Tuesday, February 15, 2005

between the lines

You said, "So how have you been?"

You said, "I left some cheesecake in the fridge for you."

You said, "You're sunburnt... but it works on you."

You said, "I found that Cure CD you were looking for."

I said, "How do I put Special Orders through again?"

I said, "Can you change the receipt roll on reg 5 for me?"

I said, "I loved Fight Club... Edward Norton is brilliant... I thought the violence would bother me but I think it's more the psychological aspects of violence that I have a problem with: the desire to dominate -- like Norton's character in American History X -- in Fight Club the violence is between consenting adults, and it's not about dominance and asserting superiority, it's about... existential angst, or something."

I said, "Bright Eyes... Connor Oberst. He's been writing since he was about 13 and he's just put out two albums simultaneously. Kinda folksy, I guess. Acoustic sound, mellow introspective lyrics. He's playing the Byron Bay Blues and Roots Festival. I'd love to go, but I don't think my car's up to the journey..."

I said, "The worst job I ever had was working for an owner-operator of sorts... they're like dictators presiding over their own kingdoms. He was an ex-advertising CEO who calls himself a journo. Can't write to save his life. He had an army of girls (they were all girls) all with degrees in music and journalism and the arts... and law! taking dictation and typing up angry letters to his personal banker. He paid $12 an hour. He was a bastard... He worked out of home. It was just a way of funding long holidays for him. Journalism, my arse... We had long lunches when he went away on trips."

But what I meant to say was, "I like you. I like the skillful caricatures of customers that I find on the roster sheets after you've left. I like your concern for others. I like your way of seeing things. I like that you always share your bag of vending machine m&ms with whoever is in the room and almost always gesture me through the door first when we leave together after close. You're a saint dressed as a cynic, but you're not boring like most saints. I never know what you'll say next, but its always something essentially you. You've reminded me how exhilirating it is to want someone around just so you can see how they respond to things. I hear a song on the radio and want to know what you think of it, what you like about Charlie Kaufman films in particular, what you'll say next."

No, just "I like you." That's what I meant to say.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

"All I've got here are books and music, I used to have excercise but I outgrew it..." (Eskimo Joe)

It takes a certain kind of person to be a fitness junkie: you either are one, or you're not. You either live and breathe gym mats and BMIs and fat pinch tests and personal bests, or you don't. Achieving taut abs, rock-hard gluts and rounded calves is either a sign of spiritual fulfillment for you, or it ain't.

It's not a matter of laziness or the decay of our Western lifestyles, it's a personality thing -- I'm sure of it. I probably should have realised that by now. If not when I was vainly pounding the bitumen clad in a t-shirt and bloomers during a junior athletics fad, then surely during swimming lessons, my short-lived foray into tennis, the year I wore a lycra leotard and irredescent stockings every Saturday to dance classes or the time I signed up at the gym and allowed an aging ex-athlete to pinch my stomach fat with plastic tweezers in order to determine my body fat percentage and devise a mind-numbingly dull program of lifting weights and running and running and running and getting nowhere.

But ever slow to learn, I braved the weather last night -- weather fit for neither woman not gym junkie -- to attend my first kickboxing circuit class. It's supposed to be an hour worth of 3 minute sets (to simulate fighting time in a ring) of skipping, push-ups and pad and bag work.

And it nearly killed me.

I had the misfortune of being partnered with some Slavic superwoman. A tall, lean blonde with a strong accent, designer track suit pants, painted nails and an endless supply of energy. After jogging around the room so many times I lost count, with our instructor yelling drill-sergeant-like "knees up!" "push ups!" I was fairly knackered and after the first few rounds of pad-work (alternately kicking and punching heavy boxing pads with Katya the Fearless was holding) I was about ready to curl up in a ball with a pint of hot chocolate. But it was my turn to hold the pads -- which weighed about as much as a small child -- while Katya proceeded to kick and punch the hell out of them. I didn't have any strength left for resistance, so I just limply held them at waist height. She had to keep adjusting them to face-height and I was sure I was going to lose a tooth. My blood pressure plummeted and in my dizzy, fatigued state the smell of feet (which had attached itself to everything, including the pads I was holding) was making me nauseous. During a thirty second break inbetween sets I happened to glance down at my feet and noticed that the big toe on my right foot was torn and bloodied, no doubt the victim of a shin kick that went awry. Nice.

It went on like that for an hour. I've never been so glad to leave a place.

Driving home, with the rain belting my windscreen in much the same way that Katya was belting me not sixty minutes ago, I had an epiphany: "it's not friggin' worth it." I recalled the sight of the couple I'd seen jogging on the drive in. They were wearing blue shorts and short, fluroescent yellow rain-jackets that flapped in the wind and rain. At first I thought they were uniformed cops and wondered what they were doing sprinting around a relatively quiet part of the suburbs. Then I realised: they were excercising. And so single-minded were they in their quest for fitness that they couldn't take one night off, citing a thunderstorm as an excuse.

They truly are a different breed, are fitness fanatics. And though I might occasionally wish I was fitter or that I had Gwen Stefani's abs, I have been to dark side: and it's not worth the work.