Tales From Bouncing: Part 3

Halloween Weekend was pretty busy for us. Lots of Non-Austinites were in town, muddying up our beloved town and its vibe.

Bouncer – of previous story infamy – found a Hispanic male, about 6’2, ~195 lbs, average build, vomiting in the restroom. As this is obviously against bar policy, Bouncer informs this tall, Hispanic male – herein referred to as King Douche – that it’s high time for him to leave. KD initially is resistive to the idea, making fuss enough to make Barback’s (too of previous story infamy) spider-senses tingle. Barback approaches the situation, and KD, realizing he is outnumbered, gives up without further struggle, and leaves the bar.

Bouncer returns to me standing at the door, gives me KD’s description, and tells me not to let him back in.

Okay. This is where the story should end. But it doesn’t.

A few minutes pass, and Bouncer returns to me.

“Did you let that guy in the red shirt back in?”

“No,” I told him.

“Okay. Let’s go kick him out. He looks rowdy, so let’s grab Nice Guy, too.”1

The three of us approach the crowd. “That’s the guy,” Bouncer heard KD say to his fat friend.

First, diplomacy. As the resident diplomat of our bar, I made first contact…:

“Hey man, my bouncer said that you were throwing up in the restroom. You need to leave.”

“Na bro, I’m good,” KD says. He is taller than me, bigger than me, and has a bottle in his right hand.

“Listen, I’m the manager. I’m telling you that you need to leave.” My left eye is glued to the bottle. I think on one of those martial arts science shows, they stated that weapons wielded by one hand can impact their target at upwards of 35 miles/hour. I suspect a bottle shattered at 35 mph over my head would make an awful mess of my face.

“Na bro, I said I’m good.” KD’s posturing has become aggressive. I guess his plan is to intimidate me into going away.

“Look…I don’t care what you have to say. You need to leave!” Judging by his continued posturing to my reply, KD is dead-set on strangling diplomacy into nothingness.

“Go away –” he stops short for an irritated inhalation before continuing, “You know what?! One,” he yells, flapping his arms at the elbows (while his hands stay in the same place, more or less), and continuing on with the general aggressive posturing.

And is this guy counting? I guess he thinks I’m five years-old?

“Two.” Another flap. Moments like these always make me wonder how people could ever believe we didn’t come from animals.

That brief observation aside, I also realize in that split second that most people who count only do so to three, then come consequences – AND we were already at two. Well shit. Call it self-preservation, preservation of face-against-bottle smashing. Call me an incurious bastard about the “Surprise!” which almost assuredly was coming at his three count. Call me all these things…but, realizing what was almost certainly coming in a fraction of a second, I closed what little distance was left between King Douche and I, overhooked his stupidly flapping arms (paying close attention to his bottle-hand), and stuck my forehead under his jawline.

Oh did he start struggling then! Cussing up a storm too.

But I’ve heard those cuss-words before. And I knew the struggle, too. Not wanting to dance with KD right there on the dance floor – what would everybody think? And I was still a little worried about his bottle – I transitioned from tight double-overhooks to an armdrag for the back.

Once I established a modified, standing back-control – my right hand controlling his right arm, and my left arm over his shoulder, left hand gripping my right wrist – I realized I really caught myself a marlin! Goodness this guy was trying to ‘rassle with me. I’ll be damned if I was going to let him go before he was out the door.

The King of Douches’ lust for battle, however, was insatiable. And he continued to struggle, and continued to struggle, as I dragged him from behind out the side entrance. So we slipped on the wet bar floor. He fell on top of me, and I momentarily lost my modified back control. Being on the ground while the number of combatants is unknown, in a dark, confusing, overly loud environment is probably not the best idea – I decided, in the split-second I found myself underneath him. He came to the same conclusion, as he stopped struggling with me to regain his footing. I let go of his hand to stand up in base – but I had wisdom enough to keep my chest to his back as much as possible.

My left arm still draped over his left shoulder, he began to turn around (toward me) to strike me. This, of course, was unacceptable. In the instant he moved to turn around into me, his right arm was temporarily behind his back. I grabbed his wrist, palm up, and doubled him backward with my left arm.

Now in a pain-compliance hold, My Marlin was suddenly and very surprisingly docile.2 How the mighty doth fall. In fact, he tapped me with his left hand, indicating perhaps I was applying it too tightly and was about to hurt him. Well, he hadn’t hurt me, so why should I hurt him? Maybe My Marlin was all posture, after all. Maybe nothing was going to happen as he reached three. Maybe I overreacted. Maybe this fellow trains. Maybe he has some honor after all! So I loosened up on his twisted arm, opened the side door with my back, turned us around, walked a few more steps so that he was successfully out of the club, and let go. All would be right with the world now. Rainbows and smiles.

No. That son of a bitch turned around the microsecond I let go and swung his wildest haymaker punch right at your humble narrator’s noggin.

I’ll continue this story tomorrow. I have to run an errand. Sorry, my audience, I didn’t update yesterday. I went home Monday, and spent the first half of this week running around back home – eating way too much food, training, and sleeping all day. You know, all the things we do when we get home.

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1. “Nice Guy” is one of our part-time bouncers. He’s a genuinely nice guy, and pretty damn good at jiu-jitsu too.

2. The hold is nearly identical to one of the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu headlock defenses.

Ruminations on Football

I spent a few hours yesterday watching professional football. It had been several years since I sat down to watch a full game. Jesus Christ, I had forgotten what it was like. Giant, ‘roiding super-athletes running full speed into one another, fighting over yardage they can produce while having an oblong ball in their hands. It’s a very, very strange game. When representatives from The Intergalactic Congress arrive and are shown this game – along with most of our games – the aliens from TIC will instantly recognize professional football for what it is: an elaborate substitution for fighting.

Like all elaborate substitutions for fighting, it struck me as dishonest.

[An aside

Instances like this also remind me why I find it so goddamn strange when people think humans (a) are not animals, and (b) do not share common ancestry with animals…:

“By charging through the forest, tearing up vegetation, males display to assert themselves without actually coming to blows.”

“By charging down the field, tearing up defensive lineman, males display to assert themselves without actually coming to blows.”]

There was so much post-play pushing, shit-talking, gesturing, posturing, et cetera, that I found myself honestly shocked at the players’ behavior. They resembled a pack of wild beasts as much as a team of 1% athletes. Really, it was disappointing to see.

Also, I felt a very particular pang of a thought I often have while bouncing.

“If you honestly intend on fighting someone to prove your dominance, how much shit-talking should you do beforehand?” Being sober as a bird while working, I have seen a near countless amount of male posturing for dominance. It almost never escalates, though. And the size of the display of posturing is INVARIABLY inversely proportional to the distance the subject has from the object. In other words, A talks a lot more shit to B if B is very far away (but still within earshot); and A talks a lot less shit if B is close (while B is postured to fight as well).

It was weird seeing all that in play on the so-called Grid Iron. Jiu-Jitsu is much, much more honest.

Anyway. Happy Thanksgiving.

“On The Road” Movie Review

Let me say first, this is completely unrelated to jiu-jitsu.

Let me also say that I feel it would be remiss of me to not use my platform, limited though it be, to decry Walter Salles’ silver screen version of On The Road by Jack Kerouac. OTR is my favorite novel in the entire world; I read it, on average, every six months and have been doing so for the past four years; and I’ve been on the prowl for a copy of the movie in one form or another since I read about it debuting at the Cannes Film Festival (~May 2012). After many an arduous hour searching all these long months, I found a copy on the Internet this past Sunday.

The movie is bad. Very bad.

In fact, the movie is so bad that I thought the only way I could finally bring myself to sling word-rocks and word-arrows at my beloved Kerouac was if I was drunk.1 So after training yesterday, I made myself a giant glass of Bombay Sapphire gin w/tonic and started to get Hemingway drunk, Hitchens drunk, Bukowski drunk. Loose-lipped from drink, I would give Walter Salles the verbal beating of his life.

But I’ve been sick for ten days or so; and yesterday was my first full day back. The goddamn shellacking I received from Mr. Kennedy, and the post-workout shower/meal/stretching/groaning/crying all came together with the drink and put me to sleep instead. I did not even finish the MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani before passing out on the soft carpet in front of my laptop.

This morning, however, I write to you with a strong cup of coffee and 48 almonds swimming in my guts. And as I’m not the biggest fan of day drinking, I guess I’m just going to have to do this sober. Here we go.

Here were my first two impressions of Walter Salles’ version of On The Road:

“My absolute favorite book in the world was rendered into so bad a movie that, after watching it, I’ve been unable to do anything but stare at the little blinking line with indicates where text entered in your keyboard appears. This has been going on for over ten minutes now. I literally find myself unable to express my thoughts on it. Goddamn everyone involved.”

“The strangest part is that the movie didn’t really omit too much. Most of the characters and plot points were worked into the movie in some fashion. And the movie was beautiful. But it was just completely, baffingly flat. I can tell you right now that people of the world experience more emotions sloughing off a wet, post-coital prophylactic after a drunken, lackluster, one-night stand, tossing that unholy little scumbag into the toilet, and flushing it away. Hardly an exaggeration.”

How did things go so wrong? Where did they take such a wrong turn? How could a novel about emotions and kicks and thrills and impulsive decisions and drinking and jazz be adapted into such a sleepy, facile, emotionless movie without much dialogue and a lot of pretty, authentic-looking scenes?

What I would say is that the writer(s) of the screenplay ultimately decided to NOT make a few hard decisions about what to include, what to omit, who to focus on, who to leave behind – going, instead, with the George Lucas approach of “How about I just include everything that could possibly fit in one single movie?”

[And what goddamn awful movies he’s been making since surrounding himself with only “yes” men.]

By god did they do their fair share of cramming too – the movie was over two hours long. For the briefest of seconds, it was even magical to see the beautiful and tragic Terry rendered in real life (whose body really was “brown as grapes”), to see Carlo Marx dancing like an ape in New York alleyways, or pointing at everyone, accusatory, in that famous kitchen scene (“What is the meaning of this voyage to New York? What kind of sordid business are you on now? I mean, man, whither goest thou? Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?” pg. 119), to see the ridiculous, mad Old Bull Lee played very well by Viggo Mortensen, and so on with a few dozen other things.

But then the reality hit: there was no reason to care about any of these characters. From the perspective of an audience member new to OTR, there never was. The movie opens with Sal Paradise hitchhiking and singing a song, about to get on “[t]he greatest ride of his life,” as he describes in chapter 4. After condensing down those series of chapters which develop the idea of open possibility and an extraordinary expression of carefree living (characterized by the people sitting inside the bed of the truck with him) – after condensing it down to perhaps 90 seconds, the opening lines from the book are heard.

Dean is introduced shortly after, along with Dean’s penchant for homosexual liaisons (from which they did not shy away, and which I liked – this also suggests they’re reading more from the original scroll than the published version of OTR). But we still don’t know who Sal is. Marylou looks dirty, like a goddamn junkie – a far cry from the “…pretty blonde with immense ringlets of hair like a sea of golden tresses; she sat there on the edge of the couch with her hands hanging in her lap with her smoky blue country eyes fixed in a wide stare…waiting like a longbodied emaciated Modigliani surrealist woman in a serious room.”

Cut scene to the end of the night. Dean and Sal spend twenty seconds or so toasting to their dead fathers. Now they’re best friends forever.

I guess. Big “I fucking guess.” This speaks to a larger point, actually…

The whole time I could not stop wondering “At what point am I supposed to start caring about any of these characters?” “As an audience member, with whom am I supposed to empathize?” With the book, I empathize some with both Dean and Sal. With the movie, I found myself ambivalent about both characters – shocked how little of the deeper substance of either Dean’s or Sal’s actual character transferred onto the big screen. Dean didn’t gently descend down a ever-steepening slope toward a callous madness. Past the two hour mark, and after he had left Sal sick in Mexico, he suddenly appears in New York, looking stricken, craven, broken by something, a living shadow of a man. But why? What happened to Dean? Was he the main character?

Or was it Sal? Sal with the voice like he’s been smoking unfiltered cigarettes for the past twenty years? Our supposed Everyman, who takes a book from Kristen Stewart’s library by NEVER showing a single emotion throughout the entire movie? He’s a goddamn EveryRobot in this movie. A writer who doesn’t feel emotions? How believable is that?! Aside from his bout with dysentery, where were his Dean-like fits, his rants, his capriciousness, his lust for life? By cutting out the majority (but not all) the adventures Sal had by himself, I think we can safely assume he is not the main character.

The third option – and I think the correct one – is ‘The Road’ itself. Travel is the main character. It is possible for travel to be the focus of art. But usually the lessons and meaning of travel, an abstract idea, are focused through some conduit – an Anthony Bourdain, for example. He travels and tell us what he saw, what it meant, what things smelled like.

Or you can do a movie like Samsara which is very explicitly about travel, about showing you the striking images themselves, a story told with music (because you probably can’t have ONLY images) instead of a narrator, or general experiencer of said sights.

But what then are we to make of On The Road? A beloved novel is turned into a movie. Okay. Specifically because it is so beloved, excising anything from it will be sacrilegious to somebody. Okay. Better to shoehorn as many plot points and lines from the actual book as possible, than to parse down the novel into a size manageable by a movie. Wrong.

Let ‘The Road/Travel/Adventure’ be the main focus of the movie. Good-intentioned Idea. There was a lot of quiet in this movie, lots of brooding quiet, lots of camera panning over beautiful landscapes quiet. Okay, a result of ‘travel’ being the main character. The scenes with dialogue, the scenes where the audience attaches themselves to and begin to care about the characters all felt super abridged, super rushed, facile, skin-deep, impossibly underdone – everyone was a hackish caricature of Kerouac’s own caricature of those real-life people – the most appalling example of which is Carlo Marx (Allen Ginsberg). This, I think, is the crucial error in the movie. Without characters to care for, the probability of having a movie worth caring for drops precipitously.

The scenery was beautiful, to be sure. Whether or not things were actually authentic, I could not say. They certainly looked authentic, though. The locations, the cars, old New York, the costumes all looked real.

But at the end of the day, the reason we are moved when watching a puppet show is not because the puppets look like real animals, or real monsters, or real people. It’s because they ACTED like real animals or real monsters or real people.

And if you don’t believe, here is an example of the extent to which an audience will suspend disbelief. This is Nina Conti’s ventriloquist bit. She intentionally breaks the ventriloquist’s illusion, again and again, yet I found myself still suspending disbelief until the end. It’s both funny, and even a little disturbing. It’s all about acting real.

At the end of the day, there were only pretty pictures in Salles’ adaptation of Kerouac’s work. These pretty pictures were interrupted with rushed snippets of dialogue, sex, smoking, and jazz, all done by mediocre actors in the limited time allotted. Unfortunately, no reasonable audience member (most especially someone unfamiliar with the source material) can be expected care about any of them – Dean, the funny dancer, Sal, the robot-writer, Carlo, an objectively crazy, or Travel, the porcelain doll equal parts strikingly beautiful and emotionally vapid.

Justin Baize

p.s. – I am very surprised at the extent to which I managed to curtail my deep, deep desire to use as many bad words as humanly possible.

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1. I’m not kidding.

Tales From Bouncing: Part 2

To run the jiu-jitsu recap briefly, two of my employees have, thus far, executed two lovely examples of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu:

Barback with the low, crushing knee-on-belly

Bouncer with the 1000-lb mount, and basic mount retention

Alright, so I was standing in the threshold of the door which leads out to the alley, telling Bad Patron #1, a short guy, that he was not allowed to come back in anymore. Discouraged, I was sure, by my decibel level and height, he turned away with little more than a whimper.

But then, my audience, I see that Bad Patron #2 is on the approach! Is he about to swing at me?

No, he walks just passed me. Well, he tried. I stopped him, obviously – it’s my job to stop him.

“Yo! I just kicked you out of here. Do not come back anymore,” I yelled at him. He raises his arm to put his hand on my chest and push me out of his way. But I’m wise to this guy’s shenanigans now, and realize that goddamn backhanded negotiations are his chief export. This time, I’m not having any of it.

BP#2 is not stopping. He is reaching toward me with his left arm. I grabbed his left wrist with my right hand, with the intention of angling his arm down – so he can’t really push me anymore. Then I grabbed the back of his left elbow with my left arm, and arm-dragged him.

I’m positioned on his side now. I’m safe, now that BP#2 has no good angles to hit me. His left shoulder is pinned against my chest. My right arm is gripped on his farside lat muscle. “I said you can NOT come in!”

Then BP#2 starts to double-over right there in my arms. What the hell is happening, exactly? Did I accidentally hit this guy in the nuts? Is he vomiting – right now?! – in my arms? Has the man finally lost the will to fight? Did this guy just spontaneously break into tears? What. The. Fuck. Is. Happening?

Then I feel it. My forearm alerts me to a hard, pinching sensation. This son of a bitch just PINCHED me while doubled-over? I put my right hand on the back of his jawline and shove, hard, while jerking my left arm away from the pinching sensation. He staggers for a few feet – he is drunk as balls too, of course – while I look down at the locus of the pinch.

Before my eyes in the yellowed light of the alley, I see a crescent of irregular puncture wounds on my forearm. Inside of this crescent is a big, purple mound of bruised skin – undoubtedly the source of the pinching sensation. I stared at this odd imprint of my body for a few seconds – those few strange seconds when you know you’ve been cut, you can see the various arrays of tissues you normally can not, but before the cut begins to bleed.

Then I saw droplets of blood filter out of the irregular holes, and the gravity of what just happened hit me full-force. Bouncer and Barback, having lost sight of me for a few seconds (while knowing I was dealing with this guy), opened the back door wide and asked if everything was okay.

“This motherfucker just bit me.” I was starting to lose my signature JJW cool.

“What?!” they both asked.

“This motherfucker just BIT me!” I yelled, while brandishing my bleeding-from-a-human-bite arm, showing my employees and friends what just happened to me.

This all happened in a matter of seconds. BP#2 had staggered a few feet from my push, and was now facing the three of us in the alley. His back was against the green dumpster. It took but a split second for us to fan out, making escape for him impossible. Nooo, he was not going anywhere without my permission. Barback licked his Indian lips. Bouncer popped the knuckles on his tiny little hands. This is the face of a nail before it’s about to be hit by the hammer – the 190-lb Mexican hammer who happens to be pretty good at jiu-jitsu, who had went out of his way to do no harm…and who was now officially pissed the fuck off.

As he was trapped there, wondering what was about to happen next, it took me two seconds to plan out my revenge match. This son of a bitch would pay for biting me. I saw such scenes:

Ankle Pick, because (a) his reactions are likely terribly delayed and (b) it’s not so easy to correctly counterstrike against → Side-Mount, as heavy as I could possibly make it → Americana, I decided was the price for assaulting me.

Then, in those five seconds from the point I discovered I had actually been bitten by a non-zombie human to my decision on what finished submission BP#2 had earned, I calmed down. It all went away. I remembered my Russian wielding the Maglite-truncheon at the front door. Anyone who messed with her surely would be shown no goddamn mercy. I was no mood.

“Fuck this guy,” I said to my friends. Then we turned around, left him unharmed in the alley, and went back into the bar.

The three of us went back into the bar, and there had been no further issues. I found my Russian at the door, and relieved her of her responsibility. Then I saw both some police, and good ol’ buddy boy BP#2 slinking around the alley. The evidence for his guilty, luckily in this case, was still streaming with blood. So after a little ado, I grabbed the cops and the man was arrested for assault. The hardest part, for me at least, was listening to him lie his face off to the cops, denying he had bitten me or fought with my friends/employees or any of that prolonged, exceptionally silly bullshit he tried to pull.

Thanks for reading. I think I have one more good one before I put this series back on the shelf. Thanks again!