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Dinner with Jon
Jon Grace of Midnight Movie Cowboys Hosts the Crackpot: 4/2/2022, Denver
© 2022 James LaFond
AUG/24/22
I went to school and got a degree in journalism, wanted to work for a newspaper. I got a job in Northern Florida, near Alabama. You got worked hard and paid little. They told me that by the time I was 35 I’d be making 35,000 a year and I thought the 35 was okay, but not waiting ten years. They new then, in 1996, that computers were going to take their business and that people would only buy the paper to get their movie listing. Even now, the Denver Post, I don’t think there’s anyone in the building. They pop in New York Times articles and a couple of local articles, and that is it.
I went to work for another newspaper, another rural paper, and they give me the sports beat and I’m not trained for sports and how do you make girl’s high school basketball interesting? It’s not exactly a Marvin Haggler fight.
So, I looked for a decent job that had some medical benefits. That was the point where I had no benefits and had to worry about being injured and stopped the martial arts training.
I’m glad I didn’t stay in reporting—it’s not reporting anymore. I read current news stories and every one of them I would have gotten fired for in the 1990s or flunked in school. News is obviously now just propaganda.
Then I landed the good job and was engaged to my wife and she noticed I was watching all of these martial arts movies and she said, “Why don’t you start practicing again now that you have insurance?”
She was right. [Gives bright-eyed thumbs up.] So I’ve been training in whatever can be found since then.
BJJ and Krava Maga are obviously money making rackets. Krav Maga is just slapped together. My Hapkido Instructor took it and found out that they show you these things over and over again, like achieving guard but not how to advance the technique. When I attended a BJJ school they were very helpful and would tell you anything, but it was expensive and the instructors had a lot of demons. Second class in I have this female instructor telling me about her horrible past. It did not seem like a good learning environment, surrounded by so many people that seemed to be haunted by some demon.
I started with TaeKwonDo. Mostly I have trained at rec centers. Those people care about the art—they like it. It’s not a money making scheme for them. The man that taught me at one rec center had his own business and just loved the art.
[Jon and I had this conversation interrupted as a stoned, face tattooed bouncer—a certifiably signified monkey [1]—tried to match my face up with my identification card feature by feature, “Ah, mustache? Ah beard?…”]
My Wing Chun instructor had a hard time teaching me, I think because he didn’t have any boxing background and that style is so counter so many other styles. My Tai Chi Wu Shu instructor recommended boxing for self defense. I really wanted to try Kung Fu when I started training again and had a very good Hung Gar instructor.
Covid just wiped these places out. They were mostly in trouble to begin with. I met Richard Bustillo at two seminars and drove him to the airport once. He was a really nice man and informative. He filled me in on some of the martial arts politics, like how Chuck Norris backed the Machados because of how the Gracies acted at his Nevada event and that TaeKwonDo was subsidized by the Korean government and that’s how you could have it dominating in America in 1974 when it had been started in 1948.
[I told Jon that my head coach David and his brother Kevin wrote The Iron Dragon, Bustillo’s biography.]
I have an autographed copy of the book. Bustillo told me that Jeet Kune Do was your personal martial art. So it is interesting that there are debates about it’s doctrine.
I trained in American Kenpo for four years. I have to say that I’m pleased with my current instructor. She’s an older woman. But she is fit, she can demonstrate the techniques correctly and I don’t have to worry about her kicking the shit out of me and getting hurt.
I recently bought an entire year of Karate Illustrated for $24 and it’s interesting the things they discover. I go through a lot of reading glasses from sitting on them. But I’m still able to read a lot and am currently working on the pulps. Clark Ashton Smith was certainly more the father of surreal fiction than Lovecraft. My favorite is Howard. It is amazing that at such a young age and living in small Texas town, he developed an understanding for where civilization was headed—and got more right than the scientists.
Like Edgar rice Burroughs in Tarzan and the Ant men, where these men were very small and the woman were huge and ruled everything—that’s like what has happened—we live in a matriarchy now. I recently read the original magazine version Tarzan, with the tigers in Africa that they corrected. And after he kills the tribesmen that killed his ape mother, he was so used to eating whatever he killed, that he was going to eat this man. But then he became revolted and couldn’t eat the man. They cut that out, since it was for boys. Ut that would be a great movie scene, like in an old Italian zombie movie.
I got burned out on crime fiction. James Elroy is a great writer and a personal friend—at book signings he’s like a professional wrestler, not afraid to offend, like Lou Albano or Freddie Blassy from back in the day. I have to tell him that I haven’t read his last two books. I’m also working on reading these new English translations of Dumas’ Three Musketeers, that restores passages that were edited out for Victorian England.
Not carrying of people like you, that’s a quality that Elroy has that works. I keep telling my son, when dealing with all of the bullies and trans politics in school, that in the end, being like Charles Bronson in Hard Times, just not caring if people like you as you engage the world, that builds admiration.
[John would not let me pay for any part of dinner. He also gave me a biography of one of my favorite writers, Louis L. Amour.]
Notes
-1. Jon used to be a horror movie fan and would go to conventions. There he met Rudy Ray Moore, who he said was very nice, very tall, and deaf.
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