I was in Redondo Beach for a 60th birthday party. Life moves in waves. One day, weddings and the next, 60th birthday parties. Both are rich.
Before the dinner, I took a walk on the beach toward Palos Verdes. On the way, I noticed a set of pull-up bars where the sand met the bike path. Three young men were taking turns doing pull-ups. The workout looked organized, intense and good-spirited. They were shirtless and milking it.
‘Look at me.” “Try this.” “Is that all you’ve got?”
I don’t know if that was what they were saying, but that’s what guys say. Men can’t help themselves. Men are boys looking for reasons to play and they don’t have to look far.
The trio made the pull-ups look fun, which wasn’t easy because pull-ups are not fun. Pull-ups are the truth. Black and white. No gray in which to hide.
On the way back, I was tempted. I do pull-ups. Or what would be loosely defined as pull-ups. I’m not sure that if a pull-up saw my pull-ups, that it would recognize mine as part of the pull-up family.
Although the pull-up bar was public, these guys were buddies. They were having fun. They may not have been looking for more buddies and more fun.
“Do you mind if I join in?” I asked, after walking through the soft sand to the bars.
They smiled, waved me into the circle and pointed to the bar. I think they were curious. They knew pull-ups were unforgiving and called all bluffs.
Pull-ups don’t do themselves. Nor do they get easier by standing underneath the bar and looking up. All this does is make the bar seem farther and farther away.
I jumped and grabbed the warm, steel bar, looked over the ocean — blue with whitecaps and and streaked with windsurfers harnessing the afternoon wind — and focused on keeping my hands firm and my body still.
The last thing you want to do, especially when an audience is grading your performance, is to kick like a man being hung for stealing a horse.
I did five pull-ups and dropped to the sand. I’m sure I thought the pull-ups were better than they were, but the 20-something guys flashed me a smile.
“I am glad you did that,” said the dark-haired one. “People tell us all the time that when you’re old, you won’t be able to do pull-ups anymore. Thank you for proving them wrong.”
“When you’re old.” I’ve been hearing that a lot lately. Given the frequency with which people say it, I should be used to it by now, but it always surprises me because I wonder if there is somebody behind me for whose presence has not been accounted.
I laughed. What else are you going to do? I was with the boys and when you’re with the boys you have to be able to take your medicine.
They did another set. I did too. We played for awhile because that’s what boys do.
“You know Clint Eastwood still does pull-ups and he is close to 80,” I said.
“I thought you might be Clint Eastwood,” said one of the guys.
I wasn’t sure that was a compliment or not. Clint had 20 years on me. He’s rich, talented and a great filmmaker, but 20 years is 20 years.
Fifteen minutes later I was done. We said goodbye and fist-bumped. That’s what boys do after they face the truth together.