Monday, December 31, 2007

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Fencing Christmas Gifts and the Past

My family surprised me. I got some fencing Christmas gifts. I did not need anything for my kit really bad, so I did not ask for anything fencing related.

Note : I do need/want some things. I need a new foil and a test weight for epee. ( Yeah...I know....Why would he need a foil?) I need some little things. My Allstar mask is looking a bit worse for the wear, but these are things I need to do myself.

Nonetheless, my family came through. I got a fencing Christmas tree ornament and coffee cup. I also got a fencing clock. Who knew they made this sort of thing? This is a nice addition to the " man cave " I am slowly putting together my fencing and computer room.
There is a lot of junk in it right now. There is a lot of junk the kids left here, but I can't throw away. I am working on it though.

This is also the room were my son gives me no quarter when we play Halo. There is no way a human can be so consistently lucky!

I only get to play when he brings his X Box home. We enjoy talking junk to each other. He is particularly annoying at it. Of course his whole sense of humor is based on BEING annoying! Sometimes we will watch the recorded version of the game we played so, we can go into depth in our insults.

One of my coolest Christmas presents was a collage of photos that Sam and his tiny girl friend Kayla made for me, It is nicely framed. It contains photos of me off my computer from a fencing tournament or two. They must have taken some off one of Woody's sites as well. Stick figure Jim is there. There was an old picture of the leaders and coaches of the DFC. Everyone  made a super hero character using a computer program. I could not figure out how to make one, so Woody did a stick figure of me with a "J" and a cape. I always liked stick figure Jim. There is also a photo of the "Scooby Gang"; USFA logo and some other things as well. This ( from my perspective ) is one of the coolest things in the man cave.

It was a good Christmas. I had dreaded this one, as it would be the first one with out one of my parents. It would not be the same.

We had 17 people over for dinner last night. That sort of helped with the feeling of family.
Don't get me wrong, the feeling of family is always strong and with me.  We are very, very close. However, when the last of your parents dies, there is this little part of you that is now alone.

Editors Note: This was supposed to be about fencing, as much as it could be, without doing any. However, it is evolving and I am going with it.

Another thing that happened this weekend was sort of a very strange "closer" on the past. Friday night, after fencing, ( such as it was) I came home and just glanced down at the newspaper laying open on the coffee table. There were the obituaries and there was a last name I knew. It was the mother of a girl I had dated ( on and off ) or at least kept in touch with from the time I was 18 until I was in my mid-twenties. All modesty aside, I dated a lot of girls. However, this was a very long lasting relationship. I knew her and her family. Her dad was a nice man and her sister and I got along really good. Her mom did not care for me much, but I was a hippie-looking kid and I get this.

I felt like the miracle of seeing this obituary was a sign  that was telling me to stop by the funeral home. I mean....what are the odds that anyone will go fencing and come home and want to take a look at the obituaries in the evening paper?

So I went.

I was there early. I stood in the same funeral home that I had used to bury my father this year. I was in the same room that my Mom was in when we did this for her. There was a flood of emotion as I stood there in a short line. I should also mention, at this point.......I was invisible. It was a strange sensation. I was not truly invisible, but it was as close to it as you can come in a room full of people.

I can tell you from experience that the people in a funeral line like this are numb and brain dead. They are made so from grief and stress. If you couple this with not seeing someone in close to 30 years, there is no reason to expect that anyone would recognize you....or even really see you. I had the advantage. I knew who these people were. If I had passed them on the street, I doubt I would have known them either. I listened to my old girl friend speak to a relative right next to me. She did not see me at all, though I was at arms length.Her daughter stood next to her and I studied her like a piece of artwork. She was closer to the age that I remembered her mom. I subtracted the elements of her father that stood next to her. Even so, this was not Beth, but yet a part of her.I could not remember, as I stood there, how our relationship ended. Were we on good terms when we parted? I decided to be reserved as it came to be my time.

I shook her hand and said, " I amsorry for your loss Beth." Itwas if time stopped, as I watched her face. It was not the face I knew from all those years ago, but if you looked close, that face was still there. Time moved in slow motion. I saw her brow wrinkle and her lips frown in concentration. I saw her huge smile of recognition as she leaped up and threw her arms around my neck. I heard the joy in her voice as she turned to a friend and explained who I was. I was visible again.

I moved down the line and became visible to her father and sister, though not in such a dramatic way.

I saw her mother laying there were mine had also laid. I studied pictures from Abby's past and it was time to leave.

I headed towards the door and threw up my hand in farewell to Beth. It was at this point when time faded and I was swept back to the past. She stomped her foot and mouthed for me to get over here. She was bossing me around just as she had all those years ago. Just as before, I allowed her to do so. It always made me half smile that this tiny girl would on occasion order me around. She reached up and held my hand in hers. She asked about my parents. She asked if I was still married and she asked about my kids.

I do not remember how this short conversation ended. I just remember heading to my car in the funeral home parking lot.

Some how I think this was good for Beth, but I also think that some how it was meant for me as well. On that night, shortly before Christmas, my past and my parents and my memories all merged for a time. While I have come to no conclusion about all this as of yet, I know that it some how put me at peace for the holidays.

This Christmas when I took a piece of Christmas candy from my Mom's old candy dish, it was as if she was handing it to me. And when I caught myself singing old Marty Robin's cowboy songs loudly in the shower, I knew my Dad was with with me.

It was a good Christmas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Break is all but over. We have free fencing night on Friday, but I doubt anyone will show up. On the bright side , we can bug out early and have a beer.

Aydin's mom made me a cool fencer Christmas ornament and Sharon was kind enough to make us some pumpkin bread. I am truly touched by their thoughtfulness. I truly am.
There are good people in the world. I sometimes forget that. It is good to be reminded around this time of year.

I will most likely fence in a tournament on the 5th and perhaps one on the 12th. I tell myself that I will loose a few pounds by then, but in truth, I will be lucky to hold what I have over the holidays. I will workout a bunch though and I will try to let my elbow rest a bit.

I tell myself that I could use a break from fencing, but I know after a week I will be hungry for it.

Merry Christmas to all.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Area

I have to write this down. Perhaps it will help me figure it out.

If you look at Greensboro; High Point and Winston Salem as one geographical entity, then there are well over a million people in this area. ( Three medium sized towns that are close together and a bunch of small towns in between.)

Within this fairly large population there are two small fencing clubs. The Downtown Fencing Club and Delta H. Both are in Greensboro. \ Other than Delta H having a big dry foil tournament every year, I do not know much about them. I keep meaning to go by and check them out, but there has never been enough time. They are introducing people to fencing in this area and that is all I care about. They are doing good in my book.

The DFC has ( up to this point ) never advertised in any manner. We don't have a lot of space and that in part dictates class sizes.  On the other hand, we have kids come from as far away as Mt.Airy.

It just seems to me that for the size of the community in relationship to other large population areas within the state, we should have more fencers or more clubs in this area.

I really do not know why this concerns me or weighs on my mind so frequently. I am not a  coach. I am just a helper. Why do I dwell on this so often?

This is what I have come up with:

A. I care about the community more than I am aware of.
B. I care about the fencing community more than I am aware of.
C. It would be better for me if there were more fencing opportunities near by.
D. I want fencing to grow in this state and country.
E. I think fencing will grow and I want us to be ready for it.
F. I envy other large population areas and their fencing diversity and I would like to see the same in our area.

Okay....I reread my list and I am guessing"C and F." must be the strongest factors, though I am unsure of that. I figure the reason I think of this so often must be self serving. Most of us would put ourselves first and those are the only ones that fit. Still, there is more to it than that.

For me, thinking about fencing in my area is not an all consuming thought. It does however, drift through my mind from time to time.

I thought writing this down might help. So far...........nothing.

Oh well.....Time to get on with the day.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Another Week Closer to the Holidays

My week in fencing was not all that great.

Wednesday we had the usual good group lesson with Coach Miller. Next Wednesday we review the semester and get to ask a question. Now to figure out the best use of my question. I may be able to have a couple of more in reserve and give them to people who did not remember to come up with a question, thus speeding down the path to enlightenment.

Thursday I did not go UNC and fence. The news about Henri's mom bummed me out and caused me to reflect on my own loss this year. I just did not feel like going by myself.

Friday on a couple of people showed up for free fencing. I fenced 30 touches and we called it a night. That bout was fun for me , as I reviewed some of the new attacks that I have been learning. Two of them felt text book. I have no idea what they looked like, but the blade work felt perfect. I did not even change out of my jeans to fence. ( Woody was kind enough to record this on Facebook.)

I went to the doctor to get the results of my blood work. Over all there are no problems.
She did tell me that I need to loose some weight. Well no duh!
But now that it is official, maybe I will go at it harder. When I was young, I thought people my age just let themselves go. I had no idea what it is like.

Let's see if Jim can "hunker down". A quick shower and off to the gym.

( Note: I was doing yard work and a shower prior to gym is a courtesy to the rest of the world.)

Thursday, December 6, 2007


Today our sister-in-arms Henri Gales  mother died.

She is in our thoughts.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Good Week

This was a fairly full week of fencing even though I missed a day or two. My body is covered in epee bruises, like it should be.

We had another great group lesson with Coach Miller on Wednesday.

Thursday, I traveled to UNC and had the usual good private lesson with Coach. Some other good things happened there as well. One is that I got in a lot of strip time. In fact I fenced until the only thing keeping me on my feet and blade up was pride. I was worn out! Another thing that is good is that I feel like I am starting to be excepted by the people there. I like that.

Friday night ( at the last minute) I decided that I would in fact go to the Wilmington tournament. I missed club here and headed down. I had not been down to check on our beach house in a while, so I spent the night there.

Saturday I fenced. In pools I had a hard one. ( Hey....I say when they are easy...I can say when they are hard.) In a pool of 5 I finished in the middle. I was seeded 11th out of right around 20-something people. As of this writing, results have not been posted, so my numbers may be off a bit. I had a bye going into DEs.

Editors Note: I am often amazed at "byes" I guess because after a certain point, I have no idea how they work. I have no idea why a person that is seeded 11th  out of 20 people has a bye. Someday if I get bored, I will study "byes". I would like to know.....but not enough to stop what I am doing and go find out.

My first DE is against a left handed college kid from NCSU who is seeded 6th. Early on I have a huge lead of 5 or 6 points. Around touch eight to ten he starts to catch up. I think there are multiple reasons for this. I am getting tired. I am getting over confident. I am not fencing as hard anymore because I know I am going to win.

I did win, but only by a couple of points. Another factor in this was that that I found I could annoy the kid by beating the heck out of his blade. I baited him. Later in the bout, he did the same to me. It was less effective , but it did work once I am ashamed to say. After that, I just waited for the beat and disengaged for the touch.

Editors Note: While I have been working the last month by exercise to increase my endurance. My weight is not coming off. I have got to try and get my 55 year old metabolism working again. This is something only a Vet 50 fencer understands. I knew I should have gotten the EXTENDED warranty on my metabolism.

My next DE  was against a big "C" fencer from ECU. This guy is a really tall heavy set guy and I have forgotten his name. Well to make a long story short, he beat the tar out of me. I have not had a beating like that in a long time. I had not watched him fence, but due to his body, I had sized him up as someone that would not have good footwork and rely on his height to get the touch. I was correct, but he also had quick hands and good blade work. I tried something different every touch to try and find what would let me gain on him, but to no avail.

Oh well..................and I am done.

Yet Another Editors Note: This big guy fenced Henri in a  Raleigh tournament last season. I did not see much of the bout as I was in pools on another strip. However, this kid knocked Henri down a couple of times. I am not saying it was on purpose. However, in that constant war of huge guy runs into tiny woman......huge guy has yet to loose. Now if you know Henri ( or think you know Henri) you may think she is this sweet tiny little southern belle........................however.................nothing could be further from the truth. We refer to her as the "Mistress of the Abyss"............and for good reason.

Nothing makes Henri smile more or cheer up  more than if I tell her some one that has wronged her " will die by my hand". It has to be those exact words. She relates a story to me or shows me a nasty bruise that someone caused fencing and you are on the list.  God forbid you break a nail. So if you have fenced Henri and left a bad bruise or injured her in some way, you are most likely on the "death list".  This big guy was on the "death list". I failed. I am sorry Mistress, I just could not do it.

Sub note to " Yet Another Editors Note": The whole "death list" and people " that will die by my hand " is a inside joke and not for real. ( As far as you know.) It really does cheer her up though and bring a big smile to her face.

Back to the tournament.

I think I finished in the top eight, but I do not know what my pool results will do. I will just wait on the results to be posted on Ask Fred.

I enjoyed the tournament and the folks were very nice. I had conversations and interacted with people from the Raleigh Club  that I had not interacted or had conversations with before, so that was good.

All in all it was very laid back, which I like. I think the coast clubs are blessed on not being caught up in the posturing that goes on sometimes in our Division. "Yay" for them!

One Last Editors Note: I mentioned the Division. I have read and heard a lot of negative things about " The Division" over the last couple of months. I do not care if people show anger or get upset with
" The Division" for this or that. This is energy. If you do not get upset, it may mean that you do not care. These people talk about " The Division" as if it were some mystical entity obscured by mist and darkness. When in fact, they ( we) are  " The Division". It would seem to me that things would be better with a little more work and a lot more tolerance.