Today my friend Emma, who works with me, is going with me to Pilates class at the Buffalo Athletic Club. I love that august name, the Buffalo Athletic Club. Leonard Pennario liked that I belonged to the BAC. He was a member of the New York Athletic Club and they honored his membership at the BAC so when he visited Buffalo he would stop in.
Our Pilates class at the BAC is the greatest. We have this instructor, Jim. You can remember his name because of Jim/gym. Anyway, Jim is this muscleman who can do all these unbelievable things. It is like watching a cirque artist.
At the end of the class I cannot take my eyes off him because here is what he does. We do this thing called the straddle stretch. You swing your legs out into this wide V and then you have to bend your middle forward. "Float your body forward," is how Jim puts it. As if it is the most natural movement in the world.
Which, I can do that about six inches. Then it's University Station, end of the line. Jim just keeps going. He bends forward until his head and his chest are on the floor. That is something to see!
Jim told me I was going to be able to do that if I kept practicing. He said it would be no problem.
"OK, how long will it take?" I bugged him.
I think he said six weeks. That was about two years ago.
Well, it is hard to work on that stretch when I am so busy watching him. Once after class another student and I were asking Jim some questions and as he answered them, he went through this unbelievable series of twists and turns. By the end of it he was standing on his hands with his body twisted into this pretzel shape. We were just staring. He is like the Rubber Man in the Jim Rose Circus. I wonder if the Jim Rose Circus is still rolling. That is really old-time vaudeville.
Jim is in the reserves and every now and then he goes to Germany and when he comes back he is all jazzed up. He counts our exercises in German. I like how his class if full of talk about Joseph Pilates and what Joseph Pilates believed and what he would want. I love when people are passionate about what they do.
How many people knew Pilates was a person? He was sickly and weak and he came up with these exercises to strengthen himself and they worked. Then in World War I he was a prisoner of war in England and he taught the exercises to everyone in his camp and that was the only camp in which no one caught tuberculosis. Something like that. It has been a while since I read up on him. It could be time for a refresher course.
Oh my gosh! Look at that business about how Joseph Pilates was bullied as a kid because his last name reminded his classmates of Pontius Pilate. In all these months of doing Pilates that association has never occurred to me. No wonder he learned those exercises.
Holy cow. It appears Sarah Palin has also been likened to Pontius Pilate. See for yourself. Those mean nasty Democrats will stop at nothing!
Sarah Palin should take Pilates too, to defend herself.
I like the calm of Pilates class. The BAC's gym is beautiful, with shining wooden floors and glass block windows, and everyone sitting on mats moving in synch like dancers. My friend Gary who teaches dance at Niagara University says that dancers have been doing Pilates for decades, that they knew about Pilates long before everyone else did.
Then there is the music. In Pilates they do not torture you with hip-hop as they do in Body Sculpt, which can be like a kind of prison boot camp. In Pilates I have developed an affection for certain monotonous singer/songwriters like Ben Lee and Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen. Well, that is what our teacher Susie plays. Jim must consider even them too distracting. He gives us rustly, jingly New Age music. Once we had the soundtrack to "The Mission." That was fun.
OK. Now I am psyched. Today is the day that I will make progress in that stretch. Today is the day I will touch the floor.
What if someone likens me to Pontius Pilate? You never know if that will happen. And it's always good to be ready, just in case.