Saturday, February 11, 2012

Gee Whiz. Reminiscing about the old boxing gym.

I miss the sport and the regulars at the gym. Chuck, my old boxing coach, was a smooth-talking, strict and brutally honest man. He used to stand by me while I pummeled the heavy bag. He would glare at me if he caught my arm sagging in a vulnerable position or he would kick the sides of my shoes to knock me off balance. As much as he found fault in my performance, he also praised me for being a ferocious fighter and daydreamed about me being a famous boxer someday. He told me stories about growing up in the 30's in Texas, fearing terrorism from white neighbors. He grew up to become a boxer who worked with some of the greats.

These stories were invaluable history lessons. I respected him and I respected the sport he loved so much. Boxing was built into him. Sneaking up on him was an interesting, possibly dangerous experiment, as his fists would fly up and he would immediately assume his fighter's stance.

If I hear music that we used to play during my workouts, I'm taken back to the gym. Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, Howlin' Wolf, and the Staple Singers all make me terribly sentimental. I just learned that Don Cornelius, the host of the show "Soul Train," passed away. Watching youtube videos of "Soul Train" is a kind of portal to the past for me, not to the 1970s (I wasn't alive then) but back to my teenage years, when that music played in the background as I sparred and shadowboxed.

Whenever the song "Gee Whiz," by Carla Thomas, played, Chuck used to turn the volume up for me. I was infatuated with a certain man who lived in Seattle and Chuck knew it. He supported my boy-craziness on one condition -- as long I stayed tough.

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