Just Like Columbus

Chapter 23, Blog 2

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang



Ninety fretful minutes before my race, I sneaked my vintage gym bag into the dressing room at Griffin. At least, the sign read “DRESSING ROOM.” Only three steps in through an ordinary-looking portal, I stood with my mouth agape, my head spinning. I knew I had been tricked into a different dimension.

There was light, blinding white light.

There was air, clean, garden-fresh air.

And room, a warehouse of room.

You could see and breathe and get dressed without getting an elbow in the head or worse.

In one direction, there were workout rooms with huge diagrams and stretching areas with instructions in English and Spanish and French and, I think, Chinese. Opposite that, there were 21st century weight machines and eager ellipticals. On tables in the middle, there were bowls of fruit, tubs of bottled juice, water and other drinks I failed to recognize.

Throughout, there were padded chairs and no rickety, wooden benches. Plush yellow and black carpet not only covered the floor but wore arrows pointing to the showers. King-sized lockers, also yellow and black, waited to serve. Best of all, that ubiquitous urine smell prevalent in every dressing room I had ever known – I sniffed the air again – was missing.

Apparently, I had died and gone to locker room heaven.

Or hell.

“The Master Games were last week, Grandpa.”

Ignoring the deep, sarcastic voice, I shuffled along. But I couldn’t ignore the Mr. Universe pageant with sculpted bodies and United Nations diversity in front of me. It wasn’t long before a naked, black fireplug asked me where the towels were. I stared at him. He stared at me. Seconds ticked away before I realized he thought I was an attendant. I shrugged.

“No hablo ingles,” I said.

Annoyed, he sauntered away. I dressed and hustled through the tunnel to the track. While the dressing room was but a glimpse through the looking glass, the stadium held the New World order. From the tunnel’s opening, I saw children jogging, stretching and laughing with Atlanta’s gorgeous skyline looming over the top of the stadium bowl.

My heartbeat bumped along like a Yugo. Harry was right. I wasn’t ready for this.

… screw Atlanta …

I turned to leave only to run into a monstrous wave of impetuous jocks. The tide shoved me back over the track and into the infield. Disoriented, I jogged to get away and happened upon the shot put area in time to see Ralphie heave a sweat-drenched 64-footer, good for fourth place.

“Whut gives?” Ralphie whispered. “Don’t whites run track no more?”

“Nope, just us dumb geezers,” I whispered back.

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

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