Posts Tagged ‘postaday 2013

24
Dec
13

Merry xmas eve ….

Merry xmas eve …

Miracle-On-34th-Street-1947-5-300x168

It’s been the most delightful of evenings.

The tree is up and lighted. The dining table cleared. Family happily ensconced with the prodigal daughter aching for the morning when she can tear through her many brightly wrapped packages.

There is something wonderful about seeing one’s 14-year-old still so excited about what Santa will bring!

I admit to a bit of excitement myself mostly because Jewish pagan that I am my investment in the holiday has its own crazy sort of quality to it that is devoid of religion–yet tied to the ideas of joy, peace and giving.

Having reclaimed the living room from writing space (the couch was my literary island for weeks at a time when I wasn’t in the basement of the Dean Street Starbucks in Brooklyn) to actual place where the family can gather, I am feeling a rising crescendo of anticipation, not so much about what loot I’ll net, but at the thought of the twinkle in my family’s eyes when they uncover the secrets within the paper, ribbons and bows that festoon their presents.

I guess that’s what it’s always about in the end. Thinking of the one thing that can bring absolute joy to another.  Sometimes it is something as simple as a favorite food or the special hot chocolate that accompanies breakfast or perhaps a kind word said at just the right moment.

It all puts in mind the months I traveled through Asia on my own. I traveled light having figured out that each thing I brought with me meant that it had to be schlepped on my back–and after a while I shedded possessions as a snake would its skin, growing a new self that would only carry things that could have several uses, trading as I went for books and other nice to haves that I carried one at a time.

I also came to embrace things for what they were: moments in time that were unique and unlike any other. These experiences were serial in nature and while time certainly didn’t stand still–the days always felt longer because my experience of them was so complete.

Christmas is like that for me. It is full and every second of it feels kind of precious. A true day off from the work-a-day world where so much of it goes by without thinking, I find in the tiny red, gold, blue and green lights of the tree a kind of magic that makes me feel very alive.

Sure, the spell will be broken–but for the moment I feel at one with Santa as he drops off presents in Georgetown, Guyana.

Please accept my very best wishes to all of your this very lovely holiday night!

14
Dec
13

Back to basics …

Back to basics …

Lennox Blackmoore & Malissa Smith

Stepping back into anything whether its training or writing blog entries takes a bit of getting used to!

With my manuscript for A History of Women’s Boxing at the publisher (and working through manuscript cuts)–I can attest to how difficult it is to find one’s way back to the earlier routines.

Boxing–not unlike serious dance–is a sport that requires constant fine tuning not only to keep one’s muscle-memory in tact, but to make physical sense of all of the nuances.  Throw in some old bones like mine and that savvy seems to revert back to near on zero after a few months!

For the last four weeks I’ve been attempting to turn back the clock–so to speak–to move my body into the next “space” vis-a-vis how I look to myself shadow boxing in front of the mirror. In a word … Ugh!  Well, okay, I’ll modify that.  “Ugh!” for the first three weeks and a mere, sheesssshhhh for today.

With just a four-month layoff, my timing became non-existent, I couldn’t muster more than 50 situps and the pad work was ugly. Facing my trainer Lennox Blackmoore in the ring was even worse! I could *barely* make it through three rounds (never mind four) of the *ugliest* looking punching you’ve ever seen!  And there was not ONE straight right that I didn’t walk in to!  Talk about humbling.

By the second week–I could at least make it through three + rounds, but my ring performance was no better even with Len egging me and shouting SLIP!  I think I managed to slip exactly one punch–well, maybe I’m being a bit generous to myself. I also managing a 16 round workout, but the situps remained pathetic.

My next step was to add two nights of training on my own after work–to at least bring my conditioning up and to focus on basics such as stance and the jab-jab-right-slip-right combinations. Last Saturday, however, was even worse in the ring–I still kept heading into the straight right, and finally in frustration, I just had Len keep throwing rights at me till I’d slip left out of the way! That seemed to help somewhat although I was still feeling bummed and even my timing on the double-ended bag was awful.

Back at it this week I kept plugging away doing rounds on the slip-rope and the heavy bag to work on those imaginary punches coming my way and spending rounds working on my stance, my footwork and throwing punches from the “slip” position. The only bright spot was realizing that my conditioning was coming back–with my body comfortably moving and working hard through all 16 rounds of work.

That all paid off today when I was able to get through four rounds in the ring with Lennox still able to breathe! As for slipping those punches–we’re talking a work in progress! He nailed me CONSTANTLY, but I did manage a few in every round and kept up with him when we shoe-shined during the last 30 seconds of the fourth round.

As for the rest of my workout, I had lots of stamina and spent a good six rounds slipping and punching as I moved around the heavy bag and the double-ended bag. The speed bag work was fun too. I was doubling-up like a demon and jumped over to the double-ended bag during the one-minute round breaks. And beyond that I actually did 100 situps–admittedly slooowwww, but at least back to my old number!

Despite the fact that my conditioning is much improved, I still feel like a physical moron in the ring and realize that it’s a matter of retraining my brain. The fact is, when I see a punch coming, I want to pull back, and that would make sense if I was stepping back with it and following it up with something, but I’m not. I’m just dumbfounded as I try to hit back and as the milliseconds of inaction tick by I, of course, get slammed with another punch!

The “Pollyanna” in me is convinced that my 59-year-old body can learn some new tricks … but even if I never really do, I at least feel good for trying.

Here’s a nice short video on how to slip a punch–and if you don’t have a slip bag, you can always follow my lead and slip the shower head in the morning.

08
Aug
13

Another chapter done … a history of women’s boxing

Another chapter done … a history of women’s boxing

Dixie Dugan

Dixie Dugan, Comic Book #1, Issued July 2, 1942, one of several comic books during the war years that featured women as strong fighters.

Hattie Stewart, 1883

Hattie Stewart, 1883, published in the National Police Gazette. She was one of two fighters who were known as the Female John L. Sullivan. The other was Hattie Leslie.

The process of writing a book is humbling (as in the magnitude of the task), daunting (as in a HUGE undertaking), exciting (researching and finding tiny pearls are truly the cookies), maddening (as in losing my way) and ultimately immensely satisfying with the proviso that you see humbling.

Writing a history of women’s boxing which has to be teased out of endless newspaper stories, still images, and bits of surviving slim and distant memories, is particularly so.  I worry that I won’t get it right, or in delving into one subject or another, that I’ll be tickling my own fancy to the point where the random reader will exclaim “WTF” never to crack the book open again.

Fact checking is also difficult (see daunting), but one does find a rhythm and learns to use phrases such as “it has been said” or “it was dubiously reported” … and so on.

What’s extraordinary to me is that women have persevered in a sport that loved to hate them.

In the late 1800s to early 1900s, that meant that women didn’t have the chance to fight professionally so they took to the variety theater stage instead.

Hattie Stewart was one boxer who plied the boards in the era. She and another fighter named Hattie Leslie were both known as the “Female John L. Sullivan.”  The never did meet in combat, though they called each other out in the boxing press. Unfortunately, Hattie Leslie passed away in 1892 from a sudden illness, so the fight of the dualing female Sullivan’s never did happen.

It’s also amazing to me that the writer Djuna Barnes penned articles about boxing–both from the point of view of being a spectator (My Sisters and I at the Prizefights) and in two interviews: one with Jess Willard not too long after he defeated Jack Johnson in 1915 (Jess Willard Says Girls Will be Boxing For A Living Soon) and one with Jack Dempsey published in 1921 (Jack Dempsey Welcomes Women Fans).

I find I have favorites too among the women I am writing about.

Belle Martell loses license.SANJoseEveningNews.27May1940.Page4.googleBelle Martel, the first female boxing referee, is someone I just adore.

She was a vaudvillian who met her husband Art, a former boxer, during her show business career. As the business died out with the advent of Talkies, she and Art settled in Van Nuys, California. He started a gym and began training youngsters how to box. Before long, she was in there with him and the two of them became very well known for the quality of the amateur boxing shows they put on–but really it was all Belle.

By 1940 she’d been a trainer, a boxing announcer, a time keeper, and as of April 1940, a duly licensed referee by the state of California Athletic Commission. Unfortunately, the hue and cry among certain folks in the boxing establishment and the press caused the Commission to issue a new rule less than a month later forbidding women from officiating at men’s fights. It was truly a blow to her heart, but she persevered and along with her husband opened the Martell Arena–fondly known as Belle’s Arena.

Gussie FreemanI also love Gussie Freeman (sometime known as Loony) who fought against Hattie Leslie in 1892 shortly before Hattie’s death.

They had a four-rounder at a theater on Grand Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that was talked about for decades.

It was the kind of fight that tall tales were made for.

On the first telling Gussie, her blond hair in a tizzy, barely made it into the third round before the fight was called.

A second telling had the two of them nearly spent,  after going four hard rounds that ended in a draw.

And by the next telling–Gussie soundly defeated Hattie in the fourth with a resounding knock out blow!

Whatever the real outcome of the bout, it gave Gussie, a rope maker on the docks at Newtown Creek, the chance to travel as far west as Chicago when she signed to fight in Hattie Leslie’s show. Gussie also earned enough money to open a bar for a while, until with the money gone, she went back to the ropewalk. Along the way she made a lot of people smile and fifty years after her fight, it was still fondly remembered.

I’ve got a way to go–and a hard deadline coming up, but when I feel overwhelmed by it all, I just think of the sheer nerve of those women and push on.

They are truly my heroines–every last one.

07
Jul
13

Brooklyn girlboxing … circa 1932!

Brooklyn girlboxing … circa 1932!

Yep, girlboxing fight fans, boxing matches in Brooklyn are, it turns out, nothing new. Here’s a fabulous one from November 1932! It featured Miss “Tarzan” versus Terrible Tessy Terry. Other fighters on the card were Nancy “The Irish Demon” Clancy and “Furious Lil” Brown.

TheWashingtonReporter.17Nov1932.GirlboxinginBK.Page11

18
Jun
13

Thinking about my birthday …

Thinking about my birthday …

Happy Birthday Boxing Gloves

This morning, I was tickled to learn that Richard Boone, the actor who played Paladin on the late 1950s-early 1960s show Have Gun Will Travel, was born on my birthday.

Richard Boone, Paladin, Have Gun Will TravelBoone’s character, Paladin was a soldier-of-fortune/knight in not-so-shinging armor.

Between jobs rescuing people and otherwise righting ambiguous wrongs, he lived in a hotel in San Francisco, played poker, enjoyed the classics and let loose tidbits about his background as a West Point graduate and former Union Army officer during the Civil War.

On the trail though, he always wore black: black shirt, pants and neckerchief, black boots, black hat, and even a black holster with his trademark silver knight’s chess piece emblem on the side. As a nine-year-old watching him on reruns, I thought he was cooler than cool, maybe even cooler than Bat Masterson because there was something a wee bit dangerous about a character whose only allegiance was to his own code of ethics.

I got to thinking about Paladin and the ambiguity he represented during the height of the Cold War. Here was a man who could be mistaken for an Eastern “dandy,” but brought sensibilities to his tasks as a gun-for-hire that eschewed the easy answers of black and white morality for the grayer tones that teased out the palate of black and white television images.

Having been a kid in the midst of such things as the Cuban Missile Crisis and Kennedy’s assassination, characters like Paladin seemed to make their way through the thicket of issues that pitted civilization versus barbarism as a frame for the collective discomfiture of living under the threat of annihilation while coping with the angst of allowing our humanity to shine through.

Flashing forward what amounts to me to be a healthy lifetime later–the world I grew up in is altered beyond recognition. Watching an old episode is to step back in time to moral choices that seem simple and naive, with ideas about women and men that seem laughable and anachronistic. And yet, we still dither among them; finding ourselves in wars that make no sense, still telling ridiculously offensive jokes that have impossibly made it more into the mainstream.

The outgrowth of Paladin, a mere five years later was James T. Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise, pushing their way into space toward a utopian future that belied the nightmare dystopic visions of such programs as Rod Serling’s Twilight ZoneAnd yet Star Trek‘s utopian ideal did not embrace the spaciness of Kennedy’s call to technological wonderment. Gene Roddenberry’s future (who incidentally wrote 25 episodes for Have Gun Will Travel) was more in line with Thoreau and  Emerson. The ideal was a simple life fulfilled by meeting one’s essential needs as part of a small communal existence based on a natural order of elders leading novices, and where technology, in service to the greater good, remained hidden under the covers of houses which resembled the adobe buildings of the Zuni tribe from the American Southwest, or as malevolent interlopers manipulating the simplicity of natural living.

The Paradise Syndrome, Star Trek

The Paradise Syndrome, Star Trek

Certainly the economics of 1960s television had something to do with the simplicity of Star Trek’s sets, but the visions, not so unlike the western frontier towns of Paladin’s world were also very contrary to 1960s America which was on fire–literally–as part of the daily diet of nightly news. Why not envision a simple communal existence when the alternative was watching entire portions of cities being clear-cut by riots not unlike the swaths of jungle in Viet Nam carpet-bombed by napalm.

Having lived through the extraordinary shifts of the past half century and more: I am amazed to be in a world where marriage has been redefined to allow young men in love to marry other young men; where women box in the Olympics, and on that wonderful show that leaks tears called So You Think You Can Dance intricate Bollywood numbers are standard fare.

To consider all of this and the myriad of stuff that’s happened between my nine-year-old self watching Paliden and catching the second installment of the Star Trek reboot a couple of weeks ago, is to realize that the life I am living and the larger society around me is one that was never particularly anticipated. The 2013 we all thought about in the 1960s had flying cars–and in Star Trek canon would have already seen Khan and his group of genetically enhanced super beings propelled into space in frozen animation.

It puts in mind the thought that no matter our visions for the future whether utopian, dystopic or somewhere in between–we really can’t know what it is going to happen or how one incident or another will cause us to pivot and realign. It is what happened to the world globally in 1914 when Prince Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo and is repeated over and over again as large scale events and tiny happenstance that causes each of us as individuals to move through life in directions we never thought we’d find ourselves in. Sometimes those changes are for good and at other times wreck terrible havoc that may take generations to recover from, if ever.

What I’ve discovered on this journey from then until now is that life is analogous to riding on the back of a truck facing behind. What I can seeing unfolding is only the road as it comes. And while I have plans for the future that will keep me busy for as long as I can stay afloat on this wonderful place called planet Earth–I really never quite know what is going to happen. All I can do is live each day with as much love as I can muster in my heart along with enough good fortune to keep on truckin’ (hat tip for that last bit to my dear friend Pren).

… Peace!

15
Jun
13

Women’s Boxing champ Frida Wallberg KO sends her to the hospital for emergency brain surgery.

UPDATE 3 (6/16/2013):  The Swedish press is reporting some very good news. It seems Frida Wallberg is off the respirator, awake and talking. It’s also been reported that the bleed was not an internal brain hemorrhage, but a blood vessel at the outer edge between the meninges and the brain. This is excellent in terms of her recovery and likely she will be kept in the hospital for another 5-6 days so that she can continue to be assessed and have the rest she needs. Meanwhile, the matter is being investigated by Swedish boxing authorities.

Women’s Boxing champ Frida Wallberg KO sends her to the hospital for emergency brain surgery. UPDATE 1  & 2 (below)

Boxer Frida Wallberg being assisted by Lucia Rijker and opponent Diana Prazak shortly after Wallberg's devastating KO loss to Prazak on 6/14/2013. Credit: Maja Suslin/Scanpix

Boxer Frida Wallberg being assisted by Lucia Rijker and opponent Diana Prazak shortly after Wallberg’s devastating KO loss to Prazak on 6/14/2013. Credit: Maja Suslin/Scanpix

Swedish Boxer Frida Wallberg (11-1, 2-KOs) suffered a devastating KO in her title fight against the new WBC super featherweight champion, Australian fighter Diana Prazak (12-2, 8-KOs). It has left the wildly popular Wallberg in an intensive care bed at the Karolinksa Hospital in Sweden on a respirator. She was placed in a medically induced coma after receiving emergency surgery to relieve the pressure on her brain from a cerebral hemorrhage. Surgery took place in the early morning hours after the bout.

Prazak spent the night pummeling Wallberg with bombs and rocked her in the 7th round with a sweeping left according to a report on boxingscene.com. Wallberg buckled under the force of the blow, but continued the round.  In the 8th round, seemingly still under the effects of the 7th round blow, Wallberg was on the receiving end of Prazak’s hard punching. Wallberg was knocked to the canvas by short left hook, but after getting up and receiving an 8-count from the referee, Bela Florian, she continued only to be hit by a short right hook which sent her to the deck again.  Bela Florian called the fight at that point and Prazak was given the KO win.

Wallberg was assisted to the corner by Florian, her nose bleeding and tentative in her movements. Even as she was being examined by the ring doctor, one could observe her visibly slumping and hanging on to the ropes. Still he walked away, and it was the quick thinking of Prasak’s trainer, Lucia Rijker who while celebrating her own fighter’s victory saw that Wallberg was in trouble and ran to her aid. Rijker demanded that the doctor return and that Wallberg be given serious medical aid. Wallberg was subsequently attended to and brought out of the ring on a stretcher.

Wallberg’s boyfriend, Robert Ludwig later told the Swedish press that she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage described as a stroke. In other reports, it has been said that doctors may try to revive Wallberg at some point today to assess her condition.

UPDATE 1: According to press accounts from Sweden, Frida was partially brought out of her coma and has had her medications reduced to assist in the process of bringing her to consciousness. That will reportedly happen at about 4:00 PM, 6.15.2013, Swedish Time. No word was given on the state of her injuries or likely prognosis. The press is continuing to state that she suffered a stroke.

UPDATE 2: Wallberg was reportedly awakened, was able to move her fingers and answers questions, but from what could be gleaned, she has likely been re-sedated somewhat to allow her time to heal. There is some cause for optimism, but no answer yet on whether she will make a full recovery from the stroke–and things are still very serious at this point. She remains in the hospital in intensive care.

Whatever happens, under Swedish boxing rules, Wallberg will no longer be able to box professionally in Sweden.  It is also said that she had an MRI two weeks ago as part of her pre-fight medical which showed no signs of abnormality or vessel weakness.

Wallberg’s last fight was 14 months ago against the tough Brooklyn fighter, Amanda Serrano (17-1, 12-KOs). Wallberg won the fight by decision in her native Sweden. Prazak on the other hand most recently fought Holly Holm (33-2, KOs-9) for a shot at the then vacant IBAF and WBF female light welterweight titles. It was Prazak’s only loss.

Responding to questions about Wallberg in a post-fight interview, Prazak with her coach Rijker was overwhelmed by the quick succession of winning the title after a long hard road of training — and the sense that her only way to defeat Wallberg to take the title was by KO, given that the fight was on Wallberg’s home turf in Sweden — and the devastation of knowing that Prazak was so seriously injured.  As Prazak said on her Facebook page last night, “All fighters want the win by KO … just what we had planned and trained for [came] at a big cost.” She went on to say, “My prayers and thoughts are with Frida and her loved ones. Please send your prayers and thoughts for her too.”

Ishika Lay in Recovery, Photo: Florida Times Union

Ishika Lay in Recovery, Photo: Florida Times Union

The injury sustained by Wallberg and subsequent surgery is reminiscent of the devastation suffered by Ishika Lay in November 2011. During Lay’s bid for the National Golden Gloves in the run-up to the Olympic Trials, she collapsed in the ring, the likely victim of second impact syndrome–a form of brain injury that occurs when brain injuries are not given adequate time to heal.

Whenever this happens in boxing — questions arise as to the role that coaches, managers, referees and ringside physicians play in the health and safety of fighters in the ring. The safety of fighters outside the ring, during training, is just as important, if not more so, and it is up to those who care for their fighters to take the precautions necessary to keep their boxers safe–incorporating the adage “when in doubt sit it out.”

It is helpful that in Sweden fighters are required to have brain scans on a regular basis. The fact that Wallberg was cleared two weeks prior to the fight is also good. What we don’t know is whether she sustained any serious head blows in the interval between her MRI and the day of the fight that could have compromised her in some way. By all reports both fighters had tough training camps in preparation for the bout–Wallberg had also been coming to the fight after a 14 month layoff and whether that had anything to do with the severity of her injury is also unknown.

What we do know is that boxers, hockey players, football players, MMA fighters and other athletes in close contact sports sustain traumatic brain injuries–the question is how can we all help protect these remarkable athletes from further trauma. We know that fighters in particular aim for the KO. It is the “cookies” in boxing–and let’s face it, is what garners the big money fights on the men’s side of game, and while women make a pittance by comparison, the KO remains the holy grail.

Making sports illegal is certainly not the answer, but making sports safer with headgear that can minimize the impact of such injuries, as well as vigilance in the gym, on the playing field and in the ring, would seem to be a step in the right direction. Rethinking the importance of big hits is also something to consider–though that is an unlikely change.

04
Jun
13

Speaking to power …

Speaking to power …

Superwoman!

Having gotten back into my boxing groove starting at the end of December when my surgeon gave me the all clear to whale away, my body has begun to find its power again. It’s not all the time or even some of the time, but an occasional thing when I’ll come upon something that I can lift with ease even though I know it’s really heavy, or when I’m about to finish up my light run from my house to the gym and realize that I could keep going for quite a ways.

That sense of comfort with my body or the sense that it has power is not something I’ve had very often in my life. Growing up in NYC in the 1960s meant very little by way of sports–as in punch ball, stoop ball and King, a kind of hand ball where each person had one concrete square in the sidewalk as their “box.”

At summer camp I swam and otherwise did what I could *not* to have to play softball in the heat of the afternoon in a field swarming with no-see-ums. As for basketball, I was hopeless when it came to anything but drippling the ball. The only running I ever did in those days were “chase” games and aside from tap dancing lessons at the age of 12 (for three months at Charlie Lowe’s School where I learned to use my “personality”), I didn’t do much of anything until my mid-thirties when I began to run.

Jogging in the 1970sThe jogging craze that began in the 1970s seemed to pass me by. Sure I tried it, but huffing and puffing for a block or two along the East River of Manhattan on the Upper East Side near where I used to live (and admittedly sucking back a cigarette or two), even along side a boyfriend, just wasn’t for me. Aerobics in cute white Reeboks was also “not my thing,” and if I exercised at all it was disco dancing at places like The Salty Dog, where I could happily gyrate for hours at a time.

Flashing forward to the late 1980s, my body still woefully unexercised, I decided to take up running in a bid to quit smoking. My first runs, attempts to run around Central Park were pathetic. I barely made it down two blocks, never mind to the park, while my chest heaved in pain and spasmed from coughing fits. Knowing that I needed to rid my lungs of years of inhaling junk into them, however, gave me the motivation to persevere. The remarkable thing was that by the end of the first week of daily runs, I was able to run ten blocks and by the end of a month I began to eschew distance for time having ran for thirty full minutes. By the second month my runs were taking me the full circuit around Central Park including the famed 110th Street Hill–a run that took me an hour door-to-door to cover the seven miles. Throughout that Spring I pounded my way through the Park, testing myself with brief sprints, and feeling for the first time in my life, the power of the body.  The experience was humbling, if a little frightening, because I had spent so many years in denial of my physical sphere. But there I was, running as long as an hour and a half, my legs and arms toned, and feeling for very brief moments as if I was invincible.

Life interceded and I quit running after a while, but when I found my way to boxing a decade later, the sense of myself as a physical being began to kick back in. Even now, as I begin to live out the last of my 50s, I find the body’s capacity to renew itself to be truly remarkable.

Sometimes speaking to power has to do with embracing those parts of oneself that extend out in a giant roar of confidence and well-being. My younger self would never have believed that I was capable of saying that–which tells me that whether it’s through the pounding of feet along a path in the park or the extension of a jab in a boxing ring, the magic of finding an alignment of all the parts of one’s being is always within the realm of the possible. All one has to do is take the first step to try.

 




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