Friday, April 17, 2009

The Wrestler (actually, boxer)

Last night, I went to The Golden Gloves Tournament at Madison Square Gardens. It’s an amateur boxing championship where men and women of all weight classes try to out-punch each other in the face. Actually, it’s not just the face, it’s the chest too. But not the top of the head, or the back, or below the belt, of course. And fighters can’t hit with just any part of their gloves, only this little part around the knuckles that they’ve marked with tape. There are so many rules to boxing and if I start listing the ones I learned last night I will get bogged down. The point is, whoever scores the most points, (as determined by the 20 or so spectator judges) gets to wear home a pimped out gold chain with a boxing glove pendant as big as my kidney at the end of it.

Does that description sound glib? It shouldn’t. Boxing is fucking awesome.

I was tired and grumpy and hungry when I got to Madison Square Gardens. Then all the sudden I was watching a scrappy 112 lb girl kick the crap out of her opponent! It was like the fights I used to watch in front of my high school after lunch break, (East High alumni know what I’m talking about.) And when Shemuel Pagan of the Bronx took on Vassilliy Zherebnenko of Kasakhstan it was the Cold War all over again! Pods of Russians throughout the crowd chanted “Russia! Russia! Russia!” while my boyfriend tried to goad his friend and me into a “USA! USA! USA!” counter-scream.

But it’s so obvious to say that bloodlust was what yanked me out of my end-of-a-long-week fog. I’ve got all this testosterone in my bloodstream these days. I have this vivid mental picture of a bunch of tattooed testosterone particles in wifebeaters teaming up to try and chase the frail estrogen out of my system by way of my monthly cycles. I work and play sports with all these dudes. I like books about war, I’m learning the rules of baseball. Getting revved up over people trying to knock each other unconscious is just one more wrinkle in a journey that ends with me growing a full moustache.

What I didn’t expect to see was the tenderness between fighters. You rest in the middle of a round by wrapping your arms around your opponent, by leaning yourself against them so that they carry your weight for a few seconds. It sort of looks like they’re calling a truce, like they’re wondering, “What were we fighting about? I’m so tired I can’t even remember anymore.” At the end of each match, the boxers would hug each other, hug the opponent’s trainer. And that they had just been kicking ass made their embraces seem that much more tender.

If only we could cut our emotional wheels that quickly in real life. After the punches thrown, it takes so long to find our way back to each other. We return to the center of the ring by way of ginger inches. But most of the time, fighting doesn’t seem to amount to much more than a sport. Would it be great if forgiving could be done as jauntily as those boxers’ embraces? To me, anyone who can let go of shit that easily deserves to make off with some golden glove bling.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Part (wo)man, part monkey

I spent Easter in Charlotte, North Carolina, making shish kabobs and fruity drinks with my old friend, Brooke. We even listened to a radio show we'd recorded on her "My First Song" when I was 10 and she was 12. I found my call in to Brooke, who was posing as an on-air advice columnist, a little depressing. 10-year-old me pretended to be a pregnant woman in her third trimester with five kids and a husband who'd just left her. My character wanted to jump out a window, but was quickly consoled by Brooke's advice to "take a shower and ride a bike." Reflecting on it now, it's probably not so easy for a very pregnant lady to bathe herself and hop on her Schwinn. And unless he has a thing for fat cyclists, I doubt it's gonna bring back her man. We were naive. 

I flew back into La Guardia this afternoon and had to go from bus to train to make my way home. I'm never in the middle of Queens, and I never eat alone in public, so when I stepped off the bus leg of my journey and found myself next to Neptune's Diner, I decided to do something weird for the sake of that adventurous little 10-year-old who'd been on my mind all weekend.

I ate my bowl of soup next to a father in a black velour jogging suit and his children, who had a lot of questions about Neptune, depicted as a gray-haired, ripple-chested cartoon dripping bead of salt water down the front of the family diner menu. My parents used to read my siblings and me all the Greek myths, so when the father next to me insisted that Hades wasn't a god but a place, I had to intervene. Parents should not miseducated their children. Kids are the future. They deserve to be taught the right facts before they promptly forget them!

But there I was, watching tziki slide down an old woman's chin when it dawned on me, isn't Neptune the ROMAN name for the God of the Sea? This is a Greek restaurant, people, why aren't we calling it "Poseidon's Diner"? Has the world abandoned its desire for consistency? Don't we care about providing a clear and accurate lesson plan for our little kids' menu masticators?

I came this close to sharing my musings with the family next to me. But then I realized that you can call both the guy and the place he rules "Hades." And I started to feel like sort of an asshole.  

Monday, April 6, 2009

All men wanna be rich...

In lieu of devoting my time to an activity that could advance my career or inch me closer to feeling some sort of professional fulfillment, I’ve decided to transform my kitchen. This weekend, I dodged the book I was assigned to review for my writing class to pour over “The Art of Simple Food” by Alice Waters instead. My cookbook and I cuddled on the couch, trying to ignore that rebuffed paperback gawking at us from across the room. Oh assigned reading, you are so long and boring! Why do the things I feel like I’m supposed to do seem so far away from the things I want to do?

Now, I’m close to obsessed with idea of putting fresh, delicious fuel into my body. But my feelings about Alice Waters are complicated. I went to college with her daughter, Fanny. And while Fanny was always perfectly fine during the limited exchanges we shared, I’m so insecure. You probably know that already. In my mind, Fanny’s just another person who serves as a reminder that you can be much further along in life at age 26 than I am. And you can read all about it in the New York Times. Other classmates who make me queasy with envy? Jamie Kirchirk, Zoe Kazan, Daniel Kurtz Phelan…)

Am I a bigger person for admitting my own human weakness? I get jealous! Sometimes cripplingly so. And whether I say it in a blog entry or keep it to myself, I’m still in the exact same place…making copies…typing what people tell me to…asking myself important questions like “how much water have I had today?” “Am I sitting up straight?” Hydration and posture, the small personal struggles of my day-to-day.

I know, I know. Comparing yourself to others gets you nowhere. It’s like my mom said once: You don’t have to set the world on fire at 26. Of course, what she actually said was that you don’t have to set the world on fire at 24, because that’s when I started complaining about all this stuff. And now here I am, almost 27, wearing possibly the same outfit I was the day she first offered me that advice. At what age should you start to feel like if you haven’t torched your home planet, you might as well just throw in the towel and sign up for truck driving school?

So like I said, I’m going to transform my kitchen. I’m going to stock it with all the artillery necessary to throw together the kind of meal that makes my stomach feel warm instead of twisted. And it’s not going to be easy! Taking care of yourself hardly ever is. But imagine if you were your child instead of yourself, you’d make the extra effort, wouldn’t you?

Is this another distraction, something that I do instead of what I really want to do, because the thing I really want to do is too large and looming? Am I just cowering in the shadows that dreams cast? Maybe. But it’s a challenge. And I believe that any accomplishment begets another. They gild confidence to make it stronger and more flashy. And if it is a royal waste of time, and least it will keep me too busy to care.