Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Accidental Boxing

The day begins. It is a beautiful Friday morning and I have a meeting with an agent. I am pumped. I take the long kind of shower, where I shave and wash and scrub, and I don make-up. My hair is blow-dried straight and I brush my teeth for a full 2 minutes. In car terms, I detailed myself.

I decide that I will go to the gym after my meeting since his office and said gym are only a block apart. I pack a bag with all of my gym essentials and head off. The sun is shining brightly, the air is a little crisp, and I am feeling invigorated.

The meeting goes okay. He is old school New York. Probably mid-60s, white mustache, white and balding hair, short, and completely uninterested in me. We never make eye-contact, and I am staring at him, smiling at him, doing everything but the perfect cheer to get his attention. Nothin'. He tells me he'd like to work with me and sends me off. A good meeting I guess, but I felt lousy. (Those who know me best know that I need a little more attention than that.)

Off to the gym.

Now, I only have 15 minutes to get to the gym, change, and find a good spot in the Total Body Conditioning class that starts at 1pm. I haven't eaten lunch and it takes everything in me not to duck in one of the pizza shops and ditch the gym; but, I need to get in shape and I press on.

At the gym, I fly down the steps and find a locker. I have dressed cutely today, so it takes a minute to fiddle with all of my buttons and peel the jeans off. I am in a race against time. I put my sports bra on and dig through my bag for my clothes. I hate this part of the gym experience. (I try to bare my body for as little time as possible, even though everybody else in there is flaunting their 'here and there's as if it's a naked pageant! Well, Miss Kentucky is not interested!)

It doesn't take long for me to realize that I have forgotten my t-shirt and shorts. I am now standing half-naked over my backpack in a frantic state of "what-do-I-do-now?". Should I just leave and get something to eat? I mean at least you tried to work-out. Should I try to find a shop and buy some clothes? Maybe someone in here brought extra and will let me borrow them. Ahh! There's no time! Total Body Conditioning is about to start!

I don't know what to do, when suddenly, a voice comes from behind me. "Forgot your clothes, huh?" I turn to see a bare-breasted woman in her 40's bent over and taking off her underwear. Why, on God's fabulous green Earth, did she choose that particular moment to address me? "I forgot my tennis shoes once. Can't work-out without those."

I turn back to my locker and say, "Yeah, can't work-out in my undies either."

"I think they sell tees and shorts upstairs at the desk."

"Really?" A glimmer of hope. I pull my jeans back on, throw a towel around my upper part, and jet bare-foot upstairs. At the desk, they are taking their sweet time, showing me all the guy's shirts and shorts that they have, none of which would come anywhere close to fitting me. They tell me that they are out of all female attire. I am considering just giving up. I mean, I didn't exactly wanna drop 30 bucks on mens' gym clothes, but I didn't wanna leave without working-out either. I'd come this far!

When suddenly Keisha, the Sports Club checker-inner, found a gray NYSC t-shirt in Men's Small. "That'll work!" I say. I am starting to see the light. I still have 2 minutes before class starts.

Keisha slowly stands up and turns around with a quite stoic facial expression. "I also found a pair of shorts," she says, as if someone has died.

"Great! I'll take 'em!"

Then, she unfolds the tiniest pair of black biker shorts I have ever laid eyes on.

"You're kidding," followed by a slow Keisha shake. "I don't really do biker shorts."

Keisha assures me that they will (somehow) fit and tells me that they really do wonders for "making the booty pop". Interesting.

So I skip back down to the locker room and think that maybe the men's t-shirt will be long enough to help cover the tightly enclosed backside. I change at lightning speed and head off toward the studio. My bright white legs are bulging out of the black biker shorts near the top of my thigh and my butt has never felt so restricted. The shirt is a little long, so at least the panty-lines are a bit hidden. Due to the fact that my thighs are chubbier than the shorts allow, the spandex heathens keep rolling up toward my crotch. I begin the long process of constantly pulling them back down.

When I enter the studio, I am pleasantly surprised that not too many people are in attendance and that they seem to be starting late. Before I go to grab my mat, I notice that the other 2 ladies in the class are both wrapping their wrists with tape. I found it unusual that they both had weak wrists. Then I see a guy in the far corner making quick and loud breathing sounds as he punches a large red bag hanging from the ceiling. What's he doing here? As I take a closer look at the class, I notice that it is primarily made of men, which is odd for Total Body Conditioning. When I see that everyone seems to be sporting flat footed high-top lace-up shoes, I realize that something is definitely wrong here.

I hustle to the door to check out the club schedule and see that Total Body Conditioning is actually at 1pm on Thursdays. This was a Friday, so, "Welcome to Boxing!" I hear the instructor say. He is right behind me and I am trapped. "Get in line with the others and start your laps."

Everyone is running around the studio in a circle and I hate to run; but by now, everyone is staring at me (due to the fact that the instructor said something along the lines of, "Hey everyone, look at the new girl!"), so I have to not only run, but look as though I'm good at it.

We run and run and run, and then we run in the other direction. We gallop, we skip, we do tons of push-ups and sit-ups, and we do squats. We lunge for our lives and we run a little more. We do everything but take a break. He leads us around the room, around all of the huge red bags that are now dangling from the ceiling, and I see his evil face on every one of them. As I loudly gasp for breath, I suddenly feel ready to fight.

The unfortunate thing about boxing is that my head came close to exploding off of my neck. I looked at the clock during our sprints and realized that I had only been in the room for 20 minutes. My face was not it's normal exercise induced flushed and pink color, but it was bright red. It did not matter that I looked abnormally cute today, nor did it matter that I was wearing make-up and had beautiful eat-your-heart-out hair. What mattered was that when I looked into the mirror, I saw that my face was actually bright red. Not pink, but red. I have not eaten and I have not run in years. I am already sweating through my new shirt, pools of condensation under my arms, the shirt no longer covering my bottom, but clinging to my lower back and abdomen. The shorts will not stay put, and I continue pulling them down as I trot around the room.

I was about to run right out the door when he called, "Last Lap!"

I moved over to my water bottle and downed half of it on the spot. He shouts for us to give him 20 push-ups and I give him the death stare and continue gulping, the only one standing up, defiant with hand on hip. He couldn't have gotten a push-up outta me if he had a million dollars. As far as I was concerned, we were both very lucky that I was still alive.

The rest of the class goes alright. They put heavy boxing gloves on me and teach me a few swings. When the teacher asked me to practice on him, I gladly gave him everything I had. I was jabbin', and punchin', and upper-cuttin' with the ferocity of a woman scorned. I didn't care that my shorts legs were rolled up like little intertubes or that my breathing was as shallow as a patient on oxygen. I didn't care that my face had finally cooled down to a nice hot pink shade or that my heart was still beating. All I cared about was giving this guy a black eye, something similar to the two I now had, due to the previously mentioned "cute make-up" smearing all over my face.

The worst part about boxing is the conditioning; but once you're past that, the worst part is being constricted by the gloves! I couldn't pull my shorts down! I couldn't fix my ponytail, so my hair was in my eyes, sticking to my neck, and shooting out at the oddest angles. I couldn't wipe the sweat off my face, so it streaked down in mascara brown, eye-shadow green, and blush pink. I swear, my face looked like a Salvador Dali masterpiece by quittin' time.

So, I survived. I made it through the fasion faux-pau and the running. I conquered the little voice in my head that kept screaming, "Kill the instructor and go get some pizza!" I have no words of encouragement for my readers, nor do I have a sentence to offer about staying the course. The moral of the story, however, is to know what you're getting into before you work so doggone hard to get into it.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Don't ever grow up: inspired by the story of Peter Pan.

I just watched Finding Neverland again. I gotta tell you: if you have not seen that movie, you need to put it on your list of 'things to do'. I'm serious. I know you might have other pressing matters on that list, such as mowing the lawn, brushing your teeth, or waxing your back. Listen, as important as those things may be, seeing this movie is a must.

I don't want to rave about the actors or the cinematography or the music. I just need to say that this movie moves me in such a way that when the credits roll, I find myself saying, "That's it. That's what I wanna do."

And I'm not talking about acting or writing or being famous. I'm just talking about moving people, giving them hope and encouragment, providing society with something worthwhile to invest in. Reminding everybody that there is so much more to life than we let ourselves realize when we get caught up in bills and work and 'things to do'.

Sometimes, it gets so lonely here that I wonder if I'm missing out; but when I was back home, I felt the same way. After seeing this movie, I realize that no matter where I am, happiness is still a state of mind.

At work, I am constantly getting in trouble for laughing too loud, talking too much, for skipping in the dining room, and singing aloud. A lot of times, the guys at work will ask me if I smoke crack or if I've ever under gone a mental health evaluation. They look at me like I'm crazy, they ask me why I'm always so happy, and they tell me to "be a professional".

But they also look at me in wonder.

Some people just grow up too fast; but we could all use a trip to Neverland every now and then. Escape the prison of every day routines, and lose ourselves in imagination. I challenge you to do something different today, something child-like, something freeing. I dunno. Sing loudly in the car to an old song, skip down the sidewalk, tag your boss and then say, "You're it!"

And please, don't ever grow up.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Anything to lose weight.

Going to the gym is an experience unlike any other. I am constantly amazed at my very own gym experiences. I mean, picture it: You've got 15 middle aged women in sports bras and work out clothes crowded into a room surrounded by mirrors. We have loaded up our bars, have our dumbbells ready, and are standing at the edge of our mats looking at our own loathesome bodies in the mirror. We want a transformation and we are delighted that we will get to see it all happen before our very eyes.

The music begins. It is hip. We all believe that hip music must make us skinny. The instructor is a classic stereotype of the Italian New York mob boss wife. She has long curly brown hair that she does not put in a ponytail, even though it is dripping with sweat. The headset microphone is tucked around the back of her head and ears, so that when looking at her from the front, her hair perfectly frames her face, but when looking from the back, her hair is poofed up like a helmet. She has the longest and pinkest fake fingernails I have ever beheld. I do not understand how she grips her weights, but she does. I soon realize that neither hair nor nails nor the force of a mighty storm could keep this woman from her exercise.

We begin warm-up, following her every move. She is twice my age and looks twice better. I am sickened, but continue to glance at myself in the mirror, in hopes that my stomach will begin its transformation into a carbon copy of hers. I am squatting, and lunging, and sweating, and curling, and breathing, and sweating, and miserable. I keep looking at my bright red cheeks and frizzing hair and wonder when I will look toned and beautiful.

"Oh, you're really sweating," she says in a voice so similar to Fran Drescher from the Nanny that I think I might be on her sitcom. Is the studio audience laughing at me from behind the mirrors?

Throughout the class, I begin to notice that "Fran" is not completing each set. She keeps telling us to "Add more weight! You really wanna push ya-self!" I think I have a soulmate in the class who gave her "and what are you doing" eyes, because she then said, "I would do 'em with you, but I have to teach class all day." (I wish I could write her accent - nasal and jersey maybe.)

We are almost finished and she is asking us to do more glute work (glutes... as in butt) and I am dying. She looks at us and says, "Oh, isn't it awful?! Ah, it just burns!" and then matter-of-factly with a head nod, "It's awful."

We never reply, mainly because we cannot breathe. I am beginning to sweat through my white tee shirt and my legs are blotchy, but there is a beautiful woman behind me and she keeps pushing through each exercise and I wanna at least look like her so I press on. I always find someone in the class to compete with, otherwise I would have no motivation to go through this pain. But she is really beautiful, tall, lean, and blonde, and I remember thinking that I'm glad Jerrod isn't here, but I wish my brother was. How does that girl not sweat???

"Oh, look at you with the legs!"

This screech snaps me back to life as I realize that my teacher is standing right beside me. She is bending over for a closer inspection of my legs and I am tempted to tilt the barbell to one side so that the weight will fall off and knock her out. But alas, the weight clips. "Are you an athlete?" She does not wait for my reply. "No, no, a runna. You are definitely a runna. Will you look at this girls legs?" I answer that I never run and would not unless a stranger was chasing me. She says, "Then it's genetics." I picture the legs of my entire family and give a head shake. "You're new! And you don't play sports?" "Not right now," I answer through my gritted teeth, each squat becoming more difficult. "Can you believe she's not a runna and it's her first time back to the gym and she's got legs like these?"

The rest of the class is moaning in agony because she has gotten so caught up in my upper thighs and calves that she has forgotten to count us out of this exercise. The rest of the class does not care one bit about my legs, but would probably like to break them as their glory is causing all of us a lot of pain.

"Oh, oh, oh! I'm so sorry! Okay, break. Now add weight and let's do biceps."

The rest of the class goes fine. She tells us that intestines are 25 feet long and that "doctas" have to really pay attention to "wrap 'em all back up in there" after surgery. "Imagine a kink," she says to us in all seriousness.

I find myself thinking that 25 feet of intestine must weigh a lot. If I got an intestine reduction, how much more of Club Strength Class would I really need?

Friday, April 15, 2005

one day whispers of another. . .

My room is dark. Not dark like night, but dark like mid-afternoon and the sun has already mosied over the roof to the other side of the house. A cool breeze will blow my thin curtains in toward my cheek every now and then as I steal the days rays to see while I type. I wonder at the children. They keep squealing and shrieking. I imagine that they must be playing boys chase the girls or maybe freeze tag. A dog barks, too. He can probably see the little kids jumping from swing set to merry-go-round; probably wants to join in. My brother and sister and I played on a merry-go-round last Labor Day weekend when we went down south to visit Matt at college. My parents asked us to be careful, but Matt kept pushing us as we screamed "Faster! Faster!" I felt 3rd grade again, felt retainers and bad bangs again, felt top of the world again. Matt is a good merry-go-round pusher. I am holding on for dear life, legs wrapped tight around the cool rail and dizzying myself by looking up and swinging out my arms, chest up to the sun, smile up to the sky. When I hear Bobbie Jo start to mutter "Stop. Please stop." I look down near my ankles and see her rear end hanging off. She is gripping the bottom of the rail, where it meets the center of the platform, and her legs are trying to reach around mine. She is going to slide right off if Matt doesn't stop. She is so long that even though her feet and arms are holding tight to the center, her butt is almost brushing the ground. She can no longer scream, but just mutter, "Stop. Please stop." I half-heartedly reach for her, but know that if I get too close, she will pull me down with her, and as our eyes meet, we both know that she's a goner. When a twinkle appears in mine, horror appears in hers, and she knows what I will scream before I've even parted my grinning lips: "Faster!" And with one last heave, Matt gives it his all, and Bobbie Jo gives up, laughing as all 6 feet of her literally bites the dust. Matt and I giggle with glee and I ride out the last spin in a fit of uncontrollable laughter. Matt cannot stand straight; his tiredness and happiness has him bent over. Bobbie Jo lies in his well-worn path, looking up at Matt laughing over her and watching me finish the cycle. She can't stop laughing either and doesn't even try to shake the sand from her hair. I was going to write about the constant chirping outside and the cool wind and the children, but I guess today is so much like that perfect Labor Day afternoon that the memory crept up through my fingers before I could stop the tale.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

It's official. I am sick.

Well, folks. The results are in. I am officially ill.

Today was my first visit to a doctor in New York. After looking up the providers covered by my health insurance, I ventured out of the house today and headed toward Queens Long Island Medical Center, about 10 blocks away. The day is nice. The sun is beating down, but it's still a bit brisk; maybe 55 degrees.

I haven't been to the doctor in about 3 years, because I ran out of health insurance upon graduating college. I decide to go for the full shabang: general physical, question about neck mole, concern of new found cist on middle finger crease, reason behind the dark green and red muccus I've been coughing and spitting up since last Wednesday.

I didn't really know what to expect. When I made the appointment, I asked the receptionist to give me someone "who's not creepy". He suggested a nice man, Dr. Batra. My appointment was for 12:30, but after clearing my insurance and paying the copay, I still had to wait for 45 minutes. Dr. Batra kept apologizing, explaining that the man who was sitting behind me in the waiting room earlier was very poor and very sick. It was an emergency. This man was shivering and had a fever and kept shaking all over. I hadn't seen him, but I'd definitely heard his teeth chattering. I just figured he was just as nervous as I was for the girl on Ambush Make-Over, which was playing in the waiting room. (I was a little bummed when they finally called for me, as I was dying to see what Gerri looked like after the overhaul.)

Dr. Batra was very nice. I'm not sure exactly of his origin (maybe Indian or Bangladeshi?), but he had been to Owensboro, KY before, so I could tell upon hearing such information that we would get along fine. He asked me if I had any brothers or sisters and then if they were as pretty as me. A fine doctor indeed.

It turns out, however, that I have a cold. All my fears were validated. I knew I was sick! (It was like, as soon as he confirmed my illness, a since of pride washed over me for my own keen medical self-evaluation.) He gave me some sample antibiotics so I didn't have to pay a pharmacy fee and I'm on my first day of 5 to feeling better. He said the mole looked like a beauty mark to him -- completely harmless -- but that if I wanted, he could recommend a doctor to freeze it off. And the bump on my finger is apparently a cancerless bone cist that only surgery could remove, but that he feels is an unnecessary option.

So, all said, a pretty good trip to the doc. (Don't worry, I'll spare you the details when I visit the OB/GYN.)

Thursday, April 07, 2005

My Dad Smells Like. . .

Tonight, I got off on the wrong subway stop. I jumped the gun - one stop too early. It was 12:35 am... not a good time to be walking alone down a street in Queens, New York that I did not recognize. (At this point, I'd say my mom and dad are sufficiently freaking out.)

I was a little worried at first: stepping off of the last step into a quieter intersection than I am used to and knowing full well that the next train doesn't come til 1:10 am. It was a gorgeous day and subsequently a beautiful evening, so I started to hoof it. I decided that the most logical move would be to head north, following the subway line.

As I walked, I passed the cutest little houses/apartments. This area, only a few blocks down from my stop, is much nicer residentially speaking. I also passed a couple of huge churches and some commercial buildings. But the thing that made me stop in my tracks was my dad.

I guess there is some developing going on in one of the lots. I had my chin tucked a little and was walking at a pretty brisk pace, but the smell of freshly cut two-by-fours hit my nostrils and filled me with Home. I stopped, just a second, to take a deeper breath.

"Yep, that's Glen Whitaker all right."

I thought about home the rest of the way, how Dad and Matt just built a new dog house for Dingo. How I made my dad a red toolbox one year for Father's Day and it won a ribbon at the 4-H County Fair; how he still uses it today. Thought about the shelves in my closet at home and the many times he lugged his drill up to college to put up homemade bookshelves for me. Can still remember the smell of tar black paint mixed with the fresh lumber the first year Dad had us paint the plank fence around our property.

My dad also smells of some sort of cologne. Things like that always have weird names like Musty Rose or Expression or Brute Strength. Well, I don't know what brand he wears, but my dad smells like Freshly Cut Two-by-Fours. . .

and I've just always loved that smell.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

New York Fashions Observation

It seems to me that in New York, and only in New York, one can don any item of clothing and be considered "stylish". People layer all sorts of colors with all different types of material and it's "the style". I see yellow cardigans over rainbow brite tees with spikey belts and converse tennies. I see brown courdoroy pants sagging low to expose heart speckled boxers with a polka dot tie and john deere cap. Today I saw a young man sporting fake diamonds earrings (in both ears), a black blazer, a bright orange tie tucked into a beige vest, bright white slacks, and white-on-white air force ones (dude, it is sooo not memorial day).

I don't see how they pull it off! There is a woman right across from me on the train wearing BLUE JEAN PARACHUTE PANTS! Why do those even exist?! She has a sparkly sequined type blouse with it and struts the ensemble in her old keds - tossing her frizzy black hair around and slinging her DENIM BACKPACK over her shoulder (that thing is stuffed full... probably of more denim fabric).

I am wearing a light blue long sleeve tee-shirt with blue jeans and grayish blue nike tennis shoes. My hair is straight today and I have on very litte make-up. I am overheating in a black pea coat and a sky blue scarf. Boy, do I stick out like a sore thumb.

If it wasn't for the scarf, they'd think I was a tourist!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Today marks Six

Couldn't tell you how many movies I have seen alone, laughing and crying along with strangers in the theatre. The amount of "mamacitas" and "beautiful, mami" catcalls escapes me. There are no X's on the calendar marked "Days Away from Jerrod". I haven't counted the tears. I don't remember the nightmares.

But the number of months that I have survived in this concrete jungle is clear: SIX.

Today is my New York City Anniversary. I celebrated it by watching a DVD with my two wonderful roommates. We sat in silence, each doing our own thing, for most of the evening; that good, whole, comfortable type of silence. I thank these two women for supplying me with so much love. I don't see how it's taken me 25 years to meet them. I don't see how we've grown into a small family so quickly. I am blessed.

My roommates are jealous of the amount of mail I receive. Cards and letters from my mom and dad and grandparents; engagement congrats from old high school friends; bills and credit card statements. Maggie does seem to get a few bills here and there, as the utilities are all in her name, but April grudgingly points to the stack of mail for Alecia K. Whitaker with disgust. My mother hears of this and sends a card to the girls; they were so thrilled that they hung it on the fridge like a second-grade finger paint drawing. I am blessed.

I pray and pray and seem to be just as far away from realizing my purpose here as I was on October 4. I don't doubt that God is watching over me. He showed me His church; led me to quickly find a group of non-judgmental artists with a hunger for His will. I have thrown two major temper tantrums, banging the bed and heaving my pillows against the walls, sobbing loud and wickedly, demanding answers and questioning His presence. I have yelled at Him out loud and heard my cries echo in my empty room. He still loves me. I am blessed, indeed.

And although I am surviving, with each morning comes the challenge to stay.