As a good many of you know, I’ve been doing a fair amount of traveling lately. In fact, between my gambling jaunts to Atlantic City, this summer’s trip to Mexico, and some other weekend getaways, I feel like I spend nearly as much time in hotels as my own home.
It’s a bit draining, but there are worse problems to have. I’m a bit of a bon vivant, so I’ve been staying in somewhat more plush hotels, anyway.
Truth be told, I’m fussy about certain things, so while I don’t enjoy living out of a bag or sleeping in random beds, there are aspects I enjoy.
Hotel bathrooms, for example.
If you haven’t stayed at a nice hotel lately, I highly advise you to do so immediately; the bathrooms are insane: tiled masterpieces with basin sinks and showers so large they could accommodate…well myself and several other people (not that I’d know anything about that).
And it is those showers that started this mess.
After a weekend in AC, I decided I wanted my bathroom at home to feel a bit more like a Spa. I wasn’t about to re-tile the entire thing, so I made what small changes I could. New towels. Some candles. A jar of scented oil to sit atop the sink. Very feng, very shui.
People would come from far and wide to just bask in the supreme calm my bathroom now elicits.
I also made an investment in what I considered to be the crown jewel of my
pseudo-spa: a new shower head.
Not just any shower head. This was a giant monstrosity of chrome and steel with a diameter so large I had to roll it in on its side to fit through the door.
Simultaneously physically imposing and aesthetically pleasing, my new shower head had a ridiculous number of variable settings, ranging from “Elephant Wash” to “Summer Sunshower” to “Hurricane Katrina.”
It also comes with a hand massage, which one reviewer on Amazon.com described as “better than any vibrator I’ve ever had, and the only reason I’m still married.” Evidently, this is the John Romaniello of showerheads.
As soon as I installed it, I “enjoyed” a grueling workout from Final Phase Fat Loss–after which I was as sweaty as a person can possibly be. Hey, if you’re gonna get a giant shower head, may as well make sure it’s worth the cash, no?
Getting home, I stripped down to my bright green Diesel briefs, and lit some of the new aromatherapy candles. I was going to have the best shower ever. Hotel showers would have nothing on Casa de Roman.
There I am, in my new spa, enjoying the sensation of getting pelted by a hundred thousand miniscule water bullets. My showers normally take a while because of my beauty regime, so I’ll skip the part where I tell you about the special shampoo and conditioner I use, and get right to the good part: blissfully exfoliating my recently man-scaped torso and contemplating my next blog post.
(To be fair, I know exfoliating is a bit girly, but I was using my Axe “shower tool” so it was less girly. As loofah’s go, it’s as manly as they get. Okay, whatever, I care about my skin—can you stop interrupting and let me tell my tale of high adventure here?)
Where was I? Ah, yes, exfoliating.
Scrubbing furiously, I was pondering what to blog about, a bit distracted, when I catch a brief flurry of movement out of the corner of my eye; I glanced up briefly…
Unbeknownst to me, during my shower, while I was naked and exposed, vulnerable and distracted, an enemy had crept into my midst. I looked upon him, and did know Fear.
There—not inches in front of my face—suspended from a thread of the purest silk, was a spider. Black with red legs, his bulbous body plump from his latest kill, he glared back at me, his multi-faceted preceptors glowing like coals.
Before we go further, I need to mention something. I’m a pretty brave guy. I like extreme sports, have no problem with heights, or jumping out of airplanes, or off of boats, or even out of airplains onto boats. But, like anyone I have some phobias. And anyone who knows me will tell you, in all the known Universe, I fear three things, and three things only:
and the worst…
3) Clown Spiders
Jumping backwards away from the physical embodiment of my childhood fears, I smashed my lower back into the shower knobs and faucet. Without looking away from the spider, I clumsily sidled out of the shower, trying to regain my breath and my focus. I touched my now tender erector spinae, and felt a hot wetness. I was bleeding. I looked at the spider, and I swear to you he was smiling. He spun on his web, swaying to and fro in the shower’s steam.
At this point, I needed to take a moment to gather my thoughts and my courage. I am deathly afraid of spiders, and they truly make me feel like I’m going to die. That’s how strong my fear is. And to be fair, this was a bit of a surprise.
There I was, in all my naki-tude, trembling in fear of a talking spider who was now trying very obviously to pick a fight.
And then I thought that he was an arrogant little bastard. He had invaded the sanctity of my home! Of my shower—shattering the carefully manicured, Zen-like calm of my newly redecorated bathroom. He had looked upon my flesh, and taken me by surprise. This was worse than the time I was roofied and nearly date raped my Sophomore year of college.
This was an invasion of one of my most private moments. What if he’d seen me…well, doing some stuff in the shower other than washing? You know, like using the hand massager or whatever. (Don’t you dare judge me, it’s my shower and I’ll do what I want.) The nerve! And what a coward—to come upon me when I was most vulnerable.
Swiftly, the ice cold grip of fear began to loosen its paralyzing grip on my extremities, as the inferno of anger spread outward from my heart.
I groped around on the ground looking for a weapon—and lo!—my hand brushed rubber. My trusty flip-flop!
I stood and took a swipe at the brash insect, seeking to end this unpleasant interaction (and his arrogance) as quickly as possible. And then something happened that I will never forget.
The spider dodged my attack. I blinked. Frowning in consternation, I thought I must have just misjudged the distance and missed. I took careful aim and attacked again.
This was understandably confusing, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that spiders do not normally have the dexirity to move so gamely while hanging from a web.
Of greater concern was this: for those of you who don’t know, when I was playing Dungeons & Dragons in middle school, my character was a level 8 Paladin with 9 ranks of melee under his belt, and I’m preeeeetty sure those skills carry over to real life. Besides, I was attacking with a +2 Flip Flop of Disruption. My paralyzing fear of insects aside, no mere spider could dodge two consecutive attacks.
It was then that I knew: this was no ordinary arachnid. For the first time, I took a closer looker at the Beast. I realized then what must be going on. This spider was not real.
Yes, that must be it. As I looked at him, he grew larger and larger in my eyes. His legs grew by inches, then feet; his body grew rapidly, making sick popping noise as it jerked and twitched like a werewolf in bad horror movie
Not just a robot spide, but now a GIANT robot spider, clearly built by a mad scientist in an 80s cartoon, intended to spy on unsuspecting dudes and capture pictures of them exfoliating to blackmail them, hanging out in MY bathroom, and growing.
Armed with this knowledge, I reengaged the enemy.
Blood dripping down my back, I gripped tight my makeshift weapon, and waded in.
As soon as I stepped back into the shower, the world was transformed.
My enemy stood there, waiting for me. His body glistened wetly, red legs gleaming like bloody swords, mechanical hinges (robot spider, remember?) bent at angles Nature would never allow.
It ran down my body in rivulets, collecting the blood from my wound and gathering it into lazy swirling patterns in the water at our feet.
Approaching the beast guardedly, I held my flip-flop outward, using its mighty toe to create distance between us. Attempting to capitalize on his confusion, I lunged at the spider with a strength borne of terror and rage. He foresaw my attack, the clockwork arachnid scurried quickly out of the way, and my strike caught only air.
Three times now the beast had evaded me! This was impossible. My assumption was that whatever robot crystal matrix was running his CPU must be powered by the same radiation that turned Peter Parker into Spider-Man or Bruce Banner into the Hulk. (Evidently, it’s not just super-heroes that reap the benefits of a good toxic spill.)
Finding my center, I realized brute force would do me no good. This would require a different approach; a more sophisticated approach.
I would call on my fencing skills to slay this monster.
Shifting my weight to my back foot, I jabbed quickly, probing my enemy’s defenses; each was picked off cleanly by a leg here, a pincher there. We circled each other warily, the distance between us expanding and contracting ever more rapidly, as if in tune with the increasing speed of my heart.
Crouching lowly, I sprung forward, attacking with my flip-flop cum foil.
The spider reacted with Bonetti’s Defense. I shifted stances, transitioning to attack with Capa Ferro; without pause, I was immediately answered with Thibault. I retreated quickly, and darted forward into a flurry of Agrippa—down again and again and again. From style to style we went, our bodies contorting and adjusting as we ranged through all the forms of the ancient Masters.
(Okay, I stole most of that from the Princess Bride, but it happened in a very similar manner. There was a bit less skill and a bit more swagger, but you get the idea.)
In the back of my mind, I began to wonder just how mechanical this spider was—perhaps a cyborg sent back through time to slay me before I became Mankind’s savior in the war against the Machines? The spiders reactions were too seamless, his timing too perfect. Not even 80’s cartoon technology could produce this level of skill.
Redoubling my efforts, I pressed my attack marvelously. All of the training in all of the various disciplines I have studied (video games, RPGs, kung-fu movies, and reading comics) somehow coalesced into a battle ready methodology fit for the Matrix.
Never before had I engaged in anything as harmoniously structured as this deadly dance. I became more confident, and managed to slip a few strikes passed his defenses—they rebounded harmlessly off of his monstrous carapace.
He attacked and I parried gamely, swatting off the legs as they came in from all angles, my Vorpal sword singing snicker-snack! as I swung to and fro, keeping the monster at bay. We surged forward and came together in a thunderous crash. Once and twice and thrice we collided, vying for position.
As our blades (flip-flops, swords, legs… whatever, focus on the story) locked together, we bore down on one another, each seeking to gain advantage. In this position, faces pressed dangerously close together. With such perilous proximity, it was impossible not to look into the beasts eyes.
My soul shivered.
This was a demon bug.
This was all the fears of all children, made corporeal and dropped into my shower; not a spider, but a simulacrum of a spider, a bloated disguise for evil. This was an agent of the underworld, an ambassador of evil, spat out from the Sunnydale Hellmouth to bring about the End of All Things.
Not on my watch. I had to stop this. I had to save the world.
(Now, look. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think, given the chance to think about it, that Heaven would have specifically chosen me as the Protector of the Earth—but sometimes life hands you some lemons, and you have to use the lemons to battle the undead. Sometimes you ask for an arch-Angel, or a Hogwarts student, or Captain America. Sometimes you get that.
And then there are times when you want a Jedi Knight with a blazing light saber, and you wind up with a naked dude holding a rubber sandal. Destiny, as they say, rarely calls upon us at times of convenience.)
And so, if a naked guy with a flip-flop was all that straddled the gap between Existence and Oblivion, then so be it.
I don’t know who or what decided to send a harbinger of the Apocalypse to me in the form of this incubus-arachnid, but clearly they had no clue who they were dealing with. My name is John fuckin Roman, and arachnophobia be damned, these are not the fuckin Droids you’re looking for.
The END does not Begin in my shower. (Especially not when I got those nice candles that REALLY match the towels just so perfectly.)
I came fully into my own there–I knew the stakes, knew the fragile thread upon which my doom now hung. The question was: would I then, so-knowing, have the strength of spirit to see this battle through?
The smell of brimstone was strong; my breath came ragged now, ripped savagely from my lungs as they sought desperately to pull oxygen from the fetid air. To paraphrase Herman Melville, if my chest had been a canon, it would have shot my heart out on the shower floor. Arms aching from the strain, muscles bunching and snapping with each thrust, we continued.
The ground quaked mightily from the force of the blows, the house broke apart around us.
No longer confined to a bathroom, our combat ranged across the globe. Freed now of that ceramic-tiled arena, we traveled through fields and tramped through streams, the pace of our battle never lessening. It felt like we had been at it for days and then days upon days.
But I knew better. We had, in fact, been at it forever.
We were no longer two warriors engaged in single combat: we were all warriors, in all times.
Our dance was the dance of ages, of eons. This battle was ancient and everlasting, a battle so old its origins were lost in the murky depths of pre-Time.
This was THE battle.
The war between Good and Evil, Light and Dark, played out a thousand times—no, thousand times a thousand! Once again, each side had chosen a Champion, and the battle was joined.
Our souls left our bodies and we projected to the Astral Plane. We fought among the heavens, and the stars themselves hid from the fury. I was tireless, but exhausted; Immortal, and a hairs breadth from death. I was one with my enemy, knew his mind as I knew my own; knew the he feared me as I feared him.
Finally, a mutual blow was struck—with the speed and temerity of a swooping falcon, I attacked with an overhand chop; the spider twisted its bulk laterally, lashing out with his forelegs. Our blows both landed, and we fell.
And we fell.
Thrown from our perch above the sun, we fell endlessly; through the sky and the clouds, through fire and water, through shadow and flame. Like Gandalf with the Balrog, we fell and fought and fell. Finally, we came to rest on a mountaintop that overlooked the landscape of Pandemonium, the Capital City of Hell itself.
Feeling the spiders venom coursing through my body, I made a desperate run straight at the beast; his strikes fell upon me, scratching my skin as though I had run through a thicket of brambles. Taking up my flip-flop in both hands as though I was Thor weilding Mjolnir, I smote the spider like I had rolled a 20 and did double damage. He blinked his eyes stupidly once, and then fell into pieces, the sorcery binding his form together evaporating with his defeat.
I stood there, eyes closed, wholly consumed with fatigue, knowing nothing other than the burning of the spider’s venom flowing through me. I waited for death, too exhausted to savor victory.
And then I felt it: a drip. Small at first, but growing steadily.
Now a deluge, my body being bathed in light and water, healing my wounds, rejuvenating me. Like a Pheonix Down in Final Fantasy or red potion in Zelda, slowly but surely I felt my health meter filling up again.
I opened my eyes and realized I was in my shower—all the damage from this epic battle had been undone. Whatever test there had been, I had passed—barely. The Gods had seen fit to repair the damage we had done as we replayed the Last Battle in my bathroom.
And I stood now in my tub, the mammouth showerhead set to “Soothing Rain.” The scent of an “Ocean Mist” candle filled my nostrils.
Having faced my worst fear—and death—I was now free to enjoy my shower.
Then I ran out of hot water.
Eh, I’ll shower later. Time to watch some cartoons.
Comments for This Entry
Sarah CurrierWill Payne this is for Zac Martin lol.
June 6, 2013 at 2:42 am
Scott BaerRoman, you are seriously one warped dude; talented, but WARPED! hahahahaha
June 21, 2012 at 12:20 am
Fred SwinkOh what tangled webs we weave . Great imagery Sir.
June 21, 2012 at 12:11 am
JamesDon't worry John, when I saw this epic saga in my head as I read, I only imagined you from very tasteful PG angles
February 5, 2012 at 9:31 pm
HollyI've read about 5 of your blog entries which have all been entertaining and informing. I just finished your "about me" page, at the end you confess your fear of spiders and that led me here. As a former arachnaphobe - now an arachnelover, it seems like a man educated as yourself who seems to like to over come fears and push yourself, you should google image search Araneae Salticidae and open your eyes up to the cutest spiders in the world. Also, I found you via looking up Fast - 5 after reading Tim Ferris's book 4 Hour Body. Speaking of whom, left a comment on this same post which made me happy. :) GREAT blog, I look forward to perusing your posts.
August 18, 2011 at 1:02 am
SparhawkDude I am terrified of spiders or any abomination with more than an appropriate amount of legs. I once was attacked by a silverfish in my shower. I promptly screamed for my mother (I was 24), several times before she answered my distress call. I informed her of the the disaster that was going on behind the loofa. So wrapped in the shower curtain I pleaded my mom to dispense of said monstrosity. As she pokes this thing it moves from it's hiding place. I leapt from the shower simultaneously grabbing a towel to cover my nudeness, and shoving my mother toward the creature. I then took my mom's shoe and wildly started swing in the vicinity of this thing. I have no idea if it died, or if was ashamed by me sacrificing my own mother and left to spread the word of my cowardice but I never saw it again. To this day my sister loves to tell the story of her heroic brother bravely sacrificing his mother.
August 17, 2011 at 8:51 pm
Tim FerrissBuahahaha.... Roman, one question: where can I get the drugs you took before you wrote this? Hysterical. Keep those chesticles growing, good sir, Tim
September 30, 2010 at 6:08 pm
ClementWow. I just posted a nostalgic comment about cartoons on my facebook wall. I just miss the good ol' days, when we didn't have a care in the world!
April 17, 2010 at 9:15 pm
DougGreat visual. I do know now however, not to ask you to kill a spider. HAHA
April 17, 2010 at 4:22 pm
RalphI am literally in tears reading this!! Well done sir!!!
October 22, 2009 at 11:20 am
Ylwa@John Romaniello - Well played Roman, I rest my case. You have now also made the impossible occur, I'm speechless. Like the big she-spider in Lord of the Rings I will retract to my cave and contemplate my defeat.
October 22, 2009 at 8:18 am
AlanLord of the rings eat your heart out, when will the movie be coming out??
October 21, 2009 at 8:52 pm
John RomanielloOriginally Posted By [email protected] I'm sorry, I forgot that the third woman (we women are all as you probably know slight schizofrenic) in me - the nurturing mother (she who always wants you to open up, talk about your feelings and not be so afraid to show you fears) absolutely adore these kind of confessions. This blog post is like crack to that side of us. Especially considering the fact that it also proves that you're an excellent writer and therefore also obviously well-educated, intelligent and in touch with your feelings. Heck, if I weren't living across the pond and already engaged I'd propose to you. Honestly. Have I restored your manhood now? Sandals and all (I don't want to hurt your feelings again but you would make an awful pest-controller). :) Although, I'm still confused with the spiderman-thing. But maybe that's a bit of topic in this blog. Well...I guess I feel a little better. Flattery will get you everywhere, afterall. With regard to Spider-Man: It's important to note that in some versions of the Spider-Man origin story (I'm thinking specifically about Ultimate Marvel here) Peter Parker actually didn't like insects. While not a full-on arachnophobe, he said he insects were an area of science he found less than pleasing to study. Resultantly, he was at the Science Expo to get a gander at the radiation, not the insects. When he gets bitten by the radioactive spider, he looks down at the pinch he feels and reacts by shaking his hand wildly--in my view, to get the spider off. In no recounting of the origin story does Pete seek out spiders, of course =) And despite my fear, I'd gladly let one crawl on me and take a nibble if it meant that I got super strength, speed, agility, and could walk on walls and ceilings.
October 21, 2009 at 4:22 pm
John RomanielloOriginally Posted By whitneyyou are an interesting man. a good writer, with clearly excellent taste in movies, games, comics and all things 'geek' and also impossibly fit. well done sir, i raise my hat to you. Aww, shucks...if only this geekiness was as cool in high school as it is now. I would have been the belle of the ball, instead of just the wrestler secretly playing D&D after practice. Ah, sweet irony. In all seriousness, I appreciate the praise =)
October 21, 2009 at 4:02 pm
John RomanielloOriginally Posted By ChrisNice writing John. Just a little bit far fetched though. How you expect anyone to believe that you have "bright green Diesel briefs", I've no idea.:) Hahahaha actually most of my underwear are brighly colored Diesel briefs. Never let it be said that I don't go the extra mile to draw attention to my junk. Here's a pic from a recent prep-period for a photo shoot--my green panties poke through a bit http://tnation.tmuscle.com/forum_images/5/f/5fced-abs.jpg
October 21, 2009 at 3:52 pm
MeshelWhat an exhilarating and exhausting tale of triumph and exfoliation that left me breathless from LOL-ing and the occasional tremor of terror. When exfoliating try using your manly Axe “shower tool” before you actually step under the water. Dead skin tends to stick fast to the healthy when it becomes saturated and thus you carry it around for a bit longer. Try it, you will notice a difference. It has been said before but warrants reiteration. You are a fantastic writer. I love when a story elicit a moving picture in the mind’s eye allowing you to see things happen as you read the written word. I was on the sideline of this battle cheering you on; even if I could not quite wrap my mind around the fact that you, someone who is big and seemingly brave, are scared of such an itty bitty thing. Though I do not share your phobia I can empathize. My sister too is terrified of spiders and once almost pushed a passenger out of her moving car (thank god for seatbelts) because there was a tiny spider on her arm. Congrats on the kill. Michelle
October 21, 2009 at 2:13 pm
ChrisNice writing John. Just a little bit far fetched though. How you expect anyone to believe that you have "bright green Diesel briefs", I've no idea.:)
October 21, 2009 at 9:07 am
Fred@John Romaniello - @John Sure thing man, you really have a talent there. I can tell that you are pretty damn passionate about it too, and that's a joy to see. So, all humility aside (of course) pat yourself on the shoulder and keep going with that - it would be awesome to see more! Currently I'm re-reading my old Jordan stuff in anticipation of the new book, but I'll def look into Drizzt by Salvatore. Thanks for the tip, I appreciate it. Always nice to engage in an enlightened conversation with someone who combines the sweet arts of fitness and fantasy. You earned the praise big time champ.
October 21, 2009 at 6:30 am
Ylwa@John I'm sorry, I forgot that the third woman (we women are all as you probably know slight schizofrenic) in me - the nurturing mother (she who always wants you to open up, talk about your feelings and not be so afraid to show you fears) absolutely adore these kind of confessions. This blog post is like crack to that side of us. Especially considering the fact that it also proves that you're an excellent writer and therefore also obviously well-educated, intelligent and in touch with your feelings. Heck, if I weren't living across the pond and already engaged I'd propose to you. Honestly. Have I restored your manhood now? Sandals and all (I don't want to hurt your feelings again but you would make an awful pest-controller). :) Although, I'm still confused with the spiderman-thing. But maybe that's a bit of topic in this blog.
October 21, 2009 at 6:02 am
whitneyyou are an interesting man. a good writer, with clearly excellent taste in movies, games, comics and all things 'geek' and also impossibly fit. well done sir, i raise my hat to you.
October 21, 2009 at 1:37 am
John RomanielloOriginally Posted By Brandon It might look a little silly, but if you're a naked guy with a rubber sandal, silly was several exits ago. haha, point taken. But thanks for the kind words. Actually I have had some sci-fi stories published in a few magazines. My first when I was 13, my last when I was 20. Which was actually right before I had my first fitness article published. Maybe I'll write some more, when I'm not busy smiting demon spiders.
October 21, 2009 at 12:29 am
John Romaniello@Ylwa - Hey hey...be fair. I did KILL it, after all. Okay, so I was scared like a little kid, but still. I won in the end. =( Bully!
October 21, 2009 at 12:27 am
John RomanielloOriginally Posted By FredA riveting read I must say. As a big time fantasy-freak myself, I found that the epic battle scenes held striking similarities both to Robert Jordan and George RR Martin, so that's not too shabby I'd say :-) When's the next chapter coming out? Take it easy You have no idea what a compliment this is; truly, I thank you for making such a comparison. I can't say I agree, but the fact that my random attempt at writing something along those lines was evocative of any such comparison is really humbling--and as you can tell, I'm not much for humility. As an aside, I'm just re-reading a lot of the Drizzt books by Salvatore, and his battle scenes are great. A bit more detailed than what I tried my hand at, but I definitely felt the influence there. Thanks again, honestly.
October 21, 2009 at 12:25 am
BeeI'm exhausted helping you fight your War. Showers are too much trouble!! I'm going to bed tonight with my had earned dirt. Good Night
October 20, 2009 at 11:38 pm
FredA riveting read I must say. As a big time fantasy-freak myself, I found that the epic battle scenes held striking similarities both to Robert Jordan and George RR Martin, so that's not too shabby I'd say :-) When's the next chapter coming out? Take it easy
October 20, 2009 at 11:18 pm
YlwaWhat is it with big, brave boys and spiders? I don't get it, we have the same issue in my house. It feels very re-assuring as a virgin (yeah, right) maid to know that her knight in shining armour claims to be man enough to protect her from all kinds of evil in the world as long as it doesn't hhave a body of an inch and 8 legs. On the other hand the modern woman of equality and the amazon warrior in me kind of thirves at the thought of how little it takes to bring a mighty meat head to his knees, begging for mercy out of sheer fear. And how has this fear allowed spiderman to be worshipped? You all fancied him as itty-bitties, did you ever stop to think where his super-powers came from in the first place?
October 20, 2009 at 11:07 pm
PerThis was an entertaining read and now at least I know what caused the Götterdämmerung-like thunderstorm around here recently. I guess we all owe you a great deal of appreciation for saving the world. For a couple of movie-tips on the "reality intertwined with other dimension fantasy", I recommend Day watch, Night watch (hopefully they will make movies of Dusk watch and Final watch too) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0403358/ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0409904/
October 20, 2009 at 11:02 am
BrandonJohn, you missed your calling. You should really be writing sci-fi/fantasy/humor. But I do agree, those little 8-legged little bastards terrify me, too. P.S. Next time, grab both flip-flops, and try the brain-damaged-seal-clapping gesture. It might look a little silly, but if you're a naked guy with a rubber sandal, silly was several exits ago.
October 19, 2009 at 10:24 pm