Gym Guy, Part I

I passed this iconic doughnut shop on my way into Inglewood - Buster Bluth was not trying to eat it at the time, and Iron Man was nowhere to be found.

Our new roommate works at a coffee shop in Venice, and on Friday night she came home with three huge boxes of pastries and doughnuts that the shop had baked that day for a catering order that had been canceled at the last minute. The boss had given the excess delicacies to her, which she brought home to us, which is such an incredibly bro move that we’re considering giving her a freebie on next month’s rent.

The presence of three large boxes of pastries in your living room does certain things to your eating habits – I, for example, normally eat three times per day, but since the arrival of the pastries I now eat every time I walk through the living room and see that there are still pastries to be eaten. Also, I now find excuses to walk through the living room more often to check the pastry supply. It’s a vicious cycle that will probably set the landspeed record for getting diabetes.

It’s to that end that I started seriously considering the whole ‘go get a gym membership’ issue that I go back and forth on every month or so. When I was unemployed, a gym membership would’ve been lunacy – I needed that money to pay rent, and I consumed so few calories per day from my diet of white rice and soy sauce that I really couldn’t afford to use them doing anything but keeping my body running.

Now, however, my fortunes have changed – both in that I’m making money and that I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to consume 30,000 calories worth of fresh pastries in one weekend. Yesterday, as I shoved some sort of jam-filled delight into my mouth, crumbs cascading onto my unwashed shirt, I made a decision: I have to join a fucking gym.

As loyal readers will remember from my failed experiment with swimming, the main reason I’ve avoided gyms in the past is because of my arch nemesis, Helpful Dude, the friendly Adonis whose life begins and ends with protein shakes and body sculpting, and who posts Facebook status updates like, “UGH i havent been to the gym in like 3 days IM SUCH A FATTY lol :D”

The Helpful Dude is the guy who spots you (me) struggling to lift a ten pound weight, strides over with his perfect fucking smile, claps you (me) on the shoulder in a clear violation of your (my) personal space issues, and says, “Hey there, my name’s Ty. Looks like you’re having some trouble! Mind if I give you a couple pointers?”

It’s that sort of behavior that makes public exercise wholly unappealing for me. I know that I’m not well suited to movement in general – my friends have been quick to point out over the years that I look hilarious when I run, walk, stand up, blink, lift my arm, open garage doors, turn around, or reach for something on a high shelf – so I certainly don’t need some sexy, friendly guy who probably lost his virginity in 7th grade to tell me how stupid and out of place I look in this environment full of confident, well muscled Greek gods.

However, I had recently seen a commercial for a new gym called Planet Fitness which gave me some hope for potentially finding an environment in which I could sweat without fear of the predatory Helpful Dude. Planet Fitness is all about creating a ‘judgment-free zone’ in which ordinary people and self-loathing Louis C.K. types like myself can get fit without being preyed upon by grunting, squat thrusting lunkheads.

In a pastry-induced haze I stumbled to my computer and Googled for a Planet Fitness location near me. Now, Los Angeles is a gym crazy city, to be sure, but unfortunately most gym-going Angelinos are Helpful Dude types who specifically want a judgment-heavy zone in which to work out and show off, so there were not a lot of Planet Fitness locations to choose from. My options were either to drive 60 miles to a location in Orange County, or about 6 miles to a location in Inglewood.

Now, I knew that Inglewood had a reputation as being a kind of sketchy part of town. That said, I’d never actually been there, and a lot of parts of Los Angeles that had been really sketchy in the early 90s were now gentrifying and becoming fertile breeding grounds for hipsters, which, in my opinion is a slight improvement over crack dealers and drive bys. And even if Inglewood was sketchy, it’d be a small price to pay to be able to get fit without the presence of the Helpful Dude.

So I threw a pair of shorts and an old T-shirt into a gym bag, scarfed down a couple more pastries for good luck, and got in The Mystery Wagon to go check this gym out and maybe sign up for a membership so I could get good and swoll, Ryan Gosling style.

As I pulled off the 405 at the Inglewood exit, the first thing I saw was a homeless crackhead wrapped in a beach towel stumbling across a set of old railroad tracks, fumbling with a bag of Lays potato chips in his shaky hands.

“Well, this is off to a great start.” I sighed.

Inglewood is not gentrifying. It’s the opposite of gentrifying – by which I mean, this city is so completely fucked that you could shoot an 80s postapocalyptic action movie there. At every crosswalk along streets lined with cash advances services and bail bonds offices I halfway expected to see a bunch of mohawked punks in leather jackets with switchblades and Uzis. I didn’t catch sight of any, but maybe they were all hiding inside some of Inglewood’s decaying hundred year old bungalows, all of which were fully enclosed by steel bars, either to keep the meth addicts out or the meth cooks in.

On the plus side, knowing I was going to be getting out of my car in this neighborhood was really getting my adrenaline pumping, which was definitely good cardio.

Truman Capps will return on Wednesday with Part II!