Thursday, January 16, 2014

Boxing Is Not a Solo Sport....

A huge thank you to all our friends who responded to the year-end fundraising drive. Together we brought in almost $1500, enough to pay hotel for the gang from Flatbush Gardens heading to the Nationals in Spokane next week.

And if you didn't get the chance to contribute yet, why not start the year off right? All donations are fully tax deductible and help us heat the gym in winter.

Special thanks to Etsuko Tamazawa and Sean Moran for their heavyweight contributions, Tyler's dad for giving us their treadmill, and to Justin Neely, who took it into the championship rounds by sharing our appeal with his friends and family.

Justin is a wonderful artist whom I met when I wandered into his open studio. His bright creations in paint and digital media reveal a deep relationship with music and language. He said I could share the beautiful appeal he wrote in memory of his late stepfather. 

68.brushes by Justin Neely

Today, on the fourth anniversary of my stepfather Michael's passing, I'm choosing to remember him and celebrate his life by making a small donation to a nonprofit youth boxing gym. And guess what—for those who knew him (hello, all my cousins: Andrea, Dina, Greg, Hollye, Rachel, Jennifer, Seth, Nathaniel, Stephanie), I'm asking you to consider doing the same.

Serendipitously, a friend (Sarah,writer and champion boxer doing amazing work beyond the bounds of sport at this gym) posted this appeal just a day or so ago. It inspired me to focus on things that gave Michael joy, rather than dwell on tough medical blows he endured lifelong, or most painfully the last devastating fight that took him and took so much energy from my mother.

Michael loved many things that were easy common ground for us. Art, music, woodworking and fishing—he was talented in many areas—were real passions. His ability to build things and to frame works of art with delicacy, accuracy and a truly personal vision are facilities that I especially admired. As I pursue an art-centered life, I miss the ability to seek his advice on solutions to challenges that arise in presenting artwork almost every day.

Harrowing Misadventures (all images via

But boxing. What the hell? Was Michael more than a metaphorical fighter? No, friends, he didn't knock people out (though he sometimes wanted to as he dealt with the trials of running the parts department at the family appliance business). He just loved the sport. Loved watching it to the point that, without resorting to pay-per-view, he would seek out "boxeo" with no need to understand the commentary. He understood the language of movement and strategy and grit.

I didn't get to watch too many fights with him, but I did get to watch him watch a few times and learned to understand more about the sport than I ever had before. He made me appreciate what I wasn't understanding. Even before basketball turned for me from passion to religion, I could relate to his love of boxing.

In truth, time we didn't get to spend watching fights together is one of too many examples of not having time or resources enough to learn things from him I wanted to. He wasn't always an easy communicator and we came from very different places in essence and experience. But over twenty years we certainly came to love each other, respect each other's special talents and try to share with each other as much as we could. What we didn't get to do in actuality, we at least wished with palpable intentions.

I can fairly say that we inspired each other. I take an autodidact's approach to using power tools (as stupid and dangerous as it sounds, I refuse to give up) with the image of him watching over me with encouragement (and maybe a few chuckles at my lack of natural aptitude in this area). I remember joyfully that my pursuit of painting got him to pick up paint and brushes again and our last trip in the outside world together combined stops at an art supplies store and a Home Depot.

I really f*&#ing miss him. It still makes me physically sick to think of his absence and, more powerfully, to know my mother no longer gets to enjoy everything that made him a singular companion for her. What fun he might have had with Kinta, too. But, platitude thought it may be, we don't get to choose when people come into our lives or exit.

So I'll enjoy some warm weather, keep packing boxes (learned how much time a tape gun save you from him!) and hope that $25 somehow helps the kids at this gym have better lives through the experience of good relationships with people like Sarah, their other trainers, coaches and mentors—and, of course, each other. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Tribute to a Working Mother

by Jay Allen, age 20

Jay wrote this sonnet a few years ago for her mother Alicia, who passed away this Thanksgiving. She read it at the funeral and has kindly allowed us to share it here. We were already proud of Jay for realizing her lifetime dream of being accepted into the Navy. Now we are even prouder of how she is handling such a difficult loss at such a young age. 

Jay is due to ship out next month. We will miss her, but we are glad to see her chase her dream, undaunted. In the meantime she has been taking good care of her little sister and coming into the gym when she has time. Today she sparred a few rounds with her fellow writer Athol, whose English term paper you can read by scrolling down.

Jay and Alicia

Tribute to a Working Mother

If anyone deserves a prize and merits recognition, 
It is the working mother. We should praise her position. 
She balances a host of duties, home and job related, 
And takes your breath away to see a life so dedicated. 
It really is amazing to observe her life in action, 
Yet sad that her own private time is merely an abstraction. 
We understand her true frustration, for the job's unfinished, 
Yet stand in utter awe of her ambition undiminished. 
The working mother is the rarest blend of love and caring. 
She reaches out to do so much; her life is one of sharing. 
Let’s never take for granted her uniqueness and her drive. 
Her routine is the toughest one a person can survive. 
What kind of recognition is she owed by all the rest? 
The highest. But she’ll settle for a little bit of rest.