Ageless Warrior


So, today’s my birthday. I’ve been trying to be breezy about it. You know,  basking in the well wishes on Facebook, with all due thanks. Heading to New York tomorrow to see Paddy Boy, son number two. Even got free tickets to see Letterman! Too bad the guest tomorrow night is kinda lame — especially compared to the star studded line up so far this week. Oh well, I’m lucky to have gotten tickets at all. I should be happy.

Blame it on the Irish in me, I’m still feeling a little melancholy, can’t seem to shake it, kinda like shaking off this wicked winter holdover. I swear to God if I have to put on my black long-sleeve tee and trench coat one more time this spring, I’m going to run screaming down the street butt naked instead. Wow, that just made me feel better just visualizing the horror.

Had dinner with a bright and fascinating writer last night – not only does she write screenplays, but she’s got enough material from her personal life to eclipse my book, with a crackling dark humor. I dig that kind of style. She said something that stuck with me. She was talking about the urgency she feels to get her writing out there. “I don’t have any kids, this is what I can leave behind as my legacy.”

Well, I do have a passle of children, but I also understand the obsession to feel like you, alone, not as an extension of someone else, mattered. You had an impact. Every day, when I reach out to the next person and the next and the next, peddling my book, I feel like I’m able to make one more scratch on the wall of the cave we call this sweet earth. And, I am reminded particularly today, on my birthday, of my dear mother Beverly who never let me shirk from the courage of my convictions and my grandfather Booker, who upon seeing his newborn granddaughter, commented that I looked like Archie Moore, the prizefighter. Ironic that my buddy Archie was raised right here in St. Louis. Even has a star on the “Walk of Fame” in The Loop. He was ranked as the #1 light heavyweight of all-time by the International Boxing Research Organization in 2000 and was voted as the #1 light heavyweight of the 20th century by the Associated Press in 1999.

Suddenly, the melancholy clears, as the sun lands a punch on my soggy crop of dandelions. Here’s to Archie, Booker and Beverly — and a brief excerpt, from Chapter 12, I Know About You.  Thank you all for making me feel loved on my birthday and every day.

    She was all alone when she went into labor. Took a cab to the hospital, calling Kybie, the German lady who kept Garrett during the day, to come watch him and Don while she went to have another baby.

    “She looks like Archie Moore” was Booker’s assessment of his infant granddaughter after he and my grandmother Marie got there from Placerville. If you Google “Archie Moore,” you’ll see my baby picture there, I swear to God. Never mind that Archie Moore was a black man, whom God only knows how many uppercuts he took to the face. He was possibly the greatest light-heavyweight of all time. He was called the “Old Mongoose” and the “Ageless Warrior.” He scored 140 knockouts in a career that spanned from 1936 to 1963. The dude never lost his crown in the ring and in 228 recorded bouts, Archie was stopped only seven times. Okay, even if perhaps my mother wasn’t too thrilled being told that her newborn daughter looked like an aging prizefighter, maybe she willed his stamina on me. Ageless Warrior? I’ll take it any fucking day of the week.


Baby Jean, a.k.a. Archie Moore

Baby Jean – Booker was right.


About Jean Ellen Whatley

Writer. Dreamer. Sometimes schemer. Journalist/memoirist/observer and sometimes constructive irritant. Prisoner of demon muses. Mother to four humans and two dogs. In my spare time, I delete phone numbers of former boyfriends.

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  1. Jean–What I love about your writing is you don’t pull any punches. It ain’t always pretty, and sometimes the blood (or tears) flow, but you’re “for real” whenever you’re writing.

    And Off the Leash was a KO.

  2. Hope you have a fun time with your boy. Hey what did grandpa know? If he could only see you now!
    Hey I like that last line of your bio :)