My Japanese art class has been studying depictions of the many Buddhist hells. (Number varies, depending on who you are reading and what you are talking about.) My own version of hell is exemplified by my fitness center. Of course, I should be there right now, instead of sitting here writing this. I’ve always thought about the weight machines as torture devices, watching some of the men groaning and sweating as they increase weight. Since I haven’t been getting there as often as I should, they torture me with just a minimum of weight. But they are not the only form of torture.
There is a large workout room across from the entrance to the women’s locker room. When class is in session the music is so loud I find it painful to walk past. I couldn’t take one of those classes; the loud sound would be more torturous than the exercise. That’s clearly Hell #1.
The locker room is not hellish, although it does have its moments. I wish I could take pictures in there. The woman who usually takes care of the room (cleans the toilets) is short, fat and always decorated with at least ten pounds of assorted rings, bracelets, earrings and necklaces. Her hair is different every time I see her; sometimes short and multicolored; other times covered with an elaborate wig. The variety of nude and semi-nude bodies is amazing. Being fat myself, I am especially fascinated with the really fat women. I am also fascinated with the occasional woman who will walk around nude completely unselfconscious. I couldn’t do that even when I was young and thin.
Which reminds me, there was an exhibit at the Pitt Union this week called the Century Project, a chronological series of portraits of nude women with statements from or about them. I spent a lot of time looking at the pictures, reading the statements and I still don’t know what I think about it. The idea, of course, is to make us understand what real women look like, as opposed to the airbrushed, or photoshopped, venuses we get in the media. It works, but I have a feeling it should have been better; I just don’t know what I would do different.
Back to hell in the health club: TV. They used to have 8 or 10 sets around the room. You listened with your own earphones, so there was no sound involved. I read when I’m on the bike, but I will watch when I’m on the treadmill. The sets had closed captioning, so I never bothered with the headphones. Now they’ve upgraded to individual sets on each machine, but no closed captioning. TV is torture, with or without audio. I spend most of my time on the bike.
The final torture is also something new: they’ve added a small cafe with salads, sandwiches and smoothies, advertised all over the place. Now you can expend all that energy while the think about food the whole time. I can’t think of anything worse.