Sunday, December 29, 2013

Notes from my 21st trip

Living a life that's a lie. I have no idea what that feels like.

Sometimes we should give into impulse, because maybe it's not emotional, maybe it's the one time something was brave enough to break thru, even if only for a short while.

It really doesn't matter what kind of work you do, just whatever you choose, take it seriously. Show it respect.

I'm wrong about people, all the time, but if I don't like you, for a prolonged period, there's a reason. And it's not personal, I'm not that petty, at the end of the day.

A photographer is responsible for catching those moment, and the entire time, you're trying to control the light. Think about that. A photographer is a master of light.

We write out own fate, and the entire storyline is dependent on how we treat other people along the way.

Usually the things that we feel uncomfortable doing, 

are the things we're most proud of.

I just love the fact that there is this slightly obese woman sitting across from me w/ a T-shirt w/ the words "New York City" embroidered in gold letters. 

Everyone in my life makes sense now. They were all part of the departure, wishing me a safe journey.

Fighting is a strange space to experience. It is a place where the ego does not exist.

If someone were to ask me what my relationship w/ Flora is like I would say that it is like we are constantly trading, and it is always fair.

H'rina, I would say that you're like my twin sister. Artemis and Apollo.

It was really an honor to meet Loïc Wacquant. I would say of all his accomplishments, he is a fighter at the heart of it all.

You know why I loved you Desireé? It's because you're one of the most honest people I know.

Temptation is a really pretty bridge to look at, but it should never be crossed.

Respect comes before love.

Regardless of whether or not I liked my Fulbright cohort, I respected them all.

A gentleman always redeems himself.

Dismantling a pen is much like dismantling a gun. Now I understand how people can be so obsessive w/ cleaning their rifle. It is an act of care, to clean something or someone, and you're caring for its life, because it has probably saved yours, in all sense of the phrase.

True storytelling happens when all motivation of the ego disappear. Now you begin the work, the act of telling a story.

I've been learning how to draw and sheath a sword of the past couple of months. It's strangely similar to wielding a pen.

I love my samurai sword class. It's the only place you can yell in Japanese while swinging a 2ft sword. That shit is great.

Don't ever fuck w/ a wolf. They're always in training.

I'm really excited for the person you become, Flora. I'm along for the ride as long as you let me stay on.

First you have to decide if you trust your coach. After that's settled, you do everything that person says, no questions.

Sometimes it's good to hear anew, a joke that you once received before.

You should go thru your past work, see the person you once were, and ask yourself if you are paying it the proper respects.

My return to Seattle feels more like a task than a trip. But I realize, it is a journey to give thanks, to all those who saved my life.

Confronting someone to their face w/ the truth is like moving a critical chess piece next to an enemy pawn. It's like you're saying to them, "I am so close to you, but you cannot do anything. I am not afraid of you."

Yo, I almost died in Brazil. Twice. In the same day. That's some crazy shit when I think about it. But it's like my boy George said, "It wasn't a good trip unless you almost died." 

If I lose Flora, I will become reckless w/ my life. I can feel it. At least w/ where I'm at with it, at the moment.

Rabble rousers, the ones that know how to deliver speeches, you gotta watch those ones closely.

A truly good show will lead you along the way logically, then flash a question in your mind that is: "Wait, what's going on now?"

Now I understand why some people in my life wanted me to stay, even if they never said it.

When you are on the receiving end of a benefit from something you know is unfair, it doesn't seem so unfair now, does it?

I am training all the time we are apart, Flora, preparing for the moments we share together.

Right or wrong, Mikey always got your back, like a true friend does.

The way I feel when I miss Flora can be summed up like this: It is like the longing a wolf has for the return of the moon.

I'm sorry Marcella, but "Another Earth" was a really shitty movie. I had to stop it in the middle, and I eat a lot of shit.

Of course I'd be covered in tattoos. I'm exactly like that type of guy.

It's funny how I go to my 15 yr old cousin, for writing advice.

It's the humanity, that you're trying to touch. That is all art is about.

When you are writing a story about someone, they become part of your life.

It is when a man falls in the arms of his woman, because that is the safest place in the world.

I've tried temptation before. It doesn't taste all that good.

It's when the old man picks himself up from the nap and says to his legs, "C'mon motherfuckers, you still got some life to spend." 

You are a really classy white woman, Desireé. The exact opposite of what I am, at least image wise. Maybe it wasn't meant to be forever, but I did need to know what it was like to love someone like that.

I think Flora expected something like "Eagle" or Falcon" when she asked of my favorite bird. I'll never forget the look on her face when I said, "Pigeon".

Now I understand why I always choose to fight as the tough warrior girl in those arcade games. It's that type of person I'm looking to marry.

Sometimes you're caught between two separate set of rules, and it's then you don't know the difference between right and wrong.

Sandra, you're willing to trade blows w/ me. I respect that.

Thank you, Flora, for protecting my feelings.

That's the thing about people who don't understand serious, loving relationships. It isn't that your days of adventuring are over, on the contrary: you are about to go on the greatest adventure of your life.

When Desireé told me she loved me, I told her that I was moving to Brazil. I don't think I could have chosen a worse moment.

People come and go throughout your life. It's the ones you hold onto, that matter.

Teachers who know they want to be teachers, not because everything else was "too hard", are my heroes. They have assumed the responsibility of the hardest job in the world.

Forgive me at times, Flora. I am still very much a child.

Think it's about time I accept my parent's Facebook friend request.

It is apparent to me that you have arrive to that unfortunate place where you value people as assets to your company, rather than human beings. I feel very, very sorry for you.

Flora isn't scared of many things. I like that about her.

This is going to sound bad, but I really started writing by trying to pick up girls in AOL Chatrooms. A/S/L?

You know the difference between me + you? I know what the devil looks like. You? You're still a coward. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Lunch with Michel

It’s been a while since I’ve written about my ongoing relationship with my sparring partner, Michel, but for the most part, nothing much has changed. He’s still training at Fight for Peace, still winning tournaments (mostly by knockout), still on that very long journey to becoming a fighter. Since I last wrote, he was pretty much beating me up every time we met, and while that for the most part remains true, we now contest on more even grounds, or at the very least, I’m able to go a full 3-4 rounds during a sparring session and stay on my feet. But a few weeks ago we met under calmer circumstances, a time where two people get together and share another aspect of life as friends. It all started when I asked if I could see where he lives.

To recap, Michel is from Cameron, and in all senses of the expression, dropped everything to come to Brazil to pursue a boxing career. I remember when I asked Luke about Michel’s story, he kinda chuckled and said, “I dunno, that guy just fucking showed up one day and never left.” 

Michel lives in Jardim America, a neighborhood about 30-mins north of the gym, and while it is still in Zona Norte, it is not a favela, which means it escapes many of the complications that the drug trade brings to Brazilian shantytowns. We catch a bus at the entrance of Passerla 9, outside the supermarket where I usually get off to go into work. On the bus I go through the basic conversational motions that I have with fighters: When’s your next fight? How’s your weight? Do you have any injuries?  Once the pugilistic pleasantries are over, we stand and watch the street pass through the windows in silence. To break it, I ask a general question about his life.

He goes right into his relationship with Mara, another fighter at Fight for Peace who trains between boxing and Muay-Thai kickboxing. One time I remember watching him show her a proper left hook on the punching bag, and the amount of care laced onto his face has never left my mind.

He told me that they had broken up in the recent days. According to him it’s because he has no money, but when he explains the specifics, to me, it’s more that she wants to live a life typical to a 23 year old, one that allows the occasional drink with friends, nights out dancing, things that boxers are generally restricted from. At the same time, I see Michel’s point. Many of these things are financial challenges, especially for a someone who came to a new country with absolutely nothing and is living in a place that has virtually no industry for boxing. And though they both compete in combat sports, Mara sees it as more of a phase in her life, or at the very least, she isn’t as sure about it as a career as Michel is. Given the lack of demand for boxing in Brazil, and even greater lack of women fighters, one can’t really blame her. 

But for Michel this is his life, the one chance he took to pursue a dream ever since that first moment his father told him fables about Mike Tyson, and that thought of becoming a boxer entered his consciousness. In some ways, he knew what he was signing up for, perhaps not the exact specifics of the job, but this was just one part of the sacrifice.

“I don’t mind being hit by punches,” he tells me on the bus, “but when your heart hurts, that’s a different pain.” He eeks a grim smirk and clenches his chest in dramatic fashion. 

I try to tell him that I’ve lost nearly every romantic relationship I’ve ever had for the sport of boxing, not in the sense of pursuing a career as a boxer, but to be here, doing this project, yeah. I’ve lost a few. 

But I tell him that one day someone will appear and they’ll understand his life, and their life will somehow be going in a compatible direction. As long as you keep on the path of being a good person, I tell him, fate will take care of you. I realize that part of me is just saying that to convince myself. 

There is a glimpse of hope in his eyes when he looks at me, but at this point my words don’t do much good. They don’t fix the situation all that much, just maybe carry him on a bit further through the next step. He glances down at the floor to think about my words and probably about his life. When his eyes return to mine, he finally says, “Being a fighter, is hard.” 

I nod in return.

We finally arrive to our stop outside of large green and yellow building with the word “Coco Verde” painted in red letters. It looks like some kind of large manufacturing warehouse.

“This is where I live,” he tells me. 

“Here?!” I respond. 

“Yes, here,” he repeats.

“Wait. Here?!” I say again.

“Coco Verde” is a factory that makes decorative landscaping pieces from the left-overs of coconuts, things like flower pots and lawn ornaments, and Michel lives here. We enter the building and there are huge piles of brown boxes stacked throughout the factory. I have no idea what’s in those boxes, but they’re maybe large enough to hold kitchen appliances or living-room furniture. Michel leads be into the back and opens a flimsy aluminum door to a basic room tiled with linoleum. I take off my shoes at the entrance and pass a small bathroom into the main room where a long dark-brown table sits covered with his belongings. Shoe boxes, clothes, title belts and magazines are spread across the dark oak. A rocking chair, and a small 12-inch television finish off the living room and behind it is a kitchen equipped with a refrigerator, standard sink and a microwave. Michel digs into the fridge and pulls out a banana, then asks if I’d like one. I politely decline. When I ask him where he sleeps, he pulls out a twin mattress from being the refrigerator, drags it out into the living room, and plops it down on the floor. 

“Home,” he smiles and sits back onto his rocking chair. 

Michel doesn’t pay any rent, the owner of this “Coco Verde” happens to be a fan of boxing and on a chance encounter met Michel and told him he had a spare room at his factory. Additionally, he pays Michel $R300 a month for boxing lessons. With the income he earns from Fight for Peace, that puts him at about $R1000 a month, a little less than $500 USD. A tight budget for someone living in Rio, even in the North Zone.

To help further curb the costs, the owner, a French transplant originally from Algeria, also gives Michel one free meal a day, but on a day such as this when he is with guest, he calls to let him know that he won’t be eating at the main office. We go to the local pay-per-kilo restaurant across the street instead. 

The prices there are better than that in most parts of the city, about $R6 for as much as you can pile onto one plate. I gather a healthy serving of vegetables, pasta and beans, Michel taking far less due to making weight for his next fight. Our conversation during lunch is pretty basic. I ask him about his future plans in boxing and in Brazil. He tells me he’s going to train here for another 2 years in the amateurs, than maybe relocate to where professional boxing has more of a demand. I asked him why out of all the gyms in Rio, he chose Fight for Peace when it is located in one of more dangerous areas of the city. He told me that it was the best in the city, that they win all the tournaments. I ask Michel if he’s beaten everyone in his weight class. He smiles and nods, “Almost.” At a record of 49 wins to only 7 losses, it doesn’t surprise me.  

We get up to pay for our meal and I’m fully prepared to treat Michel for showing me a bit of his life. I pull out my wallet and unroll a multicolored fan of Brazilian currency, but before I can do anything, I see Michel pulling out his own. A lone $R20 bill sits in the pocket and he hands it over to the cashier. With his hand he makes a peace sign, signaling for two. I stand uneasily and do this nervous gulp, trying to explain to Michel that I’d gladly pay for him, or at the very least, pay for my own meal. Michel simply looks at me and smiles.

“Ah Nick, but you are a guest in my neighborhood," he says, "I must pay for you. It is custom.” 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Notes from my 20th trip (ya-da)

You know why I love you, Flora? It's because you make me understand every single part of the word, "Adventure".

It's when you connect w/ the beast of a person, do the lies disappear.

The U.S. is like this really strange robot. Brazil is more like a human being. 

A second grade classroom is probably one of the most fascinating places on earth.

Rachel, sometimes I wonder what goes thru your head.

Sitting spots in parks, just think about how many ideas passed thru there.

Flora's pretty much the One. Mostly because she's the only one I've met so far that I think could put up w/ all my crazy bullshit.

My poor plants. But at the same time, they should know that only fighters survive where I live. 

Pretty much any time I acted like an arrogant prick, it's wound up biting me in the ass. It feels like I kicked myself in the face.

Barmen/women probably hear some of the most fucked up stories.

I'm the kind of person who is disgusted w/ people who have no manners.

If you really love someone, you have to especially love who they are when you are not in their lives.

A true warrior will mourn every life they have ever taken, and at the end of theirs, they will only look for a kind death, just as they were to so many others.

I'll pretty much fuck up anyone that tries to get at Flora. I think she'd be cool w/ it, at least she told me that she would have shot an arrow in the head of a girl that once looked my way, only she didn't have a bow.

Boxers sacrifice their bodies in an attempt to write history.

People who know like EVERYTHING about consumer electronics must live a ridiculous existence.

I'm a writer. I should fucking write more, but I'm too busy watching Japanese anime.

So all the stereotypes Brazilians have about Asian people, yeah. I've pretty much lived up to nearly all of them.

If people met my girlfriend, they'd like her. She's dope as fuck.

Randy Ai, you are one of the craziest fucks I've ever met.

I know too much technology is a bad thing, but when I think about how many friendships Facebook have saved, it's not so bad.

We all have a higher form of ourselves. Sometimes it pains me when I see people in the midst of that battle of finding it.

What if I turned out to be hella RACIST? That would probably surprise some people.

Brazil is like a different planet, and I don't mean that in a first-world privileged alienating sort of way, but seriously. This place is fucking nuts. 
(I think I found home).

This is our sole purpose on this earth, to help other people. When you see someone hurt, on the ground, you help pick them up, you don't step on them and rifle through their pockets. How you react in moments like this, defines who you are as a human being.

Fuck. That's what my book is really about. It's a story of a boy trying to learn how to be a man.

It's really humorous to me now, when people find corny-ass jokes actually funny.

Learning how to lose is really a part of growing up.

That's what being in a relationship is all about. You have a duty to protect their feelings.

When I stop to think about is, Flora is a really strange person.

When you think you're about to take this massively epic shit and it turns out mostly to be gas, that's always a bit disappointing.

Follow the footsteps of those who came before you, because at the end of the day, we're not that fucking original. 

Getting drunk + fucked up w/ your tattoo artist, then getting a tattoo, that is a delicacy only few are brave enough to venture.