Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Fifth Avenue

I usually ate breakfast at a place my mother ate when she was in her twenties before going to work as a legal secretary, (her shorthand was amazing to behold right up till the end). It was called Eisenberg’s Deli, on the west side of Fifth Avenue in the morning shade of the Flatiron Building. It was across from the park where my dogs would run wild during snow storms to chase rats that were driven out of their hiding places in the wire garbage “cans” to escape not all that fast in deep snow, kinda like reindeer, leaving blood trails as the dogs would kill one and bound off to another.

The award-winning English Bull Terrier, Teagan Clive, did not care at all if it was bitten -- its sole finishing hold was to crush skulls, and drag and wag its tail with animated glee while lining them up in the powder. The longer-legged pit, Twombly, had an advantage when navigating drifts and pushing heavy cans over with its massive chest and front legs. The herd instinct did not protect many rodents as it does fish on these moonlit nights, near the long ago forgotten baseball field.

Squeezing into the deli, past the cash register, at the counter stools in the long, narrow store, avoiding coats and coat hooks on your right, I only sat across from Phil, “The Hawaiian” pushing his black glasses up on his nose constantly, ordering the usual fried egg and yellow cheese on a well-toasted bialy and bitter coffee, adding your own milk. I was a regular, and even going back twenty years later and bald, I appeared there in front of him and all his famous head shots on the wall behind him. Without missing a beat, he looked up and said, “Hey kid, how have you been, the usual?” I brought my mother there once later in life to see if it was actually the place she frequented as a youngster and sure enough.

One day in 1979 at about 10:00 A.M., I am crossing 23rd Street and heading over to see Phil. A “bum” stops in front of me and says, “Hey, I know you.” I say, “No you don’t.” He, however, is really happy to see me in his torn, greasy overcoat and one or two matted dreadlocks. Again, “I know you, man.” And now he is blocking my progress, so I stop and say sarcastically, “OK, where do you know me from?” I thought this was just a soft con. He reaches out to shake my hand, all genuinely excited. I extended mine. The words came out, “You Paul Newman!” "No, I’m not," I said. Knowingly, he said, “Yes you damn well is, yessiree!” I moved to the right laughing and said again, “No, I’m not.” He put two hands up to my chest, all nervous and said really loud, “You cool hand Luke!”

I’m about two stores from shelter and he holds my sleeve and pleads with me to wait. I stop, this guy is having a big day in his mind so what else can happen. He says, “Please don’t move” So here I am abiding. “Mr. Newman, please don’t move.” He looks at me and is also looking across Fifth Avenue and it is three full lanes of traffic, and yells, “Leroy! Man, he don’t see me, Leroy!” I could just smell the coffee. “Leroy” again, and grabs me by the arm saying, “Please.” Sure enough I see a black guy in a red down jacket and I cannot really make out anything else descriptive about him, it was far. My guy says while pointing to my face, “Leroy, Leroy, who’s this?” Leroy tucks his head down a notch and looks at me for a half a second and yells back loudly, “That’s cool hand Luke!” He just grins and says, “See, I knew it!”

I lowered my eyes and shook my head side to side and gave him a buck. Only in New York.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Aesthetics and Physicality

To heal someone, it pays to know truly the intricate ways to hurt someone.

This process may have started with my systematic dismemberment of game for the table, the weekly foraging from age ten on into the white birch and pin oak, gypsy moth-infested young forest adjacent to abandoned farmland. I was the go-to kid every fall for the butchering of the white tail deer catch of the neighborhood and hunting partners of my father.

I was then reading of the surgeons of the Civil War and their ability to remove the mutilated appendages quickly due to their intimate knowledge of human anatomy, not by the primitive tools or lack of disinfectant. I went on to train weekly by osmosis with the great chiropractor, Lou Savas, in his recently sold brownstone on the upper west side of Manhattan island in my quest to stay repaired to grow as a fighter, while dating ballerinas, girls who also knew their bodies. I went on to teach a physical anatomy course and foundation drawing for ten years at the School of Visual Arts, and at my then-famous gym, Madison Avenue Muscle, on East 38th Street.

I cannot separate out part of my passion from the total. The spirit lives in the doing and the perfectionism of the task, regardless of the amount of pure physicality or mental focus needed.

I find my application of aesthetics within everything, a totally Shinto perspective. Becoming one of Gene LeBell’s original four black belts taught me even more about the separation of ligament, tendon, and bone from the wearer. I enjoyed the process.

Repairing others and myself was a specialty early on, and mother referred to me as "Doctor Quack, operating without a license." I immersed myself in nutrition and supplementation geared towards athletic performance enhancement and had hundreds of clients.

As General Patton said about what he loved most in life, "Fucking and fighting."

Friday, January 11, 2013

What exactly is a "Martist"?

“The Martist” is my coinage for the duality of the spirit of the martial and the aesthetic, a split if you will in interests within one human being. The artist preceded the pugilist and they have had a symbiotic relationship ever since.

© 2013 John Perretti all rights reserved.