Monday, February 09, 2009

It was very warm yesterday

I recently joined a gym here, finally. The red lights might be going off in your head right now saying "New! Year! Resolution!" right now, but no. This has been on the agenda for a while now, only there was always something better to do than to go subject myself to a gym representative for a solid hour who would drag me through one miserable facility or the next and talk to me like he's trying to sell me a 1988 Taurus station wagon rather than a gym membership.

Anyway, I am now the esteemed member of the Manhattan Sports and Health Club. No, not the New York Sports Clubs. That place is even more frightening than a Manhattan Whole Foods on a Sunday afternoon. It's always crowded to the point where I begin to fear for the buildings' safety: I doubt a lot of these New York buildings were built to stand up to the constant galloping of Wall Street consultants and ambitious interns who go to these clubs to get the day out of their system with a good 10 miles/minute jog.

This place, since it doesn't take from the main pool of gym goers, I think is left with mostly the stranger demographic of people who frequent gyms. Not strange as in what I was used to when I was still going to school, this is a different sort of crazy. In Chicago, it was a normal sight to see girls with long, stringy hair hit the treadmill in long flowy skirts and with bare feet, guys with thick glasses slipping down their sweaty noses while using the elliptical reciting Greek verbs aloud and making sure their feet reached the bottom of the stride right on the downbeat of the classical music piece they were listening to. We were just a bunch of nerdy students who, after a full day curled up in uncomfortable positions in the library to stay awake while reading our Derrida and Smith, needed to get the blood circulating through our bodies once again.

The other night when I went to the gym here, there was a young Broadway hopeful with the score to a show open in front of her, singing the tune while simultaneously using the elliptical. I have seen a man in a button up shirt and dress slack hit the treadmill. And tonight in a class, while an older woman twisted her legs behind her head to get a deep stretch, the older man sitting in front of her started talking about how she has to go to a certain psychologist because of some great connection she has with DNA.

The people at this gym also come in all different shapes and ages. At school, the overwhelming majority of the people were thin, malnourished, weak students. Here, the age group of gym goers ranges from 20-95, scarily thin to gigantic, sculpted like a body builder to wiggly like a bowl of pudding. Which brings me to the belly dancing teacher. The first time I went to the class, I asked someone else there who the teacher was. Without my glasses, a third grade boy jump roping at the front of the class could can easily pass for a belly dancing teacher. The other student said I'd know when I saw her, she was hard to miss. Just as she said this, a formidable Russian woman came busting into the room with her gigantic chests squeezed into a sports bra and her bottom half jiggling like it had its own mind in a pair of baggy gaucho pants. The student was right: it was really hard to miss her.

And you might wonder why, just as why I'm taking French, why I would be attending a belly dancing class. I'm not a creature of grace, the closest I come to being graceful is threading a sewing needle, nor am I incredibly coy and seductive. At least not in belly dancing. It's a different story when I'm peeling an orange. It's mostly because why not? and because I live with 2 girls who complain about not being able to fit into size 0s anymore at stores, and because I haven't been able to laugh at myself at no one's expense for a long time. It's been "Ahhhh, you mean the final is in an hour and NOT 3 days from now?" and "OH! I was supposed to write that addendum a month ago and not today?" for a while now, and just every time I screwed up, there was always a consequence. Here, I can suck at shimmying across the room with absolutely no adverse consequences aside from making a fool of myself, and it looks every so much more interesting when I do it because you never know what part will unpredictably jiggle next. This might be the only place where it's acceptable to have a little extra. So perhaps I am one of the crazy people who goes to the gym here now, on second thought. The biggest exercise I do is not only to run 5 miles on the treadmill, but to just be able to laugh healthily at myself when I make a mistake that doesn't matter.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

All around goodness

I very recently started taking a French class. You might be wondering why I'd do this at all, considering what a hard time I had with speaking, nay, life in general when I was taking Spanish and Italian class. Do you know what it's like carrying around two "pocket sized" dictionaries the size and weight of bricks every day? It's really terrible. Malo. Cattivo. What would be worse, though, would be not being able to express just how terrible life is in 4 different language. Or asking where the bathroom is when you really really have to go in any country where these languages are spoken.

From my short time getting acquainted with French, I can already tell we're not going to be good friends. On speaking terms, if you will. You see, with Hungarian, Spanish, Italian, what they all have in common is that the speaker rolls his R's. In fact, I sometimes maintain that the only reason I passed Spanish and Italian was because if all else failed, I could sit there and roll my R through class, thereby tricking the teacher into believing that why yes, I AM a pro at the past subjunctive! I could also roll every r that showed up in a word for 3 minutes at a time if they liked, demonstrating to everyone how to do so.

In French, though, I can't even pronounce my name correctly. Whereas in the past I could purr my name, "Adrianna" starting out as a soft aria crescendoe-ing after the "r" into a loud fortissimo, leaving no doubt in the listeners mind that the speakers name IS Adrianna, and it DOES have at least one r somewhere in there, in French it sounds like I'm trying to hack something out of my throat when I try to pronounce my name the "right" way. And all the letters you don't even bother pronouncing! Where I come from every letter is enunciated, even if not clearly, usually not giving preference to a b over an f, the speaker realizing that every letter there is for a reason, and should be pronounced. (Okay, maybe in English this isn't supposed to be the case. I do bother saying "-ing"s for instance. Yes, when I say "ganging" you can here EVERY g) In French, I think half of the alphabet figures in every word, and you pronounce about 2 of the letters. And I stink at this. Every letter has a job and damnit, they are going to do it even if the word ends up being slaughtered by the time I reach the end of it!

The class is an assorted group of young, old, tolerable, intolerable people. But coming together in one room like this asking each other politely what nationality they are and where they are from really pulls everyone together. As I have experienced in the past, even if I suck at this French thing, I am looking forward to the class ditz and the old ladies role play as Cristophe and Florence at the bus stop who meet up with their old friend Brigitte on her way to the Louvre, struggling through expressions like "tres bien" and "je mapelle." And there is nothing more entertaining than talking about relationships and all the frommage you like in languages you haven't mastered yet. You know, I don't even know if I spelled any of those French words correctly right there.

So in closing, I think a lot of the world's problems would be solved if major political leaders just sat together and took a foreign language class. Maybe they wouldn't solve any problems, maybe they'd still hate each other at the end, but during the class they would both be humbled at one point, and recognize that one or the other can order a coffee or ask the butcher for 3 pounds of meat like a FIEND. And they would be forced to ask each other what they did that weekend.v