In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.
Several months ago, I stopped working out at my college's gym and joined a Y not far from home. We got a family membership, so TW can work out during
the day, and I can take TB and TG to the pool every once in a while.
The 'fitness center' section of the Y, like all Gaul, is divided into three parts: the 'cardio' area with the treadmills and such; the resistance machines; and the freeweights. Since I go faithfully at 5:20 in the freakin' morning, I steer clear of the freeweights. Sleep deprivation plus no coffee yet plus loose heavy pieces of metal equals Bad Idea. So I start with the cardio - the ellipticals, almost exclusively - and do a few resistance machines before leaving. If I'm careful, I still get home to shower and change and feed the kids breakfast and still get to work on time.
The cardio part is usually fine. There's a cohort of regulars who get there, I can only guess, around 5:00 a.m., and they take most of the ellipticals and talk very loudly. But I can fire up the ipod, put on my absurdly dorky headphones - as near as I can tell, standard ipod earbuds are designed for hobbits - and just do my thing. I usually watch the too-early morning news broadcast and read the closed captioning while listening to my own stuff, which I like to think of as a game. Can I discern the meaning underneath all the typos and misspellings? And just how low in the pecking order do the reporters have to be to get the "report from outside in the rain at 5 a.m." gig? "Still raining, Jim. Back to you." Or, as the captioning would have it, "stillllllray nin gjimmback toyoooo"
But then I have to deal with the resistance machines, which involves taking off the earphones. This means subjecting myself to Satan's Stereo.
The average age at my Y is about 106, which probably explains the musical choices. In several months there, I haven't heard anything released after I
graduated from high school. In fact, even breaking into the 80's is unusual. But it isn't just that the music dates back to the Nixon era. It's that nearly everything they pick is either dirge-y or unintentionally hilarious. Actual selections from the past few weeks, none of which I am making up:
- Brandy, You're a Fine Girl, by whoever the #*(%)# recorded that song
- Billy, Don't Be a Hero, by some long-forgotten one-hit wonder
- Mindgames, by John Lennon - a workout song if ever I've heard one...
- Space Oddity, by David Bowie, of which the less said, the better....
- L ay Your Hands On Me, by the Thompson Twins, which some of us unsuccessfully petitioned to have selected as our prom theme, but let's not discuss that...
- Every damn song Chicago ever did, which is pretty much "whining plus brass"
- Don't You Want Me Baby, by Human League, which brings back poignant memories of the school bus in 8th grade...
- How Deep is Your Love, by the Bee Gees. Not very, apparently.
- and, a choice so staggeringly bad that I had to cut my workout short because I can't laugh and lift... Copacabana, by Barry Manilow. There is no excuse for this. Ever.
I'm not trying to be some sort of alterna-snob here. Last week when I walked in they were playing Walking on Sunshine, by Katrina and the Waves, and I was pleasantly surprised; it's an upbeat song that doesn't make you want to crawl in a hole. I'd be perfectly happy with the standard Lite Hits station - put on KT Tunstall and I'm good to go. I could even deal with some upbeat oldies - KC and the Sunshine Band, maybe. But Copacabana? Nooooo.
What's the worst musical selection you've heard in a gym?