Monday, September 13, 2010

The Tattoo Chronicles: The Sculptor


The first trainer I ever had was a man named Adam. The gym placed me with him when I was 37 and weighed 205 pounds. I told the owner of the gym, Tommy Marinelli, that I wanted to lose at least 40 lbs before my 38th birthday, four months later. He placed me with Adam, who guided me to that goal. He was nice and he was helpful but we did not become friends. He was simply a man who came to work and did his job. After Adam left the gym, I had to continue my training on my own, which did not come easily. I slacked off and goofed off and missed days and, eventually, met my goal of weighing, on my 40th birthday, what I weighed when I was 18. To get to 145 pounds, I had to starve myself, because I wasn't working out properly. On my 40th birthday, Tim said to me, "You fall down a lot. Do you eat?"

I was busted.

I was manorexic.

So Pat went to Tommy Marinelli and hired a trainer to train the two of us and to get me healthy.

That was Anthony Riente.

Anthony was this big, 25 year old, Italian Dude with a lot of body art. He had the beginnings of a sleeve and, during the time we worked with him, it became a full sleeve. At first I was a little nervous around Anthony. I didn't know if he would take to working with a couple of gay guys. I thought maybe he would consider us fairies and would condescend to us.

I was wrong.

During the time that we were together, Anthony became like a brother to us. He was such a straight dude and such a guy and such a youth; we were the slight, older homos -- and yet the three of us became so close that he told us personal things about his life that he didn't share with the other people at the gym (like when he ran away to Vegas and got married and kept it a secret from everyone, even months afterward - we knew he was doing it before he got on the plane.) Anthony always made it fun to work out and he taught us how to do it properly, how to eat better, how to focus on the training. He made it fun.

For example: he loved to tease us. He had rules. If I wore something too revealing, he would make me do 20 pushups (the inner thigh must never show at the gym - and a shirt that reveals the belly is grounds for being sent home). If Pat cruised a guy at the gym, it was 20 pushups. If I danced (which is always a possibililty), it was 20 pushups. Pat once made a gay joke that was directed AT Anthony (and it was a sexual one) and it was drop and gimme fifty. We worked with him three days a week and we were always excited to see him. We loved him.

He loved us, too.

The day he quit his job he said that "I love you guys like brothers".

THAT is a GREAT compliment.

Anthony had to quit his job because he needed to make more money to support his Mrs. He got a job in investing, went through intensive training and was going to be out of the gym in two weeks time.

I had an idea.

"Ant, will you sign this piece of paper for me?"

Without question, he obliged.

I ran the idea by Pat, who loved it, and together we went to a tattoo artist in the East Village. Pat was nervous - it was his first tattoo. I was not. It was my fourth. He was doing the underbelly of his left bicep, I - the right. We were in our chairs and the buzzing of the needles was loud. His artist started before mine did and I heard the sharp intake of breath.

"How you doin' back there, hon?"

"I'm fine. Please don't speak."

It didn't take long. I am actually able to lie there, eyes closed, following the activity of the artist with my mind. I knew when he was nearing completion.

We had matching tattoos.

When we went to the gym on our last day with Anthony, we said "Hey, Ant, wanna see something?"

We flexed our biceps.

He lost it. He couldn't believe it! He grabbed people to show them. He got a camera to photograph it. He was so excited! He was so thrilled and honoured. He just couldn't believe it. And when he or anyone else asked (or asks, to this day) why we did it, we simply explain:

"All artists should sign their work."

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