Louie

12/10/2006


 


LOUIE


 


While a patient at Putnam Memorial Hospital’s Special Management Unit (which had been converted into a psych unit) I, at 25, developed a crush on the charge nurse, Heide Merecki, age 43, and upon hearing about my adoration for her, Heide became quite embarrassed and flustered, saying, “I have never been in a situation like this, certainly!” 


 


I could think of nothing to say immediately, so I stared into her green eyes, flaked with a bit too much make-up, and then, feeling myself blush, finally blurted out, “I think you’re, you’re beautiful, and Louie, me and him–he and I, that is–call you Dragon Lady, that’s because you’re strong, and I love you, and–”


 


She stomped off in her inch-and-a-half heels. Hearing her heels tap on the hospital floor normally excited me.  But this time, that familiar sound brought me to tears.


 


“PIX 106 PIX 106 PIX 106!”  It was Louie.  “C’mon, Little Kitty, don’t cry.  Let’s smoke.  Don’t cry.”  Louie was 15 going on 7, and he was the only person that had ever called me “Little Kitty.”   I could have counted every freckle on his face, if I’d wanted.


 


This crush, which perhaps you could call love, with a stretch of the imagination, began to extend to all nurses, and eventually, the field of nursing in general, until finally, after I left the hospital, began taking Lithium and was somewhat recovered from my malady, I decided to apply to nursing school.  The paperwork and testing were a cinch–I placed in the 99th percentile in everything except reading speed (55th)–and I was happily accepted into the Putnam Memorial Hospital School of Practical Nursing in Bennington, Vermont for the fall term.  For the occasion, I quit smoking–in part because Heide was a passionate ex-smoker–and on the second day of school I showed up at the “unit” decked out proudly in my yellow uniform dress, to show the nurses at the Special Management Unit that I was not the loser they first saw dragged into their doors some year and a half ago.


 


“Well, well,” said Heide, rounding the corner of the tiny nurses’ station in the center of the unit.  The two fat LPN’s were filing their nails behind the desk.  I wanted her approval.  I wanted her to say, “You finally made it.  You overcame adversity.  You tried and succeeded.  You recovered,” and most importantly, “I’m proud of you.”


 


“Well, well.  One of the yellow ladies, I see.  Did you want to become like us?”  Heide gestured at the two LPN’s, whose attention had shifted to a shampoo commercial.  Their heads bobbed stupidly.  “Or did you simply want to stay here with us?”


 


Heide looked at her watch, then turned to one of the LPN’s.  “Pat, it’s near the end of the shift.  I need to do report.  Will you keep Ms. Greene amused while I go write my notes?”


 


I bolted.  I didn’t even bother to wait for the elevator; I took the stairs.  Down to the ground floor, down to freedom. 


 


Then I thought of Louie.  Where was he?  He was the only one who knew of my special feelings for Heide.  He alone understood.  Christ, I couldn’t even remember his last name.  I had no way of contacting him.  He could have graduated high school by now, and moved to a different town.  Or he could have been in the state juvenile prison.


 


 


 


After I was kicked out of nursing school, for the reason that–the school director explained, “People with mental illnesses have no place in nursing,” when she found out–I transferred my entire obsession with nurses and nursing to an obsession with smoking.  I wrote poems about cigarettes, smoked several brands at the same time, smoked clove cigarettes.  I smoked marijuana cigarettes when I could get my hands on some, and hung out with men that smoked.  I collected ashtrays of various sizes and shapes.  In one poem, I referred to smoking as “restrained pyromania.”  I refused to go any place where I wasn’t allowed to smoke, sometimes declining invitations that would have been advantageous not to pass up. 


 


And so I found my place in smoking.  Here was something I could do that didn’t take much effort to succeed at, that relaxed me, that reduced the symptoms of my illness somewhat, that at the time was relatively cheap.  Smoking gave me something to do with my hands and mouth.  It was a palatable accompaniment to coffee and television.  There wasn’t much to do except watch TV, drink coffee, smoke, and let my head bob stupidly, anyway.


 


 


 


Right now, I am sitting here at my desk in the corner of nonfiction, near the auto repair manuals and gardening books, and I hear him show some couple the books on breast-feeding, and then his voice, saying, “C’mon, Little Kitty.”


 


Of course.  I’m imagining things.  Who?


 


“Little Kitty.  I knew that would get your attention.”  He still has that toothy grin and the freckles.


 


“Louie?”


 


“Can you stream in PIX 106 on your laptop?”  This is really happening.  I am not making this up.


 


“Louie?”


 


“Never mind.  Hey, how are you?”


 


But his movements are stiff and deliberate.  Readers, I’ve been sitting in the library too long and my mind isn’t quite right.  Louie isn’t really here; he’s lost to me now, and I don’t think I’ll ever remember his last name.


 


He, or what I perceive as Louie, wavers, like a candle flame.  “Let’s go smoke.”


 


“Louie, I–”


 


“No, please.  I wanna show you my new Gameboy stuff.  Pretty please?  Let’s go smoke.  I got a new pack of those Marlboro 100’s that you like.”


 


So he’s caught up with the times, but hasn’t grown up.  “Louie.  No.  I won’t go with you.  I can’t.”  I try to lower my voice.  This is a library, after all.


 


“Look, I knew how you felt about Heide Merecki.”


 


“Shh.  You did?”


 


“It was wicked obvious.  A lot of things were obvious.  The way you looked nervous whenever she walked by.  The way you stared at her.  You’d blush when she talked to you.  I’d even see you sweating.  I haven’t forgotten.  You haven’t, either.  But let’s go smoke.”


 


“Louie, I–”


 


“I know.  You quit.  You quit smoking, you quit a lot of things.  You quit watching TV, you quit marijuana, you quit obsessing about nursing and sleeping with men you hardly know.”


 


“Yes, I quit a lot of things.  I got better and grew up, Louie.”


 


Louie flickers again, then turns into the library stacks, somewhere between the travel section and women’s studies, disappearing as he rounds the corner.


 


Dumbfounded, I type the last few words of my entry, and post it to all of you, my readers.  Heide, if you are among my readers, know that I have not forgotten you.  You were not the first woman to touch me the way you did, nor were you the last.


 


            ~~Little Kitty

The Thing-bearer

12/6/2006


 


DOES ONE BLAME THE ILLNESS OR DOES ONE BLAME ONESELF


 


…for one’s lousy behavior?


 


This question brings me to another: Do I blame my illness or do I blame myself for my lousy behavior?


 


Which brings up the issue of my mother.


 


I am not saying she is to blame for any of this crap.  I’m just saying that when it comes to blaming, she fits right in, because she needs something or someone to blame or she’s not satisfied.


 


Furthermore, when I’ve gotten really, really pissed off at her, she blames the illness for my display of anger–oh no, it couldn’t have been something she did, could it?–


 


DOES ONE BLAME ONE’S MOTHER OR DOES ONE BLAME ONESELF


 


…for a lousy start to a blog entry?


 


The real question is, to what extent am I willing to take responsibility for my own actions?


 


And, to what extent are my actions dictated by an abnormality that most people never experience and cannot fathom, yet over which I, myself, as bearer of this abnormality, am powerless?


 


And, to what extent can I claim that I am only the bearer of this abnormality and that it is separate from myself?


 


There came a woman, sent from the Ward, whose name was Julie.
The same came for witness, that she might bear witness of The Thing, that all might believe through her.


She was not The Thing, but `came’ that she might bear witness of The Thing.


Julie beareth witness of him, and crieth, saying, “This was he of whom I said, He that cometh after me is become before me: for he was before me.  Watch out!  He is Evil!
And I confessed, and denied not; and I confessed, I am not The Thing; I am not my illness!”


 

COMMUNIST LUNCH LADY

12/2/2006


 


LUNCH LADY COMMUNIST


 


She was everywhere, but mostly in places where she could scold me and tease me, saying I’d never grow up, and in part that turned out to be true, as it is for most folks, but that’s another story altogether.  She meant I’d never be tall.  Despite my deep-down wishes, she turned out to be right, but not for the reason she claimed.  It was heredity that dictated my height, not how much of my mushy, out-of-a-can, institutional, bland, school lunch food I ate.


 


She was a Lunch Lady.  Of all the Lunch Ladies, who were all in their 40’s or 50’s, she was the meanest.  They wore their hair, which only hours before had been in curlers, under hairnets, their faces powdered, lipstick neatly applied.  They weren’t at all like Grandma Ruby, who wouldn’t have been caught dead with a net in her hair, or like Grandma Dottie, who made the best, juiciest chicken–indeed, it was the only thing she could cook–and smelled like cinnamon–no, the Lunch Ladies made me think of the fish in our classroom’s aquarium: they moved in synch; they all came to work at the same time and left at the same time, did the same jobs, wore the same aprons, had their hair done on the same day of the week, but if you looked closely you’d notice differences, and like the one fish in the aquarium with the black streak on its side, this Lunch Lady was mean, the meanest of them all, and her single purpose at our school was to pester, tease, scold, harass, and embarrass–me.


 


Even the first time it happened I already hated her for it.  Our school cafeteria was the size of a classroom that might hold, say, 60 students if a class were to be held there, and that was perhaps how many of us ate in that room at lunch time, about ten tables of us, both students who brought their lunch in from home and those like myself who were unfortunate enough to have to purchase school lunches.  On that day, the food, if you could call it that, consisted of mashed potatoes, peas, and fish sticks, the latter for the Catholics who had fish every Friday.  Something green was served on the side of the fish in a little cup; I learned that this was called tartar sauce and I wouldn’t eat the fish stick if any of the sauce had touched it because you never know if one of the lunch ladies had traded her snots for it. 


 


Walking back to my table, I noticed that the peas not only were slimy but some were sunken in like raisins.  “Gimme one,” said one of the girls.  I didn’t know her name, because she had a twin; she was either Susan or Sarah and I didn’t know which.


 


She grabbed a pea off my tray.  “Eww,” she said.  “I don’t want it.”  She put it back.  “Me and my sister ate already.  You’d better hurry up or you’ll be last.”


 


Karen Johnson, who was better at pitching a baseball than any boy, had eaten peanut butter fluffernutter that day.  She was casually peeling grapes.


 


I decided to eat the Jell-o first.  It had what looked like whipped cream on it, and I didn’t know if I should eat that first or the Jell-o.  If I did it wrong, I would be the laughing stock of Mrs. Seaman’s first grade class.  I took one sliver of Jell-o, felt it slide down my throat like a worm, and then went on to the peas, which had some kind of grease in them.  Nope.  Won’t eat.  They smelled like a nursing home, besides, like the one my mother took me to when we went to see some aunt I wish I never had who hugged a dysfunctional teddy bear and howled like an animal in a cartoon.  I took a bite of mashed potatoes but they tasted like cardboard.  


 


(I had in fact eaten cardboard, shirt cardboard from the Chinese laundry; I did it on a dare from the redhead down the street named Italo Rapponi, who was also called Guy.  He said I couldn’t do it and I did, but a few minutes later, after his mother had called him inside to help her match the family’s socks, I threw it up in the berry bushes that separated his yard from the McKenna’s.)


 


Piece by piece, I rejected my lunch that day.   I couldn’t eat any of it, and with Steve McKenna kicking the back of my chair, and Susan-Sarah tugging at my hair, I decided to bring my lunch to the “Return” window uneaten.  Played with, maybe, but uneaten. 


 


It was the first time, so I didn’t know, didn’t know that she was there, didn’t know she would even take note of how little (if anything) I’d eaten, didn’t know she, Communist that she was, would take it upon herself to single me out as the bad one.  I casually left my tray at the window and turned to leave when I caught her eye.  There she was.  Auburn hair.  Green eyes.  Lips with little cracks around them so you could tell she wasn’t young anymore.  And a deep, tenor voice, that said, “If you don’t eat, little girl, you will never grow up; you will always be little.”


 


Pause.  What seemed like a moment of silence in the noisy lunchroom startled and shamed me.  “Little girl, little girl, you will never grow up.”


 


I had to get out of there.  Away from the Communist Lunch Lady.  Away from the other kids, who were probably pointing and laughing forever at me by now.  As I turned, I dropped my fork.  I knew I had to pick it up or I’d be in even more trouble, so I bent over to get it, then thought of my little rear end I was exposing for spanking, quickly straightened, placed the fork at the window and, trying to look casual, trying to look big and tall, I paced myself along the wall toward the back of the lunch room, toward the back door, I would walk past Miss O’Connell, walk past the TA’s, walk past the police lady and everyone else and be on the street and free, free from the laughing kids, free from the Communist Lunch Lady, free from the embarrassment and shame that I lived with every single day, every yesterday, every today and tomorrow even, at that school.  I would shake off the image of “Little Girl” and be someone else for a change.


 


“Hey,” said Karen Johnson.  “Want part of my banana?”


 


I did.  “Thanks.”


 


The Communist Lunch Lady worked at our school for another year, and then I didn’t see her again.  It was a daily struggle to avoid her while returning my tray to the window, and I was generally successful, but when she was impossible to avoid, I’d mix up my vegetables to make them look eaten, which generally didn’t work.  My stance hardened over the months and “little girl, little girl…” didn’t have the power over me that it once had. 


 


I think the fear of never growing up is just as bad as the fear of growing up, and I’ve felt both, though at different times.  It’s kind of the push-me-pull-you that we call maturing.  Or, to quote a cliché, “Two steps forward and one step back,” or, sometimes, “One step forward and two steps back.”  Growing up is the ache and the angst of childhood and adolescence; we want to grow, and at the same time we want to stay right where we are, right where we are at the moment, and stay kids, just for a little while longer.  If there was anything the Communist Lunch Lady taught me it was a sense of bashfulness, which grew into shame and embarrassment as I grew; she was not the only teacher I had of this dreaded concept; there were others.  But while growing up certainly meant learning, it meant unlearning as well, like back-and-forth brush strokes.  Growing up meant unlearning being little.  It meant unlearning shame and embarrassment.  It meant busting out of that whole scene, and becoming myself.  And somehow I did, and am doing just that.

Meds

11/26/2006

MY TAKE ON MEDICATIONS

Most of psychiatry these days has to do with meds, and if you go to a psychiatrist you’re likely to come out of the office with a prescription in your hand. For better or worse, the profession has turned to the “medical model” as the standard treatment for mental illness, meaning that those with MD after their name play a huge role in all this.

When I got started in this business, that is, when I was 22 and didn’t have a clue what was wrong with me, I had no knowledge that there were medications people could take to make them feel better. Rather, I was aware of sedatives such as were given to wild beasts in order to quiet them, and illegal mind-altering drugs that were best avoided. I had never heard of antidepressants, antipsychotics, or mood stabilizers.

I first found out about these drugs that saved my life when I became a “client” at Options Day Treatment in the fall of 1981. I truly believed at that time that this brief experience in this program would cure me, but what I found when I got there shocked me: the people in the program had been in “the system” for years, decades even, and many had no hope of ever getting off the mental health merry-go-round for a long, long time. A fair quantity of the “clients” talked to themselves non-stop. Others could not stop shuffling their feet; this, I discovered, was a side-effect of some of the medications they took. Some contorted their faces into grimaces and twitches. Several were mentally retarded, and many drooled and had significant hygiene problems. One “client” smelled like sour milk; I could never figure out if it was the odor was in his jacket or himself.

I was ashamed, actually, that I came from an upper middle class family, had healthy teeth, and had been educated at UMass and Bennington College. I was embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t on welfare like everyone else, and wasn’t receiving food stamps. In order to convince fellow “clients” that I belonged, I started smoking cigarettes, wearing make-up, and watching soaps. I tried wearing heels, but ended up with nasty blisters.

And then there was the question of meds. I was fascinated. It was more than just “uppers” and “downers” as I had learned in 10th grade biology class. Some medications, which in those days included Imiprimine, Elavil, and the like, took away depression. Lithium leveled mood swings. Thorazine, Prolixin, and Stelazine eased psychosis and mania. And if you were anxious you could take Ativan or Librium.

The list of possibilities increased over the years with the advent of new drugs, the most significant of these being the “newer” antipsychotics that started with Clozapine and continued with Risperdal, Zyprexa, Seroquel (yuck yuck), Geodon, Abilify, and of course the SSRI antidepressants such as Prozac that caused people at least in the US to feel more accepting of psychotropic medication in general. Several anticonvulsants have mood stabilizing properties as well: Tegretol, Depakote, Lamictal, and of course my pal Topamax, and are safer than Lithium.

(In case you were wondering, all this is coming out of my head; I am not reading off some website; this is out of my own knowledge of these meds–impressive, eh?)

Fascination aside, no doctor would give me medication until 1983, though I desperately needed it. Why? I think they had trouble pinning down a diagnosis for me that justified giving me meds. “Spoiled brat” doesn’t have a listing in the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual (DSM-IV), the standard for diagnosing patients.

It baffles me even now why my successive “treatment teams” didn’t give me medication sooner. The Road to Hell was not paved with good intention; it simply wasn’t paved. I think my life may have taken a drastic turn for the better if someone had put me on the right medication early on. By the time I took my very first psychotropic pill (which, incidentally, was Mellaril, an antipsychotic) I was suicidal (and had voiced this to my treatment team),” rarely bathed, had major eating and sleeping problems, drove recklessly, suffered extreme anxiety and panic attacks, and was tortured every day by something I called “Monsters”–these were strikingly similar to the Beings I experience nowadays. I did a tremendous amount of cutting with a dull box-cutter blade I’d found on the front lawn one day that fall; I picked at these arrow-shaped cuts on my arms and they had become infected. And those fools thought I didn’t need meds?

There is one reason I can think of why the docs held off so long. Once you get on the chronic mental patient merry-go-round it’s hard to get off. Meds are a big part of it. Most, I repeat most, people who take medication are not chronic mental patients but “high functioning” people who just need a little help temporarily. For me, though, and for millions of other “chronics” (sorry) taking meds becomes a permanent daily routine. Am I sick of it? Of course I’m damned sick of it! Some people opt for injections they can have once every two weeks or so; that way they don’t have to remember the pills; this is a very popular method used in Canada and parts of Europe to encourage compliance (“compliance”–see?).

Now, I take Thorazine, Risperdal, Topamax, Lamictal, Cymbalta, Abilify, and Synthroid; the latter is for my thyroid. I take enough medication to knock most people out for at least an afternoon, if not all day and all night. Luckily, I don’t get many side effects except for postural hypotension, which is a nuisance and a little scary at times, and I drink a heck of a lot of water.

My medications don’t make me “high.” They make me “normal.” They help me manage my symptoms so that I can function like other people do. Meds help me carry on conversations, take care of myself, eat, sleep, and bathe. Meds help me concentrate on writing. Without meds, I wouldn’t have been able to return to school, earn my degree, and go on to grad school. If there were no such thing as these meds, I’d probably be in some back ward somewhere, if I were alive at all, unable to think straight, unable to converse, unable to relate to others.

It amuses me now to recall that Lithium made my hair curl! It did, better than any perm! Shh…don’t tell my secret…it’ll put hairdressers out of business! (see photo)

Puppy and I

Here I am with Tiger in 1992, and the curly hair is from the lithium I took.

$$$

11/24/2006


 


REGARDING MY RECENT SPENDING SPREE


 


…which may not be over….


 


Beginning November 12th, I purchased the following from www.ebay.com :


 


A portable table for a laptop


A cheap pair of speakers for my MP3 player


A USB-powered desk lamp


A small “boom box”


Three music CD’s


A cordless phone


A 2G flash drive


 


I also purchased a large quantity of AAA batteries from www.batteries.com.  I bought a cordless phone from www.amazon.com, the cordless phone I bought from ebay being a “mistake,” and I bought another flash drive from Amazon Marketplace.


 


Oy.


 


I even bid on Thanksgiving Day, yesterday.  I was so intent on getting the item that I set my watch alarm for 12:45PM to remind me to rush to the computer so that I could “watch” myself win the auction.  Glued to the computer monitor, I refreshed the display every two minutes to see if someone else had bid, counting down the minutes and calling them out to my friend Joshua in Philly, on the other end of the phone, and finally the seconds….


 


I won.  I was the only bidder.  I heard Joshua sigh.  “So what was it this time?” he asked.


 


“A bag.”


 


“Huh?  What kind of bag?”


 


“A bag bag.  For, like, you know, going to the gym, or a carry-on bag.  Brand new.”


 


“What did your therapist have to say about all this?”


 


Goldie is my new therapist.  She works out of her home in Cambridge.  I have to walk some damned wheelchair-unfriendly sidewalks to get there (yes, this does occur to me) in the dark and I’m afraid of getting mugged or knifed.  But once I get inside her cozy office I forget about the slippery brick sidewalks laden with wet, brown leaves and the permanent stink of sewage I have to walk through at Harvard’s Holyoke Gate and try to concentrate on this thing called therapy.  Dr. R let me get away with changing the subject of conversation at least three times a minute, neatly avoiding uncomfortable topics, but Goldie isn’t going to let me get by so easily.  She has “theories” about things.  Once, she had a fake spider-web on her front door as a Halloween decoration.  When I told her it scared me, she took it down.


 


I switched the cordless phone to my other ear.  “Wait a sec.  I gotta log into Paypal.”  My Paypal password is/was a combination of numbers and someone’s middle name.  “Joshua, you and I both know why I’m spending like I’ve got a million bucks.”


 


“Yep.”


 


“I hit the lottery.”  I clicked on “PAY” without checking to see what I was paying for.  “No, really.  It’s the Cube Dude.”


 


“Isn’t it time for you to take your meds?”  He knew I was right.


 


“I miss him like crazy.”


 


“I know you do.”


 


QB was everywhere.  He was in the bathroom blocking the entrance when I wanted to take a piss.  He was lying in front of the refrigerator.  He lay beside me at the computer.  He barked his fool head off at the janitor guys when they came to the little room next door to get the trash.  His scent, his fur, his toys, were everywhere, but he was gone.  I was spending money to fill the emptiness that his absence brought on.  I felt tremendously foolish just then, Thanksgiving Day, sitting barefoot at my computer, mouse in hand, fighting tears.


 


“Yeah, I’ll get my meds.”


 


Later that day I stepped on a sliver of broken glass.  I swore, and took it out of my foot, then I remembered when I broke a glass beer mug and QB tried to eat the pieces.  A frantic trip to the vet had followed.  Then there was the time he ate a huge piece of cloth and threw it up two or three weeks later.  Or the time he ate chocolate, poisonous to dogs, and I had to call veterinary Poison Control.  Or the time he ate crayons, aluminum foil, a mechanical pencil, god-knows-what-else.


 


If you were to come over to my apartment today, Friday the 24th, you’d see all kinds of boxes and bubble wrap strewn on the floor, countertops, and tables in the kitchen and living room.  You’d see gadgets of all kinds.  You’d see dishes in the sink, books everywhere, coffee mugs, junk mail, Sudoku books, stray pennies, stuffed animals, but you wouldn’t see QB.  You wouldn’t hear him bark excitedly, feel the umpf when he jumps on you, scratch the super-soft fur on the back of his head where his magic stripe is, or have your Kleenex swiped, shredded, and eaten by the smartest dog on the planet.  Instead, you will notice the absence, an absence like a cancer; it grows and devours, it poisons, it asks for more; it is a black hole, the more you put into it, the emptier it grows; the sickness grows, and grows.  No amount of spending, no buying–there is nothing, nothing I can buy, no “thing” that will cure it, and if you dig under the layers of selfishness to my true heart, you’ll see that I knew this all along.

The Gym, Part Four

11/19/2006


 


THE GYM, PART FOUR


 


I managed 20 minutes on the elliptical yesterday, not much for most people, but for some reason I struggle with that machine more than the average athlete.  Most elliptical machines are built for people taller than me, for one thing; the stride is way too long and too deep for me.   But check out these nice ellipticals made by Precor: http://www.precor.com/comm/efx/, and definitely take a peek if you’re wondering what the heck an elliptical machine is.


 


My current gym, Boston Sports Clubs, (http://www.mysportsclubs.com/regions/BSC.htm), has seven or eight different types of elliptical machines, while my old gym, Planet Fitness (www.planetfitness.com)–of which I am still a member, as it only costs me $10 a month, less than I spend on coffee, but should I drop it will cost considerably more–has two types, both made by Stairmaster http://www.nautilusinc.com/consumer_catalog_primary/opl_brands/stairmaster/ellipticalsandtreadmills/prdcdovr~SM51
0053/StairMaster+ClubStride+5100+Elliptical+Trainer.jsp
) and neither feels like a natural stride to me.


 


You get what you pay for, I suppose.


 


Now that you’ve clicked on the links, and wished you had $5,000 to spend, just like that, though I am not certain you’d spend it on an elliptical, let me get on with the story:


 


The real reason I spent a full 20 minutes on the elliptical yesterday was because I was watching a particularly mesmerizing TV show about medics in Iraq.  Yes, for the uninformed: we have TV’s we can watch while we work out.  At BSC we have individual TV’s at each machine, each with a little “remote” where we can plug in a set of headphones.  There is a selection of about 15 stations, of which I prefer CNN.


 


I’m not going to go into the gory details of the show.  You’ve all seen blood guts and gore in movies and on TV; it’s not pleasant.  But for some reason, pumping away at the machine, surrounded by others working out, running on treadmills, flipping pages of magazines, bopping to music, with sweat as the only common denominator–this was the solitary activity, while the folks in the war were more connected, more in synch, more loving and caring than we at the gym could ever be. 


 


After the elliptical, I went on to strength training.  Since I had a couple of sessions with a trainer, I’ve been doing exercises using a stability ball.  (OMG! Here’s a cheap one: http://www.buy.com/prod/nautilus-65cm-stability-ball/q/loc/17250/202526351.html?dcaid=17379 $15.55 incl shipping for 65 cm.)  These exercises look simple but are incredible core strengtheners.  People assume postures similar to those that children take on while making snowmen; stability balls don’t melt, though, they lose air and get soft, and I wouldn’t suggest sticking a carrot into one. 


 


I then continued my strength training on Nautilus weight machines. (http://www.nautilus.com/nautilus_brand_commercial_equipment/productcategories/strength.jsp?lid=Strength)   I don’t do many of these machines.   I liked the ones at the old gym better; even though they clunked and clattered, they were well organized and easy to understand.


 


Stretching exercises were next, most of which I learned at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education’s Huron Ave Studio (http://www.ccae.org/catalog/courses/?id=13&PHPSESSID=ea9dc31d92d08d4cbcd0103f68c6b376).  I spend a good half hour stretching.  It’s interesting that we spend so much time contracting our muscles and now we must in turn pull them in the opposite direction to keep them balanced and happy. 


 


Working out is the most selfish thing I do, and that includes blogging.  At least when I’m blogging I’m reaching out.  Maybe even helping people.  When I work out, I’m building my body, my muscles.  Does anyone else really care?  Probably not.  Or, rather, I may write about working out, and you may see what I write, and even click on the links, but no one truly wants to read this shit, right?