I usually write about dogs, and I have so much to tell, I thought it would be fun to open the lid and let you read. There are so many things that need to be said and read.
I had some thoughts of what I wanted to write about. And this is something I never considered: writing about a boxer (and not the breed), who got shot on Tuesday night in his home country, Puerto Rico. Hector "El Macho" Camacho was a legend while I was growing up. In fact, before I knew popsicles would come out of my chest, I swore I was a little boxer myself. If you grow up in Puerto Rico, boxing, baseball and basketball are the main sports that everyone raves about and plays.
I don't know much sports-talk, but I bet those of you who do will be impressed with this Million Dollar Baby record:
He has a career record of 79-6-3 with 38 knockouts, and over his career he took on all comers, including big names like Roberto Duran, Oscar De La Hoya, Julio Cesar Chavez, Sugar Ray Leonard, Felix Trinidad, Ray Mancini, and Greg Haugen.
He had a number of personal struggles since the day he was born until today, which taints the image of what as kids and fans we want to believe is a hero. But his rap sheet is not what's keeping me up right now. It's what you grew up with, how pop culture and history around you shaped you into who you are today.
There is no doubt that I loved the movie "Girlfight", starring Michelle Rodriguez, because of my thinking I would be a boxer one day, or because it's cool to see a girl boxing, or because she is Latina and the movie does approach some serious subjects regarding class, identity, gender, and being a Newyorrican. It was one of Rodriguez's best acting roles, if not the best, in all of her career. Also, her first gig.
But guess what? When Whitney Houston died, I was very upset. Did I know her personally? Did I know what demons she had been fighting since forever, maybe? I couldn't understand my grief... and then, I figured it out. Whitney was part of my identity while I was growing up. Raise your hand if you found yourself singing Whitney's songs in your room, trying to reach those high notes. And how many of those girls went to become stars having her as an inspiration, like Jennifer Hudson?
Yes, I was sad that she had all the other problems in Whitney's life. And I am also sad that Macho Camacho had a rough life, and has done things that are not in line with the law. But I don't want to focus on that. Rather, I want to say, it's okay if you care for a little bit, not because I knew him personally, but because his boxing matches were a part of my growing up. Of fantasizing and believing I was a fighter myself. My parents had bought me a boxing kit. I remember the red gloves. I would put marshmallow in my mouth, pretending that was the mouth guard. I swear I thought that's what they wore! I'd box with my dad, who let me win. Maybe I really did win. I trotted side to side like a boxer would. I would count to ten when my dad was losing. God... I'm having a big flashback moment. Maybe tomorrow I'll wake up and sign up for boxing classes!
I have taken boxing classes as an adult. They are so relaxing, you give it all you've got. I've never been in any kind of fight though, and I'm not sure yet if I would like to get hit by choice. But, it's part of me and my culture. Even if I just watch a match for a bit and then change channels because "it's a brutal sport".
We search for heroes, models, inspirations. Maybe they're right next to us, not on TV or the big screen. Or maybe we pick up a little bit of them here and there, and make if part of our map. We can and should always remember they are human beings, they make mistakes, and that sort of destroys your faith in that public persona they have built. Just know this: that persona, what they represented, what they meant to you when you were growing up, is all that matters. "You is what you is", in a slang way to put it, we are who are, no matter how much makeup we put on, or tanning salon sessions, or accent classes, or the look and vibe we give off. It's hard to separate the star from the flawed person, it's even hard to separate how we see ourselves and who we truly are from our own flaws!
A flood of memories will keep coming, and more so for his hard core fans. Maybe relief for some who have been wronged by him. Yet, all I remember is watching matches on HBO with my dad, and thinking, this is what life is. This is the only fighter. Oh, and the haircut of a lifetime, Don King...
Who were your childhood heroes? Besides He-Man, Liono, Rambo, Rocky, Xena, Wonder Woman? Do you still remember being them, as part of your playing? Were you a cowboy, a boxer, a racer? It can be anything else, too. What super powers did you think you had? Did you also use marshmallow as your mouth guard? Which is just what I need right now for the holidays, and to eat them, no more sweet mouthguard.
Who you are today... who you were yesterday, or ten or twenty years ago... no matter where you're from, where you live now, if you followed your dreams or someone else's. "You is what you is." Can you let yourself be that person for a minute? Don't wait until your mid-life crisis, which I think starts the minute you're born, but that's another chapter to cover.
I'll leave you with a picture from El Macho Camacho. What a name too! I don't know the outcome of his fate, I have a hunch he won't make it, and because it's late at night, they don't want to break the news to the media, give people hope for one more night. And I hope people can remember the other person he was when he wasn't on the ring. I am not defending or justifying his actions. That was his choice and circumstances.
These are pieces of the puzzle you are, dying and filling in that missing patch that made you who you are now.
I never thought I would be writing about him-- rather this is about me, who I was, who I am, and the public figures we welcome into our living rooms, our cassette players, our video tapes.
I hope I can certainly say one day I was a hero for one day, at least, even if I don't know exactly what I do to deserve that title of being a champion.
I hope you do, too.