As I strapped on the pink “farang” gloves this morning in the gym, I took a quick glance around the scene.
Si-Nook, the resident gym mutt was lounging ringside while two cats that weren’t quite stray but weren’t exactly owned lay near the fans.
Zack was standing in his preposterous rubber sweat suit, occasionally opening the elastic arm cuff to let loose a deluge of sweat. I’m “glistening” standing bare chested in shorts short enough to make the most even the most risque teen girl think twice.
In reality, I’m sweating harder than the ne’er-do-well boy hiding under said risque teen’s bed after her parents came home early.
Zack’s covered from ankle to neck in a rubber suit.
I’m about to faint from heat stroke just thinking about it.
Koh is running around like the magnanimous maniac he is, shouting this and that in Thai, occasionally peppering it with a little “well chewed” English, throwing a few shadow punches and kicks as I wrap my hands.
Khan, the 17 year old (easily mistaken for a 12 year old) Thai “pride of the gym” is laughing at me while laying in the middle of the ring with one of the stray cats, making crude hand gestures back and forth with Zack. Finally he jumps up, and starts miming a hide and go seek around one of the punching bags. I have no idea what is so funny, but he and Zack are splitting their sides laughing.
The only other “farang” in the gym, an Englishman named Glenn, is warming up by jumping up and down on old truck tires, the old “Thai trampoline.” He quickly moves on from this to grab a “jump rope”, a pinky width length of hard, clear tubing with two hand carved wooden grips on the end, held together by a bolt and washer.
As I finish wrapping my hands, I move over to one of the punching bags. This one consists of 2 SUV tires bolted together, swinging from a heavy chain. What it lacks in sleek looks, it makes up for in utility. I’d rather be punching this than either of the “professional” punching bags swinging to its right and left. The give from the tires keeps it from swinging as violently, while still giving enough weight to really feel it in the shoulders.
The smell of “gym” is omnipresent. Every time I slip my sandals off and take that first deep breath, I am immediately transported 9200 miles and 10 years in the past, to a long ago August in a hot, old, poorly painted locker room on the south end of the BNL Fieldhouse.
If I close my eyes, I can hear Zac Gary’s voice, always an octave higher than normal when he was excited, shouting what he planned to do to someone poor soul as soon as “stations” were done and “Oklahoma” started.
Every time he really gets going though, the even higher voice of DJ Horton drowns him out, “Gary you chucklehead why don’t you shut your mouth and show me something on Friday instead of telling Flick what you’re going to do to him after practice.”
I swear if I look left, I’ll see the big head of Paul Spreen bouncing slowly as he emits his famous “hut hut hup” laugh.
Amazing how a smell can bring a decade old memory back with clarity that makes HD seem like an RCA box TV with bunny ears.
For all the gifts God gave us, that protruding two holed time machine is among the greatest.
After I’ve been appropriately slathered down with Tiger Balm and boxing liniment, the real training begins. 4 minutes of shadow boxing, 1 minute rest. 4 minutes combo work with a trainer shouting commands and holding the pads, 1 minute rest.
After the 4th round of combo work, I’m trying to drown myself in water which 20 minutes ago was straight from the fridge. Now it is room temperature and climbing, sitting in a pool of sweat which rivals my own.
The shirt I’m using to wipe my face is completely drenched, my hips feel like I just gave birth to a hippopotamus from the continuous strain of high kicks on my brutally inflexible hip flexors.
As I look in the mirror, I look like a 2 legged contestant in a greased pig contest.
As I told my parents in an email after day 1, “You know the flames that jump up from the grill as the fat from a nice ribeye slowly drips down? Thank God I’m not training on a grill, or my doughy American ass would be CHAR-BROILT!”
Oh by the way, it is only 8:25AM. Not even halfway through session 1 of 2 for the day.
For all the memories of high school football that flood my mind, none of them seem to be able to remind my sorry 27 year old carcass of what it once was.
Real shame, because that 17 year old body would really be handy right about now.
I guess the aches and pains of my current form are a small price to pay for a ride in that two holed time machine. A quick trip back to a place where our problems were laughably small and our guts were even smaller.
We were all still invincible back, because Life had graciously saved those lessons in mortality for a later day.
To spend even a moment back in that long gone time and place. That’s worth every ounce of sweat. Every ache and bruise.
In fond remembrance of Zac Gary.