Archive for February, 2002

The Karate Man

It was a cold and bleak February more than 10 years ago when I was a college student in Lowell, Massachusetts. Harsh winter winds whistled through the bare campus trees and loudly rattled the dormitory windowpanes.  The rattling glass was a siren call to any student more inclined to stay in bed than to risk a walk to class.  The campus was frozen, dark, and empty.

In an effort to bring the student population out of hibernation, colorful flyers were posted on every bulletin board and in every common area on campus.  These flyers promised a martial arts demonstration.  The ads featured the image of a longhaired man clenching his teeth in concentration while having a wooden baseball bat broken over his head.  The message was clear and effective:  “Come out and see a man get clubbed upside the head with a bat.”  We were hooked.

On the day of the event the rattling windows and frigid temperatures were completely ignored and the gymnasium, which was a fair walk from the dorms, was full.  The student body was ready to be entertained.

There was a round of applause as the martial artists made their entrance and began to stretch and warm up on gray exercise mats.   After stretching and warming up, they began to warm up their vocal cords by baring their teeth at each other and shouting, “RAAAAAHHHHHH!!!”  Apparently shouting is a key aspect to their martial art, because it continued throughout the demonstration.

Once the warm-ups were complete, the shouting performers began breaking wooden boards with their hands and feet.  Apparently the performers’ shouts were not intimidating enough, because each board seemed to take between two and three tries before it would break.  This quickly became repetitive.

“RAAH!!” Thud.  “RAAAAAHHHH!!!” Thud.  “RAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!” The board would then obligingly snap, to the relief of everyone in the gymnasium.  We applauded politely.

Once all of the boards were safely broken, it was time for the performers to prove that martial arts made them impervious to fire.  The gray exercise mats were doused with what looked like rubbing alcohol.  The performers then ignited the alcohol with a plastic cigarette lighter, creating an unimpressive display of blue flames.

The martial artists then bravely ran over the gray mats with their bare feet while shouting confidently.  Their daring display convinced us, the audience, that martial arts were more powerful than any weak blue alcohol fire.  Once it was clear that the flames were outmatched, the performers cleared the floor.

The crowd began to get restless.  We had seen boards intimidated and the power of fire defied.  It was time for the bat.  We began to chant for it.  “Bat!  Bat!  Bat!”

It was at this point that the longhaired man, The Master, and his assistant made their way onto the floor.  The assistant was carrying a brown wooden baseball bat in his hand, and he began to pound the bat on the floor, to the delight of the crowd.  The bat sounded very solid.

The Master began to shout as he assumed a defensive position with his head tilted forward.  The assistant began to shout as he raised the bat and brought it down on his master’s head.


The bat didn’t break.

The Master wobbled around on rubbery knees while the assistant and the other performers rushed in and carried him off.  The crowd sat quietly, unsure whether they should be laughing or concerned.

After a few moments, the Master made a triumphant return to the floor, accompanied by the assistant.  The audience cheered as the assistant once again waved a baseball bat in the air.  This bat, clearly different than the first one, was large and yellow and probably had small scars on it from the teeth of a saw.

The Master bowed down once again and began to shout.  The assistant quickly and swung the new bat, which shattered easily on The Master’s head.  The other performers rushed The Master, picked him up and victoriously carried him off on their shoulders.

That February night the campus was not desolate and cold.  It was filled with the happy sound of students shouting “RAAAAAAHHH!!” as we returned to our dormitories.  We had learned that martial artists were to be feared, unless we happened to have a brown wooden bat handy.

Back in the Day Tim 20 Feb 2002 No Comments

The Groundhog Diet

My old friend Rick O’Shea walked into our usual coffee shop on Monday morning.  His Patriots hat was rumpled and there were deep rings under his bloodshot eyes.  He looked like a man who didn’t feel very good.

“I don’t feel very good,” he said.

Are you upset because of the groundhog?  I think he saw his shadow.

“Groundhog?  No, I didn’t eat any groundhog.  I had chili, tacos, wings, sausages, and pulled pork sandwiches.  I think that the light beer I drank is to blame, though.”

Cheap beer will get you every time.  You’ve never had a car that cost more than 100 dollars, but you have never drunk cheap beer.  No wonder your stomach is upset.

“Well, I forgot to buy beer on Saturday.  The convenience store wouldn’t sell me anything on Sunday, so I had to drink my uncle’s watery brew.  He loves the stuff, but it tastes like a mountain spring. ”

They wouldn’t sell you beer on a Sunday?  I thought that they changed that law?

“I thought so, too.  The convenience store guy kept saying something about my town not allowing alcohol sales on Sunday.  I think he was lying.  I almost took a swing at him.”

It’s a good thing you didn’t.  You might have missed the game when they dragged you to jail like that flasher at the Super Bowl.

“Yeah.  Violence is never the answer.  Wait…Janet Jackson went to jail?”

No, of course Janet Jackson didn’t go to jail.  Some guy ran out onto the field and took off his clothes in front of everyone.  The naked guy then tried to run away from the security guards, but his escape was cut short when he got decked by one of the Patriots.  They ended up dragging him off to jail.

“So Janet Jackson was allowed to show her privates during halftime, but when some regular guy did it, he went to jail?”

I think that’s what happened, yes.  Did you even watch the game?

“I did.  I watched the game with a bunch of obnoxious Patriots fans, though, so I didn’t really enjoy it.  Carolina should have won.”

It must be tough for you, an Oakland Raiders and New York Yankees fan, to put up with obnoxious sports fans.

“It wasn’t easy.  I tried to focus on the commercials, because that was the only time everyone wasn’t shouting, but the commercials were pretty weak this year.”

You didn’t like the horse gas ad?  I almost fell out of my chair when the guy asked if the girl smelled barbecue.

“Light beer companies shouldn’t be allowed to buy air time.  Light beer is evil.  Look what it did to me today.”

Light beer is only getting more popular now that everyone seems to be on these low carbohydrate diets.

“Tell me about it.  I was all set to go on that  ‘Dr. Napkins’ diet everyone is talking about, until I found out that it involved light beer.  Now how am I going to get in shape by the spring?”

Well, according to the groundhog, you have six weeks to work that out.

“Working out is probably a good idea.  What is this groundhog diet you keep talking about?  Does it involve light beer?”

The Day to Day Grind Tim 08 Feb 2002 No Comments