Sunday, February 12, 2006

Fifteen Pounds and Whaddya Get?

I HAVE A SMALL APARTMENT. Sixteen paces from this computer to my bed. You could sit on my kitchen counter and warm your feet on my stove. Yet I have an incredible ability to lose items here.

My example for today's ridicule is the 15-lb. dumbbell, referred to in the header. The Northeast got hit with a blizzard, so the gym is closed. I wanted to flex the dumbbells a bit to do something vaguely healthful besides copy crap onto my iPod and fold laundry. The first weight I located in its place on a rack in my bedroom. The second was nowhere to be found.

Thinking like Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive, I mentally erected a cordon around the bounds of my apartment. Beyond this limit the weight would not be found. It WAS within this reach. Locked down. Hiding. Plotting its next move.

The bedroom had two places where it might sequester itself: beneath the bed or in the closet. The former was unlikely; there is already a stack of flattened Staples boxes beneath the bed. Still, I ran my foot around the perimeter, in case I had rolled it just under the dust ruffle. I came up with bupkis, which is Yiddish for "a dusty foot."

The closet: More than any other area in my apartment, my bedroom closet resembles a double-canopy jungle. On the top shelf, one finds photo albums and stacks of collectible game cards (Illuminati: New World Order in my case), along with a mobile population of old video- and audio tapes. Personal items often spend their entire life cycle here without ever entering the shadowy forest just below them. The second canopy comprises a densely packed old-growth forest of the leaseholder's current and former clothing choices, some reaching back as many as 7 years to a primeval time of 38-inch waistlines and black T-shirts. At the bottom of this mysterious environment lies the rich mulch found on any jungle floor: decaying sneakers; stiff work shoes slowly disappearing into the loamy soil; the odd sock gliding silently along; and the sad and lifeless bodies of the top-canopy dwellers, coming to rest after a long fall only to enrich the cycle of life all over again.

Nowhere within this acreage of overworked metaphors did I see my 15-lb. weight.

I skipped the bathroom. The only reason I can fathom for needing such a weight in there is as a weapon: if my lack of attention to the algal colonies on the shower curtain allowed them to make quantum leaps toward becoming sentient and carnivorous.

I recalled at this point that I had used one of the 15-lb.'ers to hold back a corner of my living room rug. I had a particularly full poker table one night, so I pulled the corner back so the player's chairs wouldn't be half-on, half-off the rug. All this did was lead four of the players to trip on the rug over the course of the night. This is what happens when I try to help. Anyway, the dumbbell was neither in my dining area nor among the plants looming next to it.

Next came the actual living room. The space beneath my coffee table is a parking garage for itinerant shoes, but I could also envision myself rolling the weight under there to get it out of the way. In a rare case of cleanliness, there were no shoes, but neither was their a hunk of metal with "15" stamped onto the sides.

At this point the title of this post came through my head, courtesy of Tennessee Ernie Ford. How do I lose a hunk of stationary metal in such a small apartment? I've gone through this with shoes as well, though there is a fixed set of locations where they eventually turn up due to my sickeningly consistent postwork intra-apartment path and the trail of outerwear that can be found along it. Maybe if I had stubbed a shoeless toe against the weight, I might have had the wits to heft the damn thing back onto its rack. This, I decided, would rob my life of the essential absurdity and entertainment it provides to any resident ghosts or decommissioned saints. I'd hate to disappoint my audience.

The stupid thing eventually turned up hiding under a bench I use to collect old newspapers. Items placed under this bench, if they are small enough, disappear completely unless you stoop and peek. Eventually, I stooped and peeked. And swore. There it was. I could lift now.

But I really didn't need to. I'd already had my workout. Throughout this entire search, I had been carrying the other 15-lb. weight with me.

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