First Things First

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A Path Unwinding to Places Before Us

Dave Draper Top Squat
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After seeing Laree’s Bash film clip, I think Laree should go into film-making and I should get a job on a farm. Baling hay, milking cows and shoveling manure can keep one in great shape, out of trouble and out of view. And it’s good for the soul to put one’s might into something worthwhile, earthy and productive.

I go to the gym with good intentions, they are always fulfilled and I leave a better person for it. I also leave slightly beat up. I look back and recall it was that way 40 years ago when I emerged from the subterranean digs of the Muscle Beach gym, known as the Dungeon. It was barely daylight when I entered, and two or three hours later milk was delivered, kids were in school and the hot sun was pouring from cloudless blue skies. Squinting, I staggered to my nearby car.

Crazy, man. And the beat goes on. My life has virtually followed the same path ever since. Any day I expect a gold-plated watch from my boss at work with an engraving on the back saying, "Thanks for 40 years of dedicated service. We’re proud of you." Oddly I don’t have a boss and I don’t work for anybody. Never did; not really. If I did I wouldn’t have lasted 40 days, forget 40 years. Do this and do that from anyone but me (or Laree, my little cookie) is a little tricky. Either I get it wrong or I don’t listen, or both.

And what would I do with a watch? I can tell time, but I don’t wear rings, trinkets, bobbles or beads. Neither does Laree, thank goodness. It’s not that we don’t admire the beauty of diamonds in settings of gold, or the sentiments behind them, but we don’t need them... they’re bothersome and costly. We don’t even wear sunglasses or wedding bands. No tattoos anywhere, come to think of it. We’re plain.

I once tied a piece of beige yarn around my neck for no particular reason during the summer of 1970. I forgot about it. How, you ask? Just look at my hair in those days and you’ll notice I wasn’t paying attention to personal details beyond muscle and might. Later that year I was looking at photos of me onstage in New York and London and there was this piece of yarn around my neck. How dumb is that? In one sweeping moment I looked down (like I could see it, right?) and reached for my neck. It was gone. Disintegrated, I suspect.

For an instant I felt naked.

I wore headbands for years, an ornament of sorts, but they were necessary gear to keep my shaggy hair out of my face and eyes. And the headbands were made of anything that was handy when the need arose -- a strip torn from a towel, a cut from an old flannel shirt, a length of cord. Nothing snappy. Bodybuilders in my day and my neck of the woods were poor. Those shredded Ts and sweatshirts that clung to our backs were all we had, not designer threads by Victorio’s Secret Muscle Garments.

Material things were scorned in Venice in the '60s and '70s, which was good cuz none of us really wanted to work, like at a real job, man, cuz our freedoms were oppressed. Freedom was another item of that era that was dealt with most unusually. So much freedom was sought by the free that the search almost became a prison itself. So in love with an illusion of freedom, we nearly kissed the real thing goodbye.

We all contributed to society, none of us dropouts and always engaged and prosperous in our own ways. There were school teachers, postal workers, a few engineers, a couple of landlords, a good-sized handful of studio employees -- extras, stage crew, film and sound techs. Zabo was the first personal trainer I ever met (1963). He was training 20 years before we met and he’s training today, 42 years later.

I asked Zabe, "What is the best exercise for biceps?" We’ve been buds a long time, as I mentioned, and have gone on various adventures near and far. The man is known for his simple wisdom, keen wit and adversity toward the ruins of ambition. He answered my provocative query in detail, "Curls." I was not surprised. I continued. "What is the best exercise for triceps... shoulders... chest... back... abs... thighs... calves?" He answered each question generously, patiently and in order: dips... front presses... incline presses... deadlifts... leg raises... squats... donkeys. "Anything to add?" I was riveted. "Yeah, train hard, don’t miss, keep it basic and eat lots of chicken, fish, red meat and salads. Red wine won’t hurt ya."

Some things never change.

The 13-odd-years in the center of my life -- 21 to 35 -- spent along the coast of LA stand out like a monument, an anchor and a millstone. Those years formed me, brought me up, taught me and stabilized me and brought me down with a thud. They took forever, and what a ride. My 21 years in Jersey are by comparison a child’s blurry vacation and my last 30 years in northern California seem like a long weekend mixed with business and pleasure.

The beat goes on.

Laree is discovering and practicing the skills of video production and alternates between pulling her hair out and sighing with satisfaction as it all comes together. You saw the Bash mini-video and the short version of the Dungeon demo. These are crash courses in preparation for the major project, the bash’s Bill and Dave seminar. Our collective footage is prolific and appealing, and we’ve arranged a trip to Bill and Judy Pearl’s Oregon domain in August for workouts and long moments of priceless conversation. I, too, have questions to ask. These will be secretly filmed, clipped, snipped and added to our current bounty for dimension and inspiration.

Bill has been at this stuff far longer than I and his accomplishments, when piled one on top of the other, present a towering skyline to my fields and fences. He’s instructed NASA’s astronauts in fitness, has five Mr. Universe trophies from different eras and continents stashed someplace safe, tours the world representing the biggest and best fitness corporations, and his wife, kids and friends love him. He owes no one and doesn’t wear a watch. The latter is the only semblance we have in common.

And the beat goes on.

Karen Orsi just called from LA to see if I’ve opened the yet-unopened manila envelope she sent me some weeks ago (the envelope with the reshuffled IOL newsletters soon to become a book). You know the answer already. No. She said no problem, that she read through the night for a month till my lamebrain drivel was inflaming her cerebral cortex and causing her to twitch, stammer and gag. Further, during that period of sacrifice, her partner, Jim, slept in a motel down the block where there was less tension and darling 12-year-old daughter Natalie ate hotdogs and beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But not without serious rebellion.

KO got me to thinkin'. Maybe I should get my act together. I’ll start Monday first thing, after a rehabilitative workout of chest, shoulders and back. Lots of pressing requires maximum muscle exertion, the upper limits of pain and pain suppression, utmost concentration and a war against defeat. I’ll perform, as always, with meticulous form and a pace that exactly coincides with my energy, endurance and mood.

Press behind neck, steep incline presses and dumbbell presses, each supersetted with a wide- or close-grip pulldown and maybe a stiffarm pullover. Five supersets of six-to-10 reps should do what must be done. I’ll finish with five sets of heavy one-arm dumbbell rows in the six-to-eight rep range. Wherever there is a contraction of muscle, I’ll contract tightly. Where there is one more rep, I’ll get it. Where control of the eccentric contraction is beneficial, I’ll benefit myself. When focus is demanded -- always and always -- focus will be granted.

I’ll simultaneously feed and reward myself with gulps of Bomber Blend as I with squinting eyes drag myself to the car. Is that the hot sun in the cloudless blue sky pouring down on this beat up old body? Well, I’ll be.

Some things never change, and the beat goes on. Has anyone seen a slightly neglected manila envelope lying around?

Signing off till later... take it up and over and high and far, bombers, and closely watch your descent. You don’t want to come down too fast, too soon, too often.


Bash 2005 highlights, 20 megabytes

Dungeon demo, 12 megabytes

The Bash 2005 reports are here

The Bash photos are here

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