Fat Boy Big Wall, Juvenile Offender

One not-terribly-interesting change that I’ve experienced since moving to Ohio involves recycling.

In Chicago, recycling bins were always pretty readily accessible, even though the buildings where I lived didn’t always provide them. Here, they are less so.

However, there is a recycling center that’s not too inconvenient: It’s basically down the street from the good grocery store (there’s another one that’s very close to where I live, but it’s a bit sketchy, and it makes pretty clear that produce is not its jam) so I’m in the area at least once a week.

I went there for the first time last weekend, and it went… well…

It’s the weather’s fault, really. I decided to walk there, rather than bike, because it had been raining all morning and wet roads will get you nicely moist, even if it’s not raining.

There is an attendant at the recycling center, and going there on foot really, really, really messed with his head.

He was obviously suspicious when I came in. That really kicked up when I was finished dropping off my stuff, which is slightly my fault. I had another errand to run, which was across the street from the grocery store. So instead of walking out the typical entrance and exit, I tried to go through the back of the recycling center. I didn’t, as there was both a rather rusty fence blocking the path (which could have been jumped) and a more-significant-than-I-realized highway with no good crossing, except the main one that I already knew about (which led me to turn back.)

This unauthorized exploration was simply too much for the attendant, and he had to confront me.

I explained my slight awkwardness, that I was new in the area and had never been there and wanted to see if it was possible to cut across to the bank (which was my other errand, even though I neglected to mention it earlier. My apologies).

“You can’t go through that way,” he informed me quite needlessly.

“I see that now,” I said.

“You just get out of jail?” he demanded.

Wait, what?

One more bit of local geography you’ll need to fully understand the story: Across the street from the recycling center in the other direction from the bank is the local juvenile detention center.

So, the attendant was very confident that I just gotten out of there. No, not “gotten out of there.” The tone of voice which which he asked if I had just gotten out of jail suggested he thought that I had escaped, and that he was about to score himself a bounty.

Because the first thing a 41-year-old does upon escaping from juvie is take some recycling in.

(Also, to keep it OCR related: I happened to be wearing a Spartan finisher t-shirt from last year’s Citi Field sprint at the time. Perhaps those are as readily available at juvenile hall as they are at Citi Field, which raises some questions about Mets fans that I’m sure Phillies fans would be happy to exploit, if they knew how to read.)

I assured him that I was not actually a criminal, but he wasn’t going to give up on his opportunity for Justice™ that easily. “Then why are you on foot?”

“Because I walked here” was my fairly obvious response. Looking back, I think his inquiry was more high-minded and philosophical—as in, “Why didn’t you drive?” As in, “driving is the only possible way to move between two points.”

Which suggests pretty strongly that, despite working at a recycling center, he hadn’t quite considered the implications of his work in the broader environmentalist context.

He demanded to know where I had walked from. I told him, and he informed me that it wasn’t possible to do so. I reminded him about the off-road trail that brought me nearly halfway, and the ample sidewalks on the other half of the trip.

The attendant did not believe me. But he also wasn’t accustomed to having someone respond to him as if they were saying logical things. It threw him, and he couldn’t come up with any more lines of inquisition, and I was free to go. I mean, that’s what he was thinking, even though we both knew that he had no authority to hold me there, and I was only staying around because it amused me. He didn’t say anything to me, but just sort of shook his head and backed away murmuring about how confusing the whole situation was.

I hope he’s happy… he single-handedly put another junior felon back on the streets

 

 

 

 

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The Feral Elliptical Machine

I feel like I’ve made a reasonably successful transition to Ohio, but I am still capable of being surprised by many of the things I see.

For example, this:

Feral elliptical machine in the park

What we have here is an elliptical machine in the wild. While wild ellipticals (apparatibus ellipticis ferox) do exist, they are extraordinarily rare outside of their range (primarily along the eastern seaboard from northern Georgia to southern Maine, but particularly common in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Long Island). As a result, I formed the conclusion that it was, in fact, a domestic elliptical (apparatibus ellipticis mansueti) that had escaped or (cruelly) been released by its owner.

My hunch was confirmed when I approached the machine. Wild ellipticals are often hostile, but this specimen welcomed my approach and even nuzzled my face in a friendly manner.

Me approaching the feral elliptical.

Sadly, the elliptical had been wounded, though whether it was the result of an injury suffered in the wild or abuse from its owner, I cannot say for certain.

The elliptical's injury.

However, I like to believe that any injuries were relatively non-traumatic, as the machine exhibited no fear of me. In fact, after a sufficient introduction, the machine even consented to allow me to ride it.

Riding the Feral Elliptical

Sadly, I was not able to provide the forever home that this elliptical deserves, as my apartment has a strict no-pets policy and the local animal control agency refused any responsibility for elliptical machines of this nature.

So I bound its wounds as effectively as I could, gave it a handful of batteries and plugs, and sent it on its way with all the best thoughts I could muster.

The next time I passed that spot, it had left, but I believe it had everything it needed to have a delightful life, as it was in a pleasant park with ready access to forests, fields, water, and electrical outlets. The alternative is simply too horrifying to contemplate, because elliptical prostitutes never live happy lives.

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May Goals: What, This Again?

It’s been a while since I’ve set some goals, for reasons that are fairly logical, but now that life is slightly settling it’s time to get back to it. They’re not super-well organized or thought-out, but I’ll use that old “I just moved states and I’m still trying to get everything sorted out” excuse. So with that in mind, here’s my goals for the month:

Weight: 243.428, as a 7-day average. The move, thus far, has been good for this particular metric, due mainly to diet: It takes a bit more of a commitment to eat junk here, and having a traditional office job takes away a fair amount of opportunity. Or maybe, it’s just the novelty of being in a new place that has helped. I hope it’s the former.

Pull-ups: 6. I technically managed this once before—In February, my Chicago gym had a month-long pull-up challenge. I haven’t hit those heights since, but if the weight comes down and I work consistently, I think it’s broadly feasible.

Crow pose: 20 seconds. I haven’t worked on the crow pose consistently in several months, ever since I figured out how to kick-up into a wall handstand. But the crow pose was something that really helped me to do that, so I’m hoping it will also help me to do an unsupported handstand. My previous best was about 15 seconds.

Dips: 8. My new gym does have a quasi-dedicated set of bars for dips. OK, not really; it’s one of those angled things with a foot rest and a cushion for back extensions, but it’s got parallel bars sticking out of it. I’ve only done 4 so far, but it’s early days.

Biking: Bike the county. As I’ve noted, the county that I now live in is criss-crossed by bike paths. Next month, I want to do the whole county: basically, biking to Jamestown, Spring Valley, Fairborn, Yellow Springs, and Cedarville. (And Beavercreek, but as I can’t really get to Fairborn without passing through, we can take that as read.) That may be slightly over-ambitious, as it’s five rides and I’m only in town for three and a half weekends this month. We’ll see.

Running: Two goals here: First off, build up to an 8K long run. I really only started running for the year in April, but I’m doing 5Ks consistently, so I’m ready to build. The second is an 8-minute mile. I have no idea how that will go: I haven’t done a timed mile since about junior high. I have no idea how a mile pace would be different for me from a 5K pace.

Writing: I need to write (outside of my job) daily. I may make an exception for the travel weekend (especially the day when I’ll be driving from Long Island to southwest Ohio) and the other race day I have.

Transition from transitioning to living: Basically, this entails starting to build the connections that humans have when they live in a place. (It’s also been strongly encouraged by my employer, which should help.) I’ve actually started the process of volunteering at a place, although that hasn’t yet gone well; their website has a volunteer application form, but no information about how to turn it in. We shall see how that goes.

 

 

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Picking a New Gym

I’m not exaggerating when I say that my biggest concern for my new job was finding a new gym.

As I’ve stated before, my last gym was really good and really good for me. In addition to having really good trainers there, the group class approach clicked with me. So finding the closest possible replication was my top priority when I moved to Ohio.

It didn’t quite happen like that.

I don’t have a car yet, so I’m limited to a fairly narrow radius. Within that range, there are… well… three options.

One was Snap Fitness, which was never really in contention. Fine for what it is, but it’s the least convenient option. The gym itself was perfectly fine, and there were some classes, but not at times that are terribly practical for me (my work schedule is just unusual enough to make it tricky) and they seemed to be a bit less intense than what I’m ready for.

The real options were between the YMCA and Xenia Elite Fitness—as they’re closer to both where I live and work. Neither one really has classes comparable to what I was looking for—XEF doesn’t seem to have any (although it says some are coming), and the Y’s are not super-compatible with my wonky schedule. (And, again, I’m not sure that they’re quite at the level I’m looking for.)

Fortunately, I’ve been developing my own workouts since moving and, so far, it seems to be working okay. So the lack of classes isn’t quite a dealbreaker, at least not yet.

The Y is bigger and better appointed, although some of that is the extras—things like racquetball courts and a swimming pool that might be nice but that are peripheral to what I’m likely to use. I was also impressed—or at least, intrigued by the potential—of the high-intensity room with a new WOD every day (as the OD implies).

The C in YMCA gave me a bit of pause, although as far as I know, the Y’s implementation of C is relatively close to the founder’s intent, rather than certain modern implementations based more around judgement and hatred of undesirables than making the world a better place. So I could have dealt with that.

But ultimately I went with XEF.

It’s smaller, but it has enough—including a nice selection of free weights, which is the big thing I need. Supporting local business is also a plus. They’re promising a climbing rope soon, which is actually a bit of a selling point, given its OCR usefulness.

And, I guess, it felt right. Any of the three options, I’d likely be building largely on what I’d been doing in Chicago, which in a lot of cases means doing my own thing that isn’t necessarily what the crowd would be doing. (I think my workouts are reasonably intense, but they don’t match either what the musclebros do or the “let’s read while vaguely moving on the elliptical” crowd.*) And it seemed like that would be sort of OK there.

I did consider not joining a gym at all. I worked out in the park for the first couple weeks I was here, and that worked. But I’m not really terribly good at building all-bodyweight workouts that can keep me interested. In short, it’s really valuable to have heavy things to pick up and put down that aren’t quite as heavy as me.

Anyhow, we’ll see how it works out. Thus far, it’s been okay. (In fact, I’ve never been there when there were more than about 4 people in the gym, which is nice. In fact, I’ve even had the place all to myself one of the three or so times I’ve been there.)

XEF


 

*One weird, currently amusing but possibly sinister thing: XEF does have a fairly large collection of magazines to read—all of them clearly targeting women. Slightly odd, especially as the read-on-the-machine crowd seems to be roughly evenly split, gender-wise, but at this point it’s something I’m going to investigate.

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How To Not Be Creepy Working Out at a Playground

Playgrounds shouldn’t be just for kids. They typically* have things like steel bars in various configurations that are good for pull-ups and laches and dips and rows and miscellaneous things that can be tough to replicate at home.

However, that’s not the world in which we live. Playgrounds are for kids, and using them as an adult can raise suspicion, even when that usage is as innocent as a workout. And I get it: We should want to protect kids from people who wish to do them harm. But I’d like to be able to get some monkey bar work in myself.**

So how can you use these public, taxpayer-funded facilities without seeming or feeling like the kind of person who needs a mustache and a corner shrub to peer through at all times? I’ve assembled some suggestions. Use your common sense before applying them and don’t be creepy!

  • Go when kids aren’t there. This is the approach I’ve been using so far in Ohio, and it’s worked well; the playground that’s near to me is both not terribly exciting and not particularly convenient to extensive residential area. (There’s one neighborhood around it, but it’s bounded on one side by a county fairground, across the street by a greenway, and a third side has a school and then fields.) So, while I’ve seen kids using it, there’s never been any potential conflict.
  • Get in/get out. By that I mean: Most of your workout doesn’t involve the bars. So go there, do your bar work quick, and then go elsewhere—like the middle of the field—for the rest of your workout. Also, maybe make sure you’re facing out (rather than toward the rest of the play structure) while you’re working. And wear a shirt. Don’t be this guy:
  • Bring a kid of your own. Or a neighbor’s kid. Or a random one you find on the street. I’m not here to judge that kind of morality. However, this can be tricky, even if you do it totally legal-like: if you bring a kid, you’ll be expected to keep an eye on it, which might get you some appalled looks if you spend too many minutes on your toe-to-bars.
  • Wear a uniform. Certain people in our society are above question. If you dress as a police officer, a firefighter, or a soldier, you will automatically be protected against any accusations of creepiness because you’re a hero. (Maybe our culture ought to have a bit more nuanced relationship with the idea of those professions.)
  • Be a juggler. Jugglers can work pull-ups into their act. Jugglers can work anything into their act. Unfortunately, this might not be enough to make you appear not to be creepy. And if you are deemed acceptable by community standards, you’ll need to develop 30 to 60 minutes of kid-friendly patter in order to keep the show going.
  • Wear a badge. I’m thinking one of those “Hi, my name is,” stickers you can put on your shirt, and then you can write in “Someone who isn’t creepy.” Although if you don’t have any of those stickers available, you could carry a sign, write it in Sharpie on your forehead, or safety-pin a note to your shirt. I’m sure any of those will work okay.

On second thought… maybe just move to a place where they have grown-up playgrounds. I’m not sure how effectively these techniques will keep you out of jail.


* No, not always. When I was in Chicago, there actually seemed to be a movement to rip out playground equipment and replace it with these weird cord-based structures. I have no idea why; they didn’t look like they would be particularly fun or particularly safe.

** I was going to say “innocent monkey bar work in,” but that makes the phrase so much more creepy, no?

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Splinters

Gather round, my obstacle course racing brothers and sisters, because there is a scourge that we all face, and most of us probably don’t even realize it.

Obstacle course racers pride ourselves on our toughness and our resilience, but I think we need to talk about how soft and cushy our collective asses have become. And I mean that literally.

Toilet paper is making us weak.

A brief history lesson: The first recorded toilet paper dates back to 1391. Since then, millions of innovations in toilet paper technology have been developed—rolls, quilting, two-ply and three-ply and four-ply and five-ply, to name just a few—but the one that led to the patheticization of human society developed in 1930.

That was the year Northern Toilet Paper became the first splinter-free toilet paper.

While that may have been a boon for backside comfort, I think we can all agree that in the 87 years since then, we as a species have become as soft as the stuff we clean the outside of our rectums with.

I’m willing to take a stand and say no more.

splinters

Splinters brand obstacle course racing toilet paper, with extra shards of wood for extra toughness. Image by Brandon Blinkenberg via Wikipedia, used and modified under CC BY 2.5.

That’s why I’ve started production of Splinters OCR toilet paper.

Splinters is a brand-new brand of toilet paper, tough enough for the toughest OCR racer. It’s made of 98% wood pulp and 2% wood shards ready to dig into your glutes every time you poo. This discomfort is key to building the emotional strength, physical resilience, and spiritual spirituality that humanity has lost in the past 0.87 of a century.

We can get out of the mess we’re in, and it starts with how we get out of the mess we’re in.

Splinters. Because if you’re tough enough to trudge through mud pits, you’re tough enough to dig shards of wood out of your ass.

Available at finer shops everywhere.

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Biking in Ohio

When I was doing my final interview for my new job, one of the things the employer highlighted was the extensive bike paths. Apparently there are more cubic feet per capita than any place in the history of time or something. (That’s not a real statistic, because I don’t remember the exact details.)

I may not know the exact details of Ohio’s bike path network, but I’ve had the chance to ride it a lot (for having been here only five days) and I can say: It’s cool.

It started the day I moved. For some reason it was a hundred bucks cheaper to return the U-Haul to Dayton, rather than Xenia (which is where I now live). It’s only about 10 miles, so I figured it wouldn’t be too tough to bike back (even after doing the ‘hauling heavy shit’ part of the move that day). But, as it turned out, there was a bike path that went almost directly from the U-Haul store to my new place.

I don’t think I’ve ever done a 10-mile ride that quick.

The path is paved and smooth, a lovely ride through woods near a creek, and there were only a handful of roads that it crossed where bikers even had to slow down to check for cars—which there rarely were.

Even better: Xenia is the county seat and located geographically in roughly the center of the county. So there are several of these paths that head to the other cities in the county (and in some cases beyond; I think it’s possible to bike to both Columbus and Cincinnati on them, although don’t hold me to that), and they all intersect here. So, in addition to using the bike to get around for errands and getting the stuff I need post-move (which has also been really easy; the paths have taken me close to where I need to go, and on-street biking in other places has been perfectly fine), I took a bike trip out to Yellow Springs this weekend.

Yellow Springs is a little town with a bit of a hippy vibe and a nice downtown with bunches of cafes and little artistic shops. Also, here’s the view on the way:


OK, that’s not the only view, it’s only one of the views on the way, but still: pretty cool.

One drawback to biking in Ohio: While the bike path game is on point—I’d even say
“on fleek” if I were confident what that means and that it were still a term—the bike rack game is less so. In Chicago, racks are everywhere. In fact, they’re almost a nuisance: marauding packs of feral bike racks roam the streets, jumping out in front of traffic, pooping everywhere, and rebending their pipes to form rude gestures. In Ohio, the concept of attaching a bent steel pipe to the ground where bikes can be securely locked is completely foreign.

OK, I exaggerate for comic effect; there are some bike racks. But I have also been to largish commercial centers—like the strip mall with one of the big supermarkets—that don’t have any, so I’ve had to lock my bike to a fence or a shopping cart corral or a sleeping Weimaraner. And that doesn’t include the rack that I saw that existed (Yay!) but was built so that the rack supported the tire but kept the bike so far from any metal that my U-lock was useless (Boo!). Unless I locked my bike on the side of it rather than in one of the bike slots, which I did.

So the lack of bike racks hasn’t been a real impediment to biking, but it’s a bit of culture shock.

In general, biking feels very different here than in Chicago. Chicago has done right by bikers: There are plenty of bike lanes and other facilities to make biking possible, which is a minor miracle. But like other forms of transportation, biking in Chicago is stressful: There are almost always lots of other bikes, cars, and pedestrians, all of which could move randomly at any time, that you have to worry about. It was still my first choice of transportation, but it was transportation, rather than recreation. Here, it’s much easier to relax and enjoy the ride.

 

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