Bubbles is my Irish cousin. He called last week and said, “Hey, I got a line on some good steaks. Let’s grill them after we finish training on Sunday.” This is not an uncommon occurrence, i.e., hanging around after training and grilling steak. Lately, the weather in our area has been so wet for so long that outdoor grilling has been out of the question.
Bubbles was pretty fired up, “I ordered two rib-eye steaks apiece for you and me. I ordered a filet for Lynn.” He paused and delivered the punchline, “I got high hopes for these steaks – they’re imported.”
I was puzzled. “Imported?” I asked, “Like from France or Japan?”
“No, these steaks are being shipped from Nebraska.”
Okay, I thought, Nebraska is a good beef state. “Sure,” I said, “You don’t have to ask me twice. I’ll be there.” I knew that there was some excellent American Wagyu beef being raised in the Midwest. If Bubbles had tapped into some high-end American Kobe beef, I would be expected to cook.
It would be too expensive and too risky to let Sluggo, Bubbles cherub-faced 21-year old son handle the grilling duties. With his dimples and angelic smile, he charms unsuspecting humans into complacency before bushwhacking them. Sluggo looks exactly like the infamous Cabbage Patch doll, El Diablo.
He fancies himself a modern fusion chef and while Sluggo’s meatballs are inexplicably sublime, his “40 Spice Meatloaf” sent five people to the emergency room this past February. If Sluggo got his chubby mits on this $100 a pound beef, he’d season it with every spice in the rack and douse it with MSG for “extra pop!” He uses Liquid Smoke and Truffle oil in every dish and refuses to cook meat to less than 150-degrees: he would incinerate the delicate Wagyu, dissolving every micro-gram of the sublime saturated fat, because, as Sluggo eloquently puts it, “Fat sucks!” I put my meat thermometer next to my lifting straps and Jeep keys.
Sunday arrived and we had our usual tribal gathering of alpha powerlifters. We invoke the transformative powers of the three powerlifts. Done right, these three lifts will change a man’s body and in doing so change his perspective on life and how others perceive him. Strong people handle themselves differently. We regularly transform beta males into alpha males.
The power ritual is always the same: we all train together, doing the same exercise at the same time. Each man in turn steps to the barbell and performs while all the others watch, spot, offer encouragement, critique or wait their turn. No one texts, uses the phone or engages in conversation when someone is lifting. When men perform in front of other men, men they respect and admire, men whose opinions they value, the true alpha rises to the occasion and takes their game to the next level. Camille Paglia nailed it.
“A woman simply is, but a man must become. Masculinity is risky and elusive and is only confirmed by other men.”
Bubbles was strong that Sunday, raw squatting (not even a belt) 315 x 5 in the pause squat; every rep taken to 2-inches below parallel and held for an instant before being blasted to lockout. Keep in mind this is a 58-year old weighing 200. He competes in ten weeks and his goal is to post a totally raw 400-pound squat weighing 200. A double bodyweight (below parallel, raw) squat is a fabulous feat for a 20-year old, for a 58-year old it is just short of amazing.
After the squats, benches and deadlifts, I took a smaller group of three young lifters through a time-compressed shoulder and arm routine. We started with the overhead barbell press, done off the rack. We started light, grooving the technique. One man after the other, without pause, would step up and perform a 5-rep set. Once all three had done a set of five reps, 20-pounds was added to the bar. Each man did four five rep sets. The goal was to work up to an all-out, nothing left set.
We swung immediately into standing press-behind-the-neck. We stripped some weight off the bar and each of the three would hit a set of five reps, bang, bang, bang...raise the weight, repeat. After four round-robin rounds in the PBN, each man’s shoulder girdle region and traps were swollen to the point of bursting.
Onto arms: steep incline dumbbell curls, super-setted with nose-breaker tricep presses. The reps for bi's and tri's were kicked up to eight. I had them slow down the rep speed a tad, concentrating on establishing the mind/muscle connection. Emphasize supination on the curls and lockout on the tricep presses.
After just two super-sets, four total sets for arms, the three lifters were exhausted. Everyone’s upper pec’s, front, rear and side delts, traps, rhomboids, biceps and triceps had attained elephantine proportions. The boys staggered to their trucks and jeeps and took off. :
Bubbles said, “I left a pie at the office. I have to go fetch it.”
“Do you routinely keep pies at your health and wellness office?”
“No, a patient makes these incredible peanut butter graham cracker double chocolate pies with a molten lava chocolate center and Hershey’s kisses on the crust arranged to spell out a message.”
“Excuse me? A Message? Like what, ‘stop me from eating this pie?’”
“Like, you know, ‘happy holidays,’ or if you are Spanish, ‘Happy Kwanza.’”
“In Hershey kisses?”
“Yes, Donna Sue is quite artistic.”
We were in the gym alone. Everyone had left. The garage door was wide open. It was a perfect May day in the country. I pulled a plastic lawn chair into the sun and sat facing a vast expanse of lush green fields arranged in checkerboard square patterns leading up to the foot of the Catoctin mountains. I sat in the sun just outside the opened garage door.
It was 20-degrees cooler outside then it was in the gym. The coolest of breezes, scented with rich honeysuckle, blew across my blasted body. I had squatted and my legs were devastated, they were lightly vibrating, shaking.
The good news was that Sluggo was actually on the West Coast vacationing, so the steaks were safe. Bubbles grabbed his keys. “I got to go pick up the pie. Can you start the weber grill? The mesquite charcoal is in the shed.”
“I will. Right now, I just want to sit here for a bit and get my shit together.” I had my legs propped up on the heavy-duty lawn chair. The reverse blood flow into my shattered thighs felt orgasmic. As the scented breeze blew, I was melting into the sunny lawn chair. I turned on the gym sound system and selected some appropriate Sunday morning bliss music: Luther Vandross. I drank my last half cup of hot coffee. Someone had left a gravity bong on the lawn table. I blissed out for the next forty minutes.
I was jolted out of my perfect post-workout nirvanic reverie with the return of Bubbles and the pie. I didn’t have the heart to break it to him that I was two weeks into a “sugar-buster” regimen where I was avoiding all sugar altogether. I might have to fake eating a sliver. Bubbles pie was a sugar atomic bomb and if I ate a single slice I risked going into insulin-shock. For real.
I couldn’t put it off any longer: it was time to get the grill going. As we walked from the barn gym to the kitchen in the main house, I had a thought. If this beef was the super-expensive high-end stuff, the steaks would likely be modest sized. Perhaps they could be pan sautéed on the stove in extra virgin olive oil, thereby avoiding the Weber altogether.
“Bubbles, how big are these steaks? If they aren’t gargantuan, I could likely sauté them inside 15-minutes using a Jose Andreas skillet-and-oil continual basting technique.”
Bubbles wasn’t attached to grilling, “Oh, that sounds good! I am starving! I got to say, I was a little disappointed at the size of these steaks.”
An alarm bell went off in my head. “What do you mean?”
Bubbles fetched the steak from the refrigerator. They had been shrink wrapped. He laid two plastic sheets on the kitchen counter. I couldn’t really comprehend what I was looking at. On each 8 ½ x 11 sheet were four circles of meat.
“See what I mean,” Bubbles said pointing and looking quizzical, “those are pretty damn small.”
My eyes bugged out of my head. I could not believe what I was seeing. The filets were the size of silver dollars and stood perhaps an inch high. The real shock came when I saw that one sheet of meat contained the “rib-eye steaks.” Four perfect three-inch circles, each contained a rib-eye no more than an inch high.
When I grocked that these were the “imported steaks,” I lost it.
“What that F@#K!!!???” Bubbles looked perplexed. I wanted to slap him like George Patton did the shell-shocked soldier. I got sarcastic, “I didn’t know they had miniature cows able to produce miniature rib-eye steaks – are your sure these rib-steaks are not from a cat or perhaps a small dog?”
All I could think of was the scene in Zoolander where Derick is presented with the scale model for The School for Kids That Can’t Read Good. He smashes the scale model and says, “What is this?? A Center for Ants!?” I wanted to mash those steaks down the garbage disposal while screaming, “What are these?? Rib-eye steaks for Leprechauns taken from opossum!??”
Instead I settled for, “And you wanted me to fire up the grill - for these!!??” I was incredulous, “These would have fallen through the grill grate.”
He shrugged his shoulders, “Still, they have good marbling - I bet they’re tender.”
“Well I will never know.” Indigently, I took the packet of rib-eyes and filets into Lynn, sitting watching a movie “Hey! Check out dinner! Bubbles thinks we’re eating too much. Bubbles says you can have two.” She didn’t get it at first, likely thinking she was looking at Swedish meatballs in individualized packets
“Those are your filets,” I pointed at the four pack in her left hand, “Those are my rib-eyes?” Her mouth dropped open as if Jesus had just ridden into the room on a Harley.
“What the hell?? Did he pay money for these!?”
Bubbles was defensive, “It was on special. $29. It seemed like a good deal for steak – four filets and four rib-eye for $30 – that’s a good deal.”
“Yeah, but there is not a pound of meat on the whole page.”
Lynn, a veteran schoolteacher, just looked at me a shook her head.
I was dumbfounded. I quizzed Bubbles, “Didn’t you say you had special ordered these from the Nebraska? I was expecting some sort of American wagyu beef.”
“Yeah, I order them from Nebraska. Omaha.”
The lightbulb went off over my head: Bubbles had ordered some sort of Omaha steak sampler packet, loving the price and paying no attention to the portion size. In his own defense he said, “They looked a lot bigger in the picture.”
Enough to feed a family of leprechauns for a week. Lynn had mercy on me and heated me up a bowl of delicious chilly with green peppers and sent me on my way. I took a photo so Stacy would believe me.
About the Author
As an athlete Marty Gallagher is a national and world champion in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. He was a world champion team coach in 1991 and coached Black's Gym to five national team titles. He's also coached some of the strongest men on the planet including Kirk Karwoski when he completed his world record 1,003 lb. squat. Today he teaches the US Secret Service and Tier 1 Spec Ops on how to maximize their strength in minimal time. As a writer since 1978 he’s written for Powerlifting USA, Milo, Flex Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Prime Fitness, Washington Post, Dragon Door and now IRON COMPANY. He’s also the author of numerous books including Purposeful Primitive, Strong Medicine, Ed Coan’s book “Coan, The Man, the Myth, the Method" and numerous others. Read the Marty Gallagher biography here.