Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A donut of a blog post . . .

Martha note: My husband Charlie says there's no such thing as an inanimate object. This came to mind as today's entire blog post (on the subject of China's 200-year drought, complete with complicated research and the resulting links) disappeared from my computer screen.   
Suddenly, it was just gone . . . 
This, I realized, is why it's good to have led a rackety life. When one's blog post vanishes and there's no time to recreate it, one can just rummage around in one's own past for a back-up.
This is another story from my long-ago days as a freelancer, back when I had a pick-up with a camper and drove around looking for radio stories. It's just a vignette, a beignet, a donut of a blog post meant to accompany your morning or afternoon cup of coffee . .

Fort Bragg, North Carolina, seemed enormous;  the size of a small country; one with many more rules than I ran into in Charlottesville, where I  lived at the time. On that very hot day, for example, I, a civilian woman dressed in a t-shirt, was required to wear a heavy camouflage jacket whenever I was around enlisted men.

I was there to interview boxers who have a shot at competing in the Olympics.

Robert Riggs, Club Fighter, lithograph, circa 1933-34
The boxing gym at Fort Bragg was a very macho place. It was, in fact, the most palpably macho place I had ever seen, and that includes the insides of pro and college sports locker rooms. Every ounce of energy in that gym was directed toward the refinement of aggression. It was packed with ripped, almost naked men working out; jumping rope, lifting weights, punching bags and each other. The din was overwhelming; smacks, ooofs, groans, yelps, violent taunts. There was just nothing about me that belonged there except my microphone.

Between 1954 and 1962, Muhammid Ali won six Kentucky Golden Gloves championships, and two national Golden Gloves titles. I was at Fort Bragg to interview that year's super-heavyweight Golden Gloves champion, a huge, sculpted, truly beautiful man, who carried no discernible body fat. The two of us chatted awkwardly for a while, seated in the gym's disordered front office. among boxes of gloves, broken weights, dusty boxing magazines. We talked about boxing, about training, about the Army, about the Olympics. He was polite, but uncomfortable; a rock-hard tower of aggression who'd been ordered to stop training and talk to a strange woman.

When the interview was over, I asked to go to the ladies' room. It took some time for him to figure out where this was, as the demand for a ladies room in the Fort Bragg boxing gym was not great. He finally figured out that it was directly on the other side of the boxing gym.

I remember standing there in that office doorway, holding my recorder tightly to my chest, looking out into that big room full of boxers, wondering if these men and I were really, truly of the same species.

And then, America's super-heavyweight Golden Gloves champion quietly took my hand and, holding it tightly, guided me across the room.

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