For the past couple of months I’ve been doing boxing training in a mostly empty gravel lot (see photo below), located at the edge of a neighborhood of sagging student-housing Victorians. I’m sort of behind an ancient International House of Pancakes — with nice graffiti — near the railroad tracks.
Oh, and chickens.
I didn’t even realize the chickens were there at first, hidden away like they are in a tiny coop behind a two-story cinderblock apartment box, just past the dumpster. As I said, they were silent those first few times I got out there to train.
The gravel lot is rarely used, but it does provide a handy cut-through to a sprawling urban park nearby, and I have had to get used to the periodic gawker, catcall, or unhelpful comment from the students hiking past.
It’s weird to walk out in the middle of the dirt and gravel, sling down my gear bag, and start to shadowbox all by myself. Jay, who is training me, will quietly comment, “Just ignore them,” as people pass us by.
So I work, and wipe the gritty sweat out of my eyes, and blink rapidly to clear my vision when we raise a cloud of dust with our sparring. I sprint from the blue dumpster to the metal shed and back, then shadowbox for my recovery period until Jay calls the next sprint in 30 seconds. And I ignore the occasional “Stick and move!” comment from passers-by.
But one day I thought I heard a chicken crowing. An odd sound, to a woman who has lived much of her life in the suburbs of one large city or another.
I mean really, I learned what a chicken sounds like from a See ‘n Say.
So at first I thought someone was imitating a chicken. Those wacky students. But it happened several times, and no matter how often Jay told me to stay focused and ignore everything outside our scuffmarks in the dust, I got distracted.
One day a whole chorus of See ‘n Say chickens erupted. I dropped my guard and scanned the lot. I was damn lucky not to get dropped where I stood, because Jay kept throwing. “Focus,” he called over his mouthpiece.
“There are chickens in this lot!” I cried, “I know there are.”
“Oh. Yeah, over there,” he agreed, pointing with his chin. And sure enough, what I had mistaken for a haphazard pile of bamboo sticks, scrap wood, and mesh screening was an actual chicken coop. With ten chickens, no less!
I was fascinated. I pulled loose my gloves and walked back behind the dumpster, past a tiny makeshift garden to the coop. The chickens stood purring (Sorry, I have cats: what is that low hum they make?) and tilting their heads at me as if I were the curiosity in their world.
“Hi, you chickens,” I said, grinning like an idiot. Chickens!
Now I can’t imagine training any other way.
I bet you don’t have chickens in your training space. Too bad for you!