SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 58: “Is The World A Better Place Because I Was In It?”

I’m hanging in the reception area of Bodies in Motion, a gym that I teach spinning at every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. Having just finished my Saturday Drill Sergeant role in pushing my group for 60 minutes, I have decided to chill while waiting for my wife to pick me up for a ride home.

This is a boxing club and I’ve come to know a few great athletes of the ring. All with interesting stories and histories, even past Olympic champions and pro-contenders. There is one that always grabs my attention. His name is Chris. A man of great charisma and character. At 60 years of age, he is lean, in condition and walks with the humility of Job. Now don’t get too hung up on Chris. I know him fairly well, and for that reason he is exempt from 365. I’ll add him, but only by request from you, my readers. For me to approach him on my own would be a breach of my 365 rules. But if I get at least 20 requests from you, I’ll take that affirmation as an assignment from you, making it permissible to  invite him to 365. And even though he is not a full stranger to me, he is to you. Under that condition, I’m willing to push the 365 rules a little.

Chris does, however, tie-in to today’s entry.

So here I am, relaxing, mentally preparing for the list of things I have to get done today. Loving this moment, I’ve found my zone and am reviewing my iPad notes for the day. As I am doing so, Chris’ voice merges into my thoughts. In signature form, and with his uniquely calm and vibrant accent, he is giving boxing council to one of the club’s patrons. They are talking boxing strategy and I am fascinated.

I do my best to give them their privacy, but I can’t take my ears and eyes away from them. “So I block and step like this?” They slow motion play through a blocked jab. “What about the taller guys, how do I deal with them?” I can’t hear the exact words of boxing coach Chris’ reply, but his student is intently taking in his advice. After a few minutes, their conversation starts to go way over my athletic head. Perhaps, if they were talking about endurance or cycling, I’d be on the same page. So I shift to visual mode.

What strikes me as I continue to peek at their training, is the mass and intensity of Chris’ boxing friend. This guy is in incredible condition and focused on absorbing Chris’ input on the art of footwork and timing.

Their session ends and I’m left with the image of this moment burned in my imagination. I can’t let go of it. So much so, that I must ask this well-cut individual to be part of 365. I search the weight room and find him. Readers, meet John.

At first meeting I assume that John is a professional fighter. I find out that is not the case. He spars for conditioning, telling me, “At 50 I have to be careful.” I had no idea the dude is 50. Further inspiring me as to what can be physically accomplished with dedicated training.

John is a photographer. Of what? His specialty, adult films — something I have no experience in. We talk of lighting and camera technique and I share a few tips with him. He tells me, “This is not the only photography that I want to do,  but I’m in the network and making a living.” John’s roots are deep in adult film, a past performer, he speaks of transferable skill sets. The reason he has taken up photography? He speaks openly and honestly about his past, “I was young; part of the reason I have so many tattoos.”

Our time is very short, his schedule is busy and his girlfriend is helping him stay on time. What I do take away is this: John is a man of maturity. He talks of  accountability and not blaming others for our paths. He speaks like an MBA with clear and articulate thoughts of career and life. Even though he has spent many of his years in an industry that is dark to many, his chin is high and his future is decided. “I’m growing with photography and videography and am striving to expand the work I do to other areas of the profession.”

I show 365 to John’s girlfriend. She is straight forward and honest. I give her the pitch, “For one year I am photographing one stranger a day and blogging the experience.” She skeptically asks, “Why do you want to do that?” I’m paused. My response, “I’ve been in advertising for 30 years. 365 is a way for me to get outside of what I do and explore the world.” I go on, “And after 58 days it has become part of my life. I’m not sure where it is going, but it’s attached to me. It is sort of giving back to its readers and I have to finish it.” She seems content with the answer and I am reaffirmed to my commitment by her challenge.

In parting, John shares his words of counsel in the form of a self question, “Is the world a better place because I was in it? I see absolute sincerity in his delivery of this thought. It is a great question presented by a man who has a world insight that is unfamiliar to me. But this I do know, John is a man of discipline, compassion and self-respect and very dedicated to doing the best he can to leave a positive footprint in his path.

John, thanks for the interview and in the words of last night’s interview of 365 friend Betty, “Keep moving forward.”

See you at the gym, my friend.