Travel

Martial Arts University 2015 – Day 1: Prologue

**On the plane to Raleigh** – 9:12 AM

Four years in a row I was Grandmaster’s Assistant for these events.  I was there during a key time when MAU evolved from a mind-numbing week in a single hotel conference room, to a trip into nature that was at some times magical and other times maddening.  I was a special classification that kept me out of the majority of the classes and isolated with Grandmaster and one or two other chosen assistants for the event. As the assistant it was a grueling, non-stop and often nerve-wracking as every attempt had to made to preserve his mood, condition and mindset. Simply put, he had to be utterly focused on what he was going to present, so it fell on me to make everything about him. There was little time to lose focus, move slowly or relax… for essentially four straight days it was all about Grandmaster, all the time, nonstop.   It was here in 2013 that in front of hundreds of my peers with Grandmaster seated directly in front of me, I shattered a block of concrete and earned my Black Belt.

And then, a bout a year and a half ago, shortly before the 2014 Martial Arts University, I left.   Many people told me it was a very different Grandmaster that presented their seminars that year and the event overall was said to be a great success. I thought perhaps my departure had made some sort of impact. It remains to be seen for sure though.

Does that Ginger Ale look a little dark to you? ;)

Does that Ginger Ale look a little dark to you? 😉

One year later I am in the air over Georgia heading to Greensboro, NC by way of Raleigh. But this year it’s different. This year I am a guest, and it’s weird. I had no intention of attending this year, I have only been attending class sparingly and doing occasional favors for the company president (who is truly one of the best men I know) as I very much respect and feel I owe him. But he and Grandmaster reached out to me and went through a great deal of trouble to request my presence here. Finally, the company president asked me directly to assist him here, and I know that he needs it, so I didn’t wish to refuse. That and watching a friend and former companion of mine test for her second dan and instructor certification are my reasons for being here.

But Grandmaster is happy to have me here, so much that it is odd. I am not expected to carry his bag or hold his door. I offered my business class seat to him and he politely declined (I was keeping my free drink ticket regardless) and overall it seems like he is almost awkwardly attempting to cater to me however he can. He appreciates me, he has told me that much, even though I left him. He too, for all my previous disagreements with him (and there were more than a few) is a good man. At the same time though it is almost a little awkward to accept so much (they are paying for meals and such) while not being in direct servitude. Before it was part of the package, now it feels unearned. They have both said that the things I help them with occasionally now combined with my previous service more than make up for it. Perhaps they are right and I’m selling myself short. Just last night I lost sleep staying late in their office to help with final revisions on a flyer.

With that said, Martial Arts World supported the majority of my previous cycle, and I do feel that on some level I owe them for the great years they gave me. Those experiences and people will stay with me indefinitely. It’s also true that even now the organization makes connections for me I wouldn’t otherwise have. So how much influence it will have over my current cycle remains to be seen as well.

So I’m not really sure what to expect this round. I want to feel useful, because that’s what my mindset going into these weeks

The gorgeous weather doesn't hurt.

The gorgeous weather doesn’t hurt.

always have been (I’m a “tool” after all.) But it seems like they want a bit of it to be about me. So I will try to take some time, try to enjoy myself while still being useful. This year I might keep my sanity intact and relax a bit. Maybe. Obviously I know what the real endgame here is; they want to bring me back into the fold. But if that’s ever going to happen it will be a long process involving a lot of evolution that I’m not certain is possible.

For now, because of the travel and unusual circumstances I am taking a break from Ramadan fasting (this is accepted in the Muslim religion anyway) and I’m having to re-adjust to operating in the daytime, so it’s a refreshing change of pace before I return to the grind. The moon is full, so the timing on the break is good and as usual everything seems to make perfect sense as it falls into place. With everything that led up to my ending up on this plane (I very nearly didn’t make it to this year several times for several reasons) I feel like I’m meant to be here. As for the “why?” is anyone’s guess, but I’ll certainly try to keep you posted.

**10:31 PM** 

I need to wrap this up quickly as I am utterly exhausted by my four hours of sleep in the last forty-eight hours (I’m dozing as I write this.)  After the ridiculously massive lunch we had provided for us in Raleigh by Grandmaster’s good friend, it was a miracle we had room for the dinner provided to us by the camp this evening (I kept remarking that I had forgotten how much we eat on these trips.)  During dinner a group of familiar faces arrived to round out the initial group of leaders.  One of them sat next to me; a tall slender Korean man from another organization who had been a friend to me at many seminars in the past.  He regarded me for a moment before remarking quietly: “You’ve matured.”  Being that it had been at least two years since I last saw this man it was a pleasant compliment, and one without any sort of innuendo or side meaning.

A short tour before the meeting.

A short tour before the meeting.

After dinner we had a brief tour for those new to this location and then all met for the opening meeting.  Despite my having been away for some time now, I am included in the inner-circle as I was when I worked here.  The meeting drug on for a while with the familiar and predictable goals to make this year the best MAU yet while maximizing the return on next year.  While many good point were brought up, the fact remains that these points are not new, they’ve just never been fully and thoroughly implemented each year.  So the secret lies more in the execution than the discussion.  I had been fighting dozing for a fair amount of the meeting, so afterwards I checked to be sure I could retire, showered and called it a night (this is the last thing I do before bed.)  I should get a fair amount of sleep tonight (at least six hours,) but this is the calm before the storm.  Everyone arrives tomorrow and MAU 2015 officially begins.

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Into A City Called Bellevue

Early Tuesday, Somewhere Over New Mexico…

A major perk of my current profession is a fair amount of travel I get to do during show season. Probably the most exciting of said travel are the trips to Seattle that happen twice a year. Last time I had a whole adventure lined up – reconnecting with high school friends and seeing my father for the first time in a couple of years. This time it’s only been about half a year, there are no plans post-work other than a rendezvous with my father and eating entirely too many of those wings he makes. Some things have to change and though we can’t really go back to the homes we remember again, sometimes the small consistent things that endure through time can make all the difference.

The brief stop in New Mexico.

The brief stop in New Mexico.

So what to do? I’ve got a bit more free time with the team this round as well as some different and arguably more fun folks along on said team. I’m also better integrated with the crew having worked with them a more over the last few months, which makes it easier to spend some off-time with them. As an added bonus, instead of the heart of Seattle like last time, this show is across the lake in Bellevue, WA (it honestly could more or less be considered a very large “suburb” of Seattle.)

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but what’s special about Bellevue is that I was born and (mostly) grew up there. Though we did spend a fair amount of time moving around when I was younger, I was adamant about staying with my class from sixth grade onward, so even during the years of homelessness and living in towns that were an hour away, we did what we had to in order to get me to school in Bellevue every day.   In this manner I was able to hold on to some form of stability when there was otherwise very little.

So to be directly in my old stomping grounds will be fun, we’re very close to the city center mall named Bellevue Square (I visited with my high school friends last round) which is surrounded by an abundance of things to do. The shows / work wrap up on Saturday Morning, and then I’m effectively off after we finish striking the production, get everything packed and make sure everyone else has made their flights. I’ll likely pick up a rental car and spend that evening through Monday night doing my thing before I catch a red-eye at 11:59 PM, putting me back in Orlando shortly after 10:00 AM on Tuesday.

I have a minor itch to drive into the mountains and hike some. Florida weather is great and the beaches and oceans have a charm of their own (especially in terms of sunsets!) but the land is flat. No mountains, very few hills, just… flat. You’ve probably gathered by now I like elevation, and views. In Washington State I can combine that with nature for some pretty amazing scenery even it the weather is the typical grey sky. I spent quite a bit of time hiking, camping and climbing in the mountains of Washington as a young man. Perhaps I’ll find a companion to head up there with, or maybe I’ll make it a meditative solo journey. Granted this is all very stupid of me with my ankle still a bit out of whack (runner problems) but nothing I can’t handle despite the fact it would probably increase recovery time.

It will be mine!

It will be mine!

Another goal this round is to make it back to the Old Spaghetti Factory. Though it is a nationwide chain, the closest one to Florida is still nearly a thousand miles away. When I lived on the west side of Washington State (especially in the early years of my ex and my relationship) I would frequent there a lot and partake in their amazing spaghetti smothered in browned butter and Mizithra cheese. As a rabid cheese lover, this is a fantastic treat for a really reasonable price.   Though I have visited and been back since, it’s a special, nostalgic event especially because I haven’t been back to this specific location in over a decade (I went with my father a couple years back, but at a different location.)

But first I’ll have to make it through this show. The hallmarks of shows like this are early call times and long hours. I’m still tired from the past few days. Sunday I went in to work in order to prepare an important presentation (worth roughly $150k this year) for my CEO to present on Monday. With all the changes and updates it became a monster seventy-four slide multimedia PowerPoint presentation that kept me working straight through from Sunday afternoon into the early morning hours of Monday.   With our presentation happening Monday morning, I had time for a ninety-minute nap before I met my boss at headquarters to print all the materials a travel to meet our clients.

The presentation went great, and we’re optimistic about the outcome, but it was back to work from there with meetings and preparation for today’s travel. I left the office around six in the evening and had time to shop for various items (new shoes, cologne, cat supplies, etc.) before heading home to do laundry, pack, shower and take another nap for about three hours before getting up at 3:00 AM to catch our early morning flight. I was able to catch about two hours of sleep on the first leg of our flight putting me at a grand total of around six and a half hours of sleep since Sunday.

So, needless to say I’m still very tired. Tonight is a relatively laid-back schedule with a dinner and pre-production meeting before an early call time to set up our production tomorrow. If I can manage a decent amount of sleep tonight, I should be able to bounce back relatively well (praise coffee!) and keep myself in good condition for the rest of the show. If not, I’ll manage as I always have in these situations, I just might need a bit more time to sleep in on Sunday.

Forward Motion

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about today, I have a ton of ideas in my head but none of them are totally fleshed-out yet (that’s mostly “no pun intended”…)  I do have a concept in mind of explain how I tend to bond with people sexually (I know, y’all need a sex post soon…) but I want to think about that a bit more before I broadcast.  So instead I think I’ll give you a couple of “small” things that may or may not get bigger.  The lack of cohesion might not appeal to you all, but it’s my blog, so you get to deal. 🙂

Dream Girl:

The real one is out there... somewhere.

The real one is out there… somewhere.

I didn’t dream last night that I can remember, I got just under six hours of sleep which (I fairly recently learned) is consistently dreamless as far as I can tell.  I would imagine it has to do with when I wake up in regards to my sleep cycles, but regardless I tend to remember my dreams a lot more consistently at the seven and a half to eight hour mark.  Monday night I did indeed dream, but it was a sleep-deprived dream at only four and a half hours.  Normally when I dream, it’s lucid.  I’m aware I’m dreaming and reacting with that knowledge.  But this was one of the very rare ones; ultra detailed, specific and realistic.  I didn’t know I was dreaming.  Obviously the typical “dream fog” about how I had gotten there was in effect as I didn’t question it, but it got me regardless.  In this dream I was having a conversation with a girl I don’t really know (as in I know of her, and we’ve talked online and what-not, but have never met her in person…)  and we talking about “us” and confirming that we should be together.  It was a touching and kind of adorable situation that I’m not 100% comfortable describing because it was a but mushy.

What’s important about this though is that I had absolutely no reservations about this girl.  “It” was there and I was very, very ready to dedicate myself to her.  It reminded me of what it can feel like, what it should feel like.  It’s been a good fourteen years now since it felt like that, exactly right, and my subconscious still remembers it enough to recreate it.  Maybe that’s what fooled me, how easily we can be manipulated by the heart.  I woke up confused, disoriented and trying to figure out how I got to my bedroom after I had been spending time with her (sorry, no sex, this was a gushy dream, not a sexy one…)  For the first time in a long time, after a few seconds when I finally realized it was a dream, I was actually a little sad.  I thought about sending the girl a note telling her about this, but I don’t know her, at best I just know my idea of her based on limited discussion and social media.  Unfortunately, telling her something like this would likely just creep her out, and I couldn’t blame her for that.  She made an excellent dream girl regardless.

Unpause:

No.

No.

Every so often routine sets in and things just sort of freeze for a while.  While I understand it as a natural necessity of life and try to use it to my advantage, the truth is I find it very, very boring.  Me bored is bad.  Even though I have tons of things (like this…) to fill my days with, if I don’t feel like my life is in motion and things aren’t developing and growing around me, I tend to get very resigned and more likely to start reaching at things I probably shouldn’t.  Relaxing is a GREAT thing, and routine is beneficial when populated with good habits, but boredom with the state of your life is poison and needs to be fixed as soon as possible.

I’ve been in said routine for a while now.  Much of it was intentional as I had a bit to reconcile from the previous cycle to this one (probably not quite done with that… but more stable anyway.)  However, things are in motion again.  Spring is almost (literally) here and the world around me is beginning to shuffle and put things in motion that it’s been whispering about for some time.  In short, even if my life won’t dramatically change anytime soon, the state of my life and several factors around me have already begin to and will continue to.  All these prospects are the opposite of boring, and anticipating the shake-up is admittedly exciting for me.  It’s not that I crave chaos per-say, but I like renewal.  Change often sucks when you lose things, but the upside to that is that eventually new things begin to take shape and the potential they represent is exciting.

Fitting DMB Lyric. :)

Fitting DMB Lyric. 🙂

Is that vague / cryptic enough for you?  Well for instance, I have things to look forward to.  A week from now, I will once again be in Seattle for a week or so.  While I don’t have the exciting plans I had last time, after the show ends on Saturday, I will again see family, again eat far too many of my father’s hot wings and very likely find a few ways to entertain myself (though in all honesty I’ll also just be happy to relax and take in the Northwest again.)  Following that, show season is in full effect for Cybis until May, when “Dave Season” (Dave Matthews Band) begins with a concert in Atlanta on the thirtieth with some really great people.

So, in the absence of dream love, there may still be a few good reasons to peek outside of my cave.  I’ve been a little recluse on purpose, but the universe will only allow that for so long.  It is not my way to be idle and there are things to be done.