I remember Jack the night-guard at the marina I lived in as a boy. It was 1972. I would grab my towel and soap from under my bunk on the old boat we lived on and walk the quarter-mile of wooden, creaky docks and up the steep ramp to the showers late at night, steep because the tide was usually out and the docks were far below the courtyard where the marina services where, then stop by his office before heading back down that ramp to those wooden, creaky docks. He was almost always watching a boxing match on his black and white TV. It was almost always a Muhammad Ali fight. Muhammad Ali and Mac Foster, Muhammad Ali and Alvin Lewis. Muhammad Ali and Floyd Patterson. I would sit across his desk and crane my neck toward that TV up on a shelf in the far left corner and he would lean back in his dark wooden chair with the rusty springs, rusted from years of salt air creeping in through the open door, the flickering light of the TV keeping out the fog while the sounds of the fog horns found their way in.
One night out of the blue he asked me, “You know what I like about boxing?” I turned away from the TV. He leaned forward and we waited for the one big creaking sound to dissipate. “Two men, get into a ring to win, they each know there will be a loser, but they both get in to win.” He gave me a stern look. “Get in the ring and win.”
Tonight I sat in front of the fireplace out in the courtyard. I heard the sound of the fountain close by. I felt the heat. I heard the crackling. I felt the cold, hard pavement. And the cool breeze on my face. There were no foghorns. There was no salt air. No creaking of rusted springs. No punches being thrown by Muhammad Ali. But I felt it all. I heard it all. Jack was right there with me, even though it was nearly fifty years ago. But I heard him. You know what I like about all those times I watched boxing with him? It was the time I spent with him. That’s what I liked.
Tomorrow I’m going to get in the ring and win.
December 28, 2019