I should mention this was our first big trip without either of the senseis around. In many ways, we’re all feeling like a newborn baby birds learning to fly. Except, instead of vigorously flapping our wings then falling to our death, we vigorously flay our arms only to get knocked or choked out.
We get to El Paso around noon; six ravenous fighters in a cramped van who survived off trail mix for twenty-four hours. Unfortunately, Texas has a severe lack of “alternative” options in the way California does - Denny’s seems to be our healthiest option. We walk in to be greeted by wheelchair bound folk and a thick oily scent in the air. Given the protein-intensive menu items, we all order salads. Instead, they serve us a few pieces of lettuce with a full serving of bacon on top.
At the sight of the salad, that sanctimonious California mentality comes out. Jordan begins freaking out in his corner and Tizoc resorts back to trail mix. Elwood and Bryce aren’t fighting so they’re content eating our food, at least for a while. Jake and I take a few bites before stepping out to buy a power bar at the neighboring gas station. That’s what California did to us - six fighters looking like a group of high school cheerleaders. To place it into perspective, however, pre-fight bacon feels like pre-suicide gun to the head. It’s a strip of self-loathing. The two months of detoxing and preparation felt neutralized in a single mid-western meal.
In the middle of our meal, two overweight white ladies roll over to our table. You’re in the movies, right? they ask me.Sure, I respond and sign my name on a napkin for them. They thank me then maneuver their immobilized bodies out of the restaurant. I figure ignorance and innocence are only three letters different anyways.
Understanding that a Denny’s salad won’t cut it, especially considering our necessity to maintain a strict weight, we spend the better half of the day searching for a more nutritious alternative before settling on a Souper! Salad! Contrary to the punctuations, the interior contains no hint of excitement, only dried spinach and reddened lettuce. During our meal, a few overweight ladies come and talk to us, and Bryce convinces them I’m an actor.
We grab our smoke-stained motel room with the saturated yellow walls that accompany the smell perfectly. The bed with tacky floral design sheets has an unnatural firmness to it. We all drop our baggage off, sneak our way into an empty 24 Hour Fitness and hit the sauna, which, apparently, is where the entire customer base resides. We all lose the necessary weight and head to the 8PM weigh-ins at the upper deck of an Outback Steakhouse.
To begin: I come from California - Los Angeles to be more exact. There’s this certain aura that people carry around in these parts. That plasticity the media advertises? It’s true. In fact, it bountifully flourishes in our ocean-side resort state. The combination of perfect tanning conditions and constant human interaction provides the perfect nutritional habitat for plastic. Yet, perhaps I have grown accustomed to all the superficiality lingering between every glorified set of fake tits because on good days, I still am very muchin loveinfatuated with my hometown. At other times, it transforms me into a misanthropic asshole, as this introduction paragraph evidently shows.
I bring up California because this is about me and the team going to Texas, and it would be unfair for me to psychologically gaze into the inconceivable customs of another state without first tearing apart my own. But this (in a overly simplified way) is my experience with the two states. Beyond the stretches of golden desert and tumorous cacti, past the glorious sands of Arizona and the inhabitable, yet overwhelming terrain of New Mexico, is a place that traverses the opposite end of the spectrum from California.
And it was strange, because between these two overrun cities laid this spacious magnificence of natural beauty. It injected such a profound feeling of awe in me that I could still remember the shadows hiding behind the tangible figures like getting lost in a Dali piece. Perhaps the severe lack of sleep had to do with it, but the ochre sands that blanketed the entire horizon would reflect the sunset in such a perfect way that it revived the wilting bit of romanticism struggling somewhere inside me. But as New Mexico gradually flowed into El Paso, humanity began setting in again. It’s not a venn diagram where bits of California and bits of Texas blend somehow in the middle. It’s two separate circles with a thousand mile space in between them.
If, as I intended, this journal can properly chronicle my seventeen years training martial arts, including four years at a semi-professional level, then I know that all the blows to my head haven’t affected my memory too adversely. Either way, I look back and can recount amazing stories that the adventures in my current life lack (or perhaps I simply appreciate less). I don’t regret quitting, but I do regret not being able to inject the same amount of energy into my current profession. There’s something about creativity, I guess, that makes you worried about perfection more than effort.
At the end of the day, I’m writing this as a means of keeping a record of something that significantly took up a large part of my life; as a means of remembering something that’s bred a series of injuries and testosterone-fueled conflicts. Damn it. I loved fighting so much.