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The Ten People You’ll Meet at the Gym

1 Jul

gym

I once dated a man who told me he admired people like me.

“People like what?” I asked, puzzled.

“People who like going to the gym,” he replied.

I accepted the compliment as it was intended without telling him that, in fact, I often struggle with getting myself to the gym. Okay, here and there I enjoy it, normally when I’ve had a lot of caffeine, had an exceptionally good night’s sleep and have no agenda for the day; so maybe like three times a year. I go to the gym for the same reason I eat my vegetables – I’m an adult and it’s good for me. Both of my parents died fairly young from heart disease and, although I always thought I would die young (no idea why), surprisingly it hasn’t yet happened yet, so I might as well, um, fight to the death, so to speak. Also, it’s not that I’m afraid of being dead; it’s the whole process of dying thing. No long deaths for me, no letting my body fail while my mind is working overtime. Getting hit by a bus? I could live with that! Well, no, I probably couldn’t. But that would be preferable to a lingering, body and/or mind failing death. So, in the interest of self-preservation, I make my way to the gym four or five times per week.

Yes, I’m a regular at the gym and, as such, I’ve made a few observations. When you’re counting down those minutes on the elliptical trainer while watching The View (no need to judge me, as I have enough judgment for the both of us) I tend to people watch. When I’m curling those my hand weights I notice those testosterone pumped men grunting under the strain of 100 pound weights. I notice many other gym clichés and, to help you feel a little less intimidated by the gym, I’ve made a list of the people you can expect to run into there.

1)      The Girly Man – C’mon dude, there’s a reason those weights are pink. They’re girly weights. Stop using my weights, man up and grab something that weighs, you know, more than a beer bottle.

2)      The Dripper – That’s me next to you on the elliptical trainer. I love that you’re working hard and that you’re staying hydrated but man, I’m going to need some rubber waders to get past that flood on the floor next to you.

3)      Look at me, I’m not wearing any clothes – Yup, there she is, the 18-22 year old girl wearing, well, nearly nothing. Yes, she’s tiny. Yes, her waist is the same circumference as my right thigh. But really, do we need to see that she made it to the spa to get her bikini wax? And a sports bra is, in fact, a bra. Does she walk around the mall wearing only her push up and a pair of shorts? This girl has told Victoria’s secret to everyone. Put on some clothes, girl!

4)      The Weight Slammer– This guy isn’t lifting any girly, pink weights. No, he’s got huge, thick iron discs attached to the barbell which he’s grasping for dear life while ferociously bending and straightening his massive, sweat-soaked biceps. Here and there he grunts while pumping his arms and staring at his muscles. Fifteen reps done, he slams down the weights hard enough to make everyone look up and consider running towards the door frames in order to brace for the rest of what must surely be an earthquake. The weights bounce a few times. Dude, we get it, you’re strong.

5)      The Talker – She’s on the elliptical trainer, elipticalling (it’s now a verb) next to me. She doesn’t want to talk to me, thank God. No, she wants to talk to her friend on the phone. Loudly.

“Did you hear what Stacey said about Kevin last night?”

“Yes, she did!”

“Swear to God.”

“He totally should break up with her.”

Seriously, I cannot turn Whoopi Goldberg up any louder. Girl, you need to take that outside.

6)      The Texter – While quieter than The Talker, this one’s just as irritating. This one sits on the machine that you want to use and has a ten minute texting, Facebook or Twitter chat while you walk around the machine giving dirty looks that would probably be upsetting to The Texter should he/she look up. Oh, and when you drive out of the gym parking lot, this person nearly backs into you as, well, if texting and working out is that easy, texting and driving is a snap.

7)      The Wet Spot Guy – The gym provides free towels. On your way in, you’re expected to grab one and use it to wipe off the equipment after you use it. It’s simple etiquette. Nobody likes sitting (lying) in the wet spot. This guy just doesn’t get it. He thinks his sweat is made of gold and anyone would be lucky to get to share in it. *Note, the Wet Spot Guy most likely applies everything he believes about the gym to his bedroom. Yup.

8)      The Mute Karaoke Singer – This one has her ear buds firmly in place and is mutely rockin’ out to some unknown song, acting as if she’s completely alone and nobody is noticing. She does a bit of head-banging, some subtle dancing on the BOSU ball and lifts those weights to a beat she alone can hear. She seems to be a bit inspired by Olivia Newton John in the Let’s Get Physical video, only without the 80’s leotard and headband. *Note, The Mute Karaoke Singer is yours truly.

9)      The Gatherer – Can’t find the weights you’re looking for? That’s probably because he has them. In fact, he has seven different sets of weights gathered around his bench. When you walk over and ask if he’s currently using them all, he dramatically removes his ear buds, breathes a deep sigh, stares you down, and lets you know in no uncertain terms that, yes, he is using every one of them right now. Then he shoves his ear buds back in and returns to staring at his sweat soaked muscles in the mirror.

10)   The Recording Secretary – You’ll see many of these. The Recording Secretary brings his tiny notebook with him and, after each round on a piece of equipment, sits down to record how many reps he did at what weight and whatever other piece of information he finds relevant. Strange that, with all of the technology he may use on a daily (or perhaps hourly) basis, this is the one thing that he still feels must be on paper. The ink is running as the sweat drips on his notepad. I’m guessing his two-hour workout would really only last about twenty-minutes if he took out all of the writing time. Seriously, did you work-out? It’s a true/false question, not an essay.

So I go to the gym, not always loving it but always entertained by the people I see there. I also play mind games to get me there. When I don’t feel like going, I tell myself that I only have to stay for ten minutes. If, after ten minutes, I still don’t feel like being there, I leave (and perhaps go for ice cream). Nine out of ten times, after ten minutes, the adrenaline has kicked in and I’m lip-syncing to Springsteen.

It’s Not Me, It’s You

10 Nov Broken Heart

When I was 18 my dad took me to the bank to apply for my first credit card. Dad was a banker and, in fact, so was I (a drive-thru teller when I was 17). With dad co-signing, I was approved. The card was with Michigan National Bank, the company both dad and I worked for. Dad was very clear, this credit card was because I was driving a ’76 Impala into the heart of a not so great part of Detroit (yes, there are good parts) to attend Wayne State University each day. This card was for emergencies only. Credit was not something to be taken lightly.

Fast forward 26 years and Michigan National Bank no longer existed. Dad passed away nine years previously and my credit card was transferred a few times to various banks, the final one being Chase. I followed dad’s advice through the years and handled my credit responsibly. I saw the benefit of this in great rates for car loans and a mortgage loan.

Over the years, I tried to get dad taken off the card as, well, he was dead. I didn’t really see the need for him to be on there as, if the saying is true, ‘you can’t take it with you’ (and I don’t think heaven has a gift shop that you pass through at the end of your life like on The Pirates of the Caribbean ride). And my version of heaven has nothing in the realm of ‘buy now, pay later.’

Then the recession hit and my industry collapsed (read about all the fun in I’m From the Government and I’m Here to Help). I was late on my mortgage. I was never late on a credit card (my friends know I hate tardiness in anyone). Yet, after 26 years of never being late, I received a letter from Chase saying they were ending our relationship. What? They’re breaking up with me?Broken HeartIt’s now three years later and I recently received a letter from my ex, Chase. It seems they want to get back together. So in response, here is my answer to that letter:

Dear Chase,

I received your letter asking me to get back together. I must admit that it came as quite a surprise. You see, while I was having many challenges at the time you ended our relationship, I didn’t think you were one of them. I didn’t know we were having trouble? I mean, I tried not to be needy. I thought we communicated well. You sent me letters telling me you respected our privacy. I read every word you wrote. We traded E-mails. I thought you loved me.

The funny thing is, you still loved my dad. He continued to receive credit card offers from other companies. As you were the only one he was still associated with, I assumed you referred these people to him. He was dead and he had better credit than me.

So now, three years after you broke up with me, you write me and want to get back together. Do you have any idea how much you hurt me? I mean, I expected that behavior from Bank of America, or even American Express. But from someone who I had my longest relationship with? And you don’t even mention our history. There’s no apology, no, “I hope you’re doing well.” Your letter sounds as if you don’t even remember me.

So Chase, after very little consideration, I am tearing up your letter (or maybe I’ll burn it) and forgetting you. I am happy without you. I’ve gotten over our break-up and have moved on. I can’t do this anymore. As Taylor Swift said, “We are never, ever, ever getting back together.” The love is gone.

Random Acts of Kindness or Who Peed In Your Cocoa Puffs?

25 Sep

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In case you missed it, I was recently in the Philadelphia on business. In keeping with the spirit of The City of Brotherly Love, I decided to do a random act of kindness each day i wads there. Read part one at It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Friday – Day 4

Today was a challenge for my random act of kindness commitment. I believe it’s because I was so busy taking care of the people I was being paid to take care of that I kept overlooking other opportunities. I’m not happy about this but vow to do better in the future..

Luckily, one of the people I was being paid to take care of decided to do her own RAoK which I witnessed. You see, we took our group out for a fancy dinner. Despite having 8:30 reservations, the restaurant thought it just fine to seat our group at various tables as they became available, with the first seated at 9:00 and the last seated at 9:30. This was one of those ‘we’re really cool and you’re just lucky we let you in’ restaurants.

After most finished and began gathering outside, we were assisting them with working out plan for the rest of their night when Ashley, one of our guests ran back inside as she had forgotten the ‘Doggie Bag’ she had asked for her leftovers to be packed in (I’m sure this snobby restaurant loved this). When she exited with the bag, she walked over to the homeless man sitting at the corner and offered it to him, which he gratefully accepted. When she explained that it was filet mignon and lobster, his face lit up like a child trying his first taste of sugar. He thanked her over and over. She went back to him a few minutes later and gave him some money to buy a drink to wash it down with.

Myself and much of the group witnessed this RAoK and, it not only made the man’s day, it made our day. One RAoK can cheer many people.

Saturday – Day 5

I decide to concentrate on completing today’s random act of kindness early to be sure I actually get it done. I’m was a bit concerned that I might complete it and then have another opportunity present later. It turns out there’s no rule against doing more than one RAoK per day. With my mind at ease, I start looking for opportunities.

I start working early and, at about 10:00am have a chance to take a break. I choose to walk around the streets of Philadelphia and enjoy some sunshine and people watching. As I stroll through the Arts District I seemed to forget that I’m no longer working for Disney and am not required to smile and greet each and every person. I begin to feel as if downtown Philly may have run out of coffee as most people respond to my friendly greeting by averting their eyes as if I’ve escaped from a zombie movie. I know this look as this is exactly how I am before I’ve had my morning cup of joy. Whether it’s a coffee shortage or people are scared of me I’m not sure, but I decid to tone down the cheer. That is, until I come upon a convenience store and the RAoK lightbulb lights up. I wander in and come upon a rack of Pepperidge Farm Cookies. Who doesn’t feel special when eating these fancy cookies that seem as if you should be eating them while drinking a cup of tea out of fine china with your pinky finger sticking up (I’m pretty sure Queen Elizabeth serves these)? As I have no tea, I decide to go for the least fancy of the Pepperidge Farm Cookies, the chocolate chip macadamia ones.

After my purchase I walk back down the street greeting people (apparently you can take the girl out of Disney but you can’t take Disney out of the girl) and offering cookies. The first man I come upon had a cup of coffee but appears to not have a home. I ask if he would like a cookie to go with his coffee and he smiles and gratefully says yes. I offer cookies to a couple of others who politely declined (apparently I’m not the only one who isn’t eating sugar these days). The man sitting on the steps of a church listening to music decides to partake as do some others I pass. Still, many politely decline.

Soon I come upon the man I will call Mr. Nasty. Mr. Nasty is standing on the corner waiting for the light to change. I approach him and tell him that today is my random act of kindness day and offer a delicious cookie. The man gives an abrupt, “No,” and then continues on to say, “furthermore, this is not an act of kindness and you need to do better!” I’m stunned. I stand there with my mouth open deciding what to respond. I can’t let him bring me down that easily. As I begin to cross the street in the other direction I respond, “Have a nice day!” As I continue walking away he proceeds to yell at me. I can’t even remember what he said as I’m so stunned and upset by this that his exact words don’t register. I admit to losing my good attitude and yelling back at him that, indeed, “There is evil in the world.” I find it slightly ironic that this was World Peace Day.

I continue on, attempting to give away more cookies. One or two more people accept while most politely decline. I return to the hotel and give the remainder of my cookies to my coworkers and my favorite front desk agent who are very appreciative.

While I understand that, despite my curly, red hair and honest face, some people might have concerns about accepting food from strangers, and I have no problem when they politely declined, I was truly was shocked by Mr. DI. Apparently you can only distribute cookies if you charge for them and wear a ridiculous green dress with a sash.

Sunday – Day 6

Today is my final day in The City of Brotherly Love. The beautiful Hotel Palomar, which has been my home away from home, is part of the Kimpton chain. As I joined their club (I feel like one of the cool kids in the cafeteria), they gave me a $10 credit to “invade the minibar.” Due to my never-ending work schedule I was rarely in my room and hadn’t taken advantage of my gift. This morning I sift through the options and find a bag of individually wrapped Snickers bars for the low, low price of $10. Score! I grab the bag and head down to work.

This being departure day for my group, I spend most of the morning in front of the hotel getting them in cars to take them to the airport or their homes. While standing at the entrance I decide to distribute my Snickers bars to the hard-working bellmen and doormen before going and offering the final pieces to the front desk crew.

This brings to an end my concentrated week of Random Acts of Kindness. I’ve learned a few things:

First, many people will not accept food from strangers, even if they’re the fancy kind presented to you by an honest-looking redhead. Still, there are polite ways of refusing.

Second, one flower (or some chocolate) can truly brighten someone’s day.

Third, this was more challenging than I anticipated. I truly thought that since I try to do random good deeds when the opportunity strikes, committing to doing them on a daily basis wouldn’t be a big deal. I was wrong. And while I may not do them daily, hopefully this has made me more aware of the opportunities to brighten someone’s day.

Lastly, people are sometimes hesitant to accept that a random act of kindness is just that. No catches, no strings, simply kindness. After talking to a couple of friends about Mr. Nasty, they told me their stories of other people they knew who had experienced similar challenges when just trying to do something nice. When this happens, I can understand why people choose not to be kind for fear that someone will think there is an ulterior motive and therefore, treat them poorly. Be kind anyway. That is their problem, not yours.

Sex and the Single Writer

16 Sep Writing-blogging-clipart

I know what you’re thinking. “Where has Carole gone? I’m going through a bit of snarky withdrawal.” I’m with you on that. Well, I’d love to say I was too busy traveling the world, doing crazy things and talking to strangers (never learned that lesson) to put my fingers on a keyboard. But that’s not the case. In reality, I’ve been lying low. Yes, there was a weekend trip to Las Vegas but, as we all know, what happens there stays there. I’m now preparing for a little business travel in my old line of work. Nowhere exotic (unless you consider Philadelphia and Chicago exotic), but it will keep me off the streets for now (at least in Arizona). And I’m sure I’ll find lots of amusing people and situations to share with you.

In the meantime, I thought you might be interested in why I write. It’s not something I do for fame – I’m not exactly a household name. . .yet. Fortune? Oh yes, rolling in the dough here. Writing this from my 21 room mansion with a bowling alley and airplane hangar (going airplane shopping as soon as I finish this). No, I write because I must. It’s like an unexplainable build-up that I must release. Yes, it sounds like an orgasm and well, perhaps it’s comparable.

First there’s the subject idea. When an idea hits it’s like seeing that guy across room. My heart flutters a bit and I lose track of my thoughts. Then there’s the research – traveling somewhere, talking to people or reading up on a subject. In comparison to sex, or the steps leading up to it, this would be the date. We meet for a drink and dinner to get to know each other. Sometimes, the research is already done, as reading something, having a chance encounter or traveling somewhere is what has inspired me. In the dating world, this would be considered slutty behavior and comparable to jumping in bed with someone.

Now that I’ve researched the subject, or spent a few weeks getting to know the guy, I am ready to do the dirty deed. It begins slowly – foreplay. I have notes, a few sentences or words that I know I want somewhere in the article. I start on an introductory paragraph – think of it as kissing. Before long, I am well involved in the words (ok, completely opposite of sex unless we’re tallkin’ dirty talk). Now I’m totally immersed in the writing and the ringing iPhone barely registers. Things become very organic and instinct takes over.

Finally, I come to the ending paragraph. But this is not the release. Not yet, anyway. I only read over what I have written after it is completed. You don’t stop in the middle of having sex to analyze whether it’s good or not. It’s only after, when the deed is done, that you lay there and take a deep breath and think, ‘that was amazing!’ This is the orgasm!

**Please note, sometimes I read through the article and think, ‘this is crap.’ This I do not publish. After all, bad sex is normally still pretty darn good whereas bad writing is just bad.

 

 

Going Back in Time

10 Aug

Last week I had another travel adventure. After traveling to 50 countries and 50 U.S. states, where’s a girl go to find some adventure? Singapore perhaps? Bora Bora? Oh so close but not quite. Last week’s travel was to the tourist mecca of Detroit, Michigan.

If you’re quite finished laughing I’ll explain. I grew up in Oak Park, Michigan and lived in the state until I was 24 years old when I walked into the bank I had worked at for seven years and declared, “I quit! I’m going to sail the Caribbean.” And I did. Exactly where is Oak Park you ask. Well, if you were from Michigan I would hold up my right hand and point to a spot somewhere in the pad on the bottom of my palm over towards my thumb (it’s a Michigander thing). As you may be from somewhere else, I’ll defer to the movie reference. You’ve probably heard of the Eminem movie, 8 Mile. Well, I grew up at 9 Mile (we’re very creative with our street names there).

As I have very little family left in the area, I don’t often get back. Last week I headed to Detroit for my high school class reunion. Yup, 10 years (ok 30 years, but I graduated as a fetus). Please note that I will henceforth be referring to this event as my 10 year reunion. You can choose to believe what you like.

Class of 83

The weekend included many events beginning with a tour of my high school. Yup, all those years I avoided going to summer school and here I was, on a Friday morning in the middle of summer, sitting in the high school cafeteria. Suddenly I felt like Molly Ringwald in the Breakfast Club. After coffee and bagels we were greeted by Mr. Washington, the current principal. While he was telling us about the current structure of the school district and the accomplishments of Oak Park High School I had a moment of panic. I whispered to my former classmate sitting next to me, “Oh my God, we’re older than the principal!” A few minutes later Mr. Washington put me at ease by mentioning that he was a graduate of a neighboring high school two years prior to us. There is a God!

After a very surreal two-hour tour during which we saw some of our old classrooms, the science lab, the planetarium, the football field, the band and choir rooms and, my favorite part, the auditorium and the little theatre. I spent much time in these as I was a theatre geek (my claim to fame was performing in repertory theatre when I was 17 as Peppermint Patty in the musical Snoopy). We ended up at the swimming pool (indoor, it’s Michigan for goodness sake). As Mr. Venetelli, our high school Spanish teacher had joined us, he also gave up some secrets. So, the teachers used to going swimming during lunch. What? Our teachers were, well, real people? This of course led to the question of which teachers were sleeping with which other teachers. With a couple of exceptions, Mr. Venetelli gave up very little information (either that or our teachers were a bit boring).

From there it was lunch at the Coney Island. If you’re from Michigan, you will understand this. If not, that is a reason to head to the Motor City for a visit. Our high school hangout was Davison Coney Island. A mere half-mile from the high school it was where we would go to lunch. The experience on this day was a bit different. In high school, a not-so-pleasant lady would come around to each table with a cigar box and students were required to pay before receiving any food or drinks. While it seemed rude at the time, looking back as an adult it made a lot of sense (although she could have been more pleasant, but I’m sure she was over us). If I had never before felt like an adult, this would finally be the day I did. After we ate, our checks were laid on our tables with a smile. It was like a Bar Mitzvah. No cigar box! Today, you are a man (uh well, you get it).

The next night was the big event. Yes, the official 10 year reunion evening. As I was staying at the hotel where the event was taking place, I had a little pre-prom party in my hotel. And, as some of my classmates cleverly left their spouses at home, this gave all of us the opportunity to not walk in alone. It also gave us the opportunity to enjoy some liquid courage before heading down.

One of the first people I ran into was my middle school music teacher. Coincidentally, her brother was my very first boyfriend. His name was Robert Green. I was a cute but awkward 13 year-old (at least I felt awkward) and he was a chubby 13 year-old boy with braces. The perfect match. He was not a good kisser (we were 13. Who was?) He bought me an engraved heart stickpin for my birthday. I was not even remotely in love with him, just with the idea of having a boyfriend (try not to judge, I was 13). Anyway, his sister was sure to inform me that he is recently divorced and showed me a photo of him with his 15 year-old son. Surreal. Next I run into Jeff, the jock. I tell him it’s good to see him and he immediately asks, “Where do I know you from?” Uh, I don’t know, high school perhaps???

Reunion night

The next day was a picnic in the Oak Park Park. This is the place we all grew up in. Whether it was pushing our dog down the slide, sledding at the Oak Park hill, playing on the train (the funnest train that never moved), playing softball in little league or hanging out while skipping school. It was a weekend filled with great memories and OMG moments.

After spending time with old friends the following are the random thoughts which crossed my mind or conversations I had during the weekend: Do you stay in an unhappy marriage? Hell, do you even get married? What about kids? Crap, I forgot to have kids. Wow, I’m glad I didn’t have kids. Do I want to be in this relationship and have someone needy now that my kids are grown? Do I need to be needed? Being single, if I die, how long until someone finds my body? How strange is it to talk with kindergarten friends about buying new appliances? And to drink wine with them instead of milk from the milk machine? Instead of white or chocolate the question becomes white or red? Pop? It’s a Midwest thing (I am now a soda person, although I drink neither).

Finally, what did I learn from my 10 year reunion? Life is hard. I’m not complaining. And I’m not saying that my life has been any tougher than anyone else’s. Everybody has tough times. Some more than others. When you look at it, I won the birth lottery. From where I was born, to my parents, to my childhood friends. Lucky. Oh, and if you have the chance to go to your 10 year reunion (or perhaps, 30 year)? Go. Facebook is not the same.

Overcoming My Fear of Flying

12 Jun

I have a fear of flying.

“What?” you say. “Aren’t you the one who travels the world finding adventures? Surely you cannot be afraid of flying!”

With that you would be right, and wrong. I have no issues with airplanes unless I’m assigned a middle seat as I am deathly afraid of that. The fear of flying I’m speaking of is the Flying Trapeze. So, in honor of my birthday (Monday, and yes, I’m still waiting for your present) I took a trapeze lesson.

First, let me explain why birthday adventures are so important to me. I love birthdays. It’s the one holiday that’s all my own. I don’t have to share it with anybody (it must be lousy to be a twin but I guess you’ve learned to share in the womb)! And while I may not be able to remember what I did last Thursday, I remember where I was and what I did on most of my birthdays. I spent two birthdays in Alaska with the sun setting at about 2:30am and rising at about 4:00am. I spent one in Edinburgh, Scotland. I was working but ducked into a pub for a little birthday drink. One was celebrated on a Tall Ship from the 1930’s in the middle of the Caribbean while looking at the wash of the Milky Way Galaxy and wishing on five shooting stars. I rode a bike around Berlin (with clients) on a birthday a few years ago. And last year I did my birthday trip to England (read On A Wing and a Prayer) and then flew to New York to celebrate the day with my oldest friend.

After much consideration (okay, after a fleeting thought) I had a brilliant idea. Trapeze! I did a Google search and, lo and behold, while I was out of town these last two years, Trapeze U opened up in four miles from my house. My only concern was an issue with my back as of late. Oh, and the fear. Yes, there was that. I waited until the day of my birthday (again, June 10, still waiting for your presents) to see how my back would feel that day.

I woke up with my usual run to the medicine cabinet and picked up an ice pack from the freezer. After a while, my back was feeling better and I decided to commit. I pulled up the website and booked my ticket for a “Monday Night Special.” Yikes!

I spent the day getting free food (love the local restaurants that understand the importance of your own personal holiday) and running errands. I went to the gym as I though it important to be warmed up, stretched out and as light as possible.

The lesson was scheduled for 7:30pm as, at 113 degrees, the temperature is too hot to touch your steering wheel let alone swing on a trapeze. I arrived at about 7:00pm and sat in my car staring at the empty swing while trying to imagine myself up there. It didn’t look very high. ‘Yeh, I can do this,’ I convinced myself. I entered the office and was greeted with a friendly, “Hello.” I energetically responded and made some amusing quip (it’s important that these people like you as they’re responsible for whether you live or die). They handed me an info. sheet and release to sign. All was fine until I got to the line about “Your Emergency Contact.” Crap. I wrote down my sister’s name and immediately texted her to stand by her phone “just in case.”

After various others filed in and completed their paperwork, we headed outside. They hooked us all up in safety harnesses. These were tightened so that my waist was about the size of my thigh, although with my larger thighs, this is not saying much (thanks mom!). All I can think is, “Does this safety harness make my butt look big?”). They then separated us into two groups – first timers and previous flyers. There were 6 of us first timers and 5 experienced. Of the first timers, I was the oldest. The others were teenagers. Fabulous! The experienced ones consisted of teenagers, an eight year old (Azalea, known as Z), Z’s mother, Seven (yes, that’s her name) and a 51-year-old (Linda).

They asked us first timers to line up while they instructed us on positions and listening. We then practiced how to grasp the trapeze, jump and let go of the support pole (very important it’s done in this order). The instructor told us that immediately after we started our swing they would tell us to kick up and hook our knees around the bar and let go. Uh, what? Don’t I first get a chance to just swing? You want me to immediately go upside down? You’ve got to be kidding.

The experienced people went first followed by the first timers. I’m third in line. While Katie, the 13 year-old in front of me swung, I was called to climb the ladder. It’s a very narrow, metal ladder wrapped in rope. I began climbing on the outside and when I reach the first rung painted red (where the net was at, I was told to step on the inside and climb the rest of the way. This was one of the toughest parts as the ladder not only hurts your hands and feet, but we seem to have a battle over which one of us was shaking more. The

Trapeze Ladder Climb

The Dreaded Ladder

higher I climbed, the more terrified I became. ’Why can’t I be a normal person who celebrates their birthday with cake and perhaps a cocktail?’ I thought. Finally I heard a voice behind me saying, “Two more steps.” I got to the second red ladder rung and was told to hold on with both hands and step back onto the platform. This part was less scary than I thought it would be, but that’s most likely because I just wanted to get off the ladder. I stepped onto the platform and grabbed the cable thinking good thoughts and doing some yoga breathing. I asked the guy his name and immediately forgot it (really, my mind was elsewhere). I listened closer than I have ever listened in my life. Oh, and I DID NOT LOOK DOWN!

The man whose name I cannot remember (let’s call him Voldemort) hooked my safety

Ladder to Platform

Get me off this ladder!

harness to cables and told me to spread my legs (uh, I’ll just leave this one alone) and hold onto the cable with my left hand. He held onto my safety harness while using a pole to bring the trapeze bar closer to us (breathe). He then told me to grab the bar with my right hand and push my hips forward. Done. When he said, “Hep” (circus term for go) I let go with my left hand and go. This was completely wrong order and I also didn’t jump as was supposed to. Basically, I just held on and fell. Immediately I heard, “Kick your legs up.” I kicked, but my legs didn’t quite make it under the bar to hook onto it. My hands hurt. I heard the guy on the ground tell me to kick my legs forward like I’m sitting and let go. As always, I’m good at falling. I landed in the net grateful that it didn’t hurt my back. I stood up and did the crazy chicken net walk over to the edge, grabbed onto the marked spots, laid down and flipped off the net. I stood there and yelling, “I flew!” Perhaps I didn’t accomplish the whole upside down thing, but I got off that platform without delay and I swung.

We got a couple of more turns in our rotation during which I still could not quite get my legs up there. “Damn, you’re strong girl,” was the comment from Voldemort. Apparently that was my problem. I kept bending my arms and basically doing pull-ups. Ha! I can’t do one in the gym but I did about 40 on this night.

They then lined us up again to instruct us on how to hang upside down and pass to a catcher. Yes, let go of the trapeze with our legs and be held by a guy on another trapeze. There’s just one problem here – I still hadn’t hung upside down (okay, there’s probably more than one problem but that’s the first one).

I climbed up and told Voldemort that I would not be doing the catch. He seemed disappointed. Sorry, not happening. I gave the upside down thing one more try. They showed me a different way and I gave it my best shot. The only thing I accomplished was hooking my leg around my safety harness and screaming. Aah, comedy relief. Through a variety of twisting moves I unhooked my leg and hung by my hands anxiously waiting to be told to let go. Again, I’ve got the falling thing down.

One great part of the experience was bonding with the others in my group. We traded E-mails to send photos. I headed home for a dip in the pool and in the scotch.  I have not been able to raise my arms above my head for two days now. A birthday to remember.

If you could know your future, would you?

30 Apr Crystal Ball

All of us have played the game, “If you were a superhero what would your superhero power be?” Normally, there is at least one person who would like to be able to see into the future. That tends to lead to the discussion of, “would that be a good idea or kind of scary?” I’ve always thought it would be really scary. I mean, why know if you can’t change it? Because invariably, there will be things you find out that you wish you could change. Trust me, if I knew that guy I dated would turn out to be such a jerk, I definitely would have changed that.

The best answer I had ever heard in response to the superhero power/knowing the future was while tubing down a river as there’s lots to talk about with your friends when not flipping over and seeing if your lungs can hold the same amount of water as they do air (according to the internet that would be about six liters for both. And we know everything you read on the internet is true). Anyway, this friend said that his superpower would be seeing 10 minutes into the future. Wow, never thought of that. Just enough time to maybe think twice about stepping off that curb in front of that oncoming bus. Or perhaps, moving over ten feet before that bird decided you would be the perfect landing spot for its digested worm buffet breakfast. Or you could actually use this power to be a superhero and benefit of others. Maybe you run on down the street to be in place just in time to catch that baby who just fell out of the 10th story window.

So, if it were possible, would you want to know the future?

This question popped into my head because of two events I attended the past twoBig Fish Marquee weekends. One was that event I was preparing to go to in Does She or Doesn’t She. This was opening night for Big Fish, the musical in Chicago. It follows the exceptional life and death of Edward Bloom. Edward has known basically how he will die ever since he was a young man when a witch pulled out her crystal ball and showed him. This knowledge allows Edward to do spectacular things in his life because he is not afraid that they will kill him. He confronts giants, goes to war and single-handedly takes out an assassin, and he and his friends are swallowed whole by the titled “Big Fish” only to have Edward teach them how to be reborn and escape. He is not afraid because, as he says, “This is not how I will die.”

After seeing this I began to think, maybe seeing into the future might not be such a bad thing. The freeing feeling of knowing how you will die might enable you to live more. Wouldn’t it be great to learn from your mistakes before you make them and actually have to live with the consequences? Perhaps I never would have entered that limbo contest in Trinidad if I knew it would require me to have back surgery (the limbo contest? I won! And lost). Or maybe, while in junior high school, I would never have chosen to wear those black corduroys with the word “Boogie” spelled out in rhinestones on the back pocket if I had known how silly they would seem in 2013 (stop judging, it was the 70’s). Perhaps all of those girls that got tattoos on their lower back (we all know what they’re known as today) would have looked ten years into the future and decided that some temporary henna paint might be a better idea. The point is, perhaps seeing into the future, or at least knowing how you will die has its advantages.

Life Tracker

Watch the trailer

The second event that caused me to ponder the whole future knowledge question happened this past weekend. I attended another world premier (gosh my life sure sounds so much more glamorous than it feels on a daily basis). This time it was an Indy movie called Life Tracker. The movie is a pseudo-documentary about, what else, a documentary filmmaker who discovers a company which can analyze your DNA and provide you with, well, your future. Among other things, they can tell you how many kids you will have and with whom, what your health issues will be (including broken bones) and your date of death. Questions arise such as; if it’s in your DNA and you therefore, cannot change it, why know? Would people lose their initiative (sort of like smoking pot) and just let it all happen? Without giving away any surprises (you should see the movie), in the end, it’s up to you to decide if the characters seeing their future was a good thing or a bad thing.

During the Question and Answer time with the writer/director, producer and lead actors I raised the question, “If you could know your future, would you?” Surprisingly, at least to me, all said yes. The lead actor (Barry Finnegan) did hesitate for a moment and say, well, he might not be the first to ask for the information but, if everyone else were doing it, he would probably end up doing it also (that’s how I got sucked into twitter).

As for me, I like the idea of going skydiving because I know I’m not going to die that way. Oh wait, I’ve already done that a couple of times. Didn’t die. Or perhaps rafting those Deliverance rapids knowing I will neither drown nor run into a sadistic group of perverts who insist I squeal like a pig. Yup, rafted many times and never even met one creepy, banjo-playing kid. Or maybe I would step outside onto the wing of a biplane and live my dream of wing-walking. Something I haven’t done but began to consider while sitting on a long flight from Turkey with my friend the 5 year-old kicking my seat the entire way (yes, wing-walking is on my bucket list so, if you know anyone who can help me, you know where to find me).

So, with this sudden immersion into the world of soothsaying, if the possibility of knowing how I will die becomes a reality would I want to know? I still can’t make a decision on that to save my life. Uh, well, hhmmmm. . .not sure how that would work.

How about you? If you could know your future, or at least, when/how you would die, would you want to know? Please comment below and we can discuss.

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