Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sweet Sweat

A week and a half ago, I pulled out of my street in Astoria, Queens and drove myself and my job 24 hours south.

With stinging culture shock and festering loneliness, my first priority here was finding a place to box.

My gym in Queens had been zealously air-conditioned, with polished water fountains and the latest elliptical wonders.

The Freret Street boxing gym I found here is ten times better:

There's no air conditioning, not even a merciful fan: you only go here when you’re very comfortable oozing sweat-rivers in front of others.

The owner Mike, a former New Yorker, is always perched on a picnick table blocking the main door.

On Saturdays he has a beer in hand. Last Sunday, he had a black eye.

“Bar fight,” he tells me. He didn’t win, he says, but that’s because there were two guys.

The speed bag is new, the stationary bike, a little worn -- but it gives you hell, especially to the overhead speakers cranking out Queen’s “Find Me Somebody To Love.”

Though almost everything here is straightforward/no frills, Mike frequently shows off the colored lights he strung along the walls.

“It’s like Vegas,” he explains.

The gym’s only shower was free when I finished my first workout, but I didn’t bother.

It felt too good to walk outside into the Freret Street fair, dripping in sweat, feel the breeze, smell the empanadas, guiltlessly throw down two, buy a little black slip-dress for $20, and walk back down Napoleon to catch the streetcar.

That same day, walking down Canal Street, I found the statue of Ignatius from A Confederacy of Dunces I'd been looking for since I got here:


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