Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Gymbalaya: The Ingredients of the American Gyme

If you're like me, you probably eat a lot of Jose Ole microwave chimichangas. That's right, the perfect breakfast side dish. You're also probably a badass, sunglass-wearing cop with nothing to lose but the badge you can't respect anymore. Additionally, it's probably true that your massive guns, bulging pecs, and indecipherable accent are the only things stopping you from completing your toughest undercover assignment to date--teaching kindergarten!

But in all seriousness, have you been working out? For real, man, you look good. Been tossin' some iron around? I know how it is. Working those lats? I hear ya. Dumbbells and so forth. I'm all about making my muscles larger, and I've noticed that a lot of other people are, too.

And with that, I've decided to get my David Attenborough...well I guess it's Oprah's torch now... on, and do a detailed study of all the organisms that inhabit what I'm hoping to sell to the Discovery Channel as the next Planet Earth or Life or whatever: Gyme.

To the discerning observer, Gyme is teeming with varied and plentiful life. On the surface, though, Gyme appears to be fairly homogeneous, which basically means that there are a bunch of bros standing around in backwards hats and ripped t-shirts looking at each other in the mirror. This is the most plentiful creature in Gyme: the guy wearing the backwards retro Cubs hat with the distressed bill and the "2005 NILES WEST FLAG FOOTBALL CHAMPION" t-shirt ripped in just the right places for everyone to see the particular muscle groups he's working that day. This man has an entire closet full of needlessly ruined articles of clothing. Hats, jeans, t-shirts, thong sandals--you name it. There's one shirt that's ripped so that it's four inches thick on the back to show off the lats and traps, and one ripped so that it's four inches thick on the front for the pecs and nipples. And of course, all of them are always Belichick'd (that means sleeveless, ladies). In many ways, the bro is Gyme's golden calf, embodying the arrogant, thickly muscled nature of the bull, except it's more bronze in Gyme.

Looking past the bros and into the cardio section, we can find the Gyme equivalent of the peacock in the Lance Armstrong spinning class guy. He wears the skin-tight spandex outfits and sleek Oakleys that riders in the Tour de France--you know, the 2,200 mile, 21 day road race through the mountains--wear to gain an aerodynamic edge, except he's pedaling a fake bike in place for 25 minutes, flipping through the pages of the latest Men's Health, and listening to his The Lost Symbol audiobook. Much like the peacock, he's all decked out in sweet gear, but he doesn't really do anything and he's basically stuck in one place at all times. Spinning class guy is similar to Pro Shop guy--the one who works out either in a polo from his local course and a Titleist hat (worn forwards--respect the game) or an all-white outfit and a headband.

I'm so fast, I'm so pretty.

Gyme is also rife with the 53 year old woman who isn't fat but isn't not fat either, but still refuses to wear anything but a sports bra. This is the lynx of Gyme--not quite a cougar, but not a housecat, either. Consequently, this is a confusing person, mostly because you can't make fun of her without being a dick. She wants so desperately to be 24 again, but you really can't fault her because she's actually trying to do something about it. Still, let's throw a shirt on unless I have a realistic shot at cross generational romance.

Another peculiar creature is super-intense former high school wrestler who got 5th place at sectionals that one time. He is the Daggett of Gyme. Maybe just a little bit nuts and always giving 115%, former high school wrestler who enjoyed moderate success can be seen wearing full sweats to cut weight, but he hasn't actually needed to for at least 8 years. He's always doing pushups or crunches in between each set, and he has a ton of spunk, but unfortunately, it's now illegal for him to put people in The Clinch.

That was nuts!

A minority population in Gyme that's enjoying a recent boom is the confused hipster. He is the rooster of Gyme. Generally sporting a mid-length mane of curly hair and wearing ironic pastel-colored short shorts, mid-length socks, and a shirt that says something like "What wouldn't Jesus do?," this critter, a vegetarian by principle, can typically be seen smoking outside the doors before coming in. He feels the need to exercise, but he can't get himself to admit it. He's gone so far as to actually enter the gym, but he has trouble going much farther than that. He can typically be seen doing hilariously exaggerated motions with dumbbells and/or wearing 80's Ray-Bans.

Then there are the girls who work out in packs in order to motivate one another, except all they ever do is lean on the machines, answer their phones, and drink Starbucks. These are the koalas of Gyme--social beasts that enjoy Eucalyptus in one form or another, but who don't actually do anything. I defy any of you to observe one of said packs in which each member completes a full set of reps for any exercise - I don't even care if it's the weird thigh squeezing one. They'll typically set up shop at the leg press for a good 15 minutes, presumably because they can take turns luxuriating with their feet up, then move on to lat pull downs, carefully making sure they're only using the minimum weight, then call it a day after pretending to not be able to find an open elliptical.

Finally, there's the pale, skinny white kid with red hair who works out in a dirty wifebeat, Dungarees from 1997, and black combat boots. This, viewers, is the barnacle of Gyme. He does the least work out of anyone in the entire place, yet he isn't there to show off his muscles. He just kind of sits around and every so often he'll throw up a few reps of 75 on the bench, then he'll move over to do some bicep curls, except he looks really tired all the time. He'll be out there for hours on end, doing nothing but wandering around and darkening the bags under his eyes. In fairness, that darkness does make his eyelashes pop.

Of course, there's one final class: the kind of guy I am in Gyme. I fall into the broad category of the bland, sort of like a panda--lacking the ferocity of a real bear, but also lacking the stick-to-it-ivenss of the raccoon. I'll come into the gym wearing my standard mesh shorts I've had since the 9th grade, a different colored t-shirt depending on what my inner mood ring is telling me, and my muddied Asics from the two times I actually tried running outside. I'll set my regimen regularly, decide when I've plateaued, increase my weights, and eventually stop going after two and a half months.

Considering that I've pretty much covered every phyla of Gyme, perhaps it's time now for you to figure out which of these categories you most belong in. You can do so by taking a good, hard look in the mirror... probably not the one in front of the golden calves though, they really like looking at themselves. Also, beware of naked old men in the locker rooms. Their balls are poisonous.

Yours in Christ,

P.S.--Those illustrations? Oh yeah, let's everybody welcome the newest member of the Chicago Sometimes, Mr. Thomas Glass Jr. Outstanding work, sir.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Not Around the Mamas and the Papas

Out on the town last weekend, I found myself in a March-madness inspired quarters tournament in a bar. It was supposed to be a co-ed team event, so my friend Sean – secure enough in his manliness – volunteered to claim “the girl spot.” Naturally, an ass-whooping of the opposite teams ensued. I mean, you’re talking about a partnership where both teammates are Naperville North All Guys Gym alums.

After using intimidation and skill, we advanced to the Final Four, only to be eliminated on a miscalculation. Being in a fairly conservative voting town, we decided against a 2000-inspired recount, and went on with our heads held high.

Leaving the establishment, I thought to myself, "Man, it sure would be nice to be able to drink away my tournament sorrows in the comfort of my own home." This, however, was an impossibility. You see, my home is also my parents' home. I guess technically it's not my home at all, but they allow me to live there and eat their food, so I take advantage of the situation.

Not being too far removed from home life, many of you may have certain house rules that you are by no means allowed to break. These are things your parents just don't want to see you doing. Think the total opposite of "Viva La Bam." One of those things at the Jones' home is that you don't drink in the house, end of discussion.

Enter real point of blog post after hooking introductory story. I realize that there are things that all the Tapan Jones Sr.'s don't want to see us do, but I don't know if they realize that we've been taking preventive measures all of our lives to stay out of awkward situations with out parents. Things such as... dot dot dot...

1) Watching a Movie with a Sex Scene In It
Some of you who know me well are aware that I like to get down with some high-class cinema (that last sentence shouldn't be interpreted as my having some love for pornography with increased production value, but honestly, that whole industry is just making strides. Good for you guys!). I'm all about films that can be analyzed with great scrutiny. Often times, these films deal with mature subject matter, which may or may not involve sex scenes.

Now if I know there's a sex scene in a movie, I don't care if it's fuckin' Citizen's Kane (get it?), there's no way in hell I'm going to be able to watch that movie with my parents. It would be like volunteering to be in that scene from Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls where the knife and fork are being scratched along the bottom of the dinner plate. Terrifying.

I swear you guys, I thought the original sin was gluttony.

If I don't know there's a sex scene in a movie, and we see it together, I don't care if I'm 21 or 69, I'll still have to fake the whole looking away, or pretending to text, or whatever, when Kate Winslet takes her clothes off...again (by the way, mark my words, old Kate Winslet is gonna be the new Helen Mirren. So hot).

2) Talking to a Girl You Like on the Phone
Now I know what many of you are saying. This whole practice of trying to hide a girl you like from your family has been outgrown, and so what if she's a lady of the evening? Well in this case, I refer you all to my co-blogger, Mike Bogart. When asked about his phone habits with the ladies, all the members of his family will point you in the direction of the bathroom. Why is that? It is because that's where he finds telephone sanctuary away from his parents. The man literally walks out of the (fill in the blank) room and into the bathroom.

Finally makes sense why these were invented, right?

But really, aren't we all just secretly terrified we'll slip into our impress-a-girl mode, and start spewing horrific cutesy talk, questions about the other's attire, and an endless argument of "No you hang up!!"? I think doing any of these things in front of your parents wipes away decades of work that they did to raise you like a person with a certain sense of pride and authority.

Now, there is one last thing that I think many of us have a tough time doing in front of our parents...

3) Walking Past Victoria's Secret in the Mall
This one is the ultimate test. Our moms have an inbuilt desire to buy us clothes, and dress us according to plan. It's all they've ever wanted to do. This noble, sometimes creepy motivation does require some interaction on the part of the offspring in question.

Seeing that clothes need to be tried on and fitted, it is not unlikely that at some point in time, you were walking through the mall with your mom, and you spotted the pink, white, and black-colored store coming up to the right. Maybe it was the vivid colors, maybe it was the loud music, or maybe it was the large breasts, but all I know is, you all did everything in your power to sneak a peek without getting busted.

I know this is everything I've ever wanted in my life, but I must look away.

You definitely did not want your mom looking to find you ogling those super models, because then you'd be in for the worst afternoon at Kohl's in your life.

The worst thing ever though? When your mom says, "Oh wait, I need to look in here." For one tiny, infinitesimal moment, you're overjoyed that you can look at the displays without fear of being caught. But that's immediately followed by a quick thought, and an, "Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww."

There have been points in my life in which I literally chose to sit at that little glass wall protecting me from falling into the food court while my mom shopped at that place. And I know some of you did it, too.

So the next time you think of things you can't do at home, just remember, someday you'll get to torture your kids in socially uncomfortable situations.

Word to Your Mother,
Tapan Jones

p.s. comment on your awkward parent-involved situations!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Complete Idioms Guide to Picture Adaptations

English is the Bret Michaels of languages. Always needlessly complicating things and making up phrases that really have no business existing. People are always telling me not to count my chickens before they hatch. Bitch, I 've never seen a chicken in my life. Or they're telling me they're hanging on by the skin of their teeth. That's disgusting.

So today, as I was swirling my aged 2009 glass of red wine in my neon orange, plastic Senior Celebration cup, I began to think. Those same people - remember, the chicken farmers from the previous paragraph? - have been telling me to buckle down, and stop letting my imagination run away with me. Let me ask you something. Why is it so wrong to be prancing on a white sand beach, with my best, but hunchbacked, friend, Imagination? None of the other kids wanted to play with him, so I said, "jump on, buddy!" and wore his ass like a back pack. Just because his favorite activity involves running, those English speakers of the world doth protest.

Which brings me to my main point. People should say what they mean, and that's why I'm presenting you with four mock-ups of what happens when idioms go wrong. Before you read the accompanying captions and descriptions, stare at each photo and try to figure out what idiom I have masterfully illustrated. Otherwise, you too will be singing Every Rose Has Its Thorn, crying yourself to sleep as 10 more slutty women refuse to shack up with you on a bus.

From 56 yards deep, too.

Kicking the Bucket: The phrase, no doubt created by a philosophical janitor, has come to describe the end of life. Interesting story, this idiom came about during early 20th century medicine, as a patient was "pissing his life away." The nurse overseeing him got so mad at the noise, she kicked the bucket out from under him with all of her white shoe'd might, not realizing he'd been sitting. Next thing you know, Boom, death by cracked ass.

That third Powder Puff Girl sure would come in handy right now. Not the ugly one though.

A taste of your own medicine: First of all, using an idiom while describing another? Who do I think I am? Stephen Baldwin, that's who. At any rate, this idiom strikes close to home. One time, after my third Choco Taco, my body found itself fighting a violent case of frozen-innards. That is the medical term for it. Some rummaging through my cabinets and garage later, I created a potion of saltines, orange juice, whiskey, and a pinch of WD-40 to cure what ailed me. The taste of my own medicine? Coffee...from the emergency room.

Decisions Bro....Decisions

Put on your thinking cap: If such were the case, my neighborhood hangout of Lids would fucking sell them.

Freeze! It's Liberty Police!

Saved by the bell: I guess if I had to pick anyone, it would have to be A.C. Slater. But if that show had been what I had always dreamed of, the buddy cop genre could have been greatly expanded. This boxing phrase is used to describe when the boxer on the receiving end of a pummeling survives to fight another round, because the sound of the bell ends the current one. If this bell really was the savior Jesus Christ, a much more altruistic approach would be to end the fight entirely. Otherwise it's just continued torture.

You'll now find yourself noticing that idioms don't just come once in a blue moon, and you'll fight the urge to cry wolf, vigorously trying to speak in English befitting a 10th grade ESL class. In these cases, just remember, Bret Michaels = Poison, and Poison = fish in French.