San Antonio, Texas. The center of the universe for all Texicans; and if you ain't a Texican then you wish you were. Teddy slept here.
Drive to SA, cerveza and late lunch at Mi Tierra, then check in at THE Menger and on to the River Walk. SA actually made a smart move decades ago and took the river that runs through the center of downtown and built sidewalks at the level of the river, which runs one story below street level, and put in shops, hotels, restaurants, eateries and bars. It has, over the years, become a real upscale attraction that tourists come from all over come to see after going to The Menger and raising a toast to Teddy.
If you take the boat tour then it's easy to imagine that you've left the city and are somewhere out in the county because all you can see by looking straight ahead or to the side is trees and little shops and people sitting by the water drinking cerveza and feeding the ducks and pidgeons. It becomes a real get-away and a fantasy that can only be broken by going back up to street level where you face the traffic and the people.
At night it becomes a true fantasy journey because everything is lit up and if you look up at the office towers and tall hotels that peek through the overhanging trees all you really see are stars and far-away lights. It's just magic sometimes (and it really becomes magic if you have too many margaritas and fall over in the boat face-up and stare at the sky slowly going by). It's not Holland or Venice but then we're drinking cerveza and wearing huaraches and not siping wine and wearing wooden clogs or silk slippers with little bells on the toes.
In fact I may have to make a Christmas one year since I've seen photos of the entire river decorated. Mmmmm .... floating down the river in the boat, smoking a cigar, sipping some really fine Margarita's (try the new prickly pear M's ... really good). "Pass the guac' please and don't forget the chips".
When I was raised up from being knee-high to a jack rabbit I was taught that it's ok to dress down but dressing down was still supposed to show some level of sophistication and self-respect and retain a certain level of individuality. Moms universally used to tell you that how you dress is how you act and that when strangers meet you for the first time it takes them about 30 seconds to immediately form that all-important first impression of you as a person.
If that impression is bad then it becomes difficult to change without some real gyrations and intelligent conversation; that being how important appearance and dress really is. If you don't believe this then go buy the book, Dress for Success. Way back yonder (about 1980 or so) I worked as a bank examiner and met Malloy (the author of Dress for Success) who was at the bank we examined that week; selling books and discussing the importance of dress. Even casual or "dress-down" styles can be done in such a way as to still make that all-important first impression; but if you have a "fail" then it impacts more that just that first impression by strangers.
Dress affects behavior. The worse the dress the worse the behavior, and vice versa. I personally know many people (most young, dumb, and full of ..... but what do they know) who will, if asked, tell you that it's "just" a t-shirt or "just" a pair of shorts or "just" a hat or "everyone is wearing this."
Bwahahaha ....... "Son. They cheated you out of your money. You need to take that hat back to the store where you bought it 'cause they put the bill on ass-backwards. The bill goes in the front and not the back."
Research suggests that clothing can have a pronounced effect on our behavior if that clothing has a symbolic (e.g. "tribal") meaning and if we actually have the physical experience of wearing the clothes; the clothes in effect coming alive and enveloping us in an aura that changes how we think and act. Researchers at the Kellogg School of Management (NW University) call this “enclothed cognition” and in order for enclothed cognition to occur both factors (symblic meaning and wearing them) must occur.
So we get to SA and hit the Riverwalk on the 4th of July so we have to expect an influx of "locals" since one of the biggest fireworks displays in the country will be at dusk and only about 4 blocks away. Little did I know just how powerful this enclothed cognition was.
Yes. I am a child of the 60's & 70's. Hey Dude. Cool. Far out. Like wow ... cowabunga. Hey man. Got a light for my joint. I'll share, just don't Bogart it man. You know. Laid back. Mellow. Love. Peace. Flowers. Free Love. Beatles and Iron Butterfly and Grace Slick. Everyone dressed about the same with tie-dye and bell bottoms but for the most part the entire ambiance and environment was pretty calm and mellow with the police being a lot more dangerous than the pot heads. You could walk thru' a concert at the old SA Memorial Colisium with the smoke so thick you could cut the air with a katana and never fear for your life (although you might have to compete for dance space with the Hari Krishna's and duck all the dozens of frisbees and painted weather balloons being thrown thru' the air).
Not so this last 4th of July at the Riverwalk.
Tribalism. In all it's fearsomeness. Even my 15 year old who is still a white belt working on her first promotion could sense it. The black shirts with pictures of zombies. The urban hats with the flat bills (front and back). Hand held speakers Bluetoothed to the cell phone playing Lawrence Welk (well, actually the lyrics uniformly had something to do with "tappin' that", "slapping yo' B__", "killing The Man" and selling enough drugs to buy a new car and get a new tat).
Jewelry with dead faces and skulls. The black pants with black shoes. Tatoo after tatoo; not like a sailor wearing a tat that says "I Love Mom" but tats' of dead people, of knives stuck thru' heads, nightmarish tats of death, vampires and zombies. Nihilism run amuck. Cell phones taking pic's of everything like these people had never seen normal clothing before or had never been to a real restaurant. Urban "culture" in all it's vainglory (and that's putting much, much too kind of a face on it).
And the stench from the black bedecked tribal members. It wasn't mildewy like someone wearing the same clothes for too many days and it was beyond a hot Texas day in the sun. It was primal. The smell of pure body odor that was so thick it took me moment to put a label on it. The stench of women in heat and of men ready to fight. The stench of arrogance, fear, sex and aggression. It was occuring naturally based upon the mood of the crowd; but the summer heat of a Texas July served to amplify it.
And it wasn't just one or two people. It wasn't a couple of small groups. It was dozens and humdreds of people. None with families. Most appearing to be at some level of feral development with many of the smallish groups of 2 to 3 having one individual who was the obvious alpha, with all the aggression that position within the "in-group" entails. Here in Houston gang experts write that a group of 5 to 6 or more is simply too obvious. The really serious guys run in packs of no more than 3. It takes 3 to handle a victim (who has any level of fighting ability) but more than 3 may attact the attention of the police.
It (the stench) finally got so bad that I had to walk closer and closer to the wife and kid because of the subtle aggressive movements and body language I began to see as the night wore on and dark began to fall. Finally we had enough and the wife and I (she's a 7th Dan in her own right and could sense everything I was sensing) both agreed to get out of the Riverwalk and back to street level and to the hotel.
This I am certain that this was why European royalty invented scented kerchiffs and eventually perfume in the attempt to mask the primal stench in an effort to create a more polite social setting and why in some courts you were not allowed to enter or beg favor without donning the proper clothing first. (Do you remember in school how all the rowdy little boys suddenly got all-quiet-like and said lots of "Yes Mam's" and "Yes Sir's" when everyone was forced to put on a coat and neck tie for the first time? See. Enclothed cognition at work even on a pack of wild sweaty 10 year old boys.)
Here is the scary part.
It seemed that only the three of us were aware of how the atmosphere was changing as the influx of the local "urban" culture coming in got larger and denser. The rest of the tourists with their wives and husbands and little kids just seemed to keep walking and drinking beer and not noticing how the crowd was changing and becoming more dangerous. I was waiting for a semi-intoxicated tourist in a loud Hawaiian shirt to accidently knock a beer out someone's hand and have an attempted apology turn into a fist fight which would have likely ended up in the river since there is no railing for most of the Riverwalk and the water is literally one stumble away.
We saw no police. No undercover officers were apparent. No bouncers or private security. And the moment was prime because in some fashion the merchants had received permission to sell beer for carrying around outside; as long as you stayed below and on the Riverwalk itself. You weren't allowed to carry it up into the street level. I guess the city fathers had calculated that if anything happened then they could just roll the body into the river and that would be that, and they'd find you days later floating face-down with ducks riding on top of your back. "Quack, quack." (That's duck-speak for "where's my tortilla chip".)
Tribalism is always something watch for. I don't care if you are the monitor at recess at the local elementary school, if you're shopping for a fur coat at Macy's or you're at a fireworks display in a city not where you normally live. What we found ourselves in the middle of was like frozen orange juice concentrate. You remember the commercials on tv. "Now announcing Uncle Orville's Orange juice. 85 dozen fresh squeezed oranges in every little can." It was thick and concentrated and really obvious ................. assuming of course that you actually had your head up and was watching the people and the flow of ki (both negative and positive).
Remember. This blog is about martial arts and how it should impact daily life both on and off the mat so I just gotta' throw some talk about ki into somewhere.
How frustrating it is when you are the only one who seems able to see how evil and sneaky someone is while everyone else is blind to it.
How many authors who write or blog about self-defense throw in scads of commentary in every article that talks about watching where you are, leaving the cell phone in your pocket, being aware of where othere people are, knowing where the exits are.
Some of the better authors even write about what this blog is concerning; that of looking at how they are dresssed. Do they look like they are going to church, to a peace rally or something more nefarious? Are they self-actualilzed idividuals or members of a tribe? Pay attention to these little things because what Malloy wrote is the same thing that your mother SHOULD have told you.
- Clothes make the man.
- If you play with shi-yeet it will rub off on you.
- Would you jump off the cliff if your "best friend" told you to?
- And, you can still be an individual and show your independence from your family without wearing depressing Goth or "urban" clothing because if you do, how long will it take for the "enclothed cognition" to kick in and then be exacerbated by the Nihilistic attitude of your "friends"?
Evil really does exist and in a very practical sense (leaving religious ideas completely out of it) you can admit it into your being; and clothing (combined with peer influences) may be one avenue so you should always look around you to see who has succumbed to the temptation and who could be a danger to you.
Our jobs as Sensei includes teaching students to watch for it, be aware of it and to avoid it. But if it finds you then be ready since Budo and martial arts is not just about wearing pretty clothes.
Part 3 - "He's So Feral" or "The Feral Kid"
L.F. Wilkinson - Kancho
Aikibudokan, Houston, Texas