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A Small Gathering, but All Present


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I’m standing at a crossroads among a small gathering of citizens. There’s scant commotion and few words are spoken, but there is restlessness in the air. I’ve been here before on many occasions and, though I don’t recognize the participants, they all share a common mood. Not grim, not desperate, not angry or fearful -- I’d call it pensive.

They hover between guilt and relief, disappointment and resolve. Some carry a gym bag in hand or are dressed in workout gear; most have earphones in place and some walk in circles, heads down and muttering. A cluster has resigned to sitting on the roadside as if awaiting inspiration. Or a bus.

I gulp some water and observe the quiet turmoil. If nothing else, the innocuous mob shares one concern, they seek one resolution: To workout, or not to workout, that is their plight. I can see it in their eyes, the intermittent flexing of their lats, tris and bis, the grasping of an aching shoulder and its subsequent rotation. Their fingers, like calipers, tentatively roam the surfaces of their bodies.

Pinch, pinch, squeeze. I see confusion, dissatisfaction, horror.

It’s more urgent than it appears, Your Honor. Health care, troop deployment, homeland security, food, shelter -- they can wait. Do I go to the gym and blast it, a worthy sacrifice, or do I submit to weakness (the devil lurks) and crawl off to a less meaningful, less commanding and far less fulfilling occupation? The couch and beers, or the bench and presses? Do I lift myself up, or let myself down? Strive, thrive and arrive, or take a nosedive?

Some folks appear to have fallen asleep or passed out on the patchy landscape that forms the oft-traveled junction. You might want to watch where you step and keep your voices down. They can be grouchy and unpredictable when disturbed.

Muscletown, this-a-way. Lower Notsville, that-a-way.

The crowd’s thinning. A robust stream of determined ironheads is jogging upward and onward to Muscletown, a prosperous hillside community where the sun shines generously through silver-lined clouds. Smell that crisp, fresh air. They’re in no hurry, but they are bound and persistent. No time to waste, they are proceeding and progressing.

A slump-shouldered remnant is on a slow descent along the roadway that leads eventually to cold and dreary Notsville. They lean forward, pick up their feet one at a time and shuffle, which translates into a movement resembling forward. It is in fact backward; they know it and that awareness adds weight to their already heavy gait.

It’s a sad thing to witness folks in decline due to lack of will, discipline and courage. Ignorance is an unkind companion. Irresponsibility and disrespect reside where understanding and gratitude, joy and love do not. Alas!

Gee, I hate missing a workout, don’t you? I miss the stupid workout and feel like crap till my next bout with the iron, which becomes some sort of monster battle between my miserable self and the stinkin’ metal. How is it possible? All that precious, hard-earned muscle and strength lost in one frigging forgone workout.

“I think we hit a nerve.”

If for no other reason, this is why I train unfailingly after nearly 60 years: to escape the callous self-inflicted pain and personal ridicule I merciless heap upon myself for having spinelessly evaded a brutal match with the ever-ready iron.

“Yep. Big nerve.”

I sit here and look out the window on this glorious day in God’s wonderland and breathe deeply of the freedom and fresh air surrounding me. It’s Sunday in golden California; the ocean crashes and foams, the sun warms and enlivens, the people play and rejoice and I have to go to the gym and train legs. 70, and I’ve gotta train legs.

“He’s flipping out!”

I’ll be alone, except for another one or two losers. I’ll count the sets and reps after I warm up sufficiently. The plates will rattle, my eyes will roll. A pump will reluctantly sliver up my legs, a burn will smolder in my muscles like the strike of a moist match. The sweat will drip off my nose and I’ll slug cloudy, tepid water from my used, dented plastic water bottle. Glerp!

One more set!

I don’t want to go to the gym. I want to sing, dance and play or relax or visit old friends or make new ones; text or tweet or watch the game. I want to drink root beer, scream, cause mischief, eat chocolate, be bad. I’m bored.

One more rep!

You know how it goes, bombers: miss one workout, miss two, three and four. I read somewhere if you haven’t worked out within 10 days prior to having been run over by a truck you could die.

Seriously!

On my way, boss.

dd

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