Sunday, January 20, 2008

History of our Homes

The building I live in has had an interesting run. Several years before I moved in there had been both a brothel and sex club called Acquiescence on the upper floors. I think some version of the Vault had even been in the building at some point. I remember when the city finally shut them all down, for months afterwards random middle-aged men would wander up to the door, ring a buzzer, and then notice the Board of Health signs indicating their destination had been closed. They would shuffle about for a few moments, confused, not quite knowing what to do with themselves and their now outlet-less libidos, and then wander away.

The occupant previous to my roommates moving in over a decade ago had left in the midst of turning our floor into a recording studio, leaving large windows and odd sound insulation in various walls. He was also prone to firing guns in the apartment; bullet holes were to be found in random parts of the flat.

And today, something new...

As I was fumbling for my keys this afternoon, my bag full of groceries and subs for today's playoffs, an older gentleman walking by asked me if I lived in the building. I told him I did and he looked upwards, pointing to the upper floors and proceeded to tell me about a boxing gym that used to be on the fifth floor called the Solar Sporting Club, where he trained in the 70's.

Now, I love boxing, so immediately my attention focused on this man; slightly taller than me, dark-skinned, with a still lean and powerful build under his down vest, hooded sweatshirt and many layers (it's quite cold today). I quickly forgot about going upstairs, tucked my keys away and listened as he told me his story. His name was Michael Dominguez, a NY Golden Gloves champion in 1981.  He told me how the Puerto Rican National Team lost a member and he, as the top Spanish Champion in the area, took his place, winning a Bronze Medal in the boxing World Cup, losing to the Soviet Union's fighter. Apparently the famous Gleason's Gym used to be a few blocks up on 33rd Street before they moved to Brooklyn. He listed a long string of boxers who had trained here at Solar, some I had heard of, some I hadn't. He reminisced about a time when all the floors of my building used to be factory floors. One of the companies produced elephant pins and one day he grabbed huge handfuls (he had pretty big hands) and handed them out at the fights.

We shook hands and I asked his name again as he turned to leave, and he repeated it; "Michael Dominguez," strong and proud.