Saturday, July 31, 2010

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - The View Through Frosted Window Panes

I’m on the road again, back in Orlando for a Writer’s Conference. Being a masochist at heart, I am compelled to find a pit if possible and indulge in a bit of self-inflicted torture. Since the hotel is charging me what they call a resort fee which is an additional charge tacked onto the daily rate for things that used to be included, I thought it would be good to get some use out of those amenities. I dragged lazy ass out of bed this morning and headed to the pit. Just getting there would be considered a workout for most people, but I’m not most people and I made it without breaking a sweat or running out of oxygen.

It’s bigger than some hotel pits, and truthfully, not much smaller than the Pocono Pit I go to when I’m at home in New Jersey. The place is a little heavy on the moving sidewalks and has a few weight machines, lounge chair bikes, and of course, a few racks. I checked in at the desk where they wanted to see my room key and made me sign my name. I think they must get a lot of imposter hotel guests who drive out to the middle of nowhere, pay to park, and try to sneak into their ‘fitness center’. It’s the best explanation I can come up with for the high security measures.

Once vetted by the security detail, I helped myself to a dew rag and stepped inside. Holy Smoley. Who knew Romance writers were such masochists? The moving sidewalks were all occupied, as were the racks. My choices came down to a lounge chair bike or the weight machines which, no surprise, stood in a row like relics from a medieval dungeon. No stranger to these sinister leather and metal monsters, I went to work on my batwings and thunder thighs. I looked around the place, hoping Nora Roberts would be there. I knew she was in the hotel and would be giving a speech later. I thought perhaps she would need to work off some public speaking anxiety. I was fully prepared to offer myself as a guinea pig if she needed to rehearse. Who was I kidding? I’m sure her suite has its own torture devices that she pays someone to use for her.

Did I mention this is Florida? And it’s summer? The sign on the wall indicated there was a sauna. No shit. Really? Then I realized they were talking about a whole other room off in the corner. It may be redundant, but at least this time of year it must be cheap to maintain. I wiped the dew out of my eyes and pushed and pulled thinking eventually someone would pass out and topple off one of the racks and I could get in my aerobic workout too. The same people were still on the racks and didn’t show any signs of relinquishing them. I’m not entirely sure they were still alive. It could have been that they died and rigor mortis had frozen their hands around the handlebars. Don’t laugh, it’s possible.

Anyway, I snagged a lounge chair bike and programmed in a nice ride. I figured about three miles would do it. I peddled away, going nowhere at a rapid clip. Condensation frosted the window across from me, making the summer scene beyond appear to be something all together different. I love winter days when the windows are rimmed with a band of frost and the rest of the glass is obscured by opaque ice crystals. Everything beyond is magically transformed. This was much the same. Inside, the room was as steamy as if we’d been baking holiday goodies only it didn’t smell nearly so nice. Outside, viewed through this magical window, a fantasy world awaited.

The ducks waddling on the lawn became fat Canadian geese. The white sand beach around the hotel’s gator pond became a blanket of snow creeping to the water’s edge. The azure sky dulled to gray through the frosted filter. The palm trees… well, there’s no explaining their presence so I just pretended they weren’t there. Hey, what did you expect? This is as good as it gets folks. If you want high-minded literature, you’re reading the wrong blog.

I left the pit, energized (yeah, right), ready to embrace the world of writing, but first there was the Nora speech. We gathered in a ballroom roughly the size of a football field to consume chicken parts that didn’t resemble any chickens I’ve ever seen, and to hear Her Royal Highness of Romance shower magical words of wisdom on us. I snagged a table somewhere around the fifty yard line with a decent view of the end zone. The remaining chairs filled quickly with first timers, all fresh faced and excited. As this was my second conference I was positively smug, after all, I had twice as much experience as anyone at the table.

Nora took the end zone stage. If you score 6 figures every time you cross the line into the end zone, then she’s crossed it more times than anyone, and owns the zone. We can’t help but be a bit green eyed, but we hang on every word. Not just me and the newbies, but everyone in the cavernous room. By the time she wraps up her speech we all feel as if we too can win the publishing lottery. Nora has told us it is so. We have been enlightened. We have seen that even the great one has struggled, not recently, but once upon a time, long, long ago, and so there is hope for us. As if through a magic glass I can see the future. I too stand in the end zone spouting words of wisdom for eager and envious dreamers.

Okay, so the crystal ball is a bit fogged up. What can I say? Soon I’ll be back at home and trekking to the Pocono Pit where the windows aren’t frosted and there is nothing remotely fantastical about the burger joint across the street. This magical interlude will be nothing but a memory then. Let me have my dreams, they keep me going.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - The Big Questions

On a recent trip to the home improvement store to pick up some pool supplies, I couldn’t help but notice my Cashier had removed her natural eyebrows and replaced them with two amazingly symmetrical thin black lines. Placed well above where they should have been; they were remarkably well done, if not comical. I had to wonder if there is a template one uses to do this sort of thing as I couldn’t draw one line that well on a piece of paper, let alone two mirror image ones on my face, and do it on a daily basis. I suppose they could have been tattoos, but they really did appear to be surface lines. Before you condemn me for being an insensitive lout, no, she didn’t suffer from some hair loss malady, and even if she did, there are other ways, more natural ways, to replace missing eyebrows.

As she scanned my purchases and completed the sale, I wondered what made her think wax pencil eyebrows were a good idea. Did someone, presumably a friend, tell her it looked good? Did she see this in a fashion magazine?

I’ve asked myself the- what was I thinking- question a time or two. There were guitar lessons when I was a tweeny. They lasted about a month before, with shredded fingers; I had to admit I have no rhythm and apparently can’t count to eight. There was the time I rode on the handlebars of my brother’s bicycle, telling him when and where to turn while he powered us through the streets- with his eyes closed. We ended up in a ditch along with a few broken soda bottles, lucky to be alive. Apparently, in addition to my lack of counting skills, I can’t distinguish between left and right. I bought a Chevette once. I don’t think I need to elaborate on that one.

Ever since I signed up for the pit I’ve asked myself the big question on a daily basis. Sometimes I ask it several times a day along with the toddler’s favorite question – why? Why do I put myself through the torture – and yes, after almost 9 months it is still torture. I know there are people out there who report a feeling akin to a drug induced high when they push their bodies via exercise. I am not one of those people. My rhythm lacking, directionally challenged body apparently has never seen an endorphin. The only things I feel while exercising are pain, exhaustion, and shortness of breath. The overwhelming feeling I get when I cease to punish myself is relief. No buzz, no high, unless you count the dizziness associated with the sudden increase of oxygen flow to my brain. I have to admit that’s a pretty good feeling.

Every morning I have to invent a new reason to get out of bed and drive to the pit. I’ve bribed myself with rewards both monetary and edible. I’ve promised myself lazy days in the future, shopping trips, and dinners out. The one thing that most compels me to get out of the house is the promise of a day or two when I don’t have to go. It works something like this. If I go Monday thru Friday I can have Saturday and Sunday off. If I skip a day during the week, I have to make it up on the weekend. This isn’t unlike going to school, or a day job, only there isn’t a pay check and my report card is that I my jeans still fit.

The pit is on the honor system. No one is going to call my house looking for me if I don’t show up. This is ostensibly because I am an adult, and of course the pit gets their money whether I show up or not, so what do they care if my jeans don’t fit. It’s up to me to motivate myself and to come up with the answers to the questions. I’ve got several answers for the why. Most of them have to do with extending my years on this celestial orb, though when I’m sucking in oxygen and trying to make my noodle legs hold me up I have to wonder if the extra years are worth the effort. As for the -what was I thinking- question. I’m still thinking about that one.