Monthly Archives: March 2013


Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes when it doesn’t, it does.

What am I talking about, you ask?

It’s the magic of getting a discount hotel room, then slipping the desk clerk a $20 bill.  I’ve gotten some amazing upgrades that way.  To a suite, the last two times.  I was bragging about that to my friend Donna at lunch today.  My partner and I were on our way to a night in Cincinnati, and had stopped in Bloomington for lunch.

I’d scored a $130 room at hotel that would have been $199 otherwise. At the coolest place–it’s a contemporary art museum as well as a hotel.

We parked at a garage around the corner–I was being a bit of a cheapskate.  As we checked in, Dan (I’ll call him), the young desk clerk, told me we would receive a complimentary upgrade to a “deluxe” king room.  Hmm, I thought.  Maybe I don’t need to tip him.

Oh, what the heck.  Let’s see what happens.  I hand him my credit card with the $20 underneath.  Smile.  “Please pick out a nice room for us.”

“Sure, sir,” he replies.  He starts tapping at his keyboard, and I’m thinking this is going to be good.   He finally hands me the key cards.  407.

Fourth floor in a ten story place? Doesn’t sound that great.  Well, we’ll see.  He escorts us to the elevator, offering to carry my bag.  “This is a nice room?” “Yes, sir.”

We find it. Beautiful-stunningly beautiful.  But small.  Not a great view.  

Not a room that you give a tip to get.  And then I realize–maybe this kid doesn’t know how this game works.  He seemed a little nervous; probably new. Maybe he just thought I was a nice generous guy. I was a little pissed.  Oh, what the hell, I think.  You win some and you lose some. I can’t call the desk and bitch that he didn’t upgrade us to a something spectacular, can I?

We’ve got 90 minutes until our dinner reservation nearby, so I change into my workout clothes. In the elevator on the way down to the fitness center is a penguin sculpture.  Cool!  The place is amazing.

The workout room is beautiful, with the best array of cardio machines, free weights, and even complicated-looking machines with pulleys and stuff I’ve seen in a hotel.  Because I’m not familiar with these machines, and strained my right arm with dumbbells a couple of days before, I decide to get on the treadmill.  It asks me for all sorts on data–age, weight, etc., and then wants starts up.  It seems to want to measure my pulse continually, which would be holding the handles non-stop, and also keeps speeding up–like the assembly line in the famous I Love Lucy chocolate-factory episode.  I can’t find a way to slow it down, so I stop it and figure out how to do a manual program.

40 minutes later, I’m really sweaty.  Didn’t have much stamina, but, hey, I worked out.

As I enter our room, the phone rings.  It’s Jacob (as I’ll call him), from guest services.  Apologizing because there’s still no hot water and they don’t know when there will be any. There may not be enough water pressure for a shower.

I tipped the desk clerk $20 and he didn’t even tell me there’s no hot water????  While I was checking in, a guy passed by the desk and said, “The water running?” Someone at the desk replied, “Oh, yes.” 

“Water is good,” I said to Dan. “Yes, sir, it is.”

So now they tell me there’s no water.  When I’m soaked with sweat and it’s time to change for dinner.

“We’re not going to charge you for the room, sir,” Jacob says. “And if you’d like, we can moive you to the Westin, on us.” We decide to move to the Westin after dinner. 

Well, I say to my partner, I can just towel off. “When I washed my hands before, there was hot water,” he says. I turn on the shower.  It’s warm.  I get a nice shower.  The water starts out warm and gets gradually cooler, but it lasts long enough.  great towels, too.  Sorry I didn’t get to try the robe.

We check out.  Dan (at whom I want to scream, “Why didn’t you tell me about the water?” and “What do you think the fucking tip as for?” but am pleasant to) and his colleagues assure me that they’ll get me a refund through Hotwire, and after about 15 minutes produce a letter to the Westin (“Hey–is there letterhead in the printer back there?”).  

We get the car and drive to the restaurant. My partner inadvertently say something that hurts my feelings, and I snap at him.   Some relationship frustrations boil over. 

We get what should have been a wonderful Korean dinner, but, barely speaing to each other, it’s not much of a spring-break party for us.

When we get to the Westin, I don’t bother trying to tip the desk clerk.  Any room is fine.  And it is. It’s nice.   Ordinary, pretty big, better view, and “nice.”  Nothing spectaculer.  

He went right to bed.  I do some work on my iPad, and write this.

So the tipping magic didn’t work.  But we did end up with a free room.  That’s the magic that did work after the first magic didn’t.  And now we can use a little more magic.



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Getting Over “Gymtimidation”: How I Did It

It’s quite remarkable, and in some ways unfortunate: I can sit on an airplane and post things on the Internet. I subscribe to a monthly service, Boingo (the focus groups that led to that name must have been quite something), which must be charging some account of mine somewhere a monthly fee, and it turns out it gets me Internet access not only in a number of airports but also on Delta. So even here, after 10:00PM, a mile or so above Pennsylvania, I imagine, I am not free.

My daughter and I were watching television for a while, taking a little break from from the truly extraordinary views from our corner “junior” suite in the Millenium Hilton, and an ad for Platnet Fitness came on. A shy woman sat wrapped in a towel, while other women in tight spandex workout clothes talked to each other about how hot they were. “Break free of gymtimidation !” the ad offers. “It’s not a gym, it’s Planet Fitness.”

“Gymtimidation.” I love it. Turns I’m not the only one–the spot has been written up in the NY Times and other places.

This ad is aimed at women, obviously, but it will echo for many men.

I think I may actually have something resembling post-traumatic stress disorder, so humiliated and shamed was I by failing all but the sit-up portion of the Presidential Physical Fitness Tests in fourth grade, getting picked after some of the girls for games in elementary-school phys-ed games, and the subsequent humiliations and harassments.

I was the worst tormentor of all, I now realize. I bought into the idea that a boy’s worth was based on how muscular and athletic he was. I believed I was seriously defective as a person and as a male because of my, well, condition. And through a combination of hopelessness and laziness I didn’t do anything about it, like exercise or really try to get better at sports.

My “exercise365” project, which I mentioned in my last post (with all this Internet time on an airplane and two days ago most of a day in the Minneapolis airport, I seem to have taken up blogging again), in which I’m doing some form of exercise every day, is part of my adult self healing the little boy who hung on the pull-up bar, unable to hoist himself up. I started it with no goals other than to get more energy, release some stress, help out my blood sugar, and hopefully ward off Alzheimer’s Disease, which has turned my mother into a cheerful lady with a toddler’s vocabulary, and which I diagnose myself with regularly.

Amazingly, I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m beyond “gymtimidation,” where I don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks about my body, and where I’m realizing that people really don’t care all that much about it anyway. So I’m quite comfortable going into the the Fitness Center at the university where I teach, and lifting lighter weights than the college guys.

I’ve made earlier forays into exercise. 25 years ago I was swimming regularly; when I got busy with work and a new child I got out of the habit. I’d gotten over my gymtimidation then, but it had come back by the time started working out seriously about 2000 or 2001. I remember being immensely uncomfortable going to work out with weights–something I’d never done much of–when I started a “transformation” program called Body for Life. I got over it then, too.

Once again I stuck with it for quite a while, many months in fact. I lost about 40 pounds, and my doctor was really impressed with my spectacular blood-sugar and lipid levels. Feeling too busy, I cut back and, oops, got out of the habit all together. It happens to a lot of people.

There was something more. It was that I still felt there was something wrong with my body. That it was inferior. I felt it needed to look a certain way, lean and muscular. And the more I worked on it, the further I felt I was from it. I’d weigh myself, I’d look in the mirror, and I just hated what I saw. The striving made the body-image problems worse. I just didn’t know to recognize that that’s what was going on. So I stopped hitting my head against the wall, so to speak.

Finally, a little over two years ago, I was on sabbatical in NY, and from the window of my room I could see people running on treadmills and working out on elliptical machines in the windows of the NYSC gym up Broadway a block. I was had teacher’s burnout and caretaker’s burnout, and was thoroughly exhausted and depressed. So I went in and joined.

I knew I might not go regularly. And I knew I had to do something. I’d had a session with a terrific personal trainer, Chris Fernandez, and I bought a very expensive package of training sessions with him–expensive enough that it would really hurt if I didn’t show up for one.

All my body issues came up. Especially because I was burned out and depressed. By now, though, with even more therapy under my belt, I knew what was going on. So I just told Chris everything. And he’d just listen, non-judgmentally, and gently encourage me.

After a while, I was feeling a lot better (and in a lot better shape). When the dark clouds had lifted, I told Chris, and he got tougher with me and pushed me harder.

When I got back from my sabbatical, I kept up the running I’d taken up. Weight lifting or other strength training I let slip. By the time January 1, 2013 came around, I realized I needed more energy and that my weight was creeping up.

So I made a commitment, inspired by Michael Moore’s walking every day for 30 minutes, to do some kind of exercise every day this year. Something Moore wrote really clicked for me. it was about walking every day to feel better, not walking to lose weight or look better–even though those things happened as by-products.

It’s not about “getting better.” It’s about not trying to get better. It’s just participating in a process. And it has been tremendously liberating.

I went back to the gym without the old intimidation feelings being triggered. And without the “there’s something wrong with my body [and therefore me] and I need to fix it [and thereby me]” crap going on. It’s been quite fun.

Sometimes I slip into comparing my body to those of others, or getting mad at myself for not having reached an impossible ideal. But I recognize it and can step out of that internal quagmire.

And I have lost some weight. And I do have more energy.

And as of today, I’ve done some kind of exercise every day for 69 days. Not bad.

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To Blog, to Tweet, or to Facebook?

When I first started blogging, which I think was in 2005, it was new and exciting and a great way to connect with people. My inspiration was a series of sabbatical trips to New York, and I wrote about my experiences going to concerts. Once back to full-time teaching, the pace dropped off. Two years ago, I was living in NY on my next sabbatical, and wrote again about going to concerts. The blog had some brief popularity; I’d meet people in NY new-music circles and they’d say things like, “Oh, you’re a writer,” and “I read your blog.”

“Life, the cello, and everything,” I originally subtitled the blog, which migrated from Blogger to WordPress and became my temporary website. I’d gone through various phases of frequent writing–often when I have time on my hands–and infrequent writing (when I’m busy or depressed or both).

When I write here, it usually takes some thought. Very often it’s an internal wrestling match, because ideas form while I write and they don’t present themselves in a nice linear fashion. It’s all twisted and turned and convoluted and I’m not sure what I’m trying to say.

The short life-and-everything sorts of things that I would post on the blog now go on Facebook (I only decline FB requests from what appear to be fake people who have no friends; often there’s a photo of a pretty young woman with a foreign name, and I know it’s someone fishing in the wrong pool). I tried Twitter out for a while, and occasionally I go through a bit of a Twitter burst–once again, when I have time on my hands, especially too much of it.

When I write here, it gets posted on Facebook and Twitter automatically. It’s interesting to see that blogging, unless it’s serious reporting or extensive commentary, seems almost anachronistic. I’d tell a young performer she needs a great Facebook fan page and Twitter account long before a blog, and maybe doesn’t even need a blog.

I’m involved in a big personal project, one that’s been going on for over two months. I post about it on Facebook every day–that’s actually part of the project–but I’ve never been moved to write about it here. Facebook has taken over a lot of what I used to blog about.

The project, exercising (heavy or light, but something) every day in 2013, is something I want to make more public. Where a few years ago my immediate response would have been to start a new blog or website, right now I’m thinking more about a Facebook page or group and a Twitter feed. Times change, I guess.

If you have read this far, you have probably deduced that I have too much time on my hands today. Yep! I’m having a nice long break in an airport, courtesy of snowy weather in New York.

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