Jiu Jitsu

For some, it’s about the violence. Jiu Jitsu is, after all, two bodies negotiating a single space. If played to its logical conclusion, one body is dead or, at the very least, unusable. It’s a slow, unfolding art.

To me, when I roll with my betters — which, if I’m honest, is most everyone — it feels like reverse-engineering a sculpture. Who creates and who uncreates often changes and more often overlaps. There are the strong-willed blue belts where the engineering is more a dismantling. You’re the Confederate statue and they’re the righteous chains pulling you down. There are the systematic upper-belts who soften your marble and iron to reveal your loosely constructed framework. One minute you’re a stone monument and next you’re a toothpick. And then, there are the folks like my Professor — kindhearted, patient kinetic-scholars. No matter how fluid you think you are they seem to perceive you as static. And in that static-state can form and unform you to their liking.

On my best days, Jiu Jitsu is a molecular, art therapy. As good for the soul as anything I’ve ever tried. Worst days, which there are many, I leave class egoscraped and injured, but feeling very much reset. An occasional and always-necessary return to zero.

Sadly, I’m taking some time off — end of days and all — but I’ll be back.

If you’re ever in Salt Lake and wanna wrassle, swing by.

Moby Dick

I read the first few pages walking home from the library. An uncommon, welcome, summer rain followed me as I read. It’s a beautiful book. If you’re not ready to dive in Tilda Swinton will read you the first chapter. If that doesn’t excite you then we probably won’t see eye-to-eye on most things.

Melville’s prose has the power to overwhelm you. He stretches it to its complete limit and then a little farther. It’s biblical and thumping — rhythmic and prophetic. I’d read that McCarthy was influenced by Melville and it’s clear in Blood Meridian. The color and breath of the words, the impossible characterizations. Yes, I think overwhelming is the right word.

I fell in love with Queequeg as I was falling in love with my fiancée. She suggested it, took me to see an opera based on it. Her and the Pequod are inseparable — knotted together in my memories. Often, when I feel that “drizzly November in my soul” I think back to the beauty of that book and the magic circumstances that brought me to it. Moby Dick will always be a wonderful place for me to visit.

Read it.

Yoko Ogawa

Thanks to a fiction workshop at the University of Utah I was recently introduced to the work of Yoko Ogawa. Revenge, to be specific. It’s a collection of interlaced short-stories that I can’t stop thinking about. I haven’t felt a connection to a work of art like this since Saramago’s All the Names (which i’m sure I’ll write about eventually). The way she decorates and unfolds the space of her novels, to me, is almost supernatural. Certainly light-years beyond my own capacity.

One thing that struck me, and strikes me as lacking elsewhere, is how she furnishes her narratives. There’s the eerie undercurrent that makes Revenge a joy to read — you’ll feel happily unbalanced from beginning to end. But the beauty is more foundational. As I walk the pages of her books I feel totally immersed in her reality. No corner or floorboard, seen or unseen, is unaccounted for. I get the sense, if books allowed it, I could step through any doorway and be confronted by some strange, beautiful happenings.

I was so nervous for that workshop, surrounded by bright-eyed kids, most, at least, ten years younger than me. My anxieties were quickly smoothed over by their care and excitement for the written word — something that seems to transcend many of our human differences. And that’s where I met Yoko, so, bygod, it’s a beautiful place.

Lastly, the Professor for that class was extremely patient and caring with the young (and old) creatives in her care. Read her work. Fascinating, complete, complex.