What the fuck has happened? Shadows come alive on my wall from the fan turning above my head. Spin and click, wobble and move.....this fan creates life in my midnight room. Elephants juggle beach balls on their nose. Boo! Jokers with white face paint laugh with palms wide open, making my eyes close for a slight second....before reopening. The change of wind from my slightly cracked window turns the circus show on my wall to a more scenic adventure. Mountains of high, surrounding roads of long, as yellow lines flash as the AC blows. Windows down and sun hitting the right side of my face....I can feel it now laying on my mattress in place. Gas station stops while YouTube plays on my phone, a fast look at Steiner winning gold before my gas pump clicked with aggression. I seem to always feel a click away from one day making it big, lifting big and achieving elephant size dreams. A dollar in my pocket, as gas money came from bottles of exchange. My white dodge neon cried as the door opened, the smell of worn breaks made my eyes water, cover your nose sweetie, this car is going under. My body weak.... my mind strong......my pockets broke as my attention moves on.
"Welcome to T.G.I.Fridays," I would say. A big smile on my face that soon turned grey......my eyes shut as life prostitution becomes sound. Selling my dreams to a door at 2 AM became steady and bound. My life seemed fucked, this was fact. The cold air whistling through my bedroom window reminded me of this time way back. Opening doors for others as mine stayed shut. Weightlifting videos played on repeat.......as my dirty clothes stunk like piss. My bedroom wall became filled with moving parts, all that somehow were magically put together for me to write this diary I call this blog. The Orchestra plays a story of long.
"I got 5 sweetie,!" I would yell from the broken apartment on the bad side of Sac. Loud bass pumping against all four walls as cars outside sat on blocks and windows laced with locks. Shots at night kept us up, as noodle of top filled our cups. "I got 5!," I would yell from the bedroom closet. Scattered clothes laid out like someone opened a cargo plane door. My wife's eyes opened like the door at Fridays as a giant leap and a hug fell onto my arms, we spun around the room until we became weak, sweat dripped from our foreheads from the hunt that we called pocket searching. So hungry......so broke......finding money in some month old jeans made for an overwhelming lump in our throats. Joy was an understatement.....as McDonald's dollar menu made for an early thanksgiving feast. Our bikes took us over the bridge to dinner we pedaled.....this meal will make us lift bigger weight than ever......and once Fridays pays me our training will spike like no other. We even had some left over change to buy a monster energy drink that we shared together......training that day was like no other.
Survival not to survive......but survival to stay alive......Weightlifting.
Random fucking jobs we would work, almost taking turns being the pimp. Waiting for my wife outside the mall at 1 AM made my mind fucking spin. What the flying fuck were we doing in this town? Is weightlifting worth all this waiting around? Training was great, but the life style fucking sucked. I felt like a prostitute waiting to get fucked. My wife entered the neon of broke, smell still so bad I would rather go back to blowing coke. She cried as her boss was a dick....I guess this mother fucker was yelling at her once again. This dick......my anger ran high, as my motivation to win the Weightlifting National title became overwhelmingly dyer. I would do anything to get us out of this shit hole life! I banged the steering wheel as spit came flying out of my dry hungry mouth. A lock on our door...........this is where our lives hit the floor. Two months late on the rent meant living on the car floor. Team USA to be on the moon, for my national title packed up and moved to Mars. The shadows on my wall were now dancing devils.....skeletons of some sort as they played their fiddles.....I was fucked......
I let my wife down and my family. This weightlifting journey left me in a pile of shit. Now homeless and empty with no food or place to shit. Random bathrooms for washing, for even thinking about training became daunting. So mad at the world road rage became worse. Middle fingers never went down almost as a curse. This led to me punching an athlete at Sac high, I guess the kid was 18 years old......how was I supposed to know. Parting with Doherty and Jackie Mah.....was one of the hardest things this journey had to offer. To this day I feel bad......to this day I feel awful. Now homeless and broke, no place to train, considered reckless and wild in my weightlifting family I became.
Months dragged on, working at the Nutrishop taking out the garbage and cleaning labels I was. Jon fucking North......before Jon Fucken North. Chatter of training talked all around me, as people never once noticed me. College drop out living in a dodge neon.......bum of society....scum of the Earth. I swept those floors solid 'til my arms fell off. I kept thinking about my wife being yelled at by her dick boss at the mall. I was angry but steady, I was sad but fierce. I was down but not out.....I was defeated but not dead. The one thing that kept me going was Weightlifting.....training.....competing. You think we stopped? Fuck you. Once I picked up the bar at Sac State with Ben Claridad I never put it down. Do you hear me world! Do you hear me society! Fuck you! You might have punched me in the fucken face.....you might have kicked me when I was down......but I am still MOTHER FUCKEN HERE YOU MOTHER FUCKER! I still trained. On the bus I road to the Power House Gym in Sacramento. With the money we made I paid that monthly fucken bill, I slammed bars still! Loafs of bread we would steal....only to eat for training to one day hopefully become.........champions.
His hat laid low, blue and beat up. His jeans tight and his legs out to the side, in a stance that looked like the Eiffel Tower. Not lifting at this local meet he stood, way in the back of the room. My piss smelled clothes and my change chattering pockets approached. My body skinny and my dreams big. I asked him a question about training.
Back burnt to a crisp from the overwhelming heat of our past. Our necks pinch in pain from the constant looking back, seeing those we have lost throughout this sport. The old saying is, "they come and they go," but do they really? I still feel them behind me as I stand upon this railing. I still feel their presence on this bridge. I still see their faces hang in defeat as I hang mine in pain. At times lonely in a sport of one, surrounded by many that can be easily forgotten when alone too long. To repeat the same thing everyday makes for bones weary and eyes teary. Minds lose the simple touch to reality, as dark gyms breathe clouds of cold while dark shadows sit beside you for company. Once friends, once teammates.....never to be heard or seen again.....only memories fill this gym as my old Adidas shoes look back upon my empty face, in pure solitude, while a blanket of hell lays upon my back keeping me warm and ready for my next attempt. I am a warrior of this gym, of this platform.....and I will die amongst my shadow, I will take my final breath chasing my goals....even if the single goal I am trying to reach kills me. I am the dark. I am hell. I am a survivor of a sport that kills so many. A sport that breeds to destroy and grows to chop, for dreams are big and the fall is hard, the sound sounds nice as the sight from afar looks bright. One only feels the true fright once the weeks stack upon the next, as the body hurts and the money runs tight. Parents and friends ask why.....and soon you do too. I stand on this rail with the wind meeting my face. This spring day makes me want to train outside more often. A beautiful day like this makes me wish I was a cyclist. A hand simply lays itself upon my right shoulder, as another hand wraps around my left ankle. My naked body warm from the hot air that soothes my soul, as my skin gets cold from the past trying to ease me off the rail of this tall bridge. I find it funny that we think we are the ones holding onto the bar......
My penis hangs like my toes 80 feet above, as my heels stay down and dig, just like I have been taught, just like my body has known to understand after all these years. Hands out wide like an eagle ready to fly, ready to be set free. It seemed like yesterday that when the front door opened I would jump with joy for the idea of fresh blood, new lifters.......something new in a gym of the same. I'll never forget the day I started hating this sport......and we all do at some time or another. It reminded me of the time when Donny was asked in an interview what his favorite lift out of the two was. His hat laid low, his eyes lowered, as his silence convinced the room it was a question taken very seriously. He then with no movement at all, no hand jesters or a single blink of an eye responded with...."I hate 'em both". The day I came to this same conclusion is when all my friends left me. They walked into the door with a smile on their face, while mine smiled back ready and eager to embrace new teammates....new friends.....only to be constantly taken away by the devil in the red dress. Once friends, now dust on a bar. Once training partners, now a partner of my own. All alone again as my path continues with left over shadows of others and myself. Memories that fill the eye as these keys tap. For this blog is a dark hole of what has happened and what will come. Doors now open while my eyes stay down, hardened by the reality of what this sport brings.....broken bars and shoes of old, plates of color as dark is my new father. A single light to 5 rings is the shadow that others leave. Guiding me to what they could not, as their lack of strength gives me fire within my gut. Shankle who has taught me more than weightlifting.....but how to fight, will carry on with me 'til the day I cannot. I sit alone on my resting bench as the dark gives me light. My old shoes still with me in this never ending fight. I still stand with this hand on my back, burnt from the burned out light they try to keep me back. My past is my past while mistakes I have made. Gold medals and victories are hard to find underneath a pile of dirt, pissed on by others and laughed at by most. Doubts within and doubts by others, chatter behind my back even by those I call my brother. 8 years down, this reunion is emotional. I wanted to write to you the Nation, a family I call home. It's nice to be able to talk to someone in a sport of such solitude.
Scared......fuck yes. Nervous.......fuck yes. Not only about letting go.....but the next 8 years. An email was sent and I read. Wise words from a lion, who takes pray on heads.....in the jungle he roams in areas unknown. His legacy forever will live on......and lessons taught will never be forgot. I now know what I must do to succeed moving forward..........
I let go, as my heels raised like my head to the sky. I fell to the water of cold.......to fully embrace my future not yet told......
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 boys......it's time to train." - Silent owl.
Jeff begs for his stomach to accept the steamy soup that sits rested in his hands cupped like a bowl, morphed into a homeless man begging for change on a cold afternoon. Hands of chalk and eyes of tired, his big breath makes the steam float away fast and violently, as the bowl of chunky soup only can imagine running away as well. The soup sits so quietly in the hands of this non-hungry but hungry Weightlifter. Stomach rolls for food, but the mouth won't open. Hands shake the bowl in desperate need of food, fuel, and recovery. Eat! He yells out in the lobby of the gym while his plastic spoon drapes the outer line of the bowl as if sitting in a hot tub of pure relaxation. Don't rush me mother fucker.......the spoon barked quietly as his head fell back and his toes wiggled just peaking out from the soup before plunging them back under. The athlete felt paralyzed. His mind confused as his body was acting bi-polar. Jeff's friend Frank walked by asking if everything was ok......Jeff replied without taking his eyes off the soup bowl...."I'm good". But the sad news was Jeff was not good. How could Jeff be so hungry but not eat? How could he not move his arms to feed his body?....and why the fuck was this spoon being such a piece of shit?
Hell month....that's what they call it. I guess it makes sense considering this month in training was truly hell casted from the dark valleys where the devil sleeps. Protein powder went down smooth......only wanting to be thrown back up instantly once the chunky powder bombs entered the power belly of Jeff. Big boy belly is what he called it, pasta belly, carb belly, recovery belly.....most importantly.....strong fucken belly. But as of late, a belly of sick and tired. A body of disgust of any scent or sight. Fast paced movies gave Jeff motion sickness, as the sight of a burger commercial made him weezy. How could this be? He thought to himself while swirling the spoon around the ever growing cold soup. How could an athlete train so hard and not eat? It's more confusing than Leo not having won an Oscar yet.......???? Jeff got up to slam a some creatine that tried to hide away in the bottom of his paper cup. After a few swishes and fancy maneuvering with his hand eye coordination he was able to gulp down and capture all of the white rocks of creatine that made his body tingle and itch.....a sensation that stood right behind sex. Yea.....that good. A must for big weight....both sex and creatine. He paced the lobby as if getting ready to run out on the court of a basketball game. Introducing number "I'm not fucken hungry".....Jeff! and the crowd goes crazy just like his body that so bleeds for food. The voice of Shankle playing over and over in his head..."You gotta eat," Shankle would say if in this situation. In a heated flash Jeff threw out the bitch of a spoon from the bowl....grew a pair of balls while raising the cup to his mouth.....and took a giant gulp of steak, potatoes, vegetables and soupy awesomeness. He stood tall while the food raced like the carpool lane at 5 o'clock and yelled "Shankle!!" for all to hear! Jeff felt alive and in control. Jeff realized that food was just like training....you must never listen to your body, with the bar, and with food. Jeff grabbed the loaf of bread and stick of butter and took bite after bite, mixing the butter and bread in his mouth....no time to spread.....no time for liberal type shit. Jeff finished his soup all while standing with his legs out wide and his chest raised high. Rocking back and forth from the discomfort he was in while engulfing his recovery food. He raised his fist up high with a crooked and full of food smile he finished all his food and got one step closer to gold.
Food ain't food for an athlete.....food is recovery. Period. It ain't supposed to taste good. Your girly purple grape protein shakes can be shoved up your ass. The next time someone tells me what kind of protein flavor they are drinking I am going to body slam them in a cave of no return where monkeys eat brains. Do you want monkeys to eat your brains!? That's what I thought, so shut up and eat, drink, and stop caring how it tastes. Keeping your weight up is a sport of itself. Eating when not hungry is an Olympic Sport. If you ain't eating.....you ain't winning mother fucker. These non Attitude Nation pussies out there only eating when they're hungry makes me sick. Making short gains....? Food. Feeling too sore......? Food. Not a lot of energy......? Food. If you are taller than 5'10" you better be a 94 or above. If not.....you ain't eating. These self made pussies only think of weight classes, when they should be thinking about recovery. Food is not weight class.....food is recovery. Wherever the food takes you is your weight class!!! I am banging on these keys because of the bullshit that I have seen all over the world. Like Donny Shankle says, "No Comfort Zones" - Lion Killer.
These fucken shoulders sting like a nail in the foot. Lower back mangled like a bush of thorns, and twisted like my knuckles from the walls I have punched.....fuck. Fuck is right, fuck explains it all. Fuck is the cap that releases the pressure from our heads. The word fuck makes sense in a sport that makes none. Legs heavy like the demons I carry. Regret is worse than a missed lift....while sadness seems to overpower the highs. A virus of some sort has spread to so many, leaving the light shadowed out, and sleep never to be the same. A virus that lifts the soul....but breaks the body. A virus that makes us live, before it kills. A virus that spreads faster than the sting up your neck when slept on wrong from a brutal day of training. A morning of coffee is shared with the bug of weightlifting, while the double-edged sword kills the dragon leaving scars on ours palms. This is weightlifting.
My eyes lay red for the dark turns me black. You and I lay at rest in a gym where bars and plates spend their last days. A graveyard of once strong, has now fallen to the dust of dark and cold, stuck with no spin, and bent from slams of the past. The glory days of so many find peace within the place they found life. A soul so proud while knees click like crying children. Echoes of "what ifs" rain about the hollow gym. For bars and weights don't take up too much space, while the feeling of unfinished drapes from above. Here I have this paper called freedom that lays in front of me. Freedom paper to escape and travel, run away to a sandy beach, swim in an ocean I can call home, while fine dinners and wine sooth my body. Success has opened a door for much more. The light so bright as signs point for my escape. No more pain.....no more struggle.....no more days filled of missed lifts and let downs. No more bad days. The sun awaits as a new life calls. I look behind me as the lighted door gets closer to my pale white face. The gym so cold and dark, so empty and unforgiving. The same gym that broke my brother's neck. The same gym that bombed me out, split my head open, out casted past friends and family, beat me, pulled me from school and sheltered me from society. The new strong bars are telling me to leave! Spitting at my ankles, as the fresh colored weights laugh at my numbers....telling me how weak and disgusting I am. This gym is not my home, but my prison. I have one life.....only one.....and I have spent half of it here......alone......in the dark. Why? Fuck. The outside seems so nice. The temptation warms my skin. A new life awaits. A new life I know nothing about. The outside world seems big, and more unforgiving than this gym. The sun burns more than the dark. Even though half the weightlifting world hates me.....I still call them family. I still feel at home under their ridicule, along with the ones who fight side by side with me, and you the reader.....will you be out there in the sun? An answer of a broken pipe from the ceiling above drips down against one of the wooden platforms over....and over...and over again, with the best response you could of ever given me. A response of no......no we will not, we will die in this gym......we will fight in this gym......no we will not surrender to the pleasures that so many speak upon. For hell is our home and the dark is our shelter.
A warm breeze from outside enters through the door that sprays half my face with light, as the gym covers the other half with dark. A breeze that swept the dust off the top of the bars that lay broken. The graveyard as I call it, where one day I will lie, we will lie, buried in this gym for others to step over and for dust to multiply. The dusty bars have never left, in a way they are still fighting with their presence as they lie with more strength then when they lived. Still in the gym to show lifters that this sport is a never ending story.....a never ending journey. My red eyes turn black, as the veins in my skin turn purple. My body starts to shake as my lips turn dry. A gym that once was blacker than night, has given me sight. I could see better than before as the black stayed night. It has happened once again just like 8 years ago........I have been infected by the virus called the Weightlifting Bug. I slowly walked to the door that smelled of salt water and sounds of baseball games. I took my pale hand and shut the door until the last bit of light suffocated. I lit a match to burn the paper of freedom in front of me. A new life piled high and tall cracked and burned, casting shadows that flickered wall to wall, of myself.....and others who have now come out from their resting bench. I choose to stay with these bars of broke. I stay with these plates of bent. I choose the dark. I choose the family that brought me in from the outside. I choose strong. I choose better. I choose PR's and bars. I choose to be great and follow my heart. I choose pain and discomfort. I choose broken bodies and tears of red. I choose you. I choose to put my head down and keep fighting day in and day out. Some will leave...some will stay.....but just like these broken bars......I am here until the death.