Warning: This is an epic blog post. Last weekend was the Boise Idaho Cup Bodybuilding Show. My involvement with bodybuilding shows has lasted thirty years and I decided to retire from it with this particular show. Yes, I began my work with the production company as production assistant in elementary school! It was a feeling of adventure in the early years. Twice a year our small army would invade a local theater in Seattle like the 5th Avenue, Paramount, or Moore, and shoe horn a show into the venue at sprint pace. Over the years the number of shows has expanded and contracted between two and four, now including Boise twice a year. So that's where I was.
One thing I really like about having a small camera is that I can take it on flights in my carry on bag. The two photos of San Francisco below were taken just after a stop in Oakland during my flight to Boise.
Whenever I fly into Boise I notice two things: orderly divided farm land and desert hills. Having lived near large cities most of my life, I would describe Boise as a "town", but in Idaho it's the big city.
One feature of the Fujifilm X-E2S that I've been taking full advantage of is panorama capture. Below are three panoramas of the backstage area at the Idaho Cup. In the first two I'm on stage and circling around from the pump-up cattle holding area (beefcake, right?) to the stage. The third panorama is from the back of the holding area toward the stage stairs.
Working at bodybuilding shows all these years has taught me a couple things: One is how to be calm in the storm and self-meditate when things become chaotic. Bodybuilding shows, or as they're now called, "muscle shows" are a raucous mixture or self-doubt, narcissism, determination, fear, and camaraderie. The Craig's have always positively emphasized that last characteristic; the result being a long standing success in the industry. The backstage environment is always thick with nervous energy. At a certain point in my career I realized that I can choose to mentally step aside from all that and just concentrate on doing my best at what I'm currently working on. No one has complete control, so just let go of the things that are distracting you from doing your best.
Another thing I've learned is to recognize people's energy and either leave them alone or talk to them. There's so much self-doubt in this sport where you volunteer to have your body judged. People who are otherwise reasonable can get mired in it. You typically see two types of looks backstage: a steely gaze of determination and/or experience, and a frightened look of "there's still time to back out." For the latter, I'll remind them this is supposed to be fun (in theory)...smile! The distraction from the strangely non-muscle bound sound guy at least helps momentarily break up their nervous energy. 99.9% of people I've seen in shows over the years deserved to be on stage. I've been a competitive athlete and can sympathize with that feeling of not feeling prepared enough. Just go forward. Everyone figures things out as they go.
The stage is where doubt gets hidden. If you can't fully embody a persona, just fake it - like everyone else. Notice the women in the photo below? When they have their back to the judges, you see what's really going on in their minds. Then when they turn to face the audience, there's the smile of confidence. It's amazing how quickly the transformation takes place. Everyone works this way to varying degrees.
shows have always ended with Brad and Elaine taking everyone out for a Craig Productions family meal after wards. In the early Seattle years we always landed at Tai Tung's in Seattle's Asian District. They had the best soup and a huge Lazy-Susan that our impressive amount of late night Chinese food landed on. Just writing this makes me hungry for their soup and sweet and sour pork again. Whether it was muscle competitors or crew, Brad and Elaine always made their efforts about building community.
Not to diverge too much, but what I learned from this is that I value both sleep and eating enough. In the 90's I would come home from shows and sleep the entire next day. Shows were always difficult when it came to eating enough, so I learned to be self sufficient. It's fun hanging out with crew, but I can't do my best work on little to no sleep and no nutrition - especially in a job that required laser-focused concentration.
There were two shows at the Everett Civic Auditorium that I remember as strong examples. Just before one show I was laid off from my job and that was on my mind the entire show. In the other show I had just flown back from Italy and was jet-lagged. In both instances I knew I wasn't in the right mental zone to stay focused. In the former case I needed to compartmentalize my focus - concentrate on what I can do correctly, now. That's something I recognize and practice to this day. In the latter case, I actually fell asleep while playing back music and woke up just in time to turn it off (barely)! Good, deep sleep is your friend. I was determined to get enough sleep during a show after that incident, so Imostly bowed out of pre, mid, and post-show extraneous activities.
Instead of heading straight home, I decided to stop by Seattle to see mom and have a early combined Thanksgiving/Christmas visit. We met a couple friends at Portage Bay for brunch, which turned out to be a bad experience. The restaurant was rock concert loud and our reservation at 11:45 only got us on the wait list at 11:45. About 45 minutes later we finally got a table, only to have two of our orders messed up - and it was mediocre food at that. So it's not a place I plan to visit again unless they change. Seattle is a brunch city. There are hundreds of alternatives that don't require ear plugs.
Through the years I've learned to appreciate the time I have to visit with my mom and the opportunities Brad and Elaine have given me to do so. Right before one of the shows in 2009 my grandpa died. Brad was flying me through Portland so I could visit with him before continuing on to Seattle to work his show. I clearly remember having to email Brad to tell him to re-book my flight because there wasn't a reason to fly to Portland any longer. It hit home that someday that would be true for my mom, aunt, and other people I knew in Seattle as well. Time gets shorter every year.
My stay in Seattle was mostly sunny and comfortably warm, but it rained the day I left from SeaTac. If you believe in a connected universe, maybe the weather reflected my feeling of loss for leaving Seattle and also leaving thirty years of work behind by getting on a plane. In the airport I found myself pacing up and down the jet way to avoid a moment for reflection. It just seemed too soon. During the flight I couldn't help but take a few more landscape photos somewhere over northern California. It's now heading into winter and snow on the hill tops were indicative of such.
So,...that's it. If you're still reading - congratulations on your fortitude. More travel photos to come.