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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Goodbye Club I

Live in Santa Fe for a few decades and you get used to saying goodbye. Friends you love leave, restaurants you eat at close, politicians you regularly interview retire or get indicted.
Nonetheless, there are a few constants in my life I never question and one of them, until a week ago, was Club International, my gym, where I have worked out regularly for close to 20 years, anywhere from 3 to 5 times a week (or, for a brief period, 7 days a week, but that was BT, Before Therapy).
Tonight was the last night for Club I and, even though working out was the last thing I felt like doing (I woke up at 1 am this morning feeling like someone was stabbing me in the eye), I knew saying goodbye was an important step in the grieving process, somewhere in between outrage and miserable acceptance.
Like most things I love, Club International's charm was not obvious on the surface. It wasn't fancy or state-of-the-art. Truth be told, if often didn't even seem very clean. But there was core group of people who had been going there for a long time, which created a sense of familiarity, the nice kind that doesn't involve actual relationships or in-depth conversations or e-mail.
Tonight, the final night, the club was mostly deserted, except for the owner, a few staffers and a couple of members who, like me, seemed determined to be the last person out the door.
An old stationary bicycle with a handwritten sold sign is probably not the most likely spot for elegaic musings, but I have a long history of inappropriate sentimentality. I kept my best friend Sonya's old ripped dirty sweatshirt for about 10 years after college because I couldn't bear to throw it away. I had once written the makers of Powerbar to complain bitterly about their discontinuation of the mocha power bar and how they had ruined my daily menu, and possibly my life. They had written me back a strangely understanding note assuring me I would soon get just as used to another flavor. (I had wanted to write them back and argue that my loyalty, once earned, is hard to shake, but I recognized that doing so would probably land my letter in the crazy pile).
I pedaled away, slowly. The only magazine left in the cardio room, once well-stocked with trashy celebrity reading material, was Continental Airline's inflight magazine, so I read that, which depressed me further. When would I ever go scuba diving in Argentina? Or get a lifetime pass to the President's Club in the Continental terminal to enjoy complimentary wireless and cocktails? Riding a bike to nowhere, that seemed more my style. I attributed these dark thoughts to the fact that, for the first time ever, the overhead TV, usually tuned to horrible Nancy Grace screaming about blondes abducted on tropical islands, was off. No distractions here tonight. I guessed the cable had probably been cancelled.
I pondered, as I half-heartedly read a story about the best martini bar in Jackson, Mississippi (how many martini bars can there possibly be in Jackson, Mississippi?), the demise of the gym. A notice taped up last week on every available surface of the club had attributed its sudden closure to the shaky economy. I'd been too overcome by the news to take it in at the time. All I could really recall was something about rising rents or rising gas prices, the costs of repair needed in the building. It all sounded plausible and implausible at the same time. I'd kept expecting, all week, some sort of reprieve, even heard rumors that the racquetball players were planning a last-minute save. I sighed. This was the problem with Magical Thinking, the disappointment that accompanies it. My first thought when I heard that someone won the $200 million Powerball this week was that if it was me, I would save the gym. Even though I hadn't bought a Powerball ticket.
But now, here we were, the final hour. There was no white knight coming to rescue our dilapidated gym. Where was John McCain when you really needed him?
Alone in the cardio room, a bad magazine on my lap, I have to admit I was having a lovely time. It was sort of nice to take a break from thinking about the horrific state of the world and just feel sorry for myself for half an hour. And burn calories at the same time.
Just then, a man I've seen for years, popped in and began making his way toward me with a determined march. He was freshly showered, wearing street clothes. He had always greeted me when I saw him, although I could never be sure if he was saying "Goldberg or Good Afternoon" when he walked by. Now he planted himself right in front of me and as soon as I'd removed my ear buds said: "Julia Goldberg. I never really got to know you, but I just want to say The Santa Fe Reporter is fantastic. Thank you and if I never see you again, good luck. I can tell you're a good person." And he shook my hand as I thanked him and then marched off.
It was kind of hard to feel sorry for myself after this. For one thing, I was giggling too hard. Chances are, I'll see him tomorrow; rumor has it most of the Club I members are going to join the gym down the street. I am, at any rate. Maybe I'll get attached to it. Maybe I won't. Life goes on, I suppose. And, as the gym owner had said to me last week when I called her, "there are worse things."
It's funny in Santa Fe. Even when things we love are gone, we still find a way to keep them alive. Half the people I know give directions using as landmarks restaurants and businesses that have been gone for a decade, even more. I, myself, referred to something as "catty corner to where OJ Sarah's used to be" just last week. Maybe it's a fault, this failure to accept change, to evolve, to roll with the punches. Or maybe there are some things that just deserve to be remembered.