An empty gym

I Miss the Gym

Time for your weekly edition of Drew Magary's Funbag. Today, we're talking about annexing other countries, braces, sex, eating pasta barehanded, and more.

Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. And buy Drew's new novel while you're at it. Your letters:


Why is the music at the gym so loud? Everyone has headphones on!

Not such a big problem anymore for you now, is it? I actually had this same problem at my gym months before the pandemic hit. I was on a machine near one of the classes and the door to the class was open and they were blaring shitty EDM so loud in there that the music on my headphones couldn't drown it out. So, being a dad, I went to the manager and asked if there was any way to fix the problem.


"I've had people ask about this, but the class needs air, so we have to keep the door open."

"Hear me out on this though," I said. "What if you just close the door and let everyone in there die?"

I did not actually ask him that. Anyway, he said they knew it was a problem and that they were trying to fix it, so I just left it at that. Little did either of us know what was coming next.

I haven't been to the gym in two months. Last time I went was in early March and that was probably cutting it too close. I have no idea when I'll be able to go back, if I ever will at all. (They've been kind enough to suspend payment on all accounts during the virus, but who knows how long they'll be able to afford extending members that courtesy without going belly up.)

I miss it. I am not some roidhead dipshit who spends seven hours a day at the gym guzzling protein cream and wrapping my knees up before trying to squat 800 lbs. I just went every weekday, did my 45 minutes on the elliptical while looking at my phone, did a few back stretches, and then showered up and left. I never talked to anyone. I never lingered. I just got my shit done and then headed over to the grocery store to grab anything missing from the fridge/pantry. I miss that part of my daily routine. I still work out at home, but it's obviously not the same. I miss having a place to go, even if that place to go was utterly unremarkable. I miss having a way to break up my day, both in location and activity. I miss pedaling just a little bit harder when Anthrax popped up on shuffle. I miss silently judging all the other people in the gym for grunting too much on the bench press, or for hogging the equipment, or for blasting music too loud in the spin class nearby.


I miss dicking around on my phone while exercising. I have, like, 79 browser tabs open on my phone right now because I have no place to read them except for the shitter. For some reason, I miss going into the gym's locker room and discovering that the only three people in there, in a recurring cosmic joke, all happened to have lockers right next to mine, so that we have to awkwardly negotiate around one another while nude. This is the bland, petty, idiotic American existence I had come to relish without even realizing it. I realize it now, and so I get why shitheads in, like, Georgia are so eager to break the shackles of quarantine just so that they can go to a fucking Bath & Body Works. Every time something shitty happens in this world, the comforting reminder you usually get is that life goes on. But what happens when life DOESN'T go on? What happens when time stops moving forward, and you end up desperate for ANYTHING that will signal to both your body and your brain that life—no matter how dull—is at least continuing?

So I miss my gym. Also I'm probably gonna get fat again soon if everything stays like this.


I was shocked to learn there was a movement in Sicily to leave Italy and join the US after WW2. This got me thinking who should the U.S. be targeting for expansion. I think we'd prioritize places that are politically and economically stable, not a ton of people and not impossible to get to. I decided on Belize and Scotland. Belize has all the beaches and ecotourism. Scotland would be great as we could culturally appropriate castles and a hatred of the English. Think how much more emotional Braveheart would be. Putting aside the question of would anyone want to join the U.S. right now, who do think would make a good addition to the country?


I had no idea about the Sicily thing. AY YAY YAY. Why bother annexing Sicily when we already have Bayonne, New Jersey? You can't fall down in Jersey without hitting some Paulie Walnuts cosplayer who's like YOU KNOW US ITALIANS WE GOT THE SPICY HOT BLOOD! MADONE! Apparently, it was a campaign of just 40,000 Sicilians who wanted to make that island a US state. If only they'd had Facebook back then to make it look like a REAL movement. Alas.

I'm gonna go ahead and obey your request to ignore the "Why the fuck would any country want to join America?" question, because no sane country would want to deal with our bullshit right now. I'm also gonna take the COVID factor out of it, because then I would just pick Germany and, like, Slovenia. Poor Slovenia. Every yuppie COVID refugee will be on their doorstep this week. No good containment plan goes unpunished. In fact, let's put ALL geopolitical considerations aside (give Puerto Rico statehood already), because I'm too fucking tired to deal with any of that right now. Let's just assume that every country I'm about to list is thoroughly down with becoming a new state, such as:

  • Mexico. I dunno why you'd build a wall to protect yourself from amazing food, pristine beaches, nice people, and affordable rhinoplasty. I would like all of that here, please. To that end …
  • Canada. Let's just make all of North America one thing. We already have free(ish) trade between its three largest countries. Let's abolish the borders entirely, replace the NYPD with nice Mounties, and build a syrup pipeline from the Yukon to Oaxaca. Also, a United States of North America would give me ample room (and the sufficient paperwork necessary) to move farther away from the rest of you fucking loons.
  • The Seychelles. Looks very pretty. What I propose is that we annex those islands and then airlift them closer to here. Somewhere east of Cuba.
  • Cuba. Let's just marry all of our longtime rivals and get it over with. Not only would we be a better country for it, but we'd be insanely cooler. Do you know how fucking lame America is right now? We are the lamest bunch of assholes in modern history. Literally every other country is cooler. DENMARK is cooler than us. Do you know how hard it is to be lamer than Denmark?
  • Vietnam. See, if we married Vietnam, we'd instantly be cooler than Denmark. Also, Southwest would start offering flights there. All I want is for COVID to end so that I can check in online exactly 24 hours before a 21-hour flight and still end up at the ass end of the B group.
  • Lebanon. Supposed to be very pretty. And what could possibly go wrong with America having a sizable presence in the Middle East?
  • New Zealand. Because why not. Not as cumbersome as taking Australia.


There. That's a nice little collection of additions. Keep in mind that, thanks to the wonders of unregulated capitalism, we've already essentially colonized much of the Earth and made it both aesthetically AND existentially worse. But we can go even farther, I say! Why, the sun would never set on our empire! EVERYONE WOULD LOVE THAT SORT OF THING FOR US, WOULD THEY NOT?


Am I the only person who exclusively uses the 30-second button on a microwave? I cannot recall the last time I've pushed any other button on any microwave when cooking anything. Frozen meal needs four minutes? Hit it eight times real quick. Popcorn? Hit it five-six times and wait until the popcorn slows down. Defrost? Well I don't defrost in a microwave because I'm not an animal. But I don't see the need for any of the extra microwave buttons.

You are NOT the only person to use it, amigo. I love it. That button is as precious to me as the PREV button on a TV remote. I use it for pretty much everything, mostly because it allows me to bypass having to press START entirely. I used to manually enter the time and press START to heat food in the microwave before, like a SUCKER. Think of all the time I wasted! No more.

I don't use that button for popcorn because my microwave has a POPCORN button that does the job capably. If it ever stops too short, I time it so that I hit the 30-second button RIGHT when the popcorn timer is about to hit zero. Exhilarating. Any micro (my dad calls it a "micro" and I can't tell if that's widespread or just his thing) that lacks this button should be summarily incinerated.


While we're talking microwaves here, lemme just repeat my wife's lifehack, which is to put a damp paper towel down over your leftovers before you nuke them. Keeps shit from blowing up, especially cold chicken. Never fun to scrape an exploded chicken thigh off the walls of a tiny oven.


What if instead of baby teeth followed by adult teeth, we all just continually got new sets of teeth every seven years? Would orthodontics even exist? Would the surplus of old teeth be a boon to the voodoo and beachside necklace industries?

Please God, yes. What would I fucking pay for humans to have disposable teeth, or even rows of replaceable teeth like sharks have. I've already been through one cycle of BIG BRACES with my daughter and am on a second round with my oldest son. The third kid ain't gonna be far behind. Braces are a billion-dollar scam rivaled only by the wedding industry in both expense and artifice. If you go to any kiddie dentist or orthodontist, it's like going to a fucking factory. They have multiple chairs lined up in the same room so that the doctor can toggle between patients and process as many of them as they possibly can. Why do we even HAVE teeth, I ask you?

My daughter's braces worked. Her teeth are all straight and lovely. But she essentially had to wear braces for two years—and my wife and I had to spend thousands of dollars—to get there. For Phase 2 of her braces (they have phases now), she kept hoping the next checkup would be the day they came off, and it never was. It made her grumpy and hopeless, and this was BEFORE the pandemic hit. So yeah, I would like human teeth to evolve past the necessity. I'm stunned that they never evolved before the advent of modern dentistry. How did ever survive as a species if crooked teeth scared off potential mates and a little toothache ruined our shit? We're not THAT tough. I demand answers.



You finish putting on a dress sock, only to discover that you have put it on fully upside-down. Do you take the whole thing off and start over, or attempt to rotate the little heel pocket into place while still wearing it?

I'm Team Rotate. I'm not starting the sock process over again. That would be admitting failure, and I'm too proud and manly to ever do such a thing.



Is sex the only activity you celebrate by screaming the name of the activity? Nobody yells "Golf" when they make a birdie. No one yells "football" when they make a touchdown. But I know a lot of people scream the F-word while they are doing the fucking. At least that's what the documentaries on the Internet show.

It's not quite the same, though. I know I'm taking your question WAY too literally, but when people cry out FUCK during sex, they're usually just using it as an interjection. "Fuck! This is really great! Fuck, you have a fantastic ass and I get to touch it!" Now if they cried out SEX! during sex, that would be closer. And really, who could blame you for screaming that? You're having sex! It's a goddamn miracle! SEXXXXX. That's the good shit (NOTE: I have definitely muttered "shit" while shitting, but as an expression of frustration with my bowels and not as a formal announcement of outbound turds.) Good to audibly confirm that sex is being had. Brings great joy to everyone's inner 16-year-old. I support an adoption of the practice.


This goes for sports too, by the way. Whenever baseball returns, I got no problem with batters screaming BASEBALL! anytime they knock one out of the park, or NFL players crying FOOTBALL! in ecstasy when they finally get the chance to concuss someone again. This is the logical next step up from fans like me tweeting FOOTBALL! the first Sunday of every season. I am the point now where I am excited for mere nouns and more than happy to let the world know about it.


Eating pasta barehanded is better than with a fork. You get to slurp spaghetti like you're in a movie no one remembers. Or hold it up high and let it fall into your mouth. Squeezing all the sauce/cheese/whatever between two penne noodles is way better than trying to get it all even on a fork. You can do the 'toss noodle in air try to catch it' gag like it's Italian Hibachi. You always get the right size bite of ravioli. You gotta let the lasagna cool a little though, so it doesn't ooze as much when you eat it like a sandwich.

I and Robert Pattinson are willing to hear you out on this. I've grabbed pasta out of the pot with my bare hands for a taste, and I've picked at lukewarm lasagna, grabbing pebbles of ground beef where no one will notice their absence. But I have never eaten a full meal of pasta with my bare hands. I could do it with buttered noodles. They might be a little slick but I could deal. If we're talking a full-on spaghetti Bolognese? Then it's gonna be a fucking mess, and not even in the fun way like when you eat a loaded burger. You'd have to have a side dish of sauce and then DIP the fucking noodle into it, like you're eating chips and salsa. Can't say I'd be overjoyed to eat my pasta that way. Also, pasta is hot. It just came out of boiling water. What if I burn my precious hands, Michael? YOU'LL BE HEARING FROM MY ATTORNEY, SIR.


But plain pasta? I could give that a whirl. Oh! And what about plain ramen noodles? No broth? That I would fucking ATTACK. I can never eat ramen fast enough. If I could wad up a softball of ramen in my hand and fuck my face with it, that might solve the problem.


A few friends and I rented a cabin on a river for a weekend a while back. Showing up in sandals, one friend didn't pack/wear shoes and socks. We had discussed canoeing, hiking a bit, etc. Annoyingly, he proceeds to borrow socks and shoes from us the entire weekend. But instead of admitting he just screwed up, he explains, "the pictures for the rental showed really soft grass, didn't think I needed any shoes." He's a lying liar, right?

He's a liar but every group of guys has at least one guy like that, if not more. There's always a mooch, a clueless asshole, a guy who plans for literally nothing, and a guy who's ready to bitch at the drop of a hat. If you're lucky, this all comes packaged in ONE guy!

This only gets worse, by the way. The older you get, the more your friends irritate you in petty ways, especially on rare trips together. You're used to being at home, maybe with your wife, and doing things your way. Now here comes Hank showing up at the river house asking why there's a river nearby. Fucking Hank. THE RIVER IS THERE SO WE CAN DROWN YOUR SORRY ASS. DID YOU READ A SINGLE EMAIL IN THE CHAIN, YOU STUPID FUCK? I've been with my friends in situations like this and we've all gotten on each other's nerves accordingly, almost always BEFORE anyone has had a drink.


Always fun to realize you've grown up to be a complete tightass. One time I went to stay at my best friend Jeremy's apartment and there was a coffee table in front of his sofabed that was heavy as shit, so it had to be moved to pull the bed out. I bitched at him for having the temerity to own a heavy coffee table. And it wasn't even the first time I'd yelled at him about it. You invite someone over and they repay you by questioning all of your life choices. Jeremy is gonna read this and then text me to say I'm still being unreasonable about it. But I swear to you this thing is heavier than a fucking gravestone.

I also still try to brave a gravel driveway in bare feet, and then I get MAD at the driveway for being made of gravel. Am I ever at fault? Never. I am both stupid and defensive. Thankfully, we've built an entire country out of this very model. It's fucking wonderful.


What is the proper strategy for group jigsaw puzzles? At a group lake house weekend, one couple started grouping all the pieces by color, which was idiotic because the puzzle was a collage of 80s images. There were different colors in every square inch of the puzzle. This slowed the whole thing down and made me consider violent crimes. Co-workers shared similar tales of poor strategy. This seems like organizing your receipts for your taxes alphabetically rather than by type of expense, no? Am I stubborn, or correct?


This column is now exclusively about lake/river house etiquette, so you're aware. Anyway, Andrew here is right in that grouping puzzle pieces by color sounds aesthetically pleasing, like arranging the books on your bookshelf in alphabetical order, but it's useless from a strategy standpoint. I only have one puzzle strategy, and it's the same as everyone else's: you do the border pieces first, and then you fill in the puzzle from there. I have no other strategy beyond that save for, "Eh, let the kids figure it out." Also, I consult the completed image on the box and just go from there. Apparently some people think this is cheating. I have no problem cheating on this sort of thing. So long as you aren't the Houston Astros, a little cheating in games is acceptable by me. I also use the hints for point-and-click games online. Throw me in the river.


Managers from the American League should not get into the Hall of Fame. Managers in the AL don't have to worry about double-switches, pitchers hitting, or really having any impact on the game other than pitching changes. It is a much easier job managing in the AL as opposed to the NL and therefore AL managers should be looked at like Rockies power hitters, they have an advantage that makes their job easier and therefore should not go to the HOF. Tell me I'm wrong.

Andy, you are wrong. I know it LOOKS easy to manage an American League team. All you gotta do is stand there and clap and say, "Good eye!" and pull the starter three innings after the crowd has been BEGGING you to do it. Hey wait a second … that IS easy. Fuck, I wanna do that. Someone hire me to manage the Twins. I could do that shit by phone! THAT'S JUST BEING SANITARY IN THESE UNCERTAIN TIMES.


As always, my take is to let more people into every Hall of Fame. This is especially true of baseball, because writer sanctimony has basically frozen that Hall in place since 1997. They're gonna induct fucking Jeter and no one else every year from now until 2056.


So I was doing one of those 6 am group workouts before work that were all the rage. My group was on the floor part of the class doing burpees and the guy next to me was like 6'7 and having a difficult time doing what the majority of the people were doing with little to no problem. Because of this he had to loudly proclaim to anyone within earshot that it's because he was so tall and had to drop down farther and exert more energy getting back up than everyone else - mind you this was not the only time he complained about this calamity causing him problems. This got me to thinking - do you think tall people are like the GOP of height? They get all of the perks that go with it but on the rare occasions it works against them they complain about it to anyone and everyone like they've somehow been discriminated against.

I resent this question as a tall person. The only time I feel discriminated against as a tall person is when I have to fly. But now the airlines are all gonna go bankrupt so WHO'S LAUGHING NOW?! I have never complained about my tallness impeding my ability to exercise. I have only complained ABOUT the exercise in general, especially burpees because burpees suck. But otherwise Eddie is right. Tall people have no right to bitch about their gangly limbs making it harder for them to do Crossfit. Just don't DO Crossfit. It's an elegant solution. Just do the elliptical and then pine for it when COVID takes it away from you.

But we're not the GOP of height. That is strictly the domain of short dudes with a Napoleon complex. You know damn well I'm right.

Email of the week!


I have been a Pirates fan all 22 years of my life. My grandfather was a ticket-seller at Forbes Field and my dad had tickets to the 1992 World Series that he never got to use (curse Sid Bream and Barry Bonds' weak throw home). Of the course of my lifetime, my favorite team has had four (4) winning seasons and have won three (3) playoff games. It's way too late for me to switch allegiances now and I eagerly watch and attend games and am hopeful every year that Bob Nutting will stop being Bob Nutting.

Is this the most miserable fandom? My most precious memory of the team is winning a Wild Card game. They have been awful nearly the entirety of my life. At least the Browns and the Mets and whoever else never had 20 consecutive losing seasons. I can't think of a fan having a worse 22-year experience. Please let me know what you think. I'm curious if there's somehow a more desperate fandom situation when I watch them lose to the Cardinals for the fourth game in a row.

I am usually of the mind that there's really no such thing as wasted fandom, particularly right now with sports in perpetual turnaround. But then again, the Pirates are fucking terrible. Maybe you should invest in lake houses instead.