Saturday, June 2, 2012

The final lap

The funniest things can make you nostalgic when you're moving.

Like, going to the neighborhood gym for the last time, which I did on Tuesday.

I guess to call it my "neighborhood" location of 24 Hour Fitness is not entirely accurate -- it's about a 10-minute drive from my current (soon to be former) place. In fact, it's about equidistant to another 24 Hour Fitness that's in a fancier neighborhood and is frequented by fancier people. But this one is on my way home from work, so I've been going almost exclusively to this one ever since it's been necessary to fit my workout into the time before I pick up my son from daycare. (Besides, you don't necessarily want fancy people at your gym. Their fancy ways often make them assholes.)

I'll just say it: My gym is in a black neighborhood, and the clientele is probably at least 80 percent black. I've actually already said that once before, if you read this post.

This information is not relevant, except in the following way: I am not black, so my affinity for this gym is something that has made me sort of proud. I like irrefutable evidence of my own lack of racial bias. And yeah, this gym is on my way home, and yeah, there's a really nice man-made waterfall that's the highlight of this office complex into which the gym is nestled. But a racist would drive an additional half-hour out of his way just to find his "own people." I've got a perfectly good gym that's chock full of white people an equal distance away, in Santa Monica, yet this is my gym of choice.

And perhaps that's why I felt a powerful wave of nostalgia as I walked down the staircase from the third floor, where I work out on the stairmasters, for the final time Tuesday afternoon.

It wasn't the ideal final visit. I knew I'd be pressed for time as it was, considering that I was planning to leave work at 3:30 and needed to pick up my son at daycare by 5. Add to that the fact that I was waylaid for an additional 20 minutes helping a user, and I almost thought about not going.

But there's one time element of a trip to the gym that you can control, and that's the length of the workout. Instead of my usual 45 minutes, I'd just do 25. After all, I was planning to celebrate and honor a ritual, not get the best workout I've ever gotten.

What does all this have to do with movies?

Well, my trips to the gym have always involved watching a movie on my portable DVD player. I strap it to the top of the stairmaster with two heavy duty rubber bands, and I watch as much as two-thirds of a movie, depending on what kind of shape I'm in and how long I can extend the workout (and how long the movie is).

As seems often to be the case, I chose an inadvertently appropriate film for my final trip to this gym: Steve James' Prefontaine, one of two movies about world-class runner Steve Prefontaine that came out in the late 1990s. (The other being Robert Towne's Without Limits.) The only reason I was watching this movie 15 years after its release is that I am writing a post for the Flickchart blog, which considers the relative merits of the famous pairings of movies that have come out at the same time on the same subject matter (Deep Impact vs. Armagedddon, Volcano vs. Dante's Peak, etc.) The piece wouldn't be complete if I hadn't seen both of the Prefontaine movies, considering that Prefontaine makes one of the most unlikely subjects ever to be double-booked by Hollywood.

Of course, I wouldn't be watching the whole movie. At this point, I'd only be watching 25 minutes of it.

But watching Jared Leto stretch out his legs as the former University of Oregon great and Munich Olympian gave me the predictable boost of adrenaline during my workout. I even notched up the speed of the stairs a couple levels to compensate for the shorter workout.

And as it happened, the numbers on the timer hit 0:00 right as Prefontaine won his first race at the University of Oregon, which also set some kind of record. Literally, his chest broke the tape and the stairs stopped moving beneath me at the exact same moment.

As I was passing the check-in desk on my way out, I saw Wolfgang, the early fiftysomething with a shaved head who I see almost every time I check in. He has this nice habit of giving you a little fist bump after the finger reader has confirmed who you are. I've always loved those fist bumps, and am disappointed on days when Wolfgang is too distracted to supply one.

I decided I would tell Wolfgang that this was probably my last visit to this gym.

"I'm moving to the Valley," I told him, even though his back was turned and he probably had no idea I intended to say anything, since I never do. "So I don't think I'll be coming around here much anymore."

Wolfgang proceeded to tell me how he lives in Encino and drives down here for work, so I could too. However, he also acknowledged that it would be difficult, and that I would be all set with the two near me in the Valley: the one I used to frequent at the Sherman Oaks Galleria, when I used to live in Sherman Oaks, and the new one that has just opened in North Hollywood.

"Yeah, I'll be all set," I said. "But it won't be this club. I really like this club."

"Well, just wanted to let you know I appreciate ya," said Wolfgang.

"I appreciate you too," I said.

Followed by one final fist bump.


Nick Prigge said...

"I like irrefutable evidence of my own lack of racial bias." I love that line. That is just so quintessentially white America I think. I mean that as a compliment. I really hope that didn't come out wrong.

Anyway, I'm one of the few people who loved the double dose of Pre. Pre's one of my heroes. My sister used to live an hour south of Eugene and when I visited her I made her take me to Hayward Field and Pre's Rock. And that's a long way of saying I'm TOTALLY a "Without Limits" man. And not just because of Crudup. Because "Without Limits" was really the first time I paid attention to Crudup.

SickBoy91 said...

That Wolfgang interaction? LOVE IT.

Vancetastic said...


Nope, that didn't come out wrong at all. And it gets at the point of how difficult it is to talk about not being racist -- a lot of the time, it sounds like you doth protest too much. Also, being proud of not being racist (or thinking yourself not to be racist) is indeed very white America. It should be in the book Stuff White People Like.

I don't remember Without Limits all that well, but I guess I must have liked it better than Prefontaine. Honestly, both were pretty middling. You made that point yourself. (That other people don't think much of them, anyway.)


I did too!