Not your wife’s health club…

Being an exercise nut, one of the first things I do when I’m out of town for a week or more (and not at a hotel) is hook up with a local gym. Most offer temporary memberships. Right now I’m in Palm springs, California and the gym I found is “Power of Fitness” on Sunrise Boulevard.

Yeah, baby! We’re talking old school California. First off, the place is in a strip mall, next to a liquor store. They keep the front door open for circulation. A bunch of overhead fans do the rest. But it’s still a few degrees too warm. Good for the sweat, dude! For that you have a sea of heavily used workout equipment and a ton of iron. The benches wobble. They use a lot of duct tape. Over the whirring and clanking, one can hear MTV’s “Best of the Eighties,” featuring bands like Pat Benatar, The Pretenders and Guns and Roses. I’m not sure “skeezy” is even a word but it describes the Power of fitness to a “T”. It’s not sleazy. Nobody’s selling steroids in the back. Not quite skuzzy, either. Although they really should replace the moldy tiles in the drop ceiling. Like I said: Skeezy.

And I love it. Honest to God I do. I wanted a normal gym as opposed to a spa or geriatric country club facility. (In Palm Springs, the vast majority of people are old or gay. There are gyms that cater to both. I didn’t want either.) You can’t beat the nasty, friendly vibe of Power of Fitness. Heavily tattooed Mexican gals. Recovering Beach Boy alcoholics. Salty dogs. This is Palm Springs sans golf clubs and popped collars. My wife would hate, hate and hate it. And so would all her friends. The women in here did not just come from the beauty parlor. More like the tattoo parlor.

A more flattering term than skeezy is authentic. We’re all looking for authentic brand experiences, right. And Power of Fitness delivers one.

From here…images-3to serenityimages15

The day after Christmas I took our tree down and put Santa and his elves back in their boxes and into the attic. I moved the children’s Easter baskets forward so, come spring, it will be easier to pull them out. For my grimacing, the skeletons and jack-o-lanterns up there mocked me with gruesome painted-on smiles. My bad back, getting worse every year. Nobody ever talks about all the stooping and lifting the holidays require!

Then we bolted to Palm Springs, where my father has a house. You can have Chicago and the rest of December. I’ve come to loathe it. When we left over a foot of snow was melting into what CNN considered worthy of flood warnings. A freeze was expected in a day or two, then below zero. Again. And it’s not even January! No, like I said, you take this for a while. I am out of here.

So, Palm Springs. Clear, brisk and sunny. Lots of old people acting gay: tanned, casual and loose. Lots of gay people acting old: tanned, casual and reserved. Palm Springs is a great equalizer of people. Gated communities bring out sameness. Though many don’t play, it looks like the entire population enjoys golf. You can see the mountains from everywhere. There is a Lexus SUV in every driveway. (Except my father’s. He, of course, owns an Acura.) Minor cynicism aside, PS is a hell of a lot better than where we left.

images-15My prayer from Palm Springs

Having soured in August, I know 2008 is going down like spoilt milk. But the ad industry is by no means the worst off. Frankly, this recession is taking down more clients than ad agencies. Are we next? We’ll see. Right now I count my many blessings. Good family. Health. A sunny place to go in winter.

And, saints be praised, I work at an agency that is prospering. Euro RSCG Chicago had double-digit growth in 2008. We made fine work for our clients, some of it even spectacular. We are hiring people not firing them. We even had a holiday party.

There are several reasons for our good fortune. Going into them here seems inappropriate, like gloating. Instead, I’d like to offer a sort of prayer.

However improbable, I hope everyone reading this can count their blessings as well. If you’ve escaped the many sharp teeth of this financial crisis, and even if you haven’t, stay strong. It will get better. It always does. I know this the same way I know that Chicago’s winter will eventually yield to summer. Sadly, eventually can be a very, very long time.

If the gods of advertising are unkind to you it is because forces of commerce and human nature bewilder them. Not any one person’s fault but in many ways all our faults. Hopefully, you believe in a God less vulnerable. He or She will surely restore us to sanity, sooner or later. Right now God is teaching us about humility. Let’s hope we get the message without much more misery.