Sunday, August 02, 2009

Parkour, Kung Foo, And Kangaroo

The next morning we rolled out of bed around 10ish and chatted about politics and religion over breakfast. If you're as controversial in your views as people like Geoff and I tend to be, you get used to not minding when the disagreements are thorough as long as they are reasoned (if not rational) and polite. I learned long ago between being the Christian on the Smoker's porch and being the drinking, cursing outspoken critic in my bible study groups that pleasant disagreements are not only feasible, but desirable, and it's obvious that along the way Geoff has learned the same lesson through his own experience. Thus we could broach topics where we differed wildly and still find plenty of common ground and move on.

After breakfast, we wandered out to the back yard. The objectives of the day were (1) show each other stuff to give an idea of what training had been like (2) teach Daniel (Joe's son) how to throw his new football American-style, and (3) maybe do a little parkour at one of the parks in the area.

So it was that Geoff and I spent an hour or so showing different applications, working muscles long left to atrophy and mindsets covered over in the dust of forgetfulness. We talked about lessons we'd learned, and I tried to remember enough of one of my old forms to give him an idea of how nasty and full of applications they had been. It was a rough approximation but he got the idea. For his part he showed me a few of the more obscure strikes and some of the cool stuff he'd always liked from his art. Along the way I took a few photographs that weren't of him kissing his knees. That is probably the best one, there.

At some point Joe wandered out into the backyard and the conversation moved to Gymnastics for a while, a subject at which I have always been terrible. Joe on the other hand is pretty damn good, and would occasionally tease us in our stiff-old-man movements by throwing a cartwheel-handspring or somersault into our peripheral vision. Eventually Daniel came out and we went through the very very basics of punches before he lost interest and we sent him to find his football.

Due to a fellow named Scott, that I knew long ago, back before I was in college--(when dinosaurs ruled the earth, as I would say to my Mercerian friends)--I've always had a halfway decent spiral throw, at least over short distances. He decided one day (with Scott's usual mixture of singlemindedness and decisive action) that I should know how to throw a football, and he taught me the entire mechanic in just a few moments and drilled me on it until it was ingrained.

So it was I found myself halfway around the world in an Aussie's backyard, teaching a five year old the same basic rules. Fingers on the laces. Hand behind your ear. Let it roll out straight.

I'm a pretty good teacher. I know that sounds arrogant, but I've been tutoring, guest lecturing, and assisting in and out of classrooms for almost a decade and I base my opinion on the feedback I've gotten and the results I've witnessed. Still, this kid has to be a natural. In five minutes he was throwing a nice spiral at least five yards with decent accuracy, and could catch the return throw 9 times out of 10. It's a pity you can't use such a throw in Australian Rules Football, or he'd make quite the quarterback someday.

Since we'd been mixing in discussion of another physical activity we enjoyed, a sort of casual parkour sidebar turned eventually into a sojourn to the public park, Joe drove and the four of us wound up on the grounds of one of the local schools, quiet on a Sunday save for the handful of family samplers out letting their kids play on the various playground gear.

We made an odd quartet, Geoff dressed like a Bogan (the Aussie equivalent of a redneck, as best I can tell), Me in baggy surfer shorts, Daniel running from place to place whenever we looked away, usually to be found doing something challenging or a facsimile of whatever we'd been doing a few moments before, and Joe dividing her attention between making sure her son wasn't in any real danger and keeping up with us, a challenging grin on her face and "anything you can do I can do better" attitude that proved absolutely correct when it came to the gymnastics part of our adventure.

We spent some time on various jumps and climbing things, and eventually found a sort of handleless, sharply angled carousel in a big sandpit that made for a half hours entertainment as we screwed with each other while each person tried to walk on it as if it were a mouse's exercise wheel. That devolved into tussling, which became Joe having a go at choking me out. Historically she's always hung pretty tough with Geoff's friends, and has incapacitated a few of them along the way, leaving behind a wake of embarrassing injuries and submissions. Geoff tells these stories with the glowing pride of an older brother, and they are pretty hilarious. She's strong and quick and knew the basics, and went straight for the throat as best she could. However, but I've been mangled by Jujitsuka, Aikidoka, Judoka, Kuk Sool Instructors, and plenty more besides, so I wormed out of the choke and cheated.

One thing I've learned more and more as my knowledge of Martial arts stagnates with the absence of training and slowly ferments is that certain arts have certain mentalities, and the arts I have studied have a certain devious grace to them. So when I got a free hand and had my throat protected, I brought it around her shoulder and, with it still covered in sand, shoved it across her jaw, getting sand in her face and down her shirt simultaneously.

She coughed and spat and let me go, and I scrambled to my feet laughing and helped her up, thinking of Aaron performing a similarly dastardly attack by merely smothering me (something I had never expected or considered until he did it) during a session at Knoxville fest about five years back. Geoff laughed at us both, me turning my pockets inside out and his sister shaking sand from her hair, and I laughed and said "See? What did I tell you? K. S. uses whatever is available." Years later, it seems I haven't forgotten that simple lesson, at least.

We found a couple of really cool playground items that rotated in bizarre and interesting ways, allowing you to form a sort of spinning swing, the momentum of which you could control yourself by how you moved within them, and spent a significant period playing with them as well as climbing them and performing various jumps and talking about life and how to whistle. I showed Joe the whistle my mother and sister and I learned, and it brought back memories of sitting on the top of our giant van on the fourth of July in Texas, many years ago, and picking up the trick by experimentation and spending a quarter of an hour making ridiculous noises before if finally clicked.

Eventually, we headed back to the house, because Geoff had plans to make dinner.

I took a shower and repacked my bags while he did prep work, then I came in to help finish preparing the Mashed potatoes.

The meal was Mashed potatoes, Broccoli and Cabbage salad, and Kangaroo.

As he cooked Geoff explained to me that most people's misconception that Kangaroo is inedible and tough is based on the fact that it's almost always overcooked. The only real way to eat it is seared, and completely rare (for those in need of a definition: the center is still cold and the meat is almost blue).

He had marinated the 'Roo in Wine, Pepper, and a splash fo beer, then made a reduction of the remaining marinade, and the flavour was fantastic. The texture was perfect, soft and smooth and incredibly tender. I couldn't have asked for a better last meal for my time in Australia.

After dinner, I said my goodnights to Daniel, and my goodbyes to Geoff, and Joe took me to the airport, as she was headed off to meet Peter afterwards and Geoff and I had both been drinking with dinner.

I arrived in plenty of time to check in, read a bit, and then climb on board my flight to Singapore. The next thirteen hours would be spent in transit, and at the end of them, I'd be back in Hong Kong.

No comments: