So something I do when I’m not stuffing my face with junk food writing my novel at the office is go to the gym and work out. Yes, you read that correctly; me, who won the 2004 Olympic Gold Medal for Ass-Sitting. Who would always, always, rather be asleep than be awake. Who has coasted on having a high metabolism her entire life because Oh, I never gain weight so I’m obviously healthy as a horse. Borderline high cholesterol and flabby spaghetti arms are normal, right? But I’m at the gym because I live on the beach now. Because I’m over 30. Because I wanted to meet people. Because the gym I’ve found happens to be chill, inviting,  affordable, and run by three wild and crazy guys; things that will make you actually look forward to working out. Apart from the whole living on the beach and high cholesterol thing. Can I tell you guys this? I love it. I. Love. Going. To. The. Gym.

But my new active lifestyle didn’t have an easy start. There are, supposedly, two million gyms in Terracina – all of which are hiding. Because Italians can’t give directions for crap: You don’t know where the gym is? Well, it’s over there. So I go “over there” and there’s no gym. You didn’t find it? I meant to go over there near the hospital. It’s right there. So I go “over there near the hospital” and there’s still no gym. You still can’t find the gym? But it’s right there, I’m telling you. Are we playing Screw the Foreigner? I can’t tell.

I looked for a gym for six months. I mean, I literally could not find a gym in a town 6km long for six months.Scratch that – there was one gym I found on Viale Petrarca, but the entrance was blocked, and soon after I found the place, covered over with a Vendesi* sign. Was I doomed to be flabby and friendless in Terracina? It certainly seemed that way. Until I found it. The one. Uno Fitness, right across the street from my local supermarket, but nestled in a three-story building, its sign visible only upon close inspection during several drive-bys.

*for sale

There is a weight room. There are treadmills and exercise bikes, and loads of cardio-related classes. A peaceful place, never crowded. MTV on a TV on the wall in front of the treadmill in case I ever get a wild hair and feel like catching up on Jersey Shore, dubbed in Italian. I do the Pyramid course on the treadmill, or 10 minutes on the exercise bike, and then I go to the weights. I count in my head, in English, or sometimes in Japanese. Drink my water. Eat my protein bars.

E, say Leonardo, Michele, and Carlo when I roll up in the afternoons; my pre-caffe pit stop.  Leonardo, Michele, and Carlo are the dudes who run Uno Fitness. Young and energetic muscleheads; obsessed with America – specifically, Venice Beach, which they pronounce Ve-ni-che Bitch – because California is where Gold Gym is and all the best body builders are. My accent makes them light up: Tell us again, they say, Tell us again how to say bicep and tricep and gluteus maximus in American!

Carlo, the youngest, has Mr. Universe dreams. Look, he says. I got this medicine from America that’s supposed to enlarge your veins but I can’t read the instructions. Can you translate them for me?

Yes, I say. With pleasure. The bottle says, “Do not take this medicine; it is seriously scary shit.”

Pffff, he says. I will be big, like Arnold. And no joke, dude’s biceps are the size of my head. I am like the Americans! he says, flexing his arms under a skin-tight t-shirt; his diamond stud glinting in the sunlight. I take these medicines and I’m like you!

Yes, I say, flexing my puny pigeon wings. Clearly, we’re all jacked.

It’s inspiration, in any sense. There are the gym dudes, running around like sculptures, and then the young women in the locker rooms who don’t have a dimple of cellulite between them and, of course, the women on the beach. It’s beach season here in Terracina and on the weekends we’re all out there, in the flesh, and if concern for my borderline high cholesterol doesn’t properly motivate me, peeling off my clothes in front of Italian men will. But it’s not just that. I don’t know myself this active; am pretty thrilled by the change. I feel motivated. I feel strong.

So leg lifts. Biceps. Triceps. Water bottle. Protein bar. And Carlo comes over while I’m doing stuff to my thigh muscles.

Bitch, he says, in English.

I do another leg press and say: What?

He points at me, grinning: Bitch. You?

I know he’s trying to ask if I’ve been to the beach. I know it, but it’s too perfect and I can’t help myself; crack up: Dude.

And I explain the difference between beach and bitch; long vowels versus short vowels; big difference. And Carlo’s mortified: I didn’t mean to call you a bitch!

I know.

I just wanted to know if you’d been to the beach yet.

I know, I say. But when you finally get to California and meet Arnold Schwarzeneger, these are things you should know.

Yes, yes, you’re right, he says. Next time I will get it right.

12 Replies to “Gym”

  1. They sound ridiculously cute. A little… confused, but adorable all the same 😀

    1. ieatmypigeon says: Reply

      Yesterday, Carlo was lecturing me on eating carbs after mid-day and I said (something to the effect of), “Whachu talkin’ ’bout?” And then he and Leonardo got all excited: “Like that show. With the short black kid. Arnold. The show called Arnold.” I said, “What? What does a short black kid have to do with you eating rabbit food?” And then I realized they were talking about Diff’rent Strokes, which was aired in Italy under the title “Arnold” and his signature catch phrase translated as, “Che cavolo stai dicendo, Willis?” I quote this often in English; had no idea I could do it in Italian, too, and people would get it! Off to start my new life as an Arnold-quoter in Italy.

      1. That is absolutely amazing. When I hear “Arnold” I think of the short football-headed boy who lives in an apartment building his grandparents own in NY and has a best friend with a little sister named Timberly. ^_^ Hey AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARNOLD *gets the theme song stuck in my head*
        I love hearing about things that transfer to other cultures 🙂 If I were you, I’d say that every. single. day.

  2. Your writing is awesome. And now I’m off to the gym, too.

    1. ieatmypigeon says: Reply

      Thank you, Flora! Happy bench pressing.

  3. Your ability to describe people makes me so interested to read your novel. Those dudes at the gym sound hilarious

    1. ieatmypigeon says: Reply

      Thank you, Catherine! And they really are.

      Another convo from yesterday:

      Leonardo: (in English) Carlo – fat! Fatty Carlo! Fat fat Carlo!
      Carlo: (in Italian) What are you saying?
      Leonardo: (to me, in English) Look Carlo fat!
      Me: (in Italian) Why are you calling Carlo fat? He’s not fat – he’s [in English] jacked!
      Carlo: What’s jek?
      Me: You. You’re jacked. That’s what we say in American for dudes like you who are muscular and giant.
      Leonardo: What am I? What am I?
      Me: Well, I guess you’re ripped.
      Leonardo: Is that better than jek?
      Me: You’re BOTH muscular, okay?

  4. CarLeo better be recurring characters. Those guys are priceless.

    Also I just wasted like 30 minutes watching clips of Il Mio Amico Arnold. OK not wasted.

    1. ieatmypigeon says: Reply

      Oh, they are, Paul. They are.

  5. Ahahahahaha! The “beach” and “bitch” thing happens all too often here in Spain as well.

    One of my friends currently lives in Italy with a previous Mr. Italy (bodybuilding) and he adores American medicine! Apparently we have the most amazing (i.e. scariest) over-the-counter bottles of magic ever. However, I’ll admit that I miss my giant, fluorescent DayQuil and NyQuil pills whenever winter’s bad colds come around, even if it does seem to have the craziest ingredients.

    1. ieatmypigeon says: Reply

      Me, too, michi. Me, too.

  6. There should be a sitcom about “jek” Italian men and you should write it! 🙂 I’m so glad my wife pointed me to your blog the other day.

    Sadly I don’t have a naturally high metabolism. I’m writing about my weight loss journey on my blog and actually just posted my first real post today.

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