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Florida and the Bash, June 2003
June 30, 2003

If you look at a globe of the world and slowly rotate it until the continent of the United States is positioned before you, you will notice a distinct appendage of land protruding like a languid digit from the southeastern-most corner of the great American landmass. This peculiar formation is known as Florida, one of the 50 states closely united in heart and mind that constitute the U.S.A.

Florida is a grand peninsula, water-bound on the east by the Atlantic and the west by the Gulf of Mexico. Inlets and bays and the irregular coastline give added and delightful watery exposure to the warm and sunny state. In fact, the lattermost characteristics have earned Florida her honorary reference, the Sunshine State. Dotted throughout the state are lakes, large and small. One might think that boats are in equal proportion to the auto, but no one’s counting. Both modes of transportation have been lost every now and then in sinkholes, bothersome phenomenon indigenous to this amazing territory. Small ponds and the immediate not-so-terra firma disappear hell-ward when least likely expected. Oops! Gone, gators and all.

Though daring expeditions have set out on occasion to discover great snow-capped mountains ranging across the thick Floridian landscape, none have been found to this day. In fact, it is suspected that the average altitude is 12 to 18 inches above sea level on a good day. When it rains in the sunshine state, there’s quite a scramble for dry ground. And it’s been reported by sources not affiliated with the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce or the Realtors Association of Greater Florida that the humidity averages 95% in June, but drops to 89% when it rains, as it often does to the relief of the Floridians and their soggy tourists. Blinding rainstorms and raging floods add excitement to otherwise ordinary days in this tropical paradise.

We held our 3rd Annual Bombers Bash in St. Petersburg this past weekend, June 21st. It was swell.

Not to bore you dear readers with an elaboration of a festivity that was for any number of countless reasons not on your event list -- work, family responsibilities, finances, canasta playoffs, bingo, neighbor’s yard sale -- let me just say this:

Even the humidity was cool and the rain a pleasant dance on our bodies.

New faces and the familiar faces shown with excitement and wonder at the joy they never expected to experience at the first-time meeting of brothers and sisters in iron and steel.

The silver-gray cloud covering caused the rare appearance of the sun to be an amazing event, historic, the equivalence of a space launch from Cape Canaveral. Together we stood transfixed, our eyes heavenward and drifted into our own reverie as a ray of sun glanced across our faces.

Train Hard, Eat Right and Be Happy: all three instructions were applied with the precision that once came from tough discipline, but were now assumed with ease and common sense. We met at the gym as prescribed to do the work we must do, the toil we love, the training we need and the exercise we praise. When we gathered to eat and rejoice throughout our days together there was no effort to forego junk food or excess; the thoughts were foreign to our minds. And happiness abounded, rebounded, bubbled over or simply simmered on the faces of those who naturally hold external bursting within.

The caterers were silent heroes, impeccably performing their tasks complete with more than a day’s worth of unpredictable hitches. As they dodged errant raindrops, improvised and repaired damaged equipment and prepared the luscious foods, the stealthy bombers gathered, soaring and buzzing and performing stunts.

Tom Incledon, the Bombers and I talked over the facts and fiction that attend the sport of muscle building… for three hours and 15 minutes till the food was ready. The barbecue was not a gluttonous affair with endless tables of colorful goop in trays and platters and bowls. It was a thoughtful collection of mouth-watering grilled mixed vegetable salad, black beans, yellow rice, fresh salad, tri-tip steaks and Jamaican-jerk chicken -- all you could eat. Cold spring water, iced tea and lemonade were the beverages of choice and nobody missed the beer or soda pop. St. Petersburg’s locally made natural fruit ices were available in a frosty freezer for dessert… I had one.

Yes, it was a long question and answer presentation and nobody left, though I saw a few people yawn and look off to the squawking and swooping seagulls, no doubt envious of their freedom. Oh, to have wings and fly away. I personally delighted in the seminar. Give me a mike, ask me a question and I’ll stammer for up to 10 seconds. Of course, as I cleverly planned it, Tom “The Answer Man” Incledon was my co-presenter and I never had to answer more than three questions: Is it true you know Arnold, do you still work out and if you had to do it all over again, would you lift weights? I had the first two down, no sweat, but the last one confused me a bit. I looked to Laree for help on that one, but she was busy feeding the ducks. I bucked up and said with decisiveness, “Ah, sure, maybe… I dunno.”

From there we learned more about training techniques that work and that are forbidden, building different kinds of power and muscle fiber for men and women, leanness verses mass verses bodyfat verses tone, creatine and its value and effective transportation and the latest scoop on the latest multi-syllable hype adorning the muscle mags and the web pages. We listened to a Peterbuilt scientist as he spoke to our lay minds about things that immediately concern us, our health, our chemistry, our anatomy, physiology and our muscle building needs. Scientists, especially those committed to research, do not lie or exaggerate and insist on backing every word they say with a list of the researching authors and the papers from which their material is derived. The questions kept coming and the answers kept going, an assembly line, co-labor not in vain. They built on each other, the toil of a stone mason building at once a work of art and a wall to last forever.

Rockin’ Ken assembled a powerhouse sound system for the talk and was prepared to entertain the gang throughout the chow down with his incomparable Elvis performance and Karaoke show. The melodious white noise of the sipping and chomping and Bomber talk postponed the amusement to another time. Training strategies, sharing nutritional insights and nostalgia became the irreplaceable topics until we all said goodbye. Parting is such sweet sorrow, so I offer that merry subject to someone else. That was Saturday, late afternoon. Half went home near n’ far, half went to see “The Hulk” and the other half went to bed. “Goodnight, Laree.” “Goodnight, darling sweetheart.” She’s so darn cute!

The last night was Sunday night as 18 wild ones with an extra day on their hands continued the good times over dinner. The restaurant closed around us and we filed out with the staff dragging baggies of garbage, their last duty of the evening. The night was young and across a spacious balcony the hoppin’ Baywalk Mall featured a Karaoke setting for the shear fun of it. We stopped in our tracks and five of the Bomber Squad rolled up their sleeves and launched into their renditions of Bonnie Raitt, Johnny Rivers and other rockers. I got booed off the stage (used to it) for my impersonation of Mel Torme singing April in Paris. Needs work. The cameras came out of nowhere and we again went through even worse goodbyes, agreeing unanimously that “See ya later” expressed in a laid-back manner was a whole lot better than saying “Good… gulp… bye.”

Thanks, dear Florida. Next time I will bask in your sun and swim in your waters and admire the lush floral life for which you are famous.

Bombers, see ya later…

New York, New York, September, 2004… Dave

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