Ever since reading Sirens of Titan, I’ve been meaning to read more Vonnegut. Slaughterhouse-Five is on my list and would have been the logical next step but last time I was at my local used bookseller’s and the only Vonnegut book available was A Man Without A Country. I finished it last night and no regrets! It’s not really a novel so much as it’s Vonnegut’s reflections on life and the political climate at the time. He was writing in 2004 and commenting on the Bush administration, such simpler and gentler times! I honestly never thought I would look back on that presidency in that way and can’t imagine what he would have to say.
I’m not sure I have much else to say besides go read the book. I feel like I am the better for it and it just has lots of great advice and me a little misty. Here is one of many of my favorite quotes:
“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what it is.”
As usual, some time ago, I finished up reading a book. Eventually I hope I will get better about posting things and actually figuring out where I want to go in the venture but in the meantime, my thoughts on John Connolly’s A Time of Torment. I’ve been a fan of Connolly’s since discovering The Book of Lost Things at a used book sale in my home town. I’m due for a reread on that so eventually, hopefully, you’ll have something on that.
A Time of Torment is one of the more recent installments of Connolly’s Charlie Parker novels. This book follows Parker on his investigation into the framing of a local hero in Main who believes the people that framed him are still after him. The investigation leads Parker and his friends, Angel and Louis, to The Cut, a small community within West Virginia known for secrecy and hostility towards outsiders. Since it’s been over a month since I finished the book and I gave it to my dad to read, my memories are pretty hazy. So rather than bore you with a synopsis of it, I’m just going to suggest that you read it. Especially if you like that feeling of not being able to put a book down because the suspense is killing you. I was spending every spare minute I had reading just to get to the end. This even led to me staying up close to midnight one night (I wake up at 5:30) and being spooked when something fell off my kitchen counter. That was the scariest moment I had experienced in a while and it probably didn’t help that when I wasn’t reading this book I was catching up on My Favorite Murder at work. If you happen to be looking for podcast recommendations, MFM is amazing!
Jiu-Jitsu updates: Not competing this summer after all. I was really hoping to compete in a local tournament this weekend but life gets in the way. After that tournament last October, I learned that I really shouldn’t be competing if my mind and heart aren’t in it.
As usual I’m updating almost a month after my last competition*. In April I competed in the NABJJ Grand Canyon Open for the second time. This was exciting for several reasons: The Grand Canyon Open was my first tournament last year, I got to compete with more of teammates since it was a one day tournament, and it was the first time in a long time where I actually felt really good about my performance and the experience as a whole. This isn’t to say that there weren’t any bumps in the road but it was a complete 180 from my worst performance (s far) at Nationals last October and I had a better bracket than at NAGA in February.
I ended up with second place in a bracket of 4 so that was fun. Especially after I called my dad to let him know I got second that that it wasn’t out of two. I won my first match off of points which is great but also a little frustrating. I feel like I should have been able to get a submission but I tend to have a hard time settling into position before attempting to submit. I need to work on that for future competitions. I think the final score ended up being 26-3. Despite the score that match was exhausting and I felt so shaky and drained afterwards and wanted to cry. This is probably because of the adrenaline from the match and how I was so used to only having one match and losing. Winning was weird! My coaches also missed that match. The tournament was running ahead of schedule (my only complaint as far as organization goes) and that was frustrating but luckily my friend and teammate Stefan was able to coach me and I’m super glad he was there for that. He also drove us home and prevented me from falling asleep at the wheel.
I’m not sure how much I waited before my second match but t felt like an eternity and one of my teammates competed in that time. When it was finally my turn to go again; I was not feeling well. My body was worn out from the adrenaline dump and I felt nauseous. I got caught in my opponents guard and had the hardest time breaking it. I could barely concentrate and felt really hot and dizzy. I think I finally did manage to get out and there was a scramble but I ended trapped in an omoplata and tapping. I was really hoping to win but wasn’t crushed with my loss.
I felt good about my training before and was focused and ready. The best part of this tournament was my family coming to watch. Several of my cousins were able to make it and it was so nice to be surrounded by so much love afterwards and they were proud and impressed which in turn made me very happy and gracious.
There are a couple tournaments coming up this summer and I’m looking forward to competing. Each time I compete I learn something new. Previously, that lesson had been the need to not get caught in mount and learn how to escape. This time, I think my main take away is that I need to be more patient and take my time once I get to a position rather than relying on constantly changing positions.
*At this point it’s been two months since my competition and one month since I first wrote all of this out. Why am I like this?
Where does the time go? I competed in Naga almost two months ago. As usual, I got super busy with training and work and a little scared about posting. Writing here, still makes me feel a little nervous and vulnerable. Anyhow, back to the tournament. For the most part, competing went much better than the last time. I still lost my match and ended up with third place but the overall experience and my head space was much better! I was excited just to be there and wanted to have fun.
I got to watch the kids team compete and it was the first tournament for a several of my drilling parts. Being there for that was exciting and it was fun to watch them roll with strangers and different motivations than rolling at your gym. A couple of days after the tournament one teammate observed that competing requires an entirely different skill set.
Even though this competition was more fun than the last one, it was fun and games. I decided to cut weight for the tournament so that I’d be competing in a smaller weigh class (130-139lb v. 140-159lb). I started dieting about 3 weeks out and weighed 146 and was able to weigh the morning of at 138. Cutting weight was not fun and I didn’t have to lose that much compared to what some of the fighters have to deal with at our gym so hats off to them. I was so grumpy and tired and probably won’t be cutting again. Mostly because there was no in my weight class and I was bumped up to the one I was trying to avoid. One of my teammates was also bumped up to that class and division. We both lost our matches and decided not to fight each other for third. It didn’t feel right and I had started eating chips immediately after my match.
The match itself was tough. Even though I felt better going into that match than the last one; I felt weak and tired from the weight cut. My opponent was also heavier and definitely stronger than me. I felt that I may have been more technical but could not get past her strength advantage. I also learned that I need to work on mount escapes. I do not want to get trapped there again during a match.
I’ll be competing again in two weeks and am looking forward to that. Hopefully it goes well despite training becoming more difficult due to the heat. Spring just started and temperatures are already hitting the low nineties in my city. Living in the desert is fun!
About two months ago, I finished up reading The Girls by Emma Cline. The book serves as a parallel/allegory to the Manson Family and the women that made up his cult. Like, the history of the Manson Family and subsequent murders, The Girls is set in California during the late sixties and is told from Evie’s perspective through a series of flash-forwards and flashbacks. Evie is 14 years and a bit of misfit. She doesn’t have very many friends and has slipped through the cracks of her parents’ divorce, while each parent if focused on new romantic pursuits. The loneliness that is born of this situation makes her vulnerable to the charm of Suzanne and the societal outcasts she lives with on an abandoned ranch.
I don’t really feel the need to delve too much into the plot since the story is so widely known. Suzanne’s character is clearly a parallel for Squeaky Fromme, one of Charle’s Manson’s most devoted followers. The fictional cult leader, Russell that is embittered after being unable to land a record deal, is Charles Manson. The book was a quick and light read and did a good job of capturing the feelings of isolation that begin to settle in during adolescence. I’m not sure if those feelings ever go away but you do become less vulnerable with age.
I think I would have found the material more engaging if I hadn’t listen to Karina Longworth’s summer series on the murders, Charles Manson’s Hollywood. It is part You Must Remember This which is easily my favorite podcast. The podcasts delves into the secrets and forgotten stories of Old Hollywood and is incredibly well done. In Charles Manson’s Hollywood, Longworth immerses the listeners in the various players and intricacies operating around Manson. I would definitely recommend checking out the podcast in addition to the book.
In BJJ news: NAGA is coming up in a few weeks. I still need to register.
Last winter I read Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. I ended up reading on accident, almost. I didn’t have a book to read at lunch one day and my coworker, Amelia, was kinda enough to let me read her copy. I borrowed her copy at lunch for about a week until I bought my own and we both set out to read it so we could have a mini book club.
Reading the book in tandem was fun experience because we each had different reactions to the book. Amelia loved it and I was underwhelmed. I felt that there was a lot of buildup with very little pay off at the end of the book for the main characters. I didn’t think it was all bad; I just wanted more for such a long book! I thought the world building was amazing and how the setting revolved around there being to worlds. Amelia and I loved it so much that when things start going awry or getting weird at work we refer to it as “Full 2Q16”. We also started to apply it to our lives outside of work.
Anyhow, I took this book to my local book exchange so I could buy Walden and the guy working the counter loved but also noted that I am not alone in my feelings and suggested another Murakami book. I just don’t remember which. I
In other news, training has been going well. My gym is hosting a smoker this upcoming Friday and this year grappling matches are included. I haven’t heard from my coach if I have match but fingers crossed! I’m still a little scared and anxious from the last tournament but the only way to improve is to confront those fears.
Well it happened and it’s over. I have so many mixed feelings about how it all turned. Going into it I didn’t have the same frame of mind that I had with the previous tournaments. A lot of my personal relationships have shifted and I think my feelings about that definitely came into play and distracted me but it wasn’t all bad. My dad was able to watch me compete and that was a delightful surprise. The morning of the tournament he called and told me to cancel my plans with my friends for the ride to Phoenix because he would be taking me. My sister also joined us!
We got to the tournament early and ended up with a lot of free time. My family got to eat and I just got to deal with more anxiety about my match. I just felt so much more nervous this time. As I’ve had time to think about it, I think that nervousness may have come from pressure I had put on myself to do well based of off how the last two tournaments had gone. They went well and honestly, those successes felt like flukes since I’m so used to not doing well athletically. I played basketball and softball as a kid and was never that good but that may be because those weren’t the sports for me. Anyhow, back to the tournament! So all the time I had before the match evaporated once it was time for weigh ins and everything was a whirl wind.
I was where I needed to be with my weight but my gi was too short! Luckily, thanks to the advice of my coach, I packed an extra. As soon as I passed my check, I was up. I hated running late and was still readjusting my belt. Then it was time to get on the mats. The match started off alright. I pulled guard and tried to arm bar my opponent from there. Details are hazy but the first half of the match went well. I wasn’t able to get the arm bar but was in control and managed to take her back. I couldn’t get my grips right to complete the choke we had been working on in class. I lost my position and may have moved into side control and then mount. I need to watch the video again but at some point I decided to move from being on top to bottom and everything went south after that. I was pinned in side control and mentally a switch went off. I just didn’t want to be there. I started to feel like I was going to throw up and cry. I think all the stress and anxiety I had going into the match got the best of me. From what I heard after, it looked like I totally forgot the basics, like how to shrimp! My opponent then got an Ezekiel choke on me. I was able to sweep her and get on top but she still had the choke and I was beginning to cough and gurgle. I tapped and placed second in our division. We were the only competitors.
I still feel weird about the whole thing. I hated disappointing my coach and not having a decent answer for when he asked me, “What were you thinking when you went on bottom?” One of teammates volunteered answer for me and suggested I probably felt more comfortable on bottom. This is true. I still don’t feel very confident in my top game even though that teammate has been helping me with my arm bar from mount. Besides all of that, I think the loss was a necessary experience. I’m still figuring what I’ve learned from it besides confirming my suspicions that I don’t love competing. Even though it’s not my favorite thing, I still plan on competing in the future because I think it’s really important for me to push myself out of my comfort zone and take risks. I hate when I feel like my life has become stagnant and competing helps keep those feelings at bay and gives me a chance to test what I’ve been working in class. At the end of day, I feel so lucky to have found something that I’m passionate. I love how deeply humbling jiu jitsu can be and how that humility feeds my drive to learn more and continue to improve.