Wednesday, June 25, 2008

David Barton

I started going to the gym regularly a long time ago. Over the years I've noticed that I go through phases of good levels of attendance, with occasional phases of lower attendance when I get hit by heavy workloads, business trips, holidays, injuries or illness. Since I joined my new gym though, I've been going through a particularly good phase, so in anticipation of my forthcoming business trip I was keen to find a way to try and keep it up while in New York.

"Do you know of any good gyms in NYC?" I asked boyfriend P a couple of weeks ago before my trip.

"I'm sure there are loads," he replied, "It depends what you want?"

"Well somewhere interesting would be nice, perhaps in Chelsea? Isn't that where all the gay guys hang out these days?"

"Maybe you should try the David Barton gym then? From what I've heard it's very gay and full-on, with lots of porn stars, escorts and celebs going there!"

Perfect :-). Sounds exactly like the kind of place that a disreputable blogger like me should be seen at!

So on my second evening in New York, I get my first surprise when I turn up outside the David Barton gym in Chelsea. It's in an old YMCA building! Once inside, a charming young woman shows me round the main gym areas.

"The cardio equipment and the studios for classes are all here on the main floor," she explains, "and the weights are all down in the basement. Actually tonight is a good night to visit because there's a DJ :-)."

I've certainly never heard of that before, a gym with a DJ mixing up rhythms to exercise to!

The changing rooms turn out to be on the first floor. Although I'm not quite sure where to go, I spot MEN painted in huge two feet high letters on one of the walls so I follow the wall round into the changing rooms. It seems very empty in there, and then suddenly I get a shock. I spot a woman who's just about to take off her gym shoes! But what on earth is a woman doing in the men's changing rooms, unless ... ? I hastily retreat, only to be greeted by another woman who's entering as I'm leaving:

"Excuse me, are you lost?" she asks with a tone of voice which suggests mild irritation.

"Errrr, yes, I think so!" I reply, not sure what to say. Somehow I've obviously ended up in the women's changing rooms :-(.

But how on earth did I make that mistake? Looking again at the MEN painted in huge letters on the wall, I realise all too late that when I spotted it I'd already walked past the first two letters of the word, namely the 'W' and the 'O'! Putting my error down to mild jet lag, I take the other path now and thankfully find myself inside the Men's changing rooms. In contrast to the women's locker room it's very crowded.

I end up going for a 20 minute run before heading down into the basement to find the free weights. The floor at the bottom of the stairs is packed full of exercise machines, with a huge rack of free weights along the back wall, and a big old YMCA sign propped up along one of the other walls. As I wander around to get my bearings, I realise that it's 99% men, if not more. Some are chatting with each other, but many more are single guys spending a good proportion of their time looking at all the other guys, including me! Coupled with the beat of the DJ's music I realise that I could be in a gay dance club, at the start of the evening when the music is less hardcore.

On cue, I notice a couple of well built guys joking with each other in the free weights area. Both are wearing quite skimpy gym vests, which certainly show off their huge muscles to good effect. They put their arms around each other ballroom dancing style, and then move their legs backwards and forwards while looking at themselves in the mirrors, as one of them tries to teach the other guy something. Somehow it seems perfectly in tune with the relaxed cruisey gay atmosphere. This definitely isn't a straight gym!

After my workout I head back to the changing rooms, wondering whether there are any spa facilities. Sure enough, at the back of the shower area I find a steam room. Inside the steam is really thick, so thick that I find myself bumping into another guy who's standing right next to me. Gradually the steam clears slightly, and I notice that there's seating at two levels along the walls. Most guys are wearing towels around their waist, although a couple of the guys who're seated have let their towels slip a bit, allowing the rest of us a peek at their wares :-). Just as the steam seems to have cleared enough to be able to see one end of the room from the other, I hear the hissing of fresh steam again as the next cycle begins.

In my experience, for cruising purposes this very thick steam is simultaneously a hindrance and a blessing. The problem with it is that it's hard to make contact with other like-minded guys, because when one can hardly see the guy who's standing next to you eye-contact is obviously difficult too! However the good thing about very thick steam is that if one does find a willing participant, no one else can see what you get up to, which makes activities possible even in quite crowded circumstances.

After a couple of steam cycles I head for the showers. I'm meeting boyfriend P for supper in a restaurant a few blocks away and I don't want to be late. But I certainly found my visit to the David Barton gym in Chelsea very enjoyable. If I ever move to live over in New York for a while, I might even become a member!


S said...

Hold on...

You go to the gym to workout?

Anonymous said...

Very interesting GB. Never been to an overseas gym myself but I can imagine it to be more liberal.

Hey, my blog is in severe neglect but I never fail to get updated with your's. I just saw your new section of bloggers you've met. And for a moment, I thought the 3 "stars" next to the Bloggers are your ratings for them! :)

Muscler said...

I went there earlier this year when on business in NY and I thought the equipment was amazing and the guys were hot. infact I met a guy there who i fell in love with - he had blondie/brown hair with a white tshirt that had the sleeves all ripped so you can see his pecs...anyway not much of a description but we spoke and i love him, so if you're reading, get in touch lol

Overall, david barton, gets all 3 of my thumbs up!

Nix said...

Hey GB. I know the gym you mean as I sought it out on my trip in 2005. According to New York Songlines, it wasn't just any YMCA... it was THE YMCA that inspired the song! The same site claims the sauna scene in The Godfather was filmed there too.

NaijaScorpio said...

......and here i was thinking pple only went to the gym to work out.

Jay said...

lol, working out in the gym. that'll be a first!