It Could Be Worse, And Will Be If You Don’t Stop Crying

Not a bad beer, actually.

Not a bad beer, actually.

Right now I’m drinking a protein shake that I ruined by putting in some sort of green algae superfood powder.  I tried to make it more healthy, but I made it too healthy.  Now it tastes like shit.  Like a chocolate, metal, and grass smoothie.  I can taste every one of the essential whatevers in it.  The traces of Boron.  Copper.  Molybdenum.  Chlorophyll.

Fuck it.  At least I’m not actually eating grass.  I’m not having to eat grass because the Cossacks have burned the crops and raped our cows.  So it technically could be worse.  See how I fixed that?  “It could be worse” is like a magic wand.  Now this shake is delicious!

That’s at the core of my survival mechanism.  “It could be worse.”  Instilled in me from my parents.  And I guess one more thing I should appreciate them for.  I don’t know if it’s a Lithuanian thing.  Seems like it.  I’ll ask some friends.  I’m pretty sure it is.  At least from the war refugee crowd and their off-spring.

It was the closer for any shit storm my family had to go through.  Somebody would say, “It could be worse,” and we’d call it a night.  Clock out.  At least now you could brush your teeth and go to bed.  I imagine it’s a form of gratitude.  At least some distant cousin of it.  It doesn’t work so good in jail.  But sometimes you can use it in a hospital emergency room.  Tie up the evening’s festivities with an “It could be worse.”

“The more you bitch, the more God will give you something to bitch about,” was another of our cozy sayings.   I still stand by it.  It seems to be true.  At least in my personal experience.  I don’t know if it’s some cosmic truth.

Like “Nobody likes a pants-pisser in their bomb shelter.”

As insensitive as that one may sound.  There’s some folk wisdom there, albeit of the rough-hewn and gnarled variety.  Basically, panic begets more panic.  And then nothing gets done.  To fix things.  You have to keep your head and not cave into The Fear.  That’s how they made it through the war in Europe.  That’s how they made it here when they came.  They didn’t shit themselves.

They Didn’t Shit Themselves;  An American Success Story.

Anyway, it’s a tradition I’ve tried to uphold.

It’s a lot easier now that I’m not drinking my weight in beer. You know, deftly navigating my ship, The Rocinante, through the Stormy Seas of Destiny.

And holding my mud.

I’ve actually gotten a little braver without alcohol.  It’s taken some time, and then even more time to see it, but I think I’ve made progress.

It’s not like I’m ready to hold the pass at Thermopylae, but I don’t have to drink a six pack before opening my bills anymore.  Or need to drink eight beers to prime myself for the next beer run.  And now (may the heavens tremble at my might) I can kiss a girl with no beers at all.  I mean for me.  She’d still have to be hammered out of her skull.

So yeah, it’s nice, this whole not being too-drunk-to-deal-with-it-all deal.  And, no matter how terribly I may being dealing with it all, at least I’m not dealing with it drunk.  Because chances are my sober fucking-up would look like water-walking compared to my drunken version.

Of dealing with it all.

It’s an advantage a recovering alcoholic has over the normal person.  No matter what our shortcomings, if we stay sober we always have some golden straw to grasp.  Right?  At least that.  At least I’m still sober.

Have some normal person throw that one out.  See who golf claps him.  Big deal.  Shut up and have a drink.

Of course, there’s always the chance the recovering alcoholic will succumb to his/her fear, and then totally destroy their life in a final drunken death dance.

And that, my friends, is where the normal person regains the advantage.

By not doing that.

When things get tough.

Lucky fuckers.  That’s a good advantage.

However, if I do manage to stay sober, well then…I’ve shaved the house’s dice, haven’t I?  C’mon lucky seven, Daddy needs a new pair of pants.

He’s crapped this pair.

(See what I did there, Pauly?  Craps.  Pair of dice.  Pair of pants.  Nice, huh?  I like it)

I don’t know how many of my readers are in some sort of recovery, most probably only from last night’s barf-a-thon, but it’s one of those things ex-addicts and ex-drunks have to do.  We have to be grateful we’re not fucked up on our choice of magic carpet ride.  You take anything for granted long enough, be it a relationship, a car that runs, or some money in the bank, and chances are that something…is going to slip away.

Sobriety is just one of those things.  If you don’t pay enough attention, she can slink off.  Her high heels clacking away into the night.

I really don’t want to go back to drinking.  So I try to be grateful.

I figure that life can be hard enough just regular.  Look, in my own half-assed, duct-taped way, I try to work a program.  I pray to the Unifying Intelligence That Binds Creation, meditate on the perfection of The Silence, contemplate the goodness of all souls, work to be less selfish, admit when I’m wrong, try to be a good listener, help when I can, surrender when I can’t, lift weights, stay away from grains, and get enough Molybdenum .

Basic stuff.  And for the most part, I live a life filled with a lot of wonder, laughter and joy.

But sometimes… old demons stop by the pad and ask to use the bathroom.  Next thing I know, they’re camped out, ordering pizza and pay-for porn.  They’re not leaving anytime soon. Then I find myself treading shark-filled ocean, trying to keep my lips just above the water line.  I’m barely making it.  Barely.  And I’m not even drinking.

The last thing I need right then is a bowling ball necklace.

Let’s see how I do with crippled critical thinking.  After I impair my judgement.  Enough to tap into some creative problem-solving.  Become a drunken genius.  Now I can save the day with a master stroke.  Employ some bold solutions.   Just the thing for delicate problems.  A sledgehammer.  And the blind faith to use it.

So yeah.  It could be worse.

And if you’re drinking to solve something, all you got to do is keep it up.  And you’ll see.

Because it can always get worse.

And probably will.

So cheers to that.

Sorry for the buzz-kill.  I’m out of here.

–By the way, this fucking shake is growing on me.  It’s got a weird tang to it.  And I appreciate that from a chocolate shake.

.

Stopped crying.

Stopped crying.

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Taking The Arsenic Cure At Ojo Caliente

Good for what ails you.

Good for what ails you.

I have a sharp pain in my upper back.  Almost a month now.  Feels like a prehistoric lobster clawing into my shoulder blade.  I checked in the bathroom mirror and didn’t find any kind of clinging crustacean, so I have to conclude it’s some knot in my Reichian armor.  A constricted ball of energy refusing to go with the flow, now stuck and radiating Deadly Orgone Radiation throughout my etheric body, but with some leakage getting into the soul itself.

Probably got it doing bent-over dumb-bell rows.  Bent-over dumb-bell, indeed.  Maybe it’s from all the time I spend hunched and brooding like a doomed cathedral gargoyle.  I can think of a few people who might be the source.  Not you.  They don’t read my stuff.  No, they’re just some folks standing on my back while I do my spiritual push-ups.

Something’s bugging me.

Man.  This pain is at that tricky six level.  Bad enough to suck, but not bad enough for me to pursue any proactive remedy.  Look, I’m a personal trainer.  Shouldn’t I use any of the stretching, physical therapy stuff I’m always recommending to my clients?  Maybe use the foam roller that’s in the trunk of my car to roll out and loosen the myofascial membrane?  Stuff that’s been proven to help.

Fuck that.  I need a chubby Asian girl to walk on my back with a pair of spiked heels.

Well.  I need a lot of things.  Things that maybe don’t have to do with the pain in my back.

They might be wants.  In need’s clothing.  It’s too confusing.   For now, I am content to use the sharp corner of our wrought iron bannister to press against.  I lock my knees out from a squat and thrust.  Dig that fucker in.  Deep.   Then grind on it.  Really try to torture it out.

Lori laughs when she sees me do this.

“It looks perverted.”

“That”s probably why it feels so good.”

“Are you sure that’s the right thing to do?  Shouldn’t you get a massage or see a doctor?”

“I tried the corner of the counter in the kitchen, but the floor is too slippery in there.  I just wind up falling on my ass.  I’ve got carpeted steps to push off from here.  This is definitely the way to go.”

“…Okay.”

I’ll tell you what.  It got better while I was in New Mexico.  I almost drowned the little demon in the hot springs at Ojo Caliente.  It was really nice.  Keller and my sister, got Lori and I, a room next to theirs.  Both rooms had private outdoor tubs, with piping hot volcanic earth juice on tap.  Not a bad set up.  Getting to be with people I love.  All of us bringing our A-Game to the mirth that night.  Laughing like lunatics.  Under a black desert sky scrubbed clean with wind.  The stars sparkling extra bright.

Just does not get any better for this old sot.  One of the best nights of my life, actually.

In the morning,  I ventured over to the public pools.  You know, see who’s who in Modern Rome.  It was interesting.  Everybody in their resort robes.  Whisper Only zones.  Everything all flutey-foofy and cedar hand-lotiony.  It always felt like places like this were just goading me into boisterous misbehavior.  The perfect place to be perfectly inappropriate.   A good canvas for some dramatic chiaroscuro.

Now I try to play well with others.   Sometimes that means just being invisible to them.  So they won’t engage me.  And tempt me into doing something bad.  So I definitely wanted to glide through this whole scene as Buddhistly as possible.  I even tried not to flip my flops too loudly as I cross the lobby.  Going ghost.  Leaving no footprint.

There’s all kinds of different pools with different flavored water.  Some has iron that’s supposedly good for something.  Another has high concentrations of soda, which I’ve always been told rots your teeth.  Then there’s the arsenic water.  Supposedly it’s good for arthritis, stomach ulcers and “a variety of skin conditions.”   I could see that.  It sounds like some medieval cure for crotch critters.

“If ever a bold bard gets ball boweevils by bawdy bar maiden, he need only to boil both bollocks in a bowl of its broth.”

Arsenic water?  Are you sure?  I mean, I’m as New Age as Donovan, but that can’t be good for you.  Isn’t it like poisonous in even trace amounts?

Apparently, this is once again, where I am the fool.  These trace amounts are just tracey enough to make them a downright tonic.  Homeopathic Dr. Death’s Miracle Cure, Hair Tonic, Ball Soak and Mouth Rinse.  Arsenic water.  Open your pores and let the poison in.

Arsenic as cure-all is hardly a new remedy.  But always as a last resort.  Like Lumera.

Freckled boob soak.

Freckled boob soak.

I went from pool to pool taking turns to soak in all of the different potions…but that one.  I was scared to.   So I thought about it.

“Dude, your whole thing is about how a little bad is better than no bad at all.”

“It is.  It really is.  I think it rounds out my character.  A little bad.  Keeps the ladies interested.”

“Why not add arsenic, too?  To go along with your collection of a little bad. ”

“Yeah, and maybe build up my immunity to larger doses of arsenic.  Like if somebody ever tries to Rasputin me.”

“No doubt.  It could save my life.  Besides, what kind of pussy can’t handle a little poison?”

“I do like a little poison.”

“Fuck yeah.”

“I’m in.”

“Me too.”

I got out of the rotting-egg pool, and tip-toed over to the arsenic one.   There were two middle-aged earth mother types in there already.  I hesitated.

Some women have described their first impression of me as “predatory”  or “surrounded by an aura of menace.”  Which is unfortunate.  I mean, that they can see that.  If anyone were to make that assumption, it was going to be these two wholegrain-fed mamas.  These types always hate me.  At least at first.  So now they were going to be uncomfortable with me being there.  And I was going to feel uncomfortable about that.

Fuck it.  I’m here to soak in poison.  Bring it on.

I eased my hooves into the water and slid in.  My horns glistening in the toxic steam.  I smiled at the ladies, but they didn’t smile back.  They turned and whispered to each other.  I sat back, closed my eyes and inhaled the arsenic mist deep into my lungs.  Let the poison mix with my own in chemical union.  Let the Periodic Table of Elements mutate my cells to It’s Will.

When I opened my eyes I found myself looking at a pair of boobs bobbing on the water.  They were elongated, and looked like two freckled salamis floating in a bathtub.  Hardly bone-crushing erotica.  At least for me.  I thought about something, and when I looked up from them, I saw one pissed-off Gaia Granola stink-eying me.  She thinks she’s caught me getting a perv on, when on the life of my cats, I wasn’t.  I was too zoned out.

Anyway, she turned away all violated and leaned in to tell her friend something.  Her friend looked over at me and nodded.  They got out of the pool.  Put on their robes and flip-flapped away with decided intention.

I knew it.  I knew something.  That’s why I hesitated.  Knew something would go down.  They were waiting for something and thought they got it.  Now they could leave content, thinking that their initial assessment of me was correct.

Very irritating.  But what am I going to do?  Run after them trying to explain–

“Look ladies, I’ve worked in strip clubs.  Your tits don’t mean anything to me.”

Yeah.  That’ll fix it.

The fact was that seeing those two beefstick boats made me remember going as a kid with my parents to the Hickory Farms at the Esplanade Mall in Oxnard.  They had diced samples of salami and cheese on toothpicks you could stick into different mustards.  That’s what I was thinking about.  That hardly constitutes prurient leering.  But try to explain that to a woman whose scurrying away with her smokey links flopping under her robe.  You’ll just dig yourself in deeper.

Fuck it.

Let it go.

I sunk back into my pool of poison.  I have no control over what they think.   I have no control over what anybody thinks.  And far from being a bummer, when actually realized, to it’s most fullied optimal, the liberation can be absolutely intoxicating.  Certainly frees one up for a wider range of motion.

Hmm…

Whatever arsenic kills-it’s better dead.  My back stopped hurting for a few days.

They were right.  Sometimes a little poison is just thing, to ward off a greater malady.

Unfortunately, the treatment didn’t kill enough of it, because the beast grew back a few days after I returned to California.  And is still digging in, as I write this.

There was a arsenic water fountain there you could drink from.  It had a health warning plaque attached.  Drink at your own risk.  I passed.  Soaking in poison and actually drinking it are two different things.  That’s one thing I’ve learned.

I should have guzzled a belly full of it.

I guess if I was a better writer I’d tie-in how caring what somebody thinks is really the source of my pain.  And how when I did let the poison I was surrounded by, kill off the real poison–the shit in my mind–the pain went away.  How that’s the real remedy for my present discomfort.

But, I’m just not up for it tonight.

My fucking back is killing me.

I feel like a new man!

I feel like a new man!

You Can’t Punch Gas

I decided the other night that I wanted to be more vague.  Really want to cultivate it as a quality.  You can do that you know.  Reinvent yourself. Not just for credit fraud either.  But as an exercise in character building.  Become a different person.  One with new super powers.

Being nebulous as gas is a good one.  To be able to disappear into vacuous vapor.  And leave them swinging at air.

It’s a power I’m only beginning to harness, but it’s already yielded rich rewards.  The power to be vague.  With long periods of silence in between.  Vague and laconic.  Somewhere in that quiet, your next move becomes clear.

It’s an important skeleton key to freeing yourself from the cage of modern life.  No wonder I blew it.  I always tripped myself up with specifics.  Tried to tell the cop too much to prove I wasn’t guilty.  That worked great.

Like a charm.

Fucking specificity.

Always talked myself into a corner–one I could only break out of by clawing like rat set on fire with oil.  Very ungraceful.  Unladylike.  Screeching and scratching my way out of  life’s jams.   It was all so unnecessary.  A fool’s errand.

I should’ve been hiding in the foofy cloud of an ambiguous response.  Don’t try to explain anything.  Just smoke-bomb the room with a big cumulus question mark.

It’s getting yourself out of the most ass-burning trouble with a “Hey, it is what it is,” as your only defense.  And maybe a shoulder shrug.

It is what it is.

How can you argue with that?  Locked in logic.  Universally applicable.  Bullet-deflecting smoothness of surface.  No traction at all for a counter.

It is what it is.  If that is my only assertion during any conflict, short of a shank attack, I will win.  Simply by default.  Because what I claim is true.  Something is what it is.

That leaves them with having to argue that it is what it isn’t.  And that’s a harder row to plow.

Trust me.

It is.

Really amazing what can be achieved with a simple hunch of the shoulders.  And a blank look.  Gotta have that.  Essential.  If you can  toss a pinch of  boredom in that’s even better.  Not like you’re in a chemically-induced stupor, but existentially resigned.  Like apathy.  But more spiritual.

The trick is to become one with the wallpaper behind you.  Blend into nothingness.  Pretty soon people forget you’re there, and then why they were pissed at you.  If the heat gets too much, I’ll disappear into Oneness.  I’m not ashamed to admit it.  I’ll cease fighting everything.

“Maybe.”  “I don’t recall.”  “That might be true.”  “I don’t know.”  “I’m sorry.”

These are not the responses of an obtuse idiot.  These are power words.  Words that open the Gates of Heaven.  And the Door to the Palace of Slack.

These days, I don’t want to fight with anybody.  I just want to be left alone.  To be able to enjoy time with friends.  To eliminate as much drama as my housecleaning skills allow.  I want to Aikido any bullshit right past me.  And move on.

Whether it’s some paranoid fanatic screaming some insane and offensive political diatribe in my face, or somebody accusing me of the most heinous character deficiencies, I  just nod.  Regardless of how pissed I may be, or how much shit I have to throw back in their face.

Go slack.  Give slack.  Get slack.

“You may be right. ”

Put hands in pockets and shrug.

“But I am right!”

“Maybe.”

That’s it.  Don’t say anymore.  Let your eyes slowly roll up white like Lurch, to let them know you’ve left the building.  Stand there like a propped up corpse.  Go mummy on them.  Just be.  Listen  to a distant siren.  A dog bark.  A fly buzz.  A radio from a passing car.

It’s hard to argue with wallpaper.

Eventually they run out of gas and shut up.  And maybe even leave.

Anyway, it’s just another skill set I’m working on in sobriety.  Then there’s total honesty.  That’s the ultimate mind-fuck.  People don’t know how to handle it.  Really freaks them out.

A few years ago when I was personal training at a gym franchise, I came into work at 8 AM for my first client.  I see the owner training a lady.  He’s never there that early.  And he rarely trained people at that point in his career.  So I knew right away.  I was in trouble.

My first time ever.

I go to train my lady and as I’m passing by the owner, he says to me, “I’d like to see you in my office after you’re done with your client.”

“I assume this is about my promotion and raise.”

He just gives me a pained, tight-lipped smile, with nostrils flared and high-tension eyebrows raised in maximum pissed-offness.

Alright.  Whatever.  If I get fired, I’ll be okay.  If I wasn’t going to be okay, it would’ve been long before this.

This is nothing.

I finish with my client and head up the stairs.   I knock on the door and he tells me to come in.  He’s sitting on his leather throne behind a big desk.  I look around.  There’s lots of golden trophy statues of muscley men in Speedos surrounding him.  Plaques and honors of some sort nailed on the walls.  An entire wall of CCTV monitors.

“What time were you supposed to be here today?”

“I thought eight.”

“When was the last time you checked the schedule?”

“I don’t know, maybe three years ago.”

I was serious.  I never looked at the schedule.  I kept track of the appointments without the posted “schedule.”  And unless they threw in a surprise early ringer like they just did, everything went along just fine.   So I told him the truth.  Well, not the whole truth.

“Scratch that, I’ve never checked the schedule.  In the six years that I’ve worked here.”

That was the whole truth.

He just looks at me.  He doesn’t know what to say.

He starts sputtering about how they just signed up this new client for a few grand yesterday and put her with me at 7AM, how she got there and waited for me, and how she finally called him and made him drag his ass down to the club to train her.

Well nobody told me.  I have a cell phone.  Holler at me, bitch.  Make sure I’m dialed in.  Don’t dry-erase it on a greasy piece of yellow plastic curling up behind the microwave in a filthy employee break room after I leave, and expect me to somehow know.  Even if I was Johnny Check-The-Schedule.

Which I am fucking not.

You guys sold her the training after I left for the day, and nobody called me.  This is a major fuck-up on your part, dude.  No way to run a business. You almost lost a big account.  My God.

I bet it hurts, too.  Especially since…well…you pride yourself as being Mr. Business man, and shit.  So losing big accounts is the fucking worst.  I bet you’re a little frightened too.   Frightened and angry.  Like a teen rehab chick.  There there.  Don’t worry.  I’ll cut you some slack… this time.  In fact, I’ll even fall on this sword for you, fraidy cat.

“Well, it looks like I fucked up.”

“Yes! Yes you did! YOU FUCKED UP!”

I nod along.  Agreeing.  My face pleasant and happy that we can agree.  At least we all agree on one thing.  I fucked up.  On the same page there.  Seeing retina to retina.  We all vote “yes.”  I fucked up.  More than once, actually.

“Yep.” I said, “Looks that way.”

“You almost lost us a big account!”

“Wow.  That would’ve been bad.  Sorry.”

“It would’ve cost this club a lot of money!”

“Good thing you came down and trained her,” I said, bending down to re-tie my Converse.

He goes blank.  He can’t process this.  I’m completely at ease.  Frankly, I was looking forward to the early nap I’d get to take if he fired me on the spot, so I wasn’t entirely indifferent.  I was leaning for a certain outcome-but trying to stay neutral.  Trying to stay Zen about it.

I finished tying my sneaker, stood up and pulled my workout pants out of my crotch.  Gave them a little straightening pat.  Okay.  What’s next?  What do we do now?

“Well, like I said before, I’m sorry.  Is there anything else?”  I asked him.

He’s looking at me.  Looking at me.  Looking.

I look back.

Both of us looking at each other.  For a long time.  A pyramid erodes into sand.  Rocks grow.  A galaxy implodes.

I stare at the shafts of morning light illuminating the dancing dust across his desk.

The silence is peaceful.  I let my mind drift.

I picture a red balloon floating through the streets of Paris.  A girl in heels and yoga pants chasing after it.  I contemplate death.  How it’s really  birth.  And how that’s really worse than death.  Then I remember a redheaded kid in third grade whose constantly snotty nose made it look like he carried peas in his nostrils.  God, haven’t thought about him.  I look outside the window.  A bird flies by.  Have to gas up the car before I leave Oxnard.  Grateful for the decent mileage it gets.  Love that car.  Paid for too.  Suzuki Esteem.  Fuck yeah.

I have to scratch my chin.  So I scratch it.  Then go back to looking at each other.

Finally.

“No, that’s it, ” he says, dismissing me with a wave of his hand, “Don’t ever let it happen again.”

I stopped by the door.

“Well, I didn’t want it to happen the first time, boss.  So I can’t really guarantee it won’t happen again.  But I’ll try.”

More looking.

I reach out to shake his hand.  He hesitates, then takes it.  Shakes it.  I smile.  He doesn’t.

Good-bye early nap.  Oh well.

It is what it is.

I go downstairs.  I find out my next client cancelled sick.  The next one is at ten.  Thank you, Universe.  Good looking out for Johnny Honesty.  All is not lost.

I go outside and walk to my car.  It’s parked in the shade under a tree way back in the lot.  I know he’s watching me from one of the monitors.  I take the keys out of my sock and open the door.  I get in.

I’m grateful the rear seat folds down.  It means you can totally stretch out lying down.  Perfect for a nap.  Perfect nap mobile.

Suzuki Esteem.  Fuck yeah.

Fuck Yeah!

Fuck Yeah!

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.

You’re Not Going To, So Don’t Try

If you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to get in shape this year, as a professional personal trainer, I would like to encourage you…to forget it.  You’re not going to do it.  You are going to fail, just like every year.  How’s that for some refreshing candor and honesty?

Save yourself the anguish of yet another blown New Year’s resolution, and don’t even try.

If you don’t try, you can’t fail.  Or maybe, you just need to try harder.  Yeah.  That one always works.

Let’s face it, if you could have done it, you already would have.  In fact, statistically, you are more likely to be struck by lighting while making love to an albino Indian in a canoe, then you are to keep any New Year’s resolution about getting fit.

One morning, when I lived in Redondo Beach, I walked out on the porch and saw the entire beach covered with running people.  At first, I thought it was some catastrophe.  Everybody running around in a panic.  Then I realized it was New Year’s Day.  My God.  How pathetic.  How predictable.  The next day there was half as many.  By the third day the beach was empty again.  Big surprise.

Every January at the gym, the crowds swarm.  Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, people show up in their new Christmas gift work-out gear, ready to turn over a new leaf.  And every year, they fly away, before the month is over–way, way, way before their three-year, automatic payment withdrawal contract is over.  By February, it was always back to  the same faces you’ve been seeing all year.

I worked at a Gold’s Gym for seven years.  Even though we were signing up new people all the time, you never saw them more than once or twice.  After that, they would just disappear.   The ones that were making a real honest stab at it usually packed it in after three weeks.  Thing was, our shark-efficient sales team had already shock-collared their checking accounts.

We had a slick sales gang.  Ghetto hustlers and ex-con sharpsters.  They called themselves “The Felony Fitness Crew.”   They weren’t about to throw any cold water on your fevered delusions about becoming a Greek statue.  No, sir.  Create Value.  Establish Rapport.  Get Routing Number.

I used to love listening to them laugh and joke after making a big sale.  Lot’s of high-fives while pantomiming prison rape.

“I banged their culo for $89.00 EFT, baby!  Didn’t even use lube, brah-ther!”

“Fitness Starter Pak, bitch!  $499. prepaid year with nutritional counseling, carnal.”

“EEEE-hoh-la-chingada-madre!

Both hands grabbing out to imaginary shoulders and pelvic-thrusting at air ass.

Those guys were a riot.  I miss them.

Anyway, if you have ever joined a gym and didn’t go, don’t feel bad.  Lots of people do that.  You should feel bad for joining a gym though.  Not a lot of people do that.  Letting them into your checking account was a big mistake too.  What the fuck were you thinking?

That you finally had it with the way you looked?  Sure.  I understand.  But apparently, you didn’t hate it enough to really do anything about it.  Or stay doing it.  That’s okay.  I don’t encourage hating the way you look as a motivator.   That only takes you so far, and makes the experience of working out, all the more miserable.  Which everyone will tell you is the key to success.

No, bad body image seems to demand replication in form.  Some kind of cosmic law.  So all your fist-shaking resolve, bold pronouncements and sworn oaths are worthless.

Hate your body, and it will hate you right back.  I can promise you that, on everything that is sacred to me.

I suggest trying to be grateful for whatever body you got stuck with.  Just because it’s not walking the red carpet is no reason to hate it.  Start with being glad it can even walk.  Can you move?   Are you somewhat ambulatory?   Well, that calls for some celebration.  If you were laying in a hospital bed, paralyzed, you’d be wishing you could be your old, flabby, but moving, self.

So being able to move is awesome, but if you’re lazy like me, it’s easy to resent ever having to.  I tend to forget that just moving around is a miracle of mechanics.  Neurons firing, nerves twitching, muscle fiber lengthening and shortening, bones pivoting around.  It’s crazy shit.

Freak out on it.  At first, it’s just enough to get into moving, and maybe…using stuff.  Light weights, slow treadmill, remedial Yoga class, whatever.  Add a spirit of play into it.  Throw a Frisbee around.  Play hopscotch.  Shadow-box to Static X’s Wisconsin Death Trip.  Dance around the room like you’ve come down with St. Vitus.  Anything is better than the years of nothing.  Set the bar low, so you’re sagging ass can easily step over it.  The less you can make it suck, the better.  Eventually, if you stay at it, you will naturally reach out for more challenging forms of play.

People who are active, tend to want to stay that way.

There’s a lot of ways to head-fuck yourself into getting active, but in order to want to stay active, you have to find something you enjoy.  Sometimes that takes time, and may require a few misses.  Don’t make a big deal about it.  Don’t feel bad about not liking something.  All my life, somebody seemed to be trying to make me feel bad for not liking something.

“For crissakes!  That was a classic movie!  One of Orson Wells’ greatest masterpieces!  How could you not like it?” or “It’s cheese cake!  Everybody LOVES cheesecake!”  I just shrug.  If they only knew the truth.  I don’t like most movies.  Period.  And, even though I hate cheese cake, I’ll eat it, because I don’t care about food.  It’s just plug.

Disneyland.  Dinner theater.  Magic shows.  Parades.  Monopoly.  Card games.  Amusement parks.  Christmas morning.  The latest based-on-a-bestseller, breath-taking, Academy-award nominated cinematic thrill-ride.  Chart-topping pop sensation.  Widely-anticipated sequel.  Old family favorite.  Ratings hit.  You name it.

If a lot of people like it, it probably leaves me flat, and does not motivate me to participate.  So I get not being into things.  Especially if they require a modicum of self-propulsion, and you’re a lazy, fat fuck.  That said, there still must be something active that you would like to do.  Even chasing a wayward kite around the beach is a good start.

“I like to waddle down the mall while cramming an ice-cream cone into my pie-hole.  Does that count?”

“Sure it does!  And after your stroke, we can play squeeze the rubber ball!”

And be grateful we can squeeze.

Look, if you can’t find any physical activity, out of the thousands of different ones available, then I strongly suggest you get okay with dying a fat load.  It’s not the worst thing.

In fact, it’s one of the things that makes America great.  We have more people dying because they’re fat than because they starved.  So kick out the Lazy-Boy into recline, and help yourself to another Rice Krispy Treat.  There’s probably a good show on TV.

Just don’t make any New Year’s resolutions about getting into shape.

I’m sick of hearing them.

Says it all.

Says it all.