Retirement has meant me working out on a regular basis with my trainer Mike at the gym. Not as regular as my trainer Mike would like.
But, you know.
The results of the past three years seem remarkable to me. I am down 20 to 30 pounds, depending on the month and the level of my dining self-discipline. And I feel better. I hurt less. I can bend over to pick up Ulysses’ dog poop without uttering a strange noise. I have biceps that nearly fill the sleeves of my smaller t-shirts. I can’t say that I love workouts. But I am happy with the results.
Last week I put on the boxing gloves for the first time and started hitting the boxing pads Mike holds up.
I beat up a punching bag.
I love this exercise.
It’s hard work. I sweat.
I visualize people who have pissed me off in public life and in my personal life and I beat the crap out of them. All in my head, of course.
Mike is teaching me patterns with upper cuts. Hooks. Jabs. Those kinds of things.
I am like a lot of the students I have taught. I have a hard time remembering sequences of more than three things. So Thursday I dodged when I should have ducked and got smacked in the nose.
It was a good reminder that I’m not interested in actual boxing. I don’t want to hit anyone. Or be hit. I have no interest in getting hurt by a blow to the torso. Or to the nose. But the workout is great, and I love it.
I keep telling Mike I love it. So he promises me we will do it at least one day a week.
The part that bothers me is that I am almost 68 and it took me this long to discover that I love this. I have never been a jock and there has never been anything I was very good at or liked to do.
If only I knew about putting on the boxing gloves 50 years ago.
“I could have been a contender,” I joked.
“You could have been somebody,” Mike responded. He knew the quote, but not the source.
We both laughed. I told him the story of On the Waterfront. It is the movie that the quote comes from. I shared the story of the Hollywood Blacklist.
I tell Mike stories all the time. He believes I do this to avoid the workout.
Which is partially true. It is also the teacher in me.
The recent movie, Trumbo, gives you a sense of the McCarthy Era, the Red Scare and the Blacklist. It is worth watching for that reason alone.
Elia Kazan was the director of On the Waterfront. It starred the great Marlon Brando. It was all about the mob, the New York docks and the longshoremen’s union.
In the fifties Kazan had been a friendly witness, the term used to describe those who testified and named names of their friends and colleagues who had been or were radicals and communists. Kazan had named names before Congress’ House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC).
Testifying and naming names allowed Kazan to continue to work in Hollywood. Those he named were denied work.
On the Waterfront dealt with the mob’s influence in the east coast longshoremen’s union. The hero names names of mobsters.
Kazan used the movie to justify his own actions as a friendly witness against radicals and communists in the movie industry.
The great writer Arthur Miller had been a friend of Kazan’s since their early days together in stage productions.
When Kazan named the names of his friends, Miller was pissed. In response he wrote a play, The Crucible, about the Salem witch hunts. Miller’s message was seen by all as a repudiation of Kazan’s naming names.
On the Waterfront is a great movie. It is rarely seen these days. It is mainly known for the clip of Brando saying, “I could have been a contender.”
A joke. A punchline.
The Crucible is still read by high school students around the world.