dress and matching sandals (which were a little big on me), shoved a few pairs of socks into my bra (for the “wow” effect), ran a brush through my hair, and headed out the door. I didn’t get a chance to look in the mirror, because the one in the bathroom was too high for me to see into, and the full length one was in the other bedroom. But it didn’t matter – I knew looked good. I would just bask in other people’s appreciative stares.

As I walked down the street to the bus stop, I was apparently so strikingly beautiful that everyone was stopping to have a look at me. I was a real head-turner. I simply couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. It was such a special feeling being so astonishingly gorgeous. When I got on the bus, some kids laughed at me, but I thought hey, they’re probably just so amazed that a supermodel like me is actually taking the bus.

When I got to school I was a few minutes late, but appreciative of the importance of making an entrance. “Assembly” was already in progress, so I walked into a room already full with all my fellow pupils and assorted teachers. Most people’s eyes were on the person who was speaking, but Miss Mullens, a nun/teacher who had a special hatred for me, turned around to glare at me. She stared me down until I had no option but to stare at my feet. Finally, a friend grabbed my hand and whispered, “Come with me”. Once we were outside the Assembly Room she said, “What are you doing?! I can’t believe you came to school looking like that!”

“What’s wrong with looking sexy?” I asked innocently.

And without answer she led me to the Ladies Room and set me squarely in front of the mirror.

“Look.” She ordered.

I looked. And contrary to the gorgeous sexy self-image I’d been operating under all morning, there before me stood a bright orange freak, with dark wrinkle lines everywhere where the fold of the sheets had pressed against my skin while I slept. My eyebrows looked like someone had melted orange crayons on them. My hair was sticking up in an unnatural tuft in the front (think Cameron Diaz in Something About Mary), and my low-cut sexy dress was low-cut enough to reveal not only my bra, but the argyle socks hanging out of it.

How I got through the rest of the day, I don’t remember. The memory of it is sort of contained in a dark shame-cloud. I think I borrowed some gym clothes to go home in. But I do remember that when I got home I made a point of squirting the rest of the bottle of QT down the toilet, cursing all the while.

So anyway, this stuff they make today (that I got free in a magazine!) is like gold to me. You kids don't know how easy you've got it.

14 April 2008

The Kelly Family - A Glowing Tribute


The first time I ever heard of The Kelly Family, it was as a chronic insomniac in Los Angeles, years ago. Chronic insomniacs see a side of life that others aren’t necessarily privy to, as evidenced by my late-night-TV-purchased Tony Robbins tapes, and my rather advanced knowledge of celebrity astrological signs. During one such long night, I was flipping channels when I heard a sound so terrible that I had to stop and take notice. What I saw defied description, but I shall attempt anyway: Imagine a group of tone-deaf fashion-challenged hobbits singing songs while crowds of Germans scream. Enter: The Kelly Family.

The Kelly Family are an actual family. Their parents and the first few of the kids emigrated from the US to Germany back in the 1970’s, and in some Von Trapp inspired frenzy, created a family band. They couldn’t sing or play instruments, but with their now imported “Can Do” American spirit they got on stage anyway and showed those Krauts a thing or two about Positive Visualization.


They immediately became a huge hit with German audiences; an audience with such discerning tastes as to make David Hasselhof bigger than Elvis. They played their little hearts out all over the parts of Europe that also had large beer drinking populations, until finally they had a bona fide “International Hit” with a song called, Alien

The lyrics of Alien, which are to say the least puzzling, describe an encounter with an Alien so completely intoxicated with this planet’s atmospheric differences that she starts hanging out with a member of the Kelly Family.


But the song is catchy and there’s a bit that you can sing along to, even if you are German. And it was on the strength of this that The Kelly Family decided to take a stab at the American market via late-night ads that boasted, ”Millions of German fans can’t be wrong!” (History might beg to differ, but let's not open up that old can of worms!). And right at that moment, I became fascinated with them. And I think in the back of my mind that long night back in 1997, a seed was planted that led me to travel to Europe in search of them. I kid myself that there were other reasons.

And lo and behold, long story short, I ended up at a Kelly Family concert in Antwerp with my European husband who realizes he’s just a pawn in my Kelly addiction. As we were seated in the impressively large auditorium, we looked around us and began to notice that we were the only normal people there. The other people were all just a little …odd. We couldn’t put our finger on it either – was it a shared bad fashion sense? Or a pasty look that they all had? Or maybe they looked like they were members of “The Family”?


And as we began to listen to conversations around us, we noticed that almost everyone besides us were German. They had actually come from Germany to see the Kelly Family perform in Belgium – like they were the Grateful Dead or something.

But the excitement in the room was tangible. And when they came on stage, the room became one high-pitched scream. There were bouncers stationed to deal with the hoards of people rushing the stage. And I’d like to be able to report that those people rushing the stage were teenage girls, but no. From what I could see, the crazed fans ranged in age from about 30 to about 65. I couldn’t tell if they were at a rock concert or a faith healing. And perhaps neither could they.

But those Kelly people played their hearts out. They jumped around the stage with their fuzzy hair flying, dodging gifts that the fans were pelting them with. The drummer seemed to be in some sort of a trance.


As the concert wore on, it began to walk a fine line between rock concert and confessional performance art. Between the songs, various Kellys would tell us personal stories meant to pull at our collective heart strings. One introduced a song by telling us of a little girl in Berlin who couldn’t be here tonight, because she had cancer. The entire audience responded by holding their lighters in the air for the duration of the next song. At one point a fan in the balcony shouted, ”Ich liebe dich!!” to which the Kelly object of her affections responded in German-accented English: “Stop shouting. I can’t hear myself think!” – a pretty rude remark, I thought, but rather than putting the audience off, it seemed to endear them even more. Talk to us like we’re scum, Kelly Family!!

One Kelly, who seemed to be making regular trips off stage for a few sips of something, at one point grabbed the microphone away from another Kelly and asked the audience for a round of applause for the sound guy (who was presumably holding the bottle) who had just got married. As the audiences’ cheers died down, he started to sob as he said into the microphone, “I used to be married. But my wife left me. She took the kids and she just left. She never explained anything. People ask me why I drink.” Thankfully the rest of the Kellys broke into spontaneous “music” and cut off his mic.

When the Kellys finally tried to leave the stage, the fans simply would not let them go. They did about 8 encore performances. Beatles, Madonna, Led Zeppelin and any other “rock stars”: eat your heart out.

We left the concert feeling rather confused as we clutched our new Kelly Family T-shirts. “Don’t these people know that they’re not huge stars?” We asked ourselves.

And here’s the thing: They don’t. because in their world, they are. One day hundreds of years in the future, they will have a past life regression and bask in the fact that they were once rock legends, because no one around them is telling them any different. The Kelly Family are truly having the Last Laugh because in their world they are the most talented musicians ever. And hundreds of German fan sites would bear that out.

…And I got to see them live!