Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Saying no to a washboard stomach

The 23rd Street location of New York Health and Racquet Club.

Remember the Friends episode when Chandler tries to end his membership at his gym, and Ross goes with him for moral support but ends up joining as well?   

Ross: So why don't you quit?
Chandler: You don't think I've tried? You think I like to have 50 dollars taken out of my bank account every month? No, they make you go all the way down there! Then they use all these phrases and peppiness to try to confuse you. And then they bring out Maria.
Ross: Who is Maria?
Chandler: Ah, Maria. You can't say no to her. She's like this lycra/spandex covered gym...treat.

Ross: One more time: Hey, don't you want a washboard stomach and rock hard pecs?
Chandler: No, I want a flabby gut and saggy man-breasts.

Art imitated life when I tried to quit my gym membership this month.  My phone call to request cancellation of membership and automatic bank draft was answered with, "Sure Miss Mummert, if you are no longer interested in maintaining your health and exercise program, we'll be happy to help you cancel your membership...you just need to come to the gym in person."  The next day I walked with a determined pace over to the gym, noting the 15 minute distance which all the more fueled my reasonings for quitting - "why am I paying so much for a gym when the round trip just to get there is a free 30-minute work out?"

Pony tail swinging, I marched right up to the sleek counter and proclaimed, "I'm here to cancel my membership!"  I was prepared to be cajoled and questioned, but the pudgy manager who always makes me wonder how he got to be manager of a gym reached for a form and explained the cancellation process:  I had to complete the form and send it via certified mail to an office located just a few streets away; I would still be charged for the months of September and October, but - aren't I lucky - I could enjoy the benefits of my membership through the end of October.  

Rage boiled inside me, "You mean I can't just quit now? Isn't that why I had to come here in person?!  And two more months?!  I signed up for the month to month plan so I would be able to quit 'at any time'!!"  The manager smiled and said he doesn't make the rules, just enforces them.  "Well, this is upsurd!" I shouted and slapped my hand on the counter before marching up the steps to work out since it was already money out of my pocket.  

After writing a scathing letter, standing in a long post office line, and paying $3.21 to mail it 30 blocks, I received notice that my membership would be cancelled at the end of September - victory!  I tried to go to the gym everyday to make the most of the last weeks of against-my-will membership.  Sunday night of the final week, I looked around the weight room and counted at least five cute, non-muscle head guys who I had never seen before.  "Great," I thought, "is this NYHRC's attempt at bringing out 'Maria' so I don't want to quit?"  

As I loaded the chest press with 10 pound weights on each side, I smiled at how far I had come in the last months.  Just recently I graduated from 5 to 10 pounds and could press the machine forward without it making my arms shake as I did so, a far cry from when I first joined and the trainer told me his grandma could lift more weight than I could.  Oh, the sweet memories!  Lauren and I used to head over to the gym after work for Cardio Sculpt with Angel or Jab with Billy.  Oh, and there's the time we finally braved Yoga, and when the teacher announced the next move was a head stand, we looked at each other with wide eyes and promptly moved our mats to the wall for the alternate position - laying on back with legs against the wall.  As we laid there in the silent darkness, the only guy in the class attempted his head stand, and mid-legup, the poor guy pooted so loud that I spent the rest of the class biting my lip not to laugh.  

I snapped out of my walk down gym memory lane as I let go of the handles after my last rep with the 10-pound weights because it was then I remembered the countless times I've had to dodge naked women in the locker room - more often fat and old than firm and trim.  "Yes," I thought as I nodded at one of the cute boys taking over my machine, "no matter the good, it's time to go."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Yo Bro!

With Cameron at Brother Jimmy's.

With Mary Jane and Walton - the sticker brigade!

The Alabama Alumni game-watching bar changed this year from Mercury Bar to the brand new Brother Jimmy's on Lexington and 31st Street...about three blocks from my apartment!  The new place is much larger and more civilized - since it's a restaurant, the management actually wants us to make table reservations and sit down to watch the game.  It's quite a change from the rough and tumble days of Mercury when we had to arrive early and fight for a seat, usually spending the majority of the game standing up and being pushed and prodded and dodging pompoms in the face.  As hassling as it was, I must say I miss the tumult of Mercury; the throng of people making the game day experience seem a little more real, like we were actually in the crowd at Bryant Denny Stadium.

But since I haven't lived this close to the action since I lived on campus across the street from the stadium at Harris Hall, I'm happy to make the short walk across the New York City blocks to my Tuscaloosa home away from home.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Double flop: The Donald & The Daredevil

My weaknesses are well-documented on this site: events, events with celebrities, and - best yet - televised events with celebrities. Although I absolutely abhor David Blaine, after three days of seeing him on television, hanging upside down in Central Park with hundreds of onlookers cheering into the camera, I lost all will power to stay as far away as possible.

Giving in to the weakness is not entirely my fault - if Emily hadn't invited me to a dance performance just a few blocks away, I promise I wouldn't have made a special trip uptown to see the fake that is David Blaine. BUT, since we were SO close, I just couldn't resist! Plus, it was the finale night of his ridiculous "Dive of Death" stunt, so any rationally thinking person like myself would conclude that the chance of getting on TV was worth the hour wasted while watching him hang upside down.

As I approached Wollman Rink and walked unnoticed into the VIP area, it was me who flipped upside down with excitement when I realized Donald Trump stood a few steps away - unmobbed by fans (oh yes, we are supposed to be VIPs, we don't act that way!) and unprotected by a bodyguard (of course, because we are all civilized VIPs). After my internal yelping subsided, I debated the appropriateness of asking him for a job, or flat out asking him to sponsor a poor southern girl in the city.

It was soon apparent The Donald thought he was the only true VIP in the area, and a noticeable halo enveloped him, making contact with the surly Donald off-limits. But his standoffishness couldn't keep me from snapping pictures of the flop of hair on his head - hey, it's not like he owns the place! Well...it's not like I care that he owns the place!

The Donald and his flop of hair as he watches David Blaine with what appears to be disdain and disgust...or is that just his normal face?

The second flop of the night - David Blaine hangs upside down before performing his Dive of Death...aka his feet-first jump while secured in a harness and attached to pulleys.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A bulldog on a leash

Never did I think I would see such an accurate portrait of my current self as I did today in a bulldog on a leash.

The bulldog walked a few steps, then stopped firmly in place and looked all around at his surroundings. "Come on!" the owner coached, "Move your feet - let's go!" The bulldog didn't budge. Just kept looking around grinning that bulldog grin.

"You're never gonna get anywhere if you don't walk!" the owner urged.

The sweet, cuddly and adorable (you are starting to see the resemblance, right?) bulldog walked forward a few steps and stopped again.

"Come on, don't stop! You don't want to be stuck in the same place forever!"

The bulldog took several more steps and stopped again. This pattern continued, and the owner even raised the dog off the ground by pulling up on the leash, resulting in the dog having no choice but to drag along beside her, moving his back feet against his will.

As the parallel to this stuck bulldog gelled with my current life, my laughing at the funny charade turned into just a smile, and then faded completely. "Humph," was all I could manage as I realized I'm that stubborn little bulldog - depending on my "owners" to pull me along to keep taking the next steps.

Thanks to my Daddy, special friends, and a certain career resume counselor - all messengers and gifts from God - to keep urging (and pushing, and pulling, and dragging!) me along.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The heart of a friend

The beauty of giving is best learned through a friend; those people to whom we give and don't expect to receive anything in return. But it is in the expectation of no return when the most is received.

When the lending of a shoulder to cry on is repaid with a hand to hold. The cheers for her are repaid with encouragement for yourself. When the analysis of a sticky situation is repaid with the realization of your true worth. The surprise of a hand-written note is repaid with the entertainment of a barrage of e-mails. When a drink after work is repaid with ideas for your future.
To my dear friends, I hope I give you enough to warrant all that I receive!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Solemn day

There is a solemness in the New York City air on September 11th that is unmatched by any other day of the year. The reality hit close to home as I witnessed the ceremony of my next door neighbors, FDNY Engine Co. 16, Ladder No. 7. Cars filled the lot across the street, and families flooded onto the sidewalk from the garage of the station. Everyone was dressed in black, dressed for a funeral - funerals, actually. This station lost several men on September 11th, and as I watched a man and woman walk away from the gathering, I wondered who it was they were there to remember who left on a fire truck from this very station seven years ago today and never returned. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

If I was a celebrity

At the Carlos Miele after party: actor Bill Murray wrinkled, disheveled, and ignoring everyone!

If I was a celebrity, I would be the best darn celebrity there has ever been. For starters, I wouldn't try to hide. I'd say hello to the people I pass on the street who gasp and point, "Look! It's Rebecca!" I'd sign autographs and oblige a "Yes, it's me," to friends who've been called and told, "You'll never guess who I'm standing beside!" Heck - I'd even have my bodyguard break from his duties to take pictures of me with my adoring fans. And if that's not enough for A-List status, how about that I'd always look the movie star part - thousand dollar outfits picked out by my stylist, hair and makeup professionally done every day. You would never have to cringe at seeing a mascara-bleared mug shot of me plastered on the entertainment news or read of my club-hopping forays of illicit behavior; I'd be the kind of celebrity all the girls want to be friends with, all the guys want to date, and all the little girls dream to be.

But, what do I know?  I'll leave the celebrities to their own devices of invincible behavior. I guess they all know that these very things that would put me highest on the pedestal would make everyone want me to fall the hardest.

Thanks to Bill Murray for a fun evening of elusive celebrity behavior!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Thanks to the lips

As I stood on the corner outside Delicatessen waiting for my friends, I thought of how smug I would be about arriving first to dinner. "Gosh, I've been waiting forever!" I would sigh with feigned annoyance at their being late, since I'm the one who is always tardy.  But tonight the Punctuality Gods were really smiling on me, because as I twiddled on the sidewalk, I noticed an average-looking woman with wavy shoulder-length blonde hair approaching.  She wore sunglasses and baggy clothes and swung a large closed umbrella back and forth as she walked with a nonchalant, happy gait.  Had it not been for the obvious collagen-injected upper lip, I might not have taken a second look to realize it was, in fact, the one, the only - Meg Ryan!  

We stood side by side as she waited to cross the street, and as I watched her continue on her way with a little hum in her step, I quickly hummed a new tune in anticipation of my friends' arrival, "Gosh, you'll never guess who I just saw!"

Friday, September 5, 2008


I considered the multipurpose court adjacent to a small playground directly across the street from my apartment to be a positive "amenity" of living in my apartment building, since the list of actual amenities was non-existent.  During the first month of living here, I had big plans of taking my batons across the street and twirling - it would be just like my driveway at home!  I wanted to wait until the weather warmed up a bit, and then I would be twirling like old times.

But when mid-May arrived and the outside temps were perfect twirling weather, I got cold feet as I gathered my batons to head outside.  I didn't want an audience with the passersby on the street, the firemen peering from their station, or - worse yet - the homeless men claiming a bench for a front row seat!  Faced with the reality that twirling here would not be like twirling in the driveway at home, my new hobby quickly lost appeal, and I propped my batons back in the corner of my room.

But I decided Monday was the day I was going to twirl.  It was the perfect way to celebrate the unofficial end to summer...and it didn't hurt that the majority of New Yorkers were still tucked in bed, off the streets and enjoying the Labor Day holiday.  Early in the morning I scurried out of the building and crossed the street.  I tentatively opened the wrought-iron gate and peeked around to make sure the coast was clear of any homeless people who might have camped there overnight.  Discovering my only audience was a girl with her dog, and a few firemen across the way, I began to stretch my legs and get acquainted with the trees and buildings around my new twirling spot.  I started slowly, tossing the baton in the air a few times, then adding a few turns.  As several tosses fell to the ground out of my grasp, I felt a twinge of embarrassment (did anyone see me drop?!) and a heap of remorse (how could I have let myself get so rusty!) 

But soon the old rhythm was back, and I was tossing higher, spinning faster and putting on a show the likes of which New York had never seen.  Toss illusion - still got it!  Toss cartwheel - wha-laa!  Split leap back catch - perfect!  Remembering sections of old tryout routines, I marveled as I fairly easily smoothed through the maneuvers, and if I didn't perform a trick just so, I reverted to my habit of doing it 10 times in a row (with a smile on my face!) to make sure I had it down pat.  I practiced my favorite two and three baton tricks (busting only a few blood vessels in my palms along the way).  Feeling so exhilarated with the movements and the memories, I broke into a high march and twirled as I hummed Yea Alabama. "Get me my majorette boots and a sequin uniform!" I thought. "I could put those current Crimsonettes to shame!"

Alas, maybe I could still teach the Crimsonettes a thing or two, and granted, probably still even fit into my uniform.  BUT the only person feeling any shame is yours truly...since it's three days after my rock star performance, and I'm still hobbling around, each muscle in my back and legs screeching with every move I make!