Love is a many-splendored thing ...


We are sitting at the kitchen table.

It is round and has four legs and is older than heartburn. It was the blonde’s mom’s “cook table” … whatever that is.

It does mean it has a long, long, long history and I paid somebody $35 to refinish it, the result being beautiful and I could see where my late brother-in-law Ed Vice had carved his initials.

Which really doesn’t have anything to do with this little essay ’cept the table has a history of good times way back when.

Anyway, sitting across the table from me, the blonde hands me an envelope with:

“I bought you a present.”

Which is when that old Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing movie came to mind.

The connection there is I saw the movie way back in 1955 with a drop-dead-prettiest-blonde-in-our class sitting by my side. It’s a good bet we were holding hands. Love demands contact … and I’ll leave it at that.

Anyway, I reached for the envelope with love warming my heart for the blonde I held hands with way back in 1955 while watching Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing.

That’s the good news.

The bad?

The “present” was a paid-up 30-day deal to Tyler Center, a splendid building that houses a hall of pure terror. In other words, there is all sorts of equipment that stretches and pulls and jerks and squeezes various parts of your body ’til you start thinking of the “hereafter” where the streets are gold and there are no Tyler Centers housing Chambers of Horrors.

My reaction?

“Ain’t going. You can fergit it.”

Her answer?

“You ARE going … and that’s the end of that.”

The bad news?

Meet Tom Muller.

I’m not sure of Tom’s title at the Tyler Center, but he is deadly serious about taking you apart and putting you back together. The process of pulling me apart is still under way, the rebuilding into a Charles Atlas body comes later.

Actually, my introduction to Mr. Muller was sort of mild.


“I want you to do two laps around the track, sit and rest for two minutes, and then do two more laps.”

Piece of cake.

From there Mr. Muller led me to a machine with pedals and a dashboard to measure my success — or failure — in a beginning which, I’ve finally figured out, has no ending.

But that, too, was a piece of cake. I sat and pedaled and watched the passing traffic outside and wondered who was going to Hokes Bluff and who wasn’t.

As of Friday I did my sixth day and the ease of “Hi, my name is Tom Muller” was in the rearview mirror. But I still have Mr. Muller, and I have this feeling he dreams at night of my next trip.

Two examples of Mr. Muller’s “Pain Package.”

Past the walk and the pedaling while watching traffic headed for Hoke Bluff, there is:

1. This rather ugly contraption that has a seat, two handles, and weights. I pull while Mr. Muller tells me how to do it correctly. My arms feel like I’ve been on a rack during the Spanish Inquisition.

2. Another ugly contraption where I sit, put my legs under a bar, and lift weights to somewhere in the vicinity of the moon. Again, Mr. Muller is there to be sure I do it correctly, that I don’t cheat.

But I have to be completely honest at the finish line. I like Tom Muller quite a bit and believe he’d be a good guy to hang out with AWAY from Tyler Center.

Inside Tyler, Tom Muller is as serious as roadkill in cleaning up the mess I have made of my body down through the years …

See you Monday, T.M.


George Smith can be reached at 256-239-5286 or email: