Railroad Ties and Personal Trainers

On Saturday, I spent the whole afternoon going back and forth from Home Depot buying railroad ties. Believe me, that’s just as fun as it sounds.

Here’s the story.

We have a paddle tennis court at the far end of our backyard, and there are all sorts of weird shrubs and things surrounding it that may, at one point in their lives, have been recognizable foliage, but now they look like things you might see in the Princess Bride’s fireswamp. I got my handy-dandy chainsaw and hacked all of it down, and we hauled it out to the side of the house to await the city’s spring pickup date, when they’ll pick up and take away anything and everything. But now, with all of the nasty stuff gone, Mrs. Cornell sees an opportunity to grow some tomato plants, but to do that, we need to put down some railroad ties to wall off the dirt from the court.

Railroad ties are big. They’re heavy. And I dropped one on one of my fingers, which, amazingly, didn’t turn my fingernail black. It caused pain, though, And yelping. Much yelping. Nothing about railroad ties are good. And when you finally heft them out to the back of the house and discover you’ve gotten the wrong size, it’s very difficult to avoid using profanity. Very, very %$&ing difficult, indeed.

So I lugged them back into the car and drove them back and got the even bigger, heavier railroad ties, and Home Depot offered a hireling to help me load them into the back of my Suburban. He was a college-age kid with a huge scowl on his face.

“Keeping you busy?” I said, a little too cheerfully.

“I hate this job,” he snarled back. “I’m gonna quit soon.”

I laughed out loud, appreciative of the brutal honesty. “Really? What are you gonna do instead?”

“I don’t care,” he said. “Anything else. Just as long as I don’t have to lift any railroad ties.”

I laughed again. His lousy customer service was truly a breath of fresh air.

“What do you need railroad ties for, anyway?” he muttered.

“It’s for my wife,” I said. “She wants to grow tomatoes.”

“Oh, yeah?” he snapped. “Then tell her to come get her own railroad ties.”

I foresee a very interesting marriage in that young man’s future.

Today was Day Two of the Total Stallionic Body Reinvention. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7:00 AM, I spend a half an hour with a personal trainer in a sort of “Boot Camp” that will get me into shape in four to six weeks.

In case there was any doubt on this point, I am not in shape now.

It’s not that I’m fat so much as that I’m not skinny, at least not the way I used to be. Of course, that’s a pretty high threshold. Growing up, I was ridiculously thin, and I stayed that way for a very long time – I was 6’4” and 175 pounds when I got married at age 26. That’s not just skinny – that’s Ichabod Crane skinny. I stayed that way until I broke my back right after my 30th birthday. Since then, I’ve been on a safe, effective, and wholly unanticipated weight gain program of about 4 pounds per year. I still have skinny arms and legs and a slim, sexy tuckus, but my gut is spreading and my face is somewhat puffy.

It’s a bad scene. And what really upsets me about this is that it screws up my deal.

See, the deal was, back in the day, that I looked like a geek and was wildly uncoordinated, but at least I could eat whatever crap I wanted and never gain weight. Now the deal has been broken, and I still look like a geek.

I kept my end. It’s the universe that’s in breach of contract.

The first day was aerobic exercise – stepping up and down, kicking, with some crunches and stuff thrown in. Today was all upper body stuff – biceps, triceps, and “planking,” where you hold yourself above the ground on your elbows and make your body as stiff as a board and pray for the earth to open up and swallow you whole.

I feel closer to John McCain than I ever have before, because right now, I can’t lift my arms above my head.

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Breaking My Back

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