I was still farming in 2012 when I started looking for a space to begin the next phase of my life.
Originally, my wife and I wanted to continue farming. We wanted to buy land near Gainesville and had been looking for over a year. As time passed, we realized that we might not find a piece of land that fit our needs.
It was on our way into town from the east side that I first noticed the building we now call The Ark. I inquired about the space, and the project was set in motion.
When I told a friend of mine where I was planning to start the gym, he said, "You should call it The Ark!" He told me of the building's history, when it was an artist's commune that held punk rock shows in the early 2000's. People who remember this era hold the space dear to their hearts. So much so, that some were angry that I decided to name my gym The Ark.
Honestly, I don't blame them. This was a special place for many, where fond memories were forged. Maybe they felt that The Ark of old would be lost in time, overshadowed by this new, threatening project...
By calling it The Ark, I wanted to pay homage to that era, rather than obscure it. I think that has happened: people who remember that era are reminded of it when they pass, and others are learning about its punky history.
Few people know this, but there is an underlying link between punk rock and reggae music. They are both rebellious, system-rejecting genres; the reggae legends of old respected the punk rockers, and vis versa. Bob Marley and Lee Perry went so far as to make a tribute song to the punk genre with, "Punky Reggae Party."
There existed an Ark in the reggae world in the 1970's. Specifically, in Jamaica, it was called The Black Ark, and its captain was Lee "Scratch" Perry. As a reggae aficionado, I couldn't resist the opportunity to have my own ark, and pay homage to The Upsetter himself.
Scratch played an instrumental role in the development of Bob Marley as an artist, and some of the best reggae of all time came out of The Black Ark.
There are competing stories as to what eventually happened to The Black Ark. Lee Perry claims to have burned it down himself. Others report that there was an electrical fire during a rebuild. Whatever it was, the end of The Black Ark marked the end of the Golden Age of reggae.
Some say that Lee Perry is crazy. Others, that his lunacy is an act. Whatever it is, he's still alive, making music at the ripe age of 82 at the time of this post. By naming The Ark, The Ark, I was paying homage to The Upsetter, to his body of work, and to the golden age of reggae. If Bob Marley is the King, Lee Perry is the High Priest. The Black Ark, his temple.
There is, of course, the allusion to The Arks of the Bible.
Most people think of Noah's Ark. A large ship built by Noah and his sons to save life from a prophesied catastrophe—a flood that would wipe out humanity and all air-breathing creatures.
Others may think of The Ark of the Covenant. A gold plated chest which carried the tablets of Moses, the rod of Aaron, and a pot of manna—three important, mystical objects.
What these two Arks have in common is that they hold precious things. They protect and enshrine. They are built to save and preserve.
That is what an "ark" is by definition—a strong-box. A receptacle which carries and protects precious things.
In this way, The Ark *is* an ark. It carries and protects life, health, and people. The Ark is a refuge for some, where young men and ladies can learn skills, where mothers and fathers can blow off steam, and where people from all walks of life work to improve skills, gain strength, and build relationships. So, in this way, The Ark lives up to its namesake as refuge—as a strong-box.
I was asked recently, if I could do it all over again, would I keep "The Ark," as a name for the gym. And, to be honest, I'm not sure.
The name is attached to the building itself. Could I go into a strip mall, and call it The Ark? Probably not. That would be sacrilege.
There's something mystical about that old, crumbling building. There are spirits there, watching. The ghosts of punk rock past sit on the rafters with their legs dangling, drinking PBR. Reggae cherubims sit on rainbow thrones beaming from the prism in the front room. There is a natural mystic flowing through the thick, Florida air...
Now that you know the history, grab yourself some gear and represent!
We're doing preorders for shirts, tanks, racerbacks, and hoodies with The Ark's logo. Profits will help our team of middle and high school weightlifters get to Youth Nationals next month:
Thanks for reading, and thanks for your support!