Dave is a Grumpy Old Man

Right after my oldest daughter was born we moved to East Lake. East lake was originally a working class neighborhood settled largely by World War II and Korean War vets who came home to work in the mills and factories here in Birmingham.

As the nearby airport began to grow in the 70’s and 80’s the demographics changed. As their children grew up, moved out and started lives of their own, many of these original owners moved on, too. The next generation to follow were working class blacks and folks “waiting on a check.”

By 1997 when we moved in the neighborhood was 90% African-American and a large portion of the houses were Section 8 rentals. Our house was sold under Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the only reason we could afford it at the time.

There were a few old, white men left in the neighborhood, remainders of the old guard. Frustrated by what they saw as the decline of their neighborhood, they spent the remainder of their lives bitter and angry.

When Madeline was two we got a dog, a giant, white dog – a Great Pyrenees, named Pearl. Whenever I’d walk Pearl I’d take Madeline with me, strapped to my back in a backpack carrier.

One day Pearl stopped to poop in some old white guy’s front yard. I had learned better by now, having previously been threatened to fight some other old guy’s grandson over this very same infraction. At the moment my attention was elsewhere and now it was too late and this old guy had just stepped outside.

Seeing his scowl I quickly said, “I’m sorry Mister, if you have a bag or something, I’d be happy to clean it up.”

“No, that’s okay,” he growled, “I’ll just clean it up with my shoe like I always do.”

Over the years this story has transitioned from an amusing anecdote to a cautionary tale. I’m beginning to understand this guy more and more.

As I see it this guy bought into a dream and he felt like he’d lived up to his end of the bargain, but times changed and the landscape changed, only he didn’t. In the end he found himself in an alien landscape unable to see his own responsibility in how he got there. All that’s left was impotent anger and frustration.

It’s easy for us to plod along following a map based on how we think things “ought to be” which has no relation to “how they really are.” Our ability to “get where we want to be,” however, is dependent on the accuracy of our map and when the landscape is changing the map quickly becomes useless and we are left to rely on a compass and dead reckoning.

These days the landscape changes so quickly I don’t think any of us can have an accurate map. So, to follow the metaphor we must use our compass. But what do we use? In Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People he talks about timeless, universal principles and how they make for the most useful and sure of compasses.

As I was reading I thought about our unfinished kun. I realized our gym suffers from a lack of direction that comes from this changing landscape and an uncalibrated compass. Earlier in the week this came to me:

This gym is a holy place…Treat it accordingly.

Your body is a holy vessel…Treat it accordingly.

Respect the weights…Heavy is relative.

Respect yourself…Hard is relative.

Live. Grow. Thrive

It’s not perfect, but it’s something. It’s a direction, and where it’s wrong I can correct along the way.

Maybe this way I can avoid ending up angry, bitter and frustrated waiting to cuss young, clueless idiots who let their dogs poop on my lawn.

To our imperfect perfection,


P.S. Another thing I am certain about is my desire to make Agoge Fitness a hub for the dissemination of quality instruction in fitness, both practical and theoretical. Mental Meatheads is a huge step in that direction. Our goal is to return the momentum toward sound fitness practices centered around developing ability, creativity and fun. A revolution is afoot.

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