Jeffrey Goes to the VA, Part 3

As it turns out, Gym Jones isn’t far from my house in Salt Lake and as I expected, the place wasn’t much to look at from the front.  That’s part of the allure, right?  I’ve worked out in some fancy-schmancy places in my life, places where they have live DJs and someone to hand you your towel and cucumber water when you step out of the eucalyptus steam.  I was done with all that.  I wanted some gritty, excruciatingly hard, high-yield pain and this was the place to get it.

I found the facility in a strip mall at 3300 South, 300 East.  (All the addresses in Utah are based on a coordinate system around the Mormon temple in the center of each town.  Creepy huh?)  Speaking of cults, the… oh lighten up!  I do my best most of the time to play nice with the Mormons.  You have to forgive me an occasional jab given how much time and money that organization has spent trying to deny me my civil rights.  So speaking of cults, I was soon to learn that Gym Jones has a very cult-like culture surrounding it.  Incidentally, the address is now on their website so I’m not giving away any secrets.  It’s right there under “contact” along with a note that says “not open to the public, visitors not welcome.”  So I pull up in front of the plane brick building and turned off my truck.  The place looked to be closed and there were no vehicles other than mine in the parking lot.  “Okay God, if this is the next right step for me, you’re going to have to make a way for it to happen.”  In a few minutes a couple of cars pulled up and some young boys got out and started ambling toward the door.  They were dressed like they were ready to sweat.  I reached for the ignition.  I was just on a recon mission, sort of sniffing the place out and I didn’t really feel like talking to anybody.  “Marines and Ducati.  Sounds like somebody I could get along with!”  The woman walking up from behind my truck startled me as she spoke to my open driver’s side window.  (Never walk up behind a Marine.  Especially one who’s been to war.) It was my back window stickers she was talking about.  “What’s going on?” she asked.  “Oh, I’m just curious about the gym.”  “So you found us did you?  Well you stealthy sonofabitch.”  She acted as if I had accomplished some major feat of espionage by finding the gym.  Actually, although the introductory seminars are “invitation only,” I had been invited by the man who answered my email so all I had to do is drive to the address he gave me.  There was no way in hell I could afford the money he asked for.  I knew the very next thing for me to do was to “create” that money and so being outside Gym Jones that day was just an exercise in creative visualization.  The woman struck up a conversation and asked me a few questions.  I told her that I was an honorably discharged Marine, an Iraq vet and that I had allowed myself to get in shit-shape since I came back from Iraq.  I told her that beyond what I hoped Gym Jones could do for me, I felt like it was something that could be useful to veterans who struggled with readjustment.  She agreed.  Then she told me that she owned the gym and that that was part of why she’d gotten involved.  Apparently I wouldn’t be the only OIF/OEF vet working out there.  She indicated that she’d gotten some insight to guys with personalities like mine; military guys, extreme climbers, general alpha males with a type-A bent.  “It kinda keep you guys from putting a gun in your mouth, you know?”  I started to like this lady.  She asked me more about what it’s been like since I got back.  I told her about the play and about the movie.  She told me that she also works in wardrobe for movies.  I told her that I was struggling financially but really wanted to figure out a way to come up with the money.  She gave me her email and said we’d figure something out.  We said goodbye and I left.  I was actually relieved nobody had tried to hard sell me.  I didn’t figure they would.  Part of the whole Gym Jones mystique is that “you gotta be invited and we’d actually be doing you a big favor to let you pay us to come here” thing.  The fact that they call themselves “disciples” was a little bit of an eye-roller for me but hey, I could look past all that.  There was definitely something here for me.  I’m used to being around self-impressed people.  I’m a Marine, after all.  Humility is not our hallmark.

So I went home and went about deciding how the hell I was going to come up with the money and see this goal realized.  As I often do, I prayed and then just got still in meditation and said, “Show me how this happens.”  I flashed back to the conversation I’d had with the woman about how this type of workout environment might be advantageous to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.  I imagined that I would start going there, that I would get all the results I wanted and more.  I thought about how wonderful it would be if the Mehadi Foundation could start sponsoring vets to go there.  On and on like that.  After my period of meditation period, I got up from the cushion and wrote the woman an email that went something like “I’m really interested in working out at Gym Jones but I don’t have the money to start right now.  I do see the usefulness of what you have to offer, not only for me but for other veterans.  I believe that very shortly someone will offer to sponsor a veteran to work out at your gym.  I believe scholarship is intended for me.  Please let me know when this materializes.”  Or something like that.  I didn’t hear anything for a day or two and then she wrote me back.  I tried to find the email just now but I guess it’s gone forever.  She essentially told me that there was no “mysterious stranger” and that I should stop expecting other people to give anything and start relying on myself.  She wished me could luck on my journey (which felt more like a platitude than anything else) and told me to continue it without Gym Jones. W’ll damn.

I’m sure that her response was part of the overall philosophy of Gym Jones. I know that they also try to imbue value with this attitude of exclusivity that permeates everything to do with the place.  (By the way, I’m sure that Gym Jones is very important to those who have found a home there as I have at Crossfit so I’m not talking shit about the place; if it works for you, good.  I’m just talking about my experience.  After all, I at one time thought I desperately too wanted to be a “disciple” as well.) But the lady was pretty straightforward with her rejection of my interest.  I even considered whether it was a test of some sort.  Was I then to sit with my empty rice bowl outside the gate until the Sensei invited me in?  Should I sell my positions, take up my cross and follow the other disciples?  Refuse to leave until they had me arrested? Should I offer to cook and clean for the other followers until I was a decent enough human being to get a real job that could pay the high cost of membership?  I work very hard after all, harder than most people with full-time regular jobs.  But alas my efforts, while they pay richly, do not always pay in cash.

I decided not to over-think her “get lost” and take it to mean “get lost.”  And so I did.  Sometimes the wisdom of the Tao trumps my ego before it’s even had time to resist.  But the seed was planted and I knew that a group workout, high intensity, old-school, kettlebell/Olympic lifting, endurance/strength/agility based training program that demanded more of me than I thought I had—was where I wanted to be.  So I just put it out there in the Universe and let it be.  “Okay, just take me to where you want me to be.”

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