Monday, March 5, 2007


Rocky movie posterAs the story goes, when I was three my dad let me watch Rambo: First Blood. Needless to say, my mom yelled at him good. That day very well could've been the beginning to my obsession with Sylvester Stallone’s movie characters; more specifically, his character Rocky. "The greatest underdog story of our time" – I ate that shit up. I was sad when his trainer Mickey died and I was scared the Russian would kill him. I still remember seeing Rocky V in the movie theater when I was six years old. Nobody else was there besides my family and the reviews were terrible, but I still loved it.

In the 9th grade I tutored a girl for her bat mitzvah. A month before her ceremony I decided she was too soft-spoken and needed to speak louder. "I'm going to play a CD while you say your prayers, but ignore it," I said. "It'll be loud, so you just have to speak even louder."

I blasted the Rocky soundtrack to both train her and get her excited for the big day. She thought I was out of my mind. When she told me she had no idea where the music came from, or who Rocky was, I thought she was out of her mind. "It's only the most inspirational character and music ever," I said.

Less than two years later I got cancer. For the next 12 months, from when I found out I had a tumor until the last wave of radiation shot through my body, I left The Rocky Story: The Original Soundtrack Songs from the Rocky Movies in my CD case. I originally stuck it in there because I was afraid I'd need immediate inspiration during one of the hospital trips.

For almost my entire year of treatment I knew I was invincible. I repeat: I knew I was invincible. So I didn't need outside inspiration or motivation and the CD never left the front slot in my case. It was ironic how I had cancer, yet saw myself that way. In fact, I never felt invincible UNTIL I got cancer.

When I got to college I bought a black-and-white Rocky poster. It was a picture of Stallone standing on the front steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art with his hands raised. I taped it to my wall above my bed. One day my roommate Dirty-D, J and I were watching TV in my room. J looked at my wall and read the top line of the poster. "'His whole life was a million-to-one shot.' You can't have Rocky hanging on your wall," he said. "You have nothing in common with him."

"So what," I replied. "The only thing you have in common with him is you're both from Philly."

"Damn right we're both from Philly."

"I guess you're right, J. I'll take the poster down immediately."

When J left the room I looked over at Dirty-D and started laughing. "If he only knew."

Months later I found myself back in the hospital with another cancer. This time there was no going home in between chemo cycles. I would have my own hospital room for no less than one month. The only ornament I added was my Rocky poster, which I taped on the bathroom door across from my bed. The doctors and nurses got a kick out of it, and often likened me to Mr. Balboa.

I still thought I was invincible, yet no longer truly believed it. Maybe I hung the poster just so I had something to look at. Or, maybe I needed Rocky that second go around.


Anonymous said...

great rocky story. did the nurses ever refer to you as "the italian stallion?" also - didn't you get to watch die hard, die harder, and die hard with a vengeance at a pretty tender age? man! i wasn't even allowed to watch g.i. joe.

No Common Sense?

Anonymous said...

Fascinating teaser. I can't wait to read the whole story.

Anonymous said...

Love your writing style...this book has the earmarks of a great testimonial to personal courage and strength.

Ak-Man said...


Enjoyed reading this, Rocky is that dude! I grew up on this, the movies got me pumped like you I also ate it all up!

Invincible? Maybe . . . just maybe!