Category Archives: Fitness

A Summer of Pilgrimage, Part I: The Hodge Podge Shop

My kid started back to school this morning, so I’m in a reflective mood today, thinking back over the summer, which flew by at record speed, I think. It’s been a pretty significant summer, full of positive changes, like the fierce exercise program I talked about here. And, by the way, the fierce exercise is paying off in a big way – I had my yearly physical last week, and the doctor walked in the exam room holding my report with a big smile on his face and said, “this is what health looks like”. Yep, all my numbers have improved greatly, so I highly recommend fierce exercise if you’re of a mind to improve your health. But anyway, enough about me, let’s talk about me.

As a kid and young teen, I spent a lot of time riding around my neighborhood on my bike, especially in the summer. I would spend hours just riding around, going up to the Tote-Sum store for Now or Laters, riding by my crushes’ houses, visiting various dogs that I had made friends with, etc. But around age fourteen or so, my favorite thing to do was to ride up to the junk store.

Hodge Podge

It appears to be called the “Short Stop” now, but back in the seventies, it was called “The Hodge Podge Shop” and it was run by a nice old lady who would give me peppermints and let me rummage all day through the junk, although she knew I wasn’t going to buy anything. The place was musty and dusty and marvelous, chock full of odds and ends that would probably be worth a fortune now – collectibles and memorabilia dating back to the early years of the century, I now realize. There was an old trunk full of letters, cards, postcards, and ancient photos in one corner, and I would sit for hours, sucking on my peppermint, reading the letters, looking at the pictures, and making up stories in my head about the people in them.

But to get to The Hodge Podge Shop, I had to ride my bike a couple miles down a road that cut through the fields – there were no houses around and it wasn’t heavily traveled, so this was a forbidden activity. Naturally, I thought that was a ridiculous rule, so I paid no attention to it, but this meant that I couldn’t tell my mother where I was going on my Hodge Podging days. This is the road…

Road pic

So one day I was riding my bike down the road on the way to the Hodge Podge Shop when a carload of older teenage boys began messing with me. At first, it was done jokingly, nothing too bad or scary, just slowing down and catcalling, no big deal. I just kept my eyes straight ahead and kept on going. They eventually drove off and I thought it was over, but they came back. This time, there was a different vibe about them. I think one of the boys in the back seat was the main instigator and evil influence, because the whole time they were harassing me, while the other boys were cutting up and laughing and making crude comments, he was just repeatedly saying, in a low voice, “get her”.

As things got scarier, I frantically tried to figure out what to do. My first instinct was to jump off of my bike and run off across the fields, and I almost did it, which would have been a serious mistake, I think. Fortunately, something stopped me from doing that and I stayed on my bike and kept my head down, thinking it was best to avoid eye contact, but at one point, I turned my head slightly and looked straight into the eyes of the guy in the front passenger seat. I think he saw the terror and misery in my eyes, and I think I saw that he had a soul.

That’s when the epic battle between good and evil started. The guy with the soul started shouting, “just go; leave her alone”. The car pulled up ahead and I thought they were leaving, but then they stopped. A car door opened in the back. Then a car door opened in the front – on the passenger side. I’m pretty sure my fate hung in the balance. Since they were stopped ahead of me, I turned around and I rode as fast as I could in the other direction without looking back. But behind me I heard an eruption of angry profanity and the sound of someone being thrown hard up against the side of a car.

The fight must have turned out right and good must have prevailed, because no one came after me and I made it back home safely. I couldn’t tell my parents what had happened to me, because I wasn’t supposed to be on that road in the first place, and I never again went down that road or re-visited the Hodge Podge Shop. Until this summer.

Dan Fogelburg. I say that name and I think most people, if they know who he is, instantly have this connotation of cheesy, overly sentimental pop music. If so, that’s probably because they are thinking about his later albums, because he did kind of lose his touch a little, in my opinion, and drifted too far into saccharin sentimentality. But his first two albums, Home Free and Souvenirs,  were deeply emotional masterpieces. Souvenirs had back-up vocals by Don Henley, Graham Nash, Glenn Frey, and Joe Walsh.  Mr. Walsh produced the album as well. The whole album, which is so aptly named for a pilgrimage, is great, and I recommend you listen to it if you’re of a mind to, but this is my favorite song from it, hands down.

Better change before the sun goes down. Better raise your fortresses or tear them down…


Questions? Comments? Please Share!



Filed under Fitness, Memoir, Music, Women

Exercise for the Anti-Athlete: Gettin’ Funky

  I was never an athletic girl.  I was the one that sat in the outfield making clover chains as the softball flew over my head.  I was the one feigning cramps regularly in P.E.  I was the one that sat by the fire, flirting with ski instructors, on the big ski trip.  I was the one that only faked an interest in football, and that was just to make some guy happy. In fact, the best football game date I ever had was when the guy wanted to leave at halftime to go check out a band downtown.

Fortunately for me, there is one bright spot in this vast wasteland of non-athleticism – music makes me move.  A lot of times when I go to concerts and everyone is sitting, it’s all I can do to stay in my seat and not be “that one girl” that stands up and dances wildly and makes a fool of herself.  The inner Marie is dancing just as wildly as the one girl, and always has been.  One of my earliest memories is of dancing by myself in my bedroom as The Monkeys’ “I’m a Believer” played on my little portable record player.

I was in junior high and high school during the heyday of funk, and that really took the “I’m a Believer” side of me to a new level. They played a lot of great songs at the Friday night dances at the Jaycee Hut.  In case you don’t know what a Jaycee Hut is – the Jaycees, which stands for Junior Chamber of Commerce, is sort of a service club, and they used to call their lodges “huts”.  So our Jaycees used to sponsor Friday night dances at the Hut for local teens during the school year, and they had a swimming pool that we used in the summer.  We’ll talk about the pool later, but for now, let’s take a look at the comedy of errors, or the cluster of sad ironies, that was the Friday Night Jaycee Dance.

The main issue was that only a few of the boys would dance.  This caused a big problem, because for some reason, at that time in Lynyrdskynyrdsville, it was unacceptable for girls to dance together.  So the place would be packed with non-dancing kids, with the boys on one side of the room, and the girls on the other side.  Luckily, I had male friends from the band that would dance the whole time – those were the Weird Al Yankovic-types that just got out there and shook their skinny white butts, usually exaggerating for comedic effect.

But most of the boys just stood there, arms folded, sour expressions on their faces, waiting for a slow dance, at which time, if they felt confident and motivated enough, they might ask a girl to dance.  To tell the truth, I think that even then they would have preferred to stand completely still and just enjoy the full frontal contact thing.  After the slow dance, it was back to standing grouchily against the wall, and the Weird Als would rule the floor once more.  So the bottom line is that this situation deprived the boys of what they wanted more than anything, which was to be close to the girls, and it deprived the girls of the boys’ attention, which is what they wanted more than anything, and for which they had spent hours perfecting their Farrah Faucette ‘dos and blue eye shadow.  All this angst and heartache because of an inability to get down and get funky.

It’s a good thing that this situation resolved itself by college, or the dance clubs would have really sucked.  But it did resolve, and a lot of these non-dancing fellas figured out that having some smooth moves on the dance floor could only be advantageous to them. Finally there were enough males to go around.  The best dance club that I ever went to was in Athens, Greece.  This place could have rivaled the famous Studio 54 – it was massive and absolutely wild. I couldn’t understand anything that anyone was saying, but it didn’t matter – who needs words when you’re dancing?

So what does all of this have to do with exercise?  Well, for most of my adult life, I walked around a huge college campus 500 times a day, but now, I’m teaching mostly online from home, so I need another form of exercise.  One that doesn’t require much athleticism.  One that’s fun.  Happily, thanks to my inner dancing queen, all I have to do is switch on some good funk, and you can’t keep me still.  I’ll be up on the treadmill, or doing an exercise video (muted, of course), or just plain dancing.  It’s also a mood elevator.  You want to feel happy?  Cheerful?  Optimistic?  Try working out to some of the songs below and see what happens.  Here is a list of the 100 greatest funk songs if you want some more ideas.

Okay, so here’s some of my very favorite selections from my long workout playlist, followed by a video countdown of the top three…

“Tell Me Something Good”, Chaka Khan

“Play That Funky Music”, Wild Cherry

“Fire” and “Love Rollercoaster”, Ohio Players

“Lady Marmalade”, Patti LaBelle

“Fight the Power” and “Who’s That Lady”, Isley Brothers

“You Haven’t Done Nothin” and “Superstition”, Stevie Wonder

And now for my top three. In third place…Will it go round in circles? Will it fly high like a bird in the sky? It sure as heck will. By Billy Preston.

In second place…by the great Stevie Wonder…good Lord, this song just sizzles…

Edging out that reggae woman by a slight margin, we have this song that just makes me crazy for some reason. I start every workout with it. I love everything about it, and the way it stops and starts in the middle before the guitar solo just sends me. Here’s the fabulous Isley Brothers, from the outstanding album, Go For Your Guns.

Questions?  Comments?  Please Share!


Filed under Fitness, Music, Uncategorized