How's It Goin', Champ?

It suddenly registered that there was someone behind me who was getting noticed.

Strolling down Park Avenue on a beautiful spring day in the mid-1970s, I was really enjoying the sunshine and the rhythm of my stride. I had some free time, so I let myself move with the flow of pedestrian traffic, observing the parade of humankind coming toward me. Everything seemed very fine. It was good to be alive.

I started to notice people looking toward me, occasionally waving or nodding as if they knew me. Being a generally sociable type, I reciprocated with similar friendly gestures.

This went on for the distance of a block or so until one passerby said, "Hey, champ, how you doin'?" It suddenly registered that there was someone behind me who was getting noticed. Approaching a red light at the next intersection, I stopped and turned my head to see Muhammad Ali next to me. He was dressed in a stunning light salmon colored suit and seemed perfectly comfortable with the attention he was drawing.

I'm not much of a celebrity hound or even a boxing fan, but I had always admired Ali's determination and courage to stand up for what he thought was right. I was actually feeling a bit in awe of the man standing beside me. He truly seemed to exude a quality of greatness that was physically tangible. I nervously stuck out my hand and said, "How's it goin', champ?" As we shook hands, he flashed a quick smile and said, " I'm doin' well—and yourself?"

The light changed, we both started to walk, and that was the end of my brief encounter with a genuine celebrity. Since I remember this 30 years later with some clarity, I would say I was impressed.


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