Heart to Heart

Those intensive work-outs sure build up an appetite.

When Portland Trailblazers forward Sean Kemp was checked into rehab recently, it was announced that he weighed 360 pounds and he had been free-basing cocaine in the locker room every night right before game time. For this, he receives this year's David Crosby Award, which reads, "What're You Gonna Do? Be Fat or Do Coke? Make Up Your Damn Mind!"

Kemp, a man of many appetites, is also rumored to have fathered as many as 17 children out of wedlock, which is made all the more amazing by the fact that he remains the Ugliest Man in the NBA, a stunning achievement considering that Dikembe Mutombo and Scot Pollard are still playing.

I think about stuff like this when I'm working out. And yes, I work out. In fact, I work out every day. When I tell people that, they generally look me right in the abdomen and say, "Yeah, OK." See, I'm a rather large man. What they don't realize is that if I didn't work out, I'd be like that Blob character in the X-Man comic books, the one who can catch bullets with his blubber and then spit them back out by flexing. So to speak.

Some people actually ask detailed questions about what it is that I do. When I tell them that I start off on the Stair-Climber, they probably envision that the machine is somehow made out of chocolate chip cookies and I graze as I climb. Aw heck, let's just blame everything on bad metabolism and good fried chicken.

The place where I work out is called F.I.T. at the River, F.I.T. being an acronym for Fitness Institute of Tucson. It's tucked inside the northern edge of the Tucson Heart Hospital, which I guess might come in handy some day. The people who run it are really cool; in fact, they offered me a free membership if I wouldn't tell anybody where it is that I work out. They claim that they're just shy, but then I heard one of the doctors mutter something about, "Boy, talk about your negative advertising."

They even offered me two free memberships if I would walk around downtown wearing a shirt that says, "Metro Fitness." They said they were really good friends with those Metro guys and they were just trying to give them some free publicity.

I usually work out in the early evening. The place is full during the midday with cardio rehab patients, and in the morning it's packed with adoring fans who show up just to watch Janos work out. Only a handful of regulars are there after 5 p.m.

Former UA quarterback Keith Smith is there just about every day, getting in shape for his upcoming gig with the Canadian Football League. He looks strong and ready.

Oh, pardon the digression, but the other day over at Salpointe during open gym for basketball, Smith's QB running buddy, Ortege Jenkins, showed up looking like he had swallowed Smith whole. Dude is huge and not in a good way. He asked if he could play in one of the pickup games because he "needed to get in shape for the NFL."

You better give that Mercedes back and tear up that Frequent Customer Discount Card from Donut Wheel. This poor guy is the living athletic example of the old Steve Martin book, How I Turned A Million In Real Estate Into $100 Cash.

When he did that memorable game-winning flip into the end zone at Washington his sophomore year, he should have hit the ground running right out the tunnel. No way it was going to get any better than that. He could have been like that guy in Eddie and the Cruisers and we all would have remembered him fondly. But just like they did with the movie, he probably would have screwed around and done a sequel, and we all would have sighed, "Damn. He's back. And he sucks."

Anyway, the nighttime F.I.T. at the River regulars include Martha, who unwinds on the treadmill after a full day of teaching nursing and working on her Ph.D.; Dr. Knope, who last consumed an ounce of fat in 1983 and only then by accident when he mistook a piece of avocado for asparagus; Stephanie, a freshman at the UA; Warren, a young white guy who wants desperately to learn how to play dominoes; and Linda, a cardiac surgical nurse who is so in demand she travels to a new city every few months just to spread her mad skills around.

These people are all cool, mostly because they never laugh when I need a running (lumbering) start just to mount the Stair Climber. But my favorite is Dave, a professor at the UA. The poor dude's real name is actually David Byrne. He probably had to spend the 1980s listening to more songs about buildings and food just so he'd know what his students were talking about.

The guy's so soft-spoken, it's like he talks in a different font from the rest of us. And he's so white, if he stood next to Nicole Kidman, somebody might mistake her for Grace Jones. Plus he's got these calves that look like Lou Ferrigno after somebody pissed off Bill Bixby.

He's a professor of Entomology at the UA. (That's bugs; I looked it up. That means that he could probably speak in Latin all the time if he wanted to, but he's nice enough not to.) His wife does something important in town, but Dave's definitely the cool one in the family. He reads all the right books and he works out in a shirt that says "Purdue Entomology."

Do you realize that somebody had to put in an order for that shirt to be made? And the poor slob at the shirt place had to bite a hole in his lip while he was taking the order?

Dave also has a shirt that says "Yuma Criminals," which is the official mascot of Yuma High School. Dude's out of control.

Anyway, we all do our workouts and then walk into the cool night air, where we're hit by the smell of the deep-fried Onion Blossom at Chili's and the Mexican food from On The Border. Yeah, that Heart Hospital is in the perfect spot.

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