Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Blog Slog

I was walking the track at the campus fitness center with my students, and my head was exploding with ideas: good jokes, interesting stories, challenging notions.

It felt like I could start blogging again in earnest. You know, like in the old days, when Gweenbrick was bursting with fun and surprises and we all threw our heads back in tremendous laughter as we read me.

After what seemed like an adequate amount of exercise, I stepped off the track to urinate, and when I lifted my arm to push open the bathroom door, a smell came to me. Oh my gosh, my B.O. smells just like marijuana. Weird.

That one thought detonated in my brain and everything else was gone. The manic rush of creativity evaporated. It was back to flatness; the sterile white square where my mind seems intent on living these days.

I slumped in a chair.

A grey haired man in a 'Wisconsin' sweatshirt began to walk the wrong way around the track. His khaki shorts were kind of high on the thigh for my tastes, but fortunately, his thick-ribbed white socks rose up to meet them.

He was lucky that Ms.Pam was not around; she would have been on him, tearing him to pieces.

When she gave me a tour of the fitness center, she could not stop pointing to the little sign that said on which days you were to walk the track in which direction. 

Apparently, you have to switch it up, or it wears unevenly and people start running funny.

She just kept explaining it to me, with little jerks of her thumb and pivots of her heel.

"Just like on the sign!" she said again, with great satisfaction.

I made the mistake of stepping on to the track before she had finished diagramming the difference between clockwise and counter-clockwise in the air with one crooked finger. 

She screamed, and her body seemed to dry heave angrily. I felt her talons sink into my forearm.

"You have to look," she hissed, and pointed two fingers to her eyes and then all around her, which was good because I did not know how to look and needed a wordless demonstration of what it consisted of.

Far down the track to my left, lazily coming around the bend, a seventy-year old woman was out for a walk, her fanny pack jostling with the slight oomph she was putting into her hips.

"There are other people using the track," Ms.Pam whispered.

The woman finally passed us. Ms.Pam took a breath and did an odd triple feint move towards the wide tan "Walk" path, almost like she was trying to trick parts of her body into getting on the track, maybe the parts that did not want to exercise. 

With a "And.....GO!" we were off and walking.

It was like a long tracking shot in a movie: pan past a dark room full of professional types doing yoga; their bottoms skyward in the ever vulnerable Downward Dog. 

Tilt to show the open basin of the first floor below us, with it's smattering of people on ellipticals and treadmills. I occasionally look down into that pit while I walk laps, but I try not to. It makes me dizzy and I smash into the railing. It happened one time and I made a "ooooh" type sound, and a woman below me looked up angrily. I think she thought I was staring down the crevasse of her sports bra, but really I was just winded and close to falling down. 

Zoom in on the pool, where a matronly lady in a forties style swimsuit leads a Swing Dancin' in the Water class. She is really into it; sashaying gaily forward, little kicks, conservative bottom shimmy and then back again. Her students are a mash of wrinkles and shower caps. No one seems to be doing what the instructor is doing, but they are all smiling.

As we walked, Ms.Pam gave me a tour of the track ahead of us.

"Now it is going to veer slightly to the right, for like a quarter mile, until you end up back where you started. That will be one lap."

Poor, terrifyingly crazy Ms.Pam. It's like she can't help herself.

She told me to take a student, Luke, into the locker room and show him around.

The interesting thing about Luke is that he has alopecia everywhere except on the left side of his upper lip. He grows a half moustache pretty regularly. It's like he is saying a little "screw you" to the hand fate has dealt him.

I love everyone equally because I am that type of person, but if I were to pick one thing about Luke that I do not like, it's that he behaves like a frat boy.

In the mornings, when my unhappiness is usually at its first-half-of-the-day peak, Luke approaches me with arms held straight above his head, presses himself slowly and awkwardly up against my body, and shrieks "SHEST BUMP BRO! SHEST BUMP!" His eyes come up to my nipples.

Even this behavior would be forgivable, if it were all. However, during quiet intervals throughout the day, Luke will try to lay his head on my lap, rub my sore shoulders, or softly run the tip of one finger down the curves of my ear when I am not aware that he has come and stood next to me. I guess it's not just the frat boy parts that bother me, but the I think I'm in love with you parts as well. 

When I clapped Luke on the back and began to take him into the changing room, Ms.Pam exploded.

She yanked me backwards like I was about to walk in front of a train.

"WHAT? Is there something scary in there?!?" I screamed at her, quietly.

Ms.Pam ignored me.

"Now listen, when you go in, you'll see some lockers on your left, and then showers on your right, turn at a 40 degree angle and you will discover....." She went on like this for some time, describing the exact layout of the locker room I was about to walk into and see for myself. The detail was excruciating, yet admirable in its accuracy.

Ten minutes passed, and finally she let Luke and I go in. A naked man was shaving at a sink, his massive tuft of grey pubic hair flush against its edge.

"Whoah", Luke said, in his loud, deep voice.

Though I just can't manage to hate Ms.Pam.

Really I have only ever hated two people in my life. One is Crayfish, the other was a young girl who looked like Alfred E. Newman wearing a long black wig.

I saw her at Autoworld in Flint, Michigan. Autoworld was an indoor amusement park designed to be a riotous celebration of the automotive industry.

You could watch a whole movie about the history of cars while sitting in a seat with a steering wheel attached. Sometimes the seat leaned to the left or tilted very slightly down, though the movements did not seem to correspond with anything going on in the film. 

There was a human mannequin that looked like a Ken doll. Not much to do with him. You could stare for a super long time and try to catch him breathing, but it was kind of a hollow victory. HA! I knew you were human! Had to breathe sometime, didn't ya? And me, I just bided my time....and then...BREATH! Ha ha ha.....wheeee god I love Autoworld...

I think there might have been balloons.

And the highlight of the place, an indoor Ferris Wheel. You could ride it over and over again because no one else was even remotely interested. At the top, there was a beautiful view of the ceiling lights. They were pretty big. 

I encountered the girl I hated in the bumper cars. Even though they were slow and lacked satisfying impact, like punching someone in a dream, there was something to be said for being able to drive your own car and hit people with it. I kept smashing my vehicle into hers and thinking, I don't like you. 

Knowing how stupid and mixed up little kids are, probably what I was really feeling was I like you, you look like the Mad Magazines I am not allowed to read, therefore you are forbidden fruit and if I cannot have you I will kill you with my slow moving, thickly padded car on a stick. Do you like CHiPS? God if I had Ponch's hair and his easy way with the ladies you would be mine WHAM WHAM 

And with each bump of our cars, she slipped further from me.

I don't know why I remember her so clearly. Maybe I don't. Maybe it is a false memory.

Maybe I have actually hated lots of people, but I doubt it. Overall, I am pretty incredible and most of my flaws are thinly disguised strengths. This comes in extremely handy when applying for jobs.

Of course I am just kidding; I am a terrible person.

Speaking of that, several wonderful readers have suggested to me recently that I should write a book.

First let me say, these emails and messages I have recieved from actual live people have made my day, my week, my month. I cannot over-emphasize how flattered I am. Every time I get one, I read and re-read it, thinking, are they actually talking about me???? 

So thank you.

Secondly, I will probably never write a book because I am at the ruthless mercy of my changing emotional health. Everything keeps deflating on me.

I don't want to be a Debbie Downer though.

My main hope with this blog is to make you laugh, at least once per post, and I feel like if I do that, then things are OK.

Just ask my wife: when I finish a post, I hover around her nervously, waiting for the laughs. It's a lot of pressure on me. If she does not laugh at all, I throw the computer at the neighbors' dog and don't come down from the roof till sunrise. Because I am a disgusting aged baby with little marshmallow feelings and enough oversensitivity to make a Care Bear blush.

If she does laugh, though, then, after we analyze what parts she laughed at and why, usually in a three-part moderated discussion, I sit back, hit the 'Publish' button and obsessively refresh the "Stats" page, waiting for the little numbers to rise.


  1. I started laughing so hard at the Miss Pam drawings that I had tears. It IS that funny. And now I have to go fix my make-up. Your blog is the highlight of my blog reading. I get so excited when I see a Gweenbrick post that I save it for last, like dessert.

    1. Hey thanks a lot Danielle-I wish I had more time to draw, but I have to cram it in and it always feels like an unneccessary add-on, its just easier to write it all out, but I like it better when it's all balanced and flowing and beautiful to me

  2. Why is there no illustration of the old man at the sink with his tuft of gray pubic hair pressed against the counter?



    I curse you! Can you make a large oil painting of that scene and sell it on eBay for me? Work some purple in it so it will match my master bedroom walls. Thanks.

    1. I visualized that so clearly I actually thought there WAS a drawing...

    2. Mandy, this is, at its heart, a family blog, and so there will be no illustrations of the scene you requested. Think of the goddam children, Mandy.

    3. I'm so ashamed. And yet I can still see that gray merkin as though I was actually there, standing beside you in slack-jawed horror.

    4. ???? i thought "merkin" was a category of pickle

    5. That would be a very hairy pickle indeed.

  3. I love your blog because even the parts that aren't laugh-out-loud funny are descriptions of what you see and think that feel like what I would see and think but can't express myself. I love that. I have found that the people I know or read or whatever that are interesting and creative and funny and interesting tend to only about 100% of the time be people with emotional struggles. Doesn't seem fair but maybe that's the price to be paid for not being a boring shallow douchebag. Also, Miss Pam is a babe.

    1. But the whole thing is laugh-out-loud funny. All funny, all the time. I'm never off. Ever. Even this comment is pure gold. It's so funny I don't know how to end it. I literally cannot stop laughing at myself, or typing. Thank you for saying such nice things about me (NeoCleo?)

  4. I tweeted the part about the swim class students being a mash of wrinkles and shower caps (with attribution to you, of course) because it made me laugh. I also agree with what Anonymous said. And Ms. Pam would make me a nervous wreck. Too much talking!

    1. you tweeted me? cool! i dont know if that has happened before...and she does talk a ton, its like a crazy ride to nowhere

  5. That last part, I totally get. Except I can't draw, and being funny is very, very hard. But the neurotic part, I totally get. I think you're pretty fabulous, and figure you probably know you are, too, but no one likes to come out and say 'I'm awesome' without following it with LOLs. Because then you just sound like an a-hole.

    1. Hi Kelly-that is so nice of you to say! It's incredibly hard! I never really realized how complicated sense of humor can be, all the subtle things that go in to someone finding you funny or not; background, education, state of inebriation, etc.

  6. Another awesome blog post! I refuse to believe that you aren't going to write a book. Will our constant pestering help?
    I think Ms Pam and I would both self destruct if left alone for any amount of time. I sometimes have to medicate myself to keep the ever-rising sense of panic under control after reading about her. Really, that poor woman makes me have heart palpitations! I can not imagine what it must be like to interact with her regularly!

    1. Hey Starle-it's awful, not in like a tragedy kind of awful of course, but more of a constant terrible hum kind of awful.

  7. beutiful for share this article and enjoy read for me thanks...

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  9. Oooooo! ooooo! - Gweenbrick's gonna write a book! excitement etc and then ohhhhhh :( Gweenbrick's not gonna write a book. You know all those people who say you ought to are right and I know you say you don't think you can but you know you could and maybe you will and if you do please put me down for a copy.