On One Version of Hell Through Which We Have Recently Passed


In which The Gay Recluse describes a trip to hell the gym.

And speaking of music, we’ve already described our general aversion to the inexplicably horrendous 1970s AOR rock our gym sometimes plays, but today marked a special occasion: yes! they played “Stairway To Heaven.” Which might not have been so bad under different circumstances; after all, Zoso was one of the first records we ever bought — on cassette, through one of those 13-tapes-for-1-cent “clearinghouse” deals that we could not resist as a thirteen-year old — in seventh grade when we started lifting weights in the basement of our old house in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. Nor do we have anything against Led Zeppelin per se: they are obviously one of the greatest eighth-grade derelict arena-rock bands of all-time, and there is a certain thrill in being acquainted with that aesthetic, even if the thrill is long past.

Yet to hear this today in the gym was made oddly — hellishly — painful by the intermittent failure of the stereo, which would cut in and out every few seconds; clearly there was a bad connection somewhere. Not that it seemed to bother any of the staff! What this did for us, however,  was bring into relief the fact that we knew every single note and syllable of the song; it was like one of those horrendous rock-concert scenes where the band will stop and let the audience sing along, except in this case we were the audience and the band was Led Zeppelin — and! “Stairway to Heaven” — being played over the shitty sound system at our gym.

This led to all sorts of doubts and questions about how it happened that our brain was needlessly filled with so much rock detritus from our youth, i.e., bands that in some cases we wish we’d never heard — e.g., anything by the Doobie Brothers (sadly — preposterously — we also heard “China Grove” today) but which in all cases we never really need to hear again.  Oh and because we were in the locker room of our gym, we had to also listen to guys talk about a swimsuit model “babe” (imagine the word used with not even a whiff of irony) who was gracing the cover of some men’s magazine where one of them works. Except how could we view them with disdain when one of them was singing along to “Stairway To Heaven,” just like we were (albeit in our head)?

Yes, this was hell, yet somehow we survived! Next time we might not be so lucky.

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