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Mar/Apr 2001 issue (#50)


'60s Dream Lives On

Party Troopers

Suit Filed Against George W. Bush

"Friends in High Places"

Baby Bush Bombs Baghdad

Don't Put the Utilities Back in Charge

Biblically-Grounded Movements For Progressive Change In Washington

How to Run for City Council

Mad Cow: Coming to the U.S.?

Monoculture and Mad Cows

Itching to Ride Light Rail

Is Work Killing You?

Escaping the Globalized Gym

Seattle's Clattering Poets

A Puppetista Manifesto

Living Outside Empire

Don't Put the Utilities Back in Charge

ACORN's Falling

Social Transformation Explained? Technogod

Spokane Free-speech Battle


Reader Mail


Urban Work

Media Beat

Nature Doc

Rad Videos

Do Something!

Reel Underground

Escaping the Globalized Gym

by Glenn Reed, contributor

I was in my gym’s locker room and had just put on my shorts and polypropylene long-sleeved shirt. As I laced up my running shoes an acquaintance walked in and said hello.

“You’re going running in this weather?” he asked me with genuine disbelief, staring at my outfit as if it was a tuxedo at a costume party. It was January in Seattle, raining fairly hard outdoors, and a stiff wind was blowing. However, these are hardly conditions to deter a true runner. Being from Vermont, I’m accustomed to running in conditions ranging from sub-zero cold that leaves mini-icicles hanging from my beard, to humidity that has me feeling like a bathroom towel in the washer before the spin cycle kicks in.

“What weather?” I replied, not meaning to sound sarcastic or condescending, but maybe I seemed that way. How to convey to non-runners that experiencing the weather is all part of the joy of running? It wasn’t the first time that I’d fielded such a question at this facility, or the last time.

Meandering through the gym on the way out for my aerobic dance with the elements, I paused to look at the people around me and a number of things struck me as odd. I’m sure that most of those marching in place on exercise machines and staring out at Aurora Avenue traffic while running nowhere on treadmills, saw something peculiar about me as well.

Upstairs there was a thirtyish woman clad in black tights chugging away dutifully on a StairMaster. Little red circles of light told her when she’d be breathing harder, that is if she ever took time to look away from the People magazine she read. A Walkman masked the noise of the gym from her. Without it she’d have been peppered with a cacophony of irritating “thump, thump, thump” house/dance “music,” grunting and panting, whirring and clanging. Her legs moved up and down like pistons, indistinguishable from the machine as she impressively multi-tasked.

Seated nearby on one of the weight machines, an immaculate man of about 40 or 45, Nike swooshes placed strategically across all his apparel, sighed audibly after a set and stared up to one of about eight TV monitors hanging from the ceiling. It displayed crawling ticker tape stock information as numbers and bar graphs flashed on the screen at one to five second intervals. His expressions conveyed dutiful concern. He was not the same guy who habitually parked his CO2-belching SUV in front of the window (even when the parking lot was three-quarters empty), but he could have been.

Clustered around the bench-press, two barrel-chested men chatted while their companion jerked up from his prone position beneath the barbell to answer the digitized jingle of his cell phone. He proceeded to tell his wife what weight he was up to and then took instructions on what to purchase for dinner at the nearby market. The volume of his voice rose to the level of the aerobic instructor in an adjoining room as she parceled out instructions on a microphone.

Suddenly I felt claustrophobic, irritated, alienated. I dashed for the door, craving the touch of the elements as a cold splash of water on my face.

The night lifted the burden immediately with the sound of gusting wind, the feel of pelting rain, the focus of my mind on rhythm, movement, the challenge of dodging scattered puddles or the fun of landing dead-center in one. I was alone: unplugged, understimulated, unbranded, un-soundbyted, unmeasured, untimed and un-market-targeted, un-categorized , un-evaluated, un-globalized and unreachable in an emergency.

And it felt damned good.


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