(2015 Update: I wrote this article 8 years ago and I still can’t believe it’s been that long. This is one of the funniest articles I’ve ever written and am glad a friend of mine brought it up recently. I had totally forgot about this gem and all the crap that went into that weekend. Truly an amazing time. You can read the original article here.)
Below is one of the classic photos of Joe, very casually hanging out in the weight room.
Joe DeFranco is full of shit. There I said it. If you have a problem with that statement, then you are wrong.
Of course I am kidding so don’t call or e-mail me. I don’t want to hear his legion of fans and you “skinny bastards” telling me to go to hell. Believe me, if I’m going to eat at the same table as Tony LaVey it’s not because of my erroneous statement about Joe DeFranco.
I say this statement because Dave and I recently did a seminar with Joe at his facility in Wyckoff, New Jersey. Joe also ordered 3 collegiate racks with platforms and we were going to help set these up. We also enlisted the help of Eric Smith, from Williams Strength, to help us. Our trip started on Wednesday, March 21 and we arrived home on Sunday, March 25th. What ensued between these days was pure hell but in the end, some of the funniest and most memorable moments. Take a look.
Wednesday, March 21st
Dave picked me up at my house. So far, so good. We drink some coffee and I eat some bacon and eggs on the trip to the airport. We discuss various issues such as lifting weights and morons. These are the two most important topics to Dave and me.
Direct flight to Newark, New Jersey leaves on time. Dave and always sit in separate rows. Unfortunately, I am next to Johnny Shoulders that seems to want to hog 25% of my airline seat. I eat the peanuts and soda given to me. As if to show me how dedicated to health he is, he busts out a bag of almonds and some bottled water. This must account for the 80lbs of tire around his waist. The lesson here is this: if you eat almonds and drink water you will be a fat, irritating slob.
Our flight arrives early and we are dying to train today. During our flight I hassle Dave about his upcoming lat workout. I mistakenly thought it was “Hammie” day, but Dave assured me that he moved his workout schedule around so he can hit some various cable and lat machines at a public gym. Dave and I really wanted to go to Strong and Shapely; a gym in New Jersey that has a hardcore reputation. We have enough time to train, eat and get back to the airport to pick Eric up. The freight truck is scheduled to be delivered to Joe’s place at around 3pm. We are working on a tight schedule but feel we can get everything in.
We arrive at Not-So-Enterprising car rental and get our Ford Explorer. Right as I get in to the truck, a huge septic truck stops right next to us. It spews its putrid stench from its steel belly. Dave and I both start retching. The guy helping us tells us that “The shitter is backed up.” We then ask 2 (two) people if the directions to the gym that are given to us are correct. One of the guys, who actually trains there, affirms that they are correct. Did I fail to mention that they gave us less than a ¼ tank of gas? And the “Change Oil” sign is on?
I am in charge of driving because someone else (I won’t mention names) has too many speeding tickets. I should also preface this by saying that there are no two worse people at directions than Dave and I. This plays a large part in my hating Joe DeFranco.
Driving down the New Jersey turnpike and it’s a nice day. Sunny, clear and very few clouds in the sky. Out of nowhere, a huge, viscous blob hits our windshield. I turn to look at Dave and he mutters, “You know that’s just pure ass.”
Directions seem to be a little off – we are now in the Lincoln Tunnel and off towards New York City. To say that we are pissed is an understatement. They told us to get on 3E when in fact we should have been on 3W. I wish I could blame myself or Dave for this one, but this lies on the shoulders of our two Enterprising friends.
We have now made it through the Lincoln tunnel. Yes, it almost took 2 hours to get through the damn thing. We are low on gas, have no food and now we just want to make it to the airport in time to pick Eric up. We are headed back to New Jersey.
We sit down for a terrific meal at Friday’s, at the airport, and Eric meets us there. We get a phone call telling us that the driver is either lost or the truck is broken; it doesn’t really matter because now the truck is supposed to be at DeFranco’s no later than 6pm. This gives us some time to train and talk shop with Joe. A little glitch but we can live with it. It takes us forever to find a gas station and when we do, there is a line of (not exaggerating) about 35 cars. We are well below “E” on the gauge and you can’t pump your own gas in New Jersey. So we wait.
Training at DeFranco’s. This is first time I’ve been to Joe’s place. It’s a great facility and there are a ton of athletes training there. There is a definite energy in the room. All the kids are working in groups of 3-5 and are pushing each other. I was extremely impressed. Dave hits some lats and I do 3 sets of bench press and call it a day. As you can see, I love high volume training. But I do hit my goal weights for the day, and that is all that matters.
Still no truck
We head over to the Goffle Grill, making sure to put a note on the door instructing the driver that we are just around the corner. At this point, all of us are a little more than pissed off. The driver’s phone doesn’t work and we have no idea what is going on. So we decide that some food would do us well.
Goffle Grill specializes in two things: grease and fried. So it’s nice to have our decisions narrowed down to these two items.
Jim: I’d like some grease.”
Goffle Grill: “Would you like that fried?”
What is said at the Goffle Grill stays at Goffle Grill. And some of the stories, rants and discoveries made at this place are forever sealed in my memory. Some of the funniest things I’ve ever heard. Almost makes this whole situation worth it. But I cannot relay them here as they would be incredibly damaging to many people’s lives. I’m looking at you, Joe DeFranco.
The truck arrives. Good times. The driver apparently got lost somewhere between Ganja City and Blunt County; we all got a massive contact high.
We unload everything and have to wake up tomorrow morning to get everything set up. Eric’s flight leaves at around 3:00pm. This guy can put a rack and platform together in his sleep so we need him desperately. Dave and I can’t even tie our shoes correctly. In fact, we are the only two people to get a knot in our Velcro shoes.
On our way to the hotel to check in and get some sleep. I’ve got my Map Quest directions handy and Eric is my navigator. Somehow we end up on Martin Luther King Drive. Not good. I turn around, hoping for the best. Then I see the red cherries in my rear view mirror. Apparently, the cops have a beef with me. They pull me out of the car and I hand them all my information.
Cops: “I’m pulling you over for drunk driving.”
Jim: “I haven’t had a drink.”
I hand them the Map Quest directions and they start laughing. It’s not even close. They run my license and apparently there are no warrants out for my arrest, so they let me go. In fact, they escort me out of the hood and to the hotel.
We finally get to the hotel and Dave hands us all some Lunesta. I can’t complain. Dave snores like a drunk sailor and Eric, who is tipping the scales at around 340lb, is even worse. I sleep on the couch and can’t wait to put this day behind me. There is a small partition that divides the couch from the rest beds. I constantly remind Dave and Eric, who can’t see me, that I am masturbating.
Eric wakes me up. His snoring is ridiculous. I mean brutal.
Thursday, March 22nd
We are up, fed, showered and off to Joe’s place. Of course we get lost going there. But that is nothing new.
Everything is set up and Eric is off.
Get a call from Eric. His flight was cancelled and no one told him when he checked in. He takes it upon himself to find his luggage and is immediately followed and surrounded by cops. Eric is a patient and smart man, so he talks his way out of it and is on his way back to Joe’s place. Meanwhile, Dave and I make way for Chili’s. The beautiful Nichol, who has a nice heart shaped dumper, serves us and makes my day. This is because she talked to me. It went something like this:
Nichol: “What would you like to eat today?”
Jim: “Ribs and some french fries.”
Some pretty hot dialogue.
Off to the mall. Dave is an avid shopper and I can’t sit still for 2 minutes. It has something to do with losing weight or perhaps 400 Diet Cokes I drink. The mall we go to is approximately the size of Rhode Island, but with more people. We park our truck in front of Nordstrom’s and make our way through to the mall.
Now I love to interact with people and I love watching people. Ask Dave. Leave me alone anywhere and in 20 minutes I will have 2 new friends and know everything about them. But walking through Nordstrom’s was a real treat. It was like I was in the movie “Goodfellas” but without DeNiro, Liotta and Peschi. The women in the store all dressed like and talked like characters from this movie. I did talk to a woman from Haiti though. This is how the conversation started.
Jim: “Where are you from?”
Jim: “Are you into all that weird Voodoo shit?”
We actually got along pretty well after that.
Dave and I are very impressed with the New Jersey “talent” in the mall. We are also struck dumb by how many shoe stores there are for that Urban look. Apparently shoes are very important to the people of New Jersey despite 80% of the area being taken up by highways.
Dave gets some Carbo Force at GNC and some shorts. He also purchases a long sleeve camo shirt and some new shoes. Apparently Jersey is rubbing off on the man.
Back to Joe’s place where we hang out for awhile. I am 100% certain that we got lost on the way back.
Back to Chili’s. Dave and I have chosen to eat here the rest of the trip because we know how to find it without getting too lost. This time Eric accompanies us. Nichol again serves us and asks ME, “So you guys are back again.” This is a clear indication that I am now the Alpha Male between Dave and me. I point this out to Dave, much to his displeasure. I have 3 24oz beers and some steak. Dave has his usual fair – ribs and rice. This is all he ate during this trip. He keeps telling me that he has to “eat like Cutler.” I don’t know what Jay eats, but am pretty sure that ribs aren’t on his diet. But I let it go because it’s just too easy to tear into.
Back to the hotel, but not before we get lost again. Eric and I tag-team the toilet, with Eric shitting clean up. He discreetly closes the door and we watch when Dave, who is unaware of our poo-plan, enters to take a leak. All hell breaks loose as Dave proclaims the bathroom a biohazard. It’s good to screw with The Boss (this is the secret nickname given to Dave over the weekend in honor of his position with EFS and his presence in the Garden State.)
Friday, March 23rd
Eric is up and has to catch a taxi to the airport. I thank him for his work and go back to sleep.
Dave and I head out to the continental breakfast at the hotel, which is pretty damn good. I can’t help but think of the Saturday Night Live skit, “The Continental” starring Christopher Walken whenever I sit down to enjoy some burnt bagels and kid size cereal. We each eat about a dozen hard boiled eggs. We drink about 10 gallons of coffee. Dave’s staring eyes tell me everything I need to know; namely, “What would Jay Cutler do?” He ponders the role of coffee in Jay’s diet as I watch the dozens of exchange students from all over the world enjoy the American cuisine. I later ride up in the elevator with a beautiful girl from Argentina.
Jim: “So where are you from?”
Jim: “New Jersey is a dump.”
She just stares at me, trying to hold a cracked smile and hoping the elevator would either fall to the ground or I would disappear. I think I scared her.
To the mall again. We have some time to kill today so we are going to spend it wisely. I finely find a hat to fit my fat head. I’m pretty psyched about this. This is probably the highlight of my entire trip.
We enjoy some fine dining at Ruby Tuesday’s which is in the mall. It would have been easier to get to if there was some kind of shuttle service. And my “shuttle” I mean Space Shuttle. Also, the cart vendors at the mall are the annoying equivalent of a Mexican border town. Dave makes it very clear to these gnats that he does not want a better deal on his wireless service. I always tell these people that I have no friends so I have no one to call.
We go out to find our truck and spend about 20 minutes in the light rain trying to find the damn thing. Apparently all Ford Explorer’s comes in one color; New Jersey Drab.
Off to the Parisi Speed School, which is right around the corner. We get lost, but eventually make it there. This is my first time there and we meet up with Martin Rooney and talk about a million things. Jason Ferruggia meets us there, so there is some great conversation. As I’m sitting there talking to Martin, someone is actually doing the Parisi Warm-up.
Jim: “So you guys actually do this shit here? I thought it was all a bunch of made up crap.”
Martin: (very concerned) “Are you serious? You thought that?”
Martin has to get going (he has to work, how dumb is that) so we go back to Joe’s place for some training. I do my usual workout – 3 sets of 1 exercise (deadlifts) and Dave is priming his guns for battle. I catch him doing lying overhead biceps curls. Hard to explain, so let’s just give it the title of “ghey” and be done with it. I get to watch Joe and his crew train a ton of different athletes but one guy in particular stands out. I will not use his name but I had been told of his incredible success and I will now tell his story.
As a seventh grade wrestler, this young man lost every single match. If I’m not mistaken, every match resulted in him getting pinned. A lesser person would have given up. Not him.
This year, his eighth grade year his season started the same way. A couple weeks into the season, he enlisted the help of DeFranco’s Training and was put under the watchful eye of John Impallomeni. After a month of training with John, this man began improving and winning matches. He is now qualified for the state meet in New Jersey.
Now I know that this is a hard story to believe but these are the facts. Even more remarkable is that kid does not talk. He CAN talk, but he doesn’t talk. Not one word. I watched him throughout his entire workout and he never opened his mouth.
I had talked to Joe about this young man’s progress and he very quickly gave credit to John. As we were talking, Joe mentioned that progress like this, with a young athlete, is infinitely more rewarding and important than working with professional athletes. This speaks volumes about Joe’s character and integrity.
So what did this kid do during his workout? It was very complicated – dynamic warm up, sled dragging, pushups, chin ups, and back raises. I was also very impressed with Impallomeni’s coaching style and his interaction and communication. Usually I bust on John, and he did receive his share of verbal abuse. But I will give him a little respect.
Back to Chili’s. This time Jen serves us and I have no problems with her handing me my beers. She’s a fine looking dame.
I go against the grain and order me a salad with my ribs and fries. The salad is smothered with all the things that make it good: iceberg lettuce, cheese and ranch dressing. As I dig into my salad, I notice a change in Joe DeFranco. It’s like he turned into Jack Torrance. His eyes became intense, his voice dropped an octave and his hands gripped the table.
“That ranch dressing looks good.”
This was said with such insanity that I feared for the life of my salad and my fingers. I’m totally serious about this. The guy was coo-coo for Hidden Valley. I finished my salad, hovering over my bowl with one eye on Joe D. A man can never be too careful.
We get lost on the way back to the hotel.
Saturday, March 24th
It’s seminar day. We wake up, eat some breakfast and get to Joe’s place without incident. It’s a sunny morning and things are looking good. I get to meet up with a lot of friends of mine – Jim “Smitty” Smith, Zach Even-Esh, Matt Rhodes, Sal Alosi and Zak Kroger. Seminar goes well and we all have a good time. Seminars will either leave you fried out of your mind or ready to kick ass. This one left me ready to kick ass.
Off to Chili’s. This time it’s Zach, Rhodes, Joe, Dave and I. There is a wait for a table, so Zach, Rhodes and I go to the bar for some beers. Joe and Dave have to cuddle or whatever guys do when they aren’t drinking. Jen, our waitress from last night, is serving. Out of nowhere, I say,
“Well, the seminar went well.”
“That is so great.” She says smiling and with vigor.
I realize then that she has no idea what the hell I’m talking about, but I admire her for her commitment to not making me feel like an asshole. I figure that at least she knows Joe DeFranco. I mean…doesn’t everyone? I apologize for our awful language last night and she responds, “Don’t worry, I swear like a f*cking truck driver.”
The wonderful Dawn is serving us today and I quickly notice her hair. Almost like the very sexy Alexis Bleidel from Gilmore Girls. I compliment her on it and she smiles and says, “Thanks for noticing.”
Joe and Zach take me aside and give me the rundown. Apparently in New Jersey, no one gives compliments without it being laced with sarcasm. Now I’m worried. I really don’t want her spitting in my food and I hate when I get the Waitress Attitude. So next time she comes around I let her know that I was sincere about it and hope she doesn’t drop a dingleberry in my ribs. She laughs and assures me that everything is alright.
The rest of the night I keep one eye on my food – looking closely for short and curly’s.
The night is just rants and raves about everything training related. We swap stories, laugh, get pissed and laugh some more. Rhodes fails as a drinker which pisses me off. He only drinks one beer. The mighty Rhodes has fallen.
Sunday, March 25th
We are on the road after a big breakfast and following the directions to the airport given to us by Joe DeFranco. Let me give everyone some advice. 208N to 287S does not take you to the airport. That is why I hate Joe DeFranco. We quickly get back on track and make our way to the airport. We have a short flight to D.C where we have a 3 hour layover.
In D.C. now and going nuts. The terminal, which is huge, is empty except for me, Dave and some girl that is talking incessantly on her cell phone. She relates the same story 3 times; something a rescheduled flight to Jacksonville and her goddamn bags having “valuables” in it. These “valuables” were text books from college. I wanted to rip her tongue out of her mouth and choke her with it. Only then would I receive total peace.
Terminal is full and there is nowhere to move. Plane is now delayed for another hour.
Plane boards. Luckily I keep my eyes open for this as no announcement is made of why there is no longer a delay. I find out in about 2 hours.
Plane is still sitting on the runway. They had to change the “first mate” and have to wait for his replacement to fly in. Suddenly, I wanted to stun the world with Sea Lingo; Lots of references to starboard, chanteys and being staved by a whale. Not as cool as CB Lingo, but better than most.
Back on land and going to pick up Dave’s truck. We parked it at a rental car place, as it is usually safer. They have seemed to have lost it. It takes 20 minutes to find it.
Back at home where more chaos ensues. What a great trip…I’m serious. I got to go to Joe’s place for the first time and meet a lot of great people. I’d like to thank all the people that came to the seminar and all the people I met along the way. This trip was memorable and incredibly fun, despite never knowing where we were going. Finally, I’d like to thank Joe for being patient with us and dealing with our shit. It was a great trip and certainly memorable. And if any of you girls at the Paramus, New Jersey Chili’s want a job as a “nanny” let me know. I’m sure we can work something out, Jude Law-style.