Previous month:
June 2014
Next month:
August 2014

July 2014

136. Clothes Make the Feral Man - A Spengler-ian Operetta in Three Parts

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

July 2014


135. Moo - A Spengler-ian Operetta In Three Parts

Part 1 - Moo! ....  or ...  Which Way Am I Going, What Day of the Week Is It and Who's My  Daddy?

The family and I took a vacation over the 4th of July Weekend and drove to San Antonio, also called "SA" (not to be confused with "esse") which, when I was a kid in high schoool and college in far S. Texas, was a common destination for us young pups, er, ah, studs looking for excitement.

Back then, in the Greater Cretaceous Era, it was the only place to go to see concerts by real rock & roll bands (like Bloodrock, Jefferson Airplane or Jethro Tull) and was my first exposure to the Hari Krishna group that to this day still exists in SA and that we actually saw in front of the Alamo .... wow ..... was I surprised after 40 years ....  (boom, boom, boom, "Hari Krishna, Hari Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hari, Hari" ..... dance like a maniac in heat ... jump up an down .... ponytail swinging ....).  My 15 year old got shy when I volunteered to take her over to introduce her.  I wanted to pay the boys a sawbuck for quick dance.  She may never fully understand Dad's sense of humor.  Oh well.  Maybe next time.

In fact, when I was was in college and was in a fraternity (an official "Frat Rat" as-it-were, still got the pledge and actives' pins to prove it) SA was known as a "One Case Drive"; that is, in a car with 2 to 3 Frat Rats, we went thru' a case of beer each to make the trip, ergo, a "One Case Drive".  Back then (well before the open container law stopped everyone from drinking and driving) we had the ice chest between the two rats in the back seat and the junior had to dig out the beer cans and open them for us.  We measured not by miles but by case with Corpus Christi being a  mere 6-pack (each) and SA being a full case each (oh man we ..... watered ..... a lot of trees ... on the trip).

To go Full-Tilt-Zen for the moment; SA just .....  "IS" ... assuming you're a Texican and if you're not then you wish you were.  It "IS" the Capital City of the Galaxy.  It has The Alamo, the one true place of true sacrifice and heroism, and The Menger Hotel which is right next door to The Alamo and which is where Teddy Roosevelt recruited The Rough Riders who went to Cuba and kicked some serious Spanish Booo-taay.  Plus it's where Mi Tierra is which was founded the year I was born (they knew I was coming).  When such notables as Mushashi and Zeus are in town they always stop in for plate of nachos and a can of Tecate with a slice of lime on top of it.

So if you're a Texican then SA (or San Antonio) "IS" the center of The Universe and the hub of what it means to be Texan.  AND, all true Texicans have to raise a toast to Teddy while sitting at The Bar at The Menger before they die while drinking a Spanish beer (glass of wine .... phfffbt).  The place has old Teddy clothes and pictures on display everywhere and is pretty amazing.  Even Bill Clinton had to make the Mandatory Pilgrimage to The Menger when he was POTUS and he signed his picture on the wall and wrote that eating Mango ice cream at The Menger is to die for.

So we're driving from Houston/Katy to SA and just getting out of the city limits is an effort, what with all the people trying to escape Houston and get to The Capital of the Universe (SA).  I can't blame them because while Houston has more jobs, SA has more class and pizzazz and elegance and soul so who wouldn't want to escape?  Even Dallas pales in comparison.

So we finally hit the edge of the city and the speed kicks up to about 85-90 (I can't drive at anything less than about Warp Factor 4) and we're cruising, we're making time to get there and we're playing tunes and we're talking about lunch at Mi Tierra (their chicken mole is ..... ummmmm ..... drool ..... gawd the mole is just ORGASMIC .... whimper ..... ) and suddenly the traffic just .... stops!!

So I'm going with some major WTF"S and the wife is going "Huh" and the kid is going "Hey Dad are we there yet?"  Are we there yet?  So do I strangle you now or strangle you later?

And we crawl, and we crawl, and we crawl and the kid looks up and says, "Hey Dad!  Look at that!" and someone WALKS BY ON FOOT AND THEY'RE GOING FAST THAN I AM!  And I'm going WTF and we look over and people are actually driving their Mercedes and Beemers up the side of embankments and thru' ditches and down the shoulders and then coming back again because the creek is blocking them and people are honking and screaming and I'm telling the kid to keep the doors locked and windows up because I'm thinking any second now ......

And we finally get to a rest stop and there is like 30 or 35 semi-trailer rigs parked there waiting and we see one trucker sitting under his trailer in a lawn chair reading a book and drinking.  And teenage girls in short-short cheek-peekers are running from car to car knocking on windows and talking to people and cars are in park and people are opening ice chests and firing up BBQ pits and drinking beer and having sex and  ....... well .... to be honest they weren't really having sex but I can guarantee you that somewhere out there in the brush .............

So after about two full hours of this snail-like safari thru' the wilds of central Texas we finally pull up next to a guy in a grey pickup and the wife and he exchange "WTF's" a couple of times and he says that based upon his crystal ball (maybe he had a single sideband in his truck) that a truck had an accident and had caused a HazMat issue and the highway was going to be closed the rest of the day ..... oh ..... joy ..... were're still 150 miles outside SA and in the middle of  NOWHERE! and Mi Tierra has my cerveza on ice with waitresses waiting to take my order.

So literally, no exageration, after a full TWO AND A HALF HOURS OF JOY we start to pick up speed and the walkers and joggers are being picked up by their rides and we start to roll and we get to the HazMat accident and ......................... grrrrrr ..... it's on the other side of the road.

It was NEVER on our side.  We're on a divided highway with the divided lanes a good 100 yards apart with a steel cable fence between with a posted 75 mile speed (which in Texas actually translates to 85 mph minimum speed with a max of no more than 100) and the damn rubber neckers have LITERALLY backed up traffic from the location of the wreck to a town called Flatonia which is a good 30 miles behind us.

Hmmm ..... pull out the slide rule .... 30 miles x 5,280 feet per mile = 174,600 feet / 18 average feet in length per car = 9,700 car x 2 lanes = 19,400 cars backed up behind us.  Oh - My - Freaking - Gawd.

O - M - G  ....  a frakkin' 30 mile traffic backup because the damn rubber neckers have to stop to look at what?  A tanker truck that didn't even turn over but only sprung a leak?  A bunch of firefighters spreading sand and chemical disperant foam on the highway?

Woo Hoo .... a chemical spill. 

Now a gun fight between cartels on the side of the road using rpg's and SAW's, a herd of brahma cattle being riden by Lady Madonna in drag as the cattle have sex, a conjunto band in tight pants led by a Guatemalan Tom Jones look-alike playing ranchero music and giving out free cerveza ... now THAT'S worth stopping for  ........... but a bunch of guys in baggy pants spreading sand? 

And ergo part 1 of this blog.  People today have uninteresting lives with little to no meaning such that a simple chemical spill is enough to catch their interest and have them stop their vehicles in the middle of the road so that they can gawk and look and pull out their cell phones and Pin Interest and Instagram and gawd knows what else.

...................... "Moo.  Moo-Moo.  Moo I said.  Hey Mabel, why are we stopping?"

"Because."

"Because why?"

"Because the Official Wearer of the Cow Bell has stopped to look at a coyote."

"Ok.  But I'm hungry and thirsty and need to get the calves home so they can eat."

"That doesn't matter.  The Cow Bell stopped to look at coyotes."

"What are the coyotes doing?"

"Taking a nap."

"But coyotes are too small to bother us and they are taking a nap and are not important and getting the calves home is."

"Doesn't matter.  Hand me my cell phone so I upload a picture of a sleeping coyote to Cow-A-Gram."

"How do I do that?  I don't have any hands."

"So use a couple of teats."     ...................

See.  Like cattle.  Herd moves.  Herd stops.  Herd moves.  Herd stops.  No reason.  Just "is".

Once upon a time people had real interests, real hobbies, real interests and understood the difference between things that matter and things to be ignored, and that higher-class of people would have just driven past after a brief look to be sure that help wasn't needed and that people weren't in trouble. 

"Ok folks.  Now moving on to something more important!  Keep the hands inside the ride at all times please.  Little Johnny, roll up the window and stop slapping your sister.  And pass me a cerveza with some lime.  We have more important things to do and people to see."

Once ascertaining that the crisis/incident was contained they move on because it is not important to their life, safety or existence and not worth the effort or time.  Instead we had a herd of cattle 30 miles long.

I have become convinced that most, the majority of people today are completely unable to understand the difference between the important and the unimportant.  Their lives have become shallow and have no meaning and the least little difference (like the movie where the dog says, "Squirrel") attracts their attention and causes them to focus on that event, no matter how insignificant even if it means not being aware of something much more important; like the car overheating or the gunfire from 4 cars back or that 747 taking out the cornfield.

Their lives are mundane and blah.  They have not developed outside interests and they are living colorless lives in b&w.  Their lives consist of wake, job, get drunk, have sex, sleep, repeat.

They have no imagination and no view of the scope of their own potential and they have a  limited vide of just how far out the horizon is in terms of what they could accomplish.

And this in my view has become a problem that as Budoka, people like us don't have.  Budoka, because we deal with a more serious view on life can tell the difference between what needs to be Instagramed and posted to FB and what does not.  We deal with joint locks and sticks brushing our eyelashes so we compute pretty quickly what matters and what does not as we progress and make the connections between life in the dojo and life outside the dojo.  It just changes all your reference points and they become universal and distinguishing the critical from the mundane becomes just a little easier.

You can discuss all kinds of reasons for its' importance but since this is supposed to be a blog about martial arts I guess I should stay on that topic ..... at least a little.

I, like every other Sensei in the galaxy get regular calls on a weekly/daily basis from people who want to learn martial arts but really have absolutely no idea why.  Some of course immediately blurt out, "Self-defense" or "Self-improvement" so I immediately say, "Welcome home" and we get them on the mat because they have actually made the effort to do some research and have decided that martial arts should become an important part of their lives for set reasons of physical fitness, self-defense, intellectual study, historical significance, whatever.  They have actually looked at it and decided it is important to devote time for the long term can tell that Budo is important and beer down at the sports bar or passing a dead dog on the side of the road is not.

Quite a bit different from the dog in the movie ..... "SQUIRREL!" or the people driving, who should be focused on the joy of the trip and thinking about time with the family and watching the road as they make 85 mph instead of having their attention diverted by .... "OILSPILL SQUIRREL" and almost plowing up someone's rump.  Those that don't know why they want to do MA, I think, just looked at a picture or web site and went "SQUIRREL!" and their focus and attention lasted until the next Pin Interest or Tweet came across their cell and they went to get a new tatoo.

Think about it.  You're walking down the street and the magician (aka the gang member says) "Now watch my right hand" as his left hand guts you because you were unable to distinguish the important from the trivial and were unable to focus longer than ...... "SQUIRREL!"

"Martha!  Get out your cell phone and take a pic and upload it quick!"

Part 2 next ... "A Lack of Class"

L.F. Wilkinson-Kancho

Aikibudokan, Houston, Texas

July 2014