Ladies & gentlemen, I give you...Jack Dempsey & Harry Houdini. Do I have sort of a crush on Jack Dempsey? Yeah. Once, in New Orleans, I read some graffiti on a bathroom wall that said JACK DEMPSEY, WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMP 1919-1926. (It was on that same New Orleans adventure that Janelle & I drank some whiskey before going to a candlelit, gothic Mass at the big cathedral in the French Quarter.) Jack Dempsey was the man.
Bob Dylan's Chronicles begin in Dempsey's cafe. But way before that, he was nuthin' but a fatherless Irish-Choctaw brawler who hoboed and trolled the pubs and dives and whiskeyhouses of the Rocky Mountains, proclaiming, "I can't sing and I can't dance, but I can lick any SOB in the house," trading blows with the locals for cash on the barrelhead. Or so says the myth. Big leap from there to the World Title. Somehow, though, he pulled it off and became a patron saint for the underdog.
I once visited Manassa, Colorado, where he was born and partly raised. It's a deserted ghost town of a place in the high-altitude climes of the magical, murderous San Luis Valley. A place of cattle mutilations and top secret government ops. In the center of town, on a marble pedestal by a playground, there's a 2x-sized brass statue of the "Manassa Mauler," frozen in a glorious salvo of jabs. When I was there, it was January. There were two or three strands of X-mas lights wrapped around the Mauler. A street dog was sniffing for scraps nearby. "He looks morose, don't he?" I said to the perro de calle, "Not festive at all - more like the subject of some kind of barbed wire electrical torture or something." I was traveling back to Boulder from New Mexico that day, and the skies opened up with snowdrifts and rain.