There used to be this little shop on the corner. It was not unlike one of those places found on the corners of neighborhoods all across this great country of ours. It was the local hangout for kids. It was the place to stop by and see what was going on for the grownups. You could get a loaf of bread, pick up the news or get some local gossip, be it juicy or otherwise. It was, in many ways, the center of the neighborhood and the focal point of my young life. Many afternoons, rain or shine, after school or on the weekends, I’d drop in with any spare change I had and spent it on candy and pop, reading comic books for hours at a time. It was my first taste of heroic physiques, as I'm sure it was for many here. Often, my mother would come in here looking for me, bringing me home for supper or bed or whatever. Good times.
Let me tell you, that change didn’t come easily as I’d like. I had to earn it. I'd have to do chores around the house and you could say that I didn’t earn much as I’d prefer to take shortcuts. You know, like sweeping the dust under the proverbial carpet. Yeah, I really tried that. Yeah, it didn’t work. I guess I wanted to spend my free time making trouble outside, not cleaning it up inside. What kid my age didn't? But my mother, she always said that if I was going to do something, I should do it right or not do it at all. She and my father were of like mind on this. Now I was always tempted to walk away from that broom, that dusty room, but I knew better. Her power over the household was different than my father's, but it was a real, palpable power nonetheless. Shit, though she was small in stature and had a sweet face, she was a genuine force to be reckoned with. Her general disposition belied a strong fist and even my father respected that.
Anyway, I went back a few months ago and the building had been boarded up and condemned. They were going to dig a big fucking hole and bulldoze that building right into it. I guess this is what passes for “urban renewal” these days. What a shame. I heard a new convenience store is going to take it's place with bight lights and a fancy hot dog machine. What a fucking shame. There’s history in that old place, real memories that would be swept away. But this is happening all over the place. In this day and age, the same fate has befallen many iron asylums. Though ramshackle and decrepit, many of these old school gyms were vibrant and full of life. They were the center of the universe for fellas like me, like us.
I still remember stories, lore, from some of the gyms from my past. All the stupid shit we did when we were young, trying to lift more than we should, inventing new exercises that didn't make any fucking sense in retrospect, the stunts we pulled on the other members, talking it up with the ladies whenever there was one. We all have experiences. If the walls gyms could talk, they'd all have stories to tell. Through all this, these were the gyms I had trained in. Puked in. Bled in. These are gyms where I’ve spent good time, made history, friends, and memories. The gym is my home away from home.
The gym. My home. That shop. These are all in the past and good times don't come as often or as easily as they once did. Still, many of life's important lessons I've learned spending time in those brick and concrete and wood edifices and others just like it. I wouldn't have it any other way. I've learned the value of work, applying effort and dedication and honesty. I've learned that a shortcut here only makes it harder there to reach your goals in the long run. I've learned to value the downtime and relax, not take things too seriously. I've come to understand the importance of human contact. These are important lessons in the life inside and outside of the gym. Most of all, I've learned that digging a hole is easy. It's what we choose to do with that hole that defines us as men.