Roger Marolt: Roger This
September 4, 2009
Spring blossoms have accumulated sun rays from the best four months of the year, holding them in their outstretched pedals until cool, dry summer nights get a chance to congeal them into something of substance and beauty. The resulting fruit is a blend of color described by calling to mind the pink-streaked sandstone book cliffs and the glowing yellow star, a mere 93 million miles away, up to which its orchards aspire to grow.
At this time of year when peaches become such a burden, laden with run-off from mountain streams filtered through the earth, absorbed through living wood, and converted to sugary juices and tender meat, that the trees lose sight of their value and are anxious to let them drop, it is hard for me to imagine anybody concerned about anything except cobblers, jams, and canning stores to give next February a little life.
In anticipating putting on a few pounds then, I found myself at the gym moving weight around hoping to lose some in the process. It is a strange procedure we have contrived to keep our waistlines trim during our recreation time, but the alternative is to physically work in the fields to produce the things we eat. It sounds like a romantic trade-off, but it isn’t an option now even though modern tractors, I am told, have automatic transmissions. The fact of the matter is that few of us have the ability anymore to do what nature does automatically. I could not survive given only land, a ditch, a hoe, and a bag full of seeds. I would need blue prints, a permit, a lo-doc loan, and an honest general contractor. I’m not proud of that, but full disclosure is appealing these days.
So I hammer out sets in a gym called “The Club.” It’s not like the Mission Beach Rec. Center or a place called Flex in the forgotten blocks of Lakewood. The air is conditioned so that you can’t sweat and ruin your hair. The floors are carpeted to kill grunts and groans, although the unseen mildew does fine. The clanging of weights is muffled by rubber-coatings on the iron plates. The trainees gossip with their trainers in hushed tones reminiscent of elementary school libraries; only occasionally do conspiratorial giggles splatter spots over the white noise. Worst of all, the rock ‘n’ roll is mushed through speakers at level 2 so that AC/DC, The Stones and Three Doors Down all sound like Pat Boone’s regrettable rendition of Smoke on the Water. I can complain all I want, but the place is convenient to my home, and I have been a member for years. I have just now resolved to quit the place, once again.
The simple beauty of weight training is that for a few moments your only worldly concern consists of moving dead weight up and down with isolated body parts as many times as possible to completely deplete your muscles of oxygen and fill them to bursting with lactic acid before you get dizzy or let out flatulence. It takes concentration to do it correctly.
Imagine me then, psyching myself up directly underneath 900 menacing pounds hanging on the arms of the leg press gizmo. Just at that moment a caravan pulls up. It’s the usual scene in “The Club”: an older man, his younger wife, their talkative daughter leading her quiet husband, two kids that care only about the tiny pool, and the director of fractional ownership shares leading the tour.
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I hope they’ll move quickly past, but they don’t. It’s like they’ve never seen a middle-aged man in Adidas shorts, reclined on the floor in a contraption resembling a medieval torture rack, Lamaze breathing, with beads of moisture on his brow. What could they possibly expect was going to happen? Reluctantly I begin my set while they listen to the Director of Fractional Sales explaining that the sewage treatment plant directly adjacent to the grounds rarely smells except on snowy mornings and rainy afternoons, looking out the corners of their eyes to see if the veins in my forehead are actually going to burst as I push up the last rep.
I catch my breath and stagger to my feet. I do it too quickly and come up dizzy. As I brace myself against the machine, the older man in the group says to me, “You know you can wear out your prostate doing that.”
I think to myself that conditions would have to be absurdly unlikely for a guy to wear out his prostate by occasionally bending over to catch his breath in a respectable place like this when it dawns on me that he is referring to the leg presses I was doing. “Well, I hope not anytime soon.”
“Ha,” he chuckled. “Sooner than you might think,” he warned.
Then the tour moved on and so did my mind … at race speed. Wear out my prostate? I thought that was the universal wish of 90-year-old men: to die from overusing it. It would seem to beat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, anyway. Sure, weightlifting puts a strain on many parts of the body. I suppose the prostate is no exception. But, wear the darn thing out by doing leg presses? I never heard of such a thing. But, I’ll admit that old buzzard got me thinking.
This incident made me, once again and out of the blue, realize what a great part of the world this is to live in. Only in a crazy place like this would such a weird “gym” exist with such weird people in it; present company included. That guy, giving me, a complete stranger, advice about my private parts in the company of his family while getting the spiel on a timeshare purchase in the same spot where I’m grunting myself into shape, could just as conceivably have been the world’s foremost urologist as he could have been a complete crackpot. Not even the presence of a latex glove would have made the difference. There was no way of telling!
That evening, I am willing to bet that I was the only person in this great big world who was sitting in front of a computer screen wiping sweet peach juice from my chin trying to research a connection between leg squats and a worn-out prostate. No luck … which still doesn’t prove anything. This is why I will never leave.
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