In an odd way, I felt a simpatico with the Muscle Beach denizens. When I’d first moved to L.A. and had more time on my hands, I’d fancied myself a potential bodybuilder. I joined the I.F.B.B. – the International Federation of Bodybuilders - which entitled me to not much except a ton of flyers and newsletters encouraging me to attend or participate in competitions, all of which offered the prospect of winning a title, such as Mr. San Luis Obispo.
I also joined the famous Gold’s Gym, which had gotten its start in a little storefront in Santa Monica and was rapidly morphing into a major “health club” chain nationwide. Southern California was the mother ship for entrepreneur Joe Gold’s enterprise and his gyms there attracted some of the biggest names in the game. Among its alumni were Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbo and Lou Ferrigno.
Naturally, all of the other guys were lifting Herculean amounts of iron, while I was doing my best just to keep one step ahead of some of the female body builders. One day, I was working very hard at the bench press, which was one of my best and favorite stations. A guy I’d never seen there before had offered to spot me, and he looked as if he knew what he was doing. So, I took a deep breath, added 20 pounds to my personal best and hoisted 330 pounds – twice. He tried to urge me on to a third rep, but I was finished.
When I sat up and cleared the bench, he slapped me on the back and slammed two more 45 pound plates onto the bar before pumping out eight good reps without breaking a sweat. At that moment, it became clear to me that I was way out of my league. I joined the “Y” where I could exorcise my adrenaline on simple machines like the Nautilus and still maintain a passable physique.
My Muscle Beach reverie was interrupted by a soft voice that inquired, “Do you mind if I take that seat?” I was on a bench just outside the fencing and had plunked my little carry-all bag next to me, taking up a space. I looked up to see a gorgeous woman who looked to be in her late 20s or early 30s. Blonde – natch – wearing short shorts, flip flops and a tube top that looked as if it had been sprayed on.
“Be my guest,” I offered gallantly, moving my bag to the ground.
She lifted her dark, wrap-around sunglasses to expose a pair of green eyes that would have put emeralds to shame. “Sorry to impose. I don’t get down to the beach as much as I’d like these days, and I always enjoy spending a little time watching the ‘show’ at Muscle Beach.”
I considered regaling this other-worldly creature with my own career as a body-builder, but quickly decided that there were many other ways in which I could go right ahead and make a complete fool of myself.
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