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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"Urban Legend" Research Blog, Part 2:

In my last post about my progress for my "Urban Legend" project, I delved into what it took to look like a hero, the protective gear a real-world hero would need to tame the streets of a mid-major American city.  Now we leave defense and go straight to the offense.  How do we beat the snot out of evildoers?  The way my masked hero deals out violent retribution says a lot about his personality, his state of mind.

I spoke at length with Renshi Desmond L. Diaz about the subject for two reasons -- one, he's my go-to martial arts expert (5th dan Goju-Ryu), and two, he's my nephew.  To fight crime on the streets of my unnamed city, he suggested Krav Maga.

Krav Maga is unique in that it's designed to be taught and learned quickly.  It's blunt strikes and counter-heavy nature was intended to make ordinary citizens into effective fighters for the conscripted war effort.  The Israelis train their soldiers in Krav Maga, and when you consider that 2 years military service is required of every citizen, you don't want to meet too many Israelis in dark alleys.

In the recent "Batman" movies, Krav Maga is the style Bruce Wayne uses to dole out brutal justice on the streets of Gotham.  These days, Krav Maga is more widely used, taught to military and law enforcement alike, which is perfect for my "could-be-anybody" vigilante.

I also asked my nephew what weapons my hero would need to carry and he broke it down in three words: blades, staves, and guns.  Personally, I don't want to have my hero carrying guns as it doesn't fit the personality I want for this guy, but as for blades, I like the karambit.

The karambit is a Filipino weapon that was originally used for raking roots and threshing plants.  In proper hands it is possibly the deadliest knife available.  The curved blade was inspired by the claws of big cats (tigers, panthers, lions and such).  It's lightweight, easy to conceal, and as shown by the video possesses a certain degree of up close and personal bad-assery.  Batman would be proud.

As staves go, I like escrima sticks.  A friend of mine trains with them and his giddy approval is contagious.  Again, they go with the easy to conceal, easy to carry, and in the proper hands, can be a gleeful tool of attitude adjustment.

So the personality I'm seeking to craft for my hero is one of an up-close killer of killers, one who deals with these people in a manner suggests that they have done something to him personally.  And who knows, maybe they have...

Friday, September 13, 2013

Changing of the Guard

I've been in deep thought since the recent death of my father.

One of the things I keep thinking about is how my childhood is really, officially over.  I know, I'm almost 35, my childhood should have been over almost two decades ago.  I'm not talking about being grown up, I'm talking about not having the previous generation available for guidance.

And such is the circle of life, I guess.  Every generation tries to teach the next through guidance and absence, through lessons and examples both good and bad.  They try to teach how to be.  How to be a provider, or how not to be one.  How to be responsible for a life, or how not to be.  How to gain or lose respect.  And while they're around and able, they're a valuable resource to have in your back pocket.  They are a valuable sounding board, they are your biggest cheerleaders, they believe in you without reason, or at the barest minimum give you a continuing example of what you either want or don't want.  Once they're gone or infirm, or to a lesser extent relocated, the time for theory is over.  The responsibility is not of the teacher anymore to teach us, but of the student to apply what we have learned and to infer what the proper course of action.  Training is over.  The keys to the world are bequeathed to us.

My father was a flawed man, as we all are, but at his core he was a good man.  While he was never as much a presence in my life as either one of us would have liked, I do feel the absence.  I have learned all the lessons I can from him in regards to how to be a man, and how to balance pride and humility, joy and pain, success and failure.  My brothers and I can only hope to apply the lessons learned from this man's life to our children when the time comes.

And in doing so, prepare the world for its next keyholders.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

So, I spent much of the summer radio silent on this blog, poking my head out only once or twice to call for men to better to the women in our lives and so on.  It's not like I stopped writing, or stopped caring, I just got busy.  This has been a very interesting summer on a lot of levels, and while I usually don't talk too much about personal life details all that often, I'll get nice and personal right about now.

My summer began with the grand adventure of dating.  Those of you who know me best know how much I hate the dance of getting to know someone, and pretending to be the sexy version of myself so that I can have the privilege of buying dinner and paying for a movie so that maybe, sometime down the road, we can possibly have sex at some point (Yes, that IS sarcasm, but it's bleak out there).  I was reminded that things tend to work out better when I don't try to be the sexy version of me, or the smart version of me, or whatever version I think someone will like.  I tried being myself, a move I haven't done in a few years.  The result? I get to hang out with an amazing girl on a regular basis.  We're sappy and cute and disgusting -- in public, no less -- and it's kind of cool.  Don't get me wrong, if I were to watch a couple like that from a distance I would probably projectile vomit all over the place (I'm a hypocrite.  I'm also probably bigger than you.) but it IS nice to be so comfortable with someone you don't really worry about what the rest of the world thinks about it.

Midway through the summer, my brother and his wife announced that they are expecting a baby (everyone after me... awwwww).  And then then world got like, hormonally crazy.  People I knew are dropping babies like crazy.  I haven't seen an epidemic like this since my days in the Diamond District! (Seriously, don't drink the water.)  In a few days, a wonderful couple I met through my brother are expecting their own bundle of joy, and after the story I heard about the kid's sonogram pose, I acquired the nickname rights and hereby dub the soon-to-arrive person "L'il Baby Cool Breeze."  I also expect to not hear from those parents until the kid is 6 with that nickname.

Of course, no story worth living is completely happy, and toward the end of the summer I said goodbye to my father.  Without airing business, I will say that while we weren't as close as I would have liked to be (and I take a portion of the responsibility for that), I loved him, respected him, and will miss him dearly.  I hope he was proud of his children, because we all turned out pretty damn good.

The positive to that story is in several parts; number one, it reunited my family under one roof for the first time in a while.  Six boys, two girls, with spouses and children and baby bumps all over the place.  It was chaos.  I was in heaven.  Secondly, my brother took my dad's SUV in order to have a vehicle to drive their kid around in (sidebar: newborns live the life.  They get valet service, chauffeur service, room service, free rent, AND they get adored for it.  It's their world, we're just living in it.).  He's living in Louisville, Kentucky now, one of those places that no one ever thought any of us would move to on purpose, and he's happy there.  Go figure.  Anyway, getting the car there meant one thing: Road Trip!  I logged my first ever road trip, getting to see Pittsburgh and pass through some very pretty country on the East Coast.  Definitely one of my better memories.  Lastly, my father's death made it necessary to do something I was looking at doing anyway.  Last minute flights are expensive, so in order to do the flight back to New York, I had to take a loan.  But since I was going to take a loan out to publish anyway, I did that.  My next novel, The Favorite, should be out by the end of the year!

This summer has been a big one for me.  I can't think of one that's had this many stories in it worth telling, and summer don't end until the Yankees are done playing, so who knows what more can happen?  If the Yankees make the playoffs though, I'm going to be hard to deal with.