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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Arnold Festival, An Event.

Whoever designed the Columbus Convention Center had a keen eye for disaster. As a building it resembles a series of small, similar buildings shoved together. Walls jut from the ground at unusual angles. Sudden, drastic changes in depth and distance are reinforced by the almost serene pastel colors. Just walking past it, and I do, often at lunch, is a wild ride. I love it, it gives me a feeling of normalcy.

Even its location is an odd mix. On the south is downtown. Tall buildings bracketing towering cranes sitting in cavernous holes, assembling more buildings. To the west is the Arena district, a dignified celebration of red brick, wide artful sidewalks and chic old school establishment. Just north is hipster heaven. The Fabulous Short North, Old, short buildings, gutted, renovated and reborn as a string of micro breweries, bistros, and art galleries. To the east lies the main artery of the whole city, the broad, flat expanse of I-670, a paved black line from the airport to downtown, the nicest freeway in the whole place. And right in the middle sits the convention center in all the ungainly glory any anarchist could ever want.

It is a natural home for the Arnold Schwarzenegger Fitness Festival. People, all shapes, all sizes, different ages, from everywhere, all come to the fitness festival. It packs them in.

The long hall that runs north to south the length of the convention center is the central nervous system for the whole affair. From that long, noisy, messy conduit the events emanate left and right. Power lifting, ping pong, martial arts all hidden behind guarded doors. And brother, don't even try to peek inside with the proper wrist band. Burly, surly security people will instruct you to move along.

The big hall, though, that is where the big haul happens. It is a tightly controlled environment, and people come out of their with huge bags of stuff. And for the life of me I can't imagine (ok, I could imagine, but refuse to) what they are carrying. It looks heavy, and bulky, and closely guarded. It is always in bulging, opaque bags. They struggle blocks to their car carrying the treasure. Finally, they can heave it into the trunk, collapse into the seat and catch their breath. But, I don't want to know bad enough to buy my way in to the secret.

We got there late this year, too late for almost everything. Certainly too late for the newest event, Competitive Yoga. An event that sounds too good to be true. I would pay just to see the trash talking. "I will cleanse my deepest layers of peace and tranquility a hell of a lot better than you. You aren't fit to wipe the sweat from my Chakra." But, I missed it.

One thing I love about the Arnold Event, the one thing that brings me back year after year is the communal quest for improvement. To me everybody walking in and out of that odd building, no matter how they look now dreams of being better. It is an energy that pulsates long before it starts, and resonates for weeks after it is over. If there is any hope for mankind it lies in our ability to dream of better things. From the fittest to the fattest (like me) everybody is there hoping to catch a spark, light a flame, burn so bright it will change their life. Everybody except me, I guess, I am only there to look.