Sunday, August 05, 2007

How to Get Your Ass Kicked and Love Humanity at the Same Time

Another glorious chapter of Klingon history. Tell me, do they still sing songs of the great Tribble hunt?

- Odo [Rene Auberjonois]
From the episode "Trails and Tribble-ations,"
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, 1996

HAMILTON, Ohio (ZP) -- The sound of Mexican Spanish and playing children and giggling cholas rang throughout my pounding skull as my knees buckled, my dancing done for the day.

Gossip about some female lead in a telenovela, Destilando Amor, from a group of chirping young women, sang through my body with every punch that made contact, with every point my opponent took from me.

Whump. Whump.

"Oscar" landed two solid right jabs into the headgear, enough to wobble the brain within my skull, enough to start spinning the world.

I easily blocked the third punch, but my almost child-like attempt at a comeback, a series of left crosses and right-left jabs, a last-ditch right hook, signaled the end.

My out-of-shape, winded body gave up after a phantom left popped the mouthguard halfway across the yard, a simple reminder that the summer's woes had left me nothing more than a shitbag full of sloth.

The skin-sheering heat and humidity choked me as I spun, my last view as a boxer the urban decay of a migrant neighborhood in east Hamilton, a few miles away from Pershing Avenue.

* * * *

Pershing, as in ol' General Black Jack himself, the legendary U.S. military commander during the First World War, savior of Europe.

A man better known, in Mexico and the Southwestern United States, as the Big Bad Gringo who'd once been dumb enough to pursue Pancho Villa, the Mexican legend, across the border, back in 1916.

As the Mexican freedom fighters triumphed in the only successful military attack on the continental States in the 20th Century, yet another Gringo had failed to keep a Chicano from winning a fight.

* * * *

I could've, possibly, made one last stand, could've played Davy Fucking Crockett against the one-one-two-one barrage of Santa Ana punches, but the sight of a four-year-old girl slapping the dirt with both hands, counting me out as I tried to get back to my feet, her face smeared with ice cream, finally brought the sparring match to a close.

Two and a half rounds against a welterweight Mexicano, a born citizen of the Estados Unidos, son of an Illegal Migrante Father and a Texan Mother.

The Rio Grande Kid, not even old enough to vote but counting down the weeks until his military enlistment, waiting to build a future for himself and his immigrant girlfriend, the teenage mother of that little chica, had KOed his big brother's former sparring partner.

* * * *

Hard to believe there are dumbass peckerwoods throughout Butler County, self-righteous rednecks throughout the U.S., who think "Oscar" and his young family don't belong in this country.

No one asks my opponent where he was born, if he's a U.S. citizen by birth - every job the kid's had, he's had to prove his birthright based solely on the fact that his skin is brown and he speaks Spanish.

Why aren't these assholes talking about building a fence along the Canadian border? I mean, we've had friggin' terrorists sneak across that side of North America.

Hell, we had a U.S. citizen carrying a highly contagious strain of friggin' tuberculosis fly into Canada, then drive on over, Border Patrol failing to detain him because, well, he was coming in from Canada.

Oh yeah. The majority of Canadians have white skin and speak English.

And I'm sure that fueled some rage inside him, the anger of any teenage father told that the mother of his child doesn't have the skills to be a U.S. citizen, a woman who wants to open a beauty salon one day, who told me he once lost his temper at a Germanic shopping mall clerk in Colerain for calling his daughter illegal, even though she's just as Ohio as the next kid born in this state.

With that much pent-up fury, I'm lucky my head stayed attached to my body during the bout. Fortunately for me, "Oscar" is a gentle soul, a true boxing artist and gentleman.

A good fighter turns rage into fuel, never wastes that fuel on something as stupid as uncontrolled violence.

Especially on an innocent older guy, a friggin' librarian with a blind spot on his right, with lead footwork and who drops his guard to talk smack.

Why waste the energy?

* * * *

No permanent damage.

I stayed on the ground, tossed off the gloves, and stared at a convoy of ants dragging the carcass of a beetle through the dust. Oceans of sweat poured from my head, turning the convoy's path into a muddy trap.

I could feel my left hand swelling, the knuckles gnarling up from my miserable showing. I spat pink, salty saliva - no loosened teeth but a few open wounds bleeding behind the molars. And, though my nose cartilage was intact, untouched in fact, I was certain that if we'd been sparring without headgear I would've been on my way to the emergency room.

* * * *

To be quite honest, I don't think I've ever enjoyed getting my ass kicked so much in my entire life.

Some lessons are best relearned, textbook free, in a notoriously bad neighborhood in the middle of goddamn nowhere Ohio.

And sometimes, the only way to relearn what makes a man a man is to play Black Jack Pershing to another's Pancho Villa, to swing for flesh and gasp for breath as one makes contact with nothing, to hit the dirt like a comic strip Palooka and accept that the world sometimes beats a man down just to teach that man how to get back onto his feet.

Oscar's girl brought me a bag of frozen mixed vegetables. For the hands. And a handful of Motrin and iced tea, as requested, for everything else. In broken English, the Indio-featured teen, large hoop earrings swinging behind jet-black Indio hair, told me that I fight good, fight good.

She took the victor his cold glass of sweet tea, helped him out of his gloves and tape and wraps, gave the victor his victory kiss long and hard. The winner's daughter sat in the dirt next to me, singing songs in gibberish, in that universal language only other little girls can understand.

"I think ya'll are gonna be alright, kiddo."

The child doesn't speak English, save for a few phrases picked up from Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer and other kids' TV shows. She cocked her head, giggled, and went back to tormenting the ants beneath a scorching sun.

* * * *

And I think I'm gonna be alright, too, actually.

It's good for the soul, really, to lose some fights. Reminds a person of the importance of being alive, of watching the sun rise over the horizon, of the sheer positive energy that lights up across the cosmos like fireflies in a jar.

So what if I ended up spitting out a chunk of filling from my teeth a few hours later? Or if my already pulled groin feels worse, or if my south paw aches from the work my right should've done? And who cares about a damned headache, a jarred sense of self?

I am alive.

And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul? Walt Whitman once asked, And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?


If ol' Pershing hadn't gotten his ass handed to him in Mexico, that White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant illusion of the United States would be just about as American as Kaiser Wilhelm II.

- # # # -


Woeful said...

LOL... It's not because Mexicans are brown and Spanish speaking that they're being discriminated against. It's because they're poor. If they were purple and rich, they would be encouraged to invade! Not that the would want to... But I think you already know this.

Cat. said...

Off topic dramatically: I swear to GOD I saw you in our Wal-Mart today, 350 miles from your burg! I nearly ran over some poor old granny because I was staring so hard at the guy who dropped his cell phone while doing a bang-on impersonation of ZenFoPro.


Anyway. Glad to hear you know when to fold: flat on the ground, winded, being counted out by a 4-year-old. ;-)

xboxgirl said...

You went boxing with a pulled groin? Ouch, well a least you enjoyed getting you ass kicked.

Woeful is right.

xboxgirl said... = your....

coyotemike said...

I once had a student in one of my writing classes. Born in the U.S., an Army veteran, a gang veteran; he had a cute little daughter, a girlfriend/fiance that would make Jennifer Lopez look like yesterday's garbage, a full school schedule, and a full-time-plus job on the slaughter line of a local beef packing plant. The plant gets raided by INS about once per month. This guy had everything against him, but he had a poetry to his writing that kept him at the top of this class. He may have given me attitude, but he also gave my job a respect that few of these "proper Americans" are willing to give. I'd rather have 20 of him in a class than 20 WASP-bred frat-shits.

The ZenFo Pro said...

Lol, or at least people think they're poor. They don't make much money, but it goes a long way.

I really was careful - I'm even careful offline - describing the locale. We have a certain politician who has gained a bit of notoriety for his grandiose migrant-labor bashing, instructing his deputies to do INS's job, detaining folks, deporting them, then attempting to bill INS and the Mexican gov't for our "troubles."

Exactly! How many times do you think David and Victoria Beckham are gonna get stopped and asked about work visas???

Fucked up shit, dude.

Lol, I used to have a lookalike student here, total chachball preppy kid. I had two separate incidents at work involving HIS ex-flings.

Apparently, Oxford Ohio is really just a generic, store brand town. Everybody starts looking the same, with the same names and faces. (3 out of 5 women in one of my library's divisions share the same first name.)...

He may be in your neck of the woods.

Zenfo Clones are not to be trusted. :P

Ugh. Yup.

Then, realizing how out of shape I was, I hit the floor bright and early Sunday, cranked out 200 crunches (pain be damned) and 150 pushups, with 50 chinups in there somewhere.


I should've added an addendum, too, about the fact that the tiny little cut across the bridge of ny nose opened up Sunday while at the grocery store. Blood everywhere! Scared the bejeebus out of some high school kid.

[I did a stupid thing. Cut would've stayed unnoticeable, healed quicker, had I not washed the styptic/Vaseline off my face, obstained from those two cocktails, and not taken a hot shower for 12-24 hours.)

Yeah, this kid was the same way. Part of the reason I ended up in Hamilton was as a favor to his older brother - who now lives a few hundred miles away and will help the girlfriend and kid out while Lil Bro's in Basic.

Hamilton really did used to be a minor boxing mecca. It's sad, too, as the sport continues to lose favor amongst American teens. Great to help promote the sport, I guess.

I actually had a conversation with one of my students yesterday about boxing. The woman was appalled by the idea of me participating in what she called barbarity. Boxing has long been a sport, I explained, to help channel anger (class-warfare generated or interpersonal) into something positive. Student suggested I get the kid (who I've only met twice) into aerobics, yoga, etc - i.e. non-combat sports.

How many fucking Yoga Centers are there in America's goddamn inner-cities????? Yoga is awesome for the body, but, sadly, lessons can get expensive. The woman had never thought about the fact that the majority of poor folks don't schedule trips to the gym, don't have access to even that form of healthcare.

Hell, high schools are actually doing away with Physical Education programs, cutting sports funding....

Yeah, I'd rather deal with the attitude. Shows courage, strength, and character. A lot of college kids lack that.

EsotericWombat said...

Fuckin' A, man.

'sall I have to say.

xboxgirl said...

"the bridge of ny nose opened up Sunday while at the grocery store. Blood everywhere!" Damn! Ouchy ouchy ouch...

200 crunches, 150 pushups, and 50 chinups, wow that actually a lot for someone out-of-shape.

I ever so often do 0 crunches, 50 pushups with 60 pounds on my back and 30 pull-ups, and I thought that was pretty good.

Miz BoheMia said...

I seriously do not get you male "creatures"! And the apostrophes are just 'cause I am trying to be nice... funny thing is that just last night, I don't know what Loverboy did but it was enough to get me started, I told Loverboy how I just don't get men... you can be so civilized and well learned and act proper but that you are all a bunch of neanderthal, backward weirdos and what baffles me even more is that THAT somehow adds to the attraction...

So I suppose we are the weirder creatures after all!

And I meant all that as a compliment and in the nicest way possible! ;-P

Dios mio amigo! Estás chiflado!

G said...

Your writing and life experiences leave me speechless - in the best possible way.

I am not a violent person but something about the sport of boxing is sheer poetry. As you so eloquently put, "A good fighter turns rage into fuel, never wastes that fuel on something as stupid as uncontrolled violence."

What a great post. What a unique spin you give to life. Thanks for the view.

The ZenFo Pro said...

True, true.

Strangely enough, no pain with the bleeding.

But the workout routine? Gettin' grueling.

Lmao! worries. Hear ya loud and clear, actually. I've always been reluctant to come out and just say that, well, I love me some boxing. Really is a gentlemen's sport.

If it helps...I have to quit b/c the ol' insurance may or may not cover combat sports ;)

Why, thank you, ma'am.

Boxing is really more of a dance than anything else...footwork, combined with hand movements. But with blood.