There are two things I have known since childhood.
First, I can be arrogant. It's only too easy.
Next, I can take a beating. A sound, knuckle-scraping, face-stomping beating. I can walk into a buzz-saw of limbs and digits, joints and extremities, and welcome the pulverizing, tenderizing impact. In the end, I will be doubled over in agony, writhing and mewling like a cur, but I'll still be there. And tomorrow, I'll come back for more.
Yes, these two things always came easy to me. But something was always missing. Some essential tertiary term haunted me, kept me from feeling complete, made sure I was always one-third phantom, only ever almost whole.
Today, I am whole.
One of my favorite movies -- both for sentimental reasons and because it is, without hyperbole, easily the greatest film ever made -- is the 1991 Jean Claude Van Damme vehicle Double Impact (imdb.com rating: 4.7/10). In it, Van Damme plays dual roles: twins named Alex, a streetwise tuff from Hong Kong who smuggles and steals and beats ass, and Chad, an effete Los Angeles karateka and dance instructor who wears salmon short-shorts and black silk underwear (the last of which details is an important plot point). Implausibly enough, they have the same accent, and Alex Van Damme calls Chad Van Damme a "faggot" more than once. It's as good as it sounds.
In an early scene, Chad Van Damme is teaching what appears to be a class on sexual innuendo to some ladies who probably seemed pretty in the late 80s but are now terrifying.
"Because of my big legs and karate, I can do the splits no problem."
Uncle Frank -- who, spoiler alert, isn't really his uncle -- calls him away to take over the karate class downstairs. "Dressed like this?" Van Damme asks.
I think he looks good. Uncle Frank checks out his package.
Keeping with the theme of peculiar couture, for some reason, the karate class is dressed like this.
An unruly Australian, identified as "the new guy," is picking on some poor kid, and Van Damme, following the Bushido code of honor, has to step in and defend the weak in his samurai spandex.
"Are you the ballet teacher or what?" the Aussie asks. "Dancing, yeah, dancing... also some, ah, karate," Van Damme responds nonchalantly. And so the web is laid -- the trap is set. It's all over but the pain and humiliation.
(You could do worse, at this point, than to notice that the Aussie is wearing barrettes in his hair.)
"Show me one of your special kicks," Van Damme enjoins, pointing somewhere off-screen. This moment has always puzzled me. JCVD seems to be suggesting that the bully is well-known for his kicks, indeed that his kicks are perhaps even advertised at JCVD's own karate studio. Yet the bully is referred to only as the "new guy," and his belt matches his gi, which would normally mean he's a white belt -- and being a white belt in karate usually just means you haven't paid the first month's gym fees. On the other hand, perhaps the movie is trying to suggest that he's a light-pink belt, a rank so formidable it doesn't even exist.
At any rate, the Aussie obliges.
And bitch, that's a mistake
For some obscure reason, this Aussie became something of a hero to me. Something about his verve, his pomposity, the way he plowed headlong into the intractable foot of justice, appealed to me. He owned what an asshole he was -- he didn't pussyfoot or tiptoe. He laid it all out there, and he took what was coming to him. He showed his true face to the world -- and then Van Damme kicked him in it.
Perhaps it's as simple as this: I admired his style.
As the years wore on, it became clear what I couldn't do. The dullness of karate's katas doomed me to wash out early, far before I would ever develop any "special kicks" of my own. My hair thinned, and was summarily shaved clean, ensuring that barrettes would never be my calling card. No matter how hard I tried to sound suave and sunkissed, my accent remained a resolutely Midwestern twang, only undertoned by the last remaining evidence of my first decade in California and Massachusetts.
But there were three things -- the three most important things -- left over. We already know I can be arrogant. We know I can take a beating. But what about sartorial flamboyance?
Well, this morning, I dumped a package of Rit dye and 3 gallons of water into an empty garbage can, dropped in my spare jiu jitsu gi, and kneaded it until my fingers were blistered, cracked, and stained a regal hue.
Behold, mortals, the wages of my labor!
I see this as having two related practical benefits. First, if you kick my ass in jiu jitsu class, of course you kicked my ass, I'm wearing purple -- you're supposed to kick my ass. Second, if I kick your ass -- dude, you just got your ass kicked by a guy wearing purple.
But far more important than this is that I am finally ready to become my destiny. I am ready to lead with my face into the foot that fate has in store for me. I am a new man.
I am the new guy!
Curated by D at 12:08 PM