What is a Langkah?

Langkah (Indonesian) - noun: literally step, move, pace, action, measure, stride, leap, foot, footstep, gesture, tread, footpace

In Indonesian martial arts, Pencak Silat, it commonly refers to geometric patterns on the floor used to train footwork and develop an understanding of the role of the lower body in maintaining balance and a base from which to generate power.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Ketchum If You Can

Jack Ketchum is a pretty big name in horror fiction but, when I first met him, I didn't realize who he was.

I met him in '05 at the World Horror Convention in New York City. I attended the convention because my friend & mentor, Joe R. Lansdale, was there. That's also the event where I met Linda Addison, who has become one of my dearest friends.

I wound up hanging out quite a bit with a guy named Lee, an author and volunteer for the con. Lee was very cool, and I wish I could remember his last name. Nonetheless, at one point, I was chatting with Lee when a guy walked up.

Lee introduced the man as Dallas. They talked a little, then Dallas asked if Lee and I had dinner plans. We did not, so Dallas recommended we go get some food. He needed to get something from his room, so Lee and I tagged along to his room.

In the room, Dallas poured a shot of vodka for Lee and himself and asked if I wanted one. I explained I wasn't partial to vodka. Dallas said, "I have some absinthe. Wanna hit of it?"

I had never tried absinthe, so I said, "Sure." I quickly learned why the liquor has such a reputation. I had about a finger of absinthe cut with water, and it was still something of a gut punch and head rush. After our drinks, we left the room. I don't remember what came up, but something separated me from them.

Later, I saw Dallas, and we chatted a bit before he went on about his business. A young man walked up to me with a starstruck expression and said, "You know Jack Ketchum?"
That's how I met Jack Ketchum. I chatted with him a few other times at other events, but I can't claim to have known him well. A passing acquaintance. I have, however, read some of his work, and there's a reason he's well-known and respected.

In my limited experience, he seemed like a genuinely nice guy and, from what I've heard from others who knew him better, he was generous with his time and helpful to those around him without asking anything in return.

I didn't know him well, but the news of his death hit me pretty solidly. While I don't have any liquor, much less absinthe, on hand, I do have a cup of water, so I'll pretend it has some absinthe in it and raise a toast to a good man, good author, and someone I'm honored to have known to even such a small extent.

Salud and RIP.

The Wandering Guru

Jack Ketchum, RIP

Saturday, January 20, 2018

A Sensitive Topic

I don't know the age demographics for people reading my blog, but I want to discuss something I wish someone had explained to me when I was a kid or teen. The subject is "being gay."

I try to keep my posts PG but this one's going to get a tad risque. Probably spiking into NC-17 but definitely up into the territory of R.

Now, the reason I use that specific word will become apparent but, what I'm really referring to is understanding sexuality, whether it's hetero, homo, bi, or pan.

I grew up in a largely blue-collar community in central Indiana in the 70s and 80s. Calling a guy gay was always considered an insult. Friends might get away with it in jibes, but it was an insult. If we considered a product inferior, we labeled it gay.

From my current vantage, it was rather appalling, though I'm sure there are still places where this mindset prevails. In fact, in the region where I grew up, it's probably still the default attitude. I honestly don't know. I don't spend much time in that area and, when I do, I don't usually discuss such things with the people I talk to there.

I don't recall any openly homosexual students in my school. I know some were labeled as such simply because they matched the stereotypes and, at least one of them, did come out sometime after high school, but I don't remember knowing anyone in my school was homosexual.

Here's the thing: no one ever explained what "gay" was. I might have looked it up in the dictionary but, even then, I don't think I grokked it. Scratch that. I know I didn't because that didn't happen until a few years ago.

Thinking back on it, I would guess many of my friends would agree. We didn't know what homosexuality was but, to paraphrase Judge Potter Stewart, "we knew it when we saw it." The idea of homosexuality was, in my understanding, defined by actions coupled with a sort of communal consensus.

Assuming you're a guy:

  1. Did you look at a guy in the shower? You might be gay.
  2. Did you touch yourself while looking at him? You're probably gay.
  3. Did you fantasize about licking his balls? You're definitely gay.
Those were the kind of metrics we used in discussions about it, and they were both situational and black-and-white. So, if you licked or sucked a penis, you're gay. You were in prison at the time? Doesn't matter. You're gay. You were forced? Take your pick because either you're gay or a wimp who didn't fight back hard enough.

When I saw Shawshank Redemption, my personal understanding on that shifted because I'd been in some fights and knew if that many guys cornered me, I'd fight like hell, but they'd probably be able to overpower me.

Now, here's what I wish someone had explained to me way earlier in my life.

Sexuality isn't defined purely by actions. I know a woman who is bisexual but has never had sex with another woman. A much younger version of me would have considered that impossible. Now, though, I understand it's defined by "attraction."

If you are sexually attracted people of the same sex, you are homosexual. If you are sexually attracted to people of the opposite sex, you are heterosexual. Both, you're bi. Doesn't matter if you've ever had sex with anyone.

I remember hearing someone, I don't remember the context, say, "I sucked a guy's dick in prison, but I'm not gay." At the time, that made no sense. I was, I think, still in high school, and I remember looking at my friends, and someone said, "Nope. He's gay."

Now, I understand how this might happen. A guy might have sex in prison with another guy but not be gay. If he doesn't consider guys sexually attractive, he's not homosexual. Period.

It seems strange that it took me ~40 years to grasp this concept, but that's how deeply ingrained the cultural bias was.

The Wandering Guru

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Uber Stories

Uber Story #1: Poor Planning on Your Part Does Not Constitute an Emergency on My Part

I got a ride request at 5:48 AM. I arrived to pick the young woman up at 5:59 AM. She got into the car and said, "Man, I'm running late."

"Going to work?"

"No. It's a federal halfway house. I just got out of prison."

"Oh. Oops."

"Yeah. I'm supposed to be there by 6:00 AM, but I have a fifteen-minute window."

"So," I think, "you planned to get there at 6:15. You left yourself zero room for Murphy factors. Now, Murphy has tripped you up."

"GPS estimates 25 minutes."

"What? It should only take 15 minutes."

"There's something happening on the freeway. I don't know what it is, but I saw a bunch of emergency vehicles in the southbound lane when I came to pick you up." We had to head south to get her to her location.

"Damn. I'll throw in ten dollars, cash, if you get me there before 6:15."

I laughed. "That won't even put a dent in the speeding ticket if I get pulled over. Never mind that I could lose my job."

"A Lyft driver told me you guys, Lyft, Uber, taxi, and bus drivers, can't get pulled over. The cops ignore you."

More laughter from me. "I don't know if he was misinformed, joking, or lying, but ... no."

I dropped her off at 6:24 AM.

Uber Story #2: Good Guys Finish Fine

I got a ride request from a woman I'll call GG. GG has osteoporosis and, last night, while walking her dog, her dog took off after a squirrel, caught GG off guard, and caused her to fall. She shattered her elbow on the sidewalk.

With her husband in Denver for work, GG was stranded because she couldn't drive due to the broken elbow and the pain it caused. She needed to go to the doctor, get a prescription for pain meds, and get back home. She called Uber, and I got the request.

I picked her up and drove her to her doctor, which was a 30-minute drive to a town called Black Canyon City. I waited 1.5 hours while she was in the doctor's office and went to pick up her prescription. When she requested an Uber ride, I accepted.

She was surprised she got me again. I explained, "There are no Uber drivers in Black Canyon City, so I waited for you because I knew you needed a ride back home."

She asked if we could hit a drive-thru on the way so she could get some food to take her pain meds with. We did.

When I dropped her off, she called her daughter (who had actually requested the Uber drive for her) and asked the daughter to add a large tip. I didn't overhear the conversation, so I didn't know how much of a tip she requested. Then GG came to the car and said, "My daughter can't afford the tip I want to give you on her card. Can I write you a check?"

I said, "Sure."

I hoped for $50. I would have been satisfied with $20. Hell, I would have been satisfied with whatever she gave me. Her situation sucked, and I was glad I could help. When she gave me the check ... I won't say how much it was for, but it was more than $50. In fact, $50 had to go hide in a corner out of embarrassment.

Honestly, I wouldn't have been upset if she'd decided not to tip me, but I'm not complaining about the extra money. It's nice when "above and beyond" gets recognized and compensated.

In the end, it pays to be a decent human being. In this case, it paid financially but, even when there's no financial compensation, it's worth the time and effort.

The Wandering Guru