Day #14: Sweatin’ to the oldies

I am dying here! My muscles are dwindling away, not that you can actually see them or anything because they are covered by layers of fat, but at least I can tell they’re disappearing. I decide after a few days of the least healthy eating I’ve done in months that I have to go to the gym and lift some weights. I Google search gyms and one about a block from my hotel pops up. I am excited for the smell of sweaty rubber and musty clothes. I know that seems a terrible thing to long for, but there’s something very energizing about the smell of treadmill rubber that has been used and sweated upon by many a runner. You know when you smell it that you are in an active space and your body begins to long for it, to be the one running and to be the one sweating.
Unfortunately it takes me a long time to sweat. It always has. I have to run for at least twice the amount of time the average person runs to get a bead, though sometimes this just propels me to workout more. I walk up two flights of stairs to get to the gym and they say, “Ten pounds please.” I think is it really worth that much for one day? Yes, yes it is. I make my way to the cardio area, which is small with about fifteen cardio machines total. I wonder how this gym stays alive and then realize they have desperate travelers like me to fund them.
I head for one of the six treadmills, Life Fitness of course. I step on, everything looks usual except for the mirror pretty much pressed up against the treadmill in which I will have to stare at myself for the duration of this workout. I press start and then it asks me to enter my weight, so I do, because it told me to. But when I try to enter the number it doesn’t take it and then I realize damn… it’s all in the metric system here, so I enter some random number that sounds fine to me, like 120. Okay, I do find out later that 120 kilograms is the equivalent of 264 pounds, which is a lot more like my starting weight a while back. At the time I needed a number and that sounded right. Then it’s time to enter the speed. I usually start with around 3.5mph and speed up to 4.5 just for a warm-up, but once again… metric system thwarts my plans. I have no clue how fast 3.5 is and so I just push it up to around 6kmph and hope it’ll be fine.
Approximately five minutes later once I’ve warmed up, I stretch a bit and then decide it’s time for a jog. I usually start off around 5.5mph and speed up, but here I’m not sure what speed to start at actually and realize I just should have looked at a conversion chart at some point in my life, so I’m attempting to do the math while not tripping over a foot. The 5k is = 3.1m so that means that means that I have to run about 1.6 for 1 mile, which then means that I have to run at a rate of 9.5 or so or something. Or… Fuck you metric system, fuck you, just jog! Yeah, that’s what I told myself after doing the math. I decided to start my jog at 9.5kmph because the guy next to me was doing it. Yeah… peer pressure right. I jogged that for a few minutes, then realized it just seemed too slow so went to 10kmph, then that seemed a bit too slow so I went to 10.5kmph. Then the guy on the other side of me that was totally fit made a “humph” sound and speeded up to 11.5 so that we were not doing the same speed, because clearly two people at two obviously different fitness levels should not be running the same speed.
After a few miles I decide I’ve had enough of staring at my reflection and head over to an elliptical where I have the option of staring at a tiny TV playing lip syncing music videos instead of staring at myself. This is seriously hilarious. Hit pop songs, lip synced by some fans, looking pretty out of sorts in the video. I can’t keep my eyes off the tele, this makes the couple of miles on the elliptical fly by. Funny thing is usually my mind is so packed full of random crap to think about it I never need distractions like music or TV, but all this free thinking time on the trip has left my mind a little blank.
Well, it’s now obviously time for the thing I spent ten pounds for and that is weights. I head down to the weight room and it is packed with men, one really really strong woman, and a woman who can barely lift a five pounder doing way too many reps. I do a once around just to make sure I know how to use the equipment because I just don’t think I’m up for free weights in a gym filled with kilograms. I head towards the weak woman and start lifting near her so that I can look strong. I do as much as I can and hope for the best since it’s been weeks and weeks. My favorite is the weighted pull-up machine. I dream of doing pull-ups one day without the assistance of weights, but until then I will pretend I am “She-Ra!” Even if it is the lackluster She-Ra with like six sidekicks to help her because she can’t hold up her own sword.
After my muscles are reduced to a satisfying porridge feeling, I head back to the room. I feel amazing! I feel a whole ten pounds worth of amazing and am glad I spent that money. Larsen is gone to somewhere, the Tower I think and so I decide what is on my list of important things to cover in my last three days in London. The most important thing is to revisit my favorite cafe and so I head for Ray’s Jazz. I decide now is the time to purchase phrase books for both France and Italy and then take them directly to the cafe where I find a peaceful seat near the window overlooking Charring Cross Rd. I begin to blog and wonder on more random stuff and “Where ya from? You a student?” interrupts my typing. Are you kidding? I was told that I would be left alone by Londoner’s, but people seem really chatty around these parts. Where’s the London I expected?
“Oh, no. America. Seattle,” after a little hesitation.
“Well… I was just there last year, it was quite beautiful.”
“Yes, yes. Whatchoo here in London fo?”
“Well, I go to Kings College London.”
“Oh, okay.”
“Yeah, yeah. It’s nice. Just down the street.”
“Oh, okay.”
“Are you a writer?” He looks at my laptop and sees the blog I am writing.
“No, no. Just you know, getting some stuff done.”
“Well, let’s see. I study wars in school.”
“Yeah, you know in……” That’s where I phased out. You can obviously see what a conversationalist I am. By all attempts I try to stop the conversation so that I can concentrate on finishing the blog or checking facebook, who the hell knows. All I know is that he won’t be quiet and leave me alone.
He looks about 23 or 24 and has a gummy smile. He is thin and well dressed with black hair, cut almost in the shape of a bowl. For a majority of the time I can barely understand him and strain to hear his rather thick accent. I find out that he is from the South of London. Then I wonder if he was better looking if I would be more interested in talking, but then I figure the answer must be yes because I wouldn’t be thinking the question otherwise. He talks for a while more as I continue to stare out the window and look disinterested and then apologizes for interrupting me. I don’t want him to feel bad for some reason and say, “it’s okay.” I get back to blogging. I blog for a while and he attempts to interrupt with more war history and I nod and continue to type. I decide that my best way out of here is to call Larsen and figure out what the plan is because right now there just has to be a plan. She says that she’s headed to the British Museum. Thank you Lord! I pack up my bag and do the usual, “nice to meet you” then jet.
The crowds are massive and ridiculous at the museum. There are far more people here now than the day I originally came because it is a Bank Holiday, whatever the hell that means and so I head upstairs where I know there won’t be quite as many people and end up in the History of India section. I have always been fascinated by India ever since I was young and this section lays out the history of Indian Religions for me. It goes over Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism, and Hinduism. For a while I reminisce over the time I was flirting with Buddhism when I was younger, probably about 14 or 15 and was given my first copy of Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse by Raleigh. I have read Siddhartha once a year since. It reminds me of impermanence of our reliance on wordly things and the things I should not be attached to. I learned some of my dis-attachment to things when I was young because of this. As a Christian now I just see many of the things I learned in different ways. There is one things I can never seem to learn not to idolize, but I think I’ll keep that to myself right now.
While I’m strolling around ancient relics I decide that I must go to India next. I must experience the culture and in some ways I want to see it the way Siddhartha did. I want to see the poverty and desperation that drew him to seek enlightenment. It’s not that I am really seeking to see pain because I can barely handle the drunken Brit. attempting to hold himself up with his own bottle of booze without crying. I think it’s just something I might need to see, to understand more of humanity than I can understand through pictures. I also have another random Siddhartha story, but perhaps I’ll leave that for later too because it’s on the non-kosher list of things to discuss.
We leave the British Museum and I say bye to it because I started my trip here and am pretty much ending it here. For some reason it’s a little bittersweet and it’s only been two weeks. “Bye British Museum, tata Soho, goodnight Oxford Street, toodles Holborn Station.” Then we are off. We are too tired to do dinner and so stop at my favorite market Marks & Spencer. I’d say it’s the Brit. version of Metropolitan Market, it’s nicer than Sainsbury’s (Safeway-esque) but not the tip top of the line. I get my favorite Salad for dinner because yes, I already have one. We go back to the hotel and collapse.
Tomorrow… Warwick Castle, Oxford, the Cotswalds, aaaaaand Stratford, the birthplace of Shakespeare. I am super excited to see where the writer that influenced writing on the largest scale of any other writer was born. To sleep now, I’ve got to get up early to catch a bus and be escorted around with people I don’t know. We will awkwardly talk and smile and then take pictures to get out of anymore of this. I will be happy though because at least I will see the inspiration for Harry Potter. Oh Harry…

One thought on “Day #14: Sweatin’ to the oldies

  1. February 15, 1945Ruhland is today’s target. It’s 20 miles from the Russian lines. We were 6 hours on oxygen. Total time was 9:30. Altitude was 23,000 and it was 35 ° below. This is mission 100 on this crate – that’s quite a few for any ship to hold together on. Big Wheels now. Run off the runway while taxiing, and got stuck. We flew no. 5 in the high squadron. The 94th is leading the 8th today. We took off about 7:12 and landed about 4:50. there was heavy flak, but our squadron didn’t hit it. Two guys in group got wounded. A plane cracked up on take off. Had a captain riding as observer in radio room. When we landed, we got our pictures taken and a newsreel man was there grinding away. So Perk and I back out packing a gun to get in it. Papy had his picture taken shaking our chief’s hand. Famous now and very hot. Probably too big for our pants.

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