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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Weights and Knives

Back a zillion years ago when pterodactyls ruled the air, water was the wild new drink and I was in college, I was into weightlifting. I knew, knew, totally knew that I should do loads of reps with lighter weights -- build strength and gain definition versus bulking up, but I just couldn’t say no to the siren call of competition. It gave me such a charge to sit down on the bench after some fella finished and move the peg down to load on 40 more pounds. We were using those old Universal set ups.

After moving to Boston I wanted to get back into lifting but was really put off by the gyms  I’d seen. They were all racquet clubs, aerobic studios and posh upscale pools -- well out of my price range AND a bit foofy for me. I wanted something more down to earth. Yes, I could have/should have joined the Y but a friend from work told me all about this great gym he went to. It was all free weights -- full of  folks who lifted competitively. NO, I wasn’t into that but I thought it would be an absolutely interesting place.

It proved to be exactly that. The joint was down behind Fenway Park (back when that area was gritty), the men were big and beefy, the two women body builders were stand-offish, the atmosphere was grunty and sweaty.

A few months after I joined, the friend I’d been going with moved on to a different gym. He’d been my spotter and now, in this room full of pro lifters, I felt too ungodly intimidated to partner up with anyone. I’d not made friends.

I was dressed in my big ass grey sweat pants and a tatty old Tshirt -- not exactly the gym bunny look -- when one of the pro lifters came over to say he’d spot me if I did the same for him. It was a sparse night in gym-land -- why else would one of the pros ask me to spot him. That was my thinking anyway.

After a good work out I was all set to hop the T (MBTA -- public transportation) out to Allston (the section of Boston where my roomie Cindy and I lived). The T-Rex said he’d drive me home. I was intimidated, had a vague unsettled MAYBE-this-isn’t-a-good-idea vibe going on but did I listen to me? NO! He insisted and I caved rather than potentially offend a potential new friend and work out buddy.

When I got into his car, he announced that we’d go back to his place because he had to ‘pick something up’ plus, he wanted to show me all the renovations he’d been doing on his house. He lived in East Cambridge -- a section of town which, in 1983, was still pretty local and blue collar. It was also a part of town that I was wholly unfamiliar with. 

I said, ‘oh, my roommate’s expecting me home at 8 -- I can’t be late or she’ll freak and call the cops.’ You can see where my head was at -- that skeevy feeling I had about him had floated clear to the top. And YET I was still trying not to give offense.

When we got to his house, I went inside. I went INside. My need to avoid potential insult, by implying that I didn’t trust him, was way too damned strong! He showed me around, pointing out the renovation projects he was proud of. I attempted appreciation despite the fact that my Oh-My-God meter was ticking way north of Life-Is-Groovy-And-We’re-All-Just-Fine. And then, and then, we got to a small room -- empty of all furniture except a bare single mattress on the floor. I tried to back out but he blocked me.
I said, still acting as though nothing was amiss -- ‘gotta go, man. Cindy’s waiting for me.’ It was then that he put his beefy arm, thicker than a fat Elvis’ thigh, tightly around my shoulders, held a huge, gleaming Chef’s knife up so that I could get a godawful gander and asked ‘are you going to be good?’

I immediately began shaking, rocking and convulsing like an epileptic in mid full on grand mal seizure. I began chanting ‘oh no, oh no, oh no.’  On purpose? NO of course not. Faced with a violent, protracted, painful death (and I was sure of that death bit), I just totally lost my shit (astoundingly, not literally). All I could think was ‘my parents deserve a more honorable death from me.’ Yep, that’s honestly just what I thought. So near a horrid, awful, totally fucked up experience, probably ending in my death and my thought was of how painful this would be for my folks. Odd, odd with a mountain of strange mixed in.

T-Rex dropped the knife from my neck, where he’d been holding it, down to his side. He said, ‘calm down, calm down. I got two girls for roommates, I can get it anytime I want. I’ll take you home now.’

What? Que? ‘scuse me?

He put the knife away and we left. I didn’t want to get into the car, I wanted to run like mad but A) I hadn’t a clue where I was and B) I was in shock. Not shocky enough, as he drove me over to Allston, to have him drop me off at home. Instead I pronounced ‘home now’ and got out in front of a friend’s building.

Hillel wasn’t in but his roommate Paul was. Paul, my hero, my knight in soft, shining armor, comforted me, spoke soothing words and held me while I cried. He turned on all the lights when we got back to my place and stayed until the absolute need to be alone possessed me.

The next day all I could do was call the gym to tell them what happened and say that I would not be returning. I wanted them to know who they had in their fold. Why didn’t I call the cops? It would’ve been my word against his. He hadn’t so much as nicked me -- just scared and threatened me enough for a lifetime or three.

The comedian Robert Klein used to have a bit about the best, most sure fire way to avoid being mugged. He said ‘act crazy’ -- he spoke/joked of doing exactly what I did, that it would freak the assailant right out.

Not planned, not thought of but yes, it did the trick.

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