Monday, September 24, 2018

For a Big Chest, Part One - John McCallum (1969)

Originally Published in This Issue (May, 1969)

Once, not long ago, there was a very skinny young man who lived in a little town on the West Coast. At regular intervals, the young man went to a small commercial gym where he did pushups with religious intensity, gazed for hours into the full length mirror, and dreamed of owning a chest like John Grimek.

Click Pic to Enlarge and 
try to name these men. 

A J.C.G. Odyssey (No.1) or Merely a Mini-Iliad?

The skinny young man stood 5' 9", and weighed 145; and while he, himself, detected a definite resemblance between his chest and John Grimek's, the resemblance was not particularly noticeable to other people. A friend, in fact, had once observed that the young man looked more like Grimek's cat.

The skinny young man was aghast. "His cat!" he cried. "Surely you jest."

"No," his friend said. "Not at all. Actually, I have never seen Grimek or his cat. But," he added, "if there is any resemblance among the group, it is certainly between you and the cat."

Hey, as long as I have your limited and intermittent internet attention, might as well mention a few books. Two Middle Eastern Kafka-esque deals first. Now available in English translations.

Book the first is "The Committee" by Sun' Allah Ibrahim.

Book B is "The Queue" by Basma Abdel Aziz.

This isn't all that well known, isn't Middle Eastern, but some types might like it . . .

"A Happy Death" by Albert Camus. It was discovered in his papers posthumously, written when he was in his twenties, published in '71, and laid some of the foundation for "The Stranger". He realized, upon reading, that A Happy Death was written in the third person. I remember the first person writing of  L'√Čtranger having a great impact on me as a teenager. 

The skinny young man was very disturbed by his friend's observation. He worried about it all night, and the next day, up tight and practically out of sight, he sent in search of further counsel.

He slipped into his cleanest York T-shirt, rattled off eight sets of pushups, and hurried downtown before the pump went away. The young man went to the gym, which was practically deserted this time of day. He gave himself a careful check in the mirror, flexed his lats to their utmost, roared through the office door without knocking, and pounded on the owner's desk.

The gym owner gave a strangled cry and leaped to his feat. His hands clutched convulsively and his fingers shredded the newspaper he was reading. "What? What? What!" he stammered.

Actually, the gym owner's nerves were quite good as a rule, but his wife had just totaled his new Impala and he was having trouble convincing himself that grown men don't cry.

He stood for a moment with his heart hammering in his chest, and then, very gradually, he eased himself back down to his chair and laid his head on the desk. Dear Lord, he thought, preserve us from dingdongs that haven't enough sense to knock on a door.

"Listen!" said the skinny young man. "Do I or do I not have a chest like John Grimek?"

The gym owner closed his eyes. Ooh, he thought, Consolidated Copper's off four cents, my car's wiped out, Mao's massing troops on the border, and this nut's coming on like Twenty Questions. He opened his eyes again and looked at the young man.

"I don't mean exactly like Grimek's," said the young man.

The gym owner cleared his throat. "Well," he said. "There is a resemblance of sorts. You know, bones on the inside, skin on the outside, a certain amount . . ."

"Stop!" said the skinny young man. "Let me ask you a question. Think carefully before you answer." The young man paused dramatically and the gym owner waited. "Who," said the skinny young man, "in your opinion, has the world's shapeliest chest?"

"Sophia Loren," the gym owner said.

"No, no, no," said the skinny young man. "I'm talking about men."

"Well, everyone to their own taste,j I suppose," said the gym owner. "However, it has been my . . ."

"Listen!" said the skinny young man. "You're wasting my time. I want a chest like John Grimek, and I want to know how long it'll take."

"How big is your chest now?" the gym owner asked him.

"Thirty-eight inches."

The gym owner cleared his throat. "Look," he said. "Couldn't you be satisfied with a mustache like Peter Yarrow's? Or maybe a haircut like Mason Williams?"

"No," said the the skinny young man. "I want a chest like John Grimek's, and if I haven't got one I want to know why."

"Perhaps you're doing something wrong," the gym owner said. "What exercises do you use?"

"Pushups," said the skinny young man.

"Pushups?" said the gym owner. "Is that all?"

"Certainly not," said the skinny young man. "I also do bench presses and the flying exercise."

"What about your fib box?" said the gym owner.

"Rib box, schmib box," said the skinny young man. "I want muscle, not bones."

The gym owner put on his most sincere expression. "Look," he said. "Your rib box is vital if you want a chest like Grimek." He racked his brain for a moment. "Suppose you're building a skyscraper," he said. "You put up the steel girders first, don't you? You don't start in on the paint and plaster. You build the framework."

The skinny young man looked at him coldly. "What's that got to do with Grimek's chest?"

The gym owner thought about it for a minute and his face brightened. "Nothing," he said. "It's amazing, isn't it. I've heard that argument a hundred million times and I've never thought about it before. It hasn't a thing to do with Grimek's chest or anybody else's."

"Listen," said the skinny young man. "I'm getting tired of this.
Can you or can you not guarantee me a chest like John Grimek's?"

Good God, Shoot this kid already.

"No," said the gym owner. I shall not shoot the skinny young man and eat him with green eggs and ham. No not with a nice Chianti and fava beans neither, no way-sir. Nobody can guarantee you a chest like Grimek's. I couldn't guarantee you tomorrow will be Thursday." 

"Tomorrow's Wednesday," said the skinny young man. 

"Is it?" said the gym owner. "No wonder I can't guarantee you anything." 
The skinny young man started to deflate and his face got longer.

"There is one thing I can almost guarantee you," the gym owner said. "And that's a big increase in chest size if you want to work at it."

"How much?" said Sam-I-Am, the skinny young man.

"About six inches," said the gym owner. "About six inches in three months if you specialize properly."

"Truly?" said the skinny young man.

"Indubitably. True. Through and through," said the gym owner. "And look that up in your Funk and Wagnall."

The skinny young man brightened a little. "Tell me about it."

"It's a dictionary," said the gym owner. "What's to tell?"

"No, no," said the skinny young man. "I mean about the chest program."

"Oh." The gym owner straightened up in his chair. "Well, it's just a matter of taking things in their proper order," he said. "Grimek's chest is about two feet bigger than yours. You couldn't possibly look like him.

"You've gotta add a lot of size," he said. "And the way to do it is with a progressively graduated program paying special attention to your rib box. You can't build a big chest otherwise. It's impossible."

"Furthermore," he added, "this program will help you gain weight. Grimek weighs around two hundred pounds, you know. You can't expect to look like him if you weigh fifty pounds less."

He got a pencil and paper out of the desk drawer and handed them to the young man. "Here," he said. "Write it down."

"The thing'll take three months," he said, "and you'll change the routine every month. You'll start out basic and end up with a very advanced specialization routine.

For the first month," he said, "you start off with seated presses behind the neck. You do three sets of ten reps with a wide grip in very strict style.

"The second exercise," he said, "is incline dumbbell curls. Three sets of ten and don't work too hard at it.

"Now," he said. "We come to the start of the chest stuff. Take a short rest, and then do one set of breathing squats. Twenty reps and all the weight you can handle.

"Squats are the key to a really big chest," he said "Give it the works. You gotta work up to about one and a half times body weight sooner or later and it might as well be sooner.

Here, McCallum-style 20-reps squatting:
Yes, our McCallum aberration. The act of deviating from the ordinary, usual, or normal type.

A little more about that youthful Camus novel. A Happy Death. There are sections that contain the IT lesser writers spend their lives trying to find . . .

Mersault was leaning against a bookshelf, staring at the sky and the landscape through the white silk curtains . . .

The day was dark, and even without hearing the wind, Mersault could see the trees and branches writhing silently in the little valley. The silence was broken by a milk wagon which trundled down the street past the villa in a tremendous racket of metal cans. Almost immediately the rain turned into a downpour, flooding the windowpanes. All the water like some thick oil on the panes, the faint hollow noise of the horse's hoofs - more audible now than the cart's uproar - the persistent hiss of the rain, this basket case beside the fire, and the silence of the room - everything seemed to have happened before, a dim melancholy past that flooded Mersault's heart the way the  rain had soaked his shoes and the wind had pierced the thin material of his trousers. A few moments before, the falling vapor - neither a mist nor a rain - had washed his face like a light hand and laid bare his dark-circled eyes. Now he stared at the black clouds that kept pouring out of the sky, no sooner blurred than replaced. The creases in his trousers had vanished, and with them the warmth and confidence of a world made for ordinary men .  .

How's 'bout that. Just a kid then, in his early twenties.
It's all there, and at a level very rarely reached by others.

"As soon as you finish the squats," he said, "get a copy of that book, er, NOT YET . . . "do a set of twenty pullovers with a light weight. Stretch your ribs till they hurt.

"Now," he said "take a five minute rest. If you don't need it, then you ain't been working hard enough.

"The next exercise is parallel bar dips. Drop as low as you can and do three sets of twelve reps.

"Then," he said, "you do another set of twenty breathing squats. Only this time you use a lighter weight and concentrate on the breathing.  If body weight on the bar doesn't feel light, you're not ready for a big chest."

This article might give you a clearer idea of the whys and wherefores of lighter, breath-centric squatting:
And here, Roger Eells goes deeper into the subject:
J.C. Hise and T. Bruno get into it here:

"Finish the squats and do another twenty light and stretchy pullovers.

"The next exercise," he continued, "is the one legged power snatch while standing on a balance board. Actually, scratch that and for that matter assassinate the idiot who came up with anything even remotely close to it. Do chins to the back of the neck. Take a wide grip and do three sets of fifteen reps.

"Next," he said, "one set of stiff-legged deadlifts. Use all the weight you can for fifteen reps. Do them standing on a block so you can lower the bar right down to your toes.

"As soon as you finish the deadlifts," he said, "do another set of twenty light pullovers.

"And that," he said, "finishes the program. What do you think of it?"

The skinny young man studied his notes. "I think it looks like a lot of work."

"So what?" said the gym owner. "I never said it'd be easy."

"But it'll give me a chest like Grimek," persisted the skinny young man.

"I didn't say that, either," said the gym owner. "I said you'll gain weight and about six inches in chest size in three months. You still won't look like Grimek. Don't forget," he added, "you've got to learn to walk before you learn to run."

"What," said the skinny young man, "has that got to do with Grimek's chest?"

The gym owner coughed nervously. "Nothing, I guess. Sorry." He took the young man's arm and steered him to the door. "Next month I'll give you step two in the program."

"Why not now?" asked the skinny young man.

The gym owner shook his head. "Too soon," he said. "Remember - Rome wasn't built in a day."

the skinny young man gave him a fishy stare. "And what exactly . . ."

"Forget it," said the gym owner, and he pushed the young man through the door and closed it firmly.

This looks like it could be a real good view around two in the morning,
once the world dies down and goes to sleep. After the noisy hustle/bustle of light-time hacks and all their point-centered endeavors come to a temporary halt.
I really liked this fifteen-episode series, narrated by Mark Cousins. His voice, the way he stresses sounds in his sentences . . . for me that was heaven, eh.
But that's just the icing on the Christmas Eve frost, isn't it . . .
The Story of Film: An Odyssey (Odyssey No. 2!)

Okay, as they say, you can take the ape out of the darkness but
you can't take the darkness outta the ape. Or something equally witty and unrelated.
Here's a great pair of Always Sunny in Philadelphia episodes.
They're from different seasons but I got heap big plenty laughs when I watched them back to back.
Yes. The Wade Boggs record of 70 beers on a cross country flight. It must be beat! Yesh!
Pair it with this episode from Sept. 19th . . . The Gang Beats Boggs: Ladies Reboot:

There's a film out now, you call these action ones "movies" I think . . . as opposed to "film" I suppose.
Duh. Give it a name.
Now, I thought Jodie Foster retired. No matter. Hotel Artemis. That's it. No big deal, really, but Charlie Day, writer/producer/actor in Always Sunny is in this one. There's a strange idea threaded into it, not sure if this has already been done repeatedly in other sorta sci-fi things. A woman makes her big money through killing important people. She is commissioned by the very wealthy to assassinate select folks. gazing into the panicked then fading important type's eyes as they die while she's wearing a pair of implanted recording 'eyes'. That way, the richer-than-simply-rich guys and/or gals can watch and re-watch the life leaving their selected important victims and masturbate to it. Not sure if that's been used in other sci-fi much before.

Here's a book by Bill Cosby that's missing a comma in the title.
Comedy, eh.









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