Tuesday, January 16, 2007

David Rix

Yesterday I found out that Professor David Rix had died recently. David had been a long time Baltimore area martial arts instructor and president of the Defender's Club, among others. He was the founder of Rix's American Chin Na Kung Fu. I had the honor of studying under him for a couple years in the mid 1990's. It was from him that I learned my knife and gun defense techniques and also how to use a Kubotan.

Rix was a great guy. I loved hearing his story of how he came to martial arts. As a member of the Red Shield Boys Club when he was a bad-ass kid from St. Helena, he wandered in and out of the organization, generally raising hell. One time there he came across a martial arts training program and decided to take the instructor, an elderly asian man, to task. Not getting the response he wanted, David pulled out a knife and attacked the guy. The next thing he knew, David was fond of saying, was that he was on his back with his knife still in his hand but pushed up against his throat. The instructor quietly said to him - you have poor technique.

I first met Rix while running a program for disabled students at Dundalk Community College. We wanted to offer self-defense to the students and, I forget now how, heard about him. We hired him as adjunct faculty; the students loved him and, as a Shotokan brown belt, I started studying with him occasionally. After becoming a black belt myself, I became more involved with his organization, although always peripherally.

David used to describe himself as an Irish Leprechaun. He wasn't very tall but had a barrel chest and was obviously very strong. He had a self-deprecating sense of humor but was also a prankster. One story I always liked was how he would take his new black belts up to this bar in St. Helena.

The regulars at the bar were told by Rix, well ahead of time, to "mix it up" with the guys that Rix would bring in. Rix would tell the new black belts that he was taking them out for a celebratory drink but of course wouldn't tell them what was really going to happen. Once at the bar the regulars would pick a fight. Rix would then sit back and watch, careful to not let anyone on either side get seriously hurt, and see how the newbie's handled themselves in a "real" situation.

I used to go over to Joann's house, before they were married, and attend weeknight sessions on the technique, philosophy and spirit of martial arts. I remember him explaining about how to make a turn at a blind corner; how to see in the dark; how to tell an experienced knife fighter and how to properly hold a knife; about mind control. Sometimes the sessions would get into metaphysical topics. He was a wealth of information and was well on his way, I thought, to becoming a spiritual being.

David Rix was, in his younger years, a guy to be feared. In his older years, a man to be admired and respected. I will always be grateful for what he taught me, both as a martial artist and as a person.

One of the last times I saw David was at a dinner affair he put together. David was tired of all the factionalism within martial arts and wanted to bring all the different types of styles together, at least for one night. It was, I recall now, a very powerful evening. Assembled were the practitioners from all of the different types of martial arts in the area, giving our respect to David Rix and also to each other. Everyone put aside their egos for the night. David remarked, as each of us practitioners and our styles were introduced, how happy he was that all these different martial arts could be together in one room and how we all just needed to learn to get along with each other. I guess that was probably around the year 2000, maybe before.

It was then, I guess, maybe a little after, that I last spoke with David Rix. What he taught me, what I remember about him, will stay with me for the rest of my life. He was an individual who, like him or not, would leave a lasting impression. He was the kind of person you only meet once in a lifetime. I'm forever grateful I did.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Ravens Go To Roost

It was a very disappointing loss on Saturday, the Ravens losing to Indianapolis. I guess we have to take it philosophically. I've been trying to think that instead of just wanting a win to advance in the playoffs, I wanted revenge for having been left, abandoned, 24 years ago. Maybe if there wasn't so much left over emotional baggage tied up with the game, it would have turned out differently. Truly, I think, it is now time to let it go.

I believe the Ravens will be a contender again next year. But, probably so will the Colts. We now have to consider them as just another team, not as an ex-lover who jilted us. We just can't care anymore. However, I do hope they don't get past New England next week. Then, I think, starting next season I won't care anymore. Every team deserves a shot at winning the Stupid Bowl, just not Indianapolis this year.

I'm rooting for New England to go the rest of the way. Since I live up here in the area, I have to throw my allegiance with the Patriots. Their win over San Diego was stunning, the stuff of story books. Brady reminded me of Johnny Unitas to Raymond Berry for one more pull-it-out-at-the-last-moment victory. And, especially since the Patriots play the Colts next week for the AFC Championship game, I want the Patriots to stick it to them.

To be honest, now that the Ravens aren't in it anymore, I really don't care who wins - as long as it isn't Indianapolis. However, I'm starting to believe that if I continue harboring this resentment it may come back to bite me. So, like the rest of the love's lost history closeted away in my heart, I have to let it go. Whoever wins, wins.

It is true that when relationships break up, someone gets stuck while the other one moves on, having grown as a result. If the fans of Baltimore remain in that jilted mode, it will only serve to cause continued heartache and pain, a festering that will cause a cancer to grow instead of a needed healing to occur.

Maybe the Colts do need to win the whole thing so that we can really get our noses rubbed in it and give up the ghost just to be able to finally get it over with. Sort of like seeing the ex-lover get re-married and have found true happiness. While you don't like it, you have to, if begrudgingly, acknowledge their happiness and close the book on your own feelings and sense of loss. It's not worth staying angry forever.

So, while I left Baltimore but know Baltimore will never leave me, I have to move on. Things, no matter how much we may want them to, don't remain the same. Go Pats.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Baltimore Colts Forever

I've been reading the Baltimore Sun this past week about the upcoming Ravens-Indianapolis game. And, you know, I hope the Ravens really stick it to them.

I guess I'm one of those "older folks who can't let it go." It galls me that the legacy of the Baltimore Colts is in Indianapolis. None of it belongs there, it belongs in Baltimore, the city on the harbor at the base of the Piedmont Plateau, where I grew up and lived for almost all but the last two years of my life.

When the Cleveland team became the Baltimore Ravens, I was glad that the Browns' name, memorabilia and history stayed in Cleveland, as it should. When Irsay stole the Colts, and took all their stuff with him, I was heart broken. To be honest, I lost interest in football altogether until the Ravens' Super Bowl season.

What really got me most was the callousness of the NFL to have let it happen and then to snub Charm City for over a decade. We finally got another team - but had to get it from another city. And that city was able to get another franchise in what, 2 years?

Growing up, I can remember going out to Friendship Airport to watch the team get off the plane. I faithfully watched Colts Corral on TV. In 1957-58, as a member of the Baltimore City Eastern Police Boys Club football team, I was able to attend every Colts home game. We sat on the field, leaning against the rolled-up tarps. I never missed an away game, watching it on TV.

In 1958, we played a Baltimore County team for the 120 lb. league city-county championship, which we won, during an extended half-time of a Colts game. It was an incredible feeling to be playing football on the same field, breathing the same air, being with all the fans that, like us, so identified with the Colts. After the game, I walked off the field shaking hands with Gino Marchetti, Artie Donovan and the others. Big Jim Parker, Lenny Moore, Jim Mutscheller, Raymond Berry, Johnny Unitas, these guys were all bigger than life to us 11 year old inner city boys playing on our field of dreams.

Today, every time I see those horseshoe(d) helmets and the blue and white uniforms I am transported back to those days and it's hard to suppress the memories and root against them. But, they're not "my" Colts anymore. I can't identify with them. And, I hope they never win a Super Bowl.

You can call it sour grapes. You can call it a chip on the shoulder, an inferiority complex, whatever you like. A part of me, my innocence of youth (even though I was in my mid 30's), was taken from me when the Baltimore Colts left town. So, to the detractors, to those who say - get over it, I say: Suck eggs.

Go Ravens!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

It's a New Year

I rang in the new year this year in an entirely different way than ever before. Most years I'd sat in front of the tv, watching, through sleepy eyes, the ball drop. When the kids were smaller, we all went to a neighbor's and celebrated new year's, banging pots and pans and generally making a lot of noise.

This year, Julie and I went to the Back Bay Gala - the Baby Boomers's Ball at the Colonnade Hotel. We decided to spend the night at the hotel, as well, to avoid the post-midnight drunken traffic. We were even able to bring the dog, although she wasn't able to attend the event - but we still got her in!

The event was black tie optional so I wore a suit and Julie had on a floor length gown. Some of the guys wore tux' and there were a lot of backless gowns on the women.

We checked in to the hotel around 3:30 p.m. Since the hotel is right near Copley Square, we walked over there to see the ice sculptures. Then, we walked over to the Boston Common. In the Common, instead of the traditional ice sculptures, there were "shrink-wrapped" sculptures. I guess, since the weather has been unseasonably warm, the artists/city/organizers decided that melting ice sculptures wouldn't be too exciting. There were a number of "sculptures" that were made of wire framing shrink-wrapped with plastic. It was kind of bizarre, but practical, I guess.

Afterwards, we took the dog back to the room and headed over to a sports bar just up the street from the hotel to get something to eat - and also so I could watch the Ravens football game. Go Ravens!

The Gala started, for us, at 8:30 p.m. We changed into our formal wear, made sure the dog was fed, watered and relieved, and headed on down to the Gala.

For the first hour it was open bar so we each had a couple glasses of wine and ate the hors d'oeurves that were brought around by the wait staff. Since we didn't know anybody there, Julie had us sidle up to a couple also standing alone and we all became friends. They were from Western Connecticut and so were also spending the night. The four of us sat together for the evening, grabbing what seemed to be the last table for four.

At 9:30 p.m. the music started. The featured band, the Love Dogs, were one of our favorite bands to dance to on Friday nights, which was one of the reasons we decided to go to the event in the first place. The first few of their songs were east coast swing dance numbers, including a cha cha thrown in; we were out on the very crowded dance floor doing our thing. After a while, the band went into playing music from the 60's, 70's and 80's, and, as we don't freestyle dance, that was pretty much it for us on the dance floor.

In addition to the small but crowded dance floor, it got hot in the room filled with about 500 people. We sat back and people-watched. Someone told us that in the crowd was a Nobel prize winner; he was described to us but we never did see him. As we sat there, too noisy to have any kind of conversation, I started looking around and came to realize that the scene reminded me exactly of my high school reunions. The more I looked around and thought about it, the more I was reminded of that.

We left around 11:30 p.m. - too hot, too crowded, too noisy, and went up to our room to get the dog out for a minute. We walked around a park located about a block away and got back to the Gala just before midnight. And, just like that, the three of us went in for the count down to 2007.

While Dixie had adjusted admirably to the elevator and being in the room - she really liked looking out of the window of our 11th floor room, she didn't care for the horns, poppers and people yelling in the new year. Even though folks came up to pet her, her tail stayed between her legs until we got back to the lobby.

In the morning we had breakfast in Brasserie Jo's. While eating, we watched the rain coming down.

A little earlier, while walking Dixie, I reflected that the rain seemed to be washing away the previous year, its cleansing bringing in the next. I wondered just what it would bring.