The Time Tunnel: Speak Softly and...

17.01.04 - By John Garfield, courtesy of I was walking along Third Ave. one evening past PJ Clarke's, a bar-hangout for the sports' crowd and the media, and a booming voice hails me, "John! John! Over here!' I looked over in the direction of the voice and I saw "The Hulk" in a huge suit standing in Clarke's doorway. He was easily 6-6 and over 350 pounds, and his barrel chest and tree-trunk arms were straining against the seams of his jacket. He was as big around as he was wide, and his neck was like a length of the Alaska Pipeline.

He was frightening, like a collector from "The Godfather."

But he came away from the building and lumbered over to me. "John, it's me, Mark...Mark Tendler."

As I looked at him, I could see something about his features that was vaguely familiar inside that mountain. Then it struck me: This guy, I used to train with him at Stillman's Gym years before. But at that time, he was a tall, rangy heavyweight, barely 200 pounds.

He explained to me, after he stopped fighting, he became a powerlifter, and for years he was a professional wrestler and now he was the bouncer here at Clarke's.

So, he walked me back just inside the entrance to Clarke's and we reminisced about the good old days.

Over at the bar -- about 15-feet away -- was an Ivy-League-looking jock and his girl. The jock clearly had too much to drink; and he said to his girl in a voice intended for Mark: "See the bouncer at the door? He thinks because he's so big, he scares people. He doesn't scare me!"

Now, the people in the bar are starting to inch away, but Mark doesn't even look at Ivy League; he continues talking to me, as if the guy didn't exist.

The jock raises the level: "HE THINKS HE CAN PRETEND I'M NOT HERE. I'LL SHOW YOU WHAT A PHONEY HE IS. HOLD MY COAT!" he says to his girl.

Now, everybody in the bar clears away, but Mark keeps talking to me, without a hint of concern. I'm getting more nervous by the moment.

The jock, full of bravado, heads towards us. Mark still doesn't acknowledge him. When the jock gets less than an arms-length away, Mark turns to him and says softly: "If you hit me and I find out about it, you're gonna be in a lotta trouble."

The jock turned ashen... and slunk away.

Article posted on 17.01.2004

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