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strung out 
brush with greatness 
soul food  
 

August 21, 1998  

Knowledge from College:

One Blade's Worth  
 

It's funny the things we remember. 

In a decade we read millions of words, drink in billions of images.  
How-to's, advice, discussion, dreams.  And then it comes into focus through the lens of a remembered moment. 

A thousand years ago (o.k., 12) in my freshman year at college, I took a fencing class.  It was taught by a short, brown-haired Frenchman with a sharp featured face and a lightning quick attack.  I believe Alex Beguinet was his name. 

Alex strode up and down the row of co-ed students inspecting our en garde form.  We, clad in our sorry 3rd hand fencing jackets and pants, were trying to emulate the position that came so easily to him.  Foil forward slightly inclined, front foot pointed straight, rear foot at 90 degree angle to front foot, both knees slightly bent, left upper arm back and parallel to the floor, left forearm up with hand dangling loosely on a relaxed wrist.  Classic form.  Are we comfy yet? 

Man, did we look doofy. 

It takes some getting used to.  But every element of the form has a reason.  As the maitre d'armes demonstrated.  En garde  *blink*  foil point bent against your chest. 

I'm concentrating where this thing goes and where that moves and how the foil arm extends and to make sure and launch off of the rear foot ... and it's all too much and the attack has the ferocity and speed of a Heinz Ketchup pour. 

No, no, Alex told us.  He had a very strong accent which made it difficult to understand him.  His favorite adverb was "basically" (it came out BOZ-ig-lee) and he repeated it often.  The words weren't conveying it.  Finally "watch thees". 

He assumed the form as easily as you put on a smile.  "Like thees" as he flexed his knees slightly to show the ease and readiness one must feel.  He then tensed the muscles in his arms and legs.  "Not thees.  I cannot attack from here."  Tension-release-attack.  "Too slow."  Then en garde-attack.  "Will always be faster." 

Fwam!  Oui. 

How tightly should one grip the foil?  Just enough to hold on to it -- no more.  We stood in line en garde.  With a playful look on his face he would randomly take a wack at your foil.  And it might just go clattering to the floor.  Not quite tight enough.  Later in drills he might spot a corded wrist and a leaden forearm.  Too tight. 
 

Too often lately I find myself gripping my life in a clench that's doing me no favors.  From a hard night of multiple baby wake-ups (that's one baby multiple times, not multiple babies), changing the diapers, getting the little ones off to school, fighting my way through the commute, combat at work, trying to make the income and expenses balance, battling back home for a bit of time with the little guys before putting them to bed, wondering how many hundreds of thousands of dollars it's going to take to get them through college and praying I can figure out a way that they won't have to start off with a ton of debt like Cathy and I did.  Whoa!  Evil self-feeding clench-a-rama. 

Look around.  We are a nation of clenchers.  It's not that we aren't under attack.  We live in a time where no one's job is truly secure, where debt racks up geometrically, house-buying is out of reach for the young, Social Security is a reverse pyramid scheme and a whole lotta people want you to own their worries, their tension, their fears. 

But that extra squeeze doesn't make us any kinder, any happier, any more wise.  Far from losing our hold, we end up with nothing but defense against getting the blade knocked out of our hand.  That ain't fencing and that ain't living. 

That balanced place is harder than ever to find.  It moves.  But I keep trying until I find it and then lose it again.  I figure the fact that I feel the squeeze is a sign I'm not numb.  When it comes right down to it, there is only so much you can do.  And everything after that goes right into that clench. 
 

Still looking for the right grip, 

 -Christopher  

p.s.  Step in a little closer to the fire and let me see you.  (I'm very good on the return e-mails all you shy people.  :-) 

p.p.s.  A belated Happy Birthday to my fellow Spawn of '64, the goddess who walks among us, Maria Mckee

p.p.p.s.  If you swing by about every 7-10 days, I'll bake up something new for you.  New in Stupid:  Crotch Rocket
 

 
       
 

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previously on days of naze:  
 
interview with a madman   
an introduction  
 launch 

what have you done for me lately?  

Getting Stupid with  horsepower .

May you never be more active than   
when you are doing nothing.   

-Cato

in the feedbag:

  
film:  Something About Mary (featuring  Jonathan Richman ) 


CD  Maria McKee - Live at the Bayou 

Mourning the loss of Rob's site 

Vanity Fair:  Steven Glass fabricating stories

     

   stupid    strung out   naze   brush   soul food 

     

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