Monday, October 24, 2005

White Boy Slugfest


It was a hell of a way to start a weekend.

I got out of work one Friday night a few weeks ago and walked down to Battery Park City.

Was I heading for happy hour at some uber-chic saloon? Hell, no. A romantic rendez-vous with a lucious Eastern European supermodel? Jesus, it hurts to even dream about that.

No, I was on my to the New York Sports Club to take a boxing class. Now why the hell I do this, I don't know. Of course there are the surface reasons: it's great exercise, you get to work out in a group, it saves me from the murderous monotony of the treadmill and the barbells, and it lets me get out my aggressions.

The gym wasn't crowded that night, a sign possibly that people were out having a life rather in here wheezing and perspiring. I found out that boxing class was even more mob-free--I was the only person there.

Sal, a young African-American boxer and martial artist was teaching the class and when others failed to show up, my first thought was, oh, no, he's going to cancel the class. Then a few more minutes went buy and then I thought, oh, no, he's not going to cancel the class.

So he started running me through the whole routine, push-ups, jumping jacks, jumping on the stepper, and then on to the heavy bag and the focus mitts. It looked like a scene from some prison movie where the sadistic guard runs the heroic (and innocent)convict into the ground.

This happened only one other time before, at the Union Square gym on a holiday weekend, and the instructor put me through 15 minutes of work before splitting. And I didn't mind. But Sal went for the whole bleeding hour.

I couldn't believe it. I kept looking at the clock, thinking, ok, we're done here, right? I may not have a life, but surely you've got some lovely young thing waiting for you. Well, I guess she was patient, because Sal did not ease up.

Great White Dopes

While Sal was running me into the floorboards, I noticed a personal trainer had come in and was working his client through a series of excerises, including some punching drills on the mitts.

Like Sal, this trainer was African-American, and like me, his client was a middle-aged caucasian male. I imagined Sal and this other man taunting each other in the locker room, saying, "hey, my white boy can whup your white boy."

That would have been a smoker, kind of like Gerry Cooney vs. Duane Bobick, a fight I'm sure everybody was dying to see back in the 80's. It would have also been a variation on a theme, having white fighters go at it before a minority audience, though hardly entertaining for lovers of the Sweet Science.

Sometimes I feel like an invader when I try boxing, since it's such a huge part of the Black and Hispancic cultures. Who the hell am I kidding? Even if I were younger, I wouldn't dream of getting into the fight game for a living. Just because of my background, I have a lot more choices than most of these poor bastards that punch each other into oblivion.

I see the original White Dope, Sylvester Stallone is making yet another Rocky movie, only this time he'll be 60 years old (!) I remember when I saw the first Rocky back in 1976, at a sneak preview on the East Side. I was going to Hunter College and I saw it with a guy in one of my film classes. I had such a fabulous time, cheering along with everyone else.

But Stallone had to take a good thing and beat it to death, pounding it the way Apollo Creed blasted Rocky's head in the first two flicks. Now I guess he'll climb into the ring on a walker and take on Apollo's granddaughter.

I Knock People Down

Now if you want a fight movie, you should check out Hard Times with my man Charles Bronson.

I watched it again the other night and I had forgotten how good it was. Not just the fight scenes, which were great, but the acting, thanks to James Coburn and Strother Martin, (Bronson didn't say much, but with that mug, who cares?) and some really great lines.

The fights are bareknuckle, grim, and dirty. Fighters kick, choke, and butt with their heads. It is pretty the anti-Rocky, though it's a fantasy as well.

The fighters in this movie are more like gunfighters, with killer reputations; and Bronson has this habit of turning away and walking off into the night at various times in the movie. Once is dramatic, but it seems to happen an awful lot. And no one ever says hey, Charley, where the hell are you going?

The film was shot in New Orleans, which I think gives it another layer of importance, as we're probably looking at places that are no longer there. I guess every film ever shot in the Big Easy now has the distinction, even that crappy Jean-Claude Van Damme thing. They're preserving history.

Lemme at him!

Needless to say the NYSC White Boys did not battle, which was lucky for that other sap, because we all know I would have dropped kicked his ass onto Broadway.

I thanked Sal for giving me what amounted to a private boxing lesson and hit the showers. I went out and did something, I think, though now I can't seem to recall what it was. I guess that was the highlight of my evening. Hmm...

I went to the gym tonight and I'll probably hit it over the weekend. I'm not the exercise junkie I was when I was in college, but I'm still a little too obsessed for my own good. I keep expecting I'll be healthier if I keep working out, but that, of course, doesn't have anything to do with the health problems I've had over the years.

But it's still fun. And give me a few more lessons with Sal and I'll be ready to take on any paunchy caucasian male in town.

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