Raging Taurus

Beautiful and deadly!

Beautiful and deadly!

I’m training a new fighter.  A chick.  Em.  22 years old.  Natural jab.  Pivots her hips into her hooks.  Hits hard.  Really hard.  Not just hard for a chick hard.  But hard hard.  She also has Down Syndrome.  Which makes seeing her tear up the bag even more delightful.  Makes her one of the most wonderful women in the world to watch.  And I’ve watched a few.

But this one really rocks my world.

I’m holding a 70 lbs. heavy bag, and she is literally rocking my world.  When she lays one in, the bag swings me.  I can’t believe what I’m experiencing here.  Obviously her disability didn’t disable to her ability to kick some serious ass.  I’m hanging on for life, partly because she’s clocking me through the bag, and partly because I’m laughing so hard.

Just busting up thinking about the what the idiot who bothered her enough to warrant a beating would be experiencing right then.

Stiff jab, two rights, then torquing in a left body hook…deep.  Backing up and dropping to deliver the hammer groin strike I taught her.  She whips it up to a backhand to the head.  Then throws a knee back into the groin.  I wince at the thought.  She keeps beating them out.  This.  That.  That, again but harder.

I’ve turned her into some kind of M.M.A. monster, a one-woman pain train.  A raging bull.

How did I get so lucky?

I was working with her dad, her brother, and her cousin.  Just putting them through a physical regime I concocted–something based on the p.t. program of Sparta.  Hell, they’re all ex-drinkers.  They know how to take a beating and keep their whimpering internal.  Always a pleasure to train. Good lads, not afraid to vomit and push on.

We’d be working out at the park, and Em would come by while walking her dog.  She’d stop and chat.  I found her to be very charming and lovely. More importantly, our senses of humor clicked.  We got each other.  And when that happens you can relax.  You’re family.

So I was psyched to hear that Em and her mom also wanted to train with me.  They wanted to get their buff on and were ready to suffer.  Excellent.  More victims.  This should be fun.

I had no idea just how much.

Right off the bat, Em explained to me that she had Down Syndrome, but that she was high-functioning.  Okay.  High-functioning anything is good.  I wish I could be a high-functioning whatever model of disability I am.  My problem is that there are so many of them, I can never choose which one I should master.  Shit, I never even got to be a functional alcoholic.  So yeah, life isn’t fair.

Well, it turns out she was being modest.  Her personal achievements really turn the tables on who is actually “disabled.”  Let’s see.  She’s acted in films and on television.  (She has a SAG card)   And when she’s not acting, she writes stories and song lyrics.  Sings.  Dances.  Enjoys cooking and art.  Has an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture and film facts.  Plays multiple sports.  Lifts weights.  Goes to college.  Doesn’t drink, smoke or do drugs.  Volunteers.  Takes care of animals and helps other special needs kids.  Oh, and has been invited to the White House, and asked to speak before Congress.

High-functioning, my ass.

That’s living better than most people I know.

Including me.

Hey now.  What’s the deal here?  I mean, I think I could still take her in a fight.  She’s giving up a lot to reach and weight advantage. (It’s my wonky left shoulder that might get me in trouble.  I can’t jab for shit anymore)  But other than that?  There’s nothing.  She’s better at everything else.

Doesn’t leave much to hang my hat on.

Yeah.  High-functioning.  Good for you.  Now beat it, kid.  You’re making me look bad.

Anyway, I started Em and her mom off with some basic stuff.  Running with the medicine ball over their heads.  Burpees with push-ups.  Jump rope.  Crunches.  Dumb-bell shoulder presses off one leg, on a balance disk.  Crawling under pretend Normandy barbed-wire.  One-legged butt-blasters.  (ladies love those)  Planks off the balance ball.  More running with the medicine ball over their heads.  More almost throwing up.

But never giving up.

The women turned out to be as tough as their men folk, and they seemed to be having fun.  I sure was.  Em was always cracking me up with the gems that rolled out of her mouth.

She’s quite eloquent.  Not just eloquent for a person with special needs, but eloquent eloquent.  She certainly has a better vocabulary than any of the bimbos on Bravo.

“Come on, Em.  Let’s do this.  Don’t be stubborn.”

“I’m not stubborn.  I’m obstinate.  It’s because I’m a Taurus.”

Oh man.  She just …kills me.

All the time.

One afternoon, I mentioned I had some boxing gloves and punching mitts in the car.  Em insisted I break them out.  She gloved up and started smacking.  A little awkwardly at first, but began landing a few with some zing.  She knew when she connected well, and adjusted her technique to replicate the results.   Well alright.  I took notice.  Do all people with Down’s punch this well?

After that, at the end of every p.t. session, she wanted to work on her hitting.  Her mom was cool with it.  Nothing wrong with a young lady knowing how to lay a smack-down if necessary.  Make some predatory perv think about things…while handcuffed to his hospital bed.

For Christmas her dad got her a heavy bag and her own gloves.   So we started beating on that.   I taught her more stuff.  With each lesson, she got better.  And better.  She knows how to take direction.  I’ll  suggest something and she does it, and then remembers to keep doing it.

I wonder what that would be like.

I only had to remind her to keep her gloves up a few times, early on.  After that, they’ve stayed up.  It’s crazy.  I’m always having to harp on my clients, “Keep your hands up! Keep your hands up!”  Not with Em.  She keeps her hooks in close.  Turns on the ball of her feet.  Snaps her jabs out sharp, but doesn’t try to homer with them.  Uses them to set up her next punch.  Mixes up her head and body shots well.

Snaps a twist on the end of her jab to maybe open a cut.

Snaps a twist on the end of her jab to maybe open a cut.

Keeps those mitts up.

Keeps those mitts up.

Pretty soon, I felt like I was witnessing some kind of miracle thing.  There was some natural ability we’ve tapped into here.  She’s got some God-given talent to whup ass.  And I have been sent to help deliver it.  I must abide by my Creator’s wishes.

I’ll tell you right now, I’m not a boxing coach.  I’m an ex-bouncer.  That punchity punch-punch stuff is okay, but in the real world, brawling rarely comes down to dancing around a bar room floor while exchanging jabs.  It’s a lot of kicking, clawing, and gouging.  Stuff that really works.

I started teaching her how to scrap.  How to use her elbows and knees.  I even taught her The Ron Martinez Belly Bopper, a move I watched a fellow bouncer use with great success.  It’s just a simple open hand thrust into the center of your opponent’s mass.  It doesn’t sound like much, but if you do it quickly, and really rally some meat behind it, it’ll send dudes tumbling over several cocktail tables.  It’s also a low-profile strike.  Harder for witnesses to see than a Hollywood jaw shot.

“C’mon Em, become Ron Martinez.  Really get your bull on.”

I’ll swing the bag and watch her time her thrust for maximum penetration.

“Ole!”

Making Ron Martinez proud. Somewhere.

Making Ron Martinez proud. Somewhere.

I’m teaching this girl with Down Syndrome a move I learned from an crazed Vietnam war vet bouncer in Santa Fe, over twenty years ago.  How awesome is life?  She’s just got to remember to be sneaky about it.  Ron never telegraphed the Belly Bopper.  He also shot it out low so the crowd couldn’t see it.  Once your mark goes down, grab a salt shaker off one of the tables and bring it down on his eye as he’s getting up.  C’mon Kid.  Practice.  Practice.  Practice.

She’s improving.  And she keeps improving.  Who knows where she’ll be a year from now?

We also work on breaking out of holds via groin strikes.  A woman actually only has to think about throwing a groin strike and a male will instinctively start to cover up.  It has something to do with our only reason for living.  Regardless, she knows not to bet the bank on a ball-bonker, but to follow up with a foot stomp and throat shot.  Oh, and that kicking somebody when they’re down depends on what they did, and if you can time it to the beat of whatever song is playing over the juke box.  Keep it cinematic.

Going DOWNTOWN!

Going Downtown!

My choke-hold is about to loosen quickly.

My choke-hold is about to loosen quickly.

It’s not like I expect her to be able to walk into a country western joint and bitch-belt a shot glass into the teeth of some cowboy drinking at the bar.  Just drop his bony ass.  While the band plays Boot Scoot Boogie and security swarms.

Unless, that’s something she some day wants to do.  Then I’ll support her dream.  In the meantime, she’s getting some exercise, and a healthy place to take out any life frustrations.  And learn some skills she’ll hopefully never have to use.

That’s it.  That’s all I bring to the table.  But what she shows me, teaches me, gives me, is much more profound.  She has brought more joy and delight to this recovering alcoholic than he seemed worthy of.  Spending time with her is the highlight of my week.  I personally believe that angels will sometimes take human form.  What I can’t believe is that I’ve gotten to teach one how to take out a knee.

It’s been very rewarding.  I’ve gotten to actually see what makes a successful human.  It starts from the love they emit outwards.  That love is irresistibly returned by those around them, and that creates a force field that makes all those within it thrive.

Thank you, Em, for welcoming me into that force field, and helping me thrive.  God knows, I can use the help.

We will destroy you, ibut only f you're not nice to us.

We will destroy you, but only if you’re not nice to us.

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9 Years Without A Drop To Drink

Good to the last drop.

Good to the last drop.

I’m so very thirsty.  Somebody get me some water.  Just kidding.  Gotta soda right here.  I have to admit, I feel a little proud of myself, which is weird.  I’m patting myself on the back for something I didn’t do.  Something I really had no business doing.  Something that almost killed me.  A bunch of times.

It’s like being proud for not bludgeoning yourself with a ball-peen hammer.

“Hey Eddie, how’s it hangin’, bro?”

“Slightly left, Ace.  How you been, Goon-o?”

“Not bad.  Got an easy gig at a tool rental place.  New woman, too.  It’s still in the sheet-burning stage, so that’s good.  You know.  Basically kicking the shit downhill these days.  You?”

“Well tomorrow will be nine years since I stopped beating my brains in with a ball-peen hammer.”

“Holy shit.  That’s really great.  Is it hard?  Like do you still miss it?”

“To be honest, sometimes.  After a hard day, I’ll come home and think how good it would be to have a nice cold hammer.  Just to beat the shit out of any consciousness floating around in my skull.  Ah well, those days are over.  Now I think it through.”

“Glad to hear that, dude.  Good for you.”

“Yeah, I couldn’t stop doing it on my own so I had to summon a praeter-natural force to take over my entire guidance system.”

“Dude, that sounds like some crazy shit.”

“Tell me about it.  Now I talk to the invisible and it talks back to me.  Through everything.”

“Uh, yeah…that’s cool.”

“It tells me what to do so I wont want to start hitting myself again.”

“What does?”

“Everything.  Everything that comes from nothing, which is one.”

“Huh.  Yeah well alright, you crazy fucker.  It’s good to see you’re doing…okay and shit.”

“I’m just grateful to have been restored to sanity.”

“Oh for sure, bro.”

Silence laden with subtext.

“Alright, well… throw one to your new old lady from me, Eddie.”

“I will,  Ace.  From behind.”

“Nice.  Take it easy.”

Only another recovering Hammer Head gets it.   The miracle of it all.

It’s a miracle alright.  An absolute miracle that I’m sucking down a Diet Hansen’s ginger ale while typing this.  With no looming court date.  In a house without bullet holes.

Oh, I know.  I’m not out of the woods yet.  I guess no alcoholic is, until they’re dead.  That’s sliding into home.  In the meantime, try to be an alert base-runner.  Don’t let your ass get picked off between pitches.

I remain a deeply-flawed individual, but I now realize that the measure of just how much, is based on arbitrary judgements.  How fucked up I think I am, is always relative to a bunch of different moving targets.   I am free to choose any measure.  Some days I cut myself slack.  Other times I roll out the Iron Maiden and really torture myself.  Depends on the mood I’m in.

I seem to do better with slack.  I wish I picked it more.  What’s wrong with me?  What kind of fucking idiot won’t pick slack over The Rack?

Okay, there I go again.  Man, it’s a slippery slope before hammer time.  Got to stay all present and shit.

I’m okay with the spiritual component to recovery.   That whole “came to believe” thing wasn’t too much of an issue.  I always enjoyed contemplating stuff.  I’ve been a closeted mystic my whole life.  In fact, at one point, as a young man, I actually thought about joining a monastery.  It was just that whole celibacy deal that killed it for me.   Certain haircuts too.

So I embarked on a different course.   Hell yeah I did.  Kind of opposite of monk-like.  About as.

Dionysian  abandon was to be my path and I tried to  make the best of it.   Hey, you play the hand you’re dealt.  It wasn’t doing white martyrdom on Skelig Michael, but it had it’s challenges.  But where it would lead was surprising.

A while ago, I read in Jung’s letter back to Bill Wilson.  He recalled his diagnosis of Roland H., the alcoholic Jung had to wash his hands of as hopeless, leaving  him only the thin straw of spiritual redemption as cure.  He wrote, ” His craving for alcohol was the equivalent on a low level of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness, expressed in medieval language: the union with God.”

I dig it, Dr. Jungy.  That’s it, baby.  I had a thirst for union with God.  Can’t blame a guy for that.  Shit, all this time I thought there was something wrong with me.  Does that include the wanting to be with chicks part too?  That’s all part of that union stuff, right?”

Turns out, you don’t need nineteen Heinekens and a shot of Crown Royal to find God.  Apparently there are other ways.  A spiritual solution you say?  Okay, fuck it.  I’ve tried crazier shit.  It’s got to be better than listening to me when I’m drunk.  I’ll get us all killed.

I figured I’d try being a spiritual dude, especially if I could still bang it out.   I didn’t really have anything better to do.  I guess I could’ve built a tool shed or something instead.  But I didn’t need one.  So I decided to do the prayer and meditation bit.

Look, if this lunatic is going to make it through an average day without his amber anesthesia, I’m going to need some other kind of strong medicine.  I’ll gladly dip into my mojo bag.  Whip out my Obeah and Wanga.  My consecrated wand.  Anything to flag down a passing avatar to ask directions.

The crazy thing is, it works.  When I ask, I get good directions.  Something out there steers me right.  If I pay attention.  And follow them.

So yeah, now I talk to the invisible, and the invisible talks back to me, using everything…created by nothing, which is one.  You see it’s…

Ah fuck it.  Disregard.

Anyway, it makes for some pretty weird days.  And I love weird.  As long as sober can be weird, I’m good with being sober.  And being sober has been good with me.

Besides not pissing my pants all the time, I’d have to say the best part is being available to my family and friends.  I’m glad they don’t have to worry about me anymore, and that by not having to deal with the old version of Marius (Marius 0.24) their individual burdens are a little lighter.  They deserve better.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s bring them out right now.  My family and friends–

My mom, Chicken Head.  My dad, Bodine.  My sister, Inski.  My friend Keller.  Spike.  Mike.  Emmitt.  Spudman.  Sue Bob.  Mad Dog.  Marko.  Sir Douglas.  Riggsy.  Ripper.  Ramona.  T-Bone.  Tony.  Todd.  Tommy O.  Timmy.  Yimmy.  Youngy.  Danny.  Frank.  Garth.  Gurz.  Dez.  John ‘Carnak’ Carnell.  Johnny B.  Justin O’Kane.  Bubbles.  Lili.  Ruta.  Red.  Aida.  Swell Mel.  Flat Matt.  Marsh.  Max.  Mugs.  Mahoney.  Stacey.  Siggy.  Sammy Pajammy (and her mammy).  Gregula.  Super Terry.  Alexa.  Davey.  Candice.  Peachy Peter.  Guy Thomas.  Judy.  Ginger.  Bobby.  Ben.  Eme.  Ace.  Felipe.  The Mystic Man.  The Plaza Rats.  The Fellowship.  The Hidden Chiefs.  The Bang-Bang Girls.  And my cats, Bugsy and Louie, with Terry Bozzio on drums!”

(The stage parts to make way for a drum kit the size of an off-shore oil rig, with two black and white cats running around inside the double bass.  The crowd goes wild)

“And the guy nobody ever thinks of except Riggsy…Hot-Link!   That’s right everybody, Hot-Link is in the motherfuckin’ house!  Let’s bring it!”

(Polite applause sputtering to silence.)

“And of course, finally tonight, certainly last but not lost, my girlfriend, Lori Lee, the Sleep Pea.  Let’s give it up for her long-suffering ass!  She deserves a medal everybody.  With oak leaf clusters.  And caramel!”

(People rise to their feet.  She greets them like Evita.  It’s a long ovation.  Very pointed, and she’s milking it)

“Okay, honey that’s good.  Take your bow.  Alright.  Very nice.  Okay.  That’s good.  That’s…just…just go stand with everybody over there.  Right there.  Over by the kitties.  Very nice.

It’s not like I don’t have to put up with anything either.”

(Silence.  Scattered coughing)

“Well there they are, Ladies and Gentlemen,  just a few of the oh so many who have brought me joy in sobriety.  Thank you everybody for making my world a better place.  I’ll do my best to pay you back.  Including the vig.”

(Applause)

“Now let’s all pray I make another year without beating my brains out with a hammer.”

(The crowd bows their heads.  I think about the traffic getting out of here.  It’s going to be murder)

“Okay, I guess that’s enough.  I still don’t really know how long a prayer is supposed to take.  But that seemed like the right amount of time.  Anyway, thanks for coming tonight to our nine year gala extravaganza sobriety celebration.  Please be sure to drive home safe and embrace the ineffable mystery of the infinite as you stumble blindly through your lives.  And good night Austin Texas, where ever you are!”

The audience filters out, some hurrying to make last call.

All sober and shit.

All sober and shit.