Muscle BeachI like to work out at the Muscle Beach in Venice when I'm in LA. It's ground zero for the bodybuilding scene that spawned California's current Governator. Mostly I enjoy it because I like lifting weights but hate being in the gym, so it's nice to get a bit of fresh air and sunshine. As an added bonus, it is the most ridiculous thing that I can think of.
When I'm there, one of these kids is not like the others, if you get my drift. A balding nerd in blast-shield orthopedic sunglasses and jeans, surrounded by glistening muscle-heads talking about a "good pump."
Doing something ridiculous in all seriousness is really, really good for you. True strength comes from repeatedly, demonstrably not caring about what other people think. Once you can do that, the world is yours, man, for real. Doing something "as a joke" doesn't count, either. If you're doing something as a joke, you're still doing it -- just give in and be part of the parade.
Getting outside my comfort zone is pretty much my favorite thing to do. I never feel like I belong, even when I'm surrounded by friends and family ... that's my paradox. Being on my own in a new, strange situation is both comfortable and invigorating, and man, you meet the most fascinating people.
So I'm there, just me, some average schlub with a peanut butter wetsuit underneath his t-shirt and jeans, surrounded by all these glistening, pumping maniacs, most of whom are incredibly friendly. The vibe I got, totally not the one I expected, was that if you're here and working, welcome aboard. This one bodybuilder in a zebra-striped loincloth was the friendliest guy I'd ever met in any gym situation.
He spotted me, helped me rack plates, made a little chit-chat, and posed for photos for a phalanx of Japanese tourists every time they asked. Every time he got close to me, they put their cameras down and waited politely until he was done with the average guy that would have ruined their photo. Once he moved away from me, it was click city.
Here he is:
"They're shooting some movie or something over by the paddleball courts, man," he said. "I hate that shit. If you look, you'll see a trailer or something that they keep all the people who think they're better than us in. They call those people 'talent' around here, but I ain't sure what they're talented at exactly except maybe sitting around. Yeah, you can take my picture."
He gave me his best muscle pose:
"Seriously, bro, what happens is when those guys are on break, a couple photographers scurry over here and take pictures when you're not looking. Then next thing you know, your photo's in a magazine somewhere and you're not getting a dime for it, 'cause once they're gone, how are you gonna know, you know? It pisses me off something serious. I just get here, listen to death metal as loud as i can, do my thing and go home, know what I mean?"
With that, he turned and walked away ...
Conversations like that CAN'T happen when you stay inside your bubble.