We Carry On

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We metal-huggers sure know how to have a good time. Just pile the weights on the bar and commence pressing and squatting. Some light-hearted folks prefer dancing the night away or a classy show at the Starlight Lounge, but not us. Clunk, thud and no dessert, thanks.

"Let's go to the lake and fish or hit the greens and golf."

I don't think so. Slam, bam and a can of tuna, ma'am.

I am so thankful my early years were possessed with lifting weights, getting hunky, eating chickens and digging underground forts in the dried sludge dredged from the bottom of the Hackensack River and deposited in the vacant property across the road from my house in Secaucus where the pig farms thrived 60 years ago.

Seriously, where would I be today?

And, oh, the memories...let me tell ya...I could go on for 12 to 15 seconds! Did I tell you about the time Jimmy and I grabbed a bus, the Number 2, and went to NYC to buy firecrackers and eat at the Horn & Hardart Coin-operated Automat on 42nd and Broadway? We were 10, our clenched fists held hard-earned coins from our newspaper routes. We wore hand-me-down jeans with holes in the knees.

Additional highlights of the good times: The Slinky, Silly Putty and the Frisbee were invented.

Today, lookalike designer jeans go for $169 plus tax (frayed holes machine-made in China, very cool) and there are no newspaper home deliveries. Kids have iPhones and junior credit cards (hey, there's an idea!), overdrawn allowances and Big Mac tummies.

Those were the good old days when men were men and women were women, iron was iron and rust was rust -- a nickel was a nickel and frayed holes were child's play.

In the '50s every bodybuilder in the world could fit on sunny California's Muscle Beach, with plenty of room to strut. He had 17-inch arms, abs, a tan and a girl in a bikini. She did handstands and cartwheels. He did curls and presses.

In the '70s the bodybuilder stood upright, multiplied and grew large in size. He became they; they became beasts. The world noticed.

Nothing stopped them and the ladies joined them; they filled the valleys, the hillsides and lands north and south. Ripped became popular, veiny and chiseled. Guys and gals paired up and entertained audiences with their grace and magnificence on stage under the lights surrounded by music. And, oh, the tans.

Big muscles became big business, the good and the creepy. A good gym became as popular as a good restaurant. Soon they became as common as a common restaurant. Health and fitness thrived. One could, in fact, get in shape and stay in shape shaking a stick at the new gyms, muscle magazines, health food stores, supplements and supplement companies, gear and toys, gizmos and gadgets dedicated to muscles.

Balls, rollers, grippers, bands...

I, with help from wild and crazy friends, built and owned a couple of really cool gyms from 1989 to '04. Gym ownership and gym management are like a big, never-ending, joyous, get-rich vacation: squats, deadlifts, presses; opening and closing, selling and instructing, cleaning and repairing.

By the mid-'90s the ever-growing professional bodybuilder took on new dimensions. The weightlifting activity lost any likeness to a sport and the consummate champion lost any resemblance to a man or woman. Though I'm not an adoring admirer, I appreciate the top contenders as I do heavy artillery or Cat Bulldozers. Very impressive, indeed. Five-ten, 320 pounds, ripped 'n veiny, muscle upon muscle. Holy moly, ravioli.

The guys make gains so fast they wonder what hit them. Who am I? Humility is absent, pride not calculated. Appreciation is misunderstood, value and worth unknown. It's like being born rich and spoiled with the frayed holes carefully prepared, placed and tended.

Maybe my feelings are because I'm older that dirt. That's enough to put a little snark in your jolly ole viewpoint.

Today, musclemen are like leaves on a tree -- they come and go with spring and autumn. There are mail-order bodybuilders and bodybuilders online, and every other male lead in a current TV series is a Hollywood bodybuilder. What was once odd is now almost ordinary (out-of-shape is still ordinary).

What was once a result of aspiration and dedication, patience and very hard work is now available with a whiff of sacrifice and a notion of devotion.

Where there once were barbells and dumbbells and protein, now there are ingredients x thru z. An hour a day, five days a week will do the trick. Last count, there were enough bodybuilders to start a medium-sized nation of extra-large people.

Yet as originals, you and I, we carry on.



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