dal niente

Month: April, 2009

Game Face

With the recent ‘outbreak’ of swine  flu in the media, one of the nice changes at the hospital is that nobody’s coming into the ER because they’re afraid of being infected.  I swear, you’d think that we were stocking up on shotguns and chainsaws because we handle infections at the MCH with such prejudice that you’d think that it was the forerunner for an undead uprising or something.  The place has become, frankly, kinda militant in the way it’s handling quarantine procedures.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing– when it comes to something like this, it’s good to tighten up on protocol, right.

But here’s the thing.  The Children’s isn’t the first hospital I work at; in the past, I’ve worked at the Montreal Chest Institute, and things there are different.  We were constantly dealing with patients who had all the popular infectious stuff that you might or might not’ve heard of, such as c-diff, HIV, TB, SARS… whatever.  It was another day for us.  Everyone from kitchen staff and houskeeping to coordinators, nurses and doctors were trained in the use of isolation equipment, that is to say, the face shields, the gowns, the gloves, the masks.  It wasn’t a big deal, really.

And I understand that it’s new for some of these people I’m working with but God!  Stop being such whiners!  I work most closely with nurses and other coordinators, and I hear them bitching the most about all the procedures.  Come on!  The procedures are there for your safety.  Are you really going to bitch about having to put all this stuff on?

Okay, that’s fair– it is extra work to do all this.  So fine, you’re allowed to hate the procedures.

But come on– don’t start treating the patients as if they’re diseased.

Regardless of wheter or not they are– you treat them like humans first and as patients second, I say.  And that sounds corny but I think that the moment you stop treating people like people, it’s time for you to get out of this line of work.

I got pissed off, just internally, at the main coordinator, the other day when I was the fasttrack coordinator.  I think I may’ve mentioned her in the past– she’s the one with the witchy laugh who I think is kinda bossy and bends the rules for herself a bit too much.  Anyway, a family came in, and they were flagged as potential swing flu carriers– but they didn’t speak any English, and we couldn’t bring them into triage because if they were infected, they’d contaminate the area and prevent any further triages from taking place.

So, the procedure that was decided was that they’d go straight to a room and then they’d have their registration proceduers done there.

Now, technically, this is all the main coordinator’s job.  But she was raising a whole stink and bitch fest ( a loud one at that) about how she’d never been fitted for an N95 mask, which is a special kind of filtered mask you have to wear when dealing with this kind of infectious disease.  It was a bit “this is stupid!” rant and meanwhile, this was all done in front of the patients.  Now, I realize they don’t speak English, but as health care professionals, is it really appropriate to start spazzing out in a “WTF are we supposed to do?” sorta way in front of people who are coming to you for help?  God, woman, get a fucking grip!

And I realize that with CNN reporting the deathcount in mexico over a hundred, people are worried about this.  I’m not saying that this isn’t something to take seriously– but it’s a point where the emotional content of our reaction to it should be put aside.  We need to put on our game face, even if we don’t know what’s going on.

I just happened to be in the triage area while this ‘discussion’ was going on and she was refusing to perform the registration so I just volunteered.

“I know how to use the N95’s,” I said.  “I’ll do it.”

So I took over.  The nurses wanted that family out of the waiting hall so I got them out of there, opened up the isolation corridor, and took care of it.  I don’t speak a word of spanish beyond no hablo espanol.  I got the registration done by running the 20 meter dash back and forth between their room and the computers, where I enlisted the help of google translate.  Then I got all the nurses coordinated with a translator from one of the other floors, I took care of the triage, I had it handed off to the doctor, I pulled up the old charts– and you know what.   I treated those people like basic humans.

I think it’s perfectly normal that if you put someone in an isolation situation they feel exactly like that– isolated.

And I think it’s perfectly normal that when you take health professionals who have never worked with dangerous contagious stuff, they’re be scared too.  But man.

I guess what I’m getting at is that if you don’t want to deal with infectious diseases, fine: you don’t have to if you haven’t been trained properly, and if you’re not comfortable.  But that’s not what I’m addressing.  What i’m addressing is that so many of my coworkers have a lack of game face.  I’ve had other coords and nurses bitching at me for two days straight, not because of anything I’ve done, but because of the situation.  Just deal with it!  Vent in a bar after work!  But when you’re at work, people depend on you not just for medical treatments but for peace of mind, and nothing breaks that magic like someone who displays no confidence in themselves or their team.

On the plus side, the doctors seem to be really on the ball and for that I’m really glad.  There are a lot of times where I’ll say a day gets bad and one or two super-doctors lead the ER, or that nurses dragged the whole department through by getting shitloads of shit done in record time, or that coordinators ran the show by making things work in impossible conditions– really, it depends on what the weakest link of the system is in the day, and someone has to answer that call.

The past few days, the entire system has been weak but the doctors are the ones who pulled everyone through, imo.  Props to them.

Sunday

Yesterday, it was RsM.

I was still thinking about the match I had with Rod and in retrospect, perhaps I shouldn’t be using axe kicks in friendly sparring?  At least, maybe not against someone who’s not wearing headgear.  I mean, I am wearing padding for my legs and feet that removes a lot of the edge from kicks, however, the way that the padding is constructed, there’s a separation in the padding at the heel, which is basically what I’m dropping on people when I use the axe kick. When the kick comes down, it lands either on the head, shoulders or collarbone,and that’s all bony to bony contact… in Rod’s case, I feel a bit guilty because although he wasn’t hurt any worse than usual, he did get some swelling under his eye because I got him the cheekbone.  And while it looks worse than it really is, I think it’s one of those general rules at Numac that we go easy on the faces– not because of injury considerations, but because we all have day jobs and our faces are our moneymakers.  Rod assures me that he doesn’t mind it at all, but still…

Well, I’ll probably still use axe kicks, but I just have to be more careful about how much power I put into that thing. I’ve only actually practiced this kick for about a year when I started TKD, and I’ve I’ve never actually used it in sparring until the past few months.  So I can’t say that I”m all that great with controlling it, but there’s no way to get a real combat proficiency of it without using it in the field.

—-

I was pretty exhausted after Numac on friday, so I really didn’t expect much in terms of results when I went to RsM badminton the day after.  When I went in, Quynh had just showed up and asked me if I wanted to warm him up.  So we started doing some drills, some basic drives, drops, smashes, etc– and at that point I told him that if he wanted to play actual games, he should probably ask someone else.  My legs were kinda dead from the night before and I wasn’t sure how much I could do on court if we were to play high calibre games.

He hesitated at first but in the end decided, what the hell, lets give it a shot anyhow, and if I’m really doing too shitily, then he’d just get another partner.  Well, we started playing, and surprise surprise, we went on a winning streak.  It’s only hours later, after winning something like 8 games straight, that the streak was broken.  I only played mens doubles, but I think that 9 wins and 2 losses is pretty good considering my condition.

After badminton, I was invited to the home of JT and Jenny.  It’s the first time I’d been to their place and coincidentally enough, they live right behind RsM’s gym.  They’d moved in shortly before I moved to Korea.

I was telling them that just years ago, back in 2004 when RsM had first opened up, I’d actually done my rounds of that very neighborhood (among many others) on foot, passing out bookmark sized advertissments for the grand opening of the “RsM Weekender Badminton Club,” which was the original, cumbersome name of the club when it was first conceptualized.  It was an interesting walk down memory lane in some ways, because I remember wondering what the insides of these condos looked like.

It was a really cool evening and despite that I’d enjoyed unprecedented success on courts against respectable players, it was really the home cooked dinner and talk with JT afterwards that I enjoyed.  It wasn’t just JT and Jenny, but also a couple of other people from the club.  The other left early and Jenny fell asleep around midnight though.  JT and I finished off a bottle of Cuban rum mixed into pommagrannet slush, and before I knew it, it was 3am.

He’d done some teaching abroad in China so there was a lot more in common between us than I originally thought.

It was interesting because he brought up how he thought it was so strange that suddenly, I was like a visitor at my own club. He described me as the “King, returned, incognito.”  He rememebred the time when he and Jenny first started showing up at the club, and back then, Vittek and I were considered the most powerful duo there.  I was quite surprised, and I told him…. wha….?  But I guess it’s true that although individually, there were players who were stronger than us, as a team Vittek and I could put up a decent fight for anyone, and our LBA team was undefeated for several seasons straight, even when pitted against our other RsM teams.  I guess it was just fun to be flattered because it’s not often that anyone says that I’m good at badminton, even less so, ‘the most powerful.’ 

————-

Jenny had asked me during dinner, “So where are you with badminton now?  I mean, are you trying to get better?”

And my answer wasn’t all that they expected to hear.  I told them, sure, I’d like to get better, but realistically it’s not going to happen to any siginficant extent, because I’m simply not putting in the time or dedication.  I don’t have a doubles partner anymore, so I can’t go ‘dojo destroying’ like back then, nor do I have a mixed partner.  And I guess I could go out there and play singles, but frankly– I don’t even have a backup racket!  I’ve only got the one MP77, the first ‘sledgehammer’ racket that I ever bought almost ten years ago.  So if I break strings once, it’s all over.

I think Jenny was kinda dissapointed because I remember a particular conversation that we all had a long time ago, back before I went overseas, in which she asked me what my plans were for RsM.  I mentioned that it was a possibility, if I had at some point amassed enough capital, that I would open up a dedicated badminton gym that would be open late into the night.  Along with Cheung, who now runs the RsM store for me, we threw some ideas around about how I’d like the place run.

I always say things like that without making any promises though, because I know that I’m the kind of person who changes projects quite frequently.  Many badminton people were surprised, for example, to see pictures of Numac on my Facebook, because as far as they knew, I only played badminton.  I mean, not that I didn’t hang out with these people before, but a lot of them had just never seen what we used to do at MAC.

A lot of people ask me about that sometimes, because when you look at a non-professional badminton player, there are naturally a lot of stereotypes that come into play in the mind of someone who doesn’t play it.  For one, it’s usually the weak kids, who weren’t good at ‘real sports’ like basketball, soccer or football, who play badmiton.  People who play badminton do so because they’ve got meek personalities, or are generally pushovers.

Nothing could be further from the image of the martial artist.  I’m thinking the hollywood stuff, like NOrris, Lee, Segal… that’s a whole lot of asskickery that collective entity, a reputation that preceeds anything.

In reality, while it is true the badminton community is riddled with people who really do do it just because ‘it’s easy’, the average badminton player is every bit as competitive and testosterone prone as the average martial artist.  That, and the average martial artist isn’t actually as much of an asskicker as one might expect.

I guess what I’m saying is that I find it interesting that people draw borderlines around their activities, as if they require certain personalities or something and that for whatever reason, someone who does activity X can’t possibly do activity Y.

In my head, the reason why we do any activity with interest is not because of the acitivity in itself, but rather, for some substance within us that we’re attempting to nurture.  The common denominator between our activities thus has much less to do with the superficial details of the activity, and more to do with what’s inside us that we’re attempting to discover and develop.

So, for me, to step onto a badminton court or to lace on some gloves makes very little difference as to what’s going on in my mind emotionally.

I suppose it might seem different if I were to compare it to… say… sitting down at a piano.  But is it, really?  I guess we’re just playing with semantecs– it really depends on how broad a feeling you want to denominate.

———

I’ve been reading some mangas lately.  One of the old classics that I picked up was Noritaka, and another, which was recommened to me by SiB, is History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi.  I’ve found that while I do enjoy these oldschool highschol gang mangas where some wuss has to stand up for himself and get the girl by, *gasp*, learning from some wierdo martial arts masters, on the other hand this stuff kinda annoys me.

Mostly because the opponents are always so one dimensional.  You’ve got a dude who can only kick, a dude who can only punch, and they’re just… so unrealistic.  I mean, especially when you consider that the contexts of all these fights is in an MMA setting, that kinda stuff just doesn’t make sense to me.

It’s not as bad with a series like Hajime No Ippo though (in fact, Ippo’s one of my all time favorite serieses).

And I do still read these things because they are kinda inspirational, and they are good for laughs, but perhaps what I don’t like about them is when you get into discussions with people in real life like that.  I call them ‘rock-paper-scissor’ conversations.

It’s the sort of situation where you talk with someone about a situation and there’s really no one solution, but they’re of the mindset that things are black and white.  You talk about a situation that involves rocks, they just tell you, obviously, to use paper.  And so on so forth.

Those kinds of conversations annoy me, because in many cases, it’s just that they have one particular way of doing things that, and they’re ignoring a whole lot of other facts about the situation that make up the reasons why an X > Y > Z mentality doesn’t work.  In find that kinda tic-tac-toe mentality… well… it’s not that it’s wrong for tic-tac-toe, but in more complex things, it’s not applicable.

On Friday, we Relax

Rewritten, since xanga ate the first one.

5seconds: The “get back!” kick gets grabbed and I get dragged out.
8seconds: a stiff right jab makes it through
10 seconds: I see his roundhouse coming and decide to roundhouse his roundhouse.  We call this a “duplex” because it’s got two houses 😛  However, the duplex hurts my left instep and from this point on, you’ll notice I throw very few left kicks, and I start adopting a wider stance because I’m having trouble staying on the balls of my feet.
24s: Rod parries and counters with a hard straight.
31s: He charges in and I catch him with a straight right overhand to the chin, which breaks his charge momentum.
41s: I take a left hook punch to the liver, then a right cross in the stomach. You can hear my grunt when it connects.  This drops my guard down
46s: another punch to the liver and I’m slightly stunned, soooo….
48s: …I eat three hooks and a cross to the face.
50s: we back away because we don’t want to damage the mirrors
1m: I manage to get my own body hook in, and when he drops the guard, I hook him on the side of the head
1m07s: he’s charging in with the body shots again so I try to keep him off.
1m: He throws in the knee which luckily misses, but I counter with a knee of my own and catch him in the solar plexus.  That doesn’t stop rod though!
1m10s: He slams me in the solar plexus and I feel my legs give out for a moment
1m18s: I try a sidekick but I’m offbalance, so I bounce off.  FAIL.
1m25: Pat says: “Dude, control your breathing!” (the solar plexus hit is still hurting me)
1m55: I manage to land a forward knee in his stomach and it lifts him off his feet a bit.
2m02s: Rod gets revenge for the knee.  I’m cornered against the wall, he rushes in for a clinch,  and uses a modified hip throw to slam me and fall on top of me at the same time.  At this point I’m totally winded so he basically rapes me on the ground with an arm bar.  The whole time, I should be using my legs but I’m too winded to really move.  He could be ground and pounding me at this point but that’d be too cheap I guess 😛
3m02s: He knows I’m hurt so he’s getting bullish on me. I  manage to supress him a bit with a front kick, but again, my timing isn’t good so I’m repelled as much as he is.
3m25s: I catch him with the “Andy Hugg Special,” which gets him right below the eye.  He’s stunned by it so we call it quits for the rest of the match.

  • This is basically what we do at Numac.  Not all fights look like this, because it depends on what the two partners want to practice. The rules for the match you saw were no elbows or knees to the face.  Head contact is allowed, but not with “k.o. intent.”  We’re both wearing mouthguards and jockstraps.  I’m also wearing shin-instep pads and elbow pads.  We’re using 8 ounce MMA gloves.  We’re basically using traditional UFC rules.  We’re rather careful about getting cornered, because we don’t want to break the mirros of the room.
  • Our fighting styles differ significantly.  Rod’s obviously more bullish, and this has a lot to do with the fact that although he has a training history in aikido, kendo, jiu jitsu and kung-fu, he’s been training for the past year and something in exclusively boxing.
  • So, his strategy involes a lot of catching my mid and high kicks to discourage me from using them.  Since the low kicks are less of a damage threat, that leaves him free to countercharge my kicks and attempt to get in close.  He’s also trying to avoid a ‘flash ko’ so he’s taking his time trying to wear me down with body shots.  You can see the effect.  At the time of this video’s starting, it’s already about an hour and forty five minutes into Numac, and perhaps one minute into our round together.  You’ll notice that from the begining of the vid to the end, my footwork gets progressively slower as I take more and more body shots.
  • On my end, most of my technique comes from jeet kune do and kickboxing.  There’s a bit of tkd in there, but not much– I definately can’t afford to attempt any spinning kicks, for example.  The axe kicks turn out to be a boon though 😛
  • Despite the primarily kickboxing nature of this particular round, our stances look like that (slightly hunched and with our centers of gravity a bit lower) because we’re both being wary of takedowns.  Not that I want to attempt takedowns– the weight difference between Rod and I, plus the fact that’s he’s a more technical grappler, means that I’m in big trouble if he takes me down.  You’ll notice that I don’t want to fight from clinch very long because I don’t want to go to the ground if I can avoid it.
  • The one time he does go to the ground with me, I’m so winded that all the jiu jitsu I do know was useless, I was basically a dead fish the moment he threw his weight on me.
  • A lot of my strategy involved  chopping at his legs when I could bceause I wanted to slow down his charges.
  • I expected charges as counters to my kicks, so my theory was to kick, recover, and back up while using my right straights and hooks as charge stoppers.  Near the end, I could feel that his legs were taking damage so his charges were slower, but Rod compensated with a lot of fighting spirit and despite his injuries started charging harder and with more momentum.  He started plowing right through my stoppers, and it was tactically wise of him too– if he charged in, I had no choice but to back up because he was looking for an infight.
  • As a result, you’ll notice that my straight right lead punches as stoppers become a lot less effective (because I’m backing up) and instead, I have to opt for the much riskier tactic of using retreating hook punches so I can still generate the power.  Rod has a solid chin though. The additional problem is that his charging straights have more range than my retreating hooks, and I’m not all that good with the head weave.
  • So, my basic game was to score with some heavy low kicks, and counter his main weapon (the charges) with stoppers.  My fighting range of choice is kicking range.
  • His basic game was to absorb an initial kick, and then counter charge and deal enough damage to make it worth the trade.
  • What it comes down to is a game of classic SF “keep away” tactics versus infighting.
  • At some point his charges are getting more agressive so I start using quick retreats with countering roudnouses to the body.  Using punches as stoppers just isn’t enough for his persistence anymore, they’re not slowing him down enough despite that I’m hitting progressively harder.
  • I’m kind of annoyed, because of damage to both of my feet, I’m having a lot of trouble retreating in circles, so you’ll notice that I tend to back up in a straight line a lot.  I’m crossing my feet on purpose sometimes because I’m looking for opportunities to slug him with a rear roundhouse if an opening shows up.
  • By the end of the match, none of us is using much in terms of parries and counters, and it’s really just a battle of attrition 😛
  • All in all, it was fun.  Going with Rod is always really educational because he can take a lot of damage and keep coming.  He’s also got one of the strongest fighting spirits in the history of MAC.  Going up against him allows me to worry a lot less about hurting my opponent by accident.
  • Despite everything, this is a friendly match and we’re not trying to hurt eachother permanently.

It was really quiet at Numac last night.  It was the lowest attendance yet, with only four fighters including Louis.  Pat showed up after his kung fu class.  We blame it on final exams and the new location.  We hope to get attendance back up to the dozen or so people that we had back in LaSalle.  This facilities at Louis’ 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu branch (where this video takes place) are much nicer than at Gym Zone in LaSalle, mostly in consideration of the quality of the mats.  However, it also costs significantly more to rent, so we really need more people attending.

“More people” though is just a financial wish– the nice thing about having less people is that it means more floor time for you.  I had the opportunity to do drills, games and sparring for the entire two hours, so it was certainly worth my time.  It’s always a great feeling to trade fire with people who are into something you enjoy.

I’m a bit dissapointed that none of that ‘next generation’ of younger Numac fighters didn’t show up, but hopefully that’s just due to finals and we’ll see more of them in future weeks.

So, what’d you do with your Friday night?

Arg.

I had written up a bunch of notes that accompany the video, detailing what happened at various points in the vid, but xanga ate it.

Grrrr.

So, aside from the cancer thing with my dad’s friend, there’s talk of cancer with one of my relatives.  As a result, my house is on high alert.  I suppose the big issue is that, from what I’m hearing, this relative isn’t taking the possibility of cancer very seriously after a previous operation that just happened to reveal cancerous growth.  The fact that it’s not being taken seriously has my mom, who works in a hospital as well (not the same as me though) up in arms, and my dad, who simply gets angry at any situations out of his control, is beside himself as well.

Meanwhile, there I am at the kitchen table, peeling oranges after dinner.

“Well, is she scared?” I ask my mom.  “Maybe that’s why she’s not following up on it so much. Maybe she’s still in denial.  I mean, not that she has it… but the idea is like, big.”

It’s difficult for me to discuss this openly because the relative in question is my mom’s sister, my aunt.  I’ve been raised to respect my elders and in large part that means that when it comes to their issues, I don’t interfere.  On the other hand though, I’ve also been raised to keep the peace in my home, and this issue is obviously an obstacle to that.

Thankfully, doctors think that the case is, at present, benign enough to sorta put off any operation for a couple of more months.  My parents though are of the opinion, and I strongly agree, that when it comes to cancer, we just shouldn’t fuck around.  Why wait months for investigations?  Why leave it up to some secretary in a medical office to decide when this will be followed up?

If the word cancer is so much as mentioned with anything concerning me, you can be sure that I’d be calling up and not just finding out more but seeing how I can get procedures going to determine if there really is a threat so that if there is, it can be addressed asap.

I find this whole situation kind of ridiculous.  It’s not that I don’t want my aunt to be alright, and I do hope this is all a false alarm, but I shouldn’t have to deal with this bullshit.

The cancer threat isn’t the bullshit– the bullshit part is the whole issue of the communication going on.  I’m sure there are pieces of the story that are missing but I think that what needs to be done now is that those investigations need to be pressed and emphasized, which my aunt isn’t doing.  Looking up books or asking second opionions from people who know littler or nothing about cancer should all be secondary to pushing for those tests or operations to be done, that’s just the practical truth of the situation.  All this angst and grief and argument going between our family’s houses’? That’s the bullshit because it’s all talk and nothing’s getting accomplished.

It emphasises in my head the importance of distance in the relationships we have with people.  The hardest backyards to clean at times are our own.  It’s useless for me to tell my aunt to get the procedures taken care of any faster than she’s willing to admit is necessary for a problem that she, from my perspective given the information I’ve got of this situation, isn’t yet a real threat. It’s a waste of time for me to tell my mom that she can’t do this for my aunt.  And it’s a waste of time for me to tell my dad to calm the fuck down because, honestly, that’s who he is– if he doesn’t vent and rant all night about cancer and Dave, then he’ll bottle it all up, which is worse.

It makes me angry because I see things that can be done and they’re not happening.

Instead, my mom’s getting on my case about how I shouldn’t use my laptop because the radiation from laptops causes cancer. Fuck this!

This is ridiculous.


Oddly enough, this whole situation makes me think of Vittek.

When we were younger, I think we were much closer than we are now.  It’s natural that peoples’ paths diverge, but that doesn’t stop the fact that when you look at good memories and realize that no new ones are being written, it’s sad, does it?  I realized at some point that if I didn’t ask him out to do something, nothing would happen between us.  And so now, we just hardly speak, we almost never do anything.  Every second week maybe I run into him at my badminton club, where we barely talk or play games together.

And so I think about this– if he passed away, or I did, what difference would it make?

And that goes with everyone else that’s ever fallen out of touch.

I mean, at times, dying really is just the closing of a book that we’re not reading or writing anymore anyway.  What difference does it make?  One less road of possibility in a world that’s already choke full of them?

This isn’t me crying for the attention of someone close who I’ve drifted away from– no, this is bigger– it’s a questioning of the very significance of every relationship we ever get into with anyone.  Do they really end that quickly?

There’s got to be more to a relationship with someone than simple ‘maintenance’ in my opinion.  There has to be some sort of growth, however small, together from it.


In general, though I’ve worked in healthcare for years, I refuse the hypothesis of mortality.


I suppose I’ve been flip flopping between a good mood and bad mood lately, and maybe that’ll all get better since tonight is going to be my last night shift, then I’ve got a couple of days off.


Numac is tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it as always.  We’re going to be moving locations to a bigger better gym with much better equipment.  It’s only been about a month and already we’re expanding and improoving.  At least that makes sense.


I recently saw two movies that I really liked.  One of them was “Yes Man” with Jim Carrey, and the other was “Bedtime Stories” with Adam Sandler.  I like these kinds of movies.  They’re really great, and I think that how you enjoy them (or dislike them) actually says a lot about you.

Rough Cut

It’s 5:40AM as I start to write this.  I’m at work.
 
I mentioned this in bits and pieces over the past few days, but since Sunday, I’ve been here at the hospital daily from 11:30pm until 7:30pm, training for the night coordinator position.  The tasks are pretty different from any of the day coordinators’ positions, but I like the night shifts in some ways.
 
On one hand, it has a lot to do with the trainer that I’m working with.  [Jay] is great as a trainer.  He’s a very down to earth honest guy in the old fashioned kinda way, the one where he’s quick to temper but only according to a very transparent set of rules: essentially, if you wrong him, anyone or anything that he holds dear, shit will hit the fan.  He’s street smart, and he’s got balls, and I aspire to have as much experience and substance as this guy some day.  Well, maybe except for the drugs and run ins with police.  But I like him.

I think that the thing about a lot of people I know or who I get to know is that part of my identity to them is my history of delinquency.  I mean, I did go through those phases of rebellion, of dishonesty, of “look out for number one” and of course, the self-destructive screw-up tendencies.  It’s not as if by now I’ve just seen the light and made a complete 180 by comparison, but I guess what I’m saying is that with the majority of my friends,  they just never got their hands dirty.  The ones who I consider closest are the ones who did.  Maybe it’s because of the semi-preppy high school I went to or the artsy folks I hung out with in college, and the almost complete lack of friends from university.  But the vast majority of my close friends, despite occasional bouts of stupidities (which is normal, I’m not saying I’m not stupid) are pretty upstanding citizens, at least as far as they’ve told me.

 
So a lot of people just kinda laugh or say “oh, you’re so crazy!” if the subject of forging government documents, sleeping on the streets, sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night to meet a girl, or getting into fights come up, or driving on a highway with a 50cc scooter are concerned.  And I guess it’s natural that the differences between friends gets highlighted– that’s what you most easily remember them by, right? The way they’re different from you?  And this isn’t to make myself sound like a bad boy or something, I’m not, it’s just that on average I think my friends led straighter, more honest and more sensible lives than I did

The thing is, I only know my own life.  I know it more or less inside out, naturally.  I don’t find it all that interesting, and in fact, I’m often annoyed by the kinds of situations I get into at times.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate the excitment and variety, but when it comes to a conversation, I don’t really want to talk about myself because frankly, it’s boring gossip.  I’d much rather hear an discuss the lives of others.  I guess it just so happens that I have some pretty interesting misadventures at times, but truth be told after telling a story to one person, telling it to others gets kinda old for me and I get tired of the feeling that my life is just another television drama.  That’s one of the reasons why there are in fact a lot of stories that never make it to this blog– because once I’ve told the story to someone, I lose the motivation to write it down anymore.

Anyway, I guess what I’m getting at is that, like anyone, I have my experiences– but I’m kinda dissapointed that sometimes, the majority of people I know have such boring lives.

But here’s a guy, [Jay], who has the most interesting stories to tell.  And it’s in large part because of his delinquency.  He’s done this kinda stuff, he’s been in this zone.  Wheras I’ve had drinking problems, he’s had drug problems.  Wheras we used to scam arcade machines with the “two pennies” trick, his friends had stolen a set of keys to open token boxes.  Wheres I’ve got a small serrated pocketknife and a carabiner on me that doubles as a set of brass knucks, he’s got a rusty machete in his trunk and an actual set of rubber knucks in his bag.  And of course there are a hundred stories about bar brawls, debauchery and theft, except that wheras I’m usually the guy keeping my friends in check, he’s the guy who needs to be kept in check.

But he’s a good guy.

And though he’s really rough around the edges, in the sense that he’s foul mouthed, and on my first day told off the chief of the Emergency department and on the second day called out the head nurse, he’s got a certain integrety that’s taken it to levels completely beyond anything I’ve done, and to be honest, it’s refreshing to be impressed by someone who at once so uncouth and rude, yet still a really decent human being.  I mean, the man’s done his fair share of drugs, gotten into a number of brawls and tight situations, and is a religious smoker– but I can’t help but respect him.  And I don’t think he’s bullshitting about any of this, because there’s a certain amount of pragmatism that comes with the way he retells his stories that indicates that he’s thought a lot about what he’s done over the years, and he’s not just mentioning this stuff to sound like a tough guy.

I think that’s a good thing– I mean, that people like him are around.
 

I’m far from anti-establishment (I’ve spent essentially the last 10 years working for the government) but I am against doing things for the wrong reasons, one of them being just for the sake of image.  I mean, there are games that we have to play to get to certain places, that I understand; but what I’m getting at for at least my thought right now is the subject of education.  I put a lot of stock in street smarts versus book smarts.  But it’s not so black and white– it’s not just a question of what you learn about survival versus what you learn for grades, because frankly, we don’t all live in situatinos that require street smarts– Montreal, for example, you could live a completely sheltered life without ever having to deal with the nastier bits, and that’d be fine as long as you got your geography right.  It’s a different kind of smarts I suppose though.  It’s the kind of smarts that you develop that isn’t really so much a method of problem solving as it is a modus operandi, passive and automatic, that has you recognizing that people around you want things from you and not everyone has your best interests at heart.  It also has to do with, once recognizing this, standing up for yourself and those around you.

I mean, I have a pretty good understanding of how much shit I’m willing to take.  And part of my ability to do my job has to do with the fact that I can take a whole lot of it.  But [Jay] is different in that he simply never takes shit from anyone.  It’s a similar method I suppose, but he’s taken his tech tree in one extreme, and that gives him a lot of options in life that I don’t have because he’s comfortable working in those conditions.

I mean, telling off coworkers?  I guess that while I’m not pushover at work, I would be (and still am) uncomfortable with rocking the boat too much.  When I was training under [M] for example (“trainer from hell”) I didn’t raise too much of a stink about her Nazi training methods, but [Jay] is the kind of person who flat out would tell her to go fuck herself.

He’s also the kind of guy who, when I mentioned, for example, the time where I was about this close to getting into a fistfight in a grocery store when someone was harassing my grandmother, [Jay] in a similar situation would have already been cracking cans on the downed man’s skull.

Despite his obvious impulsiveness, [Jay]’s not a scary guy in the sense that when you meet him, you know that as long as you don’t shit on him, you’ll do swimmingly.  He’s a great guy to have in your corner, telling you what to do in the ring.

And I know that when I tell people about [Jay] people are going to crack jokes about how he sounds like a redneck.  I am, however, glad to know him, because it’s seldom that you get to meet someone who’s willing to be impulsive because he just does whatever his heart tells him.

And it’s not only that he has a very strong sense of justice or entitlement– it’s that he’s taken his life on the edges where the issues are more real. People talk all the time about a cashier who ripped them off a few cents at the checkout, or having problems registering for classes, or about some asshole driver who cut them off.  Those aren’t matters of the heart.  I’m talking about situations where someone is treating someone else like shit, and you step in and take care of it.  I’m talking about people treating you like a pushover, and eating it a certain way without making certain realities clear.

There are little things that I think we just shouldn’t sweat– the real issues, I think, have a lot to do with respect in the most personal of ways that define our very interaction with society that we all too often let slip.

일요일

There were four orderlies, two security guards, and two cops standing in the hallway outside of the psyche room because the girl was being very difficult.  She was about 16, and was going to jump from a bridge after a bad breakup.


Since I can remember, he never handles death or sickness well.  As I sat at the dinner table, he started what for him was a long rant– maybe only about thirty seconds, but that was the longest he opened up in that tone– about his friend, who he’d studied martial arts with when he was my age.  Now, thirty years later, my dad’s friend Dave was just told that he had months to live, mere months after retiring.  I don’t know what to do to help my dad, because to me, he’s already one of the strongest people I’ll know, and everything I do to comfort him feels retarded.

So I just listen.  Because Dave is in the photos of my family first moving into my home, he’s also in the pictures of my birthday parties as a kid, even if I don’t remember them.  I don’t feel anything about this and .. well.  It’s kinda annoying.

But thirty seconds, I can afford.

  

Shift

I was watching “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and god, what a terrible movie.

I’m so sick of movies where the military is a bunch of trigger happy mooks who just want to shoot shit up.  It’s just bad storytelling, it’s so cliche.


I started working night shift last night and I got paired with [Jay].  He’s an interesting guy who didn’t get further than high school yet still maintains one of the most crucial positions at the hospital.  As the night shift coordinator, he’s basically the first line– he handles pre-triage, registration, as well as reception work simultaneously.

I really like that the night shift was a fair amount more chill.

It’s nice to have [Jay] as a trainer as well because so far, he’s probably the best I’ve had.

Here’s what happened day one:

11:30pm: Show up a pre-triage.
11:45pm: Watching clips of the Chapelle Show.
12:00am: Ordering takeout.
12:30am until 2:30am: Break time!  Watching high speed car chases on Canal D while eating.
3:30am until 7:30am: Other stuff.

Other stuff includes me watching him doing his job, which is pretty straightforward, and shooting the shit about just about anything.

I’d write more but frankly, I have to get ready to go back to ‘work’ now.

Nos Demos

I remember reading an interview with Bono, where he was asked “What’s your favorite Beatles song?”

His reply was along the lines that they were all great, but he did hate this one song called “Imagine” because it was all about dreaming and has nothing to do with actually going out there and doing something.  He was being facetious, but his point was that there’s a big difference between theory and practice when it comes to the way that we go about living in modern times.

I’m always hearing about dreams.  People tell me them all the time.  I want to take up kendo.  I want to start exercising more.  I should start reading more books. I should eat more healthy.  I’ve always wanted to learn how to play guitar.

And this is where the Sienfeld cast would insert: “… and yadda, yadda, yadda.”

Which, really, begs the question: “… what do you mean, yadda yadda yadda?  What happened?”

I’m typing this as I sit on a park bench with my mom.  We’re on Ile-Ste-Helene, and it’s the day for the Scotiabank 21km Half Marathon.

As we aproached the start line earlier today, the air was split suddenly by the sounds of the prelude to “The Final Countdown.”  Runners everywhere were packing into the start crowd, twinkletoeing in rapid little steps or shaking up their hands to stay warm in the chill riverside breeze despite the cramped conditions.

“Less than ONE MINUTE to go people!”

It’s a very different atmosphere from people who are preparing for other events, because this is ‘only’ 21km.  I’m not one of the participants, mind you; I’m a spectator, and I’m here as moral support for my dad.  The cloesest experience I can liken it to is being backstage with the band, either chatting nervously with comrades or, just the opposite, lookng straight ahead and not talking to anyone at all.  It was excitement, but in large part, there was a whole lot of nervousness.

But that’s the thing about a 21km; there’s only excitement.  There’s very few ways to screw up in a half marathon, and even if you do, you’re not letting anybody down.  In fact, by stepping up to the start line, you might say that a great number of these people have already succeeded by showing up.

Like earning a yellow belt, getting your first cubscout badge, breaking your first racket strings, swimming your first full lap of a pool, completing your first day of kindergarten or even learning to tie your shoes,, in the grand scheme of things these events aren’t all often held as remarkable because all too easily we’ve been there, we’ve done that, we’ve moved on to fry bigger fish.

Ironically though it’s the first steps that are generally the hardest– it’s the tentative, ginger inching forward into an event or activity that we do with hesitationl because we don’t know what will happen.  I say these events are seminal, because it is a lot like the loss of virginity.  But then, the moment’s lost after that, because from that point on, we either decide to not do it ever again, or, the opposite occurs and we learn to do it better every time.  And we forget where our beginings are, or at the very least, we remember those awkward beginings more for the emotional content than for the event itself.

I’ve attended a fair number of both half marathons and full marathons, and the mood is always different.  At 21km marathons there’s a lot less pressure, I think.  People join in the race with friends just so they can say they did it, and that’s not in any way an unnoble goal.  At 42s, people are a bit more serious about things.  And though people are still using the same technical gear in both races, you’re more likely to see really high performance apparel, fuel belts, stopwatches and all that shezaz at the 42s.  I guess what I’m saying is that the 42s just look like they’re a bit less fun, because at that point, people tend to focus more on the technical aspects of racing and less on the feeling of it.

Just a minute ago, I saw someone who was going to complete the 21km run while juggling three balls.  Yes, juggling.  He had 3 balls and he had just started up and yes, I think that he fully intends to juggle them for the length of the race.

I don’t think that it’s a shame or entirely true that people have less fun as they get better at things, perhaps it’s just that their sense of ‘fun’ evolves.  When we have a greater understanding of what’s going, then our experience mutates subtly from simple ‘fun’ to ‘appreciation,’ the same way any love does.

One thing that people often overlook as they grow older though is where they came from, in the sense of their experiences.  I mean, you get these people all the time who are just assholes because they think they’re better than you.  And lets assume that they are– better than you at something, that is– their assholishness probably has somethign to do with the fact that they’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a beginner.  Or maybe they haven’t forgotten: on some level, it could be a resentment towards weakness that is what drove them to be strong in the first place; it could be that when they were beginners, they also encountered assholes, and they might think that a purely tough love mentorship is what you need, because it’s the only way they know.

In our day to day lives there are a surprising amount of moments where we engage in power-relations either as teachers or as students.  Being aware of the way we deal with these situations goes a long way to determining how far we get with things.  It determines the way the people see us, and in turn, how they treat us.

I’m not saying, don’t be the asshole– because frankly, it has it’s uses– I am however saying that you need to be aware of how it is you deal with things because regardless of how little we think of ourselves in relation to a world a large, we have a profound impact on everyone around us.  I don’t vote (and that’s another story) but I do believe in democracy, and I feel that this is it. Democracy to me is living by the way that you believe in, as a manifesto of what you want out of the world.

Regardless, I suppose the point of this was to just highlight that if we wonder at times where all the passion in the world is, we needn’t look much further than ourselves.  On one hand, wasn’t there ever anything I wanted to do, and maybe took a step in the direction of starting it, and then chickened out?  Either because the people who would have been either my peers or my teacher were too intimidating?  Or maybe because there were too many cold shoulders, and the thing itself seemed too difficult, tedious, or embarssing on the onset?

I’d by lying if I said there weren’t things out there that I wanted to try.  Despite all the things that I do that people always tell me sound really amazing, most recently travelling around Asia, teaching, or the things we do at Numac, the fact is, these are things that are easy to me because I got into them.  When I made the first steps, despite the initial nervousness and fear, the situations weren’t so unbearable that I was totally turned off to the exeperience them.  To me, trying to outrun the rising tides on the shoal path from a lighthouse to the shore (because if I don’t I’m going to drown at sea at some god-forsaken island in the middle of South East Asia) is easier, mentally, than going to a nightclub, or cooking under the scrutiny of my dad.

We all know about comfort zones and breaking out of it and all that stuff in theory, but what I’m geting at is that we take forgranted how the things we did get good at or became comfortable with were because we found some sort of infrastructure in which to build a comfort zone in the first place.  That, I think, is where people have a lot of potential to help– it’s as simple as being part of that infrasructure.  We know what it’s like to be students– but if we like anything, I think that we need to get over the fact that we’re perhaps ‘beginners’ and take responsibility for another generation.  I think it’s a convenient excuse for us to say “we’re not really good” or “there are people way more qualified than I am.”  The fact is, not everyone is going to be the next olympic medalist, so not everyone excepects an olympic coach.  Not everyone is going to be a violin prodigy, so even a small thing we can teach, like how to wax a bow, is a big deal.  Not everybody is Kasparov, but it doesn’t mean that some of the strongest players I know didn’t just learn to play chess from some old folks.

Everyone has l33t sk1llz, and it’s not the first time I draw reference to a Megatokyo moment.    However, not everyone uses these abilities for the greatness of the people.

And I realize that democracy is something that took us a long thing to get to, but like all things, it’s become easy, too easy.  Nowadays, the demos is mostly about opinion– it has nothing to do with any practical responsibility.  Show me your democracy, don’t just talk about it– let’s stop imagining how this or that could be true, and perhaps, maybe we should make the changes we think are needed by taking part in the next generation of changes– not just by handing off the responsibility like a hot potato to someone else with a vote, but by doing something ourselves.