GONE, NOT FORGOTTEN, AND SO GRATEFUL...

  • MuscleComeBac...

    Posts: 2376

    Jan 22, 2011 11:50 PM GMT
    First, I want to say that I really, most sincerely appreciate all the kindness and support and encouragement of everyone who has sent notes. MOTD is one thing, but feeling connected and acknowledged is something else altogether.

    This post is for a friend, though, someone who is gone. He is one of the biggest driving motivators in my last year's journey, and in the continuation of that journey from here to the finish of me. He was a straight pal, a casual friend, actually. His name was Steve Stone.

    Steve, some of you may know, was at one time a moderator on ESPN2 sports broadcasts of regional and national bodybuilding competitions. He co-hosted with Tom Terwilliger. Steve was also the show runner for IFBB events including the Olympia. Steve died backstage at the Olympia, in fact, two years ago, from an aneurysm. He had had some issues prior to that night, and he was found toward the end of the night in a service area. He knew he was having an attack, wouldn't survive it, and didn't want to disrupt things so he went off someplace away from the din and the crowd.

    The reason I bring him up is that I never really belonged to a community of jocks or competitors, athletes or athletic guys until I was in my early 30's. I got very serious about bodybuilding for the first time in 1992. I was 33. Steve was a trainer at gym on the upper east side of Manhattan called Pumping Iron (now EDGE gym, owned and operated by a kick-ass trainer and hell of a great guy named Denis Barry who at the time was also a trainer and competitive bodybuilder at Pumping Iron). I'd been in a few gyms, off and on, but never made a serious commitment to training until that year. It was a seriously different space, a very different atmosphere than the health clubs and franchise box gyms I'd been in and out of for general 'fitness' over the last ten years. This was not a 'club', this was a gym. Period. And I was determined to meet it with the same spirit. But I was a whopping 114 lbs when I arrived. I couldn't afford a trainer, so I was on my own, and my plan was based on Arnold's Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding. I walked in with it and a journal tucked under one arm (adding another six pounds to my existence) and sat down and started. Steve was there, and I was immediately intimidated, thunderstruck and crushing. What a dweeb! LOL But he smiled, nodded, observed over the next few weeks. About a month into this he came over one day and said "hey, your form is incredible, man. Good job." And went about his work with another client. He asked my name, introduced himself, and never 'sold' me on his services or anything else. Just a general sort of welcome that was essentially an open door into a club from which I'd always felt excluded. Two years later, when I was an impressive (ha!) 131 lbs I started to diet down and lean out to compete in Gay Games in NYC in physique as a Bantam. In that time, Steve and Denis and all the other regulars became a kind of pack that watched me from the sidelines and nodded encouragement and spotted me on occasion and asked if I was training for competition one day - not mockingly, but seriously. So I said what my plan was, and Stone said "cool. So, how does that work?" I showed him my paperwork, the schedule for pre-judging, evening show, etc. and then went on about my business.
    On the morning of weigh-in, I was in the gym for a final workout but didn't see Steve. His wife was there, she was training, and she said "hey, isn't your pre-judging today? Good luck." Steve had told her, which caught me by surprise. And then, when it came time for Bantam class to step out for judging in the hotel ballroom in midtown, of all the dozens and dozens of friends and colleagues whom I'd invited to be there for at least a little moral support, there was my exboyfriend, and Steve Stone. And Steve was like a friggin' one-man crowd. AND that same voice was there in the theatre at MSG that night when I made my lonely walk out with the rest of the pack - on and off for a moment of visibility and then ...done.

    Years later, when I faltered on this path, and had eight long, painful years of thinking I was wrongly obsessed with this training, that guys I had dated and my then partner were right that it wasn't healthy, and drank that cool-aid of self-doubt and almost gave up, I kept thinking about how damned disappointed Steve would be in me. His last words my last day at the gym in NYC before I moved to LA were "Keep the faith, Rhett, and get back into competition. One is not enough! I believe in you man!" I saw him a few years later at the North American Championships and greeted me like a lost friend, asked about my training, and said to the people he was with "best form, hardest working guy I've ever seen - one day!" pointing to the dais. I laughed and wished him well and sat down.

    So when I finally got back in the gym, and finally came home to something so profoundly important to me that it feels like oxygen, I kept thinking that I needed to call up to NYC or write a note to Steve, and tell him about my journey, and my 'comeback' and how much he played a role in keeping that voice from dying out completely. I never did. I never did...It was March of last year when I was there, discovered the newly owned "Edge" and went for a workout. Dennis didn't recognize me at first. I met him at the door at 5 a.m. He did remember, and I started to ask about Steve when he told me. We both cried. In fact, I cried through the whole damn workout, and I pushed up a couple of (then) personal bests and thought how much I owed that moment to the simple, non-judgmental, honestly encouraging support - one man to another man - that Steve Stone taught me. He had been gone for some time, almost a year before I found my way back home. And I know there are some who'll find this a fantasy, and I respect that point of view, I do - but I KNOW that Steve Stone sent me my trainer. They share a great deal in common, and I thought that the first day I met him and hired him. Even if theism is not in your vocabulary, I think you could understand that a well anchored connection with a good man made it possible for me to see the same in another equally good man.

    Regardless, Real Jock is my Steve Stone multiplied. It is closer to my heart because it's gay men supporting other gay men, and striving to be better and stay connected so something that matters. Not always bodybuilding, but always something essentially personal that plays some role in defining us as men. And I know there are those who will parse the gender specificity of that, but allow me that much, today at least.

    You are, all of you, the inspiring well I come to because we belong. No judgement, no expectation other than honesty and respect. We falter enroute, but in the end - we are here for each other in a way that works, and it is so much more sacred than you might think. I promise you. This is a very different place.

    And I lift every day for me, for you - truly, for you - and for my friend Steve Stone. No matter who you love, you are a man first. One day, the rest of the pack will get that. Until then, we are here.

    I love you all. Thank you for today.
    xo
    Rhett
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    Jan 23, 2011 12:23 AM GMT
    Thank you for posting such a wonderful tribute to a person who meant so much to you. I enjoyed it immensely
  • creature

    Posts: 5197

    Jan 23, 2011 12:26 AM GMT
    Thank you for sharing this story, MuscleComeBack.

    It really goes to show just what a kind word and a gesture of goodwill can do. I'm glad that you are able to meet guys like Steve Stone and those on Real Jock who provide encouragement, rather than be dismissive for trivial nonsense.

    Just as Steve Stone and the members here at Real Jock have served as your inspiration, I am confident that your transformation and your good character will in turn inspire others. In fact, I'm confident to say that it already has.
  • mizu5

    Posts: 2599

    Jan 23, 2011 12:45 AM GMT
    That was beautifully written.
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    Jan 23, 2011 1:23 AM GMT
    Rhett,
    You are a poet and an inspiration in your own right. You are a kind and gentle soul, with the "eye of the tiger".......
    Truly , your "cosmic mentor" has been watching you and sending what you need, when you need it....you are a lucky man to be aware enough to recognize the "blessing" and take it as it is intended....my condolences on the loss of Steve Stone, he sounds like one of a kind...but it may almost be an "Obi wan Ken obi (al la StarWars)"moment, that he became more powerful in your life after he passed...
    Hold on to your Fire, keep it burning bright, because you have been "down" before and you are now getting to the top! ENJOY the view, along with the envy and accolades!...You worked your ass off! .....Couldn't happen to a nicer guy!
    Big Bear HUGS!
    Sincerely,
    Gary...aka Sporty_G
    PS:...OK "MR Muscles"...are you coming to Columbus in about 6 weeks for the Arnold Expo?icon_biggrin.gif
  • ShanksE

    Posts: 263

    Jan 23, 2011 2:10 AM GMT
    Inspirational. Wonderful. Thanks for sharing this. icon_smile.gif
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    Jan 23, 2011 3:07 AM GMT
    amazing story .. thanks for sharing man icon_smile.gif
  • mybud

    Posts: 11837

    Jan 23, 2011 3:20 AM GMT
    Your bring dignity to this site...MOTD was well deserved...Love and respect....Steven...aka...BUD
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    Jan 23, 2011 3:25 AM GMT
    Whew! Wonderful read. Thanks for sharing this, and having such great things to say about our argumentative little community on here!

    -Doug and Bill
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    Jan 23, 2011 3:40 AM GMT
    Personally, I am not much into public displays of piety. I think I threw up in my mouth a little. And whatever you do, dont be lifting weights for my sake. Jesus! It was only MOTD, not the Mother Theresa International Humanitarian Award! .... icon_rolleyes.gif
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    Jan 23, 2011 3:46 AM GMT
    What a great story. Although he has passed, it seems he is still with you and still providing you with inspiration in life.

    Rhett, you really have a talent for putting you life experiences to word. Do you or have you ever thought of putting it to paper so more than just us on real jock can enjoy it?
  • MuscleComeBac...

    Posts: 2376

    Jan 23, 2011 4:02 AM GMT
    Caslon17000 saidPersonally, I am not much into public displays of piety. I think I threw up in my mouth a little. And whatever you do, dont be lifting weights for my sake. Jesus! It was only MOTD, not the Mother Theresa International Humanitarian Award! .... icon_rolleyes.gif


    Touche, babe. Duly noted. I will stop worshiping you publicly, but I retain the right to private devotionals between sets, as you were my very first RealJock email exchange, in which I said you were a hero to me for all that you'd been through, and you wrote back some very lovely and encouraging words that I still think of. So, all to myself from now on. Sorry, David. Truly.
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    Jan 23, 2011 6:12 AM GMT
    ..MuscleComeBack, thanks for demonstrating just now something we love about you, very much so.

    xo -us
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    Jan 23, 2011 6:26 AM GMT
    A beautiful tribute. Your friend would be proud of you of what you were able to accomplish.
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    Jan 23, 2011 6:29 AM GMT
    Thank you, Rhett, for one of the most inspiring stories/tributes I have ever read. You sir are not only the quintessential MOTD, I would venture to say that by the end of the year (and yes, RJ does keep a tally), you will seen and chosen as Man of the Year.

    As for the only negative post in this thread, much ado about nothing as others including myself once admired him for his journey that he came through with flying and inspirational colors. I no longer view him as that simply because of what he just wrote which is only an example of the tone of the majority of his posts lately.

    Again, Rhett, truly an inspiration you are as I was talking with a couple of friends about you today who then decided it was time for them to get back to the gym. You are now their virual Steve of sorts. Keep it up! icon_biggrin.gif
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    Jan 23, 2011 8:09 AM GMT
    Such a beautiful and moving tribute ....
    Sir , your kind words bring warmth to our hearts...icon_biggrin.gif
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    Jan 23, 2011 8:15 AM GMT
    MuscleCameBack...because muscle memory just couldn't forget what a wonderful person you are. <3 icon_biggrin.gif
  • coolarmydude

    Posts: 9190

    Jan 23, 2011 8:18 AM GMT
    Caslon17000 saidPersonally, I am not much into public displays of piety. I think I threw up in my mouth a little. And whatever you do, dont be lifting weights for my sake. Jesus! It was only MOTD, not the Mother Theresa International Humanitarian Award! .... icon_rolleyes.gif


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    Jan 23, 2011 1:18 PM GMT
    MuscleComeBack said
    Caslon17000 saidPersonally, I am not much into public displays of piety. I think I threw up in my mouth a little. And whatever you do, dont be lifting weights for my sake. Jesus! It was only MOTD, not the Mother Theresa International Humanitarian Award! .... icon_rolleyes.gif


    Touche, babe. Duly noted. I will stop worshiping you publicly, but I retain the right to private devotionals between sets, as you were my very first RealJock email exchange, in which I said you were a hero to me for all that you'd been through, and you wrote back some very lovely and encouraging words that I still think of. So, all to myself from now on. Sorry, David. Truly.

    I have no memory of you or any email. Glad you liked it. Hope it helped. And I prefer to have my pseudosym used in the threads.
  • nomadfornow

    Posts: 1069

    Jan 24, 2011 1:55 AM GMT
    Rhett --

    I would like to thank you publicly for being a big inspiration to me... not merely for your example of dedication and hard work in the gym (an amazing transformation!), but for your insight, your empathy, and the way you carry yourself. You're a class act in all respects. No doubt your friend Steve would be very proud of your accomplishments. Continued success to you, sir, and congratulations!