The Holly Inn
I was 16 years old. I sat with my father at our favorite table at the Holly Inn Mexican Restaurant, a Denver institution since that 1960s. During this period my father and I ate at the Holly Inn as often as 5 nights per week. Some of the best memories I have with my dad are conversations we had over dinner there. On this night though, it was to be another what are you going to do with your life talk. Or maybe it was to be another what you are going to do with your life talk. I don’t recall.
What I do recall, quite clearly, is that as I was eating my Tacorito, with my puffy teenage arms abusing the sleeves of my knit shirt, I used a false confidence to hold back my fears and uncertainties of life from my father, and I uttered the following sentence to him,
“I’m going to be the Beatles of exercise.”
When he was finished chuckling, he suggested something about the military, or possibly law school. When I was finished chuckling, we reduced ourselves back to small talk – perhaps about the most recent episode of our favorite show, M*A*S*H, and enjoyed our nightly meal and some laughs.
As it turned out that there was already a “Beatles of exercise”, Jack LaLanne. But unlike the Beatles, Jack’s heyday was already fading. Arnold Schwarzenegger though, was about to become The Rolling Stones, The Who, and the Led Zeppelin of exercise, all rolled into one. Who was I to rain on his parade…
A couple of years later I was earning $2.65 per hour as an “Instructor” for Nautilus Fitness Centers. When I wasn’t “instructing” I was cleaning toilets and mopping floors. Maybe the military wouldn’t be so bad…
Gulfport, Mississippi, 1985. I was proudly serving in the United States Coast Guard – cleaning toilets and mopping floors for the equivalent of $1.23 per hour. Maybe being an “Instructor” in a gym wouldn’t be so bad…
The sound of a good garage band…
My other passion in life, beyond exercise, is music. I love music of all kinds. The music I most identify with is the good old American garage band. Old tube amplifiers offering filthy sounds, odd guitar tunings, faulty gear, voices that are less than perfect, fist fights, broken strings, a plastic cup full of Jim Beam on a Marshall amp, and all the energy that comes with it. That, that is my definition of a garage band. I would much rather pay money to see a really good garage band, than I would to see The Stones.
Most garage bands never get signed though. They may play together for a few months or a few years, but they eventually they get tired, frustrated, angry, or all of the above and break up. They grow older, move on to other things, different career paths, and families. Deep down though, they are always musicians with a rock and roll dream.
Even without a band, a musician will often keep on playing. Maybe at night, after a long day in the office, he’ll head down to his basement after his kids are asleep, plug in his guitar, put on the headphones, and just play. Rock and roll dreams die hard. Then one day the phone rings,
“Dude, let’s get the band back together! I think we can get a gig…”
Suddenly, being a project manager for a technology company seems far less important than loading amps into a minivan after a smoky gig at the local pub at 2 O’clock in the morning. The dream lives.
Rock and roll dreams…
Some garage bands never breakup, nor do they ever break. They just accept their lot in life – the career path of gigging for food. It’s just who they are. They build up a nice following, travel from town to town, sell their shirts and CDs for a meager price, and smile most of the time. Their fans think they’re better than the The Stones. They make enough money to pay their bills. They live the dream daily, if only on a much smaller scale. They enjoy the freedom of creativity without the burden of the money, the fame, and all that creative restraints that go with it. If nothing else, they are organic. Most musicians I know who fall into this category work very hard at it, but it’s a labor of love.
I’m not talking about a band though am I…? I’m talking about a solo act, and a fitness trainer at that. I never became the Beatles of exercise. I have though, maintained myself as pretty good garage band of exercise. I have my following, and they would rather pay to work with me than they would with Jillian Michaels. I have my platform, this blog. I even have fans on my Facebook and on my youtube pages – by the dozens. I work very hard it, but it’s a labor of love.
When I step back and look at my life; from my training studio, to the scribblings of my blog, to my youtube channel, it is all very very garage. Low production value, with unlimited artistic freedom is my happy place. The older I get, the more I’m okay with being a really good garage band of exercise. It is who I am – organic.
In my quietest moments, I may still occasionally dream of being the Beatles of exercise, but I wouldn’t change a thing about how my life has unfolded. Now it’s off to write that book and see if I can sell a couple dozen. Will train for food. … Be well. rc
I would like to offer a very special shout-out this week to my friend, Douglas Towne, who I have known since we were kids. Nobody has consistently championed my writing and encouraged me more than Doug. Doug’s writings of the Old Southwest can be seen in Phoenix Magazine, The New Times, and Society For Commercial Archeology. Thank you very much for your encouragement my friend!
Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I press the “stop” button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there is this from Eric Clapton. Enjoy…