The ‘Barre’ Chronicles…with a twist 

Barre-1st position

I stood at the barre, toed-out, alone in my masculinity and surrounded by a rainbow of colors, women in their exercise tights and tops. And me, with skinny legs in baggy gym shorts and a wrinkled cotton t-shirt with the logo of a local beer manufacturer, I’m the tallest, oldest, and only male ‘at the barre’, a consummate ‘fish out of water’.

Nevertheless, I would not be deterred. 

That was weeks ago and I’ve been ‘hitting the barre’ twice weekly since then. Still in loose shorts but more confident in knowing and doing the routine. First and second position are second nature to me, I wobble a bit on the relève but show good flexibility on the plié, as I squat low, then lower.

And in that two-a-week regiment, I’m seeing more muscular quads, thickening thighs, and firm buttocks with each passing class. But enough about my classmates, my own physiology is improving, as well.  The legs are stronger, my posture has improved and my hair is growing back…(two of three are true).

Barre exercise incorporates some ballet, yoga, balance and weight-bearing movements, using hand weights, balls, bands and the ever-present ballet barre, with multiple repetitions. The muscle ‘burn’ is often intense but momentary, while the feeling of accomplishment is exhilarating and enduring. Completing a routine often becomes an issue of mind over matter and I smile with an inner arrogance, knowing that I’m pushing myself to new limits. What I lack in grace or style, I make up with grimaces and grunts.

Exercise is like that, isn’t it?  Push yourself to reach a level, then reset to do better. The discipline to persevere and the resulting accomplishment are their own rewards.  The occasional injury is a nagging byproduct, a temporary interference.

Our instructor counts down, repetition after repetition, and when we think we’re done, she orders up, “One more rep, yes?”  In an earlier life I would have shouted, “Yes, Drill Sergeant!”. But, now, I just grin, grunt and go on the best I can.

Barre is part of the smorgasbord of exercise classes at my local JCC.  Along with Yoga. Tai-Chi Easy, some boxing and the pool, I feel myself getting a bit leaner and stronger.

And, if my alpha friends find it strange that I’m the only male in a class of women doing curtsy reps at a barre instead arm wrestling at a real bar, I just boldly offer them high fives, aggressive chest bumps and a declaration of the classic John Candy/Steve Martin line…

“How ‘bout them Bears!” *

Barre, Releve

Srbottch.Com

*Planes, Trains and Automobiles

My Morning Paper

Ahhh, the morning newspaper. World updates, local happenings, sports, the funnies. Quite frankly, I’d miss my morning paper more than my morning ‘Joe’. What about you?

I started reading the morning paper as a kid, growing up in Worcester, MA.  We were a ‘two-a-day’ family, subscribing to the Morning Telegram and Evening Gazette. Like clockwork, ‘paperboys’ delivered them to our back door early morning and late afternoon, six days a week and Sunday morning.  My sister and I raced for the Sunday comics. The winner would get smug while the loser got a tantalizingly long lesson in ‘patience’.

I don’t race to get the paper now, I can’t move that fast. Besides, I probably read the major news items on my smart phone during a night wakeup, hence the urgency isn’t as great. Regardless, reading it page to page is still a priority in the morning.

Afternoon editions are passé in today’s news business. Modern technology informs us as events unfold, no waiting. Cable news, Internet and ‘talking heads’ are fierce competitors for newspapers. In that same vein, I suppose, morning editions are likely carrying ‘stale’ news, as well. Isn’t progress wonderful?  Well, yes, but…

I’m a bit of a ‘dinosaur’ when it comes to the ‘speed’ of today’s environment. That’s why I like baseball, a leisurely game, completed when completed, no clock, just a comfortable pastime.  Quit tinkering with it.

I don’t like being rushed through checkout lines, either, and am not a fan of instant oatmeal. I like to take my time, and that goes for reading the news. The local paper allows me that quirk without pressing buttons, scrolling screens or double clicking. And I don’t mind a little newsprint on my fingers. I’m a ‘dinosaur’.

I like big headlines, bold and dramatic. The bolder the headlines, the more dramatic the event. Two word headlines really get my attention:

GORE WINS

BUSH WINS

DEWEY WINS

(In baseball, ‘1 outta 3’ is pretty good!)

So many headlines I’ve seen over the years: wars and weather, moon shots and hot shots, politicians and popes, winners and losers. I’ve read them all in my morning paper and even saved some in a box, stashed in my cellar. They probably deserve better.

Occasionally, I’ll read them and reflect, ‘a lot has happened in my lifetime,  what will my morning paper read tomorrow?’  I think I’ll hurry to the back door early for that answer. Will it be old news by then?  This ‘dinosaur’ enjoys his morning paper!

srbottch

Today, I Threw Like a Girl

Baseball

Recently, I read a story about a baseball player, a ‘pitcher’ who’s unique because he can pitch effectively with either his right or left hand.  A major league team plans to give him a tryout and I hope he makes it because I know how hard that is, throwing both left and right handed. 

As an adult, I’m doing some simple things to challenge myself, physically and mentally.  I dance, memorize poems, write short essays, or ‘musings’, as my sister calls them. My latest challenge is to throw a ball with my left hand. It’s not simple, I’m right handed.  The muscles on the left, as well as the whole body action, just don’t flow as smoothly as on my right. They’re not used to it. they haven’t learned it.  They don’t have a ‘memory’ of it, yet.

You could say that I ‘throw like a girl’, a common refrain when I was a kid.  “Hey, you throw like a girl!”, was the charge. “Yeah, well so’s your mother!”, came the retort, as I ran. I’m improving, though, as I study my right side motion and try to duplicate it on the left.   Yesterday, throwing leftie, I zipped a rock against a tree and gave myself a ‘high-five’.  Soon, I’ll be able to pat myself on the back using that hand. 

Isn’t it odd how we often ascribe certain characteristics, or abilities, to genders; ‘throw like a girl’, ‘walk like a man’?  I think I’ve always known this, but my throwing exercise has confirmed it: doing something correctly is a matter of how hard you practice, not necessarily a factor of gender. Today, I watched a girl’s college team practicing for the upcoming softball season. They were learning to throw to the ‘cutoff’ girl from the outfield. Wow, they were good!  And the pitcher, she ‘could throw that speedball by you’.**

Today, I threw like a girl..,and was proud of it!

srbottch

**Bruce Springsteen, ‘Glory Days’