When I was coming up in the game in the late nineties, I came to understand the chief importance of diet when it came to bodybuilding. That it was the whole deal, with training being somewhat less a priority by comparison. One was an intense couple of hours, a few days a week. The other was 24/7/365. This was no better epitomized than by freaks on the Beast Coast who brought their meals with them, everywhere they went. Local cats like Big Al Fortney, Mike Morris, Ken Brown and Brian Chamberlain. To me, they were the definition of hardcore in my formative years in the sport. On my own terms and by my own rules, I wanted to be big and strong like them. And they never left the house without their cooler.

Remember, this was the nineties. You had to choke down your protein shakes or blenders full of gainer, Ultimate Orange was our only pre-workout and Instagram didn’t exist—shit, the internet was “new”. There were no sexy meal prep bags. In fact, there was no such romanticized concept as “meal prep”. Dudes made food. And they ate a lot. So the true OGs carried a rugged plastic cooler to transport their chow, the kind regular folks would utilize to tote Coronas to the beach. My first, I acquired from my Pops, and I think it had already spent a few years bathing in the sun and saltwater on our porch. It was green and tan and it had “character”—character of the sort that makes moms and girlfriends queasy. So being the kind soul she has always been, Ma Dukes copped me a brand new, white and blue plastic Igloo Playmate at our neighborhood supermarket. And for the past fifteen years, that has remained my “lunch box”

As I grew as a man, as a father, as an artist, as a provider, my cooler came with me. From the Honda to the Jeep, a couple Benzes and now to the Chrysler, the cooler was there. Bouncer or landscaper or trainer, from directing indie films to directing brands… My lunch box came with me. Getting strange looks either from office types who couldn’t understand the concept or “fitness personalities” convinced they can purchase a lifelong lifestyle one specialty gear item at a time off of Amazon, and can’t comprehend why I don’t yet have the “FoodPurse9000 XXL” with the built-in microwave. But beyond any obvious utilitarian purpose or tangible proof of my dedicated nutritional regimentation (which pales in comparison to my many friends who actively compete in physique sports), my trusty Igloo cooler became a personal symbol of something far bigger and more important.

There is nothing fancy or pretty about my cooler. It is no frills. It is made of rigid, rugged materials meant to stand the test of time. It is the accessory of a labor man… Someone who earns their living spending currencies of perspiration and physical exertion. It implies a certain humility… There will be no sushi lunch for me today. I packed my meals ahead of time, in my own version of a brown paper bag. It goes where I go to this day, because I’m here to work. I’m here to build something. I’m here to pay my dues. I’m here to earn my spot.

It is indicative of a certain state of mind that can be applied everywhere from the ballfield to the boardroom. From the weight room to the workshop. What my Pops used to call affectionately a “lunch pail mentality”. It isn’t glamorous or extravagant. But what it is, is exactly the rock-solid foundation upon which everything glorious that man ever made was built. So I will keep carrying my plastic cooler in my hand, and that lunch pail mentality in my heart, and we will see where together life takes us.