For the past 19 yearssince 1986I’ve spent a week of my summer in the mountains of upstate New York practicing the ancient Korean art of Tae Kwon Do. It’s the longest tradition I have in my life with the exception of Christmas with my parents and two brotherswe’ve had a 100% attendance at that and hopefully will for some time to come.
Tae Kwon Do is a brutal martial art, which is the reason it has become some popular in the United States. Of course, when you practice moves that are intended to end someone’s life for close to 20 years something inside of you changes. You no longer feel the need to prove this point to yourself, or anyone else. This was one of the major revelations in my life since I grew up in Brooklyn where the philosophy was the person who got the first shot in won the match.
My father owned a bar and restaurant when I was growing up and I worked in them from an early age. It was not uncommon to see people laid out. In fact, one of my earliest memories was coming to do the porter work at the bar at 6AM and seeing the mailbox outside covered with blood.
Turns out someone had gotten rowdy in the bar and my father corrected the situation by smashing the offenders face into the mailboxrepeatedly. I’ll never forget that blood, it took me buckets and buckets of hot water to remove it and still the concrete had a burgundy stain on it. In fact, that blood is one of my earliestand certainly my most vividmemories.
Flash forward 20 years, the same blue-eyed and slightly less blond kid is driving home from Vegas after attending a best friend’s bachelor party. I drove into the gas station and suddenly a car turned right out in front of me. It came to screeching stop. I look the driver in the eye and point my hands left and right motioning which way he would like to go. He starts waving his hands and I pull around him to clear a path.
After grabbing a cup of coffee for the long ride home I walk towards my car. A six-foot black guy in a tank top was blocking my route to my car. With the large tattoos and combative stance he looks like he is posing for a gangster rap album. He is staring me down and nodding his head with a smirk.
For the life of me I don’t understand why, but I know the law of the jungle is to not break eye contactit’s a sign of weakness that will result in the other tiger pouncing. As I walk past him I nod my head and open my door.
He yells, “why don’t you give me the finger now?”