Tag Archives: humor

The Wrap Around Gotham

My heart is happy when I’m in New York.  Neither I nor my employer can afford a decent hotel room in the city that’s big enough to accommodate kung fu practice – and I don’t care.  This is notable because I care very much about space to train with any other place I visit for work or pleasure.  That should say it all when it comes to my feelings about NYC, but I’m going to go on.

Manhattan has been special to me since the first time I stepped off the commuter train from Connecticut, holding my mother’s hand, to go visit Santa at Macy’s, then go slip on the ice at Rockefeller Center.  Later, I loved it because I was a middle school glee club member and stage rat who fell head over heels for Broadway and everything about the theater district.  Then came the crazy teen years and jumping on the train to hang out in Greenwich Village with my best friend and my fake ID.  That was followed by a first salaried job as a wardrobe supervisor for a suburban theater, where I was invited out on the island with the ladies and gents of the ensemble and introduced to several of the city’s great restaurants.

Winter traditions, Broadway, Bohemia, food – they all just scratch the surface of what makes me nuts about New York.  As I write, I realize that I’ve had goosebump-great moments there with each parent, both spouses, both children and three of the four people who were my closest friends before the age of twenty-five (and are still friends to this day).  That’s not true of any other place on the planet, including my hometown.

Anyway, here’s some of what I saw, did and enjoyed in this working, reunion weekend in Gotham.

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I finally got a meal at a seafood joint I’ve been wanting to get to since I first heard of it a year ago – and the food was as good as it looked.

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Work was crazy-making and exhausting, but there’s no denying it offered a rollicking good time to those around me, both outside the Schomburg Center…

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…and in.

 

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A brush with Mr. Mosley’s literary greatness didn’t hurt either.

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All in all, it was exactly what the doctor ordered at the end of a sad anniversary.  Funny how the universe provides what we need… though often in unexpected wrappers.

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It’s All Over…

Wednesday is second only to Monday as the busiest night in the gym.  It’s the evening there’s a spin class, a yoga class, and an occasional bootcamp in the hallway.  Meanwhile the squash round-robin group owns both courts until at least eight o’clock.  If there’s anyone in the boxing room, then I’m just completely out of luck until as late as 8:30.  It used to be quite a challenge and lesson in patience to get my training in.  Not anymore.

I now have access to this room,…

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despite this sign.

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It’s a perk of being an employee!  And after months of waiting, wondering, preparing for it not to come through, I’m officially part of the team.

In the last two days, I’ve filled out almost as many papers as it took to buy my house, sat through my supervisor reading the employee handbook to me (at least she was entertaining while whizzing through forty pages) and taken a computerized test on sexual harassment.  It’s now all over but the bowing in… and the CPR course.  I have more than enough time to take it, because the club’s annual cleaning and refurbishment is three weeks from now.  My class starts the following Friday – July 18th at 6 p.m.

Until then, I’ll be perfecting my White Eyebrow in the room with the most appropriate of signs. 🙂

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“If You’re Not Injured…”

This time tomorrow I will have completed the paperwork and drug screening for the gym.  I should know by the end of the weekend if my future supervisor’s first choice for class days will in fact be the schedule.  It will depend on when there’s class space in the gym.

This time tomorrow I will also either be nursing my wounds from my return to Friday night class or feeling anxious and guilty for not having gone.  The jury’s still out on which it’ll be, but I’m reluctantly leaning toward the former.

Sanshou on Monday took a toll on me that’s lasted all week.  I may actually have strained my right hamstring in Saturday’s class, but the discomfort from that is nothing compared to the abuse to which I subjected my remaining left knee components two days later while crawling around on the guan floor like an alligator.  The drill was meant to work all the thigh muscles, but doing it properly required sideways protrusion of the knees in a wholly-unnatural, horizontally-bowlegged position.  Long story short:  I could hear something in my left knee pop out of place.  I’ve been trying to realign it ever since.  So it should be a no-brainer that I stay home tomorrow night.

The problem is I continued to self-train all week, and Sifu saw that.  I’m fairly certain he’ll think I’m not injured enough to stay out of Friday class, when I don’t have travel as a reason to miss it.  The man’s motto is “push yourself.”  He’s also fond of saying, “If you’re not injured, you’re not doing it right.”  We who are invited to Friday class are expected to attend – especially at the conclusion of banishment.

But I have a class to teach perhaps as soon as Wednesday.  I simply can’t be too battered to demonstrate a snap kick!  So that’s that.  Right?  Right?….


Like Riding a Bike

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This is the picture on the notice the gym emailed to the parents of Kid’s Club members to finally begin the sign-up for my class!  I’m starting to get a little nervous, since I’m months out of teaching practice.  But as natural as sharing my joy of kung fu is for me, teaching it again should be just like riding a bike.

I’m so excited I can barely stay in my chair!  I’m suppressing the urge to keep popping up out of my cubicle like a mole that needs whacking.  More later….

 


Drugstore in the Desk Drawer

I rarely get to bed before 1 a.m., and I’m rarely able to sleep past 6:45.  I’d be in a hospital bed or mental ward were it not for the drugstore in my office drawer. Vitamin C, B12 and D3 do wonders for keeping a sleep-deprived, aging martial artist chugging along – that and a boatload of morning caffeine.

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As I groggily stumbled from bedroom to bathroom and back this morning, I ran a quick analysis of time management the previous evening.  After pick-up from the commuter train and a congratulatory chat with my daughter for her most successful academic year yet, we got home to my son and a school friend leaving the house.  I spent a few minutes talking with them before grabbing a yogurt and heading upstairs to change into kung fu clothes. Once fed and changed, I grabbed kung fu stuff and hit the car with Merle and Aaron.

We took Sanshou class, got notes from Siheng Mark afterwards on what we did right and wrong, and stretched out our tight muscles for a while.  I practiced picking up the pace on The Walk from White Eyebrow before finally heading out the door for the ride home.  After a stop for gas, I got home around 9:15.

I took a medium-length shower, tended to my knees with creams and ice, made and ate some food, then made and ate some more.  The clock read 10:45.  I checked baseball scores, emails and blogs while watching a cooking show, and then discussed the monthly calendar with Merle and what we were doing with the kids to celebrate their great school year before Aaron leaves for a month-long summer program.  Somewhere in there, I also balanced the checkbook.  At that point, the big hand was almost on the twelve.

I returned eyes to the television while blow drying hair I’d kept wrapped up since the shower and waited for the laundry to come out the dryer, so I could pack my kung fu clothes in my work bag for today.  Tuesdays and Thursdays we have to go straight from commuter train to guan for the early class; so the clothes must come with me to work.  (I guess I could have just worn the back-up high water pants and the shirt with the hole in the armpit, but not if I can help it.)

I went down to the kitchen for something, wound up in the downstairs bathroom (which is largely the one Aaron and I use most) and was painfully aware that my absence the previous week was particularly obvious in that room.  So I cleaned tub and sink, brushed my teeth and went upstairs to bed.  Merle was still up sorting clothes, and I was just floating into pre-consciousness when she turned out the last light.  It was 1:05.

I could probably shorten the time between meal and bed, regardless of whatever else I have to do, if I didn’t turn on the television.  But a good game or a good laugh goes a long way in a day that could otherwise be a grind… or in the case of Sanshou night, a beat down.

So what’s a woman to do?  I guess just keep popping the B12 and vitamin C until the next non-working Sunday morning sleep-in.  Things could certainly be worse.  Life could actually be boring.


Cookies and Curses

It finally happened.  My family and my clothes arrived at a destination on time, but my long staff did not.  It makes sense that it would happen in Orlando.  As good at their game as Southwest is, they still have no control over how long it takes TSA to inspect a plethora of oversized baggage coming into one of the tourist meccas of the country.

I’m deducing that that’s why my staff didn’t come in on my flight.  But it also didn’t come in on the next flight from Baltimore.  I know because I was still in the airport when the next flight arrived.  I was told to get out of line at the lost baggage office and go look for it in the next drop of Baltimore luggage.  So I had to spend another half hour in the airport when it didn’t come on the second flight, and I still needed to report it.

The night felt ungodly at times.  It included: landing in a thunderstorm with my stomach in my throat; temporarily losing my beloved staff (it arrived this morning); experiencing one of the longest car rental processes ever; having the GPS on my phone insist that my motel was thirty-two minutes away when I knew it should be less than ten; having the front desk man be nowhere near the office and having to track him down by website and phone in order to check in; and, finally, having a cut-rate bar as the only open source of food at midnight that didn’t come in a cellophane bag.

What saved the night and my sanity was an adolescent daughter who’s as impatient and demanding as I am – only she doesn’t have the necessary filter we adults all know we’re supposed to act like we have.  At one point in the airport, after the second flight didn’t deliver my staff, she looked at my dejected face and just silently reached out and bear hugged me.  I thanked her and told her she was being great, even though I knew she was hungry.  With a grin and in a why-are-you-surprised tone of voice, she said, “That’s because you gave me cookies.”  Bringing cookies for the flight may have been my smartest decision in a long time.

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Later in the rental car, sitting in darkness by the side of a highway ramp trying to figure out what was wrong with my GPS, the hungry girl I would have expected to finally be flipping out through no fault of her own just looked out the window and said: “It’s like we’re cursed or something.”  Her delivery was priceless.  I had to laugh.  And with tension relieved by laughter, I cleared out the address, re-entered it for the third time, and for reasons only God understands, it finally gave me a route that was seven minutes away, not thirty-two.

It was remarkable.  I remembered the cookies, but she remembered that sometimes I need her, too – to do the best she can not to add to a problem.  She remembered, and she came through.  What a blessing on a cursed night of travel.


The Thing That’s Calling

I’ve heard that doing something daily for three straight weeks (or not doing it, as the case may be) can make that behavior a permanent part of one’s life.  Practicing kung fu at least four times a week has been a permanent behavior of mine since autumn of 2011, when I began training for black sash.  That was bumped up to five times weekly once I was invited to Friday night class, and it quickly became clear that it wasn’t an invitation I was free to decline if I wanted to be promoted.

Then, I began teaching.  That was a Monday, Wednesday, Saturday schedule of classes, while my family was taking class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Throw in Friday class, and suddenly, I was doing kung fu at least six days a week.  The teaching days and Fridays in the guan have been replaced by training at the gym, since the big fallout with Sifu; so my kung fu week has remained six days long.  There have even been a few weeks where there was no day off, and I trained eight or nine days straight.

Now, you would think my body would be thrilled with a day’s rest – and it probably is.  My brain, on the other hand, doesn’t know what to make of it.  My night off always feels a little weird.  Tonight, the weirdness itself is weird!

I have grocery shopping to do, packing to finish and a little quality time to spend with my spouse before I’m gone for a week.  And still, I’ve spent far too much brain power today trying to figure out if there’s any way I can get it all done and still make an appearance at the Friday class that I’m permitted to return to, now that the calendar reads June.

The art really is the thing that’s calling – particularly in a week where I learned new ways of doing old techniques.  It’s not some grand re-entrance to the fold or some masochistic need to overdo it (Friday class is always an abuse of the body that’s supposed to make us stronger).  It takes three weeks to make a habit, but I’m fairly certain it would take closer to three months to break my habit of wanting to practice daily.

I’m guessing on this timeframe, of course.  And I’m guessing without any intention of testing it! 🙂


The Payoff

Just when I thought there was nothing left to surprise me about tournament competition, along came a trip to New Jersey, where the United Martial Arts Referee Association is based.   Yesterday in Mount Laurel was the first tournament competition for my better half, after spending two road trips being the keeper of the camera while nursing a torn meniscus. IMG_20140531_105323 IMG_20140531_120757 She came home with two silver medals, though one should have been gold (and yes, I know I’m biased).

We were the only “elderly” women in the room, and initially thought that as the only members of the oldest competitor age group, we’d simply be competing with each other.  We thought wrong.  It turns out that in New Jersey, black sashes and belts only compete against each other; the “advanced” category is composed of solely of brown and red.  So both Merle and I were competing against much younger folks who matched our sash color – and still we both lost the gold by two-tenths of a point or less.  Not too shabby for a couple of old girls in a room full of competitors and judges who all knew each other.  Additionally, we seemed to be the only ones in the room doing the Northern Shaolin style of a Chinese martial art.

I had the whiplash-producing experience of competing in the “open” weapons division.  At this particular tournament, that meant the event contained all ages, all styles and both genders all up against each other with radically different weapons and forms.  Everyone over thirty-five got creamed in points by a twenty-two-year-old guy who pretty much seemed to fly.

The biggest surprise of my day was tying my all-time high score not with a weapons form but with the killer open hands form of Lian Huan Tui! That surprise alone was worth the entry fee. Gym training is definitely paying off.


Warrior’s Jig

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I end every training session by loosening up my over-exerted leg muscles on a foam roller.  From the floor after last night’s workout, this is what I looked up to find punctuating the quiet solace of my meditative stretching.

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My Sanshou-loving boy is the only martial artist I know who winds down at the end of a sweaty night at the gym by tossing out a hundred or so fast-flying punches.  It’s an impressive display of youthful stamina that makes me… well, jealous.

When he finished his punches with earbuds still firmly lodged in his ears, he started dancing.  I watched him finish out the song and shared in the joy that accompanies a good night of kung fu – especially with classics from Red Hot Chili Peppers in the background.  He aptly named the evening’s finale “The Warrior’s Jig.”

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And I danced one myself earlier today when I received an email from the Kid’s Club Director at the gym.  It said, among other things, “Attached is the application and background check. We will go ahead and get started to add you as an employee.”

It’s been quite the long wait, but unless someone slips a mickey into my water bottle that wrecks my drug test, I’ll be teaching wannabe white sashes after I return from vacation in mid June.  And that news is most definitely worthy of a warrior’s jig!


Next!

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This is our Sanshou teacher and coach.

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This is what my sweetheart looks like after we’ve spent half an hour trying to practice our Sanshou teacher’s techniques.

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This is what my shoulder looks like after my son makes me pay for getting a Sanshou technique wrong.

There have been a few moments since I started this intensive sparring training that made me question the choice to do so.  But it just seemed to naturally come next. 🙂


The Inventory on the Shelf

Over the weekend I was subjected to folks offering an enthusiastic assessment of what they consider to be my flaws.  It was not a pleasant experience, but truth be told, it’s an exercise I used to be painfully good at.  In one of the circles I run in, we call it taking somebody’s inventory – a fancy way of saying being openly judgmental for little reason other than that we can.  For years I was told that’s something we humans are not supposed to do.  But my experience this weekend reminded me of the importance of inventory taking and the ground rules it should carry.

When I look back twenty-five years on the know-it-all, loud mouth I was, I cringe deeply and for a good minute or so.  I was the worst kind of inventory taker: I gave opinions without being asked, and I wasn’t the least bit mindful of whether I was hurting someone.  It took a few years in the real world to figure out that people didn’t care what I thought about anything and expressing my opinion made me very easy to dislike.  Once I got that lesson, though, I made the mistake that many converts make: I went too far the other direction.  I started feeling like I needed to find a confessional every time I had a less-than-flattering thought about the words or actions of others.

Then I made the very fortunate move of mentioning my guilt over continuing to be judgmental to an older and wiser friend.  She set me straight once and for all.

“People have to take each other’s inventory,” she began.  “How else are we going to know whether a person is a healthy, positive addition to our lives or someone that we should keep our distance from?  To be completely accepting of what people do and say is just not very smart.  Taking somebody’s inventory isn’t wrong, but sharing that inventory with them is!”

I’m grateful to have that fifteen-year-old mini-lecture to remember and hold onto.  It empowered me this weekend to politely point out to the person judging me that I hadn’t asked for her opinion.  It also empowers me daily to hold my emotional distance from folks with behavior on their storeroom shelves that can be damaging to me.


The Untrained Trainer

“Don’t you guys have a school or something?” he asked, looking me up and down and settling his gaze on the bicep that was helping to hold up the staff.

“Of course,” I answered trying not to show my surprise and annoyance.  “When I’m not here, I’m there.”  He waited, expecting me to continue speaking and answer the question he wasn’t quite rude enough to ask directly.

“So… is there more space here?”

“Yes.”  I hoped that would be the end of his inquisition, but I knew it wasn’t.

He looked away, thinking for a moment, as the slow elevator continued to chug along to the third level of the parking lot.  “You’re lucky Ray’s not still here.”

Having no idea who Ray was, I shrugged.  The diminutive trainer with a model’s face and a body builder’s chest turned his face toward the two women who’d just left his 45-minute boot camp, but he continued talking to me.

“Ray ran the squash program.  If he was still here, you wouldn’t have any room to practice.  He had those courts filled every night.”

The elevator door opened on my floor, so I didn’t take the time to point out to him that I practice in all the gym’s spaces that are available to me and my staff.  So unless Ray could keep me out of the yoga room, the boxing room and the step-it studio, everyone would still have to deal with whatever it is about my weapons practice that’s apparently threatening to a professional trainer and boxing coach.  What I actually said was: “Okay.”  Then, I walked to my car.

I care very much about whether I’m taking up space that someone else is entitled to, but I just don’t have time to tip toe around the ego of an apparently insecure personal trainer whose classes never take place in a room I use for practice.  Life’s just too short for that kind of nonsense… and there’s way too much training to be done.