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Showing posts from 2011

A December Ghost Story

Written by  the ghost long rumored to live in the Columbus, Ohio home of writer, James Thurber. This is his first essay, written to recommend our Ms. Schulman as a Writer-in-Retreat at the Norman Mailer Writers Colony. I take all the credit - she got in!


In this creative afterlife, I am simply an apparition, a figment, you might say, of one’s imagination, who lives in James Thurber’s old family home in Columbus, Ohio and who has been rumored to exist for years. I am a ghost of a Thurber cartoon. There we are, in black and white, my meddlesome wife lying across our chaise lounge, legs crossed, our dog Dibbles sitting next to her. I read the newspaper, glasses on, with my head swiveled towards her. She holds our candlestick telephone. “Well, if I called the wrong number, why did you answer the phone?” she asks. I guess there’s some logic here but after 12 years of this cockeyed nonsense, she was sent on an excursion boat down the Olentangy River, never to be heard from again. So that leave…

Sticks and Stones: A Tribute to Joe Frazier

Once, a long time ago, Joe Frazier and I sat crammed on a hotel stage filled with heavyweights, both literally and pound-for-pound, posing behind large tables and a podium for a boxing awards dinner. These men fought for championship titles in front of thousands, at a time when tv sets were all tuned to fights at the same time. Our chairs faced an attentive crowd of mostly men, as starry-eyed waiters placed plates of steak in front of us and fans lined up hoping for an autograph and a handshake. Not from me, I might add.
          As the only one on the dais wearing my nervousness at speaking in public like a crown, I patted my underarms with paper towels in the ladies room before pinning a colorful necklace of buttons to the waist of my dress.
Joe Frazier and I crossed paths many times over the years, at boxing matches and at dinners, and I trekked down to north Philadelphia to interview him at his gym for my book, The Prizefighters. A man of great pride and sensitivity r…

Reports of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated: The Art of the Obituary

Tombstones and mausoleums and their epitaphs summing up lives lived may serve as permanent markers of the dearly departed but obituaries serve as concrete public proof in novella form denoting that a person has lived and died, grim reminders of our own mortality, with evidence appearing daily of one’s departure or expiration. But obituaries are only as concise; witty; dry; culturally, politically, historically and medically accurate; and reflective of their subject as the writer who dissects and molds what we read and the publication in which they appear.             The first recorded notices of one’s death first appeared in 1731 in The Gentleman’s Magazine, a London periodical, and included short biographies of the deceased. Obituaries from their beginnings to the present day were/are selectively culled from the masses, based on the whim of the writer, the editorial bent of the newspaper, or social status. They often appeared as brief as a line or two by anonymous writers of the Broo…

The Prizefighter at Gleason's Gym

The Prizefighter, one of my photographs from the book, The Prizefighters: An Intimate Look at Champions and Contenders, was part of an art exhibit focusing on boxing at Gleason's Gym this past weekend. The exhibit, featuring paintings, sculpture, photographs, posters, and jewelry, drew hundreds of people who turned out for the DUMBO (Down Under the Brooklyn Bridge) Arts Festival.

So, bringing a bit of the boxing world to you.

The NYPD: Examine Thy Own

The predator who entered my neighborhood in upper Manhattan several weeks and allegedly raped a woman at gunpoint turned out to be a New York City police officer. This latest police misbehavior occurred not long after two police officers escorted a drunken fashion designer to her apartment; one lay down next to her and crooned Bon Jovi songs while his partner napped on the couch. So who is protecting us?
Men and women of the Police Department are as physically, psychologically, and culturally diverse as the rest of us. From sensitive and committed to angry and abusive, bullies and bigots, obsessively organized or sloppy, heavy drinkers and non-drinkers, some are street smart, confident and emotionally intelligent while others are fearful, threatened, and insecure. One may have witnessed horrible acts of violence out in the street while another handles bloodless paperwork; some may have been bullies as children while others still are; some despise women or men, others love them; one shu…

No One Died in the Press Box

Once in a while when the subject comes up, I inform the inquisitive that the most formative period in my life so far was my twenties and thirties,when I was raised by itinerant prizefighters, baseball players and the sportswriters who covered them: those who did well and neer-do-wells, trainers of champions and their opponents, and ball players who sometimes made foolish errors on and off the field. Like a sticky-fingered thief, I slipped into rooms of their souls to steal their stories and repurpose them into my own.From Willie Randolph of the New York Yankees, I learned about the helplessness of fumbling baseballs, game after game in front of millions, so that a wrongly colored tablecloth at a dinner for thirty seemed so less important. Hank Steinbrenner, younger and slimmer (and so was I) spoke of the expectations of his father and I looked at the expectations of my own. Boxing trainer Ray Arcel and his quiet dignity, humanity and humility taught me that the bum in the ring is stil…

Hold the Bacon

An old pal of mine used to be a detective with the New York City Police Department. Leaning back on his heels at the scene of a crime and rocking back and forth in his suspiciously tan trench coat and large silver pinky ring, Ken was a master at detecting clues, from picking up a lone hair affixed to the rim of a bathroom sink, to digging for a bloody knife buried inside a tacky red velvet sofa to poking at a cigarette stub at the bottom of a glass in a cluttered, messy restaurant. He could sniff out a timid burglar squished inside of a cardboard box in a busy post office filled with Christmas packages and hear the tiny squeak of a door closing five blocks away. His aim with his .38 was as impeccable as his sharply pleated black suits and spotless ties. He never fired his gun in his 20 years solving crimes and capers, but if pressed into action, we knew his swagger and bullets would find a target.
            But Ken has two handicaps that still amaze me to this day and for which I hav…