Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Club Sweat

“Any day now, George and I are going to take a marvelous trip. I'll be walking every step of the way; he will be rowing.”

Thus reads the opening line to an essay in one of my books that released back in 1995. (May its fertile bookstore shelf life rest in peace. Although if you’re truly curious, you can find them on the internet for pennies. Believe me, it’s a funny book!)

Since my husband’s currently undergoing physical therapy for his second knee replacement in the past six months (the other leg this time, thank goodness!), twice a day he heads down to our dungeon-y basement to climb aboard the stationary bicycle he borrowed from his brother for just this “therapy” purpose. You should have seen the dust on that thing! Why, it was almost as thick as the dust on my treadmill, which, as you can see, is also in our dungeon.

Every day I ask him, “Where are you going today, George?” (Every day I think, You should treadmill with him.) Every day he names a different place. Yesterday it was a town a little west of us; today he headed east toward the lake shore in Chicago. Oh, the places he goes!

Then it struck me: I used to make these same dumb jokes about our rowing machine (now in rowing machine heaven) and that very same treadmill, so I searched my old files. YUP! Exact same joke! But I laughed reading my own long-ago words so I decided to share them with you.

Travel with me back in time now as I pick up the rest of the aforementioned essay. But know that if you swapped “rowing machine” for “stationary bicycle,” you’d learn that aside from George’s current therapy activity, nothing much has changed—including the “silly putty” comment. (BTW, we still have the “jumpy thing.” I tried it recently and got a headache.) I’ve left the lines “as were,” but I’ve whittled the piece down to accommodate your traveling timelines.


Oh the places we'll go, oh the toning and strengthening we'll achieve, all in the basement during our bodies' workouts and our minds' rides to healthfulness. You see, we are the proud owners of a rowing machine AND a treadmill. Oh yes, we also have one of those jumpy things that looks like a round, miniature trampoline, so maybe we'll hop a few miles too. After all, healthy is good. Svelte is in. Exercise is not only popular, it's something we can do together.

But first we must peruse the possibilities. Master the maneuvers. Tame the technicalities. Back up the bravado. Delve into discipline. Stop the rhetoric and activate the garden slug that lurks in each of us. The options for success are staggering, and growing by the advertising minute.

Of course there are some options you can eliminate if you have children in college or are on a tight budget. The first is expensive health clubs. Not only are there annual fees, but those bright, perky, multi-layered spandex outfits cost bucks, not to mention the cool gym bags and appropriate shoes. And let's face it, no matter how trendy we try to be, we're ... not.

Just the other day my one-and-only-jeans-that-fit tore right at the bottom of my buttocks and inner thigh. You might be thinking that I'm right in style now. After all, teenagers and young adults are paying extra for jeans that come with fashionable rips. And the grunge look is in. Trendy folks do not, however, have cellulite oozing through their rips and settling like a wad of silly putty on the chair next to them.

Several years ago I won a free year's membership to a weight-training club. I donned my leotards and went - once. My "trainer" explained what I was to achieve on the first of several torture machines. Even with zero weight to counter-balance the strength move I was to perform on the first upper-body apparatus, I couldn't bring my arms together. With defeat and humility, I asked if my strong husband could take over my membership. "Non transferable." George sighed at the news; I don't believe it was the sound of disappointment. My membership thankfully expired.

After a recuperation period, we then decided the cheapest option, sans Official Walking Shoes, would be to start walking every evening and taking Wonderdog Butch with us. However, no sidewalks, no good weather and no cooperation from our disobedient, lunging and entangling mutt soon discouraged this budding idea. But our gymnastic minds kept flexing for new options.

Shortly thereafter my grandmother died and left me a small sum of money. "I know, George. I'll get us one of those rowing machines." And so I did. I rowed once and my sciatica screamed at me. George ceremoniously posted the printed routine that came with the machine and talked about his plan. Grandma's been gone four years now; that's about how long the rowing machine has had a broken roller.

With relentless pursuit, however, George and I scanned the video counters for just the right exercise program. Many caught his eye. Not because of promised benefits, but because of the "art work" on the boxes. Personally, I cannot understand why anyone would want to actually have Buns of Steel. Buns of steel? Can you imagine plopping down at your desk and hearing a sound reminiscent of The Gong Show? You'd probably shatter your teeth.

In the mean time, my stress level (partly induced by the guilt caused by all the exercise we're not getting) was calibrating at the high end of the scale. Since exercise is a known stress defuser, it was time to stop dinking around and just do it. Walking still seemed the least taxing on the body; treadmill talk began; shopping followed; the treadmill arrived. George said I could figure it all out and tell him how to use it. Seemed like a good idea to me.

Lesson number one: never use new exercise equipment when you're home alone, especially if it's electronic. I hurled myself off the conveyor belt on more than one occasion. After I told George about my adventures, he wanted to install a floor-height phone next to the treadmill so we could dial 9-1-1 from the splat position if necessary.

Yes, others can talk about their need to stop by the club, or their latest aerobic's classes. But as for me and my honey, we're gonna travel. By land and by sea, and by hook or by crook, we're gonna conquer this exercise thing together. And although we may not end up with Buns of Steel, we have high hopes that our rewards will as least produce Bellies of Laughter, Years of Health and a few stories for the archives.

Wow, if I were as good at treadmilling as I am at saving my old stories, I'd be SOOooo HEALTHY! But now that I've studied that dungeon picture again, I see a HORSE in the background. Hey, maybe I can just GALLOP the pounds away!
NOTE: I'm heading out on a book tour next week (9/25/07). If I'm in your area, please stop by and hear some of the stories behind the stories!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Culinary Traveling Truisms

Since my last post about White Castle hamburgers and tornado warnings (no, I have not yet been arrested, but in case "they're" watching, WHITE CASTLE IS TRADE MARKED, SERVICE MARKED AND ALL OTHER MARKS), I've been tweedling what a weighty role (pun intended) food plays--on a number of levels--toward how I feel about travel. Let me begin to count the ways. Perhaps you should print this list of tried-and-true culinary traveling truisms and keep it in your carry-on, just in case you are . . . um . . . insane.

*Don't eat well, don't feel well.

*Don't eat, don't function.

*Eat too much, want to pummel person instructing you to wear your seatbelt "low and snug" across your stomach.

*Eat too high on the hog, hate the next month's credit card bill. Unless it's BBQ hog in Memphis. Then, EAT ON!

*Eat deep fried pickles when visiting the south, blow up like the MetLife blimp I saw sailing over our house just this morning.

*Dining while talking business? Order foods that don't dribble. Things you can cut into bite-sized pieces and carefully fork into your mouth. No sauces, especially if you've packed light. And especially do not put the whole cherry tomato in your mouth and chomp down. Or try to stab it. Or twirl the inch-thick cheese on that baked onion soup, unless you have a couple hours to spare.

*Using a straw? Don't forget about it or else you might bring the glass to your mouth while maintaining that all important eye contact, only to have the straw careen up your nostril. Right or left nostril, doesn't matter. They're both sensitive enough to draw tears. Don't ask me how I know this. And don't ask the acquisition editor stuck dining with me when this transpired--the first time we met.

*Need comfort food? Fried chicken with mashed potatoes and white gravy aren't on many room service menus. If you know of such a place, please post it and I'll wrangle a stop-over my next trip.

*Like to finger the crusty bits from the crusty bread that fall onto your plate? Be careful one of them isn't your wayward acrylic nail. The surprising tell-tale crunch is detectable throughout an entire restaurant.

*Like hot wings? Either don't eat them three days in a row, or be prepared to pay the "digestional" price. Especially don't engage in this wing-ding of a marathon wing-ding if you have connecting flights with no "down" time, as in "sit yourself down, and NOW!" time.

*Like short-cut, light-weight gadgets? Travel tooth "brushing" thingies (not a bristle in sight) complete with tooth paste (not) that slip onto your finger (designed to do this) do not remove celery seeds from between your teeth, or pepper, or steak shreds.

*No matter how many times you eat banquet chicken, it does not taste much like chicken. BUT, if you crave a SpongeBob SquarePants flavor, your wish will come true.

*Tired of formal dining on fancy food? If there's a local diner nearby where you can sit on a stool at the counter, sit there and eat there. Give yourself a spin! Conversation between the fry cooks, regulars and waiters is always entertaining, and usually interesting. It will help you fight off Conference Table Stupor. Plus, the "full" breakfast will cost ya no more than six bucks, a mere twenty bucks cheaper than the hotel restaurant--and their $26 does not include good ol' fried potatoes . Or coffee. Or anything other than "continental" fare. (Whose continent?!)

*Buffets can be scary, but not always.

*Want to inquire about tapioca pudding? You're old. But I don't care; I do it anyway!

*Need protein for breakfast but no time to round some up before heading out? PLAN AHEAD! Pick up a large Wendy's chili the night before and place it on the desk next to your laptop. Even if you don't have a fridge, twelve hours later, it will not kill you. I'm living proof, dozens of times over.

*Want to locate French cuisine? Don't ask me. (Bet you're not surprised.)

*Always wondered about Waffle House? Mm, mm, mm.

Wonder why I'm currently "cutting back?" Seriously? If so, it's official; you ARE insane. So print this list out and read it again. As soon as you no longer wonder why I'm blackmailing myself with a picture of the aforementioned MetLife blimp, consider yourself healed.