Shrugged Collective


Summer has its up and downsides. Early morning conditions and quality of life are just about perfect. Everyone and everything is in a relaxed, cool state. There’s the common knowledge that, yes, conditions will soon go fucking nuclear. Why not be cool for a little while longer?

My first recommendation is to live like a big, sexy jungle cat, Baby. Stay up late, run around hard, but still manage to get your ass up at a reasonable hour in the morning. You’ve got shit to create, right? There’s value you have to deliver this world. It’s payment for your borrowed, infinitely powerful, unfathomably rare, beautiful, and subjective consciousness. Reality is reality, emotion is emotion, and we all have our low moments. But you are still that jungle cat, Dear. Why pretend otherwise?

You have no idea how powerful you really are, you just know that it feels really fucking good to dig your bare claws deep into bare wood and stretch. To chase your prey. To smack lips at the site of a sexy, curvy, vicious lady panther. This is the stuff of happiness, and better still, it takes zero voluntary thought. You just do what seems awesome and best, right now.  Just do it before the full heat sets in. It’s hard for anyone to actually look good in the heat, Darling. There’s no need, wait it out.

Around Memphis things are practically baking by noon. The heat requires precautions. Drink up a few $5 dollar bottles of oxygen enriched super water, because, well, hydration comes first. Also, wear a flat-billed cap coupled with branded shades to protect your dome and photon absorbing orbs from the harsh cosmic rays. You know, to protect your skin, and to look really cool and bitchin’ and what not. Better still, just wait until the heat breaks, then get outside and run. Or don’t. Maybe just go for a long walk. Spend an hour sitting quietly on your freshly mowed back lawn to read, imbibe, think it over, align with nature, if only on a small, cultivated scale. It remains one of the best possible uses of your time. Spend an hour sitting quietly on your freshly mowed back lawn to read, imbibe, think it over, align with nature, if only on a small, cultivated scale. It remains one of the best possible uses of your time.

Spend an hour sitting quietly on your freshly mowed back lawn to read, imbibe, think it over, align with nature, if only on a small, cultivated scale. It remains one of the best possible uses of your time.

The heat has clear upsides when dished out in proper doses. If nothing else, getting really hot mobilizes, purifies, and resets the point of view. This is my 34th Memphis summer, so I’m more than qualified to lead you through this visualization exercise. Don’t get nervous, you don’t have to do anything but read. The feeling will happen all on its own.

Right now you are cold, too cold. You’re very stiff, especially throughout your hips and back. These are common symptoms of the keyboard monkey, don’t fret. It happens all the time when you chain an otherwise healthy and vibrant creature to a desk. Imagine yourself pushing away from that big grey desk. You stand, albeit slowly, arching up slowly one vertebrae at a time until your frame is fully erect. You stretch, you breath, you feel at least three inches taller than you did just a few moments ago.

You turn and exit through a very plain, very ordinary door and find yourself in a small yard. For maximal effect, imagine that this is your grandparent’s house, or someplace dear. Reach really far back for a memory from your childhood. The foggier the better. Right there in the middle of that space there’s a dense shade tree, maybe twenty steps from where you stand. You walk, slowly, mindfully. The green grass is shaggy and cool under your feet. The sun presses down and does its thing, which is a nearly orgasmic sensation against your chilled flesh. Tiny pulses of tickling electricity races across every inch of your skin. Above your head and all around leaves rustle with the passing breeze. Cicada’s holler in waves, their crackling screech is unmistakable, unpleasant, and yet, very comforting. Like a lot of unpleasant things in this life, at least they are comfortable.

A few birds are broadcasting half-hearted love calls from the deepest parts of the shaded tree canopy. I can’t fault them at all, it’s a winning, energy saving strategy in time. Sooner or later a tired little sparrow will pass by, fatigued and wilted. She will be vibrant and beautiful, and you might be one lucky son of a bitch bird. Maybe she settle’s on your branch. Let this be my second official recommendation, friend. If nothing else, be clean and polite. That right there will amplify your chances of getting lucky.

If nothing else, be clean and polite. That right there will amplify your chances of getting lucky.

Be careful, because you know how it goes. All pleasures fade, that’s absolutely right. Even canopy love, Sugar. Just as the sun’s warm press begins to feel more like a hot grind you settle down underneath your dense shade tree. The ground is very comfortable, spongy and soft. Sitting with your leg’s crossed just comes naturally. You lean forward, right, left, outward, gently, much further than usual thanks to that intense heat that’s limbering you up now. The stretch feels absolutely amazing, freeing. Your mind slips into a very calm state. You are blending in. Mr. Dass would say you’re in fact right here, right now. The penetrating heat is renewing, it’s intense, and you are now the sweatiest thing I’ve ever seen.

Just as the squirm and discomfort begging to set in, a giant rain cloud pushes through overhead shoving away the heat, rapidly cooling your surroundings and making everything go grey and cool. This is the flip-side of the morning zen. Your world all around breathes a collective sigh of relief and unwinds, exhales, breathes deep. The sharp contrast now makes perfect sense. Everything now shines lush and emerald green as a show of thanks. The first and only thing you manage to notice is that the cool breeze is worth every single second of red hot scorch. You are elated, bubbly and effervescent, fully-present and in general, zen as fuck.

How do you feel? Did you notice the room go cool on you? Maybe, maybe not, but for me just the word “Cloud” is enough. I have a powerful love of shade and overcast skies which reaches all the way back to my football days. At the start of my playing I was a vibrant but lazy fat kid who badly needed a little roughening up. Let me be honest, I never enjoyed playing football. It was often terrible, at times merciless, but it was also necessary and I knew that. The countless, brutally hot August suns must have had a curing effect on my psyche. It toughened me all over, in places big and small – that and the dirt, the weight of the gear, the repeated impact, the deep relationships. It all happened in that heat, I remain thankful for that.

The lessons are endless, but there is one in particular that brims and bubbles with the most blood. It’s also the single most important, transformative experience of my life. We’re out in full daylight here so I might as well share.

I was never much of an athlete. To say I was a football player would be false. I played football, which sounds far more accurate. I’m pretty good at sport, in much the same way that I take to rhythm easily. I love to drum, for instance, but I’m no drummer. I’ve never sacrificed anything for the drums. I’ve never poured myself into them fully, expressing myself through the skins, working the craft, all that, so I wouldn’t dare attach to the tribe. The same thing is true of football. I was never fully there, ever fully committed to it. I think that’s what Big Joey hated so much about me at first. He knew I was faking it.

Joe wasn’t exactly pleasant when I first met him during pre-season training, but I didn’t mind it at all. This is to be expected. Out of a team of 100 dudes, a few are sure to be raging ass-holes. These are just the odds. My misfortune was that the one who happened to hate me was also around 6 foot 4 inches and weighed about 290 pounds. The situation only worsened after a pre-season strength testing session. We were bench pressing with the aim of doing the most possible repetitions with 315 pounds. Yes, I might have been a poser ballplayer, but I was always a pretty good lifter. I managed 15 rep’s, which Big Joey immediately bested with his beastly 17 rep effort. I could tell he really wanted to beat me, and he wasn’t satisfied with the bench press. “Fuck me,” I thought. “I have a feeling this is going to be a very long season.”

The heat and pressure peaked during the start of football camp in August. For three week’s practice was full contact, in the full sun, twice a day. The field was beyond bright, beyond hot, fast-paced, intense, reformative, bruising, and then there was Joey, every day, waiting on me. The worst of it came during the 1/2 team scrimmage drill. Imagine a football field cut in two, starting with the offensive center (that was me). Only the offensive and defensive players to my right were included in the drill. Everyone knew where the action was happening. There was going to be a run to the right, followed my a massive collision that would be observed right up-close by the overly-eager, bizarrely aroused coaching staff. “Let’s see what you boy’s got, alright?!” *Whistle

Joey was lined up directly in front of me as the defensive lineman. Again, we both knew where he was going. His job was to rush the gap, knock me on my ass, then completely demolish the poor bastard holding the ball. Sometimes he would do just that, which hurt on my end. Other times I would win. Maybe he would underestimate me, miss the timing, get cocky, tired, whatever. Maybe I would get the jump, popping him under the chin with my helmet and jamming him in the ribs with my hands. He wasn’t ever hurt by that move, but he sure as hell didn’t appreciate getting officially blocked by a fucking poser.

He wasn’t ever hurt by that move, but he sure as hell didn’t appreciate getting officially blocked by a fucking poser.

In the end this was the far more painful outcome. The play would usually end in a pile-up, and Joey would often throw a few solid punches into my kidneys just to even the score out. So it went.

This was pain, frustration, anger, punishment, forging, hardening, awakening. I could have quit bit didn’t. It wasn’t exactly right, but in hindsight I don’t mind the fuss. By the end of that very long season there was no more punching, no more aggression of any kind really. We just played our best, and we both did alright. That was it, really, until one icy February evening some two months after the season’s end. We were drinking and bullshitting with some of the guys at Joey’s place one evening. After an hour or so everyone was ready to go out to the local bar, the only one that would serve the lot of us, regardless of age. Joey waited back as the rest exited, grabbing me by my right trap meat on top of my shoulder, drawing me in. I wasn’t afraid of what he might do, but at the same time I wouldn’t have been surprised by a quick gut shot for old time’s sake. But that was all uncalled for, needless worry. Once he had my attention he just let me know what was on his mind. “I like you, Sluggo.” That was it. I one that guy over, somehow.

I still didn’t feel like much of a football player, but for better or worse I was no longer a poser in Big Joey’s eyes. I might have started out fake, but at least I was tough, and apparently too dumb and stubborn to take a hint and quit. Let it be known, friend, it does count to be clean and polite. And if you really want to win the respect, find something that strengthen your spirit and be tough in the face of whatever comes your way. The acute heat and pressure is not all that bad, especially when you consider that the reward is far more validating and empowering than anything you could have previously imagine, before the painful parts, before the sun went extra bright on you.

If I might make a final recommendation, don’t worry so much with your discomfort. There is always a contrast. Heat always breaks and gives way to cooler conditions. In much the same way pain, boredom, the bummer vibes, they all break with time. You just have to wait it out. Maybe start this next part by first finding a nice spot in the shade.


Chris Moore is a writer, recovering meathead, fledgling raconteur and rabid imbiber. He's also cohost and resident potty mouth on Barbell Shrugged, a weekly podcast devoted to Crossfit, strength, fitness and all things brash. His experience is drawn from over twenty-years spent training for and competing in American Football, Powerlifting, a bit of strongman and a dash of mixed martial arts. Also, it's possible that he's had one too many cups of coffee. A caffeine fever is a hell of a thing, you know?

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