That Train Left the Station

There’s a boxing club at the university where I work. It’s open to all members of the campus community, or so they say. This past week I took them at their word and found out that “community” is not exactly a precise term. I figured that going in, what with just about every social cause, movement, and group claiming status as a community. However, I’m not sure even the people involved really see themselves as communities.

For instance, I have a coworker who is allergic to a certain nut, but only if the nut in question (I want to say macadamia, but only because I like saying “macadamia”) is served with mango or papaya as in some Thai dishes. If it is, he breaks out in red splotches and can’t breathe, which, if it were me, definitely would make me avoid mangos and papayas. Not the nuts, of course. I like nuts, which explains some of my romantic encounters over the years, but I’ll leave that for another post. I asked him if there was a support group for his select community, but he said no. “So,” I said, “what kind of community is that?” “Not much,” he admitted sadly.

As it turns out, that part of the campus community for whom the boxing club is open does not include me. I don’t mean legally, morally, or spiritually, but in a practical sense. I’m sure if they had to, they would welcome a guy close to retirement working out with them, holding the punching bag, and serving as a sparring partner. That’s if the old guy didn’t keel over from cardiac arrest or a stroke. I’ll refrain from making a joke here about being a “senior” club member. I don’t want anyone, teenage like, rolling their eyes.

I went to a boxing tournament this week, and all of the boxers, including those from my university, were students representing various schools around the Bay Area. The only people my age were either referees or grandparents of the fighters who had come to cheer them on. And not to put too fine a point on it, I can’t even remember the last time I weighed 135 pounds.

You might be asking why on earth would I want to join a university boxing club? I’ve always liked boxing and used to spar every Friday night when I belonged to a martial arts school (see The Boxer). It wasn’t one of those schools that make you wear baggy pants and a red sash, but one where you had to survive in the ring for three-minute rounds or get clobbered. So, I thought I could do it again. After all, what’s a few decades? My only concern was how to protect my dental bridge from getting knocked out of my mouth when fighting. That’s how serious (and delusional) I was.

In my defense, I am in good health and used to jump rope quite a bit, which I thought would keep me in shape for boxing (see Ten Minutes a Day). That’s like saying I know what starvation is like from skipping lunch. Conditioning is important, but it’s not boxing. I know people have ideas about how to box and what they would do in certain situations. But you don’t know what you would do in the ring until you’re in the ring.

So, my boxing comeback is over. It’s time for me to hang up my gloves and break out the cycling machine. Actually, I never liked those things. And I am not running on a treadmill. I’m not sure I need to. The animal aggression I felt at twenty has more or less dissipated or been sublimated into other things. Boxing would have been nice again, giving me the chance to slap and be slapped. But if that’s what’s going on with me, I’d better figure out something else.

I don’t want to miss opportunities, especially since the ones that remain can be life changing, even for somebody near retirement. Naturally, this wasn’t one of them, but I did hear Marlon Brando in the backseat of a limo telling Rod Steiger that he “coulda been somebody.”

So, that’s it. No more trains leaving the station.

Image credits: feature by Nejc Soklič; boxers by Hermes Rivera; gloves by Bogdan Yukhymchuk. Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.”

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