Drop Lemon

“…Silk linen, good livin, fast women…”

– these may be song lyrics but i can’t find the song and they are probably not accurate, nor in the correct order. Nonetheless they are stuck in my head

On the way to jiu-jitsu with Rex, there’s this ~7 yo kid who is always out in his front yard along a country road, and always shoots at our car, usually with plastic six-shooter, sometimes with forefinger/thumb gun. I always return imaginary fire. It’s hard to say who’s winning in terms of putting imaginary bullets on target but I’m gonna say me because I’m firing imaginary MAC-10 on full auto vs cowboy pistol and he’s not even fanning the hammer.

These encounters took a possibly depressing turn when the other day he was standing out in the pouring rain, indicating maybe either garbage parents and/or an unhealthy commitment to pretend gunplay.

So to cheer him up, yesterday (sunny), I unloaded my real Desert Eagle in his direction, obviously missing on purpose, but producing a sweet authentic fireball of muzzle flash with each round, as well as a deafening noise which Rex whined about later (even though i took hearing protection precautions – remember when conducting drive-by shootings to extend the weapon from the vehicle, or you might as well save time and ammo and puncture your eardrums with an icepick).  Impressively (although not entirely surprisingly) he didn’t even seek cover – just stood in the Weaver stance, the neon tip of his barrel held steady.

Back to things that are (completely) true, Rex still goes to Jiu-Jitsu/MMA 4x a week but a lot of times i just drop him off and come back to watch the last ten min or so (usually when they go live). This is partly because they don’t have AC and it’s been 90-100 F. They do have big fans pointed at the mats and sometimes if you sit near one (not in front of one I’m not that much of a cocksucker) you get some breeze but still. Also I think they had a summer discount – I could be wrong but there was a plethora of new kids with no gis (usually they start getting on you to buy your kid one after a week or two) & hideously fat parents bringing junk food and the entire extended family every time so not even room to sit, not to mention bratty little kids wandering about, bored teenagers fooling with stray dumbbells etc, and most of this has cleared up with the start of school but disgustingly obese people are also the reason i don’t want to go to the Chinese buffet anymore and certain folks who are allegedly more tolerant and sensitive feel the same way.

Rex: we haven’t gone to the Chinese buffet lately.

Me: Yeah we’re not going there ever again, sorry, there’s too many grossly fat people, it spoils my appetite.

Karena: DON’T SAY THAT! IT’S NOT THAT THEY’RE FAT…

Me: fine you explain why we’re not gonna eat there anymore

(five minutes later)

Karena: … AND EATING DIRECTLY OUT OF THE BUFFET LIKE THEY CAN’T WAIT TO GET TO THE TABLE AND BREATHING HEAVILY AND SWEATING AND NOT SAYING EXCUSE ME WHEN THEY PUSH BY YOU TO GET AT THE DESSERTS AT LEAST AT (the steak place) THE PEOPLE ARE POLITE…

Me (interrupting her rant with unhelpful analogy): it’s like a bunch of guys with emphysema and oxygen masks, coughing, then being like “hey man do you want a cigarette?”

So I started going to the nearby McDonald’s, ordering a $1 unsweet tea and sitting there playing on my phone or reading local paper. The McDonald’s was always strangely vacant for near prime dinner hour in the obesity capital of the world.  I soon found out why. The first time i got attacked by two flies (& was of course without trusty electric racket). I forgave them for this, after all, flies get into my house & i have blogged about it because in small quantities, it’s usually a sign of “some idiot left the door open” rather than “this place is a cesspool of filth.” Some of the tables were gross and sticky, but this happens at any fast food place because people are slobs and it takes a while between the time the customers leave and someone notices & can clean the table. A lot of the employees seemed to be leaning rather than cleaning but maybe they were on break.

I chalked the various warning signs up to coincidence and returned the following day.  This time there weren’t flies buzzing around but i did notice quite a few dead bugs around the drink machines.  Also trash around machines, and splatters of presumably soda on counters and walls (“presumably” bc I’m assuming this is what attracted – and killed – the bugs – but it was really high up on the walls, higher than could be accounted for by even serious but accidental sloshing and splashing) Also puddle of soda on floor with nearby yellow “watch your step” thing. Also overflowing trash cans. Hairs on counter. Etc.

I politely as i could pointed this out to the manager

Me: sir there seems to be a lot of dead insects over here

Him: oh my goodness yes I’ll get right on it and thank you for pointing this out to me your concern is our concern and etc

Anyway i had already paid for my drink so i loitered in a rear area so as not to either have employees glaring at me “that douchebag over there in the beard was the one” or to make it seem like i was hovering & supervising.

I did glance over on my way out. Some of the dead bugs had been cleaned up. Not sure how they decided which corpses merited removal. Needless to say, wall soda, floor soda, and trash status were unchanged. I contacted McDonald’s HQ and they did contact me back and assure me that everything would be corrected and they were terribly sorry but of course when i went back a week later mostly out of curiosity the bugs were still there & this time i didn’t buy a tea.

You can make fun at my expense “gosh Coach, who would have thought that a fast food restaurant in America’s most unhygenic region and a state with last time i heard one remaining health inspector 150 miles away would be untidy and when i worked at McDonald’s we used to poop in the fry grease” but i guess if i want lots of insects around i can stay home.

Instead i have been going to a gas station for my tea even though it costs a few cents more especially factoring in that i have to drink it in my car with the AC on. Which is not great for the environment but basically this is what we supposedly fought a war in Iraq for. Come to think of it i spent the majority of my first tour in Iraq in an idling Humvee drinking cold (ish) beverages only slightly better armed.

Also there are interesting sights:

Some sort of confrontation involving what appeared to be white rappers and black rappers but at least one group was undercover or off-duty police and it may have not been an unfriendly confrontation.

Also:

  • Guy who looked exactly like the late Kimbo Slice except larger, accompanied by toddler daughter
  • Yesterday, two different women in white t-shirts and no bras. One was ~8 months pregnant, the other had tattoo writing on one breast but i didn’t bother to try to read it because she was very overweight and also had a face that could cancel any remaining interest generated by her attire
  • Clerk, who during my transaction said in a lower but still audible voice “And then I’m going to take a nap and get something to eat.” She was not on any kind of bluetooth device nor was anyone else in earshot.
  • Today someone who looked exactly like Lil Wayne including facial tattoos but was female and had ~6 ( cowboy if you are still reading “~” means “about”) teeth

Cholesterol champion

Coach Jr likes looking at books with pictures of baby faces. His favorite book is this photo album of mostly himself, which he is studying very seriously here. This behavior would be somewhat aberrant in an adult but it’s fine. He suckled his final pacifier two days ago (he was only using them at sleeping times).

—-

Went to the annual doctor appt at the VA today. My experiences were mostly identical to last year and etc. I got lost four times. The computer didn’t work. The lab tech recommended cowboy bebop. An old guy sat down right next to me in the waiting room and struck up a conversation.

Me: When were you in the air force?

Old guy: 1952-56.

Me: so did you catch the end of Korea?

Old guy: nope that was world war two

Nurse: SGT Coach?

Me (relieved): uh that’s me…I gotta go!

He looked surprised and mildly hurt that i would step away from this conversation just because it was my turn to see the doctor.

You ever have a ticket agent say “have a nice flight” or a maitre’d say “enjoy your meal” and you respond “you too” without thinking about it? Try doing that when the nurse tells you to go into the other room and remove all your clothing. Hue.

Anyway my cholesterol was good and lower than last year. HDL and LDL both good and better than ever. Blood pressure was 123/81 even though I’d just got done with that baffling Korea/WW2 conversation & had to run to make appointment because was in wrong building and on wrong floor & had just chugged a cup of coffee – and the nurse was naked.

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Posted partly because Coach Jr looks cute with his little Easter bucket but mostly cause vainly (pun) pleased with forearm development.


This was taken on a day when Karena and Rex were at a boy scout thing. I was gonna take the littles to the playground but it started to rain, so i invited us over to my in-laws house. My FIL put on this video. It’s extremely important to Quincy. Here my FIL was trying to tell me a story about crab fishing but Quincy is outraged because we’re not paying proper attention and respect to the video. Coach Jr stares dully.


Reading a Jim Thompson book. Reminds me a little of Bukowski but grimmer so the jury is still out.


I have made an important discovery: The Men at Work song “the land down under”  is about hell and not Australia as is commonly believed.


Let me tell you who suck, like banana Now and Laters

~ The Game (92 Bars)


Scout Leader: Why aren’t you a boy scout leader?  You were the army weren’t you?

Me: do you know the difference between a hunter and a butcher?

Rude Tudor

JC Penneys is done.  I called this two years ago as Karena and my dad can confirm.  They’re squeezed between Walmart/Target, dollar stores, the Internet, and expensive designer/luxury goods (often available on the internet too). I’m sure more astute observers could have predicted it fifteen years ago.  Today they closed a bunch of stores.  This saves them $200 million.  Generally it’s a good sign when a business opens more locations => expands.  It’s only a matter of time before JC Penney realizes that they should extrapolate this trend and close all their locations and save even more money.


 

 


Jim Brown’s kufi doesn’t have a ladybug on the top but he probably didn’t steal his from his sister either.


3/21/17

Wt: 164

T/h: 60/75%

CGB: 300×2

HBPS: 315,325×1

BTN: 135,145 x 3

SGDL: 405,430 x 1

SH: 2 min

Time: 87


Villain profile: Eric “Rude” Tudor aka Fart Buttsmith

Voice: me imitating a guy doing a bad English accent

 Eric Tudor is the host of the Rude Tudor comedy hour, a popular children’s TV program in Townsville. (Think Krusty the Clown meets Terrence and Phillip).  But his aspirations go beyond being a flatulent buffoon.  He dreams of utilizing his Shakespearean training and one day owning his own theatre. Finally fed up with the lowbrow tastes of the citizens of Townsville, he disguises himself as a clown (yes the costume from his show), adopts the supervillain moniker of Fart Buttsmith and begins robbing banks. (Indicative of either his acting powers or the ineptitude of the Townsville police force, it takes the intellectual might of Bookman to deduce his true identity)

Slop Spillman

Outrage of the day: changing lawnmower oil requires a PVC tube.  You attach it to the oil drain plug like an upside-down J,and this drains the oil into the bucket/pan of your choosing – instead of the oil dripping onto the frame of the mower on its way down.  Kept this stupid tube in my garage for what seemed like years, seeing it everyday & forgetting what it was for – but I know I didn’t throw it out.   When it was time to do oil change of course the tube hid.  At Lowes couldn’t find the size of the tube I needed on the internet (only replacements for $15) so I just estimated and bought one that was about the size i remembered for idk 79 cents.

Makeshift tube was better than nothing but still spilled some oil.  Went to get extra rags from other garage – and found original tube.


Karena: REX HAS HOMEWORK AND OTHER CHORES TO DO.

Me: I swear the only yardwork I gave him was to pick up a couple of sticks.

Karena: WELL HE’S BEEN OUT THERE ALL DAY I DON’T UNDERSTAND


notice how he says NUDE for no apparent reason in the middle

Edit: the weird “oh” sound i make is not a burp it’s my vocalization of Coach Jrs frequent vacant contemplative looks. It’s become a habit; now i just do it randomly (though afaik at least only when I’m around him)


wed 3/15/17

Wt: 166.4

Karena made Oreo pie for Rex’s birthday. one slice has 884 calories. She got mad at me for telling her this.

CPP: 185,190 x 2

BPS #16: 465 x 1

Time: 60

Obviously i did more than this in terms of multiple warmup sets but NCBY. Have become fond of muscle cleans as a start-the-workout kind of thing.


3/16/17

Wt: 164.6

CGB: 225,235,245,255,265 x 4

HBPS: 225,245,265,275,285,290 x 1

SGDL: 305,345 x 3


3/17/17

Wt: 165.2 parents are visiting; Karena made another pie; people keep taking us out to dinner

CPP: 195 x 1

BPS #16: 475 x 1

SLDL: 300 x 3

time: 69


3/19/17

wt: 166.8 parents have left now returning to regular diet of spinach and misery instead of cake and steak

CGB: 275,280,285 x 3

HBPS: 295,300,305,310 x 1

SGDL: 350,380 x 2

time: 79


Villain profile – Slop Spillman

Background: born Sam Spillman, he was the victim of neglect by his rich parents, who were too busy working, using the internet, and getting divorced to toilet train him.

Consequently he was an outcast at his high school, nicknamed Slop Spillman. Despondent after yet another day of mockery and rejection, he had an extended and hilarious accident that involved getting restaurant garbage dumped on him, being pursued by a pack of stray cats, hiding in a portapot which was emptied with him in it, sitting on a freshly painted park bench, being covered with flour that fell out of a truck, and falling into a sewer.

When Sam climbed out of the sewer, a mysterious old man was waiting. The kindly man helped him get cleaned up, gave him a place to stay, and built him a super-suit which could amplify his natural odors and emissions to horrific levels.

But this old man (really the Bookworm in disguise) expected to be repaid. He talked Slop into doing him a small favor – walking into the Townsville jewelry store in his superhero costume.  Once inside, the Bookworm remote controlled Slop’s suit to release incapacitating amounts of fart gas, knocking the employees unconscious.  The Bookworm (wearing a gasmask) then appeared on the scene and robbed the store.

After the robbery, Sam/Slop was then confronted with a moral dilemma.  Should he turn himself into the authorities and reveal the whereabouts of the bookworm?  Or should he give a bunch of stolen jewelry to the girl he is in love with in order to impress her?

Punch Drunkman

Rented Seven Wonders board game. Was pretty great. Don’t plan on buying but maybe for future Karena present.

But recently I’ve discovered the ultimate two player game without Hsilman’s help.  It is inexpensive, quick to setup, you can select the game length, and there’s no shortage of people who know how to play.  You can even do it with a computer but it’s not as fun.  I taught Karena how and at first she was reluctant but now you could almost say she enjoys it.  Ok I’m setting you up for a lame sex joke but it’s just chess.

I used to be really interested in chess (ca 2007).  I read some books on it, and learned about openings, and then went home and played my brother who afaik knows nothing about it.  He promptly trounced me 2 games in a row and I quit.  Nothing like spending time getting better at something that you should be good at naturally being a mathematically-tactically-strategically inclined thoughtful sort – and then finding out that you are actually worse than terrible.

Rex recently had a chess tournament at school.  He reached the semifinals

Me: You don’t even know how to play.

Rex: Yes I do!

Me: Then explain castling.

Rex: You’re making that up!

But I played him…and he won.  True I was distracted by Coach Jr and I have won our last 11 games.  Probably was good that he won though to build confidence

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When you’re single/childless, Daylight Savings Time is unequivocally bad as you lose an hour of sleep.  The reverse is true of its ending.  When you have kids though, both extremes are blunted as they don’t know about it so in the spring they at least sieep in (and in the fall you don’t get your extra hour of sleep because they wake up at the crack of dawn)

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Villain Profile: Punch Drunkman

Teased for his childhood shyness and fear of public speaking, he became a bully and dropped out of school.  His promising boxing career derailed due to alcoholism, he became a street thug, specializing in punching his victims in the head and rifling their pockets (after uttering his catchphrase).

Catchphrase: I’M GONNA KNOCK YOU OUT…HIT! (yes he actually yells hit when he hits you, yes this is totally telegraphing)

Voice sounds like: Me yelling.

Superpowers: Punching.  Drinking.

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Sun 3/12/17

Wt: 162.6

T/h: 46/75

CGB: 255,265,275,282.5 x 3

HBPS: 275,295,300,305 x 1

BTN: 145,147.5,150,152.5 x 2

SLDL: 295,310,320,330 x 2

SH: 4:15

Time: 86

—–

Mon 3/13/17

wt: 161.8

t/h: 48/68

CPP: 145,155,165,175,180 x 3

BPS #16: 455 x 1

SGDL: 385,405,425 x 1

SH: 5:00

time: 81

 

Pi and Powerman

Raspberry pi update

Our initial project was a retro game console. Strangely Rex wasn’t really interested in this so i finished it myself just to see it through.

Karena was pretty impressed, though…

Karena: CAN YOU PUT PAC MAN ON IT. ALSO QBERT

But since i bought the thing to a) teach Rex “computer stuff” b) work on projects with him; i dismantled the arcade, burned Raspbian onto the sd card and got him started doing Minecraft pi. Which he seems a lot fonder of despite having some initial difficulties*

* Funny only to nerds: he was typing his Python program into the terminal and hitting enter after each line


Rex Powerman/Bookman graphic novel/animated TV show coming out in uh, February

Villain#1: The Bookworm

Talks like: the monarch from venture brothers

Profile: criminal mastermind. Can build robots and weapons. And robotic weapons. Thinks he can eat books (he can’t really; i mean he’ll do it to show off but eating paper is pretty awful). Bent on the destruction of all books. Ruined every volume in the First National Library in Townsville.

Catchphrase: Because…I’m the bookwoooorm!

(Okay this isn’t much of a catchphrase, i know, but if you say it every third sentence it kind of is unique. And also fun)

Sneak preview of episode one…

The Bookworm: Hahaha! I’ll eat every book in this library… Because I’m the bookwoooorm!

Bookman crashes through wall in the Bookmobile (armored van disguised as lame lending library)

Bookman: Books are for reading, not for eating!


3/10/17

wt: 164.6

t/h: 60/82%

CGB: 305,310,315 x 1

HBPS: 245,255,265,275,285 x 1

BTN: 127.5,132.5,137.5,142.5 x 3

SLDL: 265,275,285,295 x 3

SH

time: 80


Sat 3/11

Wt: 163.0

T/h: 50/63

CPP: 190 x 1

BPS #16: 450 x 1

SGDL: 345,355,365,375 x 2

Reverse curl: 65 x 10

SH

Time: 72


Sledgehammer pro tip: don’t hammer concrete that’s under a thin layer of dirt. You will get dirty – all at once.

The Coach and I

a story by Fatman and Brooks Kubik (not)

The bar shifted on my back, threatening to pitch me forward. For a moment I was helpless, stuck under the barbell at the bottom of a squat. A red haze descended; panic froze my brain, my hips, the quads that I’d been working so hard to aesthetically develop. This is how it ends, the thought rose unbidden. Alone in an empty gym on a Saturday night, crushed under a barbell one hundred and fifty pounds lighter than my one-rep max.

Stop leg pressing. The words came to me in a flash of lightning, in a burning bush, in the first fire lit by the first man-ape at the dawn of humanity. Through the veil of agony and approaching unconsciousness I saw them etched in the eternal ice of Mount Olympus. Use your ass instead.

I flexed hard, and drove with my hips. Darkness loomed at the back of my mind, whispering sweet promises, vowing to put an end to the pain. My knees screamed in agony. The bar began to rise — slowly — slowly. I humped my back and used my quadriceps to rise to a standing position. The barbell clattered into the hooks of the rack.

I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror: my face was purple and swollen, my neck bulging with veins. Several blood vessels had burst in my left eye. The overall visual effect was unflatteringly phallic. Blood thundered in my ears; I could imagine the surge in arterial pressure distending the walls of my blood vessels, wreaking havoc on my cardiovascular system, driving murderous clots into my brain. At least exercising is good for the health. At least.

“Another set, you pussy. And don’t bend over so much, it’s not the Phaggalympic Games.”

I have never had reason to consider myself anything but heterosexual, but the voice sent a long-forgotten tingle through my loins: mellifluous yet masculine, deep in timbre, it evoked images of campside nights on the beach beside a crackling fire, the firmament like a speckled shawl cast over the world. Breathing heavily with exertion and surprise, I turned around. There was no one there.

My gaze traveled lower and he came into view. His beard, glorious and black, glistened in the overbright lights of the gym; small hands — a woman’s, a child’s — had lovingly braided it into intricate patterns. A tiny Lego man peeked between the braids, clawed yellow hands clinging on for dear life. Powerful, brawny arms and shoulders stretched the well-worn black sweatshirt. Thick, solid quads flexed and relaxed beneath the faded fabric of the trousers. It was impossible to tell whether the pattern of the latter had been camouflage to begin with, or had turned into one through absence of washing.

“Hello, coach,” I said.

“You’d better pick your game up, son.” Electric blue eyes fixed me with a relentless stare. “That was set number two. Give me three more, and use the Manta Ray this time.”

“Three more sets?” Frantically I searched the database of familiar excuses. “My legs are fatigued from the paused squats, and I think my piriformis…”

“NOT ACCEPTABLE.” A sinister resonance crept into the voice. The Coach’s eyes began to glass over. “I’VE NEVER SEEN A CHILD AS DISGUSTING AND DIRTY AS YOU. YOU ARE OFFAL LEFT BEHIND IN THE BECOMING.”

He reached under the sweatshirt and brought out a tattered ledger bound in calfskin.

“DO YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT I AM?”

“Coach,” I said, but he’d already opened the scrapbook. Glued to dog-eared, yellowing paper I saw the scan of an ancient broadsheet, the grainy image of a small, round, bespectacled man surrounded by the Rough Riders. Teddy Roosevelt atop San Juan hill.

“DO YOU SEE?”

“Coach,” I tried again.

Swish. Another newspaper article: John Henry Davis on the podium in Helsinki, holding the gold medal aloft.

“DO YOU SEE?”

Swish. The printout of a webpage this time, an anonymous Russian lifter breaking the powerlifting record total in the raw drugtested 181 class. In the photograph the lifter’s eyes were scratched out and satanic symbols and messages scrawled into the margins with a black pen — the same pen Coach used for his training log.

“DO YOU SEE?”

“COACH!” I shrieked, seizing him by the cannonball shoulders. The glassiness fled his gaze. He wiped spittle from the corner of his lips and gave me a questioning look. “You were channeling Francis Dolarhyde. You promised never to do that again.”

The Coach does a convincing Red Dragon, and once he surprised us with Buffalo Bill. Bowdozer cried when we got the hose.

“Yes. Well.” He opened his mouth to admonish me some more, but an elderly woman doing partial lunges in the other rack caught his attention. He marched over and began to berate her in a low, menacing tone.

“Hey Fats.” Bowdozer sidled in next to me, looking more chipper than usual. “Nice squat set there.”

“Thanks.” I could see where he was coming from: it had been a high bar rep PR by five pounds. Of course it didn’t matter — nothing mattered, we were all salmon beating our brains out against the sadistic, merciless current of life and we were all going to die anyway — but I let it go. Bowdozer reached into his pocket. A small plastic vial appeared in his hand, full of bright pink pills.

“Got these from the Bolo Yeung wannabe at the bar.” His smile was the smile of a child who’s done something forbidden. “Three to five a day for four to six weeks. Hello Gainzville.” He did a most-muscular pose in front of the mirror.

“Doze.” I hated to piss on his parade, but someone had to say it. “Flush them down the toilet. Now.”

The look of pain and confusion on his face broke my heart. “If- if I c-cycle them, Bolo said it was safe. I mean, it’s not like I’m juicing or anything, just bringing up my test number to levels…”

“Doze.” I glanced over at Coach. The old lady was sitting on a step box and crying, wrinkled hands covering her eyes. The bearded figure crossed over to a bench on which a pair of high school football players were performing the two-man “it’s all you brah” press-row combo lift. He waited until the prone lifter ground to a sticking point, muscles straining and bar refusing to budge, then kicked him hard in the scrotum. The bar descended on the bottom lifter’s trachea, crushing cartilage and vertebrae and his football career. His companion struggled to hold the weight up in vain, the torque wrenching his spine. “You know how Coach feels about steroid use.”

“He’s not going to tell me what to do.” A flush of anger: I could see that the seal on the vial was broken. “If he starts getting on his soapbox…”

“Remember what happened to Prohormone Jimmy.”

That shut him up. Prohormone Jimmy had been a fixture around the gym, as much a part of the inventory as the squat racks and platforms. He was some sort of supplement peddler, an amusing guy who knew everyone and had a funny story and colon cleanse advice for every occasion. The rest of us suspected he was on TRT, but kept our peace.

The Coach hated Prohormone Jimmy, but, unlike his knees, he kept his wrath under wraps, contenting himself with insults muttered into his thick black beard. It all changed one night in the heart of winter, when the days, like Coach’s temper, were at their shortest. The Coach was in the rack, setting up for his twenty-third set of doubles in the squat from pin #10, when Jimmy walked by, waved at him and said “Hi”. A strangled groan was all he got in reply; the Coach wedged himself under the bar, but we could all see that his laser-like focus had been shot. He strained and grunted, but the bar refused to leave the pins.

I’d never seen Coach so incensed. There were dark mutterings about the “guy who just wouldn’t shut up” and how Jimmy had added an hour to his workout and something about switching from Swingline to Boston stapler that I didn’t quite understand. We all suspected something big was about to happen — and we were right.

A few days later I saw Coach sitting in front of the gym’s only computer, composing a post on some kind of gay suicide fetish website run by a mild-mannered Korean fellow with well-developed traps. A week or so after that I spied a peculiar character at the gym. He was small and slender, clad in oversized black sweats and a sleeveless T-shirt that revealed arms corded with sinew. He performed a strange exercise where he would load the Smith machine bar with an uneven number of plates (three on one side, four on the other) and proceed to shrug it up and down a few inches. The Swede and I cowered behind the leg press, waiting with bated breath for the Coach’s inevitable criticism and fury, but to our astonishment he passed by the Smith machine without noticing anything. Or so we thought. Swede even filmed the guy for posterity, Ingmar Bergman style.

The next day Prohormone Jimmy was gone, and so was the strange shrugging creature. We never saw either of them again.

The mere memory of Prohormone Jimmy was enough for Bowdozer. He went into the men’s room and came back with empty pockets, the sound of flushing in the background. Together we sat next to the HammerStrength shrug machine, watching Wo Bist Du practice his snatches on the splintered platform. A nice guy who had left his job and school to dedicate himself 100% to the practice of Olympic weightlifting, Wo was an undying flame of optimism and a pleasantly aesthetic young man to have around the gym. The Coach had high hopes for Wo: in a decade, maybe sooner, he would break Zhou Lulu’s record total from the London Olympics, and then the sky would be the limit.

I tended toward the more realistic view — he would continue to set PRs and qualify for the Nationals, only to be run over by a drunk trucker on his way to the meet; not killed but mangled enough to never lift again — but since none of it mattered, since life was just a trap, a vise that lured the soul between its jaws only to crush it without mercy, I kept my opinion to myself.

“Have you ever wondered,” Bowdozer said, “what exactly is the purpose of this all? What’s the point?”

Wutsthepoint raised his head from a dark corner of the gym, where he had been trying to hang himself with the TRX suspension system; the handles gave him trouble. He waved his smartphone at us.

“Can one of you guys film me? I want to send my final moments to my unrequited crush.”

“Get off that box,” Bowdozer said, working the noose off his neck. “If Coach sees you, you’ll be in trouble. He doesn’t believe in the use of the box for raw lifters. If you’re hanging yourself, it has to be full range, from the top of a muscle-up.”

As if to confirm his words, we saw the Coach do a Rambo crawl behind the weight tree and come up behind a skinny Crossfitter doing high box squats with 225 pounds. He waited for the bony rump to rise off the box, then simply snatched the support away. There was a crash of weights and a blood-curdling cry as the Crossfitter was stapled to the floor; then nothing.

From the parking lot came the roar of a broken engine and the screech of tearing metal; the death-rattle of a machine dying in excruciating agony. Wo dropped a near-max snatch and cursed. CelicaXX bounded in, executing a Choctaw turn to a Biellmann spin. His sleeves were black with motor oil. He offered us a bag of cherries.

“Hey guys, I grew these in a mattress I found outside the closed insane asylum. Have a few.”

“I guess the mattress came pre-fertilized,” Wo said, wrinkling his nose. We all declined the cherries, muttering something about cutting and low carb diets.

“How’s that car of yours?” Wutsthepoint asked. Bowdozer and Wo exchanged glances and snickered.

“Runs like a dream,” CelicaXX replied. A low explosion rattled the windows; the drag queen gym receptionist ducked behind her desk.

“Get back to lifting, maggots.” Coach knocked the cherries from CelicaXX’s hands. They rolled underfoot and were promptly trampled, just like our dreams and ambitions had once been. We shuffled back to the racks and barbells, slaves bound by unseen chains, locked in the Sisyphean struggle against our own insecurities.

Outside the world was going to shit.