First Things First

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It Takes a Dumbbell to Know One

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It’s the Fourth of July season, that time of year Americans celebrate their priceless independence. Let freedom ring, liberty to all, every man and woman is created equal. These cherished values are not to be scoffed, taken for granted or compromised. They are to be revered, if not worshiped.

I’m a bona fide daydreamer, made in the USA. I occasionally envision a community, if not the land of the free, where each of us is responsible for our own health and strength, a community that regularly exercises and eats right, as opposed to slothing about and completely abusing itself. This same community then carries on its business with the traits established by such unremarkable, yet absolutely incredible and admirable behavior. I see energy and action, harmony and order, appreciation and goodness and agreeability in disagreeing. I see self-respect and confidence, honor and pride and humility.

Herein the roots of true freedom are established and grown.

I also dream of stacks of hundreds stashed in my sock drawer or being stalked by starlets and beauty queens, cheerleaders and calendar girls and roving mobs of naked women. Scuz me, got a little carried away there.

Life’s a struggle. We’re entitled to dream.

Earlier this week I went to the gym at the same time the record-breaking California sun was cooking the gym’s rooftop. I loosened the body of its stiffness with a variety of pulley movements and slowly engaged the muscles. I’m one of those marvels who enters the gym a small train wreck (perhaps, you can identify) and, after stretching out and warming up, becomes a large train wreck disguised as an Iron Horse pulling endless steel cars with great exertion. I build momentum, unloose a few endorphins, accumulate sufficient determination, revive some inspiring old memories, ignore the fading pain and unleash traces of calcified energy, endurance and might.

Kachunk, kachunk, hiss, kachunk, kachunk, hiss... faster... Kachunk, kachunk, hiss...

And then there’s the distinct lurch to the length of cars, as I gasp and pant and bend forward in slow motion. Are you still with me? Have I lost the whackos who can relate? Have I embarrassed myself once again with my training madness and revelation of my moronic misbehavior over the internet? Am I alone? No. I still have a few followers (they’re wearing white jackets), but it’s getting lonely.

Well, to continue my torrid tale, I dragged my warmed-up -- now hot and wilted -- body around the gym like I was its drill instructor. My previous two workouts were of the two-step-back variety and I was not going for three. Three steps back and you fall on your butt, never to rise again. Ever! You’re done. It’s over. They put you in a bag and haul you away. Where’s Draper? Gone. The dumps!

Aware I was lifting weights amid a scorching July 4th holiday, a statement of considerable training devotion in itself, I agreed training slowly was permissible. The sets and reps and iron hung in the thick sultry air. I sweated and strained and steamed and stared. Going slow bore penalties, of course; thou must perform extra sets. It’s the law. Three sets of one-arm dumbbell rows were willfully designated.

It was at the last half of the final set of six reps that I felt the earth go soft. Six reps to go, no way shall I end the rout with only six reps to go. It’s a rule. What would they think?

Don’t ask me who “they” are... okay, so I invent an imaginary audience when the going gets tough.

I pulled six good reps and with each rep knew it was a mistake, a big mistake. I let the dumbbell go and went to the floor on one knee, a hand on the rack and a hand on the dumbbell. I was as dark and still as night; movement was impossible, intolerable and unthinkable. Thought as I know it ceased, replaced by moment-to-moment grasping for survival. I could breathe, but only with caution and will. I could see, but dared not focus. My world went around and around, dark and vague, yet real and near.

I was in a battle for survival like I’ve never known. Overheated, oxygen starved, system malfunctioning. With each spent second I groped for the next. Wholeness and sanity would return (I was not convinced), but it was far off. Three minutes -- I held on to time -- and I was in deep getting deeper. The gym was next to empty and two young guys were in my shadowy peripheral vision. A long time kneeling and hanging onto a rack, lifeless. Should I call out? Could I? Was it pride that prevented me from seeking help? Ignorance? Incapacity? What would I say, what could they do? Oxygen, paramedic, water, cool air? I almost threw up and fought to contain myself.

Five minutes and I began to believe I could make it, and not on my own strength. God never leaves my side, nor did my request cease for his sure strength as the moments slowly flashed by. One of the guys came over after 15 minutes of impossible stillness.

“You okay, Dave?”

“Yeah, I over did it on my last set. I’ll be alright.” That was an effort.

“Just let me know if you need anything.”

I could speak. I felt assurance in my friend’s presence. Movement is next. To a bench, to another bench and another, till I secure my gym bag near the rear door and breathe some cool air. It’s 30 minutes before the dedicated steps are accomplished and I’m alive as I know living. The gym is deserted, except for the guy at the counter stacking paper cups.

Sitting is good; no false moves, continued thanksgiving and grasping for stability and soundness, and, lo, reality returns. Can I drive? Yes, after careful consideration and a test drive. I’m home in 15 streamlined minutes. Moral to the story: One more rep can be your last rep, Bomber. It is one gruesome place on the other side of smart, good and safe. Don’t go there, you might not come back.

Days later I still feel fuzzy.

You think that was funny; here are a few more chuckles I’d like to pass your way (they’re cute reminders, really, and they serve to preface my closing thoughts). Energy is being expended like it was free and endless, and the price of gas has gone up like smoke. The cost of shipping and shipping materials has increased. Drought is killing the farmer and his crops, cattle and cows. There’s a war against a godless enemy who believes good is evil and evil is good. Great sums of money are spent building bridges to nowhere and Congress just voted itself a $4,500 pay raise. There are floods, hurricanes, disease and relief. Poor Africa, God help her and our own security and borders and people.

Did you get your new iPhone, BTW? ;>)

Last but not least, the production cost of milk and milk by-products have become scarce. The main ingredients for Bomber Blend are whey and casein. These have doubled (Doubled) in price this month and are hard to come by. Everyone feels the effect, from farmer to processor to food manufacturer to wholesaler to retailer to consumer. Hello, high flying bombers.

We have stalled for months in raising our Bomber Blend price, but the time has come when stalling is falling out of the sky. This is what Laree and I must do.

Our wings were made for flying, bombers, and that’s what we’re gonna do. Though pruning them in the shade has a calming effect -- very nurturing. Gliding’s fun. Ever try gliding... whoosh, whoosh?

Stay cool, don’t drool... Draper


231 years after establishing and demanding freedom and independence, we forget we were once oppressed, and in doing so lead ourselves into personal imprisonment. Woe to the apathetic and lawless and uncompassionate.

I’d like to believe we’re all trying, but too many are sitting back assuming someone else will secure our freedom for us. After all, that is freedom, is it not? Not even close; freedom is not free. Freedom requires awareness and vigilance, contribution and appreciation, and self-evident commonsense. Politicians, activists, gangsters and mobs have known this and taken advantage of it for a long time. Of course, I won’t get into that hornet’s nest. It’s too sunny and breezy for such prickly activity.

Instead, feel free to take five minutes. They’re yours. Stray from the norm and be lifted up. Review what the fourth of July celebrates, how we got here, America, and why.

These were the early strongmen hoisting the inestimable weight we must continue to carry. No gyms, none. Just iron will.

Yeah, I’m full of wisdom. Just one more rep... still dizzy.

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