Tighten Up

Phil Garber
5 min readJul 23, 2020

My favorite work of Beethoven is his melodic yet powerful Symphony №6 in F major, Op. 68, also known as the “Pastoral Symphony.”

Most of you may not know it but I have played soprano oboe for many symphonic performances and must say I most enjoy the third movement of Symphony №6 in F major, Op. 68, a scherzo in three-quarter time, which depicts country folk dancing and reveling. It is in the key of F major, returning to the main key of the symphony, making it somewhat less difficult to play and note I didn’t say easier.

I’ve always loved playing the oboe, which is sometimes confused with the clarinet and is considered to be one of the most difficult instruments to play. But once it is mastered, all the persistence will be worth it as there is no sound as sweet or expressive as the oboe. My first public performance as an oboist was in high school and I have continued playing ever since. I never made it with a big symphony orchestra but have played some fairly large venues, of which I am quite proud.

None of that is true. I wouldn’t know an oboe from a hobo. The point is that you probably believed it, just like too many believe the fake news words that spew out of the mouth of the bone spur in chief. But I’m not endangering millions of people by making stuff up about the oboe.

But that’s beside the point.

I’ve always been told, well not always but sometimes, that it’s best to write about what you know and that’s why I’m going to say a few words about working out and forget about the oboe.

I have been exercising for most of my life but not recently, since the dawn of COVID 19. Working out is especially important now, with the gyms all closed because of the COVID 19 pandemic and people, like me and probably you, gaining weight in monumental, record amounts. It would be pretty terrible to avoid getting the COVID 19 only to drop dead from a heart attack caused by excessive weight gain.

It is all the more tragic because many of us, like me, were in pretty darn good shape until we were isolated to within feet of the refrigerator and were left with little to do but eat, drink and watch Netflix.

But things are looking better, even if I am not looking better, yet. My stepson gave me his stationary bike and his elliptical because he has gotten into riding his bicycle. Good for him and good for me. I only hope that he doesn’t get bored with the bicycle and reclaims his stationary bike and elliptical because that would require me to buy them and I don’t have the dough.

For the last two days, I’ve worked out for an hour on the stationary bike each day, though I haven’t attacked the elliptical yet. Getting off the bike, my legs feel like they are made of lead but I know, from years of working out, that lead legs are common when you’re trying to get back in shape. Make sure you stretch out the lead legs after exercising.

I’m confident I will get back in shape but not so confident that I will ever lose enough weight to be well shaped again. That is because the only way to lose weight is, surprise, to diet and it is still very challenging to keep my grubby hands off the refrigerator handle. Having a son in the house who requires constant feeding does not make it any easier.

I lost quite a bit of weight last year by sticking to an egg in the morning and a large salad with chicken at night, along with large quantities of water and a sharp reduction in beer intake. The quarantine has destroyed almost every iota of will power and the chances that I could return back to the weight loss diet are about the same as the chances that I will play the oboe or will cut back on my beer. I’d sooner learn the oboe.

Which brings me to a common condition know as bingo wings, good-bye muscle, piano arm, reverse biceps, ta-ta flaps, tuckshop arm, widow’s curtain and sometimes referred to as “aunty arms.”

That would be the euphemisms for the ugly, loose skin that makes you look like you’re in your 80s and hangs down from your triceps after you’ve been turning into a slug and the muscle has fallen by the wayside but the same amount of skin remains to your dismay and disgust.

I could have an upper arm lift, also known as a brachioplasty procedure but I don’t like anesthesia and I don’t believe health insurance covers a brachioplasty procedure if the sole reason is cosmetic to eliminate bingo wings, good-bye muscle, piano arm, reverse biceps, ta-ta flaps, tuckshop arm, widow’s curtain and sometimes referred to as “aunty arms.”

And then there is the stomach challenge, also known as the emerging spare tire, pot belly, paunch, belly fat, muffin top, beer belly, bay window and breadbasket. Any way you name it, it will not go away through sit ups or running or any other kind of exercise. It will only diminish by, yes, that cursed, dieting.

Forget about hiring a personal trainer in-person or on-line. A personal trainer is nice for company but it will only work if you are trained far from the refrigerator. And a trainer really isn’t necessary if you lose weight and stick to the exercise basics like the stationary bike, sit-ups and push ups.

By wearing sweat shirts, I can avoid looking at my bingo wings, good-bye muscle, piano arm, reverse biceps, ta-ta flaps, tuckshop arm, widow’s curtain and sometimes referred to as “aunty arms.”

But there’s no way to disguise the pot belly. The minute I button up my shorts or my jeans, I feel the difference as my stomach is squeezed and there is no denying the spare tire AKA pot belly, paunch, belly fat, muffin top, beer belly, bay window and breadbasket. The pants don’t lie. I could buy bigger pants but then when I lose the weight, I’ll have useless bigger pants. That will depend on when the pandemic is over and when I can get back to a somewhat normal routine that does not leave me in shouting distance of the evil refrigerator.

So maybe I’ll just buy some bigger pants and drape the mirrors in black.

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Phil Garber

Journalist for 40 years and now a creative writer