I took German in school and for five years we did everything but learn how to have a conversation. We translated sentences and if you did not get the entire sentence perfect you basically got zero points on the exam. I remember I was able to read Herman Hesse’s Der Steppenwolf in the end, but not really speak. That was decades ago and I can still not speak for the simpel reason that I have not practiced.

Spending spring in Berlin, I trying to make use of my lost German skills. Sure, if you are in a cool store in Mitte, the sales person speaks perfect English but as soon you are outside the middle-class or tourist areas, it is a whole different situation; buying a metro card or wine all of a sudden becomes a linguistic adventure.

Another thing that school did not prepare me for was gym German. I mean, you do not do much talking at the gym with strangers, but sometimes you would like to communicate a little bit.

Here are the essential sentences I need help translating.

  • Bitch, do not interrupt me in the middle of a set. Rude.
  • No, I am obviously using these dumbbells.
  • I agree. What kind of schmuck name is “McFit” anyway?
  • Yeah, I would love to have a coffee with you. When?
  • Keep your fucking voice down, this is not the hair saloon.

Entering the free-weight room of McFit by KaDeWe I thought I entered a wet dream; the walls were made of raw concrete. Would I be able to concentrate on working out when I really just wanted to go around and talk dirty to the concrete? But there were something wrong here, was it the sound that was not quite right? Was it the smell of a generic gym rather than a basement? As I walked closer I realised that the walls were not made out of concrete but covered by huge printouts. There were no concrete, only the illusion of concrete. Sad and getrixed I started my very first gym session in Berlin.

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In the great tradition of fellow homosexualists like Stephen Splender and W.H. Auden, I have decided to spend some time in Berlin. Earlier this week I arrived to my flat by Kleistpark in Schönenberg, close to where both David Bowie and Christoher Isherwood lived. The mainstream gay life of Schönenberg feels very distant in Kleistpark, in my block there are several bookstores with an intellectual profile, an organic food store and the Heinrich-von-Kleist-Park.

I stay in a small flat facing a small courtyard with concrete and brick buildings. No sunlight ever reaches the large windows making the flat dark despite white walls and high ceilings. Decorative stucco and heavy wooden floors makes up for it a little bit but I have chosen to use the kitchen table as a writing desk rather than the small writing desk in the darkest corer of the flat. I have lived in Sweden this entire winter, spend most of my hours in a classroom without windows; I am absolutely desperate for some sunlight.

The Apollo Gym is located near the flat, however, the greenish flourescent lighs made everyone inside look sick freaked me out so I decided to sign up at McFit instead. So temporarily this blog is now called BERLIN GYM SYNDROME.

Kunta Kinte was a man born in today’s Gambia, sold as a slave to an American plantage owner in the 18th century.

“I got a bone to pick
I don’t want you monkey-mouth motherfuckers sittin’ in my throne again
(Ay, ay, what’s happenin’? K-Dot back in the hood, nigga!)
I’m mad (he mad!), but I ain’t stressin'”

Kunta Kinte’s story was later told by his relative Alex Haley in his 1976 novel Roots, adapted for television the year after starring LeVar Burton.

“Bitch, where you when I was walkin’?
Now I run the game got the whole world talkin’, King Kunta”

Successful rapper Kendrick Lamar released his amazing track King Kunta last year, the album from where the single came from was voted best album of the year by Pitchfork for its complex take on music, race, poverty and America.

“Everybody wanna cut the legs off him, Kunta
Black man taking no losses, oh yeah”

And then it happened. The track is the most popular song at Friskis & Svettis, a major mainstream chain of gyms in Sweden. A sign of increased awareness about past and present racism, or just the fact that people do not listen to the lyrics, these highly political and violent lyrics?

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LeVar Burton as Kunta Kinte (1977).

 

I have made a list of the prominent Marys at my main gym since 2011. Here is the 2015 edition. The handsome guy is Russel Tovey, it will make sense later on in the text.

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  • No 1 aka Arty Mary aka My future husband 1, an artist that I have been introduced to but he doesn’t remember. Too bad. Hot! Hot! Hot!
  • No 2 aka Sour Puss, cute, getting buffed, but looks like a sour puss!
  • No 3 aka The German, never smiles, never talks to anyone. Just looks like a German God.
  • No 4 aka Fashion Lucy, as in trying to be fashion but really is not.
  • No 5 aka “Yourfriend”, ex dancer and very flirty. Very flirty. UPDATE He is the one shaving his balls in the showers.
  • No 6 aka Rude Muscle Mary, read more about him here.
  • No 7 aka Garbage boy hangaround. The name says it all. Read more about him here.
  • No 9 aka Rude Muscle Mary 2, read more about him here.
  • No 10 aka Green Pants Mary aka My future husband 2. The fabric on his shorts is so thin. So thin.
  • No 11 aka Dorian Gray, a lawer friend of mine who still looks like he is 22 despite the fact that he has passed 30. Bastard.
  • No 12 aka The Politician. One day I will release compromising photos from those sweet days of youth.
  • No 13 aka Mr Flip Flop. I see him at the gym every time I am there. But I rarely see him working out. He spend most of his time in the shower trying to flirt with straight guys.
  • No 14 aka The Maladjusted Mary. I see him once a week in his red cap walking around looking awkward, looking around and sometimes winks at hot guys like a Warner Bros Cartoon. I have never seen him touch a weight.
  • No 15 aka The Repugnant One. According to politician Jim Wells at least. I would not call him “repugnant”. At all.
  • No 16 & 17 aka The Douchebags. Read more about them here.
  • No 18 aka Mr Ebay. He started to talk to me about something and we ended up talking about on-line shopping for three minutes. Now, this is his opening topic every time I see him.
  • No 19 & 20 aka The Fashion Gays! These Marys attend Body Pump class in black caps, channeling Dior Homme AW2012 with every bicep curl. I saw them out clubbing last night, they wore the same caps.

New ones

  • No 21 aka The Daddie, not as in gay slang ‘daddie’ but an actual father. He and his celeb boyfriend have a kid together, and I feel like a pretty piece of flesh in his presence. No shame what so ever…
  • No 22 & 22 aka The Not Age Appropriate Ones. I do reject the whole concept of dress according to your age. However, there is difference between not care about how you ‘should’ dress and dress to pass as younger by shopping at American Apparel.
  • No 23 aka Ear Realness. Russel Tovey from HBO’s Looking has nothing on this guy, and I adore them. The ears, that is. I saw him on Tinder a while ago, but no match…
  • No 24 aka Butchness. And the problem is, he is probably proud of his masculinity and the fact that he passes as straight. To quote his Grindr profile “masc 4 masc”. He is one of the gays I was referring to in this post on why, oh why, do one choose a hot PT.
  • No 25 aka The One With The Huge Gym Bag. There is a trend with some of the more ambitious gym guys to bring their huge gym bag with them instead of putting it into the lockers (which will fit the bag, at least at my gym). I have no idea why they do that and why their bag is so big since it usually pretty empty, expect for at least two kinds of work out supplements. But I guess it gives you the look that you are a gym guy and you take your work out seriously.

Back in the 1980s there were these crappy C64 games called Sex Games. I never had it but my friend M did and we used to play it from time to time in his room.

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You were supposed to rhythmically move the joystick from left to right simulating sex and increase the speed until you archived orgasm thereby get points. I think. I do not remember much from the actual game, what I do remember is my crush on my friend and how I wished it was us doing it.

Rinse and repeat is a new game that is pretty much the same… but kinda gay in a gym setting. And slightly better grahics. So, a hot guy walks in and it is your job to lather him up until he gets all horny. Perfect if you wanna practice before trying out the real deal.

Pay whatever you feel like for the game, or just watch the video below.

Thanks Alex for the tips. I knew I could count on you.  

The biggest challenge regarding cardio is not the actual workout; the pain, the suffering. Nor is it the super slow results. The biggest challenge is not to implode when people mistake going to the gym with a friend for a coffee break where you loudly chit-chat about things not relevant to other people. Let me share some quotes from this summer:

  • “Kinda weird with green baby poo.”
  • “Those cinnamon buns *generic coffe place*. A-maz-ing.”
  • “X is a slut, she totally checked my ex-boyfriend out.”
  • “Isn’t it funny that your poo is almost yellow after having the noro virus?”
  • “That sushi place. A-maz-ing.”
  • “A total slut. Hate her. I should call her. It has been a while.”
  • “Love your running tights, I should get the same pair.”
  • “Did I mention the amazing cinnamon buns?”
  • “Today, I did absolut NOTHING at work.”
  • “An absolut SLUT, I tell you.”

The more they sweat, the louder their voices get. And the more pissed I get. I usually try to increase the volume and shove the earplugs even further into my ears but it usually does not work. Their voices seems to piece through any podcast or music, even from a distance. In these cases, I actually choose mental health as in giving upp and just add extra time to the next workout session.