Friday, January 18, 2008

Your Mileage May Vary

Three B's, l. to r. -- Brennan, Bacall, Bogart

The late Walter Brennan acted in a couple hundred movies and several television series. He was the go-to guy for more than thirty-five years when you needed a wisecracking, crusty old geezer -- and he started doing it in his forties. (Gives me hope that I might still have a chance at an acting career, things get tight in the writing biz -- I can do geezer ...)

Anyway, Brennan starred in a TV series in the mid-sixties with Dack Rambo, playing as usual the crusty old wisecracking grampaw, and after a crusty old wisecracking tirade, he would sometimes end it by saying, "No brag, jest fact."

The subject of experience comes up here from time to time, and I thought I'd address it. I don't want to sound like the guys who step out of Courville's Bar across the river on a hot Louisiana summer night and start to recite their felony-arrest records to each other before they get to slugging it out. But just to be clear ...

I'm not a streetfighter. Nor do I want to be. There are plenty of folks who drop round here who have worlds more experience in that arena, and all props to them. They have kicked multiple asses multiple times, and could probably do so to me without working up a sweat.

However, I am starting into my seventh decade, my experiences are what they are, and, I believe, are of some value.

I've lived in different states --- cities, towns, country -- in a score of apartments and houses in places ranging from biggest urban sprawl to way out six miles of bad road. The streets have been mean, pastoral cow paths, and bedroom community. I've done blue collar and white collar work, and even a stint as a private eye, during which I did a bit of bodyguard stuff and sometimes had to carry a gun. (Once helped a client retrieve his baby son from across the state line in Mississippi where the guy who was shacked up with the ex-wife was tight with the state po-lice. Father had legal custody, but the mother took off. That was an interesting drive back from Jackson. Being stopped by the state patrol for what might seem to be kidnapping until it all got sorted out was a passing scary thought.)

I started dabbling in martial arts forty-two years ago, played in six or seven styles, have rank in a couple, and have spent the last decade and some in the same art.

During those years, I have had times when things got dicey, and push came to shove, or a knife or gun came out. Nothing major, but it wasn't as if I spent my time in a monastery chanting "om."

My experience was, every time, I saw it coming. Sometimes with plenty of space to move out the way, sometimes not.

Of course, part of my training was that I was trying to avoid trouble and in order to do so, I was on the lookout for it.

I won't argue with guys who say that surviving a surprise attack is a nasty job and one it will serve you to know how to do. I will say that if you pay attention -- based on my experience -- you can sometimes avoid an attack. I have done so, so I know that it sometimes works.

Which is not to say that I couldn't get decked by a little old grandma walking her pomeranian next trip I go to collect the mail, and rat-bitten by the little dog as I lie dazed upon the sidewalk. Shit happens. I watch those little old ladies carefully, just in case ...

No brag. Jest fact.


Bobbe Edmonds said...

Lauren Bacall...Whooo, BABY, what I wouldn't have given back then...! Lotta great women in the golden age of cinema, actually; Olivia deHaviland in the 1938 Robin Hood with Errol "I'm not a Nazi sympathizer" Flynn, Janet Leigh in "The Vikings", even Joan Collins in a younger day.

Doctor Jay said...

We have in our dojo, in point of fact, a little old gray-haired lady who owns a small dog. Alas, it's not a pomeranian, though.

She's also pretty tough. Although she's very unlikely to pull a knife on you or give you trouble of that kind, Sensei likes to call her the most dangerous person in the dojo. This is because nobody will expect her to fight back, and so, they will present her with opportunities, just as you allude to.

Steve Perry said...

Yep, it's an ongoing point of discussion 'twixt Rory and me -- what you see, and how that relates to what you get.

Or don't get.

I don't write off old grannies, because it doesn't take a lot of strength to push a knife. Anybody who has carved a roast knows what sharp steel will do to flesh. For several years, my mother worked in a butcher shop, and I would sometimes hang around after I got off from school and watch the guys work.

I would not care much to go up against either a butcher or a surgeon, and you gotta figure that granny has sliced a few carrots in her time, so she knows which end of the knife to hold.

A sharp knife can offset a whole lot of empty hand training.

Plus, I'm an old grampaw myself and I'm a passing sneaking bastard ...