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2017 July - SJ4 (part 1) - Geralt


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It is difficult to go back in time and find the moment when Nate and I had contact the first time via the Gripboard, but I think it was somewhere in 2012 or so that I, out of the blue, received a Ghp7 gripper by US package as an encouragement to train for the Ghp cert, leading up to a possible IM#3 certification. We had talked back and forth about griptraining and more specific grippertraining. It was the beginning of an exchange of gripimplements, tulipbulbs and what more through mail between the Netherlands and New Jersey. We talked a lot, trained together by mail, Nate got his IM#3 cert, I missed it, but Nate continued to support me and lift me up whenever I had the occasional mental break down. We learned a lot about each others private life, family stuff, and seemed to get more and more familiair which lead to some kind of 'brother from another mother' band I guess. It was somewhere end 2015 that me and my wife Krista had talked more and more serious about making a trip to the United States, making lifetime memories, since we had seen a few examples in our close surroundings that sometimes postponing everything to later, isn't a guarantee that there will be a later. Of course I also talked with Nate through FB over our plans and it was already then that Nate invited us to come and visit them, even staying with them as his and his family's guests. In 2016 we made the plans seriously and knew we had to save a little bit more so plan were definitely made for 2017 as we would have enough time to plan our trip, look our for tickets etc, since making a trip to the States from the Europe with a family, is unfortunately an expensive business. Damn you, ocean. Nate thought of the plan to – by then – organise also a small grip gettogether, as an opportunity for me to meet some more guys like Chez, Anthony and more of the NY area guys which I also had known for some time by then. Little did we know this meet would grow, just that little bit more.

Fast forward Tuesday July the 11th around 3.00 pm (one hour early) to a – for me- typical nice well maintained American suburb in West Deptford, NJ, United States. I parked our rentalcar for the house and my girls already walked up to the frontporch, still repeating the words 'How are you', as a final rehearsal for the next moment. They were very excited to enter the next stage of this already cool trip so far, as they loved New York city the last few days. A barking dog...a door opening...a big guy opens up the door, looking down at the girls. A few moments of silence and there is this moment at which it almost felt like seeing each other again after so many times, it felt so familiair. 'Wow man....you're actually here'...and me: 'Dude...this is so surreal..' A few hugs later me and my family were actually standing in Nate's house. I saw the so familiair blue wall from where Nate was mostly sitting when we were chatting. Everything fell into place. Maureen was in the kitchen. A firm and warm hug from her, while we kept being welcomed by Brooklyn, the housedog of who the pack leader Nate, assured me never barks, but as time learned us, only to people from the Netherlands and SJ4 contestants and their relatives and people and stuff in the world in general.

Behind the bark however is a cute friend who is always in for a cuddle lol

We would meet Pops, Maureen's father later, as he was sleeping at that moment. Abby, the daugher of the house, was still at her work. And there we were, welcomed by Nate and Maureen. Somehow it felt right from the moment we stepped in. The vibe was relaxed. Words like 'Mi casa es su casa'...'whatever floats your boat'...everything felt relaxed. They wanted to feel us at home. Made us feel so welcome. We talked a bit back and forth as you know how that goes, standing there...it was cool. Maureen showed us our rooms upstairs. Me and Krista had our own bedroom, as did my two daughters. I saw the beds made up so nicely. There were baskets on the beds with soap, shampoos, deodorant, slippers and towels. The girls also had a basked standing there, packed with little gifts. Imagine you and your family being welcomed like that. It was heartwarming. The girls felt so at home immediately. Later on we met Abby. As the days flew by, Abby was so sweet to my girls. It is – I think – so important that kids have positive experiences like this as it builds their confidence for going out and experiencing the world. It makes them more resistent for stuff that will come at them at later point in life. At no point Abby was directed by Nate or Maureen to say something nice to the kids, or needed to be encouraged to socialise with us, or that Maureen had to ask her to act nice. It would have been perfectly fine for us as she had proposed herself to us and then had been doing her own thing for the rest of our stay. But Abby was from herself, within, sincerely interested in us and she connected in such a very loving way to Femke and Marjolein, our girls. I am not saying this at all to 'bake sweet cakes' as we say in Holland. It is our sincere experience with this family. At a certain point we also got to know Pops. Nate and Maureen are taking care of him, as he is getting older and unfortunately has to deal with certain issues that life sometimes brings for people when getting older. Very admirable. Pops turns out to be a very nice soul. He likes to talk about his life in Brooklyn. His father, his work in the very hectic era that New York was in during his time. Racism, shootings, he experienced. He was this in NY and also saw changing this for the better. We talked about him seeing time changing for the positive, people getting more healthy, which he finds wonderful. Pops was a gentleman for us, being very nice. Never pushing for a conversation, but happy to have one when you sit down with him. At night he watches old westerns. 'That's how this country was in the beginning'. He likes those very much. Sometimes you almost wouldn't notice him being around. Even with the big SJ4 crowd moving in the house later that week, he found his way. Observing people. He made some pretty good ones too, talking with him afterwards. Nothing negative he said btw. But I think it was funny the way he observed everyone that day, as you wouldn't think he didn't care, the way how relaxed he just walked around. As if there is a meeting like this every week. Pops not impressed.

I also should not forget to mention Juliet and Jesse Lancaster. We met up with them the first evening and met their daughters April and Lilly, who turned out to be Femke and Marjolein's friends during their stay. Very sweet and interested people. April has been training grip and she's pretty fierce in her approach. If she stays at it, she can do strong stuff for sure. Juliet was Abby's swimmingcoach.

Need to find a way to get Jesse into griptraining also. Tips are welcome. We loved those people. I call them friends. For sake of keeping this story a little bit readable, I need to fast forward again, to July the 15th.

In short I want to mentioned these things we did / I saw, before the SJ4 went loose.

  • Hamburgers at five guys;

  • Wawa;

  • trying not to create havoc for my recovery but still trying to lift some cool stuff in Nate's cellar;

  • Play it again sports (I believe, second hand sports store with York plates and stuff like that. Very common in the US. For me as a European: not so much lol);

  • Amish market (super breakfast and SICK pickles);

  • my first live Baseball game; 

  • Lake Kandle;

  • Homemade Pizza;

  • Sunburnt shoulders;

  • Nate and Maureen's breakfasts;

  • Nate getting a message from Kody Burns that he would be attending SJ4 also, when we were in the car at some parking lot. I thought the windshields would crack when this sudden unexpected positive energy burst exploded from Nate. Luckily there were no innocent bystanders.

July the 14th. Nate was clearly also pretty focused on the competition that week. He wanted that everything would go right. Up untill the last moment he was figuring out little details. Can't sum everything up, but details. Small things. Everything mattered. I think it showed. Try and organise a 50+ competitors contest. Already a few weeks have gone by after this competition. But think again about the time, effort and money that was put in the organisation by this guy in order for as many as people as possible, to have a good time. During the day we went up to the hotel. I met up with Rich Cottrell the night before already. Friendly loose guy. Sparring with Nathaniel about how things could be set up, throwing in his 2cts, but never enforcing his opinion. Great help I think. I only got to see the last few things of the preparations. Rich invested a big deal of his time in this for sure. In the evening before we had set up most banners on the walls already. That day I also met Joshua Henze and his wife Chante. Again, as I experienced a lot more that day and the next day, it's very surreal meeting up with someone you only have ever seen by photo's. Joshua is a soft spoken guy. Relaxed, listening to everything you say. Good sense of humor. Modest also. I you have ever read his log, he's not easy for himself. Not the guy to brag. He made the prices for SJ4. These are such freaking cool things. Creative craftmanship. Everyone I heard, seeing the prices he made, was in looking in awe at the sculpts he had made. Original and very fitting prices for this competition. Joshua was there all the time when stuff had to be moved. It was normal for him to throw stuff in his van, drive it over to the location and unload it there. Same for the way back. He was a big helping hand moving all the stuff that day.

During the course of the day I also met the pick up crew, Jason Otto, James Retarides, and Bob Sundin. I can't recall for sure anymore if Rick Thorpe was also there by that time, but I met him later the next day. Later I also saw guys getting messages that Jedd was in town also already with Lucas Raymond and that Richard Sorin was also at the scene. It was getting real.

BUT there was this man, arriving that afternoon from the airport, by the name of Acromegaman on the Gripboard. In the real world he goes through life as 'Delmar Carter'. No one, outside the gripscene, knows his alter ego Acromegaman and probably that's for the best. You want to see him as he is, the soft spoken guy with big hands and also a very good sense of (dry, spot on) humor. If people would realise what he is capable of bending wise, no one would let his kids come near this force of nature. So it probably for the best this way. Lol, that said, I really can say seriously that I can't imagine that there ever will be someone not like Delmar. We spoke a lot, I learned about his coffee with pepper and more peculiar stuff. In seriousness, Delmar has dealt with some serious stuff in his life. He told me about his past in medical way and I have the utmost respect in how he dealt with that. Delmar is a very cool guy in every way and I just needed to mention this. Also, he turned out to be the livesaving trouble shooter the evening before the comp, by advising how to get the wiggle out of one of the contest implements. Not going into detail. He got paid for that with coffee from Wawa, I learned later on.

I had the great experience that day of dragging out 'just a few' Rogue plates from Nate's basement. Rubber mats. Stuff. Loading pins. Nate was relentless. No one was spared during preparations. There was a goal to be met. A dot on the horizon. The sun had already lowered at a certain point. There was no return. Every was set in motion. South Jersey 4 was going to happen within a few more hours. But first, sleep. BUT NOT UNTIL THE NEW YORK GUYS HAD ARRIVED THEY SURE TOOK THEIR TIME but finally....there they were! Maureen had warned me already. But it was too late. They were there and they meant business. And now there was no way back. Anthony William, Michael Phillips, Jose Cabrera and Anton Torrella. They are like a pack of Wolves, like Disney could have portrayed and I mean this in a funny good way. There is Jose, you can see this guy thinking. Not afraid to speak his thoughts, but in a thought out manner. Fierce, but friendly. But don't mess with him. Michael Phillips, you maybe remember him as Jesus from an earlier SJ competition. He's more in the background, but a very funny guy. Anton. This guy presents humor in the truest sense of the word. If you want to have a laugh, this is your guy, but as I will write later, if you talk about a loyal friend, I know for sure you will find that in him. That goes for all of this crew. Anthony. Anthony is also more on the background. But his observations are spot on. He knows what is going on. Also not the biggest guy in length, but he makes up for that with his heart. You know, Red nail certs and stuff like that. I talked a lot with Anthony also through PM. We connect. Also, Anton contacted me when he heard I was going to visit the states with my family. He told me a lot about his family and family history in NY. All in all this pack consists of guys who at first sight don't seem to take life too seriously, but in the end these are people you can count on if you may call them your friends.

Also, who I met that day, were the two Matts, Hunt and Kraenbring. Kraenbring is one of those guys you can bring in for the first time to a gripevent and he just certifies the CTD. After the comp. Because he can do that. Easy. Why not. Because I'm Kraenbring, you know. Tsssshhhh Matt is starting to understand by now that he is doing some pretty awesome stuff already, if he stays at it, some more cool stuff is going to happen. Cool guy, we spoke a lot, but not enough. Time was so short. The other Matt, man we laughed. As time went by on the comp day, we seemed to connect more and more, this guy also has a great sense of humor. We been a bit in the same line of business. We just had fun. Like with most guys, we just didn't talk enough. Shame everything went so quick!

The Matts drove me back from the hotel to Nate's house and they left, going to mentally prepare for the next day. 

With the NY gang arrived some time later, we talked a bit and from all impressions....I was tired. A slumbering phase for a few hours was welcome. Some blankets were also thrown into the pit below (Nate's cellar) where the NY gang was going to slumber that night. Everyone was going to prepare for the event the next day. I can imagine there have been done a lot of praying, sleeping and meditation. Everyone dealt with the excitement in his own way. Nate....he was just overthinking everything. But every detail had been addressed. The event was soon to start.

To be continued. 

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Wow - and that was only part 1?!?  - awesome write up so far - and thank you for the kind words Geralt!

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I wrote it as I have experienced it buddy. I just sat down with a cup of coffee and typed away. I realise it's long but I also want to show my appriciation for everyone who helped us enjoy this trip so much, of coure specially the Brouses. The people who are interested will read it anyway I figured so that's why I decided to not cut lines when I was finished and realised I had been typing for two hours :D.

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Yea man, the more meat makes for a better read - lookin forward to part 2

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