pamie packs a punch
“Oh, hey,” Eric said to me last night before we went to sleep, “we don’t have to get on a plane tomorrow, do we?”
“No,” I replied.
“Good. I don’t want to get on another plane for a while.”
Although the family reunion was a lot of fun, Eric and I are really tired of airplanes. I swear the seats get smaller and hotter with each connecting flight.
PEOPLE OF PHILADELPHIA! I HAVE AN ANNOUNCEMENT TO MAKE! PLEASE PAY ATTENTION!
PEOPLE OF PHILADELPHIA!
IT’S FRIGGIN’ HOT OVER THERE! IT’S NOT LIKE A NORMAL HOT!
GET SOME DAMN AIR CONDITIONING!
We go to Philly and it’s like 98 degrees or something, and we’re sweating and melting and everyone’s like, “Oh, you’re from Texas? Well, it must be hot over there, much hotter than what we have here.”
“Well, it’s hot, yes, but we do things a little differently,” Eric said.
“Well, see, when it’s hot here, you guys all sit around outside drinking coffee saying, ‘It really is hot,’ pretending that it’s not that hot and saying, ‘We’ll just brave through it’ and not turning on an air conditioner. In Texas we make sure every building is sixty-eight degrees year round.”
“We condition outside as well,” I added. “The have air conditioning in the lines at Astroworld, and you’re standing outside.”
“It’s a different plan of attack, really,” said Eric.
“We don’t really buy into that ‘If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ thing in Texas, we just blast the shit out of the heat with cold air.” I wiped more sweat from my lower back.
“So, you guys are hot?”
There was a wall unit air conditioner in our bedroom that we would leave on all day. Whenever we were near tears from heat frustration we’d run up into the little room and stand very still and enjoy the cold and pretend we were in Chuy’s apartment, which is 54 degrees in the summer. Eric commented that his cousins must have been very happy to see us go so that their electric bill could go back to normal and that their appliances would work at full power again.
The family reunion was fun. Generations of Eric’s family together and they meet every year. When we first got there it looked like a company picnic– each of the eldest siblings is assigned a color and all of the descendants wears that color. So when we first got something to eat you’d see a bunch of blues sitting together, a bunch of reds, oranges, greens… we were sporting the gray which symbolized Eric’s grandfather’s bunch. For the first few hours the different families kept to themselves, with lots of kids and babies to feed and take care of, but as the day winded down we ended up sitting in a circle while the family sang Polish songs and laughed and joked. I spent some time listening to Eric talk to his aunt (known in Polish as a Cio Cia (pronounced “Chuh-Cha”)). Cio Cia Ann talked about how there used to be nine brothers and sisters in her family and they would all put on plays and sing and dance at holidays and their house was always filled with people and laughter. Looking around you noticed that her family of nine brothers and sisters was down to five (and one in Michigan who couldn’t make the trip) and she took Eric’s hand and said, “But, you know, it’s been a nice life, a good life, and I’m happy to have seen all of this.”
And so was I. I had never seen a close family like that. There were eighty-eight people there and that was considered a small turn out.
Oh, and I played my first game of Boche. I would have done fine if Aunt Shelly hadn’t made it her personal duty to body check me when I went to throw the ball. Once you play Boche for quarters those people just don’t joke around anymore.
“You wanna kickbox tomorrow?”
It seemed like an innocent enough question, really. Eric’s cousin-in-law teaches a kickboxing class and he said he was some sort of Northeastern champion or something, so we thought that would be a lot of fun. He mocked my Tae-Bo a little, which I expected from someone who was actually a trained fighter and all, but I felt better knowing that I at least knew how to kick.
We drive the next morning to go to the class. We ended up on a grass road and the car was going up this windy residential area. “Where are you taking us?” Eric asked.
“You’ll see,” he said.
It was a barn.
Well, it was like a loft-barn. It was wooden, and dark, and hot, and filled with hay. We went to one side of the barn, where there was a big canvas punching bag hanging from a rafter and met the other two classmates.
I took a look around at the barn and thought to myself, “How very Footloose.” I kicked some hay out of the way with my borrowed tennis shoes, pulled up my pajama bottoms and straightened my bra on my shoulder, wishing that I had packed just one sports bra.
In thirty seconds I was covered in a sweat that even Billy Blanks(tm) himself has not quite reached. We kicked and punched and stretched, and you know what? It felt good. I really had a great time. It’s one thing to do those roundhouse kicks but it’s another to feel contact at the end of them– to feel something caving in from you hitting it. It’s another thing entirely to think about how you would use your body to defend yourself in an attack. It’s completely different when you’re kicking around hay and splinters.
I was giddy and heady from the sweat and the heat and I looked down and saw my clothes sticking to me from the sweat and I could hear Bonnie Tyler in my head singing that she was “holding out for a hero,” and I was feeling pretty good and then they said, “Now we’re gonna do a little sparring.”
Someone put boxing gloves on my hands. I knew that I was in a room with four people who had fifty-plus years of experience in the martial arts and Eric and so I had hoped that I’d be sparring with my shmoopie. I mean, I’d just give him a look and a whimper and nothing bad would happen, right? No. They pared me up with “Little John.”
In sports that involve wrestling or kicking or punching they like to make jokes like calling the biggest guy there “Little John.”
To my left Eric was finishing up with Little John. They were practicing kicks on each other back and forth, and they would hit each other’s thighs with their shins. “If it hurts, let your partner know,” they had said, but I know Eric. He would never admit he was hurting. Little John was kicking Eric on the thigh, and when he finished I watched Eric give that look like the inside of his skull was melting in pain but his face didn’t want to show it, and Little John put on some boxing gloves and walked over to me.
“Okay, so here we are,” he started, and we crouched down and started that walking-in-a-circle boxing thing that was really important here if you didn’t want to fall down some stairs into hay. “Now keep your guard up.”
The gloves were so big that I couldn’t see around them. They were larger than my head.
“Hit where I’m open. Hit where I’m open. Where am I open?”
“I don’t know.”
“My huge head. Hit it.”
I tapped him on the head.
“No. HIT it!”
I moved my gloves down to see what he was talking about.
The next thing I was aware of was my nose being pushed kind of into my skull. My eyes were watering and I had bitten the tip of my tongue. I wasn’t in too much pain, but I was in a state of shock. It was like I was doing sprints in the gym and didn’t bother to stop before I hit the matted wall and just ran into it face first.
He hit me. He hit me in the face with that glove. He HIT me!
I hit him back. He hit me. I hit him back.
“Do the combination.”
I jab, punch, kicked. I punched him on the shoulder. I did a hook to his right side.
Then he hit me. And hit me. He kicked me. He hit me. He did some crazy thing where I was hit in nine places at once. I couldn’t see him through the sweat and gloves, but I knew I was being hit over and over. This man is huge and I cannot see him.
“What do you do now?” he asked. “What is it that you do now?”
“I run really fast in whatever direction you’re not going.”
“No, you hit me again.”
“Oh, right. Yeah.”
Tap, tap, tap from me.
Punch. Punch. Punch from him.
And then it was over. I had my first experience with actual body contact fighting. “Nice kicks,” he said. “Good work.”
“That’s alright work, there, pamie,” I heard Billy Blanks(tm) saying in my head. “You’re a pretty good conqueror.”
We went for cheesesteaks right after, and I realized that I had left my watch somewhere in the barn. “You’ll get it back,” I was told.
“I’m proud of you,” Eric said to me as we waddled into the house. “You made it through the whole thing.”
“I know. You tried everything. Good for you.”
Eric’s mom walked up. “How was it?”
“It was good,” I said.
“Did you cry?”
I didn’t really expect that question. “No, I didn’t cry.”
“Oh. Sometimes people cry because it can get scary.”
“No, I didn’t cry. Your son cried, but I didn’t.”
“Mommy, the big man kicked me real hard.”
Eric’s cheesesteak came with a mother’s sympathy that afternoon, and that’s the best cheesesteak there is. Philly may have some sort of potted plant tasting water that makes the bread in the cheesesteak so damn good, but if you eat it while you’re exhausted and covered with sweat and your mother’s eyes are widening as you tell her about how big and strong you were– well, they haven’t found a way to sell a sandwich that good.
I spent all of yesterday on a plane, as the plane to Austin broke down on the runway and we sat in no air conditioning for almost two hours. At this point I’m tired of no air conditioning and I don’t care what my electric bill is this summer, I’m keeping my place cold. In any event, I came back to town and found that Mike’s Enterview had been posted about me.
My one woman show opens next weekend.
I’m gonna go stress about that now for a while.