Friday, December 21, 2012

Learning the Upper Cut

Once upon a time, a titan named Prometheus stole fire from Mount Olympus and taught man the gods' secrets about fire.  Zeus, the King of the gods, had the titan chained to a rock for his insolence.  Zeus sent his pet eagle to dive into the chained titan, and rip out his liver to eat, everyday, actually.  Every morning, the liver regenerated and the eagle would once again torment the titan.  Franz Kafkfa believed in three other alternatives.

He said that the torture could have drove the titan to press himself, his soul, his lifeblood, and his body into the rock - becoming one with it.

He said that the story became forgotten.  The gods forgot about the titan.  The eagle forgot about himself.

He said that the story became boring.  The gods found watching the same show over and over again boring.  The wound got bored too and closed up.  The eagle needed something else to do.

Now, being thrown out of grace and landing in a strange place between Heaven and Hell, which of those fates awaits me in my purgatory days?

In the boxing gym, Chief held the punching bag.  I threw a right jab, a left back punch, and right jab, again and again.  It began to create a rhythm, duh duh duh duh duh.  "Again," Chief would say.  'Duh, duh, duh, duh, duh."  Fast and crisp the punches landed.  Chief shouted, "Hey guys, look at this."

Luiz, my personal coach, and the main coach came to watch.  The extra pressure of them having me watch made me mess up and the sound came out as duh-duh- duh duh duh.  No good.  But after awhile, I found my rhythm again, and out they came: duh duh duh duh duh.  It had a natural beat, like all things do when they become perfected.  Chief said, "Hey, he's getting good, huh?"  The two other coaches nodded.

Luiz then took me aside and said, "I wanna teach you the upper cut.  But I know you."  He smiled, and even though he was Chicano, his eyes narrowed into Chinese ones.  No wonder they call him Chinito sometimes.  A Chicano that looks like a Chinese man is teaching the Korean boxing.  Can life get weirder?  He went on, "You're gonna try to get it perfect.  Think too much.  Just like you do.  Just relax and throw them out."

Chief added, "Just like his Chinese people do.  Need to be perfect."

"That's right."  I added.

Luiz said, "But I'm gonna teach you the upper cut."  That just sounded cool.  The upper cut.

He showed me the shadow boxing movement.  "First you go down.  You drop the left arm like a lever.  Then you pop it out at a right angle.  Spin the hand.  Scoop it up.  Then Boom.  Up you go.  You get the power by springing off your feet.  Got it?"

I looked at it and said, "I think so."  This one I could do.  I ducked down, looking like a wound-up jack-in-the-box.  After a few repetitions, I got it.  I sprang off my feet, released the scooping punch, and my elbow flicked up.  Upper cut.

Luiz smiled and said, "There ya go."

Chief said, "You want to go and punch into their body and follow up.  Knock them out boss, right underneath that chin; so they see stars."

"Got ya!"

There, I was, learning boxing.  But not like the Chicano kids.  No.  What I lack in technical skills, they could see I made up with the hard pressed demands ingrained in me from living with parents who demanded perfection in their oldest son.  Whenever I made a mistake in the boxing club, I joked, "Oh no!  My parents are gonna disown me now."  (Hasn't happened yet, but maybe one day.)

I finished off with jump ropes.  But I was so sweaty, that the drops of sweat fell to the floor as I skipped ropes.  The head coach watched me and said, "This one's dedicated."  I had the stamina from all the other training I did.  I suppose it comes from the unspoken family motto, drilled in my brother and me: dedication, determination, and victory.  And finally - no excuses.  (Though I think both my parents don't always follow what they preach.)

Anyways, after finishing with training, the head coach invited me to dinner.  They wanted to know more about me.  Why?  How does all the kids at the club already know my name?  They all know: I'm Paul.  They call my name, and I know only my coaches' name.

I agree to go to eat Mexican food.  I eat Mexican breakfast for dinner.  Chorizo con huveos (eggs with Mexican sausage.)  I love the salty crispiness of the sausage against the scrambled eggs.  The fatty rice and beats are tasty but just a filler.

We talk about our lives, and in a flash of a moment, I realize again, I'm living back at my childhood home.  It's a home that I wanted to run away far, far, away from.  And I did.  When I turned 18, I flew the nest.  But the Chinese are right - "Falling leaves return to their roots."  And to be honest, I am happy to be back at home.  Except, I find it strange that I have pets for children that all seem to have ESP and know and respond to my routine.

I had a flashback over the weekend about what my family told me.  My brother, his wife, their Welsh Corgi (a royal pembroke kind), and my mother were all in the living room.  The Welsh Corgi, neurotic with hyperactivity, barked at the other creatures living on our San Gabriel Estate - modest of course.  Once in awhile, she would lay flat on her stomach and sprawl out her stubby paws.  Very cute.

My brother, recognizing my struggling state, asked me, "Why did you ever leave New Zealand?  You used to live by the beautiful, blue ocean, and you were living like a prince."

That I was, I thought.

My mother added to the dumb comment, "Yeah!  You should go back!"  The Corgi raised its head and noted her raised voice.

How could I explain to them, I was too young to stop suffering and to live a boring life in New Zealand.  I always had this terrible vision of my future if I stayed there.  Let me tell you what it was.  I had a nice home by the blue ocean where the orkas came and went, a nice car, and the same job.  I was in my 50's, and I asked myself everyday that I woke up why I chose an easy life?  I asked myself why I had stopped learning?  I asked myself why I chose not to suffer while I was young?  To step into that moment, was me living a vision of a Hell tailored just for me.  My Mental Hell on Earth.  But, how could I explain that to the people in the room here?  All they cared about was the one value that destroys, desecrates, and demolishes an explorer's vision: SECURITY.

I scoffed inside but said flatly, "We'll all go back one day.  And I'll scuba dive and bring you all lobster to eat.  I make the best lobster too."

My brother said, "Yeah, that's true."

My mom said, "We should go."

My brother's wife said, "Maybe we'll go."

And I realized, hey Paul, Paul, you're at dinner.  Snap out of this moment.  You're day dreaming again.  People want you attentive here.

I can't really discuss parts of the conversation with them.  But I can say I got a glimpse of the world of boxers and their needs and desires and aspirations and failures.

In the back of my mind, I again asked myself: What do they want from me again?  I just started.

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