Archive for September, 2013

We confess… we go to a gym. More specifically, a fitness center. One of those shiny open 24 (!) hours ones (do they think they’re New Jersey, for crissakes!), with an entire host of medieval devices designed to thoroughly torture you into submission all the while building you up to resemble an ancient deity, depending of course on your peculiar body type. Yeah, we go to one of those. It’s cheap, nearby, and there are thankfully people who look a hell of lot worse than us. Are we small for saying that? Well, maybe small was the wrong word – after all we are going to this place.

But, more often than not we get the feeling that we’re watching outtakes from the cantina scene in the original Star Wars. There are creatures there we don’t and can’t possibly recognize as  human. There are beings there we don’t understand at all. And it transcends gender. Getting fit is one thing; getting weird, unless you’re in Austin, is another.

9394332501_a74f9a5b31  How do my delts look, man?

The age span is unbelievably broad. From seniors who should know better than to hurt themselves in such ways to children(!), yes children who unless morbidly obese shouldn’t need such self-inflicted agony on their way to physical supremacy.

Not only are the mutated bodies otherworldly, so is the clothing. Normally, a lot of this would be found in a discarded grocery bag found by the drop-off bin at a charity store. But upon closer inspection (please, not that close!), one can see that good money was laid out for this. The tell-tale signs are otherworldly bright colors and insane graphics. Coupled with lycra straining against unbelievable tectonic pressures and it’s a miracle there haven’t been more cellulite explosions pasting innocent victims against gym walls.

One style that many guys appear to favor is the t-shirt with the collar band cut off along with missing sleeves. All the better to show you my delts and biceps, n’est ce pa? It’s a look that went out with the original Flashdance movie. And Jennifer Beals rocked it a hell of lot better than they do. Besides, if a guy is not from New Jersey, don’t try and look like one, poseur! Truthfully, it doesn’t work there either. The same goes for headbands on anyone. You wind up looking like baby Huey.

4524567027_f72bb3d4fa Get the idea?

But those aren’t the only issues with t-shirts. More often than not, the shirt is over-sized or advertising something. Commonly it’s a bar which explains why that person is there either working off fat or a hangover. Then there are those concerned citizens whose shirts celebrate some kind of rally, race, auction, cause, church gathering, or a prayer breakfast for literacy. We can’t forget the family reunion shirts either. Do you really need to be reminded who your family is? We sure as hell don’t. We guess we need to revisit those rules about t-shirts: wear it torn and unadorned or advertise and wear your size. It’s a start.

In a reverse sort of “don’t look at my body, I’m a person not a piece of meat”, men have adopted to wearing enormously baggy shorts as currently favored by NBA players. Gone are the good old days when a bit of leg showing was OK. On the other hand if you’re a woman, you are probably wearing the tightest of lycra (here we go again!) shorts which are painted-on-your-body tight. Yeah, they’re comfortable, but so are baggy gym shorts and you won’t get candida. Think about it.

Has anyone noticed the trend in gym shoes? Some of them make sense in case there’s a power outage and you can’t find your way out of the dark. They’re that bright. The same unfortunately can’t be said of those wearing black gym shoes with matching socks. Really? Does one really need to wear formal gym shoes while working out? So in keeping with that, how about the gym rat who wears the tuxedo t-shirt? He’d better be wearing black shoes to match especially after Labor Day.

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Now the gym we go to, sorry – fitness center, is pretty complete. In addition to all the equipment, it features lockers, showers, toilets, and water fountains. So why in hell do people bring in bottled water? Why is there a vending machine, right next to the water fountain, selling bottled water along with other drinks designed to match your hideously colored shoes?  Why indeed.

And what about the inhabitants of this sweat shop? Grotesquely over-developed muscles make the body do rather odd things. Many of the denizens cannot walk straight through a regular door as their arms are sticking out from their bodies at strange angles. They appear to be at the ready in case they’re dropped into a tub of scalding water and are preparing to launch themselves out accompanied by terrified screams.

They also walk funny, duck-like almost, as their feet are splayed out also at ridiculous angles. Couple that with the psychedelic colored shoes, cut-off t-shirts, tightly clutching water bottles, and baggy gym shorts/or lycra and you’ve got a cast of extras from a typical Troma film. Good times, good times.

7439327504_7ea446bdf8                                                                  And as much depth as this cardboard cut-out.

So, during an hour or so at Castle Glute, one can witness all of this and more. So tell me why we pay for cable tv when this is so much more entertaining??

Previously: He’s discovered a new Czardas channel he’s been dying to listen to but Pooch says it makes her homesick. This has gotten plenty weird, way weird enough for me to last several lifetimes. But, right, it’s about to get even stranger.

And now: So the jewelry was bought. Thousands were spent by Pooch and Ginger on their Bataan-like Death March shopping spree. No prisoners were taken but a hell of a lot of merchandise was. I’m assuming it was paid for, bankrolled by Zoltan’s generosity, but with these two, who knows?

8632644852_d54706acfb                                    It ain’t shopping!

Zoltan gathers us up in his car and takes us someplace he guarantees will shake my very foundations. Well, those weren’t his words exactly, but you get the gist, right? And he is right. We drive to some abandoned Hardee’s Hamburger joint. It’s seen better days, certainly better than their food. It’s barely standing on its own. There is nothing else around it. It looks like it was dropped by some refugee from Area 51, it’s so out of place. The only thing around it is a suspiciously familiar Honda CR-V. This is starting to creep me out big time. I know of only one other person with a CR-V and with specialty plates like these. We pull up and part next to it. Someone in a NY Giants jersey is sitting in it listening to folk music while gorging on Raisinets. This is going downhill fast. It could only be one person.

He gets out, smiling sheepishly, chocolate smudging the corners of his mouth. “You didn’t think I was going to let you get away with this, did you, Fog Calamari? What kind of schmuck name is that, Bruce?”

3949821038_77224c539a                                   The other other Bruce is back, not this one.

“Er, Hi Bruce.” It’s the other Bruce. I thought I had gotten rid of him months ago. He disappeared and left me to do this and now he walks right back in as if nothing had happened. Doesn’t he know how successful “Fog Calamari” has been? He probably does. I’m in negotiations right now for serialization and film. And now he wants back in? The big question in my mind is how did he find me? “Bruce, how did you find me?”

“Really? You don’t know? Zoltan, educate the poor boy.”

Zoltan grins at me. “We knew you were planning to highjack the blog. We watched you. You think it was coincidence that Ginger was on that bus with you? Brucie baby (I hate that name Brucie and so does Bruce, but Zoltan knew it bugged me so he used it.),  you’re smarter than that or at least I thought so. I want in on Fog. We are partners after all.” He was right but damned if I was going to share Fog with him.

“Look Bruce, Fog was cute. Clever a little too. But the blog is sacred and we’ve got to get it back to where it belongs – social commentary nobody cares about. My life hasn’t been the same since The Two Bruces morphed into Fog. That’s just not right. We gotta fix this.”

“And how do you propose that? Fog has been growing.”

Bruce looked at me as if I was a fresh bag of string cheese, hungrily. “Easy, Brucie (him too?) baby. We do both. The Two Bruces will return and you can do your miserable Fog thing. Just keep it away from me. Some of those characters are just creepy. capisce?”

I capisced. But I knew Fog would be back. And soon.

Previously: Zoltan, turning around, hands each of us a handgun, saying these were for good luck. I have an aversion to guns of any size, with any predilection for luck of any kind. I started to protest when Zoltan made it clear in no uncertain terms that I was to start packing, and not my bags: we were going to the mall!

And now: Great. Out of the frying pan into the fire. If there’s anything I like less than bus rides, tarted-up Caddies, and hand guns, it’s shopping malls. Being originally from Jersey where malls are as ubiquitous as Mickey Dee’s, I believe they contribute as much to divorce as infidelity and as much to disease as handrails in hospitals. They are as bad as a war zone in Bosnia, only with free parking and not as pretty. But to the mall we were going. Zoltan likes malls because of the free parking and they appear to be open all the time.

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Obviously, not the most current of malls, but where the hell were we anyway?

And as if that weren’t bad enough, Pooch (the for-sale-bride) and Ginger were hitting it off, exchanging the latest in cutting-edge fashion ideas. The bastard child of this retail coupling could only be likened to that of the illegitimate lovechild between Frankenstein and the Kardashians, with the nod for good taste going to old Frank. I hope the stores were well-stocked. And Zoltan was only too happy to bankroll this backwater version of Project Runway. Pulling out a roll of cash large enough to choke a Florida sinkhole, he dispatched Pooch and Ginger off to a shopping orgy commanding them to text him no sooner than three hours while commanding me to stay with him. Of course, he wants to have a latte with me and discuss the finer points of Instagram. Ehhh, not really. He wants my opinion on some jewelry he’s planning on getting Pooch. What a guy! Why in hell does he need me for that? I’m about to find out.

Zoltan figures the girls will be gone at least three hours before we even hear from them so he can do whatever it is he had planned for us. We walk down the main concourse of the mall passing numerous jewelry stores, Gaps, Foot Lockers, cell phone kiosks, until we come across this odd, little store run by some of his “friends.” He smiles at me, winking conspiratorially, and says under his breath, “They give me good deal. Or I give them something else, ehh?” I suddenly realize what the guns are for. Aww, c’mon, I just wanted to get away from my family! But as usual, I get it wrong. But I am starting to miss Ahmed and Kippy.

We walk into the store and are greeted by a stunning redhead, save for her lack of dental accoutrements. Zoltan walks up to her sheepishly, apologizing for being away so long, and kisses her on the cheek telling her his friend, me!, wants to buy a gift for his girlfriend, Pooch! He’s two-timing her! Maybe three- or four-timing her for all I know and he’s now made me an accomplice to his horniness. Not wanting to jeopardize his relationship with Red, he’s got me covering for him. He tells me to pick out the most expensive bauble for my “girlfriend”, explaining to the redhead I’m too shy to do this on my own. Riiight… and he’s there for moral support. While the redhead is showcasing her attributes, the jewelry that is, Zoltan is stuffing a wad of cash in my back pocket, in complete contradiction in what he usually does with such an activity. This is so wrong on so many counts. But, I’ve now got his cash in one pocket, one of his guns in another, and yet Zoltan with another gun gently prodding my back. Well, this is just one more friggin’ reason to hate malls.

4435622489_4ee47e137a This is what Zoltan really liked!

I choose something extremely expensive and equally gaudy and we leave, Zoltan promising the redhead that he’ll get her those new dental implants he’s been promising her. What a guy! It’s only been about half an hour and we’ve still time to kill. I realize that that was probably not the best way to phrase it. Zoltan suggest we go back out to the car and listen to some satellite radio. He’s discovered a new Czardas channel he’s been dying to listen to but Pooch says it makes her homesick. This has gotten plenty weird, way weird enough for me to last several lifetimes. But, right, it’s about to get even stranger.

Previously: The first, well the only redeeming quality, was his ability to score the best Kazakhstan weed. It was probably its influence that made these “artistic” endeavors seem worthwhile. What the hell else could it be?

And now: What the hell else could it be? Indeed. What could make this worse? A veritable Brueggellian nightmare, that’s what.

images-1 Yeah, they did.

I always thought there was more (or less) to Zoltan than met the eye, but I couldn’t put my finger on it though there were too many times I wanted to put my finger squarely in his eye! Not out of any prescient thought on my part, but I never did and am now grateful for that bit of reserve. Ginger informed me that he was going to meet us at the next bus stop and gracefully provide us with our transportation. Probably in one of the last remaining, clapped-out racing Yugos. She also informed me that Zoltan had something else going on the side as well. Why was I not surprised?

The good news is that I would get to leave the acolytes of Amway, the insurance salespeople, and the strange cult-types behind me. The bad news is I’d be riding with Ginger, Zoltan, and who the hell knows what or who else would be joining this not so merry band of pranksters. I hope he had some of that weed. I figured I’d be needing it. If not that, some of the industrial-strength, gut-enflaming booze called Palinka. It looked like water, smelled like the after-waste of some carbon/nuclear plant experiment gone horribly wrong, and tasted, well, let’s just say the description I gave were its good traits. But, a few shots of that and everything was in the past, probably never to be remembered in their entirety.

Thankfully, the next five hours on the bus were spent in relative calm. Ginger had her iPod on listening to Polka versions of Justin Timberlake songs, the Amway folks were quizzing each other on the merits of the newly formulated SA8 soap, and the cult was just gazing out the windows, up at the ceiling, down at the floor, or each other, the floor, mindlessly humming a generic chant from the 20th century. Did I say “thankfully”?

Did you ever wonder where time went? I was thinking just that as the five hours passed way too quickly because we were now making our final bus stop to pick up with Zoltan. Looking out I was gratified to see we would not be engaging in some version of a Yugo demolition derby. No, instead we would be cruising in relative style in a 1975 Cadillac Civil. Yes, Civil. That would be the Iranian version of the American Cadillac Seville. Who knew? Who knew this to be true but it is…look it up.

1978_Cadillac_Seville

The Caddy was tarted up in Kazakhstan livery mode which meant it had every conceivable tschotske known to man including multiple air-fresheners which lent a veritable potpourri of wretched scents. It did indeed smell just like it looked. And behind the faux-fur-covered steering wheel, why Zoltan, of course in his faux-sharkskin splendor. Topping off his ensemble was an equally offensive shag felt fedora, favored by pimps in the ’70’s. Oh, this was going to be interesting… if we survived.

Zoltan signaled us all to get in the Caddy. Sitting next to him was his latest heart-throb, Pooch, a 17 year old Balkan wife-for-sale, Lindsay Lohan look-alike, complete with silver-lame shorts and a halter top that couldn’t halt anything even though it was trying. The back seat next to Ginger looked like the safest place for me.

Zoltan, turning around, hands each of us a handgun, saying these were for good luck. I have an aversion to guns of any size, with any predilection for luck of any kind. I started to protest when Zoltan made it clear in no uncertain terms that I was to start packing, and not my bags: we were going to the mall!