I was walking down the sidewalk, after an early supper, heading from the restaurant to my apartment. Something was nagging me, like the feeling I get when I forget my house keys even though I'm not quite clear that I forgot them yet, or when a friend comes up along side me quietly on the sidewalk unnanounced so as to surprise me. I could sense something was there, but didn't know what it was I was sensing.
Oh. I was happy. Or, more precisely, utterly overjoyed.
It has been a great week. Business is flowing: after running around for all of 2007, pursuing leads, being the great me architecture super smart person please hire me, some big projects are finally breaking my way. In a week. One big, effortless, ebullient, cash-flowing week. Making money is a fun game for me, for sure, almost as much fun as I get from hard-nails negotiations for my project fee. But nothing compares to the pleasure, the big juicy break-open pleasure, of having projects which test my abilities, projects that I created by being who I am and telling everyone about it. The absence of challenging work is the most complete type of failure.
I designed in architectural model, freestyle, for the first time since beginning my own architectural practice. I threw away analytical drawing for the first time in a long time and just cut straight to creating interesting roof profiles. The plans almost completed themselves at that point, flowing from a quick pen in the last half hour of my time in the office friday.
I am getting even closer to someone I feel deep affection for, even though we do not live close to each other. Sometimes I think ok he's done, he's losing interest and going somewhere else and that's disappointing but totally okay like I did this week. I ask him about it point blank, and we go directly into a deep conversation about our wants, our mutual affection, our frustrations, our schedule, our obstacles, and so on. The words flow, simply because we can talk about anything, and be okay with anything the other has to say. If there is ever a reason for love, this is it for me. I can have a meltdown and he'll just say "don't apologize...we should be able to be ourselves with each other." There is no arduous negotiations of limits, no manipulation, no argument, no analysis: all these bits handle themselves when we are being Great with one another. At the end of the conversation, I am left feeling even more connected than I did before we began talking.
And, after a week of feeling like I'd never stepped foot on a BJJ mat, where even the most rudimentary moves eluded my body, I had a wonderful saturday rolling class where I worked with two very helpful blue belts and one of my teachers. One of the blues was particularly great with me: he broke down this simple move that I cannot get the hang of, but did so by adding some bits that were missing for me, some ways of approaching the move that were about flowing with it. He made me do it over, and over, and over, and over, and over until I got it right. Then I had to practice it right a dozen times. He showed me a second move that I did not know, but which I will be using every time I roll. He and I rolled and I made a stupid mistake once when he had me in side control: he submitted me with an easy arm bar. We rolled again: I did it again: he submitted me the same way. "I'm going to submit you like this for as long as you make this mistake." He didn't stop rolling with me until I did it right a few times. After that I started to think on my back; I did some other basic moves correctly; I successfully executed an escape from arm bar twice that my teacher had shown me three weeks in a row. The saturday training was freestyle; it was a lightly moderated class where we rolled and taught each other essential moves. To say it was without structure is to misunderstand it. The structure was hidden, incidental, ancillary, so the guts of it could just spill out.
He wanted to dream a man; he wanted to dream him in minute
entirety and impose him on reality. This magic project had exhausted the entire
expanse of his mind; if someone had asked him his name or to relate some event
of his former life, he would not have been able to give an answer...
...He was seeking a soul worthy of participating in the universe.
Jorge Luis Borges
The Circular Ruins
Quit your job, dear
Then you can stay here at home beside me
You be James Dean, I'll be Sal Mineo
You can hide me
How beautiful you are tonight
Just like a movie star
I could feel it coming for weeks: another submission. The last week and a half I've been focusing on attacks, initiating attacks, executing attacks, controlling my opponents while in attack positions. Did I mention attacks?
As much as I secretly wanted another submission, I always was able to put that thought away when I rolled. The submission will come, like sleep, or like getting rid of hiccups, when I'm not thinking about it, and the the conditions I've set start to click.
But it still rocks. I submitted a blue belt with an Americana lock from half guard!
But I was all cool with it, didn't mention it at class. Just as anticipating it while rolling would fail to bring it, celebrating it while rolling fails to allow me to learn from it. Besides, I've got a lot to learn. Another blue belt I rolled with submitted me like 6 times in a three minute rolling session. Of course, I learned a really good sweep from him that allowed me to get in position to submit the other one ten minutes later. Each submission is followed by another submission, and another, and another. Sometimes I'll be the one tapping, sometimes others will tap. It's all part of the learning.
I came into it in the middle, like I always do. Things around me shifted a little, and there I was, fighting in an octagon, in my first MMA fight. Instead of getting my bearings, my head was in game mode. I saw his legs open and dove in for a takedown. He hit me in the head on the way to his knees, but he went down all the same. I put an elbow in his midsection, mounted him, and locked my forearms around his neck, one in front, one in back. I squeezed. He tapped.
There was some dispute that I'd used an illegal choke. For a moment I was worried that I'd done something wrong, but the ref quickly ruled that the choke was legal. I had won.
After my arm had been raised by the ref, I was told that the prize for this fight was $300,000, and that I would be receiving it in installments of $10,000 a month, if I would only sign a form.
Wow, $10,000 a month! What a windfall!
Elated, I went into the bathroom, naked. The shower was waiting for me, and so I turned on the tap and let it wash over me. I threw my head back: a good shower is better than good sex. Ahhh.
And at that particular moment, my alarm rang.
Monday I established that I dated men for the first time to one of my schoolmates. Like many situations with my business, at school there isn't really an opportunity or reason to discuss personal matters of any sort: we have things to do. Being gay is not hidden; it's simply irrelevant to the present activities. And so it was like this at my dojo.
A little background: a friend who recommended this school to me had advised me to establish that I'm there to work hard and get good before establishing being gay, say after a period of six months. People would probably be cool with it anyway, he said, but there might be one or two who weren't, and my little period of silence would at least enable me to learn to defend myself. I thought he was overconcerned about the whole thing, because only once in my time of being out did I see my physical safety contingent on being not-out, but I chose to take his advice anyway on the off chance that there was someone who wasn't cool. My experiences from the school from day one made my friend's advice seem overprotective: the guys and gals at the school all seem very friendly, and they're there to be part of a community of people learning. In short, comrades.
But the simple fact is that no opportunity to be out (was I not-out?) has simply presented itself. I sometimes chat with guys on the sidewalk on the way to the subway, but rarely is the conversation about anything except BJJ. Monday, however, I had a different conversation. I walked into the building lobby, and the first guy I ever met at the school was there, after being out of the country for a month. He and I started training exactly the same day, and were the only new guys that day. We caught up as the elevator made its way to us. It opened, we entered. We were busily chatting away as a person we had entered with got off on a lower floor. More chatting, BJJ the topic. Then, the elevator stopped. Pause. Door didn't open, even after the pause-after-the-pause this elevator does. Look at the indicator. It had stopped on a floor below the floor we wished to get to. The elevator was stuck, we called for service with the emergency elevator phone, and waited. We were both pissed we were going to be late for practice.
The conversation started to drift away from BJJ. He had been overseas. We talked about overseas travel. I mentioned Japan, he asked me why I had gone. I told him for vacation. He asked me where I stayed, being that Japan is very expensive. I paused a little bit, and realized that OMG I totally wasn't out at school. I was trapped...in an elevator! Wow that was a lot funnier before I wrote it down. Moving along, a lot of considerations flooded me at once, but I just let them all fly by and stuck with my gut: I can't live with myself for a second if I outright lie about this sort of thing. And so I told him that my BF at the time was there for business, so I had a great hotel to stay in. He looked a little surprised, and then the conversation continued. Duh.
One of my coaches years ago said this to me, about anything I had difficulty saying to someone: if you're weird about it, they're weird about it.
Those who know me know exactly how very much of my life I leave out of this writing. It has never been and will never be a diaristic account of what happens to me. It is more an account of someone who sees a writer like Proust as always writing a diary. Writing the diary, composing the life. The question of whether it is fictional or real is simply an irrelevent question.
Yet unlike Proust I have no desire to piss off my friends, piss off acquaintances and coaches and strangers, or have real life stalkers running around. And so I leave out names and locations of people I write about routinely. I leave out as much personal detail as possible to avoid getting mail and visits from strangers (which is silly if you know how to look stuff up, but it's something). I leave out details of my loves (what I have to say about that here revolves only around how it affects the rest of my life; if I want to explore my feelings I talk to friends, therapist, and my loves). And, of course, I leave out everything that happens with those friends of mine who are known and recognized wherever we go, to preserve what little privacy they have left in their lives.
Yesterday I worked out with a new friend of mine, someone who is well known to those who look on the interweb for pictures of muscular, nude, hairy men. He was visiting NYC and out of the blue asked me if I wanted to work out with him and his boyfriend. I accepted (duh, he's hot!), and there we were, at my gym, pushing heavy weights. He's approximately 1.45 times my weight, and about six inches taller. And stacked. And a serious weightlifter, so he could actually pull alot of weight. My own powerlifting workouts have gone to zero, so he was easily lifting double what I could handle. Which made the sight of him deadlifting four plates for eight reps something to behold (I could only get two reps out of three plates, nine reps out of two plates). He gave me lots of tips to improve my weightlifting form on a few exercises that don't seem to have as much effect as I would like. He spotted me when I needed it, and I him. He was flirting too, but in that subtle way that is about getting each other pre-aroused because you're with someone who shares your interests in bodily growth.
At the gym, he had admirers. Some who would just talk and talk, and fail to introduce themselves to me and his BF. He was gracious to all, but like many I have observed in this situation, would freely and politely chat about absolutely nothing to the strangers, and then turn and have thoughtful and focused conversation with his friends. I found the admiration annoying after a time; first because of the strange habit of not acknowledging anyone else except my well-known friend (both his BF and I never got a hello even though we were right next to him), second because of the lack of acknowledgement that we were engaged in the activity of lifting weights (meaning we're on a strict rest period, yo). Third, of course, is because of simple jealousy; I want him to myself! Yet my friend was incredibly patient. Or to me it was patience. For him it appeared as if he was simply enjoying the attention, and was able to be friendly with everyone even if they were interrupting us. For me, there is a limit. Everyone gets their turn, I give everyone that, but I also reach a point where I feel like unless I really want to develop a friendship with the person, I am done chatting about the weather and how much their knee hurts and want to get on with what I was up to. I'm not nice like that.
Fortunately the gym was very slow, and we kept our timetable and didn't have to blab too much. I kept kidding him about the attention, about how much he liked it. He was sheepish about it for a moment, and then just said "hell yeah I like it".
We had dinner, then went to a nearby bar for drinks. At the bar no one approched us. I chose it because it wasn't too loungey, and was also a crowd that had the least chance of recognizing him, so we would be free to just chill in a corner. And that's what happened. The three of us had a nice long chat, cementing my impression from the gym that they're both good eggs. It was as I left their warm presence that I realized that what is missing from my self is that deeply patient reserve of politeness toward those who wish to chat me up for a long time, regardless of what I am up to.