The first rule of the Polish gym is you don’t talk about the Polish gym. The second rule of the Polish gym is – aww, forget the Fight Club pastiche, there are no rules, not at the university gym I go to. You throw down your five zloty entrance fee (a euro and a bit) on a come-when-you-feel-like-it basis and do your best not to bump into the Iron Maiden weight contraptions.
It’s rough and ready, kind of like Clubber Lang’s gym in Rocky 3 but I wouldn’t trade it for the computerised I-gyms where everyone smells of mimosa. The men in my gym are big and stoic and calm, like an army of Buddhist Terminators. They’re respectful to women and also to artistic, bespectacled leprechauns who get tangled in the chest-expander. So I know they won’t mind me throwing a few suggestions, you know, out there:
How about we open a window? I’m afraid that one day I’m going to walk in there and see a scene from a Jim Jones mass cult suicide where everyone has fatally overdosed on 100% pure Man-smell.
A little fresh air is good for soul and it means my eyebrows can return to their default position and not three inches over my head.
Most of my ideas are to some degree based on aesthetics, a little nudge here and there to lift our souls from the rubble and make us see the stars. With this in mind, we need to do something about the Disco Polo – there’s only so much high-octane Polish wedding music I can listen to without wanting to bite my kneecap off. Can’t we MP3 our way through some seventies-era West coast soft rock? I always find a little Fleetwood Mac the perfect antidote to the stinging pain of lactic acid build-up. Bobby McFerrin is good. He would undoubtedly act as a balm on anyone struggling to power-lift 300lb. Whatever, we just need to ditch the Disco Polo as every time it’s played a child in China dies.
I’m well aware that change is incremental. It takes time to shake old habits but I’m confident my next suggestion shouldn’t be too much of a leap; painting – no I don’t mean a fresh coat of beige on the toilet walls but Art. Yes, there are many grainy photocopied photos depicting the gym members’ triumphs in weight-lifting competitions. But how about supplementing them with a few Rothkos and Jaspers Johns? Replicas naturally, unless the university feels enlightened enough to stump up 47million for ‘Rust and Blue’. There could be a little resistance to this idea. I’m sure there are some Jackson Pollack fans in the gym, or de Kooning, who would prefer their heroes up on the walls. Hey, no problem. I’m open to compromise.
If we can get this far then my last idea will be a walk in the park (that’s a euphemism – no-one needs to walk in the park, not unless they want to): Even with the open window, the nice music and the abstract expressionism, it’s hard to hide the fact our gym is a dour Communist construction, built I’m sure from concrete and Brezhnev’s morbid thoughts. We can’t change the building, but what we can change is…us. Yes, I’m talking about Fancy Dress. What do you think? Nothing too extravagant, nothing with feathers or in-your-face, raw gayness, no, just a funny hat (cowboy, bowler?) or some masks? Batman, Darth Vader or Hannibal Lecter might offer an insight into the wearer’s true personality and liven up the clinking clanking monotony plaguing every workout zone. Through time we can work up to Venetian Carnival Masks and eventually, when everyone is comfortable we can go big time with ‘The Rocky Horror Show’.
Okay. Enough. I’ll give you time to think it over. But I’m feeling good about this. I know we have the potential to make our gym special, but in a good way. The kind of place Eddie Vedder or Oscar Wilde would be proud of.
God bless you all.