Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Fup" and Why It's Important

    I recently recommended my favorite book to Linda at Curious Notions.  She liked it, thought it was funny, but did no really understand why I felt it was so powerful.  This is a summary of what the book means to me and why I think everyone should read it.
    Written by Jim Dodge in 1983, "Fup" is a story that takes place in the backwoods of Northern California, and centers around an immortal and whiskey-drenched gambler, his grand-son, a massive and whiskey-drenched pet duck, and a brutal and rampaging wild boar.  Yes, I know that sounds weird.  And it is.  Grandaddy Jake is 99 years old, and believes that the perfectly distilled whiskey that he refines has made him an immortal. 
    The life the characters live has all but disapeared in our country.  It is a simple, no-frills life, where the task that you are involved in is the only thing that you are involved in at that moment.  Consider that as a comparison to our lives today, where we are constantly multi-tasking and jumping from one thing to another. 
    One of my favorite parts is when Grandaddy Jake is worried that his grandson's goal of killing the wild boar is becoming an obsession.  He retires to the porch to think it over with a jar of his whiskey.

"He didn't tell Tiny.  After thinking on it for three afternoons, mulling it with that slow, voluptous thoroughness that is a reward of the still life, Jake reaffirmed his neutrality."

    To have the time and inclination to consider every possible angle of a decision is just very attractive to me.  The whiskey sounds good too. Our generation seems to need to make a lot of snap judgements and decisions.  Books like "Blink," by Malcom Gladwell become national bestsellers, which applaud quick, snappy decision-making.  The idea of deep, considered thinking does not come up often in our professional and personal lives these days, and thats a sad thing.
    Reading this book and feeling such an affiny for the "still life" is why I engage in activities like the Morning Pages, long, solo hikes, and the drinking of whiskey. 
    Aside from the more serious side of the book, it's just flat-out hysterical.  Some of the scenes make me cackle out loud no many how times I have read them. 
    At just under 70 pages, this is a story you can finish in an afternoon, and you probably will.  It's out of print now, but you can usually find it on amazon for less than a dollar.  I love this review about it, because it sums up my thoughts exactly:

  This is the book you want to read to that kid in high school who doesn't understand why books are anything.
  This is the book you want to read to the person you think might fall in love with you. This is the book you want to read to your friends so you will laugh together like you never have.
  This is the book to read when the world is too serious. This is the book to read when you are too serious about yourself. This is the book to read when you feel dull and uninterested.
  This is the book to read if you've gotten too big for your britches. This is the book to read if you feel more Christian than someone who cusses. This is the book to read if you want things you can't name.
  This is good medicine: a short shot, powerful. FUP is the American book.

Friday, February 26, 2010

22 Hours in Canada Land

I just returned from a 22 hour trip to Vancouver in the middle of the Olympics.  While some may feel that less than a day is insufficient time to come to any great conclusions, that would be due to the fact that they lack my sharp observation and deductive skills.

1. Canadianese people love Canada: They all (100% of them) wear shirts emblazoned with red maple leaves, slogans of "Go Canada, Go!" and various other patriotic symbols and slogans.

2. Canadianese people hate Americans: Doubt me?  Just bring up the recent hockey game. 

3. Canadianese people don't have freeways:  We commuted from Surrey to Vancouver, all on city streets at 40 MPH.

4. Canada has good food: I had a cajun chicken burger that was delicious.

5. Vancouver looks and feels like Seattle:'s rainy and gray.  AND the buildings, streets and general lay-out has a very strong resemblance to downtown Seattle.

6. Canadistani's love to insist that "they have crime too:"  This usually is in regards to the corner of Main and Hastings, where a few homeless people gathered.  This is reputed as the absolute slums of Canada and it looked like a suburb in Southern California.  

7. Canadi's are very orderly: We were able to drive within just a few short blocks of the Olympic Village.  There was some traffic, but the roads weren't closed, it wasn't grid-locked, and there was hardly any chaos.  Compare that to Beijing's policy of only letting in half the population commute per day for the 2008 Summer Olympics.  If your license plate started with an even number, you could commute half the week.  Those with odd numbers could commute in during the other half.

8. Vancouver is surrounded by mountains:  Or so I was told.  I couldn't see any of them because of the fog.

Informative, eh?


Thursday, February 25, 2010

An Argument against the "No Regrets" Attitude

    Somehow, somewhere, someone popularized the saying and expression of having "no regrets."  It's an attitude that basically looks at everything in a positive light; a choice that even times in your life where you were awkward, petty, cruel or vicious should not be regretted because those moments have led you to become the person that you are today. 
    While I can understand the idea and mentality that one should learn from their mistakes and become a better person afterwards, the idea of not regretting the situations that forced the learning experience seems strange to me.  It also seems selfish.  There are times where I have been needlessly unkind to people that didn't deserve it.  There were times when I have been selfish, thoughtless, lazy and mean-spirited.  Even if I learned to be less selfish, thoughtless, lazy and mean-spirited in the future, how can I not regret having needed a reminder of why I shouldn't treat people poorly?
    When I was about 4 years old, my family was living in Boise, Idaho.  We lived far outside of town, with one neighbor within 10 miles, and a home that was straight out of the frontier.  We had a river that ran through our property, with mountains, forests, lots of snow, and a disgusting hyrbid mix of a dog that used to shit between the floor boards of our deck.  The dog had an entire wilderness in which he could relieve himself, but he would always shit on the deck or in the spot directly by the door of my Dad's truck.  There's no one on the planet that could convince me it wasn't personal.  Anyway, my strongest memory of that time is a case where my Dad was mad at me for something I had done wrong.  I ran to my Mom and she was consoling me.  My Dad saw that I was upset and he felt horrible and tried to make friends.  I looked up at him and yelled "NO!  I only want Mom!" 
    That was 25 years ago and I still remember how badly that hurt my Dad's feelings.  That is something that I regret saying to this day.  I guess the lesson would be think before you speak, but I regret that such an experience was necessary to learn that lesson. 
    There was another case in Junior High School where I was waiting to play basketball with some friends and a few kids that I didn't know.  This was when we all first started noticing girls, and a few of the kids that I didn't know were talking about how they wished they could get some girl to pay attention to them.  I turned to them, and I have NO idea why I did this, but I said, "Like you guys could get girls."  Ignore for the moment that I certainly had zero experience with women and wouldn't know what to do with one if I came across one naked and begging me, but what a flat-out dick thing to say.  They didn't say anything back, but just kind of slunk away.  I regretted it immediately, and still do.  I knew then that you don't treat people like that, and I certainly shouldn't have needed a reminder why not.  I just said it to be an asshole, I guess.  And that brings me to my problem with the "no regrets" attitude.  If you view my comments to those kids or my Dad as a good thing because I learned from it, then you would be placing my education and self-betterment as more important than the pain and hurt that I caused. 
    In my opinion, if you do wrong, then you deserve the regret that you have to feel in the minutes, days, months and years following it and whenever you look back on it.  Viewing every fucked-up thing that you have ever done as some educational, harmless and understandable act just seems to make light of the pain that you caused someone.  Living your life with guilt and sadness over the mistakes that you made can keep you from living a full life in the present.  I am not making the argument that one should let guilt of the past get in the way of their future, but some small acknowledgement in the form of regret seems a worthy enough burden for having betrayed someone's sense of self-worth, confidence or trust. 

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Tale of Crackheads, Yuppies and Tom Wolfe

    I live in Hayes Valley, a neighborhood near the Civic Center, the main library, the opera house and the Market Street of San Francisco, California.  Before the big Bay Area earthquake, this area was located under the freeway overpass, and it was the slums.  When the city was rebuilt, the neighborhood started attracting artists, poets, and hipsters.  This was the start of the gentrification of the area, and it continues today.  There's still quite a few homeless folks, crackheads, and petty criminals, but the settings have changed.
    There are now upscale dining spots, cafes with italian names, interior design stores and yoga studios.  Most of the new residents who move here are yuppies.  I've always hated the connotation of that word.  I hate everything that it implies.  I have always identified strongly with the working class.  Growing up, my family was not rich, although we never lacked for anything of importance.  In fact, because of how close my immediate family has always been, I consider myself far more priviledged than many people who grew up with more money.
    My parents both made a living with their hands, and I was always proud of them for that.  This led me to empathize with the blue-collar values of hard work, plain-speaking and a distaste for pretention, showiness, and anything that smacked of a designer label. 
    Now I just finished a book called "Bonfire of the Vanities," by Tom Wolfe.  It's about the class system in New York City.  It's about the "haves" and the "have-nots," and the distaste that the "haves" feel for the "have-nots," and the envy, rage and revulsion that the "have-nots" feel for the "haves."  The main character is a Wall Street titan of finance.  He is plainly aware of the difference between his Father's generation of businessman and his new generation of "masters of the universe."  Men of his standing would never consider riding the subway.  They would never consider rubbing shoulders with the violent, desperate and dirty people that travel via New York's underground tunnels.  He called it "Insulation."  If you wanted to live in New York, you had to insulate with private cars, bodyguards, separate neighborhoods, doormen, and security.  I felt a huge wave of disgust as I read this.  It was disgust for the man himself, the people like him, and the incredible and utter lack of humanity that would be required to believe in such a system. 
    And then I left my apartment, and was immediately assailed by a dirty, drug-addled, homeless man who followed me for a few blocks.  He told me he was an undercover cop, a security guard, a rapper, and a manic-depressive.  I was too, "polite," NOT too kind to tell him to piss off.  Finally he turned to me with a serious look on his face.

"What happened to the fly on the toilet seat?" he asked.
"...What?" I answered.
"He got pissed off!" He started cackling.

I gave him a chuckle, as it WAS a good one, and then I ignored the obvious plea for money, and kept walking.  I was heading to the park, where I planned on reading.  Within a few minutes of getting there, I was approached by a young guy holding some cheaply-made pamphlets in his arms.  He started speaking quickly about a "save the kids" program.  I told him that I would check out the website and walked off.  Rather than sit outside, I went into a cafe with an italian name.  I didn't want to be hit up for money anymore.  I wanted to be isolated.  And my desire for that disgusted me.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Some Sense of Balance, Shit to do, and the Return of the Bryan

    Whenever I have a fight coming up, any semblance of balance and order in my life falls by the wayside.  I don't have time to do the Morning Pages, which start my day off right.  I don't have time to hang out with friends, or read, or work on various creative goals, etc.  Looking back over the last couple of posts, it's obvious where my mind is at.  That is the way it should be.  When we are focusing on something important that will take all of our mental and physical potential, you owe it to that task to make it your everything for all the time that is necessary.
    That being said, I know I am almost always relieved when I don't have a fight coming up.  I am always glad that I had one, but life is easier when it's over.  Probably more healthy too.  I now have a little over a month left in San Francisco, California.  Not a lot of time, and I feel like I'm in limbo a bit.  Not enough time to start any major projects, but just enough time for me to start getting antsy about the next stage.
    With the time I do have left, I have a quick trip to Vancouver for work, a trip to Southern California for a few meetings and to look for an apartment, and then basically wrapping up my life here.  I want to see a lot of my friends, go on a lot of hikes, write a lot, and see as much of the Bay Area as possible.  I know, Los Angeles isn't THAT far away, but I don't know when I'll be up here again with time to spare.
    In other awesome news, my brother is going to be returning to the motherland after a good long time biking the entire North and South islands of New Zealand, forging knives, and battling natives.  And yes, I'm serious about each and every one of those points.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Injuries, Annoyances & Setbacks

During a sparring session on Tuesday night, I managed to scrape the cornea of my left eye.  Because this happened just a few weeks after my eye surgery, I am forced to pull out of the fight I was scheduled for on February 26th.  It also left me with an eye that looks like a cherry tomatoe.  Everything is just fucking peachy.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Showing Up

    The hardest part is just showing up.  And showing up is part of being a professional.  My bed was really warm today.  It was cold outside, with rain splattering my window, and wind beating against the walls of my apartment.  But I was warm.  I had my trekking socks on.  They are made from thick cotton and kick all sorts of ass.  I had woken up on my own instead of the alien, mechanical alarm on my phone, which is aptly titled "Sonic Pulse."  I have no idea why I chose that particular ring.  Probably because the others were worse.  In any case, I didn't have to hear it this morning, because I woke up on my own, gradually coming to and completely content with my place in the world.
    Except that it was destined to end.  I have to run in the morning.  I have to run so that I have the wind to train hard in the evening.  I have to run so that I have the wind to out-hustle and out-fight my opponent on February 26th.  I reminded myself of these things, but I didn't move.  I settled more deeply into the warmth of my pillows, my blankets, and my kickass cotton socks.  And then I reminded myself of all the why's and what-for's, and I got out of bed.  And it was cold outside of the bed.  But I splashed some water on my face and I put on my running shoes and I walked outside.  And I was grumpy, and my previous feeling of being content with my place in the world was a memory that just served to irritate me further.  
    But I started running, and I loosened up as my muscles and tendons and ligaments started working.  And then I remembered how much fun it is to run in the rain.  There are, after all, puddles and such to play in.  And as I started to run up the steep hill that is Franklin Street, the rain slanted to hit me in the face and I reminded myself that my opponent probably isn't running this morning.  After all, it IS raining out.  And I picked up my pace a little bit.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lost in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is huge!  Now that I am starting to get more serious about looking into the different neighborhoods, I am starting to realize just how big and spread-out the LA metro area is.  It would be awesome to live by the water, but then I am really far away from everything.  Old-Town Pasadena seems really cool, and right up my alley in terms of temperament, but again, long commutes to everything.  Miracle Mile, Los Feliz and Hollywood might be the most centrally located, but it is complete urban jungle.  I'm heading down there the first week of March to check everything out, but these are the neighborhoods that I have narrowed it down to. They are in order of my current rankings of preference. based strictly on word of mouth and my internetting skills.  This is, of course, possible and even likely to change multiple times in the next hour.

1. Miracle Mile - Mile long stretch on Wilshire Blvd., between Fairfax and La Brea.  Lots of museums, restaurants, and stuff going on.  Also close to Hancock Park, which is supposed to be good for hanging out outside.  Might be similar to Dolores Park in San Francisco.  Also, its only 3-4 miles from Freddie Roach's Wild Card boxing gym, possibly the best training center on the west coast.

2. Old-Town Pasadena - Sounds awesome.  Lots of restaurants, independent book shops, cafes and the like.  Reading about this neighborhood sounds like it would be perfect for me, but it is SO far away from everything.

3. Manhattan Beach/Hermosa Beach/Redondo Beach - I've lived at the beach before and loved the vibe.  All three of these beach towns seem really cool.  Not too far from mid-city and downtown geographically, but they are not close to any freeways.  The commute might be rough.

4. Los Feliz - Los Feliz and Silver Lake seem very similar to San Francisco.  Bohemian, liberal, lots of coffee shops, artists, poets, etc.  Centrally located.  

* I don't care at all about celebrity spotting.  I prefer bars to clubs, casual to formal.  I like being outside and being able to walk to my favorite places.  If any kind soul out there has suggestions for me, I humbly implore you to ...



Friday, February 5, 2010

On Boxing

"I regard boxing professional and amateur, as a vigorous, healthful sport that develops courage, keenness of mind, quickness of eye, and a combativeness that fits every boy who engages in it for the daily tasks that confront him." "It is not half so brutalizing or demoralizing as many forms of big business, and certain legal work that is often carried on to help such business." "I have often thought that if we had more boys' clubs where the art was taught, we would have fewer adolescent criminals, the street-corner type of hoodlum, and would breed a better class of young American citizens - the future voters. Boxing develops elements of character that are difficult to obtain in other sports: fairness, a spirit of give-and-take, courage, and alertness." " It is only the bully who wants to give and avoid the taking. If boxing were taught in every public and secondary school and in college, this nation would soon find it rid of the bullies and would develop in our youth a spirit of manhood, a spirit that teaches fairness to our fellow men. We would be rid of street corner rowdies and cowards and make our boys a better, sturdier, and healthier lot." - President Teddy Roosevelt


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Being a Professional

"Don't you understand anything about commitment, about being a pro, about sticking with what you say you wanna be?  You don't do it just when you feel good.  You don't just do it when you're not tired.  You don't do it just when it's sunny.  You do it every day of your life.  You do it when it hurts to do it, when it's the last thing in the world you wanna do, when there are a million reasons not to do it.  You do it because you're a professional."

Teddy Atlas to Michael Moorer


Monday, February 1, 2010

All Things Glorious & All Things Headlamp

I swear, it's like you people have never seen a headlamp before!  This is what a headlamp looks like:


I love lamp.  Headlamp.