Thursday night, 11pm. Done with work. Home. Packed. In bed at 1am.
Up at 4:30am Friday. Get ready.
9am. Leave for New York.
$50 a day to park. $120 total.
Carrying luggage. Half a mile to the hotel. Full sweats. Barely fit through the door. No public bathroom. Almost pissed my pants waiting for the concierge.
Up to our room. No elevator. Up 3 flights, narrow stairwell. Barely fit in the bedroom. Bathroom worse. Airplane-sized pisser. Good times.
2pm. Bags dropped. Eat. First coat of paint at 3pm. Mile walk through ripped-apart downtown NYC. Find it in the nick of time.
4:30pm. Leave tanning. Walk another mile to the hotel. Finally rest—for 2 hours.
8:45pm. Second coat of paint. Leave at 8pm. Walk another mile. Second coat applied.
10pm. Nikki’s second coat. 10:30pm. Finished. Huff it back.
Raindrops. Murphy’s Law. Hoods go up. Protect stage color. Back to the hotel, unscathed. So much for relaxing the day before the show.
12am. Last meal. Bed. Alarm set for 4:30am. Competition day.
Wake up. Sweat through my sweats. Color half gone. Sheets destroyed. Mattress, too. Terrific. Flip mattress to hide it damage. Expecting a $500 bill from the hotel. Murphy is having a field day this weekend, and putting in overtime. Bitch.
6am. Leave hotel. 6:45am. Last coat of paint. Check-ins morning of the show. 650 athletes. Holy crap. No athlete’s meeting. No backstage area. Bodies laying in heaps on the floor. Bags everywhere. Pro-Tan and protein farts infusing the air. Ah, New York.
10:30am. Show starts. On time. Murphy must be napping.
Two in my class. I got this. No question. Then my compatriots. Rachael in women’s bodybuilding. My wife Nikki in women’s physique. Wrap by 11:30am. Back to hotel.
They want to explore New York. Fuck that. I explored yesterday. Time to sit on my ass and relax.
5pm. Back to the venue. 6pm. Night show starts. Almost on time. Bodybuilding first. We do routines. Shortened to 45 seconds. Too many competitors. Win my class. Time for the overall.
Heavyweight in the middle. Few more shots. Put the middleweight next to him. Middleweight is shredded. Few more shots. Pull out the middleweight. Put me next to the heavy. I’m challenging. But truth be told, it’s the heavy’s show to lose. I’m just having fun.
Pose down. Rush the front of the stage. My daughter Raven and my mother are sitting far right, 8 rows back. I’m here for them. Off to the right side of the stage. Posing for the loved women of my life. Rest of the audience doesn’t exist. Just me, and my warrior goddess Nikki, and my mother, and my daughter—Raven Storm, the girl who stole my heart five years ago. She’s screaming, cheering, mimicking my poses. I’m smiling. No fake stage smile. Legitimate “my heart is melting” smile.
No overall. But got my class. Two for two. One more to go.
But in a sense, I feel my journey is complete. I got my redemption. I can close this chapter.
Out to dinner with friends. Back to the hotel. Pack the car. 12 midnight. Hit the road. 4:30am. Arrive in Baltimore. 24-hours after our day began for the show.
Competing in New York City is exhausting, and stressful, to put it gently. But if redemption is to be had, this is the price to pay.
And I paid it.
And I got it.
And I didn’t flake.
-David A. Johnston