Thursday, January 05, 2006


So we've got these fairly amazing bodies that serve us and carry us places and that give us clues as to who we are in the vicious realm of appearances. And generally we are pretty good at covering them up and scrubbing them down and not thinking too much about the carnivorous, feverish, decomposing, malodorous and rotting nature of human flesh. On the whole, our relations with our bodies tend to be perfumed and mythic if slightly nagging. And just as good fences make good neighbors, so too can much of our energy go into taming and training (and recarving) the outlines of the body to delight our eyes as well as the eyes of others. In Los Angeles it is the neighborly thing to do.

With that said, there seems to have been very little progress in the way gyms operate in the last, say, two thousand years. Typically, one goes to a fluorescent-lit cement box with horrible acoustics, blaring music that no one wants to hear, and a design aesthetic based around giant logo displays in clashing neon colors. It goes without saying that the smells are really what it's all about. I tell you that you have not lived until you've ventured into the men's bathroom at Gold's in Hollywood trying to hold your breath but losing it after a minute and finally inhaling the bouquet of freshly evacuated steroids. Are we getting hungry? OK, I'll stop.

My point is simple. Rethink the gym. For starters, let's start using all that energy that's being generated by pedal grinding legs and iron pumping arms to power homes and electric cars and hospitals and discotheques. Recently someone told me a great story about Ben Franklin and his front gate. Guests would drop by the Franklin estate and they would have to really knock themselves out to slowly nudge the gate open enough for a horse carriage to pass through. "Let me send someone over to help you fix that damn gate!" guests would kindly offer. "Why would I do that?" said Franklin, "then I'd have to pump my own water from the well." Genius. So, figure 20 minutes on the treadmill could generate three hours of heat and hot water in a homeless shelter. I mean there are so many frigging engineers and electicians and urban planners graduating from top notch schools. People let's get on this!

Secondly, foster community through music. Forget the piped in techno. Trust me, no one, not even the most pill-popping, juiced-up, Neanderthal is gaining any benefit from those spastic synthesizers. True, the right music can bring a jolt of excitement to any sagging workout. How about a live band? I mean a really good live band. One that has studied for years at an exclusive Swiss conservatory the way the body responds to certain sounds and crescendoes and chordal progressions and then spent years on the road performing before jaded pirates and stubborn shoegazers. And why not cellos? I mean isn't
it just a little too predictable to let the raw energy of the Sex Pistols or Led Zeppelin get your mojo up? Sometime the body replenishes not in reaction to a wall of sound, but to a single, beautiful note.

With a band comes a stage. A more theatrical experience. So if you are starting a gym, forget the empty warehouse space. Look for a charismatic old theater, crumbling and creaking and full of ghosts. Arrange the equipment accordingly, where the seats and boxes used to be. Arrange the equipment with the precision of an orchestra: rowing machines in front. Stairmasters and other Cardio equipment in the center. Free weights and chin-up bars in the mezzanine. Pilates and jump ropes in the boxes. Lighting and visuals are key. I saw The Flaming Lips once, and I don't really love them much, but the thing that got me going (besides the smuggled in tequila) was the full wall projection of ladies in leggings (circa 1985?) doing aerobic exercises in perfect synchronization to the music. Good visuals can trigger a great adrenaline rush.

Ah rats, there's so much more to explore here, but alas, time won't let me. Off to the cactus farm. More on that tomorrow maybe.


Blogger CP said...

The gym is merely the discoteque of the new millenium. Sweaty bodies, too loud music blaring over the speakers, people mingling. The old "would you like to dance" is now "do you want me to spot you"? Don't kid yourself about places like "Curves" either. It's just a new place for the old, fat and bi-curious to express themselves and find acceptance.

Did I mention I was a member?

Love your blog.

12:29 PM  
Blogger Babycakes said...

Patent that idea!! Send it to the venture capitalists!!!! Throw in a monkey pit!! And Cirque du Soleil! And a basketball court entirely covered in astroturf, floor to ceiling, with forest sounds...

I love it and I think it would really fly here in LA. If only we were wont to devote our lives to a gym.

3:28 PM  
Anonymous l.c. said...

an excellent idea!
combined with my genius we have a plan:
take this one step further by providing free mc donald cheese burgers and fries to everyone at lunch. all the better to work off in the evening. !!!!!
mc donalds would become a non profit
mmmmmmmmmmm fries mmmmmmmmmmmm

2:17 PM  

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