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Thursday, December 25, 2014


It’s where it all started.  Full circle. 5 years later the Orchestra stands, bent but never broken.  Side ways, but strong. Old, but perfect.  My old friend.  True & brutally honest.  Dust on my hand, as my calused palms drag upon the faded red cloth chairs.  Row after row, higher and higher the 5 story auditorium rises, until the dark slowly starts to cast a blanket over the last few seats.  Seats where we have sat in so often, as our skeletons play sad songs from the broken strings from our past.  Perfect harmony, perfect motion, and perfect sadness.  Dark, empty, but ever so bold.  Too bold and honest for most, for most don't enter, only those who truly want, and can accept their past can make peace from this Orchestra.  My feet stick from the salt water on the ground, as broken strings lay next to broken promises, promises that held dreams oh so tight, only now to lay out like an old rug that runs up the once lit up isle.  I am back, and it feels ever so good.  The bright light from the outside world creeps underneath the exit door, as boards and nails do their best to block the sun.  Black walls, filled with a black stage.  Broken chairs & fallen wallpaper sob like so many who enter this closet.  Passed the coats, passed the boxes, there lies a door, a door that leads to a place I found back in 2010.  I’m glad you can join me once again.  Join me as our journey continues.  The next chapter may begin.  But first, let’s go back before we move forward.  

2010, I needed a place like this.  A place where I could face my demons like a man.  I place that shed no shame, but bathed me in guilt.  A place that would introduce me face to face with the skeletons that kept me up all those past nights.  The boogie man under my bed, as smoke and coke chased me around the nighttime life I called hell.  A world of frightful tales, amongst the worst of devils.  Regrets from my childhood haunt me; decisions I have made lay me awake, as what if’s wrestle me to the point of depression. What I have created today takes me high, where I stand now is a dream world, one of beauty and honesty, but entering the Dark Orchestra is a must, for it keeps me grounded.  2010, I was going through a very hard time, one without saying you can relate to.  Slamming bars, chugging coffee, and yelling on the platform wasn't enough.  I needed something to yell at me, something to slam me down and give me a rude awakening to the person I had become, and the person I was.  I needed the truth, one not sheltered by caffeine and weights, but real, horribly real that could help me grow to the man I always saw myself becoming.  2010, I sat down in the back room of Cal Strength, & began to write.  It was weird…I started to write about this thing called…well…The Dark Orchestra.  Where it came from…I will never know to this day.  But boy, I am glad it came to me.  Without it…. who knows who or where I would be today.  This is my 5 year reunion of my blog, today I write again after a year to give thanks to something that connected me to you, you the reader, & hopefully through my writing helped you along the way as well.

I continue to slowly drag my hand over the stage and music stands raised up high like a skinny robot, as my walking feet creek the hardwood floor.  A projector plays old videos from being a little boy all the way to my early days at Cal Strength, slamming bars at Sac State, flying to the American Open under Hassle Free, long chats with Ben Claridad, and long training sessions with Coach Jackie Mah.  Scraping change for monster energy drinks to split with my wife, all with happy smiles on our face. Not a care in the world besides training. No cares, for all my skeletons at this point in my life were locked away and forgotten in my long lost closet door.  Now sitting on the stage, feet dangling down as if I was a kid in a tree, now reminiscing about moving across country and throwing weight at squat racks at MDUSA.  Epic YouTube videos cast a small smile over my face.  I shake my head sometimes to see if it was all just a dream, but no…I was truly a part of so much good. I was truly a part of so much greatness.  

Gold medals and bomb outs, missed teams and made teams, friends, enemies, brothers, and sisters.  The scratchy projector screen above the stage continues to play a timeline of my life, as if it was waiting for me this long year I have been MIA. What happened?  How did I become the man I am today? I walk the stage and throughout the maze of isles and seats with more confidence than ever before.  I have come along way with my wife by my side, staying off by the exit door as so many memories catch me by surprise. We have accomplished so much; we have failed so much. I have changed, but this Orchestra hasn't. Still hungry, but at the same time, satisfied with my hard work.  Hard work…something that sounds so simple, something that rolls off the tongue…something that is so hard…something that still must be performed. 

A young, ambitious kid lifting weights for the love of the sport, and the world the sport lives within.  Community…something I finally found back then.  Acceptance, pride, attention, something that felt as warm as the sun on my face.  I walk amongst this stage as my skeletons start to come out from the dark, cellos, violins, bass, saxophone, & pianos start to come together like life has a way of doing.  I sit. I listen.  Half my body covered in dark, half in dust, as sad music from my far & recent past keep me humbled and in check.  An odd understanding comes forth, giving me pain, while turning it into strength.  Sad songs at first, morph into songs of truth and fortune, breath and lungs, dreams of better places and untouched grounds, as fog circles my feet, and dark captures my head.  My white eyes stay up toward my songs that play, as my chin points low, as thoughts interact with the music.  The best part about the skeletons is they have a way of relating.  You see…after a few songs your skin melts from understanding, admitting, seeing, and finally accepting.  Your white bones become strong and loud, your white eyes turn to black, as your nails fall like leaves.  Your clothes become nothing to you, so pure, so honest just this once, just this minute, your true feelings are the only thing that consumes you.  You my reader, you my fellow friend, who sit next to me tonight, you are now turned into a skeleton.  We are now skeletons.  Nothing but bones that can be seen right through.  Nothing to hide, nothing to fear.  Skeletons of the dark are nothing more than our own mirror.

I can truly say that I am more of a man that I was last year.  More mature, wiser, and more understanding on how this society works and turns.  More keen to human behavior.  Not as trusting, but more trusting in some situations.  Still growing, still trying to understand, still playing my violin as a skeleton…no matter how much success I create, the Dark Orchestra keeps me straight.  How far I have come…oh but how far I have to go.  Blogs of sad, blogs of crazy, blogs of tears mixed with hate and love…this blog is more me than me, as my fingers bleed for truth and honesty, honesty within myself and others.  My father not too long ago found the Dark Orchestra; I know so many skeletons reading this now have as well.  Finding is key, but ever growing is a must.  As my good friend and coach Les tells me… “This is only the beginning".   

Skeletons of the dark that sit with me tonight, let us take pride in ourselves, our families and friends, and never forget that our past is what has made us who we are today, and today is a great day to fight. 

Skeletons 2015 

PS: Hey Shankle, better step up your writing game……I'm back.  #blogwars  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Pre Energy & The Silent Owl

Four gentlemen.  Four scholars.  Four men captivated by the bar, sailing the gym with empty guts filled with swirling waves of energy drinks.  Their caffeinated adventure and their midnight chatter sways them along the distant and never ending ocean made up of sugar, and birds that circle their ship of chairs and coaches tied together by the strings from each men's shoes.  Knots that pull tight just like the grip they use to hold their shaker cups, keep the boat attached, while the men roll deeper into dreams and goals they didn't even know where there.  Hands move with their mouths, while body language follows the rhythm of the conversation.  Laughter rings out throughout the empty sea as one of the men ask for another shot of energy.  "Hell yea!" Matt says to Ryan, as powder starts to pour like sand from a shoe.  Powder that dances as it enters the cup.... a cup that will soon be shaken.  Pink powder that is legal, how this is possible makes the men burst with laughter even louder than before. A drug that allows the men to feel comfortable around each other, like a beer at a business meeting, or coffee on a first date. An ice breaker, a conversation starter, a counselor of some sort, constantly begging for more truth, more discussion, more of you.  Body building magazines that lay scattered on the wet deck, only to be glanced upon and then thrown to the side, leaving the magazine empty and unfulfilled.

When lost at sea the only thing to do is chug powder, crack monsters, and feel the smooth face of miss brown eyes against the palm of your hand. The yellow birds occasionally swoop down to catch a better view of the on board barrels that reek of motivation and wide eyed emotion.  The gusts of wind from the splashing whales and rolling kilo plates made miss brown eyes' hair find peace above her head, blocking out the sight of the birds as if a slide show was being played above all for men's heads.  A slide show of blue ski for miles, and clouds that made shapes of Dimas on a unicorn jumping over caffeinated waterfalls.  It became quiet for a moment as all four scholars of their respected career choices drew from their rich and inviting drinks.  A smack of the lips and a shake from the head was only the start of the after drink ritual.  The classic look of the cup from a stretched out arm like something was wrong, meant that everything in the world was right.  Chatter laid still in peace, as the sound of the boat slapping the water gave each man a moment of tranquility.  Chunks of energy powder found its way on the back of each mans throat and behind the gums that always seemed to bleed when brushed.  A fast chew as their eyes pinned wide, but the sight could not make out what laid in front of them from the pure concentration of the task at hand.  Rocks exploded as the supplements taste and high powered electricity punched them in the face, followed this time around - by a fast and violent sip to wash the left overs down deep into the belly of the beast.

Another topic popped up like the silence was never there.  The silence grabbed its doctor bag and medical kit and flew away.  He was glad to leave, for he was an owl, and owls had no business being out in the middle of a ocean made up of sugar and yellow birds.  The silent owl was always known for being realistic, and this situation was far from anything that lingered on making a bit of sense.  To the four men reality couldn't be more real. The spray of the ocean tasted like sugar, and the circling birds drew a certain shade that they could feel upon their skin.  How could this not be reality?  A reality they could taste with every sip of their mixed multi-colored contraptions they were drinking, like a pirate to his alcohol.  The front room boat stayed swaying as the lobby squeezed the shoe string boat closer and closer to the tiny door that was becoming bigger and bigger.  A door that became land, and land that lead to the land called gym.

Jokes and ball breaking would be soon rudely interrupted by a heavy reality.  Ideas were the reflections that the men saw when they pierced through the depth of the water, as the boat swayed closer and closer to the growing door.  Looking back at them was the what if's and the how comes.  Whales that rolled in circles with giant smiles upon their faces.  Fish that spoke English sang songs from the 90's, and the outer banks of the ocean came to a stop, as if the water and sea life had no where else to go.  All roads led to one destination.  All the whales were swimming to one location, and the birds were flying to help guide the four men home.  Soon the men realized their ocean journey was over, and the front door leading out from the gym lobby and into the gym was 10 feet high and partially cracked open.  Chalk dust fell like snow from the cracked door, as the music bumped through the dead end ocean walls meeting their feet and carrying up through their bodies.  The energy drinks were gone, empty, now living inside them.  The door flew open as the owl of silence made its way to the front of the boat, grabbing the rope with his wing and tying the boat to the long wooded post that the yellow birds momentarily made their new resting spot.  "Let's go's time to train."  - Silent owl.

Energy Drinks 2016

Friday, July 11, 2014


The definition of the Attitude Nation Catapult performed beautifully by Ruben Aleksanyan in the video below.

Pointers to look out for.  
1.) Bar never touches his body intel the contact in his hips (yes he is a hip cleaner) 
2.) knees almost fully locked out - shoulders over - bar around mid thigh. (superman pull)
3.)  This athlete has performed the early arm bend to a T. ) most likely because he is a hip cleaner)
4.) the finish (aka) Arched Angel, is one of the best in the game.  Hips through - shoulders back - on toes - elbows back - BAR is right under his belly button
5.) WATCH THE BAR as the athlete starts to go under, goes under, and at the initial catch……..


Learn how to move around the bar, not move the bar.

Catapult 2016

Monday, July 7, 2014

Jon North - Vlog #58 - Day 1

Had a lot of fun adding the commentary to my training vlogs.  Even know Shankle is the commentary king…..its fun to try my best.  170kg 200kg here we come….

Bar Slamming Festival 2014 

Sunday, July 6, 2014


I am going to walk you through my C4 journey this morning while I type to you in Starbucks. Better yet…..please, join me.  Lets fly together. Lets dream together and conquer together.  Lets become brothers in a world of war together.  Lets drink the dancing water in a room of dark, as we get high doing what we love.  shhhh…..I can hear society outside these boarded walls….lower your candle young lad, we must never let them find us.  Take the bars and squat racks to the back.  Shelter the plates and find homes for the clips…….we all know those clips have a mind of their own.  They were born bastards in a sport that uses them in training as much as peanut butter on pancakes. Bring the dancing water to the table.  Now….Before we start, let me stop this blog for a minute to give you time to grab your C4 and watch the magical dust fall from the sky and then twirl in your water……turning your cup from clear to the color of your flavor. I choose strawberry……so let there be blood! Let the sky turn from light morning blue….to the dark red that flows through my veins! OK…….have you poured?  good.  Now raise your cup, glass, water bottle, old coffee mug, skull of a lion…….cheers.  Cheers to the day, to our loved ones, and the ones we protect from harm.  Cheers to the iron sport we call life, that separates us from them, the weak form the strong, the sheep from wolves, better yet…….as we call them here in the dark orchestra……the ones with soft hands…..

First gulp down as I crack these little black keys.  I close my eyes and wait……wait for the rush of joy and the taste of all my insecurities leaving my body like blood from a cut.  The cracks of my skin slither like small snakes, running rivers of fresh water amongst my body washing away the day before, giving me a new fresh look on this life we walk upon each day.  My skin itches with pleasure, so much that water drips from my eyes, as the goose bumps from my cracked skin raise like the wave on top of a gold medal podium.  The itch…..starting from my cheeks, crawling up to my eyes, seeping into my skull, and then like a water fall……down my whole body as if I was born new.  My fingers type faster, as my mind becomes sharper.  The world around me spins slower, as my concentration becomes better.  The pain in my knees starts to seep away like a high tree in a moving fog.  My back grows spikes to keep me safe from the back stabbers that lurk during the day, and the two faced monsters who hide at night.  My senses grow consistent to a spider, giving me the power in separating the closet haters, to the ones who truly have my best interest.  My foot now taps to the violin song I will post above.  I write to its rhythm.  The beat moves me as the C4 runs through me.  I am strong when I am confident…….sadly I need dancing water to keep this instrument tuned and sound, for without it I am not as sound, I am weak and less bound.  The room now completely dark, a great time for us to take another gulp……better yet….this time lets take a giant chug…...

Belly of warmth… bones grow bigger, and muscles become stronger.  At this point we are dangerous…..unknowing what we will do nor say, not as scared at the punishment that may lay.  Another chug down… now my heart beats fast like the snatch.  Hang snatches are the fastest because of the stretch reflex the athlete can use if done properly……C4 is a triple hang snatch above the knee, fast and violent like a pirate ship set out to sea.  I wonder if Shankle is reading this blog, if so you better put down that sweet Louisiana ice tea…..get your self some of this skin itching, belly warming, red sea flowing, water dancing, pain relieving, weightlifting hulk juice we call the 4th element of the C.  Late, late at night when the Orchestra is the quietest ……The lion killer has been rumored to lark in the dark.  Its been chattered about throughout the halls a few of the skeletons sitting in the very back row listing to the Orchestra play on an ordinary day…..that lion heads have been found all throughout this old forgotten auditorium. Who be-headed them? and why? I have a pretty good guess on both matters….

C4 before training?  The sheep ask.  Yes, we reply without looking up.  I don't need to make eye contact with those I don't trust.  I keep to myself these days, I talk less these days. What I didn't tell these sheep, is that C4 is a must on any day.  Today is an off day for Weightlifting……but not for life.  I chug this bottle to connect with you.  I chug this bottle to clear the pain in order to smile.  The dancing water keeps me awake in order to live. Take it away……you take away apart of my lifestyle…….take away my lifestyle, and I don't trust myself in what kind of life choices I would make. 

Stay away forever crystal mountains…….protect me dancing water……..

C4 2016 

Saturday, July 5, 2014


Pull back with all your might……for us the skeletons should never stop fighting the good fight. Heave! Pull! Use your back to attack and your heart to win; the greatest gift an athlete is given is the strength within.  Pinch your shoulder blades tight to cut through the wind! Fast with a swoosh and quick like a hush……this will keep the weight from pounding us against the dust.  “Back not up!” the lifters yell from behind, as water creeps around the bend.  Don't try to move a bar; for it will always disguise itself as a friend, only to steal your gold and rust your crown, athletes are kings that continually drown. Under we go, heavy we constantly throw, as buckets of water sink us low.  Move around like sound, let the bar unite you with the ground, as heels dig and tears falls……let your body move as your fear dies.  

Chest up young lifter…. as the leathered faces crack a dry smile, tying their shoes makes them remember days of denial. A heavy chest means a weighted down soul, one that carries too many problems on a platform of weight.  Adding extra baggage becomes a weight too much for any plate.  Your knees will break and your heart will stop, as your eyes look around an audience of silence.  Let your chest rise as you break through the air……let your lats spread like flight to a bird……let your confidence soar as a lion with his roar.  Donny Shankle watches from the back of the room, blue hat low and jeans full of blue.  If you have lost your chest and your shoulder blades aren't tight… look at the man postured in the back with a hate that blocks the light.  A face on an interview half covered from shade, half light, one half leathered and the other half brave. The Cal Strength interview of Shankle is a reminder on how to train. If you are a lifter reading this blog, you must learn to learn, tighten your back like the curve of a spoon.  Tight and strong not just flat and solid, for a tree will lie when lying down flat.  Some look sturdy, while others look hollow.  To find the right tree takes years for the eye to see, the body to feel while your hand falls free, once you stand long enough by a tree, you will know every itch of its matter and how it may be.  Learn how to keep your back tight, and your hands free… this young lifter, is when skin becomes leathered and the weight of the world becomes free.

I write to you from a corner booth in Starbucks.  The day outside is cloudy and the air is full of salt.  I write by the ocean of peace, thinking about tight backs, weights being made, and how a lifter’s movement to me is never the same.  This is why technique is so intriguing to my brain, a brain that has never been good at much besides movements that mock the flow of rain.  For we are the best athletes and dancers alike, we move like the ocean on a stormy night.  I lift weights for the expression it gives, freedom of movement in a life of constant heartache. You know as well as I that quick sand is quick to find…. grabbing a bar will always relieve you of your pain, giving you another feeling of ache…and well…pain.  The microphone has consumed me far too long… I am back home in the dark where I belong.  I raise my fist, full of wine and C4.  Cheers to you, the ones of bones and salt, not from the sea but by the stage of the never forgotten.  Right through us they see our past in the same room as me, and a window open from the Orchestra to the sea.  I ink my pen, I shed a tear, I write directly to you without any fear.  

Without this blog I fake smiles.  Without this blog I lose myself.  I am the dark, we are the Orchestra….

Olympics 2016 

Friday, March 21, 2014

The overall Man

Ripped overalls with pockets full of broke.  Brown bag full of sorrows, and hopes full of let downs.  Banned from society, outcast from the world.  You the dreamer no longer dream, but only hope to find where this old dirt road leads.  You walk with pride, as your knees fucken scream with pain.  Holes in your shoes like holes in your heart, shot from the gun of loved ones and sprayed by the machine gun of life.  You still stand, I still write, we still walk, we still carry on as our blood shot eyes fill with dirt and our hair with exhaust from passing trucks. The smell from the black fumes reminds us of home. It reminds us of hiding spots while parents fought, closets full of coats and umbrellas that came alive and comforted us as a crying child.  The dark is safe, the light is open.  A cigarette brings back James Dean, as the 3 legged dog morphs into a strutting cheetah.  Messy hair from falling fast, soon combs back like a wet comb as we fall forward.  A chip off the old black that could get a cargo ship lost in its depth.  A middle finger cold and frozen, stuck high from seeing so many stuck up.  Red knuckles and permanent damage from fist to wall, hate to self-pain, and frustration to must figure something out or else.  No money to spend, but a fuck load to gain.  No future, but a hope to one day look back at the past.  A dying want, with nothing to feel, a fight deep down, that seems to only roll in the belly of hunger and a mind of dizzy as the lack of sleep drains your thoughts.  Homeless with no home, loneliness with no one, empty and ready to fill the void that is restless within you. 

An old abandoned warehouse lies in ruins at the end of this dirt road.  The green grass slowly turned into burnt rubber, while the smell rose dark and the backward town seemed hidden but visible from where he was standing.  The once blue sky turned yellow, as black clouds traced through like arrows being shot by a thousand gladiators.  The graffiti on the walls of the broken warehouse dripped like tears, while the windows closed like fear.  A street sign that reads welcome, as the five-story warehouse quietly whispers turn around.  Wind that talked, and weeds that grew so high they wrapped around the man's ankles.   His cigarette burnt his fingers, making him jump and say, "ouch!" a necessary reaction.  He whipped his hands against his orphaned overalls, while his head turned like a spinning top trying to figure out what and where his windy dirt path had taken him.  A small child appeared randomly by the front door of the warehouse entrance.  Probably 4'9 and 180 pounds of muscle.  She was strong and confident, wide-eyed and alive.  A tall and skinny man walked up behind her with his eyes never unlocking from the overall scavenger that found himself now surrounded by at least two dozen men, women and children.  A complete circle was formed, smooth and fast, out of the dark shadows they appeared.  A few more from the warehouse, even a handful climbing down the black trees that were bent and fallen but perfect for climbing and tree forts.  The dirt below his feet was grey ash that slowly fell from the sky as if winter time during Christmas.  Memories of the once good times in his life passed over his face, before realizing they were and have been dead for many years.  His overalls slapped back and forth from the wind that swooped up and over the cliff in front of him.  It seemed as if the world literally ended 100 feet from the broken warehouse.  He started to lean his head up and to the side as if he was a kid in a car seat trying to see out the windshield in front of him.  He was suddenly awakened from his thoughts and curious adventure, a mental adventure on top of a real life adventure.  It was hard to faze the man that walked the dirt road with torn cloths and eyes filled with abandonment.  His chip held a lack of surprise, while a tender and sensitive feeling of sadness created a shock wave of constant depression.  But this......this gingerbread house in the middle of the black forest made his heart beat for the first time in years.  His lungs filled back up with air, and then the silence broke.  

A little girl broke the circle and sprinted towards the man's leg.  Her mother ran after her with her arms out as if trying to catch a chicken.  A panic took over the mother, but soon came to ease as she saw the little girl and the man talking to each other in a safe an ancient whisper.  The little girl said, "Hello", and the man said, "Well, hi".  He looked down at her glassy brown eyes and asked what her name was.  She responded by not answering the question, but instead saying "Their are many bad days in this forest where the dirt path meets, but my mom says that if we keep training hard we can make it to the promise land".  He looked up to the mother who stood a respectable distance away, while still being motherly.  She looked back at the man with no emotion, only her hair in the wind, and the men behind her who looked like monsters with beards of strength and legs of trees.  The women looked like lions, fast and furious, strong and hard working.  These people didn't look like the normal folk, they looked as if they.......well........they looked like him.  Holey clothes with ripped hands.  Sad faces with hungry souls.  Dry marks from tears, under a brain full of motivation.  The only difference from the man in the middle of the circle in the burnt black forest on the edge of the world and the strong people is that they looked like they had found something to be motivated for, while he stood empty handed.  He looked down at his hands with his forehead crinkled tight, while his eyes pierced down looking for something that should be resting like home in the palms of his hands.  But nothing, for the people around them had something.  The little girl tugged on his overalls that looked as if they were going to rip at any minute. She said, "Follow me sir, I want to show you something".  They started to walk to the front door of the abandoned warehouse where the tall man with the red beard still stood, eyes locked like an eye to a target.  He seemed like the leader, but then again... they all seemed like the leader.  The man looked back at the mother to see if she had any problem with the new plot of the situation.  The mother nodded her head, walked fast and then joined them by grabbing her little girl's hand.  

Inside the warehouse laid 30 to 40 medal cots.  Side by side, dream by dream, wall to wall they sat with medal feet, bodies of blankets, and faces made of pillows.  The little girl jumped on one of the beds out of either excitement from a new visitor, or just because she was a freak athlete, and that's what athletes do, they move, they jump, and they test the limits.  She was defiantly testing the limits of her mother, because she was soon told to get down.  The man entered the next room and to his surprise found something that would change his life forever.  It was a large bar that stood 30 feet tall, and at least as round and wide as the whole warehouse.  How he didn't see the massive metal behind the house seemed impossible.  It was shinny and long, dense and strong, alien like was an understatement.  The overall man reached out and touched the bar as if touching his first-born's face.  There was a moment of complete silence while he tried to gather his thoughts, and control his emotions.  He had so many questions, but stayed quiet.  Besides the little girl, no one had spoken yet.  Just look, expressions, and gestures were being used thus far.  The only noises were coming from the wind that had now died down, and the footsteps that had now stopped while admiring the pure shock this lost man was in.  Wings..........wings he thought, with his hand leaned against the bar and his head down with thought.  He looked up at the man with the red beard and asked.....wings?  The tall cold man who seemed to take the leadership roll nodded his head as to say, "Yes".  "Wings to fly," the little girl said as excited as possible.  "If we lift the bar hard enough everyday, my daddy says the bar will someday fly us away to the land of bright."  She said this while pulling each finger down as if she has rehearsed it a million times, and once finished she looked back up and followed with a jump and a clap out of excitement for nailing the plan the tribe had in front of them.  The man looked fast to the bearded man with a look of excitement as well.  The beard of the man nodded up, then down.  

The wings on the bar spread at least 100 feet wide on each side.  On one side of the bar the wing hovered over the black forest that covered the warehouse and the people who lived in it.  The other wing spread out past the end of the world, or what really was the cliff that led to the land of bright, where the trees grew tall, grass grew green, and the ash was replaced by rays of sun and wind of warmth.  The mother of the little girl finally spoke.  Her voice was soft like an angel, as her brown hair now fell straight down on the side of her face from the wind dying down.  "There is only one way to get to the land of gold and bright, green and happy, cabins of wood and water of clear."  She then looked at the bar......he followed her eyes to the bar.......the quiet stood for a while as he felt at home, as he felt alive for the first time, as he felt a part of something, as he felt he finally had something to feel, grab and lay in the palm of his hands.  He looked back at the mother with a smile on his face.  The black ash started to fall from the sky, and the bad day started to come to night.  His eyes wide, his heart beating fast.  

She looked at her bloody hands and then smiled at her beautiful daughter looking up at the overall stranger.  She then said in the most calm and soothing voice he had ever heard in his whole life.  

"To train everyday." 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Crazy 8

Coffee at night........Coffee in the dead of the night, as I write to the ones who raise hell during the day, and find peace at night.  Throat hurts from the bar, while eyes sag from rage.  Black eye from fighting.....teammates at war.....nothing new.  I write the those who fuck shit up during the day, only to dream about it at night.  A plot that thickens in the darkest of the night....fuck everyone, and hold those you love tight.  Step and sleep, wake and turn, wrestle what Shankle cooks, and ripe what those wont.  I type extra fast so I don't loose what hits me, cleans crash on me as I drink wine like Mathews.  Red for wine, and dark like this living room, I say hello before we sleep, I say more coffee!  Jump below to keep reading if you relate........the gym world is among us.......and its never to late.

A journal?  I don't think so.....more like a confession to myself and those who read.  Read then write, a confession from us develops throughout this dark night.  No joke, still by my side as the quiet tv once alive and well, now lays dead by my side, lifeless and stale.  Junk is filled from the box of shit.....I don't watch shows that fill my mind with nothing more than.....well, shit.  Moving on, one sip at a time.  They told me to make paragraphs, so down I jump.  Follow me tonight as I write about nothing more than Weightlifting.

I like to think thoughts of forgiveness while I write letters of apology.  My mistakes may help others as they helped me, for my future kids will know all I did wrong, only so they can make wrong decisions on their own.  They will fuck up, we all fuck up, and we will continue to fuck up.  It's how we move around the fuck up, getting to the side of stand up, that makes it hard for most to swallow.  Stand up and dust the dirt, shake the dust, and become a man of trust and self accountability.  Nut the fuck up before you get knocked the fuck out......I tell myself as I look in the mirror.  Did you think I was talking to you? No, I would never tell anyone how to handle themselves while looking into the unforgiving mirror.  A place so real, that most of the times I wash my hands I never look up.  I award myself so well with all my life gathered accomplishments I have earned and taken, never mistaken for deserve.....the only thing that deserves anything is children and animals, they are owed Love.  Don't give it to them......well my friend are a piece of shit terrorist and should be shot in the head.  You my friend should be killed on the spot and taken far from this world.  Love is owed to some.....only a few.....for the rest of us we fight, fight for what is ours and what we have worked so hard to get.  I blame others so fast, this is what I write about tonight.  My wrong paths and empty chats, leaving bad decisions in other hands.  I sometimes walk away from what I created.....good or bad, rather than growing a pair and owing up.  Both can spin in different directions by the way you handle them.  Bad can turn good, as good can turn bad.  The start is not the finish, for the finish is not 'til you're dead, your family and friends must always be first and your last.

I guess this coffee has a weird way of sliding me into a mood, slipping me off the kitchen chair into a room....a room so dark and thoughtful, while awareness blinds me as my hand hides from me.  Black like my coffee, black like the lines around my eyes, that looks like eye liner even to my own surprise. A weightlifter's mind works all the time.  Around the clock is we wait to squat, another minute passes as our legs become shot.  The night before a meet is where you win, when the win becomes reality.....or when the win becomes a distinct dream that only lies within the dead of the night memories.  Shot legs means strong for the meet ahead, acting slightly off means your going to be on like donkey kong.  Just jump down!

Make odd twitches, talk to yourself in a way of not understanding yourself.  Make those around you accept your odd mood as you move to a place that only some will ever see, a place that feels alone and free.  Lost in space, where your breath feels like ice, and your heart beats like a fight your parents got into on a vacation cold night........the dead of the night make the worst fights.  Alive we will be on top of a platform, a moon walk must take years of prep, just to realize what you are doing takes time to settle, as this coffee makes my emotions rise, like smoke from my other friend I call my tea kettle.  Funny how coffee takes our bodies all over, at the same time keeping our mind pinned to one thing. I usually drink tea at night, but being up this late makes me excited for the next day fight.  Will I sleep, yes of course, after you read this it's off to bed.  Awaiting me awaits dreams of coffee mixed with c-4, weightlifting shoes and so many people walking out the front door.  Hmmm.......I wonder.......where have they have all gone.  What are they doing as I write along.  I have dreams of meets gone wrong, only to dream within a dream they turned right.  Friends and teammates I truly hope are doing alright.  I have odd dreams of roller blading......crazy 8.  Once thought it was cool to where jeans that covered the back of my shoes.  Dragging behind like a wasted bum in a midnight saloon.  Green skateboard with a Seattle helmet......I don't want to bore you with memories that only live within me, I'll keep this blog somewhat on point as I keep writing deeper into the night.......stay up with me longer...? If so.....jump to the next paragraph with me.

Thank you for jumping down.  I feel like we are back in middle school sneaking out of our parent's house, only to destroy the community with eggs and toilet paper.  Ding dong ditch to feel bad and mean, take that you house full of old people!  Fuck everyone! We would yell so mad and hurt.....from what? I don't know...... to this day that same anger comes out, as if we were back slaughtering the quiet community we called home.  Stay up and let's eat pizza and watch the Rock.  A great movie that leaves us loving Cage, only to later ask ourselves why he is doing such shitty movies these days.  Bed time is near, again.....thank you for staying up and sneaking out, egging houses and raising hell!  Goodnight my fellow friend........see you tomorrow for another day in hell...

Though I don't know you......I truly know you.  2016 and time you see me I will give that look, at that moment we will all strike....

Friday, March 14, 2014

Cal Strength YouTube Channel

The gravel crunches under my feet as I take a stroll down a once operating machine factory I once called home, that now lays in ruins full of old cameras and scattered shoes.  Swinging swings squeak as the the wind swirls through the empty abandoned park, creating a false reality of life, as newspapers dance across the dirt, and kilo plates fall over from the wooded blocks the weights have gotten to know and love.  A rustic world where memories live and dreams were made.  Old Cal Strength. The original, and the place where it all started.  The longer I walk under this dark yellow sky, the deeper the Cal Strength YouTube channel goes.  Faces that bring a smile to my face, and some a tear, as the memories are only the start, for the surface has cracks, and deep within those cracks lie the feeling that each person left upon me.  Each person has unknowingly formed me into the man I am today.  Each video has branded me a home sick feeling that pounds deep within my stomach.  The more I write, the more I walk, the deeper I go, the more the home sick feeling grows, leaving me wanting to re-live each video, each laugh, each joke, each miss, and each struggle.  Adopted from what I loved most, a shoulder to lean on, and a family to call my own.  I walk with my head down, for seeing too much makes it too hard to continue the YouTube stroll down this graveyard of old school.  The graveyard of the very beginning.

Glenn's nicely shaved face and nervous ticks while being filmed runs a tear down my eye as I write this blog that has already shown itself as one of the hardest blogs to write to date.  Max Aita performing a no belt, no wraps and no hands 250kg back squat, then afterward joking around about our little pyramid scheme, inside joke we created after always getting approached constantly at Costco, made my home sick feeling grow to the point of pain. Donny Shankle telling his famous war stories on a hot summer day while we all sat around drinking our energy drinks as if the platform was a camp fire, and the resting chairs were our tent. Mullet jokes with Enderton, while Spencer danced on top of the jerk blocks.  Kevin Cornell and his wise philosophy made every one's hard training day become a little bit better, while Rob's loud skipping laugh echoed throughout the gyms walls for all to hear.

At this point of the journey I have found myself resting on an old white pick up truck that Max must have forgotten to drive away with before the new school Cal Strength came through.  It is no longer white and alive, now dead and brown from the constant slashing of the wind and dirt that never seems to let up.  Sunny skies and rolling hills have turned into forgotten paths and cow pastures full of bones. A deserted world that once bloomed colors and energy, now quiet and calm it sleeps.  I mustered up the strength to drag my legs down the Cal Strength channel even deeper, on the hunt for what started everything.....the very first video.

The gravel road turned a few sharp corners as it led me down its windy hill.  The yellow sky is brighter than earlier, as black clouds splattered throughout like spilled paint.  The dirt world is a desert waste land, but off in the distance there stands life, tall and proud, green and alive, beautiful and fulfilling.  A tree, a single tree that my eyes followed while my feet stepped blindly.  My hands out to the side to better balance myself from my feet stepping in all the wrong places.  The wind seemed to die down, as true silence rang throughout the waste land.  A broken wall that laid half in ruins tried desperately to stand in front of the tree.  It looked as if the wall had been defeated, as the tree stood in victory.  Was this wall once a part of the old Cal Strength?  I mumbled to myself as my hand brushed the sad wall.  Sad it truly was, I felt like at any minute the wall was going to ask me if it could be tall and sturdy like the tree in front of it.  My heart rang out, smothering my home sick stomach, with now a stinging pain in my heart.  My other hand grabbed the bark from the tree while my eyes stared down on the small path that ran between my legs, now finding myself resting and relying on both objects after a long and emotional journey.  I then knew where I was.  Lightning went off and the grey clouds darkened the yellow sky.  Both my hands became free as my back hit the wall and my body slid down into the dirt that grew so familiar.  My eyes closed with a fallen tear, as my fingers dug deep into the dirt creating a sharp pain from my finger nails being pushed back.  The tree might as well have smiled at me and told me it has been too long.  The wall had my back like it always had, and the little path that ran between both the tree and wall was the same, it was just without water running down and green grass surrounding it.  My hands beneath the dirt felt a long piece of medal.  My head turned to the hand that captured this treasure, and then my arm began to pick up speed moving back and forth trying to wrestle the dry dirt away to view what my hand was holding.  A stubborn thing this piece of medal was, so stubborn I found myself standing up heaving with all my might.  Soon after about 10 minutes of battle, the object uplifted from the graveyard of dirt, and showed itself.  It was a medal chair.  Bent and broken, used and then forgotten, lonely and left behind.  I new I had to continue on my path down to the bottom of the deepest Cal Strength video.  I must leave this memory behind me always keeping it deep down inside of me never to be forgotten.  I must walk away from the once beautiful and magical place Donny and I once called our smoke break behind the gym.

I soon found myself down deep, deep where the landscape became blurry and out of focus from the small little camera Glenn used to film with.  Before the beard, before the exposure, before the medals, before everything.  Broken bars and broken straps that were once shinning stars of this time period.  Old shoes with no laces, and echos from past lifts as screams and yells whistled with the wind.  Dirt hitting empty coffee cups that made sounds of chatter about possibly putting a blog together, and the excited talk about coaching and clients, gold medal goals, and maybe one day the chance to be able to represent the Country.  Dreams that were boiling like water on the stove.  Videos that were mostly clips of single lifts that bloomed into multiple clips that soon became training videos.  Retired YouTube views begged for more hits on the side of the gravel road like homeless bum's begging for drug money.  A single number 1, was telling stories and bragging about how he was the first viewer ever, the first YouTube hit ever.  He sat up high on a broken platform as he took credit for the start of the thousands and thousands hits to come.  For he was the original hit, the first hit ever that created a wave of something that no one at the time ever thought possible.  I broke a smile and waved at number one as I passed by, raising my head to show my respect and appreciation.  I stumbled upon a blackberry that the dirt had not fully swallowed.  Not the fruit, but the phone.  I picked it up and then blew the dirt off the screen to get a better look.  I knew right away that this was the phone of  Dave Spitz.  Keys completely worn out from the fast typing of exciting numbers his athletes just hit.  Fast texting from the work he constantly put in to grow the life of his baby.  The owner of Cal Strength, the boss man, the godfather, the leader, the man that made it all possible.  The man that gave me a chance when I was a young troubled kid.  The man that breathed air into my lungs and gave me a purpose.  Memories of him yelling at me while front squatting, "There is no crying in weightlifting, Jon!" I wonder what he would yell at me now if he saw my face.  Because right now I am not weightlifting.  Maybe I will travel high up to the very top of the channel where a world of unknown and new faces live and return his phone.  Maybe he dropped it while moving forward away from the old school waste land.  I put it in my pocket, and traveled down deeper to where the videos became even more blurry, shaky, and innocent.  I walked deeper down to the place where I was born.

Muscle Driver and the Attitude Nation seemed a million miles away.  I started to miss my present life, but was too driven by the good old days to stop now.  Martin Pashov told stories of how he wanted to be a soccer player in Bulgaria, but was never allowed to because they forced him to become a weightlifter.  This always broke my heart.  Anthony Grule was just a baby experiencing high school, and Caleb Ward was still a 105 plus.  Coach Glenn only wore these gladiator sandals, or what we called, Jesus slippers.  I picked them up from the curve of an empty tire, and put them in my bag to give to him once our paths ran into each other again.  I was close to the bottom, I could feel it in the change of the air.  The temperature started to drop dramatically, and the sky was now pitch black.  The dirt scurried past my feet as every step I took crunched the gravel of moving rocks below me.  I was far away from Donny's and my smoke break tree, and at this point it would be nice to have one with him from the nervous wreck I was under.

My feet met water, as a distant light house cast its light far in the distance.  The wind was heavy, but the water was glass. My feet became bare as my hands became smooth.  The dark only showed its face for the last hour, and now the sun was rising making the nighttime light house fade.  The sun crept up my body warming my cold heart while the dirt turned into green grass.  A boat was heading my way, but I couldn't make out who it was.  It looked like two big people from one side of the boat almost completely tipped one way.  How the boat didn't fall over was nothing but a miracle.  I was startled from the out of no where comment by Pete standing beside me.  I was startled, but more baffled on how he got there.  Pete's Asian eyes lit up as he waved the boat down as if he was the kid in school begging to be called on.  I looked over at Pete with an excited look on my face and asked him "Who is that Pete?"  He replied with a look of confusion because of the fact I didn't know.  "That's your new coach Glenn Pendlay and his athlete Caleb Ward!"  He went on to tell me they made a long journey from Texas to get here, and how excited they were to be a part of the team.  At this point I was waving with Pete, even jumping up and down.  I looked over to Pete while half laughing - half yelling "Over here!" then asking "What team?"  Pete looked back at me as his face became blank and more Asian than ever.  "Team Cal Strength"  Pete looked away while still keeping one eye on me as if he was unsure I was not losing my mind.  I then realized I was home, back to the start, the very bottom of Cal Strength's YouTube channel.  I made it, my journey was a success.  I drew many tears, laughed many memories, and walked many lonely paths, but I made it.  I looked back with a smile ear to ear at Donny sitting on the brand new chair behind the tall proud gym wall and yelled to him with everything I had, "Donny......Coach is here"!!   Donny took a drag from his smoke while looking up into the bright green tree and then back at me, "Good brother, now tell em to hurry it's almost time to train brother".  I waved my head back and forth while shooing him away with my hand as if to say that could wait 'til later, Donny.  He chuckled while wiping some moss away from his white tank top.  "Max!  Come fast, coach is here!" To my surprise Max was already right next to me, beard and glasses in full affect, and responded with just a look beyond out to the boat.  My chest became warm from my wife Jessica leaning up against me as my arms wrapped around her body, as if we were watching the sunset, but instead we were waiting upon two heavy set men that were almost drowning the boat.  Caleb with a barbell, and coach with a small silver camera.  Dave Spitz welcomed them both.  I then startled in excitement to show both coach and Dave that I found their belongings on my journey to now.  I held out the blackberry phone in one hand, and the Gladiator sandals in another, awaiting their good praises.  But instead, getting funny looks in return as I soon noticed they already had these objects with them.  I almost forgot that this interaction was only a memory, and that the only place to go from here is forward, back through the rolling grassy hills of San Ramon, tall tree of smoke breaks behind the gym, back past Max's bright white Chevy truck, brand new barbells and new shoes, and upgraded cameras to capture all of the memories and success that happened throughout the beginning of the Cal Strength days.  All soon to one day turn back into the waste land of forgotten times and rustic memories.  At this point view number one was not bragging on top of the broken platform, because view number one was not alive yet.

Coach Pendlay and Dave looked at the new and improved team with Donny off in the distance wrapping his knees with his famous knee wraps, and they both said at the same time......."Well....shall we train...?".

The rest is history.

A forgotten video from the old and original waste land

Cal Strength 2016