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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Thank You

I snap this red bull open, as the beak of my hat lays low over my eyes, preparing my thoughts for the journey that lies ahead of me.  A crisp chug of sugar rolls down my throat, as a gust of wind from the open gym door hits my body.  I am writing to you exactly what is happening at this very moment. At this very moment, I want to take this time and thank you for being there for me through thick and thin, through the hard times and the good times, through the loses and the wins.  Thank you for supporting me throughout the collections of many mistakes I have gathered throughout this journey of life and weightlifting.  Thank you for accepting me for who I am, and giving me the confidence to keep moving forward.  Thank you for pushing me back on the platform after suffering the horrible injury at the Arnold.  Thank you for putting up with my rants, and my over the top emotions.

Thank you for reading this blog, and being a part of the Dark Orchestra, a place where we can truly let ourselves live and be free. Thank you for letting your skeletons out of the closet, and facing them head on like I have done with mine.  Thank you for keeping me sober from drugs and alcohol.  Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read depressing blogs about my broken relationship with my father, drug addictions I have fought, and bad days in this mean sport of weightlifting that I love to write about and share with everyone.  Letting the world know there are more bad days in this sport than good, but the one good day makes it all worth while.  The one good day keeps us black sheep marching forward, creating our own path in life, separating us from the herd that makes us feel dead and down.  A herd of white fur that kills thoughts and buries them beneath the ground, as dreams and ideas scurry for shelter leaving us back where we once started.....hell.

This Red Bull only gives me a fraction of the energy you give me.  I can truly feel you on the other side of this screen, and I truly hope you can feel me as well. Thank you for your emails, your messages, your hand written letters that leave stains of salty tear drops from both our glassy eyes.  Thank you.  Thank you for rooting for me at meets, and getting my back on forums that are out to hang me.  Thank you for watching my videos, and giving me feedback on the comments.  Thank you for being my coach, because a coach you truly are.  Thank you for being the red light on the camera making sure I fucken squat, making sure I hit big weight, making sure I don't retire 'til we make the 2016 games, because I'm not going to lie, with the growth of the's very hard to continue training.  Some ask me how I even make time for training.  How can you still be an athlete? Where do you find the motivation to continue in this sport with everything you have going on?  My answer is you, you the reader, you the YouTube watcher, you the podcast listener, you the Twitter follower, you the Facebook friend, you the skeleton who has gone through the same dark hell as I have.  You the once heroin addicted son of a bitch.  You the once unhappy person who worked a shitty job that you finally found the courage to quit and live the midnight train life, finding what makes you truly happy.  I only coach what I have experienced, and I only write what I have been through as well.  I am you, you are me. We must stick together, because without each other, we lose our own self, we get lost in our own bodies, we find hell once again.

Thank you skeletons for making me face my once locked away demons, giving me the momentum to become a better person, and better weightlifter.  Thank you for pushing me like the wind on my back.  Guiding me to create a better life for me and my loved ones. Thank you for the kind words before I leave in a few hours to Venezuela.   I am not looking to hit any PR's, because this meet is not about me, nor my personal goals.  This meet is about representing you, the USA, the AN Family that stretches world wide, across the seas and into our coffee.  This meet is for you, the ones who I have never met, but call my family.  The family I have never seen, but know is there.  The ones that are there silently, loudly, and dramatically chasing each individual dream one PR at a time.

Thank you for everything.  I will see you back here, on the stage of dark, with violins playing and skeletons dancing......back here, in the Dark Orchestra on July 1st after we bring home the hardware at the Pan Ams.  Salute.  I will miss you all.

Skeletons 2016

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Nothing but pure fucken chaos outside.  Fast lights zig zag at lighting speed on the other side of this night time window that has a reflection of my long half shifted face staring off into a cold and dangerous world.  Beyond this cold dark window lays a galaxy of people who will rob and gut you, steel and fuck you.  A star ship galaxy full of space aliens that breathe in smoke only to exhale daggered words that leave you bloodied and wounded.  A sudden blink of the eye reminds my frightened conscience that in fact I am not dreaming, but alive and well, safe and sheltered, out from harm's reach from the, at times, fucked up world we live in.  A single drip of drool drops from my half opened mouth as my eyes follow the drip to its destiny, splattering on the bright and always magical blue carpet silently laying below my feet.  A wipe of the mouth, as a sense of warmth and comfort blanket my angered and frustrated emotions that tease and tempt me like a clown at a fucken kid's party. Get off me clown, "Who are you talking to, sweetie?"  My wife asks in her sweet, like country tea voice.  "The world, sweetie....the mother fucken world".  Her head fell back as her eyes rolled with a slight chuckle and a grab of my hand.  "Come on, sweetie. Let's look for some good movies," she said while dragging me away from the window that looked back at me. 

A soothing walk through the secret garden drew my soul to peace.  Rows of hidden isles of super heroes fighting and drunken guitar playing college kids at the animal house shaded my thoughts from the outside world, leaving me surrounded by a new circle of life, one that leaves you on the edge of the world.  Chimney sweepers dance above my head down the yellow brick road under the blue sky that folds and opens like a spiral maze leading me to some sort of crystal ball called the perfect movie to check out on this not so perfect night.  The smell of popcorn and candy left my taste buds with blue balls, as my mouth became dry and anxious for sour patch kids and extra buttered kettle corn.  My nose dug into my arm pits, as I tried to smell myself after the guy with the red leather jacket and Elvis sunglasses looking at movies next to me, gave me his business card that was titled, Soap Salesman.  He seemed odd and out of place, and he was truly incorrect about my odor, I smelled damn good.  Fuck that guy. 

The clack sound that the movies made being put back on the shelf after a quick read and a judge of the cover made my ears tingle with relaxation.  I loved that sound, I loved every sound this under the freeway homeless man was playing, a true master piece in an unusual place.  This blue carpet masterpiece was far from quiet as some might think.  The sound of the cash register changing while receipts were being ripped into two different forms to sign gave me goose bumps as I continued to walk up and down the isles passing a red haired girl running faster and faster around the building.  The crazy thing about this red haired girl is that she never stopped running. All she did was run, run, run. It made me smile as I continued to look for clues with an extremely dry sense of humor and whity remarks to myself, as I fumbled around getting closer to the perfect movie on this perfect stormy night. Too much silence is never a good thing.  Too much time alone can lead to long talks with bartenders and repeated sentences that might leave a person mad.  That's why I love this blue carpet, it surrounds me with other people's thoughts, journeys, and emotions.  Freeing us from our jailed cell minds, and taking us to the very end where the water meets the sand full of redemption.  Freedom from our own minds, and into others. Freedom that never lets go, even when the movie sinks to an end, and the cold outside wind from your open bedroom window hits you like frost bite.

The safe place, is what this block separated from the busters of life really is.  A place that no matter how down you are, how mad you are at life, this casino of rolling pictures will always save you from the sphere of life.  Save your private emotions for the gym, this is a time to just run, and keep running until the shackles on your knees break, and the forest before you turns blue and yellow.  Yellow like a Taxi, and blue like the punch that got you drunk off love from the first time you saw the woman of your dreams at that coffee shop outside of that busy intersection.  I am just an average Joe, but in this world I am a brilliant mathematician that solves impossible problems at Harvard.  I am not a weightlifter, I am a rope slinger that collects rocks and rides elephants. I am a fucken green monster.  I am a wormy poker hustler.  I am not me, myself, nor Irene.  I am a gladiator with a sword fighting for freedom to see his family once again.  I have no kids yet, but in this yellow and blue fish net I am a family man, a man on fire that cannot be stopped.

My wife's hair was blowing swiftly in the air from the AC vent above her.  She looked the most beautiful I have ever seen her at that very moment.  Her original smell hit my face from the air guiding it my way, almost taking my face off.  A scent of a woman was an understatement, her scent was and still is nothing less than breath taking.  A lucky man I am, I thought to myself.  To have a woman with such a brave heart, and beautiful mind.  I am truly blessed, and forever fortunate to have such a remarkable creature as my wife. 

This life that I live, I would die hard for. Walking up and down each row of movies about other people's lives makes me appreciate mine even more.  I slowly crept up to a movie that stuck out from all the rest.  A movie that caught my eye from far away.  I grabbed the movie extremely dramatically as if I just caught my first big fish.  I grabbed the Truman Show and my wife's hand and proceeded to the counter.  I paid, then continued to walk forward, gathered the rest of the benjamens into my wallet, and buttoned up my wife's coat before entering the cold outside.

My wife the Rock, and myself the Fighter, both a Bronx Tail, that ended in a night of love. 

"My wife, my love, my queen".  2016

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Headless Mother Fucker

His heart sucked his head down his own throat to have a quick word.  A headless man swaying awkwardly down the wrong side of the sidewalk.  Each shoulder taking turns moving up then down with perfect timing to every step.  A bad mo fo this fucken guy is.  People walking by him would even say in passing, "Look at this fucken guy".  He was that guy, the guy wearing a leather jacket on a sunny day.  A guy that walked like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.  A guy that had no head, only arms that would sway like he was directing cars at an intersection, instead of a whistle, he swung his keys around his tattooed finger, while whistling a romantic love song sung by his favorite opera.  No one seemed to ask where this mother fucker's head was, no one seemed to take the time to notice. They seemed to be too concerned with his energy, his presence, his blindness to his surroundings.  He took his keys as if they were a paint brush and swooshed the air adding in a skip to his walk.  This brought more looks from the people walking around him.  Yes, I said around.....this mother fucker was walking, or should I say skipping down the middle of the busy sidewalk.  His eyes staring through his chest plate as if he was trapped in his own body.  His chipmunk cheeks fully engulfed with air, as his eyes moved back and forth like a grand daddy clock.  His heart yelling at him like a principle scolding a kid for passing love notes in class.  His eyebrows dropped and his forehead scrunched down as if to say he understood.  This mother fucker was truly listening to his heart. 

Beep beep, his car sounded while the doors clicked unlock as he jumped over his door and slid into the driver's seat.  This mother fucker didn't even need to lock or unlock anything because his black Firebird had no top, just like he had no damn head.  This mother fucker pushed unlock just to make his entrance even more awesome.  A guy skateboarding by with his dog saw this preplanned and meditated entrance into the Firebird, and with such disapproval the skateboarder said to himself....."This mother fucker", and then skated on looking for his next victim to mind judge.  The headless mo fo looked up his throat in anticipation for what his mind told his hands to do, and that was to pour a gallon of coffee down into his chest plate and into his mouth that was already wide open awaiting for the river of half blood and coffee to enter his mouth.  But see..... the drinking process has been reversed.  With this mother fucker's head in his chest, that meant the coffee would have to first be poured into his throat to enter his mouth, and then once in his mouth this mother fucker would actually have to spit the coffee out in order for the coffee to reach his belly. This mother fucker fucked up the whole process, making it into his own. 

Alanis Morisette was blasting throughout his firebird as one elbow stuck out the driver's seat window, while the other laid on top of the steering wheel like his arm was completely dead.  Horns were honking everywhere from other cars swerving out of the way.  People were flipping him off with more emotion that the famous Johnny Cash picture.  They had every right to in my opinion.  This mother fucker was driving down the wrong side of the mother fucken road! An occasional swerve from his driving hand feeling every emotion Alanis was screaming about made him one dangerous mother fucker.  His leather jacket flapped from the wind slipping past its dirt shell full of his old boy scout patches and AC/DC buttons from concerts he has been to.  One patch was of an old fat lady singing, and it said "She is singing, but this mother fucker is still going".  How this mother fucker was even driving with no head is confusing to this day, but it never seemed to bother this mother fucker, so what did he do when a cop passed him......? He waved like a president getting off the plane.  His layed back demeanor and confidence in who he was made the cop feel at ease, as the cop passed with a wave in return.  You couldn't see this mother fucker smiling, but he was, underneath his shoulders and throat, his head nodded to the 90's songs while a smile crossed his face - ear to ear.  The only thing in his way was a heart and a rib cage.  The only thing that could ever imprison this mother fucker, is the cage that layed in front of his own self.

He started to chew on his own chest plate.  His bloody teeth made his bloody face even more bloody.  The hard bones created slivers that stuck into his gums like toothpicks in cheese.  This mother fucker chewed like a mother fucker to break free from his own mother fucken cage.  He was a prisoner of himself, not from the society he was living in.  Happy on the outside, as a battle raged from within.  Every time he swallowed his own bones, the bones would move up his throat and out the giant hole where his neck should have been.  Bones flew out from the fast moving car, hitting the road like cans attached to a married couples car.  He was almost through the rib cage, and closer to his own heart.  A heart that always talked to him, but never felt him.  This sad mother fucker just wanted to get to know his own heart. His own self.

He screeched up to a fancy coffee shop that looked to be a big company chain of some sort. He hated chains, he always said they had no souls.  He preferred local shops, you know...small business.  Family run, family principles.  This overly clean and too damn happy cafe would have to do.  He had been driving for hours with no destination in sight, and a coffee refuel was highly needed.  He rolled out from the open top as his snake skinned boots clapped against the parking lot pavement.  He flapped his leather coat together as if it was magically going to stay in place.  This mother fucker parked in the handicap spot and didn't even know it.  Why not you ask.......well, this mother fucker had no head. And I'm not too sure that if he had a head he would of cared either.  He only went off emotion, feeling, and heart. A heart he was getting closer to chew by chew.  He spun in a circle and clapped his hands.  He walked into the coffee shop like he owned the place.  He leaned with his walk like a slalom skier.  His hands felt his thighs looking for his wallet, making him look like he was dancing the Macarena.  He cut everyone in line blindly, even knocking over an older gentleman that was helping his grandson with a toy that fell out of place.  The gentleman was startled with a look of "excuse me sir," but it never came out of his mouth.  The small child began to cry, as this rude mother fucker started moving his shoulders and waving his hands to the cashier.  He wanted an iced coffee, but all the cashier heard was......well, nothing, nothing but shock and the thought that this guy was such a mother fucker.  The mother fucker fell to his death right in front of the counter at that very moment.  He had finally ate his own heart. He killed himself in the process of trying to get to know himself.  This mother fucker was dead.  The fucken end.

This Mother Fucker 2016

Friday, June 14, 2013

Exit 33 C

A slam of the bar leaves the owner out two hundred, as it lays broken next to a life that has been fixed. A gym owner that has changed a life with the sacrifice of a single bar.  A 2 hundred dollar boost of happiness.  A 2 hundred dollar therapy session.  A 2 hundred dollar band aid for the skeletons that have been cut so deep over the years. A 2 hundred dollar peace of mind that makes everyone sleep better at night. A rest easy night, as the smoke from the cold outside pours out from your leaned back head in reflection of the grace and peace you now feel from the war zone you just left.  For every broken bar a heavy heart becomes heavier.  One dies for the other to live.  One must break for the other to gain strength.  A bar that now lays in ruins rests quietly as happy smiles appear on every one's face.  Smiles people will take home with them as a new smile breaks while slipping the gym smiles into the junk drawer for a rainy day.  Smiles they will keep close, in case hard times approach.  Only respect the bar once it's broken my friend.  A broken bar means a life has been changed.  A broken bar tells a story of hardship and achievement.  Many battles have been lost, but the war has been won.  We must honor and salute every broken bar that has died for us.  We must never forget the bars that now sleep under a blanket of dust. 

Sweat that falls like coffee down our throat has become normal in this life, as we drive with our AC up and windows down with destination domination in our sights.  A tight hand grips the wheel, as the other dances to the song that echoes through your day dreams.  Eyes lay pierced to the road ahead, as concentration plays on the glass in front of you. See it, believe it, then fucken do it.  The driver's head nodded as his eyes relaxed, his free hand broke free from the dance, and began to shuffle around the passenger seat looking for the red bull he took pride on buying the day before to save a buck from the high prices of the gas stations.  A back up drink when the coffee is all gone too fast before the workout has even started.  Something that this character I created does often.  He got out of his jeep and walked into the gym. 

One falls, the other helps. One cries, the other hugs.  A massive PR achieved, as high fives follow like dominoes. Two legs, two people, training with two different goals in sight, as one another yell at each other with spit flying like chalk on hands, and eyes wide open like meeting your dad at the half way point for the weekend on Exit 33 C off I-5.  Neck veins full of coffee about to burst as the intensity rises like an ocean of emotion.  Feet leave the floor, not from the workout, but from excitement. Organized motivation that flows swiftly like organized crime.  Sweat on sweat as hugs and bring it in high fives bathe one another in a salt bath of understanding. "It's all good," as their sweat is now yours. Their tears have become relatable.  A gym full of skeletons that train side by side like Siamese twins battling weights like Russell Crow battling slavery.   No longer kept locked away in the closet.  No longer kept quiet, no longer kept hidden.  Now out for the world to see, for people to judge, and for the truth to shine, leaving you with complete freedom from yourself.  Dried up river indents snake down their eyes, that has now been replaced with sweat.  Sweat that tastes like fucken success.  A taste of look at me now.  A waterfall of proven wrongs and forgotten fatherly approval.  A sweat storm of a new beginning and a higher hope.  Sweat speaks only one  Sweat never talks, it only does.  If you aren't sweating, you aren't living.  

You the reader.  Hello.  I am sorry for my absence.  The dark keeps me balanced, without the dark I would lose myself in the light.  I feel at home here, with you the skeletons.  The outside world has been crazy lately.  I thought about entering the Orchestra, but I stayed away for some reason, a reason I still don't have the answer to.  I felt the battle above must be fought before showing my face here again. I didn't want to let you down.  I didn't want to write to you a fake emotion.  I wanted to see you again with a plan, a victory, for us, for the Nation of skeletons.  I want to thank everyone for fighting with me throughout the last week.  I read every single comment, post, email, Facebook message, ect. I can't tell you how much it means to me.  Your support is overwhelming, and for that I am forever grateful. Thank you for fighting side by side with me.  I fight for you, we fight for freedom, a shirtless lifestyle, a right of bar slamming and coffee chugging.  A simple lifestyle that gives us the freedom to do whatever we want, without anyone telling us different.  I will always fight for this blog that has only one purpose and one purpose accept our skeletons, and move forward.   Salute my very, very good friend.  

Skeletons 2016

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Through The Eyes of an Engineer

Breaking down the Arched Angel on a whole different level.  An email sent to me from Thomas Brown that confirms......its not how high you can pull the bar, Its about who can lift the most weight.  Thank you so much Thomas for this in depth look on the most beautiful creature the weightlifting world has ever seen.

Damn it Jon,

Thank you so much for the kind words of advice regarding my technique. I have to say I cringed at the “Rocking Chair” moniker, being that I’ll be turning 50 day after tomorrow ( add busted up ego to broken hearted). But I’ll just take it at face value and focus on landing on my heels, pulling the bar back harder and going faster under the bar. I think that shoes would help too. The New Balance 780’s are a little squishy.

I’ve also been working hard on not pulling the bar too high. I’ve heard you say that, ideally the bar should go no higher than your belly button. I’ve had a look at 3 weightlifting champs and derived a metric for snatch height in order to gauge my technique against the best. Now, I’m a novice, a beginner, a nobody. I can’t say shit about weightlifting. But, I’m also a design quality engineer, a materials scientist (feel free to yawn) and a curious mutha F&^%ka. I’ve been 25 years measuring stuff. I can’t help but to analyze... everything. So if you care to, or find yourself bored, or just  need something to look at while you’re havin’ a dump, take a look at the pictures below.

The top row shows three weight lifters of note (favorite/hero in the middle) in the Arched Angel with the bar path superimposed. The bottom row is my learning progression between last November and now. By taking the simple ratio of bar apogee and height to the ear of the lifter we have a reliable measure of how high the bar is being pulled.  I first tried to use the top of the head rather than the ear, but Xiaojun’s high top hair-do was skewing the results! The best weight lifters range between R=78% and R=93%. Ilya Ilan is a total freak. You can see he pulls the bar no higher than the very bottom of his lats. My progression began at 124% and is improving over the months (graph) to a current value if 97%.

Anyhow, just things to keep me interested. Maybe you’ll find it interesting too. I know this stuff is intuitive to you; don’t need fancy graphs or science to tell you what you already now. But I hope to expand this to a larger sample of athletes in my spare time. If you are interested let me know. I’d love to share it with you.

Finally, I am really sorry I missed you this time. Hopefully you’ll be back in the North East soon for more seminars. I’ve been listening to your “Weightlifting Talk”  on Spreaker and YouTube. The Shankle episodes are by far my favorites. There’s something really special that comes through when you two produce the show, can’t quite  put my finger on it. But you guys are a real inspiration to  people like me. And for all it’s worth, Jon as a father of 3 (19yr daughter, 17/13 yr boys) I’d be extremely proud if I had a son like you that has a) accomplished as much as you have and b) endeavored to give back so much of yourself to the weightlifting community.

Fuck the Haters!


Monday, June 3, 2013

The Castle

Decided to post one of my favorite blogs below.  After the podcast tomorrow I am excited to drink tea, in the dark, while the skeletons play their violins.  See you tomorrow my good friend.  

How am I going to stand up?  This is the only question you need to ask yourself before squatting. Seeing the bottom of the world is like inception, it is a lost world of unknown and forgetfulness. Your rep set scheme becomes lost, and all recollection of time itself vanishes as you free fall into a grave yard of missed attempts, all screaming for you to take them with you. The dead attempts stretch their arms like tight ropes, and their fingers flail like sea weed in an ocean storm as they pull you down, only for hope they can be pulled up.  A castle of broken bricks, hunched backs, and pale bodies lay at rest under a gray sky, all surrounded by bloody rivers that carry dreams and hopes away right under our feet.  Grab your flash light of goals, and your gym bag of tools my friend, you will need all the help you can get when trying to save one of these failed attempts.  The only way to save these once strong soldiers of chalk and weight, is to fall millions of feet down - lowering the bar just low enough for one to grab on to your butt, back, bar, or whatever else the weak hands can somehow hold onto.  Yes you will see the castle, and yes you might become one of them, but as weightlifters we never leave a soldier down.  We always keep pulling, pushing, and standing.

A deep breath, for deep is where we are going.  Feet so close your heels are almost touching, lining up your butt and calves perfectly to bounce off of each other in the very bottom of the deepest darkest depth of the squat.  Without the bounce, you will live in the castle, you will drink from the bloody rivers that fill up from your own tears.  Toes pointed out, directing your knees away from the crumbling hotel on the journey down and up called "missed lift inn".  A place you never want to go.  Your knees will go in slightly no matter what, so by taking them out wider than usual, the inn will not be the missed inn, but more of the "made inn". The squat is a full commitment, the lower you go, the better chance you will save an attempt. The lower you drop, the faster you will rise. The faster you drop, the more your belly (aka) "power belly" will kiss your thighs to help you stand up.  Yes I said it my friend, this is another trick from the tool box that will improve your squat, and just another reason why I squat with such a narrow stance.  I call it the double bounce. 1.) butt to calves. 2.) belly to thighs.  The more narrower your feet, the more bounce you will be able to create.

Your toes wiggle as if waving the weight away to your heels that now crack the platform floor from its burden of importance.  Your back so arched that a waterfall has found a new home like moss on a rock....nature has run its course perfectly.  My heart hurts many times throughout the day.  You will not see this by watching my videos, or by seeing me lift.  The masked man that hides inside of me pierces his thorn into my heart to remind me of the pain I have left behind. By keeping my chest high during the squat, it drains the pain downward toward the gray skied castle.  Not only do I save a dead attempt, but I leave behind bloody eyed demons that bring me so much heartache.  Goodbye masked man, hello stand.  Every time I stand, I feel more alive.  Every time I save a lost attempt, it brings me pride.  I stand from a squat to someday get the chance to fix the bricks that lay at rest, turn the river into water, and the sky into blue.  I hope to change my life and others, one squat at a time.

Tools 2016

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Lion Killer & The Documentary

The Lion killer is back.  Donny Shankle will be joining the Attitude Nation Gym in a few weeks in preparation for Rio 2016.  I am excited to reunite with my friend, my brother, and my team mate - Donny Shankle. 

Teddy Fox put together this bone chilling video that gives me goose bumps the size of Mt. Everest. Thank Teddy very much for producing this motivating and emotional montage of The legendary Shankle.  

It doesn't stop there with Teddy and his bad ass videos.  Teddy Fox directed and produced a short documentary film on strength.  I feel honored being in his film, and after talking with shankle on skype the other day, Shankle feels the same way.  So from both Shankle and I.......thank you again Teddy. 

Follow Teddyy Fox on twitter @number11  for some reason his name on twitter is Edward Fox.  He nededs to step his his marketing game.  lol.  

The lion Killer 2016