home Pacific NW Magazine home

Cover Story Plant Life On Fitness Taste Northwest Living Now & Then Sunday Punch

Sunday Punch
Gut Check
Nothing like a Big Galoot to help shape you up
Illustration I JOINED a gym the other day, and I think one word sums up my experience: Big Galoots.

I know English majors will point out that Big Galoots is actually two words, but you never hear anyone refer to someone as just a Galoot. It is properly used in the following sentence: "Ah, get outta here, ya Big Galoot." This sentence is usually uttered in a black-and-white movie by some woman (properly called a "dame") to a guy packing heat and wearing a double-breasted suit. The Big Galoot has just done something endearing like smack someone around, mow down a rival with a Tommy gun or tell the dame he is sweet on her.

(I must digress here briefly. The Truly Unpleasant Mrs. Johnston has never chucked me under the chin and called me a Big Galoot, although after reading this article she will think of her own terms of endearment, I'm sure of that.

(And the Johnston children will not be familiar with the term Big Galoot because they don't believe in knowing anything about what happened before they were born. This includes minor events like World War II, Richard Nixon being elected president or black-and-white movies where dames or molls call guys Big Galoots.

(I am through digressing now, and will get back to the gym.)

This is one of those gyms where guys in T-shirts with no sleeves and women in black, shiny shorts — Big Galoots would call them pedal pushers — work out in front of mirrors. They like to lift barbells about the size of beer barrels until their eyeballs and muscles both pop out of their normal positions.

You may call the women who work out with the Big Galoots "dames," but my gut instinct tells me that wouldn't be a wise choice of words these days. I chose not to speak to them at all or even raise my eyes off the top of my shoes.

It was this same "gut instinct" that brought me down to the gym in the first place. I had too much gut and enough instinct to know a big gut wasn't very good for me. Besides, Mrs. Johnston was going to the gym regularly and was becoming quite the babe. (That's another improper word, but working out with the Big Galoots has made me start thinking like a 1930s gangster.)

In case you ever wonder what kind of shape you are in, the gym provides mirrors. Not just one tall mirror that you can stand in front of, but mirrors that cover all the walls so you can take a look at your flabby front and then, to really make you sick, get a full shot of your bulbous rear end.

And just to make sure you face the ugly truth in front of your eyes, a Big Galoot likes to stand next to you and do arm curls with two semi-truck tires. You cannot help but notice that the veins in the Big Galoot's arms are bigger than your whole arm.

Then just when you do something like bend over to pick up a 35-pound barbell and the popping in your back sounds like someone cracking walnuts, a dame in black spandex and more blonde hair than a Russian wolfhound starts to work out with 150-pound weights next to you.

So you suck in your gut and you look with disgust at the 35-pound barbell at your feet. Then you shake the imaginary sweat off your forehead and mutter something about having a good workout and head for the locker room.

With any luck, there won't be any Big Galoots around. The next worst thing to seeing a Big Galoot with huge muscles in a sleeveless T-shirt is seeing one in the shower.

You can only hope there isn't anyone in the gym at 2 in the morning when you show up for your next workout.

Steve Johnston is a retired Seattle Times reporter. His e-mail address is Paul Schmid is a Seattle Times news artist.

Cover Story Plant Life On Fitness Taste Northwest Living Now & Then Sunday Punch home
Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company