Chad is an amzing guy, about five years older than we are, who seems to have some sort of private income such that he can spend his entire life creating and maintaining the perfect gym for a select number of friends. It has always been a somewhat secretive organisation, with the need for an existing member to introduce you and for you to demonstrate a strong commitment to the art of the workout and to the other sports and activities which the gym entertains. And then, just to make absolutely sure you’re really the ‘type of guy’ he wants, there is an initiation ceremony.
Why all this? Basically, because it’s Chad’s gym and he does things his way. It is exceedingly gay-friendly, and tolerates behaviour related to (shall we say) ‘letting off steam’ which would certainly not be acceptable in a mixed/public environment. Straight guys are welcome, and even a couple of honorary boys (aka girls) who are 100% tolerant of this male hormone-rich environment. So there’s an age limit too. Initially Dave and I were allowed to breach that (just); very recently, Chad has very kindly set aside certain times of day during the week when select under-18s can get to use the equipment. This includes my son Leo, his best friend Chris, and Chris’s mid-teen award-winning bodybuilding brother Billy.
When we joined there was a mountain of free weights and bars/benches, but no specialist equipment. That all changed after a couple of years, and he now has the most impressive collection of machines (I should imagine) in the State of Tennessee. Of course, the free weights are still exceedingly valuable tools.
All ‘his’ guys are expected to be into weights to support their own particular amibitions, which might be wrestling, some kind of martial arts, acrobatic activity, tyro bodybuilding, matching up for endurance challenges, and so forth. Each to their own – or to all the lot if you want, although acrobatics and tyro building don’t exactly go together. He even sets goals in the form of levels of membership: after many years, Dave and I and a number of our mates are now ‘ultimate’. How we got there is a long story and unfolds in the two books mentioned above and in the one to follow early in 2013 (right).
Chad is perhaps the ultimate ‘gym rat’ of the entire exclusive membership. He lives in a rather luxurious penthouse he has created within his gym, has one-way mirrors to observe what is going on and extensive TV surveillance too. Nothing covert about that, nor sinister. That TV surveillance occasionally comes in very handy, especially on the odd occasions when the gym itself has been the focus on welcome attentions from outside, including a fire-bombing! (Yeah, see the books again). Two of our dearest friends, Zach and Gary, have recently moved into a second flat within the building after long-term resident photographers and video makers (and our ‘agents’) Ed and Ryan moved on to pastures new. So, whilst Dave and I have now and again been Chad’s overnight guests, we now have more frequent invitations! All Tuan Jie colleagues (totalling ten of us at present) have sworn faithfulness within the group and, whilst we each have that special someone, we share our love willingly and freely. With Chad, therefore, there is a particular limit, clearly understood by him as well as us, that we do not do penetration. Not even with protection. Just between the ten.
Chad works out ferociously, and often at dead of night. Some time after midnight seems to be his time: nothing sinister about it, he just seems to like to sleep through the mornings when the gym is quite with most of the guys working elsewhere (for money!). Leading by example, he has an amazing body which he frequently pushes to the limit on his some of his ‘challenge’ toys – beds of nails or glass or swords being some obvious examples. Naturally, he is ‘ultimate’ too.
He is also one of the kindest guys we know, and in response to our (then) young efforts at promoting acrobatics within the local High School when Dave and I did a final year there after arriving from Engliand, he created a secondary mini-Man.Power (as he calls the main place) in which kids can be taught the acrobatic arts without having them exposed to the rather homo-erotic environment of the main gym. Equally, since a lot of the guys like the freedom to work out naked in the main place, especially for wrestling and stuff, one wouldn’t want the kids in that environment either. So everything proceeds with due propriety.
That’s not say there haven’t been a few “issues” with the locals over the years. Man.Power very much keeps itself to itself, located out of the way on an industrial area and accessible only by the members (except for the Man.Power.2 satellite I mentioned earlier). The first issue was homophobic guys figuring out its existence and wanting ‘in’; we also from that developed issues with the local authorities (who demanded taxes relating to the buildilng and to the fact that it had permanent residents) and then with the local church – until two more things happened. The first of those was “9/11”. One day after that unbelievable catastrophic event, as some of us returned from a performance tour, we found the Baptist minister in our presence conducting at Chad’s invitation a moving memorial to those whose lives were lost, and then reporting back to his somewhat sceptical congregation in his church that we were not as bad a set of people as rumour would have it believed. Later, when the life of one of our members was in danger, but then was finally restored to us through a process which definitely involved faith if not exactly religion, the same minister was warmly welcomed back to celebrate the return to near-100% normality of our dear friend and to give thanks for the skills and wisdom of Scottish surgeons and doctors. (Yeah, see the books again!).
So, thanks in no small measure to Chad and his loving benevolence and friendship, the motto on the left can apply to everyone in his gym – not just the 75% or so gay fraternity. We are proud to have each other’s friendship in that special place, to support one another both physically through the training and pyschologically through any troubles anyone encounters. The only reward he expects (apart from a very reasonable annual fee to keep the place in good shape) is dedication to training from all, and occasional help with keeping the place ship-shape – jobs like cleaning up the oil after oil wrestling bouts. He even has his own laundry for the copious supply of towels we get through!
You might say that Chad’s Man.Power is a ‘jock’s’ paradise. We certainly think it is!
OK. I think I finally cracked how to use the ‘new, improved??’ Wordpress upload page, and these pictures should have come out the size I intended. Eventually. Thanks to one of their ‘happiness engineers’ (don’t you just love that?) who has helped a little, although I finally figured out myself that leaving an upload box highlighted, even when the correct choice is showing, is a fatal error. And, sometimes, if they come out wrong, you can ‘wake up’ the system by clicking around all the options for a while and then selecting the one you really wanted. Daft, but….. So now we can move back to offering the welcome