Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring Comes In My Purgatory Day

In my purgatory, somewhere in a place between Heaven and Hell, in the San Gabriel Valley, spring comes and with it, a renewed sense of hope.  The light drives out the darkness.  The silver sunshine thaws out the snow capped San Gabriel Mountains, and I'm reminded that life overcomes death.

When I was thrown into this world, my hometown, the place where I grew up, the place where I belonged, the space I found to be a hell hole, a destitute place of isolation and hopelessness, I never expected that in God's darkest spaces: hope persists.  I haven't written much in my blog not because much hasn't been happening, actually quite the opposite, much has been happening.  Thus, I haven't found the time to sit down and write.  Furthermore, I'm not sure what I can safely share with my readers here without violating the confidences of my friends.  I've picked some stories to give you a glimpse of what I've been seeing and living through.

It started with the kid - my kid - the one I met in boxing.  A sixteen year old - ex-delinquent.  He asked me - not in these words - but through the message that kids know how to express - if I could help him out of the abysmal life he lived.  For reasons I cannot state here, I had but a few seconds to make a decision.  In life, these are the times that make and break us.  These are the times that we will look upon with regret or relief.  I made the instant decision, "Alright.  I'll help you, but there has to be rules . . . "

And it started.  Bruce Wayne got Tim Drake.  Jean Valjean got Cosette.  I get the boxing kid.  There were many things I needed to sort out with his life.  There were many times I wanted to throw in the towel with him.  But, his constant progress; it showed.  He was getting better: more disciplined, more focused, and more trustworthy.  Now, these changes didn't happen overnight.  It took a lot of time on my part and his.  I also had many headaches and at times, a few shots of whiskey.  Kids - they really know how to push you over the edge and then some.

But the changes - they were obvious and noticeable.  The coaches were impressed.  His family wondered what was happening.  They met me and couldn't believe he found someone of my standing.  It was then - I found that other people in that gym started trying to get into my space.  They came to me with their own issues and problems.  I thought - Hold up!  I am not Mother Theresa!  But it didn't matter - my protests.  My life story was becoming like that of the accountant's time in Shawshank Redemption or Jon Snow's time at the Wall in the Game of Throne.  The boxers came and went and told me their buried stories.  I listened and shared with them my thoughts on solving the problems presented.

All in all, it's lead to such bizarre comments regarding the lives of others.  Such as, "I can't believe you got so and so to finish a book."  "I can't believe you got him to run that much."  "I can't believe you got him to wake up so early."  And so on and so forth.

All in all, it's lead to such strange events.  I was even invited to the HBO Boxing fights - where I was given the prime seats - in which you could see the sweat fly off the boxers when you got hit.  It's lead to me meeting more and more family members and more and more thank yous.  How I got myself into all of this?  I'm not really sure.  The only advertisement I had was the kid and his life.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

In the Ring

I wasn't ready.  I really wasn't.  I didn't feel ready and looking back on it all, I wasn't.

The kid, the one I mentor, threw me in there.  He just said, "Go."  My regular boxing coach Luis wasn't there to supervise. 

The kid put some vasoline on my head gear and on my face.  He said, "You know why I'm putting this on there?"

"So - the punches glide off?"

"That's right."

I was overmatched.  My opponent's been at it for 6 months.  Me 2.  He weighed 180.  Me 135.  He had a longer reach, meaning longer arms.  I didn't know how to duck, weave, and slide yet.  All of those are techniques that help you avoid the punches.  I had a feeling, and still do, that I'm not built to take a beating like the other boxers are. 

We went into the ring.  I was geared up - gloves, headgear, and groin guard.

We were supposed to jab at first, lightly.  I was up in round one.  Jab.  Boom.  I looked like a fencer extending out his sword.  Straight, aligned body.  But short reach.  I'm short.  It was hard to get into him.

Whenever he came in with his jabs, I'd block with the right, step in, and knock his head with a jab.  The punches - they weren't fun.  My head would spring back like punching a jack-in-the-box head on a spring.  Boom.

Then, I heard the kid in my corner scream, "Go at it."

When I heard that, I blocked each jab.  Then stepped in: jab, jab, jab.  Boom, boom, boom.  He stepped back.  I hunted him down and the bell rang.  Ding.

The kid held the water bottle to my mouth.  The soothing water quenched my thirst. 

But I was tired now.  My opponent looked angrier.  He didn't like the flurry of jabs.  And he was getting more aggressive.  He tried to take off my head, one punch landed.  Boom.  My head sprang back.  Ugh.  That hurt.  I went in.  Again and again.  He backed up.

But I was getting tired now.  I was doing all the work.  Always going in.  Always pursuing.  Always hunting.  Always blocking and ducking.  I also had an intense workout before the whole match.  My conditioning, I felt sucked.

Then, I just kept blocking and being defensive.  I just wanted the bell to ring. I thought, oh no, now you're a sitting duck.  The jabs kept coming and they hurt.  The bell rang and I threw in the towel.

It's not in my usual spirit to give up, but I knew I wasn't ready.  Going back in, was only going to teach me one lesson: How to take a beating - Mexican style.  I've seen that style at the gym, and I'm not into the endurance, taking-a-beating style of boxing.  I don't think that's what Ali meant when he said, "Float like a butterfly. Sting like a bee."

Finally - everyone agreed.  I'm glad, even now, I ended it earlier.  The kid shouldn't have thrown me in there, but I was glad I learned where my weaknesses were.  I had never come up with an opponent that had so much reach.

The next week at the gym, that's all I focused on - like a hyper-focused maniac.  How to get into someone's space that has long arms.  Over and over, again and again, I practiced the same drills.  Duck.  Slide.  Punch upwards.  Block.  Step in.  Counter with the backhand.  Over and over.  And I will, over and over.

Yesterday, my mother asked, "Where you going?"

I said, "You know.  Boxing."

"Aye - stupid boy.  I'm not going be there when you get your head knocked off.  Stupid boy."