(My steps are as heavy as my breathing. Pant. Step. Pant. Step. My thighs burn, my knees ache, my feet feel like I’ve been running over hot coals. My heart is about to explode from my very chest. I need to rest.)

(No, not yet… I can’t rest yet. I have to concentrate. I have to keep my mind clear. I can’t lose my focus. I can’t lose my focus like I lost it Before. Losing my concentration like that was inexcusable!)

(It is a crisp, cool February morning in NYC. I have been jogging for hours now, since before the sun came up. Central Park is gorgeous this early in the morning, when the flowers are just beginning to bloom and a still fog moistens everything slight bit of snow on the ground. This early, the only people on the streets of are other joggers, patrol-men, and the morning vendors, hoping to catch the aforementioned for some sales. Cops love their coffee. Joggers love their energy drinks.)

(I am a smoothie man myself. Nothing hits the spot like a fresh, ice cold fruit smoothie after a hard work out. Picks me right up. I’ll need that pick up, too, if I am going to finish the last leg today. I think there is a vendor right around the next turn, too. I saw him when I passed him my first lap. My God this place is so huge. And every single sight is gorgeous.)

(As I run through a shallow puddle, a brief sense of childhood enjoyment overwhelms me. It’s euphoric, but I soon snap back to reality. I don’t have time for games. I only have a quarter of a mile before I get to where the vendor is, at least where I remember him being. I have to keep going. No stopping, not even to wipe off my Jordans. I can have them cleaned later. I allow the rhythmic swish of my windbreaker pants to soothe me, and regain my focus. Zzzzzish, zzzzzish, zzzzzzish, zzzzzzzish. It doesn’t take long before that quarter of a mile turned into a half of a mile, then a whole mile itself. I forgot to stop at the vendor. My muscles still ache, my heart is still pounding, but my sense of accomplishment certainly overwhelms them both.)

(If I could claim one thing to be proud of, it is that I never give up. I never quit. I just can’t, it’s simply not in me. After all of the bullshit I’ve been through in my life, all of the hardship and loss, if I was going to quit, it’d have been a long, long time ago. There’s no way in Hell I’m going to consider giving up now. As long as there is one single fan out there cheering me on, I’ll continue to give it my absolute best. That’s just the way it is. It’s one of life’s unexplainable truths. I’m sure there is some psychological or spiritual explanation, but I’m done with shrinks and people evaluating my thoughts and my life. The only person who knows truly what makes me tick is me. And deep down, I know what it is. But I’ve never been one to keen on looking deep down. Unless, of course, I have to dig deep to keep fighting or to win a match . Thank goodness there is another Smoothie vendor up ahead. Water or some sports drink are great, but I think I deserve to reward myself. The best thing about NY is that, no matter where you are in the city, if you ever want something, no matter how expensive or obscure, chances are, you can find it within two blocks. If it’s food you want, only one.)

(The smoothie vendor is, to put it lightly, quaint. It’s just fruit, juice and ice, how can it possibly look so messy? Oh well, I’m not the picky type. There’s enough beat cops out to notice if something is up. The man is noticeably of Russian or Eastern European decent, with his khaki colored skin and thick, bushy brown mustache. What little hair he has, encompassing a shiny bald head, matches his mustache in both color and, interestingly enough, texture. He’s a short, squatty man, probably no more than five feet tall, and I’d estimate him to be in his late forties, to early fifties. I fumble into the pocket of my royal blue windbreaker pants and pull out a gold money clip of cash. There isn’t much in there, maybe a dozen bucks in ones and then a hundred dollar bill that I don’t want to break, but as soon as I see the Russian vendor eyeing my clip, a gift from Tees for signing with him, I hurriedly stuff it back into my pocket after pulling a few ones from its grip.)

(I don’t really give a damn if the man is offended by this. This is New York City, after all, and you can’t really trust anyone. Especially not a Russian smoothie vendor with a dirty cart. I can’t afford to lose this money clip. It holds too much sentimental value. I still vividly remember the night Tees gave it to me. I had just signed a rather large and lucrative contract with him and his organization. He came to me backstage and got a kick out of how wide-eyed with excitement I was. I had been sitting in my locker room,after he had gotten me a fat contract with the WWF. He gets my attention, and tosses it to me. He says to me, “Kid, you finally made it. You’re going to need this.” I was really stoked because not only was it a nice gesture from my new agent, but it had my initials inscribed into it. That showed a lot of confidence in me, I thought. We still laugh about that to this day, especially since he later revealed to me that he actually had two made, one for me signing with him the other as a parting gift.)

(I am drawn from my memories by the gruff voice of the vendor guttering to get my attention. At this point, our eyes meet and he gets a good look at me for the first time. To my surprise, the little Russian man has a deep, demanding voice.)

Pavlovic: NO SMOOTHIE FOR YOU

(Naturally, a bit taken aback, I stutter out some words.)

Funk: W-wh-what? What did you say?”

(He eagerly repeats himself, just as gruff as before)

Pavlovic: YOU BAD MAN! NO SMOOTHIE FOR YOU!

(Now, at this point, I’m having to collect myself enough to not react like I would were this The WWF. Most of me wanted to slap this guy back to Russia. What is it about Eastern Europeans that they are so rude to Americans? You’d think the guy would treat me with a little camaraderie, being that I’m a relocated American myself. I mean, could this guy be more stereotypical? At least learn correct English, buddy. I imagine he sits back all day and bitches about the US of A, taking his frustrations out on his customers, but if you gave him the opportunity to go back to Russia-stan, he’d give you even more of an earful. There’s no way I’m ever going back to Texas, and at least I appreciate this great country for what it is. Unfortunately, this hypocrite right here, doesn’t seem to)

Funk: Why?

(While pointing to a sign that reads We reserve to right to refuse service to anyone, for any reason. Thank you., he forces out a responses in broken English,)

Pavlovic: You use little girl… you bad man… you not welcome here.

Pavlovic: NO SMOOTHIE FOR YOU!

(Fighting back to urge to, well, fight, I grit my teeth.)

Funk: Listen here… uhhh…. (searching for his name, I come to a name tag, Dimitri. I don’t know who you are, or even really what you’re talking about, but I am a paying customer and I want my smoothie. Now, are you going to take my money or is there going to be a problem, here?” (Crossing my arms over my chest for emphasis, I let out a resounding hmph. Dimitri is not impressed.)

Pavlovic: I say, NO SMOOTHIE FOR YOU. You go now, SLKAKLFHA”, I don’t know what he says, but it’s clearly in Russian. I think about breaking out the Texan swearing dictionary on him, but I hold my tongue. This is New York, after all, and the last thing I need is some freelancing paparazzi trying to make a name for himself by publishing a story about me assaulting a poor, NYC immigrant just trying to make a living. “Raven is real man, you are girl”, he adds.

Funk: Fine, I’m going. I don’t have time to deal with jackasses like you. .

(I put my hands up in the air and frustration and turn away. Unfortunately, I don’t get too far when I’m stopped by another voice.)

Officer: What seems to be the problem here?

( Right away I know who the voice belongs to. Or, rather, at least what profession he is. Disparate, I wheel around, already pleading my case.)

Funk: This guy won’t sell me a smoothie, officer. I didn’t even do anything!”

(Climbing down from his horse, the blue boy responds)

Officer: Why would he do a crazy thing like that. Is this true Mr. Pavlovic?

Pavlovic: HE BAD MAN! NO SMOOTHIE FOR HIM!”

Officer: Mr. Pavlovic, did this man assault you in any way? Did he put his hands on you?

Pavlovic: What? No! Of course not.

(I’m getting the picture pretty quickly. To my surprise, Dimitri agrees with me, but that doesn’t stop the officer from holding up his palm to me to silence me. Ouch, brick wall.)

Officer: You’ll get your chance, sir. Now, Mister…

Funk: Terry Funk, officer.”

Officer: Mr. Funk, are you aware that this gentlemen, by law, has the right to refuse you service for any reason he deems necessary?

Funk: I was just leaving after discovering that, officer. In fact, if you don’t mind…

Officer: You’ll leave when I say you can.

(Oh, great. One of those. He pulls out his billy club and uses it as a pointer, directing me to the curb. I begrudgingly oblige, rolling my eyes as I do. Not a smart move on my part, in hind site.)

Funk: Listen, officer, I was just running along here, honest. I’m not trying to cause any trouble (I plead with him. To no avail, he simply ignores me.)

Champagne: Would you like to file a report, Mr. Pavlovic?”

Funk: What? Are you kidding me? Oh, come on, this is bull… ( I bite my tongue as Officer, again checking his name-badge, Champagne, glares at me.)

(Thankfully, Mr. Pavlovic decides not to press any charges, on what grounds I do not know, but the officer seems a little disappointed at this. He turns to me with a look that can only be described as Now, I’m about to take my frustration from this low paying, high risk job out on you, Mr. Funk. A lump fills my throat. Fortunately, for me, Officer Champagne takes his job seriously, and while that badge is on, he’s not going to play one man good cop, bad cop on me.)

Champagne:
I recognize you, boy. You think just because you’re some celebrity from the World Wrestling Federation you can get your way around here? Not in my city, son. Probably not even back in Stanford Now, I want you to apologize to Mr. Pavlovic, here.

Funk: And if I don’t?

Champagne:Then I’ll haul your sorry ass downtown for badgering an officer of the City of New York.

(In utter disbelief, I force the words from my often too proud throat)

Funk: I’m sorry Dimitri, I don’t know…( I am cut off.)

Champagne: You address this fine gentlemen with respect, boy.

Funk: I apologize, Mr. Pavlovic, for protesting. ( Of course, I had to get the last word in, so I mutter under my breath), And that you two are such assholes.

Champagne: What’s that?

Funk: Nothing

(Champagne grabs me by the scruff of my neck and leads me away from Mr. Pavlovic so that we can talk in private. )

Officer Champagne: Listen here, punk, I don’t like you. I don’t like what you’re about. You’re nothing more than an New Mexican piece of trash, you got that? You’re not even half the man Voo Voo is. He’s a real hero, you only pretend to be one.

(Oh, so the truth is revealed. Officer Champagne, much like Dimitri Pavlovic, isn’t a fan. Boy, could this day get any worse? No, scratch that, I don’t want to find out the answer to that question. And why’s he calling me New Mexican?)

Officer Champagne:
You’re just a punk, and nothing you say or do, ever, even if you’re right, matters, because, simply, I just don’t like you. That’s why I was rooting for that other punk your buddy Roth, last week. You’re trash, son. Now get the hell out of my park! (The officer shoves me away.)

( Naturally, I turn to fight, but he smacks his club in his hands and reminds me)


Officer Champagne:
You’ve got ten seconds, boy

(With a scoff, I turn to run. I can’t afford any jail time, today.)

(It doesn’t take long for me resume running. It takes even less longer for me to be entranced again by the sound of my own jogging. Finally, some peace and quiet. No brutish Russians, no corrupt cops, just me and the road. I can finally get into my thoughts. The only thing I can think about, though, is this Monday night. Facing two other guys who both also want to be the Intercontinental champion. But it took me far to long to get to this point and there’s no way I‘m walking out of Raw empty handed!.)

(Raven proved to be better than I anticipated the time we have met in the ring., I will admit. Not publicly, of course. But, was he good enough to make me think that we can put on the greatest show ever? I think so with Voo Voo also being in the match. The three of us have a great chance of putting on the greatest match in WWF history.. Raven’s offense was pedestrian, at best, and it turned out to be that a few lucky breaks in his favor determined the outcome. So, well I did underestimate Raven before, a bit, it was merely because I had so little expectations coming in. With so much to prove, I thought he’d give me more of a challenge. Hell, maybe to an extent, I overestimated him. I did exactly what I promised I’d do. Everything Raven threw at me, I came back from. I had an answer for everything he tried. I even kept him grounded like I said I would. I would’ve certainly won that match. But, that is solely my fault, and I can’t put the blame on anyone else. I don’t believe I’ve ever been in the ring with Voo Voo and Raven at the same time . But I know better now not to underestimate people. Doing that gets you FUCKED up.)

(Which begs the question; what, if anything, do Raven and Voo Voo have going for them this week? Of course they they want my belt. Raven can’t say that he’s learned my ways, because he knows just as well as everyone else on this green Earth, even Dimitri Pavlovic, that I didn’t show him anywhere near everything I’ve got. That doesn’t mean I gave it my all, but merely that I didn’t have to bring out my big guns. I have this match under wraps, he knows it. I don’t even have to say it. In fact, I probably won’t.)

( Of course, at this point, I realize that I might be talking aloud, but no one’s around. I’m in the middle of Central Park, it’s like six in the morning, and the next vendor is a good one hundred yards ahead.)


(As I think about this, and about holding the Intercontinental Championship around my waist, a smile overcomes my face. I want to hold it back, but I can’t help it. After all, I am right. I know it. And there’s never anything wrong with confidence. Maybe I’m even being arrogant, I don’t care though, because if that’s what it takes to win the title, then so be it. Hmm, finally, another vendor up ahead. I’ll have to settle for Orange Crush. Not that big a deal, I am still one of their sponsors. An it’s all I drink anyways I bet if they knew I was out here running and NOT drinking it right now, they’d throw a hissy fit anyway.)

Vendor: You look a little tired

Funk: I am,” I reply, realizing before hand he’s about to get more than he bargained for. I’m tired of having to deal with eager little upstart kids seeking to make a name for themselves like Voo Voo, hell even Raven they’re all the same. I have bigger and better things to worry about than the cast of WWF’s High School Musical.

(To my surprise, the vendor plays along. Jason is his name)

Jason: Like what?

( I assume he’s an WWF fan then. Who isn’t, anymore?)

Funk: Like truly reestablishing the Intercontinental division as the premier division in the WWF. Like bringing a sense of honor and integrity back to the championship that once HEADLINED the WWF. Like showing people what it means to be a true champion!” I gregariously respond, still a little puzzled that he actually cared to listen.

Funk: Hey, sometimes if you want to get through to someone, you have to stoop to their level.” I tease. “After all, there are still people out there who cheer for my two opponents Those ignorant kinds of people are probably the same ones who thought I was being the “bad guy” I get my enjoyment when the fans cheer me on and when I win. Sure, I might be too serious, and there might be some fans that don’t appreciate that. But true fans know true talent when they see it, and I’m the best in the WWF right now, bar none. They respect me for what I can do in the ring, and I show my appreciation by giving it my best.

(Some people just aren’t meant to kid around and make gay, racist and potty jokes all day. Let that stuff be saved for the lower heads on the totem pole, like Voo Voo and Raven I get by on my pure skill and experience. That’s all I need and all I’ll ever need. That’s how I had success in the past, too, and how I will have success in the future…. The very, very near future. This Monday, I go back to being serious again. I am all business. And I‘m getting my damn belt.. And I have no qualms about sending anyone, not even Voo Voo and Raven, who gets in my way… STRAIGHT TO HELL!”)

(The Scene fades to black)