Hello September

Rattling around in my brain somewhere is one of those big idea plans for September. Maybe it’s like a grindathon, but I’m keeping it to myself. Or maybe I’ve just failed to do that. Oops. Anyway, the whole thing’s off to an inauspicious start, given the fact that it’s 4:30 and I’ve failed to stay asleep. Sadness.

From what I understand, this is the real insomnia. It’s that second-level shit. Failure to fall asleep is for small-time insomniacs. Failure to stay asleep is where the real action is at. So what’s a would-be small-stakes grinder to do? Study Spanish. I’m going to hit my brain with a barrage of vocabulary until it collapses from the effort, rendering me unconscious. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Goodbye August

August is not my least favorite month. But it is my least favorite month in New York. I suppose I’m in New Jersey now, but meteorologically, it’s pretty much the same thing. It’s hot and it’s sticky and I hate it. I’d rather be in Sweden. I’d pretty much always rather be in Sweden, but this time of year is the worst here and the best there.

Well, goodbye August. I almost went through you without making a single post. But here I am. Posting again. I just couldn’t leave you alone. But by the time anyone reads this, you’ll be in the past. That makes me happy. See you next year.

Un Poco Mas

What? You didn’t expect me to actually stop posting here, did you? Sure, it’s just me rambling, but that’s what you get on a blog called The Rambling Path of a Zen Madman.

So…let’s talk about live poker! I’m heading over to Parx tomorrow to play some good old-fashioned Limit Holdem. Playing LHE (as we call it) feels like going home to me. I’ve been poking at No Limit online again this week, and perhaps I can bring myself to get legitimately good at it. But Limit Holdem just feels comfortable to me in a way that No Limit probably never will.

No Mas

So that’s it. I am hereby releasing myself from the responsibility of posting on this webpage every single day. There are rather few of you reading this particular post, I’m sure, so I doubt I’ll hear much about it. But if anyone doesn’t like it, feel free to let me know, like in the comments or something.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that I won’t post anymore. I’ll still blither and blather from time to time. Perhaps I’ll make this a writing journal, or a poker journal, or a movie review or baseball bloggy thingy. Who knows? The point is, there is no point. Or at the very least, there is no schedule.

Way of the Poker Warrior:
Black Belt

NEW YORK CITY – September 11, 2001 – My phone rang at 9:30 AM. I had been out playing poker until 6 in the morning, so I didn’t catch the first few words coming from the other end.

“Dude, they flew a plane into the World Trade Center! One into each building,” my friend informed me. “I don’t know what’s going on, but you might want to get out of midtown.”

“What, are we under attack?”

“They don’t know, maybe terrorists.”

“I had a dream about this like a month ago.” I felt calm, like I was back in that dream.

“What? Dude, you should come uptown.”

“Yeah. Okay.”

I went downstairs and stood on the corner of 43rd and 9th. As I waited for the light to change, I turned to the south, towards downtown. I started walking. I had to go towards it. What was happening to my city?

It was a beautiful sunny day, the last gasp of summer. That’s not why the streets were so crowded after rush hour on this Tuesday, though. A man had his car radio blasting with the doors open. He was blasting the news, and a crowd had gathered. The South Tower was collapsing. I kept walking south.

My thoughts drifted to all the dead people. The rather symbolic fall of capitalism. They fucked up my skyline. I was pissed. But what could I do about it?

As I hit 14th Street, I turned from 9th Avenue on to Hudson Street. I saw the one smoking tower and the other tower of smoke. I ducked into a deli to grab a disposable camera. As I waited on line, contemplating my ghoulish voyeurism, I thought better of it and returned home. Someone else could take pictures. Many would.

At home, there were a couple of messages. My mom had called from her hotel in Times Square, where she was staying after having moved back to the city just nine days ago. My teacher had also called asking me to open up the Dojang and check things out. I had taught my first class the day before. There would be no class today. Still, I opened up the school to provide a place for the students to go. Some lived in New Jersey or Long Island, so they couldn’t get home until the bridges and tunnels reopened. The city was on lock down.

I hung up the heavy bag and pounded the hell out of it. I sat around and talked about the crazy day with my fellow students. Despite the smell of burning flesh wafting up the Hudson, we all felt a little better having a place to go and people to commiserate with.

Circumstance is rarely so dramatic, but this is what being a good black belt is all about: helping to build a community. In sparring, it’s all business. But when we take the gloves off, we can all rely on one another in times of need.

In poker, I don’t expect you to give anyone a break when you’re at the table. In fact, I expect you not to. But that doesn’t mean you can’t and shouldn’t be civil.

What you can do is help to build a community. Do what you can to ensure the health of the game you play. Ensure its fairness. Do what you can to help the other players have a good time, especially when they’re losing. Even when you’re losing. Respect the other players and respect yourself.

This is the way to get the most out of the game. The way to earn the most money and enjoyment.

This is the Way of the Poker Warrior.

Writing About Art

My Thursday column here on zenmadman.com was going to be about the arts. That would mostly be writing about movies and television, along with the occasional comment about a book or some such. I have lots of thoughts about things I see, but I pretty much hate reviews and also hate pretentious writing and thinking about Art. I’m of the school of thought where something means what it means to you, and that’s all fine and dandy. Most of my movie reviews are a more elaborate paraphrasing of my old friend’s summary of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. “It sucked.”

Writing About Exercise

I’ve done a fair bit of writing about exercise, very little of it in blog or article form. My first book, Way of the Poker Warrior, describes a lot of what I learned in taekwondo, then applies that knowledge to life. I also started writing a book about my taekwondo teacher, but that never quite came together.

With yoga, my writings were mostly self-reflections. Thoughts about the first few classes I taught, and the ones where I gave adjustments. I’ve thought about writing a series of martial arts or yoga articles, but the written word is not the ideal medium for physical expression. I find both video and audio to be better-suited to martial instruction.

When pondering whether to continue producing content about exercise, I must ask myself: Can I really teach what I’ve stopped practicing? Not that I never practice martial arts or yoga anymore, but I have hardly kept up with it. So, yes, I can still teach, but I’m nowhere near the top of my game.

Writing About Writing

For all of the writing I’ve done, I’ve done relatively little writing about writing. There could be a few reasons for this.

I’ve done a fair amount of thinking of writing about writing, which is a potential explanation for the fact that most of the writing I’ve done about writing has in fact been writing about thinking about writing, and about how there is often a disconnect between thinking about writing and actually writing.

So, as a writer who has written much less than he has thought about writing, it’s hard for me to come up with good advice on how to write. You know, the actual process of actually getting stuff done. Actually. And literally.

When it comes to writing about “craft” and “style,” well, I’m just not so into that. When I read about writing, the last thing I’m interested in is how to write, as in the manner in which to write. I’m really only interested in tactics for getting more done. And as I’m relatively inefficient when it comes to getting things done, I don’t figure I have much helpful advice on the subject. Not at this juncture.

Writing About Food

Food is not something I’ve spent all that much time writing or even reading about. That said, I’ve spent a great deal of time eating it, and more time than I’d like thinking about it. And thoughts about food are not something I lack. Like, big thoughts.

Food is one area where I feel like my writing could make some tiny difference in the world, perhaps make a dent in the problems humans cause for the world, the animals, and each other. Emphasis on small here. While there’s plenty I could say philosophically, I think the biggest contribution any individual can make is to show people that eating a purely plant-based diet does not mean subsisting on just leaves and berries. (Though berries are fucking delicious – can’t understand why anyone would malign them.)

Writing About Life

I’ve been writing about life since, well, since I’ve been writing. All writing is about life in one way or another. But right now, I’m talking about writing about my life, or about life in the general sense. The sort of literary fiction of non-fiction. Call it … uh … literary non-fiction.

Some of this is autobiographical, and I think contains the occasional nugget of brilliance. If not gold, then that stuff that fools people because it looks like gold. Call it … uh …  fool’s gold. Shiny.

So what’s the point of all of this? I suppose the point is that writing about life often feels pointless. Should I bother to continue? This seems like a worthwhile question. Perhaps I will find a worthwhile answer within the next week.