A. J. Liebling

“The pattern of a newspaperman’s life is like the plot of ‘Black Beauty,’ ” A. J. Liebling wrote. “Sometimes he finds a kind master who gives him a dry stall and an occasional bran mash in the form of a Christmas bonus, sometimes he falls into the hands of a mean owner who drives him in spite of spavins and expects him to live on potato peelings.”

(found that today on this New Yorker blog post about Bezos/WaPo.  If I had a business I really loved and I had to sell it, I think I’d be happy if Jeff Bezos bought it?)

Well, that resolved me on spending a profitable few minutes digging out my old copy of The Sweet Science and finding a choice paragraph of Liebling for Helytimes fans (“Heliacs”?).  How about:

By the time the first of the feature eight-rounders came on, the crowd was in fine voice.  It was a neighborhood crowd, except for the concentrated groups of fighters’ friends, and the neighborhood is not tough but hearty.  As it happens, this [Sunnyside Garden at 45th and Queens Boulevard] is the region to which the authentic Manhattan accent has emigrated, according to a learned cove I met at Columbia years ago, who went about making recordings of American regional modes of speech.  The more habitable quarters of Manhattan, he told me, have been preempted by successful inlanders who speak Iowese and Dakotahoman; the inhabitants of West Harlem talk like Faulkner characters, and East Harlem speaks Spanish.  “Just as the anthropologist who wishes to study pristine African culture must find it among the Djuka Negroes of Surinam, who were snatched from Africa in the eighteenth century, I must carry my tape recorder to Queens to study the New York speech of Henry James’ day,” he said.

Remember: he’s writing about a boxing match.  

The Sunnyside Garden no longer stands but it must’ve been around here.

Inside my copy of The Sweet Science, I found a chart I once made.  I was trying to link Lennox Lewis, whose hand I once shook, as far back into the history of boxing as possible by an unbroken connection of people who had punched each other.

photo

Looks like I made it to Jem Mace (1831-1910)

The goal was to get back all the way to Cribb and Molineaux.

I believe I later did this, but I don’t know where that chart is and it’s time to start my day.

Tom Molineaux was born a slave in Virginia, fought Tom Cribb in England in 1810, and “died penniless in the regimental bandroom in Galway in Ireland from liver failure [when he] was 34 years old.”



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