Musical Taste

"I really don't think I need buns of steel. I’d be happy with buns of cinnamon."
--Ellen DeGeneres

Inside the studio, it's dark and cave-like. Twenty worn, once-yellow stationary bikes wait patiently, like horses in a stable. Despite the whirring fans, the air is thick with sweat, musk and stale cleaning solution. Once the class starts, the pungency will become heavier and self-sustaining, as the ten or fifteen of us pedaling furiously in the darkness ride off our sins in one short lunch-hour. Nobody ever said spinning was pretty. But it's effective.

Most of the regulars are here today. Mr. CEO, a dour, white-haired man who only wears t-shirts advertising various East Coast beaches. Ms. Something-to-Prove, a slender mom with green camo shorts and Madonna arms. Mrs. PINK! Pants, who owns a seemingly inexhaustible supply of sweats with various pithies embroidered on her behind.

But the instructor—he's one I haven't seen before. Usually this timeslot is taught by a scrawny, serious blonde, or a perky dancer. But this man, this hulking mass of human, is no dancer: He's an eight-foot tall collage of veins and sinews, muscles and chest hair. On his wrist is a tattoo of a snake; on his bicep, a grinning bulldog. He looks like the kind of guy that likes to shout, who will sweat freely and copiously and, on the harder hills, grunt like a distressed bear.

As I adjust my bike, he plays with his iPod, and suddenly, Lady Gaga begins pulsing over the speakers. I roll my eyes. I'd pegged him as an AC/DC man, not a junkie for pop.

"Not a fan of "Poker Face", I see," he says, smirking.

"I—um…" I blush.

"Don't worry," he says, smiling and lifting his iPod. "I've got some other stuff on here, too."

Smiling back, I mount my bike. Ow. Although I've been here for months, I still can't seem to ever adjust the seat quite right on the first try, so I slip off and begin fiddling with the knobs.

"Is this your first time?" he asks. My face reddens even more.

"No, I just—well, I've been taking spin for a few months now," I say. Man, these knobs are tight. Was the last person to ride this bike Conan the Barbarian? "Thought it might be good to help get rid of some of this extra weight I put on after my wedding. Married life agrees with me too much, I guess. Jesus," I mutter, as my hand, pink and raw, slips off the knob.

"Yeah, I hear you," he says. He jumps off his bike and comes over to mine. With a quick flick, the knob gives. So does my pride.

He moves my seat down about two inches. "There. The seat should be level with your hips. Don't want to hurt your knees."

"No, I guess not." I climb back up. He was right. This is better.

"Alright, class," he says, putting on his mike. "Time to start. Hope you came here looking for a workout. Let's ride."

For the next forty-five minutes, I am all sweat and gristle, powering through the hardest ride I've had in a long time. The pedals whir, my joints groan, and my muscles scream for mercy. We ride up hills, down hills, jumps, climbs, sprints—oh dear lord, the sprints—and by the end of the class, I am a dripping, incoherent blob.

"Last song," the instructor wheezes. "One more climb, then we're done."

Over the speaker, a guitar begins to keen, a clarion wail that segues into a hard bass line and thumping drums. This is a good beat, I think. A very good beat.

Wait a minute.

I stop pedaling, watching my feet weakly keep spinning. Curiously, I peer back at the speaker, then to the instructor. Is that really what I think it is? Am I really listening to… Sonic the Hedgehog?

The instructor catches my eye, and a faint, knowing smile flickers over his face. He stares down at his handlebars and pedals harder.

Yes. I am indeed spinning to a techno cover of the Marble Zone music. I'm also apparently the only one who recognizes the song, although out of the corner of my eye, I catch Mr. CEO swaying gently in time to the beat.

I giggle quietly—or, at least, I intend to. But since I'm so out of breath, it sounds more like the hoarse, barking cough of the dying, erupting out my chest and splitting the room. A few of my neighbors shoot me worried looks.

Thank goodness I'm still so red in the face.

At the end of the class, as we wipe down our bikes, the woman next to me leans over and whispers, "What were you laughing at?"

"The…" I look at the instructor. He pretends not to have overheard.

"N—Nothing," I stutter. "Just remembering a joke I heard earlier."

"Ah," she says with a raised eyebrow, unamused. She moves over to the other side of her bike and strikes up a conversation with Mrs. PINK! Pants instead.

I can't see the instructor's face clearly, but I can tell he's smiling. Should I mention the song? Or would that kill the humor? I don't want to ruin his fun, but then again, it's not every day you stumble upon a fellow Sonic fan at the gym.

I stretch for a long time, willing the kinks out of my joints, and one by one, my fellow regulars filter out, ambling like cowboys. Finally, I too start to shuffle away, but as I walk out, the instructor calls after me, "So, what did you think?"

I consider his question for a moment, then smile. "Keep playing music like that," I say, "and I'll have lost the weight in no time."

Comments

Again, another great article.

Hahahaha, wow. I'm not sure I would have played it that smooth. I'd be fighting the compulsion to hug the man.

Oh no! gamers are among us! haha I was hooked because I wanted to figure out how in the world this would relate to gaming. Good one.

It was like the build-up in a tawdry "romance" novel, but with a completely different payoff.

*Legion* wrote:

It was like the build-up in a tawdry "romance" novel, but with a completely different payoff. :)

And no Dannon Light n' Fit Smoothies.

Never fear. Dannon Light N' Fit appears in the sequel, "Musical Taste, Part 2: The Zombies Strike Back."

I'm sure that I've said this in response to one of your other columns, but I really enjoy the way that you explore the ways that video games can impact a human life outside of entertainment. You do a very good job of showing the ways that games can help people to connect, can touch memories, and inspire passion.

Great article. It's always hard when one of those moments occurs, to find the right words. As you said, you don't want to sully the moment, but at the same time, you want to aknowledge it, especially if the other other person doesn't know that you know.

KaterinLHC wrote:

Never fear. Dannon Light N' Fit appears in the sequel, "Musical Taste, Part 2: The Zombies Strike Back."

Hooray! IMAGE(http://rps.net/QS/Images/Smilies/hyper.gif)

Nothing says jarhead like grinning bulldog tats and sh*tty taste in music.

Great read, though.

I walk past the spin room on my way to the gym, but I've never felt like trying it as from the outside it appears like an apocalyptic rave.

ApplepieChamploo wrote:

I walk past the spin room on my way to the gym, but I've never felt like trying it as from the outside it appears like an apocalyptic rave.

This inspires me to check out spinning. "Apocalyptic rave" sounds like a good time. I love cheesy high-tempo bass-heavy electronic music...

Adorable article, Lara!

Nice article. I'd be interested to see others' reactions to game music, especially when it and they are completely out of the music's original context and environment.

Aside from that, spinning is a great workout, especially if you can't get out and ride, but I prefer to get out and ride. Nothing like propelling yourself through 50+ miles under your own steam...

beeporama wrote:

This inspires me to check out spinning. "Apocalyptic rave" sounds like a good time. I love cheesy high-tempo bass-heavy electronic music...

It's a good workout, although like anything you get out what you put in. My one beef is that the spin bikes have no sway to them, so when the instructor wants you to stand up (which is to say, a lot), you can't rock the back back and forth to center your weight over the pedals like you'd be able to on a road bike. But it's a good way to keep some semblance of legs before the spring season and the killer 3-State-3-Mountain century.

WipEout wrote:

Aside from that, spinning is a great workout, especially if you can't get out and ride, but I prefer to get out and ride. Nothing like propelling yourself through 50+ miles under your own steam...

Doing that tomorrow morning. What's your ride?

Haha!

I've had a similar yet different experience in a spin class. Right about the time that I was playing a *lot* of Guitar Hero 2, it was.

So there I am, sweating like it's going out of fashion, feet a-blur, vision narrowing with the exertion, when I notice that my left hand is doing something odd on the handlebar. I stare down at it, briefly wondering if this is what alien hand syndrome feels like. With a sudden jolt of realisation, like seeing a friend for the first time in a decade, I understand that my hand thinks the handlebar is a plastic guitar, and the music playing is none other than Jessica, by the Allman Brothers Band. Multitasking at it's most bizarre.

At first, I was amused.
Then, I was amazed.
Then, I was appalled.

Good article!

For about a half of a millisecond, I was thinking about how I might want to try a spinning class. Then I realized I do not do strenuous activity unless it is in dance form, and all was again right with the world.

Maybe I'll get some "I Fight Dragons" in a dance class one of these days, though!

Minarchist wrote:
beeporama wrote:

This inspires me to check out spinning. "Apocalyptic rave" sounds like a good time. I love cheesy high-tempo bass-heavy electronic music...

It's a good workout, although like anything you get out what you put in. My one beef is that the spin bikes have no sway to them, so when the instructor wants you to stand up (which is to say, a lot), you can't rock the back back and forth to center your weight over the pedals like you'd be able to on a road bike. But it's a good way to keep some semblance of legs before the spring season and the killer 3-State-3-Mountain century.

That's nothing. Check out the Death Ride!! It's the Tour of the California Alps. I can't do it this year because of financial troubles (that obviously turn into "no time to ride" troubles), but a couple friends are riding it and I plan on taking the plunge next year.

What's your ride?

Depends. If I want to stay off the Golden Gate Bridge, I will ride to Skyline (this is the closest description to my ride, but I ride to Burlingame from San Francisco first, maybe BART it back if I'm tired. It's a Word doc, btw) and back (to Potrero Hill, where I live in SF). Otherwise, I like to ride around the Marin Headlands once or twice then finish off the ride by cruising the Paradise Loop in North Bay. I haven't been on a long ride in a few months though, again because of finances, but I heard of a good used parts place in San Rafael where I'm going to "spruce up" my current bike (parted out my racer for student loans ). Are you in the Bay Area? I always assumed "Music City" is Los Angeles (where I'm from).

WipEout, good gracious that's steep! I'm pretty sure I'd keel over dead if I tried that.

By "What's your ride?", I meant the bike, but I'm interested to hear the routes, too. I'm actually out in Nashville, but one of my goals before I die is to ride all the way down the Western coast, from Washington to San Diego...always interested to hear the best way to do it (for cities or the areas Highway 1 doesn't cover).

Minarchist wrote:

WipEout, good gracious that's steep! I'm pretty sure I'd keel over dead if I tried that.

By "What's your ride?", I meant the bike, but I'm interested to hear the routes, too. I'm actually out in Nashville, but one of my goals before I die is to ride all the way down the Western coast, from Washington to San Diego...always interested to hear the best way to do it (for cities or the areas Highway 1 doesn't cover).

Ha, sorry.

Right now I'm on a Fuji Espree, a mid-80's steel beast. I found it on the street and was fixing it up to sell, but the rear wheel of my racer was stolen and I couldn't afford to replace it so I parted the bike out and this is my only ride currently. I'm going to get 105 shifters because I can't stand the current downtube friction shifters, but otherwise it's a good beater and fared pretty well in a triathlon I raced in a couple months ago-- so now I'm hopeful I can take it on longer rides until I can get a new racer through my current job.

And yours?

Moving this discussion to the other thread you created so as not to threadcrap.

Great article!

Minarchist-- Agreed.

KaterinLHC-- did you get the name of the cover artist? I was in a combo bar/laundromat (it's San Francisco, what can you say?) called Brainwash with a buddy a few weeks ago and they were playing instrumental covers of a bunch of stuff from Mario to Metroid to Sonic, ranging from folk to punk to electronic. It's a niche genre I'd like to explore when I get the chance: Game music covers! There's hopefully enough good stuff out there to fill a record store aisle.

WipEout wrote:

KaterinLHC-- did you get the name of the cover artist?

No, sadly. Brave as I was to drop subtle and pithy one-liners, I wasn't brave enough to ask who did the song. It sounded like something you might find on OCRemix, though I haven't identified a track it might have been yet.

E Hunnie wrote:

Good article!

For about a half of a millisecond, I was thinking about how I might want to try a spinning class. Then I realized I do not do strenuous activity unless it is in dance form, and all was again right with the world.

Maybe I'll get some "I Fight Dragons" in a dance class one of these days, though!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iOsRwEaxvT8

You're an evil man, boogle.

I've been thinking about starting a spinning class just to get myself back in cycling shape for the summer. We had a baby last summer and I've gotten precious little exercise since then. We're doing the Muddy Buddy race in a few months, so I'm using it as an excuse to get motivated... even if it is just a fun, silly race. I can only hope that my spinning coach plays video game music too!

complexmath wrote:

We're doing the Muddy Buddy race in a few months...

That's really interesting. It looks like team Cyclo-cross, which at the competitive level is maybe the most brutal sport I've personally seen. If you're interested, though, every state has a ton of Cyclo-cross events around Oct.-Dec., so most people are usually in better shape than when the road season starts in Apr.

What a great piece.

Cyclo-cross looks like a ton of fun. I'd need a new bike for it though, and that's not gonna happen any time soon. For the Muddy Buddy race I'm just going to slap some pedals on an old mountain bike of mine so we can wear running shoes. The best part will be the crawl through the mud at the end

Regarding this article, I'd love to see more in this vein. It's interesting how game references come up at unexpected moments. I'd also like to know what music the trainer played at the next session.

E Hunnie wrote:

Good article!

For about a half of a millisecond, I was thinking about how I might want to try a spinning class. Then I realized I do not do strenuous activity unless it is in dance form, and all was again right with the world.

Maybe I'll get some "I Fight Dragons" in a dance class one of these days, though!

I saw this post and just had to write, because Laura (the female portion of I Fight Dragons) is a freaking Spinning Instructor around Chicago and she plays IFD music in her classes all the time

ifightdragons wrote:
E Hunnie wrote:

Good article!

For about a half of a millisecond, I was thinking about how I might want to try a spinning class. Then I realized I do not do strenuous activity unless it is in dance form, and all was again right with the world.

Maybe I'll get some "I Fight Dragons" in a dance class one of these days, though!

I saw this post and just had to write, because Laura (the female portion of I Fight Dragons) is a freaking Spinning Instructor around Chicago and she plays IFD music in her classes all the time

Ha! Probably still not enough to get me spinning, but awesome, nonetheless!

Yeah, if I could get a hold of my Spin Instructors' iPods and get some VG tunes in there, I'd be a lot happier. At least last week one instructor let her college age son do the music and things went all metal for 90 minutes. Awesome!