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Rose City Exit
Reflections on Training and Drinking in Portland Oregon: 12/24/21
© 2022 James LaFond
Friends made me at the bar in Portland, complete with Christmas cards and well wishes for a March return from the Cascades. One such soul is Dee, a muscular man of 5’ 11” and 204 pounds, a former boxer, kick boxer and Navy service man, a roughneck who worked in Baltimore doing slant drilling for a cable installation company some 20 years ago. Recently, while on a bike trail with his young son some tweakers spoke to his boy and Dee admonished them, to which they took offense.
“I threw [overhand right to left hook] and then they start whining that they don’t want to fight. I’m 46 now—thank God the young men can’t fight any more. I used to knock people out with that shot. I think I need a tune up. How about you work with me on my hands?”
It turned out that Dee’s father-in-law, recently passed, was one of the best amateur boxers in the area. He was a man that Dee holds in as high esteem as his father, a tough, tough man who never quit and battled cancer for some 20 years. I would like to recount Dee’s narration but he was buying me whiskey and the erase button got hit at some point south of Midnight…
Drinking with rednecks, Indians, veterans, Eskimos and roughnecks causes time to fly and, a day short of departure, I found myself standing on the asphalt at the park across from Portland Joe, who had just gifted me a pair of fine fighting sticks. Erique had sent me an Iron Fan trainer as well, making me well-armed for journeys, a 12-inch war club that slides into a slot pocket on the Krav Maga pants for easy access.
For two hours Joe ran the session, deciding on weapon changes and asking for drills. He had amazingly acquired a pair of two-inch thick rattan “logs” with which we slow sparred. Joe had improved about 400% since end of October and I felt quite proud.
The stick section ends with light single stick, with me discarding my stick for the last 30 seconds and trying to punch and clinch as he triangles and counters with the stick, checking and fanning the head. We finish our session with knife defense drills and anti-clinching, check, sprawl and pass drills.
I noticed, over the last half hour, a young, ragged man, dark of hair, smudged of clothes and haggard of complexion, sitting on the bench and watching intently. He had a bike at his feet. We gathered our gear and walked by him and he looked at Joe and said, “Thank you.”
Joe said, “Glad to provide some entertainment.”
The man then looked at me under brown bangs, “Do you have a card.”
Checking myself as rude, I walked back and said, “No, but I can give you my phone number if you have something to write with. I’ll be back in March.”
“Yes, thanks. I see you are stick-fighters but it looks blade-based.”
Joe was providing a tactical pen and paper as I wrote my number and responded, “It’s free-style Escrima, stick, blade and tools. I’ll be glad to work with you in March.”
He gave his name, kind of mumbled, which I missed. We extended hands and I saw his were torn, tapped with duct tape and dirty as we shook.
He took the paper and said, “Thank you,” as Joe stepped up and shook his hand and wished him well.
He seemed crest fallen a bit, perhaps feeling the need to work on the skills necessary for using that knife on his right side against the packs of tweakers that prowled thereabouts.
Back in the car, Joe said, “I admire your humanity. I saw right off that he had a knife.”
“I didn’t see the knife, didn’t look for it, but figured it was there. I was mostly interested in his eyes—he seemed post-traumatic, beat-down, worn. I feel for a loan homeless guy in this place, with all of these feral packs of tweakers. If he’s has a brain, he’s got a knife. His hands are good.”
As I boarded the train the next day the following text came through from Joe:
“I wish for you roust health and safe passage on your journey! Merry Christmas! I am grateful for our time together and look forward to March.”
It is always the right season to find a brother.
‘What Do You Tell People You Meet?’
harm city to chicongo
menthol rampage
under the god of things
into leviathan’s maw
search for an american spartacus
fiction anthology one
barbarism versus civilization
the lesser angels of our nature
the first boxers
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