Me & Leonard: Pains in the Ass
There are tens of thousands of women (and some men, I imagine) who probably feel "Leonard Cohen was so great, and so sexy, how could anyone lucky enough to be with him EVER leave him, no matter how weird & irritating he was? *I* would NEVER have left him no matter what!"
Yet, most of Leonard's songs are about finding himself in a situation where someone is leaving him. He rarely gave us details of how & why these excruciating separations had to happen--for all we know, it was because he kept leaving the cap off the toothpaste and his lover finally got fed up...
In these sort of songs, Mr. Cohen never tried to say he was right & the other person was wrong. He would end up saying something like: "Even though it all went wrong / I'll stand before the Lord of Song / With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah..."
My point is that no matter how interesting, rich, famous, wise, good in bed, and great a conversationalist Leonard Cohen was, there seem to have been dozens of women who found they could not live with him for one reason or another. You can feel his deep sorrow and regret in these songs, as he considers what possibilities may have been lost along with the relationships.
Like Mr. Cohen was before he joined the Tao, I'm an Eccentric Zen Jew Singer with many irritating qualities, but without the saving grace of Leonard's transcendental talent, wide fame & big money. It must be very difficult to live with someone like me. In fact, I KNOW that it's extremely challenging, because I wake up to myself every day, and I am the first one affected by my own attitudes & behaviour. If I had a choice, I might choose not to be Curt / C Ra on certain days, but as you see, I am stuck...
A few last golden leaves still stick
to the ribs of skeleton trees
as Halloween snow sifts down
on Loki Park
old monk ra
The monk went to the Park. He was used to being alone under the starlight. But tonight, he saw shapes and forms between the gaps in the trees; others, young people, he surmised, were walking this night as well. It was unusual this far past Midnight on a weeknight, but the old monk saw outlines and heard the sounds which even very light young people make when they believe they’re making no sounds. He was right. Young people in the dark, in dark clothing, walking together. Very nice; all these sweet shouting stars above were not wasted on a mere alter kaker like himself. He almost called a greeting, but no. The soft Autumn night was not for shouts. Ha! He could be a killer lurking in the grove for all these phone-zombie boychiks knew. But the old man wasn’t Death; he was only the Laird of Loki Park; a kind of cabbalistic Boo Radley who looked out for kids up way past Midnight. The old man watched the children find their garage door, then relaxed. Everyone would get home tonight. That was part of why life was good, but it didn’t answer why the fat tired old monk needed the Dark, the Night, the Moon, to wrap around himself and regenerate his possibilities. The old man was, personally, not very mysterious at all, but he needed Mystery. It was fortunate for him that there would always be plenty.
Full Moon Knight
Moon Knight, the Fist of Konshu, Egyptian God of the Moon, has just returned from final Consecration beneath the Full Moon in Loki Park to take his place on my Altar with Thoth and Loki. This figure was the cheapest decent one I could find, still way overpriced, but I paid it. Crowley said (& I paraphrase) “When the Magickian goes to market, he must buy the black egg—or whatever it is his Spell truly requires—without haggling.” Then Amazon would not deliver my chosen figure to Grande Prairie, Alberta. So, I had it sent to Nashville, TN, knowing I'd be there in time to intercept the package. It’s a 12-hour day of flying from our small prairie town to the great little condo we got in Antioch, by the Nashville airport, back when it was a buyer’s market.
Whilst in Nashville, Tennessee, on August 21 '17, I had the opportunity to Consecrate my Moon Knight figure under a Full Path of Totality Solar Eclipse. I made up a ceremony and some words--DIY Magick is always the best.
Before leaving Nashville to travel thousands of miles back North, I packed Moon Knight carefully in my battered suitcase. When I got back here to the Temple of Thoth-Loki North, I placed him on my Altar with some words of Power, knocks, knells, and incense, and waited patiently for tonight, when the Moon was brightest.
Again I packed Moon Knight carefully away in a tote bag, along with my Kindle, some Moon-Kissed Holy Water, a battery-operated tealight candle, my Magick Wand, and some plain old water for me to just plain drink; Conjuring is thirsty work.
The Moon, to my human eye, seemed immense and of a vivid orange colour. Sadly, my Kindle camera could not pick up the tint or the radiance, even in Loki Park, away from the streetlights. But I was successful in my plan to use the Park's picnic table (which I also think of as The Main Stage) as an Outdoor Altar.
I set up Moon Knight, a battery-operated tealight, and got my Holy Water and Wand ready. The Ceremonial Words I made up on the spot, asking the glorious Moon to bathe Moon Knight in its effervescent rays, bragging that this here Holy Figure had already been Dedicated to THOTH - LOKI under the corona of a sure-enough Total Solar Eclipse, and that I now expected it to be DAMNED WELL GOOD & CONSECRATED.
To seal the deal, as I uttered Hebrew God-Names of Power, I sprinkled the figure of Moon Knight nine times (9 is the number of the Moon) with Moon-Kissed Water. (You make Moon-Kissed Holy Water by taking a container of regular water outside under a Full Moon and asking that it be blessed in the name of your Deity of Choice. This only works if you have genuine Intent, of course.)
I packed everything back up, and my Temple is now guarded by the MOON KNIGHT, Protector of Night Travelers, in all his Big-Time Consecrated Glory. In His honour, I lit the slowly colour-changing tealight candles on my Altar, drank a bit of honeyed wine (aka Drambuie as we are out of Mead), and burned sweet incense. Welcome home, MOON KNIGHT, FIST OF KHONSHU!
Old man grinning in the dark
Beneath a stained-glass Moon
Gliding down to Loki Park
To get my soul in tune...
IF YOU WRITE, YOU ARE A PRIEST OF THOTH: The most recent iteration of my Personal Magickal Altar here in Alberta, or as I think of it, "Upper Egypt", as opposed to Nashville, "Lower Egypt". This Altar is specially dedicated to the Egyptian God of Writing, THOTH (aka Hermes, Tahuti, Mercury, et al); His Norse Avatar LOKI (a shape-changer who can appear as Man or Woman); LOKI'S brother, the somewhat dimwitted but righteous warrior THOR, and MOON KNIGHT aka THE FIST OF KHONSHU. KHONSHU, the God of the Moon, is also an Avatar of THOTH. KHONSHU protects Night Travelers like myself, and looks out for my entire family. He and THOR are my primary Protectors, but my Tutelary Deity, or main Teacher, is now LOKI; when He arose in me, I was surprised but not shocked, because he is the God of Mischief, and what can do more mischief than WORDS? LOKI is basically the Norse Lucifer, and like Milton, I am of the Devil's Party. THOTH is a bit more serious-minded than the mischievous LOKI; think of Him as the Head Librarian. You see here the traditional Magickal Tools of Wand, Cup, Dagger, and Pentacle, plus lots of other frippery, but be aware: you too can construct a very effective Magickal Altar using mostly imagination: as Crowley said, if you can't afford a fancy Wand, use a tree branch from the ground; if you have no expensive incense, light a match and blow it out; if no Silver Chalice, then a coffee cup; if no complexly designed Pentacle, employ a stone. A butter knife can be pressed into service as your Dagger. Crowley once used these very items to conduct a successful Magickal operation in a small tent on a mountainside, which stood in perfectly well for his elaborate Home Temple. I sometimes conduct my Rituals atop the picnic table in Loki Park. In any case, after 45 years of study in Eastern & Western Magick, especially the Kabbalah, I have come to the point where I can confidently say CEREMONIAL MAGICK, LIKE ALL REAL ART, PRODUCES AMAZING PSYCHOLOGICAL RESULTS. If you put even 1% sincere Work into Magick (Work, NOT 'faith' or 'belief'), you will be rewarded immensely. Do not use Magick to gain Gold, Sex, or Power; Work without Lust of Result and your inner Universe will be vastly enriched...
Excerpts from Kayfables: Confessions of a Wrestling Poet (Poetry & Short Stories)
NO SAFE WORD
I ended up being more or less forced to bitch-slap my ex-wife in public, becoming that pariah of all right-thinking people, A Man Who Hits Women. It was muggy summer, downtown Nashville, passing yuppies and music tourists looking on in horror. Let me add she was in a wheelchair. As it happened, I remember thinking: "A 225 pound Queer Satanist Professional Wrestler has just beaten up a Poor Cripple Girl in front of God and Second Avenue."
When it came to domestic violence, I was the kind of man who tended to believe the woman, If you had personal power, great or small, you also had commensurate responsibility. You didn't hit people weaker than yourself. Unless backed into a corner, you didn't hit people, period. Not unless you were working a match with another wrestler, someone who'd agreed to sell your moves. To hurl himself through the air for your throws, accept your pulled but often still painful punches. Even to take some hard-as-fuck open-hand chops. The marks liked to hear the crisp echoing CRACKS and see the resulting red handprints on our chests. We kept Kayfabe, and sold it all. The chest-chops were easiest to sell. They hurt like a genuine motherfucker.
But in my world, you didn't strike women in anger. You especially didn't hit kids. Not in front of me, at least. I didn't give a fuck what your Bible said. I'd take your god damn rod away, stick it up your ass and break it off. It was never right to hit children, and it was only right to hit women if they asked you to.
"Spank me, I'm a bad girl!" Some chicks were into that. That was cool with me. I was a Dom, a Spanko Top. But even if the woman was a Bottom, a Subbie, there were stringent rules. Before the role-playing commenced, you and the woman had to agree on a Safe Word. One she could use to make the Drama halt instantly. The Safe Word could never be "Stop!", of course. Or "Don't!", or "No!" It had to be something like "Red Light!" or even a Word no one would possibly use by accident in such circumstances, like "Rutabaga" or "Green Fire Truck."
Now I wished that I had a Safe Word. Kitty had been pushing that chair a long time. Her large, muscled arms ended in hard fists. They struck my face and shoulders repeatedly. She hurled her purse across the street and snarled, '"Go get it, motherfucker!"
My sole desire in life was to get Kitty home. She kept throwing on the brakes, stalling her wheelchair. Swinging on me, cursing, slinging the purse. I could taste blood now. She'd split my lip.
"Go get it, motherfucker!"
I crossed Second Avenue for the third or fourth time, picked up the purse. Walked back and pushed it at Kitty. She batted it away. The purse took a strange spin and landed upside down, spilling most of its contents.
"Fucking motherfucker, faggot, piece of shit! Pick it up, motherfucker!"
Metro police had already told me to get Kitty off the street or they’d do it for me. Sure, I’d been at the whiskey, but Kitty was raving drunk, all tore up about some picker from the Irish bar on First Avenue who wouldn't fuck her. She’d end up in jail if I left her on the sidewalk, and I still had a small stock of empathy and concern, then the last of it was punched, cursed and slapped out of me.
"I hate you, motherfucker! You--"
Suddenly my hands made a decision. They flashed out in a flurry of cuffs across both sides of Kitty’s head. She sagged in her chair, stunned silent.
I don't remember making a conscious choice to use loose open-hands instead of fists. It just happened and was done, and I was walking away. Let her be dragged to jail, fuck it. I was weak, and a pussy. A brutal woman-beater now. Driving home with the care of the guiltily drunk, I saw clearly the headlines of tomorrow's Nashville Tennessean:
LOCAL WRESTLER ASSAULTS WOMAN IN WHEELCHAIR.
I was living at my Dad's. We were both divorced and drinking heavily. In my bedroom, the AC was busted. It was still 89 degrees, even after 1:00 a.m. I lay in bed feeling like a man with some rare form of malaria. Just as I was about to be mercy-fucked by sleep, the phone rang. Kitty.
"YOU HIT ME!"
"You hit me first. A lot of times. A whole lot of times. You were excessive, Kitty.”
"YOU HIT ME!"
I hung up. I was too drunk, cored out, and stressed with post-combat adrenaline to care whether or not the police came in the night with a SWAT team to put me in a special cage. Finally I fell into a sweaty sleep.
Next day, Kitty's psychotic mother called my Dad. "I want to talk to you about what your son did to my daughter!"
Cotton said, "Stella, what do you want me to do? Make him stay in the yard?"
Stella sputtered into inaudibility and hung up. My Father looked at me.
"Thank you, Cotton." I said.
"This might be a little wake-up call for you, son."
"I hear you, Daddy."
Cotton held his somber face an instant more, then we both started laughing. Before long, our stomachs were sore. We finally stopped. Then I took off to wrestling practice. My teacher, Gypsy Joe, was mad at me because I was scared to take a bump off the top turnbuckle.
GRASS ALLEY #I: Leg Motherfucker
My Grandfather passed. There was some money and a well-maintained Delta 88 Olds for me. I left my Father to his space and moved into Charlotte Square Villa. My brother Rayland was already there with his wife and kids. It was close to my prep chef gig at Burton's Of Belle Meade. I started fucking Laney, a reasonably pretty alcoholic blonde with an okay voice and pretensions to Nashville music stardom. She quit her job waiting tables at Brown's Diner, moved in, and began to dismantle me. I propped her up for 9 months. Laney’s abuse of me reached epic heights. One night, she came at me with a butcher knife. I put three stiff fingers in her solar plexus. She looked surprised, dropped the knife. I was a veteran woman beater now. The whore finally put me in the hospital, diagnosed with stress-related diverticulitis. She took a bus back to Tempe. I owed $13,000 to St. Thomas Hospital. I kept working at Burton's.
The diverticulitis didn't return, but I soon had a new physical challenge. After my divorce from Kitty, living with Cotton, I'd been tormented by chronic pain in my lower back and left leg. As I began training to become a professional wrestler, there was first overall muscular agony, then improvement of the back pain. While I was wrestling for the IWA and Mick Callas, it had vanished. Now the pain resurfaced savagely. Every day was a crucifixion. But I had an ace in the hole, and remembered it. I'd taken a really sick bump in the walk-in cooler at work just after I moved in with Cotton. Melted ice on the metal floor. And I'd filed an accident report with Burton's, to cover my ass, if. After a weak reflexive attempt to block my claim, Workman's Comp paid for an operation on my ruptured L-5 disk. There was also a small settlement. $20,000. For a time, I was off the Wheel.
Then I married the Russian. It was a favor to my lawyer friend Griff. His mistress Irina wanted her sister in America. Galina arrived. Formerly an actress with the Moscow Theatre, she resembled Kathleen Turner. We did the paperwork and ritual to declare us legally married, ate lunch, and Galina went back to her sister's. In a week or so, Galina's massage business was up and running. She was branching out into Amway. We were doing a lot of introductory fucking in Apt. D-6. Galina began to cajole me to move to a 2-bedroom place in the same complex.
"When my son Nikolai comes, there is not room with Irina. Her lease is soon gone. She must for a while be with me with her kids. Then comes our Mama. Her papers will soon be done. Irina will be only until I sell my flat in Moscow. Then is us, this you want. Da da da da da, you must have your own room. You are the writer. But please think of this, yes, Oh-gooost?"
There was a complex Slavic logic at work I couldn't quite follow. But her trilling, almost mournful pronunciation of my first name always made my heart say yes and my cock stand up. I began to fuck her over the desk, the light summer skirt around her waist, rose-petaled panties banding her calves. I had tried all my usual cockstar tricks, but Galina preferred Brute Russian Sex. As she came, Galya ground her pussy down on me and whisper-screamed "I HATE YOU!" I understood it for what it was, a compliment.
I made the move. It was a mistake.
But, for a while, I had an apartment to myself while the Russian got her pieces set up. The place was as far to the back and left as you could go in Charlotte Square Villa. It felt protected. In the room I'd picked for my office, I put a desk in front of the window. Through it, I could see a generous strip of meadow-like grass dividing the rear apartments from a half-hearted fence. Beyond the fence was a field of small trees, bushes, and overgrown grass. I liked sitting at that window and hitting the word processor. My brother Cap had bought a new one, and sold me his old machine for a very nominal fee. It was magic, and I wrote. Mostly poems about my Little Czarina. I watched the hummingbirds, the Summer thunderstorms I loved, the teenage boys lurching by in their Anarchy jackets, bent on an afternoon's misadventure. When the apartment manager, Frank, passed my window, I waved. I'd put "Freelance Writer" in the space for Occupation on my rental agreement.
Cap moved into a place that put him three buildings up from me. It became ritual to walk up the Grass Alley and see him. To drink, lie, talk about how the Nashville Poetry War was going. As we fell further into each new bottle of Clan McGregor, Cap and I constructed increasingly higher houses of purely conceptual cards. They always fell apart on us at the limits of language. Then we would laugh, and Cap would ask:
"You want a whole leg or a half a leg?"
Cap had a shot glass with the Army Airborne emblem. On one side was a parachute with wings. On the other side were notches denoting Rank. The "full" notch on the glass was marked "Airborne". Half was "Ranger". The lowest notch was marked "Leg", and would get you maybe a tablespoon of whiskey. Paratroopers call soldiers who aren't jump-qualified "leg motherfuckers". They pin a medal on you after you make your qualifying jump. I mean, they pin it on you, not your uniform. One last gut check. Cap was qualified. He had done his best work as a machine-gunner in Vietnam. His gun was named Blood and Black Lace. It had once spared a North Vietnamese family walking the trail carrying rice for Tet dinner. One of Cap's poems said: “this time, my finger cannot”. But his finger could, enough times for the NVA to put out a poster with a price for his head.
I had missed 'Nam. But, as Cap frequently said, everyone is a veteran of something, so I didn't feel like a phony shit when I drank from the shot glass. Somehow we had by mutual silent drunken consent designated a half-shot a "half leg", and a full shot a "leg". It made no sense to anyone but us. When asked, I generally took a whole leg, even though I was technically a leg motherfucker. Actually, I was a notch below leg motherfucker. I had never served my country in uniform. The timing was off for me to have been eligible for the draft. While living in Fayetteville, Arkansas for a short strange time at 18, I'd checked with a seamy-faced recruitment Sergeant just to make sure.
"Son, you're not required to register now. But have you thought about the Armed Forces?"
I had thought long and hard. "Thank you, sir. I have other plans."
"I'd'a got zapped in the first fifteen minutes, right, Cap? If it hadn't ended before I graduated high school, and they'd drafted my ass to the 'nam?"
"You can't know that, Aug. Wasn't nothin' goin' on by then, anyway. So what kind of warm fuzzies has this little ole Russian gal got you believing?"
"We're gonna try living together. Just not right this second.” I sipped my beer. “So what's going to happen, G. Roland? I mean, with the Russians?"
"They're done. It's all about the money."
While in the Army, Cap had once taught at a military academy. Until someone noticed that his lectures on the whys and hows of War were usually about following the money. Not only that, they tried to keep him and his buddies from playing D&D. Cap had a 20th Level Barbarian with wings, who enjoyed dropping cannonballs on orc hordes. The Major finally had to let them do it, though. D&D was like cards or anything else.
"Ours or theirs?" I asked.
"Theirs. The money they don't have to build a Star Wars."
"Hell if we have it either. Reagan. That senile Nazi fuck..."
"He's beat 'em. And all he had to use was words. Ain't that better than an atom-bombin'?"
"Reagan? Kiss my ass! He wants a goddamn thermonuclear war so Jesus can come back. And no one else gets any credit? Like JFK or even you, for goin' to Vietnam and, like you say, blocking the Commie's pawn move? Just Reagan, huh? He did it all by himself, huh, Roland?"
Cap squinted. The laugh wrinkles beside his eyes were deep and many. Almost like scars. Scars of laughter. I jotted the line on the back of my brain. It might be the seed of a poem. You never knew.
"The Russians know we will build a Star Wars and then they'll have to try to build one too, and they know they can't. It's been all guns, no butter there. Those boys are bled white. It ain't in the budget. They go down. And we won't have to build no Star Wars then. That OK with you, hot dog?"
"I believe I'll drink a leg to that."
Cap poured the whiskey with a steady hand. "But don't fool yourself. It won't change much. We'll have to find a new enemy."
"I don't see who. The Chinese aren't that expansionist."
"It won't be them. But one will be found. It's--"
"--all about the money."
Silence followed the laughter. It was fine. We knew each other. I went home and jerked off to Galina. I had her bent over the desk again. She pounded the oak with her little fists, she gripped me and gasped, her panties had roses. I came as she screamed she hated me. I was all done for the night.
I was too young for his jungle
so I never met Victor Charlie
but I've met some violent changes
in my own,
and I’ve stepped onto plenty
sharp and shit-smeared situations.
My own fault for not looking down,
I’ve been in beaucoup firefights.
I couldn’t always tell
where the rounds were coming from,
I’ve been wounded, and inflicted
a few wounds of my own.
I haven’t bothered with
a body count.
I’ve called in air support
when I was outnumbered.
More than once, it saved me.
Sometimes, it never came.
I’ve been taken prisoner
and tortured by myself,
but I’ll take the credit
for making my escape.
I have no way of knowing
when I’ll go back to the World.
It could be that my time
is shorter than I think.
For now, I have a path
and I’ll go where it takes me.
Tonight, like every night
I’m walking point.
I took my Tools to the Buddha Park
and showed them off on the altartop
of a picnic bench in need of paint
beneath the Virgin Moon.
Chapter excerpts from BLUE COLLAR BALLET: Adventures of a Wrestling Poet
Somewhere in Central Kentucky, 1989
I can taste blood, smell sweat and beer, and hear the catcalls of the small-town crowd, but with my face pressed against the rough and grimy canvas, all I can see is dirty gray. My lungs are screaming for air, and the skin of my chest stings from a series of hard open-band chops. As I push myself to my knees, the faces of the ringside fans swim into focus on the other side of the ropes. Their eyes are slits, their mouths blank holes howling for my bad-guy blood.
I wouldn’t mind resting another few seconds, but there’s a hand in my hair, and before the insistent tug becomes too painful, I allow myself to be pulled to my feet. Gypsy Joe is smiling. As he backs me up against the ropes, my teacher growls: “Ready for the floor, boy?”
Inwardly, I groan. The old bastard has thrown me out two times already, and I’m not looking forward to a repeat performance. But I offer no resistance as he runs me across the ring, and at the right moment, I allow our mutual momentum to hurl me over the top ring rope. During the long trip to the unpadded concrete, I have time enough to wonder just how the hell I got myself into this…
Lesson 1: Welcome to Gypsy Joe’s Wrestling School
The ropes were steel cables covered with ancient green garden hose. Here and there, wicked twists of rusty metal protruded through the cracked and peeling plastic. The mat consisted of warped plywood over steel struts, topped with irregular pieces of rough, dirty-brown carpet. The huge spring beneath the wood was rusted solid, with no give at all. The turnbuckle pads, haphazardly patched over with rags and duct tape, oozed what was left of their stuffing. All of this was claustrophobically enclosed on three sides by the splintered wooden walls of a ramshackle shed, with one side entirely open to the February weather.
If I was looking for glamour, it damn sure wasn’t here. Yet, I experienced a small but unmistakable thrill as Joe and I climbed though the ropes. Despite its primitive qualities, this wasn’t a simulation of a wrestling ring constructed of clothesline and mismatched wooden posts such as I’d erected in my back yard when I was 12 years old. It was the real thing.
I bounced up and down a few times, testing the give of the plywood floor. There wasn’t much. “So, who owns this house, Joe?”
“This old guy l know.”
That seemed to be the extent of the small talk. I never did find out who lived in the house, what his relationship was to Gypsy, or why he’d allowed Joe to set up this cramped, if functional training ring.
I began pulling my blue “Bike” brand kneepads on over my sweatpants, trying to come over as cool and relaxed, but I was nervous, and it must have showed.
“Relax, brother. We’re not in a hurry.”
There are only three basic ways to fall in wrestling: the forward flip, backward, and face forward. Anything else is just a fancier version of one of these. We began with the basic forward flip-over fall.
Joe got down on his hands and knees. “OK, brother, what you do is run up, put your hands flat on my back, and flip yourself over me. You wanna land on your back with the soles of your feet hitting first, and slap the mat with both hands at the same time. One more thing--unless you wanna break your neck right away, keep your chin tucked in.”
I gave it a try. Everyone has seen this fall a thousand times, if not in wrestling, then in the movies. Some stuntman gets shot on a balcony, bends forward, and flips gracefully over the railing, plunging to the unseen net below. These guys never fall to one knee and roll sideways, or spin around and fall off backward. They always take the smooth, controlled forward-flip.
In this case, my first bump was neither smooth nor graceful. Relying more on main strength than momentum in hurling myself over Joe’s back, I crashed heavily to the only-slightly-yielding plywood, dizzied from the quick mid-air spin, knocking my breath out, banging my unprotected elbows, and forgetting to tuck my chin in far enough, which earned me a sharp, painful rap on the back of the head.
“Feet flat, brother! Arms like this! Otherwise, you’ll break somethin’, and then you’ll be tellin’ everyone that Joe made you hurt yourself!”
I tried again, feeling what was an unnecessary strain as I hurled myself over Gypsy’s broad back with a noise that was half-groan and half martial-arts yell. My main problem, as it would have been for most neophytes, was a lack of relaxation. I was working at the fall, not simply allowing it to happen, and when my tense body hit the mat I felt the full impact. In addition, Joe began to slowly rise to a half-standing position, which gave me a lot further to fly. Most of my crash landings were painful, but a couple of times, I did it almost right, and began to get a vague idea of what I was trying to learn to do. Finally, Joe straightened up so far that I was afraid to try and flip over him. “Damn, Gypsy--it’s too high! I’ll land on my head!”
Joe took my protests in stride, and switched me to the backwards fall. You know, it’s amazing how much the average body just doesn’t want to fall backwards on its shoulders. In a way, this bump was like the old psychology encounter-group exercise of learning trust by allowing yourself to go limp and fall back into someone else’s arms. The important difference is that there was no one to trust but myself.
“No! You’re gonna break your damn elbows! Slap with the front of your forearms, brother! And quit tensing up! Just go limp and take the fall!”
I tried, but as before, was working too hard at it, throwing myself down more than letting my body fall backwards under its own weight. Tension led to self-disgust and more tension. I began to feel frustrated, winded, and inept. Joe changed the pace, and began to show me the basic “Collar and Elbow” tie-up which begins most matches.
“This hand around the back of my neck! That hand on my arm--no! Don’t shove it in my face! Nobody’s gonna like that, brother! Right--that way. Now…let’s move around. Let’s dance, brother! You know how to dance, don’t you?
Now break the hold! Now! No, don’t hesitate! Break! Good! Now go right back to it!
C’mon--circle around me some, then--lunge! Yeah, that’s right! And look mean, brother--we ain’t playin’ fuckin’ patty cake here!”
We danced the first movement of the Blue Collar Ballet around the splintery, sagging
ring--circling, then lunging to hook up collar-and-elbow, pushing, pulling, being pulled and pushed. For a moment I was exhilarated, and felt I could become the dance--if I relaxed…
Lesson 2: The Wall of Pain
I returned to the practice ring to continue my dance lessons with Gypsy Joe. We went on a little longer than we had previously, and for me, it was a volatile mixture of frustration and encouragement. Ironically, I had learned just enough to know how badly I was actually doing, and could easily imagine Joe rolling his eyes at the thought of my ever becoming a wrestler.
“Let’s work some holds!” barked Gypsy. We locked up, and danced around the ring for a few seconds. I tried to remember to look mean, but was distracted by a slow, creeping, throbbing pain in the muscles of my lower back. It wasn’t a vague ache, nor a sharp glassy stab such as I was used to from my injured L-5 disk. This was a brand-new pain, resulting from my back muscles being tenderized by constant pounding on the unyielding plywood. In addition, I had developed a bitch of a head cold, which stopped up my ears and threw off my equilibrium.
Gypsy gave my upper arm a light squeeze. “Take the Arm Drag!”
The Arm Drag is a flashy but essentially simple maneuver. All you must do is come across with your left arm, hook your opponent under his left bicep, and fall straight back. Your dance partner does the rest, giving up a nice crisp forward flip to the mat. It’s a hard move to screw up, but somehow, I managed. Through a combination of bad timing and clumsiness, I stumbled sideways and accidentally came down with a knee to Joe’s gut. He shook it off and rolled to his feet. “Whaddaya waitin’ for? Lock up!”
Back to the collar-and-elbow dance. I went for a Top Wristlock, and in my dizzy state, leaned far too heavily on my partner. “Goddamn, brother! If I was that stiff with you, you’d be tellin’ everybody that Joe was mistreatin’ you!”
“Sorry, Joe,” I said sheepishly.
“Don’t be sorry! Just do it right!”
Suddenly Gypsy hooked my arm and fell back. I wasn’t looking for the Arm Drag, and failed to execute the bump. I landed right on top of him. It must have hurt, but he didn’t say a word.
We waltzed across the sagging plywood and into the ropes. “Take the Headlock, brother!”
I captured Gypsy in a loose Headlock and spent a few seconds pretending to grind and crush his skull. “Okay, enough of that boring crap! Take me down!”
The Headlock-and-Throw looks brutal, but is no more so than any other basic maneuver, assuming the thrower doesn’t come down too hard on the throwee. I started Joe over my hip, he took the bump perfectly, then I crashed down on his ribs like 200 pounds of clumsy bricks.
I was mortified, and fully expected Gypsy to curse me out thoroughly. Instead, he got up and walked away to the ropes, standing there with his back to me, rubbing his forehead in silent exasperation. I was grateful for his patience, but it would have been less embarrassing if he had screamed at me.
Gypsy shook his head, sighed, and came back to the center of the ring. With a student like me, I felt sorry for the poor old guy--despite my earlier concerns about getting the crap kicked out of me, Joe was the one taking all the damage.
Again, we danced. Gypsy grabbed my wrist and went into the dramatic-but-painless Arm Wringer. I sold it with some groans, and, as if the pressure had become too much to bear, decided to take a forward flip. My pain-wracked body and stuffed-up head conspired to cause me to mistime the move; instead of making a complete turn and landing on my back, I came down right on the point of my left shoulder in an explosion of glassy agony.
It was the first time I had really, truly hurt myself badly in practice. I walked back and forth in grim silence, shrugging my shoulder and biting my lip, telling myself it probably wasn’t broken. The rules of macho seemed to call for me to suck it up and go on without complaint, and I tried, but my heart was no longer in it. I also must admit that I was just plain scared of getting hurt again.
“Uh, Gypsy...I’m really sorry, brother, but I think I better stop for now. I got a real bad cold, and my back and shoulder are kinda hurtin’. I know it’s not a big deal, but...”
“Whattaya mean, it ain’t a big deal? It’s your body, brother. You can do whatever the hell you wanna do, but I don’t want you gettin’ hurt.”
So much for macho. Reluctantly, but with relief, I gave it up for the day…
HAIL THOTH, GOD OF WORDS
YAY MAGICK!!! I merely PREPARED to prepare a Spell to Invoke THOTH, God of Communication, to force TELUS (shitty Communication Company) to recompense my Consort for the time she's had to waste in dealing with their idiotic errors on our bill, and my L-rd THOTH, God of Physicians, Poets, & Thieves, saw my need and fulfilled my modest request BEFORE I could "officially" ask-- this very day, TELUS is giving Dr. Max $100. In previous instances, after much haggling, they usually offered more like $5. In MAGICK, just as in Chaos Physics, the effect sometimes arrives before the cause. THOTH almost certainly was "merely" a Man who invented Writing, and then grew a Godlike rep over time, but still--this is very interesting: all praise THOTH!!!