Tuesday, March 29, 2016

"Swing Low"

At the fitness place we go to in Mexico (which they call the Ranch), after the question, “Is this your first time at the Ranch?” – (In my case)  “No.  I have been here thirty-four times.” – the second-most popular conversational icebreaker is,

“What is your favorite activity at the Ranch?” 

The answers about “favorite activity” vary, from offered hourly classes such as, “Circuit Training” to “Stability Ball” (no idea) to “Dance Striptease” (leave me out of it.) 

My own response to “What is your favorite activity at the Ranch?” is:

“The hammocks.”

From the very first of my thirty-four visits, I developed an immediate relationship with the Ranch’s hammocks located beside the communal lounge, which offered my previous “favorite activity”,

“Sitting in the lounge.”

Imagine – or actually “visualize” because they’re real – woven hammocks fastened to hooks embedded atop tall, four-by-four posts embedded in cement shoes to insure stability, although the words “hammock” and “stability” have a tenuous relationship at best.

“The Hammock Experience” is like you’re on the deck of a tossing watercraft… lying down.  And exquisitely relaxed.  (Due to the absence of the possibility of being ignominiously thrown overboard, although there is the chance of falling out of the hammock, which, since there is no possibility of drowning actually supplements the experience.)

I was informed that these attractive “string” hammocks were manufactured in Yucatan, located on a peninsula in southeastern Mexico (in case after reading this ringing endorsement of these hammocks you feel compelled to pop down to their vicinity of origin and pick one up.)

They are extremely colorful.  (Explanatory Note:  I am stalling a little, to delay my description of “Getting into the hammock”, during which my innate ineptitude rushes uncomfortably to the fore.)

But here’s the thing about these three-inch-wide, vertically striped colors.  They follow the sequence of the spectrum.  Until suddenly, they don’t.

There is “Red”, followed by “Orange”, then “Yellow”, then “Green”…

And then, inexplicably, the pattern deviates, going…

“Purple”, “Blue”, instead of the spectrumally-designated

“Blue”, “Purple.”

“Why?” I wonder, staring at the hammock, staving off the impending embarrassment of a passerby seeing me attempting awkwardly to climb into it.  And also delaying the possibility of mastering the “Entry Process”, only to have what is fundamentally a delicate undercarriage of knotted string collapse under my body weight, dropping me unceremoniously to the stone-covered surface below, fracturing both of my seventy-one year-old hips in the process. 

Although, stickler that I am, that “color thing” simply bothers the heck out of me.

Why follow the spectrum sequence – “Red,” “Orange” “Yellow” “Green” – and then suddenly switch, going “Purple” and then “Blue” when anyone with a “Color Chart” knows it’s supposed to go “Blue” and then “Purple”?

Numerous explanations come to mind.

Maybe it’s just a difference in countries.  Maybe in Mexico – like when you fill in government documents and it’s “Date of Birth” before “Month of Birth” (where, in America, it’s the opposite) – I don’t know, maybe in Mexico, the sequence goes “Purple” and then “Blue” rather than “Blue” and then “Purple.”  Although, when you change countries, can you actually change science?

Or maybe by Yucatanian aesthetics, it just “looks better”.

“We are Yucatanian ‘hammock artists’.  Let science be hanged.  We say, first ‘Purple’, and then Blue’.  You don’t like it?  Buy an American hammock!”

Or could be, it’s a subtle political statement:

“We cannot feed our families making hammocks.  Our ‘silent protest’ is changing the sequence of the colors.  We are a peaceful people.  It is the best we can do.”

Anyway, there it is – a Yucatanian hammock, mocking the universally recognized color sequence.  You know what?  I say go for it.  Until your government gets wind of your subversive color-flipping.  Then, grab your twine balls and head for the hills!        

Okay, time to get in.  The question is,


The answer:  Carefully.

You sit down on the edge of it, you swing your legs around ninety degrees, then you lie back, “butt walking” your way gradually to the middle.

And then you’re in.

Unless you mistakenly over-“butt-walk”, toppling heavily off of the other side of the hammock.

Ah, but once you’re positioned, with no work and not a single muscle called to action, the Yucatanian contraption holding you effortlessly in mid-air...

Ladies and Gentlemen…

You have arrived.

And you’re just swinging there.  Blown by the breeze.  Or a precipitating side-to-side “hip action.”  Or – worst-case scenario, you extend a foot to the ground, and you give yourself a push.  Like that’s such a bad case scenario.  I mean, how lazy can you get?

Nothing’s as sublime as relaxing comfortably in a hammock.  Birds dropped by just to look at me.

“That look of contentment on his face.  Does that remind you of anything?”  

“Yeah.  Us, when we’re flying without flapping.”

Rocking in a hammock – an idyllic pastime.  A contented “Ahhh” would be gilding the lily.  So I silently lie there. 

Until the bell rings for lunch.

Do not think, however, that I inflexibly limited in my activities at the Ranch.  I did not.  Not by a long shot.

For the first time after thirty-four visits…

Instead of the hammocks outside the lounge…

I tried the other hammocks outside the Health Center.

And they were equally satisfying.

But different. 

The hammock I chose – you won’t believe this; I didn’t –

One end of the hammock was knotted tightly to the trunk of a tree.  And the other end of the hammock was tied to a branch belonging… to the very same tree.

Now that’s a big tree.

I will end this encomium to happy hammocking before venturing into the single negative in an otherwise blissful experience:

Getting out.

It’s not just me.  Fred Astaire would look foolish getting out of a hammock.

Ginger Rogers:  “It’s okay, Freddie.  I did it backwards and in heels.  But I also looked like a putz.”

I mean, you sit up, you swing your legs around, your full body weight is in entirely your butt, and somehow, you have to transfer that weight to your feet, waiting impatiently on the ground going…


Lunch was half over before I got myself out of the hammock.

Ah, but when I was lying there…

You know the song “The Best Things In Life Are Free”?

I’ll bet that was written in a hammock.

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