Waiting in line to check out my new book, I realized I’d forgotten to bring back the overdue book that I owed. Checking in my pocket, I only had a few Mexican coins — two large five-peso coins, a small three-peso coin, two tiny two-peso coins, and a medum-sized one peso coin. She’d take them.
When I got to the front of the line, I held a slip of paper with a stamped-on bar code under a scanner; the red laser made an x over the stamp and the librarian read out the name of the book I wanted to check out as it appeared on her screen: “The Empire Strikes Back. Will that be all for you?” I replied yes — I knew that, in this library, she’d scan the request card for the book and the bearded, portly, black-t-shirted librarian standing behind her with the small basket would go back into the stacks and pull the requests of the last few customers. “You have a $1 fine. Would you like to pay it?” I said yes, and handed her one two-peso coin. “Thank you,” she said, and my debt was settled; then she gave some advice to the people in line behind me. “You know, these two-peso coins are great, use them to pay any police fines you get in Mexico. They’ll count them the same as a one-peso coin but the police will like you a lot better.”
I moved past the librarian’s checkout counter and waited for the portly librarian to return with my book. He came back in a few minutes, with a basket full of books. Paperbacks came off, then a couple of hardcovers, and my book at the bottom. But was it my book? It looked like a box with a great Star Wars-themed cover… and, opening it, it was an assembly-required Death Star playset, Stormtroopers included.
This was bad. I had to head for the airport to get on vacation in two hours. I still had to eat lunch — no time to walk anywhere, I’d have to drive somewhere — and I had to pack, and what was I to read on said vacation? The playset was cool — I could spend hours with it — but it wouldn’t do well on the beach.
fn1. Just like the late, unlamented “Best”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Best_Products
fn2. I do in fact owe the library about $0.40. Also, some asshole put a hold on the book I’m 1/3 done with. I think I have to give up on it; hold wars are futile for everyone involved. Can anybody recommend a good, sparely-written, Western?
As the weather turns to summer — well, at least as it does here in sunny Southern California — we may be coming to the time of year when “brown liquors”:http://juniorbird.com/archive/003616.html are replaced by clear ones in your everyday drinks. But, if you want something a bit refreshing, something that can stand up to a bit of spring sunlight and warm air, then let me recommend the Presbyterian.
Now, everybody loves the Jack and Coke, but, let’s face it, there’s a time to grow up, a time to select more moderate and complex flavors, a time to be refreshed rather than trashed. The Presbyterian is — as one might guess from its name — an appropriate mix of abstemiousness and indulgence. Take a highball glass, and fill with ice. Pour in an ounce and a half of the Scotch of your choice — I recommend a Speyside, or something less peat-y and with more even, caramel-y taste. Of the remaining space in your glass, fill half with a good ginger ale — not a ginger beer, which will overpower your scotch, but a more moderate ale with a bit of a bite and not too much sweetness — and half with soda water.
The Presbyterian is a fairly light drink that can be enjoyed with a meal or sipped for refreshment. Not quite a gin and tonic on a hot day, it’s still a good standby when you want a bit warmer, sugarier flavor, with a real kick of spice.
Well, I feel like I was run over by a truck or two. But, after six hours of being pounded on during a sunny Sunday afternoon, I now have my “Krav Maga”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krav_Maga yellow belt! The AIG and I have been taking Krav classes since October — first once a week, and now three mornings a week — and let me say we’re hooked. It’s great exercise, great fun, and a great chance to clobber some poor unsuspecting person.
(Of course, last Sunday, I was the one who got clobbered.)
So, now that I went and passed my test, first of all, let me recommend to all you readers that you give Krav a try. Second of all, once you do, let me recommend the following ways to ensure you pass your yellow belt test:
# *Show up.* I don’t mean in the minimal sense; I mean, bring everything you can. Don’t have part of your head someplace else. As you probably figured out from classes, exhaustion and hitting hard are both big parts of the test. Show up prepared to give 100% on both.
# *Know the curriculum.* It’s tough to see something the first time during the test; don’t put yourself in that position. We were aggressive about asking our instructors to teach techniques we hadn’t seen, and that paid off. Read through your book and make sure every technique is checked off.
# *Practice learning how to learn.* The flip side is that you’ll see at least slightly new things during your test. For instance, one of my usual instructors really likes us to deliver roundhouse kicks with the part of your foot you make a soccer kick with; the test instructor really wanted us to deliver that kick with the shin. Practice getting things the first time in class, understand what you don’t tend to “grok”:http://www.answers.com/grok?cat=technology&gwp=13 and what questions you need to ask to get it. The faster you can catch on, the more of a favor you’ll do yourself.
# *Learn how to get hit.* Maybe I’m just saying this because I paired up with a broad-shouldered 6’3″ Aryan warrior-looking guy who made me feel like my ribs were gonna crack every time he punched me, but taking a hit is a key skill in a test. You’ll be matched with someone you do all of your practice and all of your testing with, and, for half the time, that person will be hitting you. Learn to hold solid, so that they look good. Learn to take the impact, so that you survive to hit back. There’s just no way around it.
# *Pick your partner.* If I’d’ve been smarter, I would’ve matched myself with a guy my size who I’d met a few minutes before the test. The AIG was very smart and matched herself with a similar-sized classmate who she often trained with in the mornings. It’s really best not to get badly beaten-up all test long.
# *Watch for the instructors.* While you’re hitting, or defending in a self-defense move, keep aware of your surroundings so that you know when you’re being watched. When you’re holding, or attacking, it’s also your job to keep your eyes open and let your partner know when they’re being watched.
# *Give 110 percent… or 50.* If you can spot the instructors, then you can take it down a big notch when they’re not watching. Make sure you keep your form — you never want to get off-track there — but don’t wipe yourself out. In contrast, bring everything when being watched. Keep in mind, you’ll need to go for hours of practice and for at least a couple of exhaustion drills (I’d say ours were about the first and last thirds of the actual test).
# *Always finish.* When doing a self-defense move, add in an extra elbow, an extra knee to the head, and move to the attacker’s dead side to show you really know what you’re doing.
# *Plan your hydration and nutrition.* Between us, the AIG and I drank _2 gallons_ of fluid during the test, most during the practice period. I peed once and came home thirsty. Know what you’re likely to need to drink and bring that and some extra. I personally don’t like drinking tons of water — we brought a 25% apple juice – 75% water mix, which worked great and which I recommend. Food is also important; I had two bananas and the AIG had a banana and a half, and those were lifesavers for us. I brought protein bars but never felt like I could wait long enough for the protein to be metabolized; I needed faster sugars. Breakfast beforehand was eggs, toast, and fruit. You can adjust to your own preferences, but the people who seemed to have the hardest times were the ones who didn’t prepare at all.
# *Leave plenty of time.* The test was advertised to be 4 hours; ours lasted more than 6. Good thing we didn’t have any plans afterwards! Of course, given how we felt when we were done (and today, the day after), all plans would’ve been off anyway. Don’t make yourself feel rushed, and try not to get too out-of-sorts when the test goes long; it assuredly will. The good part is that the actual test seems quick, compared to the hours and hours of practice; the hour-long test was done practically before I realized. At one moment I was exhausted and shocked the test was so long and so I said “that’s it, I quit! No more Krav for me!” Of course, then I realized it was just the test I hated, so I promised myself “no more tests!” Now that I’ve passed the test, I’m ready for my orange belt test now, can we do it straight away?
There you go — follow these ten simple rules, and you’ll be as badass as we are!
Oh, and some (but not all) of the techniques we were tested on:
There you go! Badass, or something. (For those of you who do other martial arts, yes, this is a lot of techniques for a white belt test.)
Had a nice service for “my friend Rick”:http://juniorbird.com/archive/003594.html earlier today. Driving home, I came out of the strip mall flats of Inglewood and through the tangle of I-405 on-ramps and suddenly the sky was bright and a bank of cotton candy-fluffy white clouds sat just to my west, halfway to the ocean.
It was nice to see family and friends at the funeral. His youngest daughters are doing well, thank goodness — taken in by his eldest daughter, they’re in a loving and positive home. And everyone’s lives there seemed to be moving forward, with new jobs and new homes and growth all around. As with anyone, as Rick’s life took a turn for the worse, all of us around him felt some pain; but it was good to see everyone remember not that part of Rick, but the caring friend with a good heart. In the moment of his passing he was possessed by darkness, and I was sad and angry that side had won; but, in the service today, I saw that it was the good that triumphed. Whether or not having that triumph in the hearts of others is worth it I’ll leave as an exercise for someone more inclined towards philosophy.
Thank you for taking me on a scenic tour of your city today, as I searched for parking for “an industry conference at your convention center”:http://expowest.com. I never would’ve seen the reaches of Katella or Harbor avenues without the direction of the digital signs above the road, telling me where to park, what was full and what was open.
And I have to admit, I’m impressed with what you do with Angel Stadium when you’re not using it. I mean, all four of the parking signs said to head straight to get to additional convention center parking at Angel Stadium — that is, the sign on Harbor, north of Katella, facing southbound traffic; the sign on Harbor, south of Katella, facing northbound traffic; the sign on Katella, east of Harbor, facing westbound traffic; and the sign on Katella, west of Harbor, facing eastbound traffic. I don’t know how you hid Angel Stadium at the corner of Harbor and Katella, through which I drove 4 or 5 times. Good job on that! Must be some Disney technology or — dare I say — magic!
Still, I never found the promised Angel Stadium parking. It might have been better to provide accurate directions to the parking on said overhead digital signs. Or, even, wooden signs on the street. Seeing as I drove around for 40 minutes, just to end up parking in the lot we’d seen first off anyway.
(Unless, that is, you were paid off by the owners of the 7-11 where we stopped for directions and iced coffee. That would’ve been quite clever on everyone’s part.)
Oh, also, that parking lot wasn’t your finest hour either — the sign in front of the lot we used said “Closed — Lot Full.” Took about 7 minutes to find a spot, and the two people in front of me found one in the same time too. So, accuracy might be a problem overall. But, I believe in you! You can do it. I have a feeling you’ll get your signage right about the same time I find Angel Stadium. Which might be in just a bit, since it’s about time I caught an O’s game.
Thank you for coming so early this year. I really appreciate how you gave me the old get-up-and-go by taking away an hour of my wasted sleep time last Sunday, and how you bring light to the evening hours. Those energy savings would sure be nice, too.
I really have to give you credit for how you make “Krav Maga”:http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=krav+maga&search=Search seem more like work than like fun, what with ensuring that I get up in the dark to make the 7am class to start my day. I was sure getting spoiled with those sunny mornings that we had just last week, all warm enough that I didn’t need to bundle up in my hoodie on the drive there and all. Yep, it’s good to be reminded that fitness requires sacrifices, especially if you want guns like mine.
Still, “one might ask”:http://www.shns.com/shns/g_index2.cfm?action=detail&pk=SMARTSHOPPER-03-11-08 why we need more light in the evening — when it’s nice being cozy inside — than we do in the morning — when we’re supposed to get up and get going. And, most of us rely on artificial lighting anyway, what with the small West Coast windows, so who cares about daylight?
In fact, what with the concerns that many have that Daylight Savings time doesn’t actually save energy, and the increase in traffic and industrial accidents occasioned by taking away a precious hour of sleep from our under-rested populace, I might suggest that you oughtn’t come at all. But that’s just a suggestion. It could be crazy.
No, Daylight Savings Time, I should appreciate you, because you give us an excuse, for two precious days a year, to miss any arranged event, be it doctor’s appointment, wedding, or business meeting. Thank you, Daylight Savings Time, for giving me a computer update, and the chance to change every clock in the apartment, for two glorious days every year.
fn1. Like the suggestion that, instead of wasting all of our money on things like HIV prevention and sending a man to the moon and green energy and replacing decaying infrastructure, we instead devote our national wealth to building a massive machine that changes the rotation of the planet so that we, in fact, save our daylight for the weekends, when we can all play, and spend our nighttime during the week, when we’re all locked in offices anyway. Now, that’s just plain crazy.
We — that is, myself, the various madly-retreating “Spanish Nationalist”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franquism troops with which I was traveling, and “Generalissimo Francisco Franco”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franquism — were trudging through a lightly-forested area of gently rolling and quite verdant hills. The sky was clear and the sun bright, but we didn’t expect the three Republican fighters that appeared in the distance, charging towards us.
One fighter after the next dove quickly down, plummeting at a 45° angle as they strafed our disorganized company. I just stood there and watched, enjoying the view as the white planes, with their orange engine cowls and brown wingtips, spatted landing gear, and tails, zipped past.
The planes made five or six strafing passes without hurting anyone, when I began to worry about the Generalissimo. The planes seemed to be approaching from the sun, so I told him to stand right behind a tree that itself stood between us and the sun. As we walked around the tree we saw that there were already 3 or 4 men of South Asian extraction standing there, watching the show in safety. Out of ideas, I suggested the Generalissimo stand a few feet behind those men. Then I walked into the trees to stand back and watch myself.
I was very surprised when the next plane zipped past, not from the sun behind me where I expected it but from my right, flying only 5 or 6 feet off the ground as it traveled down a natural avenue between the trees. Although the two machineguns in its wings sparkled, there was nobody in front of it to get hit; we were all to the side, watching the plane pass (in fact, to this time, nobody had been hurt in the attack).
The plane was so close that I knew I could shoot it down if I just had a gun. “A pity this is just a dream,” I thought, “because, were I really in this situation, I’d have something to shoot this guy with.” I straightened my thumb and pointer fingers and pointed them at the plane like a gun. “Pow, pow, pow” I said. Suddenly, there was a gun in my hand, and I shot the plane 10 times. I could see the holes in the matte white metal.
Then the dream rewound. “I couldn’t shoot the plane 10 times, my gun only has 9 rounds!” The effect of the 10th bullet was magically erased. But, wounded, the plane bellied down into the deep, soft grass. “I’d better load another magazine in case I need to shoot the pilot.” I thought to myself, and so I did, dropping the empty magazine to my left.
Then Wesley Snipes got out of the plane. “Goddamn it, why did you have to go do that” he yelled at me, stern, all John Cutter from “Passenger 57″:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0105104/-like.  “We had a great thing going here! We were going to make so much money on the movie. All you had to do was not mess everything up.” He was walking up on me fast, and I didn’t like his attitude, so I shot him clear through, just above his heart.
fn1. For geeks like me, they looked like the “Ki-15″:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitsubishi_Ki-15 from the back of the wing forward and like the “I-16″:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polikarpov_I-16 from the back of the wing to the tail.
fn2. Can you think of anybody else with the actual title of Generalissimo besides Franco and Chiang Kai-Shek, two murderous anti-communists of the same era?
fn3. I was wrong; “the gun I imagined only holds 8 shots!”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M1911
fn4. Always bet on black.
fn5. Yes, he did say “mess.” Dialogue isn’t my strength.
fn6. Strangely, I didn’t feel guilty for killing Wesley Snipes when I woke up. But being on Franco’s side? What’s up with that?