No. of Recommendations: 73
This non-stock post may be sub-titled, 'Who in heaven's name moved the rim up?

Or, 'Finally, fitness at 54?'

And so IvanGrowth, all 226 pounds of him, 6'1”, saunters into the gym after work. (Been walking for 3 months now 'round the neighborhood and lost 9 pounds with 40 more to go. Too many LakeCheddar products - - sausages, cheeses, hops). Time to take it to the next level. The gym. Serious city.

Ol' IvanGrowth. Carrying gym bag. Special purchase for this “endeavur to pleasur” (rhyming ain't bad, eh?). Had pulled the “Boston Bag” I used in high school out of the closet. <Grins> It was so tired, moth-eaten, material cracked, and disintegrating. Quite a metaphor for my physical fitness reality, as well! Gawd, I love couches.

Ivan gets ready to suit up. Looks around. Hasn't been in a locker room in 35 years. Count 'em. 35. Years, that is. And heavens, the toll that has been taken by too many MO products, as in tobacco and hops. Hmmmm…have let each of those vices go. Now, time to work on the grocery grazing. Two down and one to go.

Back to the locker room. Ivan looks around. Stick my key into a locker and get the *%^*& thing jammed. &&#*$. A savior comes over. "Whazzup?" he asks. "This piece of @**$ doesn't work."

"Oh,” he says. “You see that number on the key? That's your locker number." I knew that. Just testin' ya.

I glance in mirror. Oh good lawd. That serious white whale I see looking back at me is gonna get hauled around the gym today. Have you ever pulled 226 pounds around for a ½ hour? Try it.

OK, sports fans. Time for the equipment room. What I am about to do is take a '57 Chevy off the blocks, go screaming into the workout out room, set the treadmill for 4300 RPMs. What happens next is classic. I try and step onto the moving treadmill and I go flying off the end of the machine. This '57 Chevy ain't had the oil changed in 35 years and we have to enter it into a drag race first day off the blocks and out of the garage. I proceed to lower the speed from 4300 RPMs to 4.1 mph walk. There, that's better. Feet still feel like a cartoon blur though as I race to keep up.

Pants droop. Now I look like I belong. Shorts are droopin' and I look like I belong in the NBA or any corner where teens hang. One big difference though. All the other gym guests have intentionally set their shorts to juuuuuuuuuuuust hang their on their butt. Me? Well, this &^%* treadmill is again trying to thrown me on my nose, I am hanging onto my shorts so they will just hang onto my butt, and the now the fitness instructor is yelling at me to use the hand meters and give him a heart rate.

Instructor. My butt. Let me tell you about this guy. Character is an ex-Marine. Since Ivan was Air Force (sometime around the Wright Brothers - - or so it seems), you see, I have an inherent distrust of Marines. Sibling rivalry, although Marines would never call us brothers.

Ex-Marine says to me, as he enters me into the computer, "year of birth?" 1948. The fool starts chuckling. "What's so funny Marine, I ask him?"

"My mama was born in '48." Humpf. Hate this guy already and I just met him.

So as the treadmill again is trying to spin me off the far end, the ex-Marine wants a heart rate...."What for," I ask as I attempt to walk and talk.

"'Cuz I been doing this 7 years and I don't want you to be the first to die on me. Messy to clean up."

I mumble something about his mother under my breath and yell out, “130 beats.”

"OK, but don't push it over 130, hear?"

Stick him! I start pumping my arms. Got the heart up to 134 now. I will show him. Turn the speed up to 4.5 mph. My shorts are really slippin' now and I walk faster, pumping the arms, and grabbing the shorts as they wend their way closer to my knees. Walk, pump, grab. Walk, pump, grab. Got my rhythm now. Walk, pump, and grab the shorts. 140 beats per minute. Pump arms harder. Holding it right at 150 now. I will show that fool. Bust it off in me, will he? The year my mama was born….

Then a H-U-G-E chart on the wall with age and heart-beats per minute grabs my attention. Whoa! Sucker says, age 55, no more than 135! Where 'dat rpm meter?!. Slow it down to 4.3 mph. I quit the arm pumping. S-l-o-w it down. This is great. Only have to grab shorts every 3rd stride now. Phew, that's better.

Now I glance at the “calories burned” digits. This foolish thing even tells me how many calories I have burned. What will they think of next? Been walking 18 minutes now at 4.3 MPH and I have burned all of 157 calories. Great. I get to go home and eat a stinkin' apple. Big deal. 157 calories and I start to grouse out loud. Instructor yells over, “you say something?”

“130” I yell back. 130. “Butthead,” under my breath, is added to the 130 for my own benefit. Hate Marines.

“Well, keep it there.” Yeah, I know. You don't want me to be the first. And I don't want to be the first. At least until I can eat that apple. Then God can take me. But not till I eat it down right to the core.

Treadmill begins to slow down automatically. These are all pre-set in the “Fat Boys' Room.” That really isn't its name. But that is what it is. Section all walled off. No mirrors. No jocks. Just fat, ol' boys trying to get back in shape.

This whole thing is déjà vu. Stop with me for a moment.

Step back into the locker room. The musty smell. The bay of 20 showers. I am caught off guard for a moment and I wonder where my life has gone. Wasn't I just in high school, earning my pine splinters on the basketball team? Playing Niagara Falls High School during the early '60's, not showering because of the racial tensions, getting right on bus in Winter in gym clothes and getting out of town. Where has my life gone? Closer to 40 years than 35…wow….Pause. Kind of zone out for a few moments.

Memories of high school basketball days - - nostalgia, so I finish my 1.7 miles in blazing style and head down to get a ball. Basketball. Clerk looks at me like I am from Mars. “Do you want something?”

Yeah, would like a basketball. She looks at me like, 'Old men your age don't play basketball.' Now I expect her to ask me my year of birth. I am ready. Will lay her out if she D-A-R-E-S even go there.

“Here you are Mr. IvanG”. Now I am disarmed. I was good and ready to lace her out and she has to call me by name. How dare she.

I look at the ball. Something wrong here. A Wilson? No. A Rawlings? No. Some Japanese name on the ball. Now this is globalization. The last time I checked, Japan wasn't right up there in the Olympics basketball finals. But here I am, standing in the central city LakeCheddar, with a Japanese basketball. Next thing I know is that our LakeCheddar farmers will start drinking sake and calling our Lake Michigan seaweed a vegetable.

So, down to the gym and several guys are mixing it up in a pick up game. Here too something is wrong. They all have these shorts on that are looooooong enough to go to their knees. I check out my hem. Upper thighs, just where they belong. So I wander down to the far basket, thinking, I will pump in 10 from the free throw line like we had to when I played. Miss a basket, run a lap. Miss a basket, run a lap. Until you drop 10. Just like we did in varsity basketball.

Put the first one up. Looking nice. Until it drops about 3 feet short. Doesn't even hit the rim. #(*&$#' Japanese ball. Gotta be. Probably not balanced right.

Don't chase the ball right away. Look at that rim. Who moved that rim on me? Can't figure out why the gym doesn't use the standard height and distance to the rim. Glance at feet. Right on the foul line. Why can't they get the tape out and measure this schtuff right. I mean, how tough is that? Walk to get the ball since the “giddup and go” got up and went somewhere.

It is then that I kick the ball so it bounds off the wall and comes back to me. Slick. Didn't have to bend. Maybe I will hit five shots from the line and call it a day. Bounce the ball a couple of times. Get the rhythm. Launch shot number two. Oh my gawd. Air ball city. Haven't hit the rim in two shots. Ball weakly rolls to the bleachers. Want to trot after it. Attempt to get the 226 pounds in motion. After one audible “hupp,” I merely walk to the ball and move my arms like I am jogging after it. This movement has serious potential.

Go back to the line. “Hit 3 shots and call it a day,” I say to no one in particular. Throw it up. A brick. Japanese ball comes bounding back at me faster than I put it up. Make a note to ask the clerk if she is sure the rims are set at right height.

It is then that I laugh. Know full well it is right height. Caught in a serious, maturing moment and I start to chuckle to myself. I think of all that has passed under my bridge, the good and the bad. And I smile. And I offer up one of those prayers where I say nothing. Just a feeling, just a deep down appreciation of life, that kind of says, “aw, you are too good to me God.”

More financial security? Nah, don't need it. Better job at this point of a 'sun setting phase' of my career? Nah, I am more than my job. A wife that looks like Sandra Bullock? Nah, have something better already. Greater health? I would love to be rid of this neuro-endocrine issue that the docs haven't been able to get at for what, 12 years now, and limits my working hours? Well, I would rather neuro-endocrine issues and feel this deeply about life than be in perfect health and not have this sense of awe or deep reverence for life.

“Aw, you are too good to me God…” The sidewalk mystic has said that out loud, twice now, in a gym in a central city part of the world where this gym seems to be a bastion of security in an outer world that is nothing but visual despair.

So with another one of those audible “hupps,” I saunter back out, give the Japanese ball back to the clerk. I pause and consider asking her if the hoop is the right height. Nah. That was for my own consumption and I hit the shower after day one in the gym.
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