Vulpes Training Review: Design is how it works

Norman doors

This is separate from our usual nuthin, folks.

Back when I met up with the pastor for coffee, I pointed out the Norman Doors that were all along the street.

Me: A norman door’s a door that needs a sign to tell you how to use it. Which is just stupid. You should be able to walk up to any door on the planet and not have to know how to speak the goddamn language.

If a door has to say, “Push,” on it so you can understand how to use it, someone, somewhere, fucked up. See. a secondary piece of information has to be provided because the first bit of information wasn’t enough, the very design of the object.

Instructions to the People #4

In a book I reviewed, before my world went to hell, Steve Jobs famously said, Design is how it works.

He meant that, you should be able look at something as staggeringly complex as an iPhone and just know how it works based on the design. And, as my toddler son has proven with his iPad, Stevie was right.

A few months back, I wanted to help out friend of mine with a business he was starting called Vulpes Training.

See, unlike most martial arts, kali – like jits – requires another person to really get the most out of it. You need another human being for things like distancing and timing, things you can’t do via forms alone.

I’ve always used the traditional rattan stick because it did the job the best.

I had a few trainers here and there but I didn’t like them because they hurt my hands or – worse – didn’t stand up to the pounding I gave them.

When I bought the trainers from Vulpes, I did it mainly as a favour to a buddy of mine. I don’t have enough spare scratch lying around for niceties for myself but I was helping out a friend.

But I was floored when I got them. Turns out, I wasn’t just helping out a friend, I was buying  a nice little gift for myself.

They were, well, perfect.

See, most people that design trainers try to do everything: They try to source the materials, design the blade, make the blade, test the blades, stock the blades, etc.

That’s a lotta stuff.

My buddy at Vulpes just let others handle the design by making trainers of popular knives and swords. Genius.

See, I’m partial to the Schrade Priscilla. It’s fashioned after a Greek Makhaira blade and was designed by a fella named Josh Waggoner.

Get this: Mr. Waggoner liked the Vulpes trainer so much that he endorsed it himself.

I also like the Cold Steel Tanto as a side weapon and, because he’s a pro, my buddy made me a custom trainer of that too. Hopefully he’ll add it to his catalogue.

Both are perfectly balanced and can take enough of a beating that I brought them to class to use as my regular weapon.

At least I tried to.

Me: Wait, why can’t I use them? They can handle it.
Him: Let’s not scare the new students.

It’s true, they both look and feel like serious business. Which they are. This is us playing with them towards the end. I don’t think I’ve ever shown you how I move with a weapon.

I’m always super self-conscious; focus on the weapon and not me, please.


Note that the pics I took of the weapons are AFTER that training session.

Design is how it works. Josh Waggoner designed a well-balanced, flowy machete/short sword that handles like butter. Vulpes Trainers took that great design – and others – and made a trainer that is probably gonna be my daily driver now.

If you are kali fella like me, look into them. They’re great.

Location: home, chatting with The Chad
Mood: hopeful
Music: They think she did it but they just can’t prove it (Spotify)
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The 2020 Christmas Spirit

Bit of a Grinch

Son: But I don’t want to get a shot.
Me: Kid, no one wants to get a shot. But we do what we have to do to keep the people we love safe. Do you want to keep Mouse, Grandma, and Grandpa safe?
Him: (hesitatingly) Yes.
Me: Then you have to get a shot.
Him: (nodding sadly) OK. If you say so.

The kid was due for his annual checkup so Mouse picked me up and we went off to NJ to get him. It was so nice to have him home, if only for a bit.

We even put up the Christmas tree together. This is him putting up the first ornament.

It was the one that Alison I got together all those years ago. We even put it in the same place.

I told him the story of each of the ornaments that Alison and I got for each other. Well, I tried to at least.

Me: And this one…and this one…
Mouse: (gently) Do you want to go to the back room for a second?
Me: Yes.
Her: (turning to the boy) That was a special ornament. Your mom got it for your dad and you because she loved you both so much.

The boy was really brave at the doctor’s office. Impatient, even. I like to think that too was born of love.

Him: I just want my shot now.
Doctor: Oh! (to me) Do you want the shot or nasal spay?
Me: I was unaware the latter was an option. Heck, yeah we’ll take the nasal spray!

The boy was puzzled but – ultimately – thrilled, of course, that he didn’t need a shot. Because he was so ready to take the shot, I still gave him the chocolate I promised him.

Him: But I didn’t get the shot.
Me: You weren’t going to get chocolate because you got a shot, you were going to get chocolate because you were brave. You get points in life for being brave.
Him: Yay!!!

It was hard bringing him back. He’s mine. I want him here with me.

Speaking of thinking that Mouse is great – and catching up with people during the holidays – I also got a chance to catch up with KG Betty.

Me:…and now you’re caught up to everything.
Her: I have to say, I’m on Mouse’s side here.
Me: I can see that.

The boy’s doctor was right by the ABFF’s pad so I rang her but we missed each other. But we made up for it because she swung by with her sister, kids, and a bottle of rum in tow.

They actually sang – and danced to – Feliz Navidad outside my door in their matching jammies.

Me: (laughing) This is how people get arrested in NYC.
Daughter: Do you or Mouse want some candy?
Me: We do! But we won’t take any.
ABFF: Get into the Christmas spirit!

She was right; I suppose I’m a bit of a grinch these days as Christmas makes me feel probably the opposite of what I should be feeling.

Then again, I’m probably not the only one.

Me: Wanna watch the news? See if we still live in a democracy?
Mouse: Hold on, I gotta finish all this bullshit gift shopping first.
Me: Well, if that’s not the 2020 Christmas spirit, I dunno what is.

Location: my empty apartment, doing some bullshit gift shopping of my own
Mood: missing the boy
Music: Take a shot in the rain, one for the pain (Spotify)
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Why are you always naked?!

Settlers of Hawaiian Pizza

Me: Your two favourite Lo’s will be there.
Mouse: To be fair, she’s my favourite one.

Before Alison got sick, for the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, I would get dressed up in my best suits and go to two-to-five parties a week.

It’s how I’d meet new clients for the coming year and also catch up with old clients and friends.

I still can’t get into the mindset of working full-time again – especially since the kid’ll be back permanently in the next few weeks, but I did try to take some time to catch up with people.

Like I said, I saw my cousin earlier last month:

Ras: People should eat what they want. Leave the Hawaiian pizza alone.
Me: Great, now I want a Hawaiian pizza.
Her: We’re already eating!
Me: It’s early, yet.

Oh, she passed her test, btw. This is good because it means I can probably borrow money from her at some point.

I also tried to see some of my college friends but we weren’t able to make it happen.

Duck: Hey, Logan. SJ bailed. I’m running around too. Let’s reschedule when we’re all available?
Me: OK, for sure.

Saw my buddy from around the way for some Vietnamese food. Not sure about his opinion as to Hawaiian pizza.

Him: What do you suggest?
Me: Pretty much everything. The sandwiches are killer.
Him: I just had a sandwich for lunch.
Me: Noodles it is then.

Hadn’t spoken to Chad in a bit so I rang him up. On video. Need to rethink doing that.

Chad: Logan, you can’t just video chat me outta the blue. I need a heads up.
Me: Why are you always naked, Chad?!
Him: I’m a free spirit, Logan!

Although, he should just decline the call, honestly.

He ended up stopping by for a round of Settlers of Catan with Mouse and me. He came close to winning but Mouse took the trophy in the end.

Me: I did not plan this out well.
Her: That’s what happens when you don’t pay attention.

I gotta start paying attention to things again.

Location: my empty apartment, taking care of a patient
Mood: fulla pro- and pre-biotics
Music: one more ride, baby, here we go (Spotify)
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The Comedian, The Criminal, and The Clown

Any good would come

I met up with the pastor from Vision Church recently for some coffee.

Him: I got you a gift.
Me: Oh, you shouldn’t have, really.
Him: It’ll give us something to talk about the next time we meet up.

It was a recently published comic that’s been getting a lotta press recently, called The Three Jokers.

Essentially, it’s about the three different types of Jokers that Batman’s faced throughout the years:

      1. The Comedian
      2. The Criminal
      3. The Clown

I’ll leave the rest there but it’s interesting in that I do think that we all have our three lives: Public, Private, and Secret.

My three lives have all been keeping me on my toes in their own ways, lately. Just dunno how to explain them to you in a way you might understand.

On that note, and returning to The Pastor, we had an compelling discussion before we left about defriending people and who we choose to have in our lives.

Him: People are complex. For example, there might be horribly racist people that you would trust with your son, but also people that wouldn’t dream of being racist, but you would never leave with alone with your son.
Me: Give me an example.
Him: Well, some Asian grandparents are horrible racists, but you’d trust them with your son in a heartbeat, wouldn’t you?
Me: (laughing) I suppose that’s true.
Him: So, I keep people around that I disagree with. Because they see the world differently than I do – and it’s good to see the world differently.
Me: I agree to some extent. But there are some people with I have no nexus and want none. I don’t want to see the world the way do.
Him: Why not?
Me: (shaking head) Because…I don’t feel any good could come of it.

Location: still home
Mood: still happier
Music: friends with tired eyes (Spotify)
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Whipping around Red Hook

This was a mistake

Me: We have a car!
Her: (laughing) It’s your car! You’ve always had it.

I’ve had a car for the last 35 years. Dunno if I ever told you that. Normally, that’s not a big deal but I live in Manhattan.

I had two beaten up BMWs and a brand-spanking new (at that time) Honda Accord that I loved and I kept in a local garage in Manhattan.

But in 2007, after the theft and a buncha other crazy things, I gave up the parking spot and brought the car out to Queens to stay at my mom’s house, where it’s stayed for the past 13 years.

Alison gave up her beloved Civic because the idea was that we’d just use my car when the time came for us to leave the city and get a place in the burbs. Of course, none of that ever happened.

So this car I loved sat at my mom’s place all this time with 56,000 miles on it – that’s 3,733 miles a year.

When I saw my mother-in-law the other day – after Mouse dropped me off for the umpteenth time – and I mentioned the car to her, the first thing she said was, “Why don’t you just give Mouse the car?”

My mom had said something similar, despite her and/or my sister using it on occasion all this time (and paying for the insurance and upkeep all this time).

I told my mom and she immediately cleaned it out and handed me the keys and the title. Mouse refused to accept it as a gift though and offered to pay me a little something for it, which I appreciated.

Then she promptly drove me to NJ, and then back to the city, yet again. But that’s another story for another time.

After we picked up my whip, though, we were driving around Brooklyn when I suggested that – since we had a ride – we should celebrate. We rang up Cho, who suggested that we hit up the Red Hook Lobster Pound, which we did.

Her: (after eating everything) I’m still hungry.
Me: I have a rack of ribs at home.
Her: Sold. Let’s go.

We ended up heading home and eating another half rack-of-ribs between the two of us.

I would say that it’s brought us closer together but that’s not entirely true.

Me: Oh, this is a good song (on the radio).
Her: I see we’re listening to the oldies station.
Me: Clearly, this was a mistake.

Location: home – like, really home
Mood: happier
Music: we can swim far away from the wreck we made (Spotify)
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One car ride, five trains…

…and one short walk

After we finished dinner and cleaned up, I gave the boy a bath and helped him get to bed. He wanted me to stay but I told him I couldn’t.

I understand how hard it is for a parent to tell a child no for something they both want.

Well, now I do, I mean. It’s something I don’t think I ever fully appreciated before.

Her mom drove me to the train station to head home. We talked in the car.

Earlier that night, I imitated Alison’s voice and some of her mannerisms and her mom laughed because I got it right. That’s a nice memory for me to have. Alison woulda laughed too.

We all miss her terribly.

At the train station, there were three girls trying to figure out how to get to the other side of the tracks because the train was arriving in five minutes. I suddenly realized that I didn’t know where my phone was.

After four minutes of frantic searching, I had my mother-in-law call it and found I had dropped it when I stepped out of the car. We could hear the train approaching.

Her: Grab it and go, I’ll stay in case you miss it.
Me: OK, thanks!

I ran breathlessly to the other side of the train tracks where the three girls from earlier looked at me quizzically.

They must’ve wondered why I waited until the very last minute to get there.

The first leg of the trip was quiet, as my trips go. A guy was trying to pick up a girlie but otherwise, the train was empty.  It’s always empty when I travel these days.

But Mouse kept me company via messages, though.

I was still thinking of Alison and everything when I got out at Newark Penn Station to transfer to the other train when I noticed two signs.

The first said that the train to Penn Station was cancelled; the next one was in 22 minutes.

The second sign said that there was a PATH train leaving in two minutes. Made a snap  judgement, took out my Metrocard, and caught the PATH train just as the doors were closing.

Unfortunately, it was headed to the World Trade Center, way south of my pad. So, when I got to Jersey City, I transferred to a second PATH train to Hoboken, Alison’s old town.

I took that to 33rd Street and transferred to the N train.

Got off that and transferred to the red line. Then I walked to my pad.

One car ride, five trains, and one short walk later I was home.

Harold. I’m back,” I said.

He didn’t answer me. He never does.

Just need to make it past New Year’s and I’m good for five months.

Easy.

Location: my empty home
Mood: bad again
Music: got a ticket to ride but she don’t care (Spotify)
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Sharing Thanksgiving traditions

Not an unreasonable ask

Mother-in-law: You prefer dark meat, right? Legs and thighs?
Me: Yup.
Her: Good, because they’re all yours – we all prefer chicken breasts.
Me: Sweeeeeeet.

Mouse gave me a lift to see the boy and Alison’s family the day before Thanksgiving.

She’s been working non-stop since she started her new gig so I essentially drove while she conducted an interview in the passenger seat via her laptop. It was pretty impressive, I gotta say.

The boy ran out and gave me this huge hug and I could tell he wanted to give Mouse one as well but we all agreed that, while he was with my in-laws, there couldn’t be any physical contact with anyone.

So they stayed socially distant and chatted for a bit before she had to leave. She was only there for a few minutes before she made the long trek home.

The timing worked out perfectly because my sister-in-law was staying over Thanksgiving night so I had the guest room to myself that night.

A slight negative was that Mouse and I got into another argument on the phone after everyone went to bed, but, like the last one, it wasn’t a bad one.

Her: I just wish we could disagree on things without it becoming a war every time.
Me: That’s not an unreasonable ask. I’ll try to do better.

She’s just great, honestly. But I suppose that’s a post for another time.

Sister-in-law: How are you still eating?
Me: I believe in myself. Tonight, I’m carbing out like mad.

One silly but meaningful thing about Alison was that she told me that her family had three roasted chickens instead of turkey for Thanksgiving – cause no one really liked turkey.

I remember that I told that to my mom shortly after Alison and I had our first Thanksgiving together and my mother’s reaction was priceless.

Mom: Wait, can you do that?
Me: It’s not like you get arrested if you don’t have turkey. We should do that too – no one likes turkey here either.
Her: Really?!

Ever since then, we didn’t have turkey either. I like that, having a little shared tradition with my families.

As an aside, Mouse’s family doesn’t do turkey either.

Like at my house, I carved the chicken. I figure they know I can handle a knife.

Sister-in-law: (to my son) Do you want pie a la mode? That means pie with ice cream.
Him: Yes!
Her: Which one do you want? Pumpkin or Apple pie?
Him: Pumpkin!
Me: Then I’ll have the apple pie and we can try each other’s.
Him: OK!

The boy sang to me the entire time I was there. Although, to be fair, he sang to everyone.

Heading home was the start a ridiculous 2.5 hour adventure, but I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.

Location: in my head again
Mood: a bit better
Music: I’ll often stop and think about them (Spotify)
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Not for better

These memories lose their meaning

Son: I like that song.
Me: (nodding slowly) I love that song. I always think of your mom when I hear it.
Him: (laughing) Papa…you sound funny.

I went to see the boy for Thanksgiving. I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.

While I was there, we went for a drive and we were playing the Beatles when In my Life came on. That picture above is him singing some Beatles songs in Alison’s childhood driveway.

Exactly a decade earlier, I wrote a blog entry about that song and I mentioned that Alison/Heartgirl and I went to my parents for Thanksgiving. She always went home for the holiday but she came with me to mine. Because she loved me so.

My father was there. I remember he was happy to have Alison and me there. That’s Alison laughing at the face I was making.

We played board games – Taboo – after dinner. Alison loved playing board games. Games of all types, actually.

That’s her with the buzzer ready to buzz in my ear in case I messed up.

That was the first Thanksgiving my entire family was together. It was also the last. The boy’s never been with everyone and never will. Shit, fuck me.

I loved her so. I loved my father so.

I hate the holidays so.

Me: (clearing throat, forcing smile) Oh, I just had something in my throat. I love you the most, you know?
Him: I love you too, papa.
Me: Thank you.
Him: (laughing) You sound funny again!
Me: (nodding)

In my life
There are places I’ll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone, and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends, I still can recall
Some are dead, and some are living
In my life, I’ve loved them all
But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life, I’ll love you more
Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I’ll love you more
In my life I’ll love you more

Location: hell
Mood: not well
Music: In my life I’ll love you more (Spotify)
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IOQ: Indicators of Quality

Zippers, Steak, or Chicken?

The rest of the weekend was pretty quiet. Mouse started a new job so, even over the weekend, she was busy with one thing or another. Still, we did have a pretty nice weekend until she had to head back home.

Nice being a relative term.

Her: I was looking through some of our chats and…we sound psychotic.
Me: What do you mean?
Her: Because in between texts, I guess we end up seeing or talking to each other. Like, one set of texts is like, “I hate you, I never want to talk to you ever again!” and the next is like, “Do you want steak or chicken for dinner?”
Me: Did we decide on steak of chicken?

A buddy of mine is looking to upgrade his wardrobe over Black Friday and I told him that, while I do have the occasional name-brand product, I almost never purchase anything based on names.

Instead, I look for (a) clothes that fit me well that are (b) made of quality materials. I told him that I figure out the latter through indicators of quality.

Stupidly simple, just like my three-step life algorithm, but you’d be surprised how many people mess this up too.

For example, whenever I buy clothes that have zippers on them, I look for YKK zippers. This is because YKK makes really, really good zippers that cost more than regular zippers.

So when I see two things that I like equally well, but one has a YKK zipper, I usually end up buying the YKK one.

See, I figure that, if a company cares enough to use higher quality zippers, they probably care about the details like stitching and fabric weave. It’s the little things that matter to me.

Cause it’s the little things that are indicators of quality.

Ditto for shoes. I look for full- or top-grain “leather uppers,” which are essentially real leather shoes, versus “man-made uppers,” which are basically plastic shoes. The brand rarely makes a difference to me.

My sneakers are almost always cloth so I can toss them in the washer on the reg. I can’t remember the last time I spent more than $30 for a pair of sneakers.

Someone just stopped me the other day to ask me where I got my powder blue ones from. I told him, honestly, on eBay.

The most expensive things I wear on the regular – I rarely wear my suits anymore – are my three no-name but bespoke leather jackets.

I picked the lining, the leather, and the color for alla them. Most importantly, for me, is that the sleeves and waist are tailored because I’ve got a pretty slim waist (pro) and short T-Rex arms (con).

And the one I like the most is my red one because it has white pick stitching.

Nobody notices this kinda stuff, but I do.

That’s the thing: As I get older, I find myself caring a lot less about things that other people notice and a lot more about things that I notice.

Man, I’m so bummed I ripped the sleeve on it.

Speaking of noticing things…

Me: Your hair is crazy!
Mouse: Yeah, it’s crazy like the 80s so it must remind you of your childhood.
Me: It kinda does.

Location: home, trying to get my apartment above 30% humidity
Mood: excited to see my son
Music: In her eyes I see the sea (Spotify)
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A fall day in the burbs

Confusing me

Her: I think we’re confusing everyone by hanging out all the time.
Me: You’re confusing me by us hanging out all the time!

Mouse told me to keep a day open for her this weekend because she wanted to bring me somewhere.

Her: And make sure to bring your camera.

So, early on Saturday, she picked me up and off we went to, what ended up being just eight minutes from my mom and sister’s house: The Fall Escape at Queens County Farm Museum.

It was just a thing for us to walk around and take pictures.

While there, we met two young ladies and we offered to take pictures of them if they took pictures of us.

The pictures they took weren’t great, but – like the waitress – they were very nice and tried their best.

Having said that, it was nice being out in the burbs with Mouse early on a fall weekend.

Me: I wish the boy was here with us.
Her: We’ll come back with him; now that we know how to get here, we can come anytime.

Afterward, I wanted to stop by to see my family but, as luck would have it, it was one of the few times I’ve ever left home without my phone so, when I stopped by to see them afterward, no one was there and I couldn’t reach them.

I really wanted to see my mom and was disappointed that I didn’t.

But by then we were starving and headed off to the same all-you-can-eat place that we’d been to a few times previously.

Walking out, I took the pic below and told Mouse, “If this is still here in 60 years, I’m coming here at 107 with you and Chad and we’re gonna make them regret this.”

Later that night, I called my mom.

Mom: We talked for over an hour!
Me: I know. I missed you.
Her: I miss you too.

Location: home, trying – and failing at – an arm-triangle
Mood: hard-to-say
Music: I know I’m someone to you (Spotify)

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