Are You Ready For Some Football?

Today is football Sunday, in my house, and here I sit at least temporarily watching the Atlanta Falcons with my sister. They… truly are the Hillary Rodham Clinton of football. No matter how good they may seem to be doing, no matter how far ahead they seem to get, they will find a way to screw it up. They’re like, a microcosm of all our hopes for success and fears of failure. Or I could be reading too much into a football team that just kind of sucks when they shouldn’t.

Another similarity between the Leadership Unit HRC and the Atlanta Falcons? I’m pretty sure their defense is staffed entirely by almost seventy year old women. I can’t find any other explanation for their, er… creative definitions of tackling, covering and even (as of this moment) reliably staying on side.

But enough about Hillary Clinton (the Atlanta Falcons of politics). Well, kinda. They do feature a little bit into my main wonderment, today. Okay… so, perception creates reality. This is hard to argue against, even if you’re a strictly Newtonian follower of the science-priest Neil DeGrasse Tyson (Black Science Man, tm Black Science Man Industries Incorporated). I am color blind in way that makes me see colors as somewhat faded.  Thus, I perceive reality differently than other people. If there is a bucket commonly agreed upon as “red,” and there is no one around to tell me, I will almost certainly continue to believe that it is orange. If someone does explain it to me? I will intellectually understand and accept that it is “red,” but will still perceive it as orange. What I see as “red” would probably look like burgundy or garnet, almost purple, to you.

So what does this have to do with the Leadership Unit? Some of the Wikileaks information shows that she had an indication, and what’s more believed deep in her stiff, robotic little heart, that she was going to lose this election all the way back in July. This may have helped to create, in the words of Bud Tribble, a “reality distortion field” that–independent of the external factors which moved voters and all the other relevant forces towards the Donald–made it impossible for her to win.

As above, so below. It’s a well known concept in Hermetic magic. It’s expressed also, in Matthew 18:18, as “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind or earth shall also be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall also be loosed in heaven.” As below, so above.

If we believe that something is impossible, there’s no way it can happen. The first time I took the CPAT, even though I had trained my butt off all summer long, I “knew” it was impossible for me to pass. This, independent of the relevant physical factors, made failure a totally inescapable fact. The second time? I knew that I had prepared well and could pass. I don’t know how I did, considering I was just about dead of a sinus infection when I took it, but I managed it. I feel as if, somehow, I took too long but it’s almost as time dilated on the course, somewhere between the K12 carry and the rescue drag, and I passed with 26 seconds left to spare. I’m not a firefighter now, for a variety of other reasons, but I passed the CPAT and learned a valuable lesson. The time I put in on the stairmill training for those long months didn’t just prepare my legs and lungs for the test, it also prepared my perception.

As above, so below. Whatever you bind on earth, Kefa, so shall it be bound in heaven. This is powerful stuff, people. We have a chance to take the reality we find and make something better out of it. Wouldn’t we be fools to let that chance lie? I don’t just think it, friends, I know it. So go out and make a better world. It’s hard work, but someone has to do it.

And as for the Atlanta Falcons? I’m going to let my sister handle that one. That mountain may be a little too high for me to climb.






Our Long Electoral Nightmare Is Over

Darling children of 2036, maybe 2056, maybe even my future children, this is a letter from the past. I don’t know if you’ll read it, or have it just beamed directly into your brain, or watch your fellow children of the future fight each other with improvised weapons with it scrawled onto their tattooed, woad covered bodies. It’s the future, after all. Who the heck knows what’s going to go on, right?

2016 was a weird freakin’ Presidential election. John Oliver came up with better names for it than I ever could have, so I won’t try to replicate them, but let it sink into yourself how bizarre things have been for the last year or more. His best label for it, among so many others, was probably “Lice on rats on a horse corpse on fire, 2016.” I cannot think of a more pungent description of the insanity we have undergone and, apparently, are still in the dead middle of.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, either a cannibal witch (this was a serious charge, I’m not kidding) or an uninspiring but dedicated public servant (yeah, even a lot of her supporters aren’t super excited about her) represented the Democratic Party. Donald John Trump, either the man who’d make America great again (whatever that means) or a shrieking embodiment of the id of everything that educated liberals hate about America (more on this later) represented the Republicans. Like I said, it was that kind of year.

She ran her campaign like a short, slightly awkward robot, he ran his like he cut promos on his pal Vince McMahon back in 2005. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the man we all knew as “the Donald” won. He won, and in some ways he did it pretty bigly. Big-league? Whatever, it was huge. Tremendous. Other things Donald Trump might say.

There are a lot of reasons he won. People on the right (or what we used to call the right, I’m not sure what to call it anymore) will tell you it’s because he’s going to make America great again (they’re kinda light on the details). They will then mock you and wonder why you’re asking instead of working in a coal mine. People on the left, or what we call the American left although it is about as related to the real left as a koala is to a grizzly bear, will tell you it’s because every white man, woman and child ever born (except them, of course, and their precious, whole-grain, organic kiddies) is a demon who only doesn’t have a sheet on because it’s in the wash. They will then smugly mock you for being so stupid that you even had to ask.

And this last paragraph… that explains it, okay? It explains everything. There is an intense lack of empathy on both sides. I’ve seen Trump supporters, even more than the man himself, say horrible, unimaginable to most decent people things about black people, gay people, Muslims and others. I’ve seen more liberal Clinton supporters, supposed bastions of tolerance all, groan and bemoan the venality and stupidity that they perceive as endemic to anyone white, Christian or–worst of all–a poor, uneducated denizen of what they call “flyover country.”

Flyover country… it’s an ugly term for an ugly thought, that a huge segment of the nation is not worth even looking out at as you sweep between New York and Los Angeles. It’s as grotesque as the notion that protesters are only able to protest because they do not have jobs (what, then, about Trump rally attendees?) or that Trump won when his voters “got off work” in the evening. It’s as ugly as Sarah Palin’s notion that there is a “real” America, the very definition of flyover country in reverse.


Your Gnus Editor in Chief

And now with my letter to the future done, I address those out there now in Gnusland, the GnUSA… I don’t know what we’re calling it, yet. But here goes.

Clinton supporters… protest. By all means do! It is okay to be upset over something when you have worked hard for it and that thing did not come to pass. Mrs. Clinton, by all accounts, was in a state of meltdown when she lost. Protest, work hard and continue to be kind and good and tolerant of all those you have been tolerant of in the past. Add to them, maybe, those who are old and poor and scared. Extend to them the empathy you have to other marginalized groups and you may find the universe opening before you like a weird, ugly flower.

Most of all do not be discouraged, especially those of you who are very young and were politicized under a smooth, Spider-Man loving, Al Green singing dude named Barry Obama. You’ve just been introduced to the Democratic circular firing squad, the one that I was politicized under in 2004 when it nominated for President a lurching, aristocratic Frankenstein’s monster with Frasier  Crane’s vocabulary.

I won’t tell you that you shouldn’t be afraid, or nervous, to those who are in the long list that were unkindly spoken to and about during this hideous campaign, or even threatened. I won’t tell you that it will be okay because I don’t know and I don’t like lying to people. But rest assured in yourselves and in your friends, and your fellow Americans–even those who voted for the Donald! Some of them are great people. Be bold, be daring, be willing to be afraid, if you must, but act to change your world for the better. The definition of courage is to be afraid and to act anyway, so be courageous.

Trump supporters… you won! Be gracious in your victory. Don’t mock those who lost, who worked as hard as any of you for something they believed in. Extend a hand to them in friendship and… who knows? One or two might just take it. And if they don’t? You are on the side of the angels, my good friends and neighbors and family members. But you are not there if you make jokes about “mass suicides” of Clinton supporters. Think about your words, and your actions. You voted for change? Be the change you want to see in the world, and be a good one for God’s sake.

America, when will you be angelic? That’s a quote from my favorite poet, Allen Ginsberg. It goes on, but that question resonates. This nation is glorious and horrible. It’s like a second year theater student’s coffee shop poetic review about her menstrual cycle, in some ways. It’s noisy, unpleasant and often difficult to process. No one should be subjected to it and yet, here we are. The map, at this point, reads “here be dragons.” But you know? If there be dragons here, then let us embrace our inner khaleesi and ride the little boogers. Good luck and remember, in the words of another poet named Red Green, we’re all in this together and I’m pulling for you.

“Fanfare for the World’s Strongest Man,” crossposted from the Good Men Project

Fanfare for the World’s Strongest Man: The Career of Mark Henry

Cross posted from the Good Men Project

Male Violence and the Old Testament

It’s been a while, but here is a link to the text of my newest article on the Good Men Project.  Hopefully it will be meaningful to some.  The next one should be up in a few days or next week.

Muscle and Wonders and Bears, oh my–GMP Cross Post

Ugly.  It’s an ugly word, appropriately enough, but for most of my life if I had ever been forced to choose one that adequately represented my physical appearance this one would have probably been it.  I’m not tall and willowy, my hair does not fall in picturesque waves over doe-like eyes and my limbs were forged by the Lord to bear weight, not to curve gracefully.  My face, such as it is, has always done an admirable job at keeping the front of my brain warm.  This is all that I have ever asked it to do and as far as faces go—minus an unfortunate fainting spell in the parking lot of Ruby Falls, which lead to it meeting the parking lot head to head and leaving a big smear of blood—we have gotten along relatively well in twenty-seven and a half years.

                I don’t blame my family, either genetically or psychologically, for any of this.  My mother and father are pretty good looking folks and have reassured me, as have various girlfriends throughout my life, that I at least look okay enough that I shouldn’t just go ahead and order an iron mask to wear like the king’s twin brother.  Every time somebody says this to me, though, the voice of one of my football coaches snakes into my mind, snarling low and insidious or shrieking like an alarm:

                “You!  Fat boys!  Run!  Block for the play and get back to the huddle! No one’s here to watch your fat asses!”  Or, if he felt like doing some coaching on the finer points of offensive line technique, “Face and hands! Face and hands! Hit them with your face and hands!  You’re not going to lose anything by hitting them with those faces!”  Sometimes, if he felt in a particularly jovial mood, we would hear, “The quarterback! Block for the quarterback! People actually want to get to him!”  Screwing up, of course, was worst.  His screams would devolve into a sort of Angrish, devoid of meaning beyond pure displeasure, “Why the goddamn ass do you do the hate that you do to me!?!? Why the ass fuck butt why, why, why!?!?!”  I don’t claim to be unique in any way; I’m pretty sure that everybody who ever played football either played under this nut or someone a lot like him.  But it didn’t make him any easier to deal with.

Sometimes, late at night, I try to remember why I played football.  I’m pretty sure it had something to do with the beautiful camaraderie that develops between men in team situations—I did meet some of my best friends, guys I love, during my time playing—but at other times I’m also reasonably sure that consistent head contact and micro-concussions have caused me to forget why I ever strapped on pads in the first place.

                I wore my supposed unattractiveness like plate armor, smooth and impenetrable, until a couple of years ago when I was loading equipment into a friend’s car at my undergraduate alma mater.  I call her “Princess Bubblegum,” after the Adventure Time monarch, because of her spunky attitude and penchant for unusual hair colors.  She is also, like Peebles, pretty much a mad scientist. The equipment was, as one can imagine for this sort of thing, rather heavy and I felt my back, thighs and shoulders straining.  Two of her friends who were gay men (who have since become friends of mine as well) were nearby, helping in a “supervisory capacity.”  Though the blood was certainly pumping in my ears, by this point, I did hear one of them mutter a curious phrase.  “Woof!” he said, “Look at that muscle bear!”

                I put it out of my mind until a few days later when I looked up a video of the shot putter and power lifter, Christian Cantwell, on Youtube.  Cantwell, at well over three hundred pounds with a raw bench press of 635 pounds, is a true brute of a man who holds several world and Olympic championship medals.  The title of the video was “Big, Woofy Musclebear Throws the Shot Put.”  The same phrase that my acquaintance had utter.  As Mr. Spock would say, “Fascinating.” 

Since I am good at homework, if nothing else, I began to follow links.  A universe of terminology and pictures—much of it on tumblr, that bizarre Waste Land of terror and delight—opened itself to me.  Muscle bear, the gateway phrase, cub, otter (like my training partner), muscle bull (like strongman Benedikt Magnusson), woof… my head began to spin.  I saw pictures of Jim Wendler, Chad Aichs, Matt Rhodes, pre-weight loss Dave Tate and Vincent Dizenio, made as erotic by creative captioning as any shot of a male fitness model could ever be.  A simple truth became apparent to me: there was a world, a gay subculture, where the looks of big, strong men with beards were not only acceptable but were prized.

It didn’t mean as much to me, since I am heterosexual, as it might have meant to a man who was, in fact, himself gay but it did make me feel a lot better.  If there were men out there who felt this way about other men then, perhaps, there were women of compatible orientation who might find the same things attractive.  Maybe my former girlfriends actually had found me attractive and had gone out with me—at least partially—because of my appearance instead of totally in spite of it.  I still wear perceived unattractiveness like an armor, since old habits die hard, but it’s not plate any more, it’s just chain mail, and thank God every day the chain gets a little rustier.

Maxes, Madness and Support–GMP Cross Post, you got it here first!


                One of my most exciting lifts took place during a time of severe emotional turmoil.  During the Summer of 2010, my last semester as an undergraduate, I was simultaneously involved in a wonderful college weightlifting course (for that last single hour of wellness credit) and in a break-up from the girl I thought I would marry.  It has been, to date, my last serious break up and was, like the relationship itself, truly bizarre.

                The girl, I call her in my heart The Girl With Diamond Dust Shoes after Andy Warhol’s famous post-modernist painting, is a fun, fey, gorgeous young woman.  She is also as mad as a hatter and lives her life as performance art.  We loved each other as much as two people could but a moody, melancholy student of the human condition and one who is, essentially, a Ke$ha song come noisily to life are almost inevitably on a train ride to Sheol.  Our relationship can be summed up by something she shouted at me during a late night debate argument, discussion, “I like to drive a fast, black car.  It’s unapologetic after dark!”

                I didn’t know what to say.  I didn’t know, for that matter, what she meant.  I’m still not quite sure.  It seemed profound to her.  It must have been.  I had a fiancée that Friday night, and on Monday morning I did not.  I don’t blame her; she needed something I didn’t have an, in retrospect, she wasn’t what I needed either.  It was better to part ways before we burned each other in fires like those of Gehinnom, more merciful.

                I stalked into the weight room with a million things on my mind.  One of my training partners—we had played football against each other in high school, across the offensive and defensive line in a particularly vicious game that ended with us both bruised and bloody—said, “Damn, dog, you look rough.”

                “Yeah,” I said, “yeah, I feel it.”

                “You good to lift?  I don’t know if I want a guy out in space spotting me…”

                “I’m the only guy here strong enough to spot you,” I said.


                “But I’m going to squat first.”

                The squat has always been my best lift. I’m not very tall (just under six feet), don’t have long enough arms to get a good pull on the dead lift and am broad and thick enough to get a really good base.  I spent quality time with iron, gravity and my two training partners that day.  The weight doesn’t change; the earth’s core is always going to pull you towards it, no matter what’s going on.  I worked towards a personal best, passed it, and had to think.  Would I go further?  My breath came in short gasps, my legs and back hurt, I felt blood pooling in a bruise across my shoulders.

                “Hell with it,” I said, “I’m putting more on.  I want more.  Put on another pair of forty-fives.”

                The coach looked over, “What’s up?”

                “Nothing,” I said. “Going for a new max.”

                “Christ, I get nervous every time you look at that squat rack,” he said.  “Let me come over there and be your back spotter.  Those other two guys can get your sides.”  And so I locked into place like a NASCAR with a pit crew.  It seemed to take forever.  My descent into the hole could not have lasted longer than being lowered into the oceanic abyss in a diving suit and for a moment I thought I was not leaving.  The edges of the world turned black.  Air stormed out of me and flecks of blood dotted my upper lip. 

                Suddenly it was over.  I lurched into the rack, slammed the weight home, and collapsed into my spotters’ arms.  They lowered me gently, asked if I was okay, and at my thumbs up signal proceeded with slaps on the back and cheers.  Another friend, sitting on the lat pull down machine, just quirked her lips into a wry smile.  “That was a very lot of a weight,” she said, her dark eyes huge and serious, “I’m glad that you’re okay!”  I couldn’t believe she didn’t realize how awesome this was.  Just different ways of seeing the world, I guess.  That’s all right, though. It takes all kinds and this particular person was, in so many ways, an important part of my re-learning that the human race was worth being a part of.

                I slept for a week, after my exertion, and ate a herd of cattle.  My central nervous system was friend crispy.  It was impossible, for a couple of days, to even curl and uncurl my fingers without considerable effort.  Even though I have matched the weight I used that day, now, for a double a few times and have even done singles with considerably more—although I have never reached for a true one rep max again—I have never achieved a personal best which quite felt like that.  The lift I achieved on that hot, muggy June day felt like freedom, conquest and victory and it also felt like the strong arms and kind smiles of the good people around me, people I could trust.  Spotters are important for your safety, and not just your physical safety; sometimes you need emotional spotters, too.

Smoke, Mirrors and the Flickering Light–GMP Cross Post

  Almost everyone who watches professional wrestling can remember his favorite wrestler’s final match, or at least the match where his favorite wrestler got hurt so badly that it was foolhardy to come back from it. Bret Hart lovers, like my old friend Adam, remember the ill-fated mule kick from Bill Goldberg that nearly decapitated the Hitman.  Edgeheads like my mom remember him landing funny, when Kurt Angle threw him, and Lita lovers remember how she bent almost double at the neck after a suicide dive gone wrong against Trish Stratus.  We all remember, those of us old enough at least, the disastrous fall that could have killed Mick Mick Foley and the one that did kill Owen Hart.  My twelve year old friends and I clustered around the TV watching a fuzzy, scrambled pay-per-view feed (we were too poor to buy it, too dumb to pirate) trying to figure out what happened: was it real, was it fake?  Even through the distortion we could hear the gravity in JR’s usually boisterous twang.  This was real, all too real.

                My favorite wrestler took her career ending injury—even though she limped along another two years—on April 20th, 2010 during a TNA dark match tryout for Betsy Ruth, wrestling under the slightly cute, slightly horrendous name “Rosie Lottalove.”  Daffney, oh Daffey.  The Goth Goddess. The Scream Queen.  I can’t say enough good things about her.  I had loved her ever since she debuted during the declining years of World Championship Wrestling in 2000, as a crazy fan who became David Flair’s manager.  I’m not sure I had ever seen a prettier girl.  Other women, like the Nitro Girls and WWF’s Sunny, were beautiful, to be sure, but seemed unattainable.  Daffney, my thirteen year old self imagined, was someone very much like what my first girlfriend could look like.  I turned out to be right and, two years later, my first girlfriend was, indeed, a pale skinned, dark eyed girl with a thick, high pitched Southern accent, dark eyeliner and ferocity that could have matched Daffney’s.  It was fifteen year old geek heaven, but I digress.

                The match itself wasn’t anything special—dark matches with rookie “monster heels” usually aren’t—but I sat glued to the Youtube video anyway.  Daffney’s charismatic ability to work a crowd as a face or lovable, harlequinesque heel is astounding and makes one boggle that she was never rewarded with gold beyond a joke run as WCW Cruiserweight Champion, ACW American Joshi Champion or NWA Wrestle Birmingham Junior Heavyweight Champion.  She did well enough with a stiff, slower opponent for a while but then, oh then, the unthinkable happened.  It can occur in an instant.  One sloppy fall down power bomb, one senton splash, and it was all over.

                I’m not knocking Betsy Ruth, here.  I personally like Betsy Ruth, having talked to her once or twice over twitter, and think that she is personable, cool and had a bright future in wrestling.  A bad move is a bad move, though, and this was bad.  I have seen Daffney take some ugly shots, before: have seen her fly off of a turnbuckle, crash through a barbed wire wrapped table and lie there stunned.  I have seen beads of blood where thumbtacks dug into her porcelain skin.  She’s a tough chick (maybe not Lufisto tough but who else is?) and I could comfort myself, at least, by reminding myself that those movements were part of the act and, on some level, I was being worked.  Although the blood was real she had gone through the acts in the course of a match to sell a story.

                This, on the other hand, was bad.  A fall, without control, and the sickening thud of a skull, neck and upper back against the hard canvas and wood of a wrestling ring.  Rosie finished with a senton splash, equally sloppy, crashing against Daffney’s ribs and resulting in a deeply bruised sternum.  Paramedics followed and I watched, on the edge of my seat, while they made sure she was not paralyzed.  After five, maybe ten, agonizing minutes she could move her toes again.  Rosie celebrated, her role demanded it, but was obviously uneasy.

                Daffney wasn’t paralyzed but wasn’t ever quite the same in the ring, either.  She wrestled, after this, and still looked great, but some of the snap and confidence was gone.  We don’t think, sometimes, about the toll that their sports or arts take on our heroes.  It is especially hard in the world of worked, professional wrestling, sometimes, where so much is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.  When I watched Daffney in those last matches, though, I thought of my own injuries, the surgery scars on my knees and shoulders from football and wrestling in high school, how much I hurt on cold mornings or when I had to reach behind myself to get something.  I wonder if she feels the same thing and, somehow, feel a little closer to the first girl on TV who was simultaneously a crush and a heroic figure for me, someone whose prettiness could be desired and whose pluck and courage could be emulated.  The quality of empathy through a flickering screen.

Eyes of the Master

Given the recent crooked behavior in government echelons and madness via SPLC being taught to the US Army (long story), I feel rather close to feeling that we are under the watchful eye of an actual real life Doctor Who villain. Perhaps the crazy sci-fi music will start soon and Tom Baker will show up with a jelly baby and the TARDIS, soon?


Personal Midrash from Exodus 21:28


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“If an ox gore a man or a woman..” If you own an ox and he has been known to gore and you do not make it known that he is a danger–the Romans and others used to put hay on the horn that he used to attack with–then you have unleashed a knife unto the world driven by an arm that weighs a thousand pounds and are culpable for the murder that it does. Likewise if I approach an ox who has been known to be dangerous and am gored then I am culpable for suicide as if I had driven the knife into my own chest. But how is one to know if an ox is safe or if an owner is negligent? Is it better to avoid oxen altogether?

I don’t know. Even after prayer, (a little, not much) fasting and meditation I can’t provide an answer better than to trust in the Lord that not all oxen will gore, since one must be around them to live a relatively normal life, but be ready to jump if the great head  and horns swings toward you with intent to do harm.

Cross Posted from Good Men Project

It’s hard to feel beautiful at five in the morning.  I sit on the bench in my laundry room gym—I’m not even high class enough to have a garage gym—and perform the ritual.  The liniment goes on my wrists first, the Tiger Balm, then the gauze, the tape, then heavy duty Inzer wraps, since I’m pressing today.  I’m not using a barbell but since I broke my left wrist twice during high school football games, once during a game proper and once during a sideline scuffle with a teammate, it never hurts to take chances.

                I run over the checklist in my mind: good morning message left for the girlfriend on skype, dogs nestled all snug in their beds, term paper on images of domestic violence in the book of Ezekiel turned in on Blackboard, wraps so tight that my fingers feel almost numb but not quite.  Good.  I slip Tori out of her CD case and onto the deck.  Most guys I know, some of them among the strongest in the nation, the world, listen to either thrash metal or gangsta rap while they train.  They say it gets their blood pumping.  This is valid.  I can remember listening to things like Pastor Troy with guys in the fieldhouse or late at night at football camp, or to Slayer with other wrestlers before tournaments, blaring “Raining Blood” between matches.  There’s something tribal about the pounding drums in either of these genres, something that awakens the warrior. That’s cool.  I can’t do it, though. I’m no warrior and I never have been; I’m strongest when Tori whispers, “Trapped in purgatory, a lifeless object alive, awaiting reprisal, death will be their acquisition,” not when Tom barks it, or when she asks, “why do we crucify ourselves every day?”

                My spinal erector muscles, which the cook in me laughingly refers to as my tenderloins, are filled with blood.  I’ve been training strongman style, again, and worked up to a three rep max on front squat last night followed by two sets of eight Hummer tire deadlifts.  The pain in my lower back was sweetly excruciating, then, made me wonder if careers were available as a professional weightlifting masochist, but now it just aches dully and makes me wish I’d popped a few Motrin before bed. Not doing the deadlifts weren’t an option, less weight was not an option. South Carolina’s Strongest Man is soon, then Georgia’s Strongest Man, and in October I want to throw at the Darien Highland Games.  I’m also ravenous but don’t really feel like eating.  Sometimes a hard session late at night makes me queasy, in the morning.  I could never eat early on Saturdays, in high school, and now I can’t if I screw up and lift or sprint (which is more important than one would imagine for strongman, since the events are timed and set at stations apart from one another) too late in the evening.  It doesn’t matter; pressing doesn’t stress me as much as squatting or deadlifting. I can eat afterwards.  A dozen eggs, bacon, coffee, orange juice. 

                There’s a great pleasure into talking to others who are in the know.  A female friend who has competed in the regional Crossfit Games gets it and so do the basketball players from a local college, my undergraduate alma mater, that I meet at the grocery store.  They just got a brand new gas grill, the same make and model as mine, and we talk about the best way to cook a steak, sea salt and cracked black pepper, and make sure to get the grill hot, hot, hot, one thousand degrees Fahrenheit if you can, no less than six hundred.  This is the only way to get the Maillard reaction, to really get the steak you want.  When they ask me, “What do you bench press, man?” I demure and say, “I haven’t bench pressed in years, guys, really, not much.”  It’s pretty much true.  I don’t train for competitive power lifting anymore, right now, and I doubt I could hit ninety percent of my old max without a month or two of hard warming up.  I can push press or power jerk eighty-five percent of it without any trouble, though, even strict press over my considerable body-weight.  I was never a great bencher, anyway, though, not like Shawn Latimer wearing Inzer gear or Big Jim Williams in a white t-shirt.

                I hit three sets of twelve with dumbbells, clean and press.  Since I don’t have a log (that’s a little specialized for a laundry room) this mimics the log clean and press better than anything I can think of.  This is a big, brutish move done with little technique. It makes me feel like a caveman and, like most mornings, I cannot decide if this is a good feeling or a bad one.  As usual I pray the Shema and the Lord’s Prayer between sets.  It calms me, cools me, prepares me for the day. I compose the outline of a sermon, based on linked midrashim, in my head while I balance between the earth and two big hunks of iron.  Multi-tasking is the saving grace of a busy man.

                I don’t tend to get traditional compliments, the way people think about them, very much.  When you’re big, thick and hard enough at the same time to defy certain categories of peoples’ expectations—like bodybuilder, fat guy, athlete—then they don’t know what to say.  I do get compliments on my cooking, on my academic or ministerial achievement, but rarely on my appearance in any way. I do remember something particularly nice that a Fed-Ex guy said to me once, though, on Wrestlemania weekend. He was delivering my rubber bumper plates.  He loaded the tens and fifteens onto a hand-truck to carry them to my door; I racked the thirty-fives, forty-fives and twenty-fives like an Atlas Stone and carried them.  “Man!” he said, “You’re strong as hell!  You must be like a wrestler or something!”

                “Yeah,” I said, not wanting to explain my whole athletic history but feeling pretty good, “I used to wrestle a little bit.”

                “I’m gonna watch Wrestlemania,” he said, “I can’t wait to see Triple H versus the Undertake. Man, you gotta be as strong as Triple H!  Big as Triple H! Maybe stronger!  If he can’t beat the Undertaker maybe you can!”

                “Yeah,” I said, thinking of the Undertaker’s twenty year streak of victories at Wrestlemania and how he could almost represent an indomitable obstacle in any area, “maybe I could, eh?”  We shook hands and took our leave of each other.  I sit at five AM, wrapping my wrists and feeling a little better and more beautiful because a delivery man, for whatever reason, looked at me and believed in me.  The world also seemed a little more beautiful because I had met a grown man who felt that pro-wrestling was on the level.  It was still real to him, dammit, so maybe I could be too.