Tuesday, May 29, 2007


I recently joined World Gym, which I'm very excited about. Unlike my previous gym, it offers classes for me to not attend, as well as a steam room. For me, a steam room is an imperative part of the gym experience. How else am I going to work up a sweat?

As with many other gyms, World offers all new members a free "fitness evaluation" that is really meant to sell their personal training. A form asked me, "At what time of day are you interested in scheduling personal training sessions?" I checked the box that said "Not Interested."

Why do I sign up for the fitness evaluations? I like to know just how quickly my physical decline is progressing. Usually, I get a nice little fitness snapshot, they describe the training rates, I say thanks and resume the same serviceable but unchallenging routine I've done for 10 years.

The form I originally filled out saying that I wasn't interested in personal training sessions had somehow disappeared when I arrived for my evaluation, so I filled it out again with the same answer. The evaluation went like this: cardio test, flexibility test, abs/core test, weights.

For the core test, I nearly developed a spinal injury attempting to stabilize myself on a huge ball -- an activity that, when you think about it, really has no true-life application. For the weights part, I was asked to show what weight exercises I would "normally" do. This was fun because I don't normally do any weight exercises, but I showed the ones that I would do if I ever bothered.

We retired to the office and I got my results. "On cardio, you did pretty well. You exceeded your target heart rate, and your recovery rate was good," said the trainer. "Were you surprised at anything?"

"No," I said. "I pretty much knew that the abs stuff was going to be bad, and anything involving the ball is going to be a disaster."

She nodded. "Your core needs work. You had trouble balancing on the ball, and also could not raise yourself on the ball."

I nodded. I can take the bad news, I thought.

"Also, your abs are pretty weak. The crunches were difficult for you, and you had trouble with the reverse crunches even raising your tail off the floor by a few inches. You need to get much more height than you were getting."

Hokay, I thought. Thanks for the detailed refresher, but I can remember five minutes ago, friend.

The litany went on: my "normal" arm exercises were ineffective, my form was poor, my legs were surprisingly weak on weight machines given my good cardio performance.

"Do you believe in pinch tests?" she said.

What does this even mean? "I... I don't know."

After pinching my leg, she determined that my thighs had "some extra."

"You mean extra fat?" I said.

"Yes," she said.

Then her boss came into the room, and the takedown got serious. I had marked that I was an "advanced" gym user on my form (after 15 years of belonging to gyms, I wasn't sure what else to put), and they disabused me of this notion. The Boss sized me up. "She looks like she holds her breath," he guessed. "Did she hold her breath?" The trainer confirmed that I had, while doing weight reps.

He did some pinching of his own. "See, this is your problem right here," he said while grasping the back of my upper arm. "And this," he said, poking my back, "This is soft. You want some muscle tone."

I took this all with serious nods and a few laughs: Hey, they were telling it like it was. But a little part of me knew that later I would need a long steam to sweat out all of the mortification.

The good news was that I "didn't have far to go" to get in shape, they said, and would "only" need 10 training sessions, to the tune of around $600. I declined, fidgeting under their stares while I explained that I don't have the money right now (a half-truth). The Boss turned his back and began filing papers while the trainer ushered me out politely. Had I gotten the good-cop, bad-cop routine?

"They're just trying to do their jobs and make their money," I told myself, trying not to feel too ashamed as I took myself right back to the StairMaster routine that they had lobbied to shake me out of. The Boss passed me as I huffed away. I gave him a tight smile; he gave me an extra second of unsmiling eye contact before drifting past.

I now have two fantasies: In fantasy 1, I transform myself into Terminator 2-era Linda Hamilton, walk up to The Boss, flex and say, "Feel this? Hard as a rock. And I did it without any personal trainers, sporto," and walk away while he shakes his head in wonder.

In fantasy 2, I go totally anorexic out of spite and tell them it's their fault.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

More Insane Job Ads.

Whenever I want to feel even more despondent than I normally do about my prospects for earning money as a writer, I take myself over to the Gigs/Writing section of Craigslist.

Since it's the gigs section, 90 percent of the entries seem somehow shady and/or undesirable. Since it's the writing section, the pay is nearly always abysmal, if it exists at all. Since it's San Francisco, a good number of the ads have been written by complete loons.

Come browse with me.

1. I don't want to spend too long contemplating what kind of marketing scheme this is attached to, but it may involve sex for money. Can you imagine receiving a handwritten letter that someone was paid a meager 60 cents to write you?

I am looking for someone who would like to take 2 to 3 hours out of their day to write 100 hand written letters. I am paying $60 = .60 cents per letter. I would prefer legible male handwriting. Reoccurring job based on performance and response.

2. Please note the last paragraph of this ad. It is for the Jack Bauer of freelance writers.

What is needed: 6- 8 hours of personal interview/documentation in Santa Cruz, CA, (hours to be arranged), followed by completion of written assignment within 2 days thereafter. Interview must be scheduled before May 29th.

Who is needed: I am a seeking the services of an exceptionally talented and inspired individual with particular skill proficiency in the following areas:
in-depth personal interviewing
investigative reporting
exploration and discovery
extracting and summarizing critical information
expressing with sharp clarity
engaging and sustaining interest of reader
creating continuity in presenting
facts and experiences;
documenting, sequencing events,
circumstances, consequences;
expressing human feelings and emotions
with authenticity, transparency
(pain, futility, effects of trauma)
eliciting compassion of the reader.

Please inquire in response to this posting ONLY if you feel confident in your competence to meet these criteria, as a human life is hangs in the balance. Please attach writing samples or include link to page where samples may be viewed.

3. I actually kind of like this ad. The headline on it was "speech writer with bullshit and passion (5 minute speech)"

Thursday I need to stand in front of ten serious board members and convince them to not fire me. I have a good story to tell, I just need help putting it together. I need help. I cant pay much, but I can pay some and trade stuff too.
4. What I like about this ad is that the writer rails against "shyism" and yet her publication is named Ban Shyness.

My name is Liz and I am shy, I admit it. It has always been a problem for me, a weakness I have been working my whole life to overcome. In society there is definite shyism in the United States. Shyism is discrimination against people who aren't as confident in social situations.

This is what I'm attempting to combat with banShyness. My hope at through the creation of banShyness, there could be a place where cpeople can share their stories, their advice and provide support and young people and adults can find hope.

What I am asking from you now is to give me a little start. If anyone has any stories or anecdotes that they would be willing to share with me so I can start with some solid support.

5. I don't even know what this means.

Conscious Dancer is a new magazine dedicated to dance and higher consciousness. We are preparing mock-ups of our first issues and want stories to fill out our design. Want this piece by June 1.

One thing I'm looking for is 800-1200 words on fire dancing, and the spiritual states it creates.

Byline in the mock ups and first issue. Exposure to sophisticated audience. Possibility for regular placement or payment down the road.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Happy Mother's Day.

So, the other night I had a dream that I was late-term pregnant, and realized that I had never gotten a sonogram or anything, and how could everyone have overlooked that and maybe the baby isn't OK, and then when I looked down at my belly it turned out I was never pregnant at all. I was just fat.

"Man, you really are crazy," was the response I got when relating this dream to the man in the house.

Imagine a world where every conversation, somehow or another, turns to the subject of reproduction. Will you do it, are you doing it, have you done it and how did it go, and most importantly, how do you feel about it? If you are an American female in your 30s, you don't have to imagine this world. You inhabit it.

There are so many babies bursting into the world around me that I can't keep track anymore. I will now say outright that if I have not met your child, I am not taking responsibility for remembering its name. I'd like to be a good friend here, but it's not a matter of will. It's a matter of feeble brain capacity. I 'm sure your Avery or Essex or Bianca is one of a kind, but "the little one" is something I can remember and spell correctly, so that's how he or she will be referred to by me.

"But why don't you want to have children?" my sister-in-law asked me, before she was even my sister-in-law. "I didn't say I don't want to have children," I answered. "I just said I'm not sure. And it's not necessarily up to me. What if I can't? I'm already 35." I made the age reference to to cow her into changing the subject, but she rebounded quickly. "Well," she said, "I was 35 when I had my baby."

I'm not going to run through the pros and cons of parenthood here because most of us, at one time or another, have considered them. Suffice it to say that I do love most children. I do not love all children. My experience with childcare is significant enough to know exactly what I'd be getting into.

My two friends from high school, who are both moms and have always relished haranguing me about something, are now on a campaign to have me a) move back to D.C. and b) have a child. "Listen to me," one of my friends said in a moment of reflection. "I'm telling you where to live and how to live your life, and it's really none of my business."

"That's OK," I said. "At least you're an old friend. I know that if I end up choosing not to have kids, you're not going to judge me, and you'll still be my friend."

We both paused, and I anticipated the joke she was about to make. "Well, I'll still be your friend."

Friday, May 04, 2007

Cranky McCrankerson.

This was a paper-cut kind of week. Nothing went horribly wrong -- in fact, a few things went surprisingly right -- but somehow it still seemed naggingly crummy. I will be attempting to adjust my poor attitude over the weekend, but in the meantime here are some moments and thoughts I feel kind of bad about.

* There are still people working daily on computers who don't know which slash to use when typing a URL. I think that is ridiculous.

* I rolled my eyes behind the back of a fiftysomething woman singing aloud with "The Age of Aquarius" in the Haight-Ashbury Music Center.

* I don't care about your new phone.

* People need to stop having orgasms about Tartine.

* It's a real drag how humorless and needy cats can be.

* I let some edge into my voice with a little girl who called my cell phone twice by mistake.

* I almost turned into the person who writes angry kitchen notes at work after discovering that someone had drunk all my milk but left the carton in the refrigerator with a splash left. Although I composed notes in my head while eating dry shredded wheat, I kept enough of a grip on myself to let it go.

So, next week, yoga class and breathing exercises. Yeah.