Phew. It's been an oddly involved week. I meant to post this Wedensday, and just got it done today.
Last Saturday I joined in boxing practice at a university boxing club. Now, this isn’t quite as random as it sounds—two years ago I did a month of boxing at a boxing gym, though I never got past the point of jumping rope and throwing limp-wristed hooks at the bag.
After exhausting myself shadow-boxing and using the bag on Saturday, I was invited up to try sparring. We had padded boxing helmets, which actually do a remarkable job of reducing impact—though your nose is exposed, the surrounding pads prevent a glove from coming in all the way and smashing it into your eye sockets. We also took it easy on one another, with each hit aiming to be a tap rather than a powerful blow. Of course, given that you need to put in some speed to actually clip someone in the head, most punches registered around the level of a schoolyard “ow”.
I'd always watched boxers on TV and wondered why they looked so tired after only three minutes. Then I tried it myself and discovered that after two minutes I couldn't lift my shoulders to fend off my opponent’s gloves any more, and there was still a minute left to go. I only knew three punches and one way of starting a combo, so it was pretty obvious where I was coming from most of the time, though I did land the occasional hit. Over three rounds with three different partners, I took no less than fifteen punches in the head and face, with most being delivered by the least experienced boxer in the room, since he actually had to work to get around my pathetic defence, while the others took it easy on me.
I had taken only three punches to the face in my lifetime up to Saturday. This experience increased my tally sixfold.
My one redeeming attribute was my insistence on immediately jumping back in front of my opponent after taking a hit. It felt like an academic test—I’d learned this stuff, and I’d clearly messed up, so it was time for another shot. I’d take a hook to the ear and think, “Damn, how do I block a hook? Okay, try again.” Pow. “Nope, not like that. Okay, I hope he’ll just stop, because I have no idea.”
When I released the pressure from the boxing helmet after my last round I noticed that I had a bit of a headache. My nose tingled for the rest of the day, and I felt a bit of a twinge when moving my right cheek. My head cleared up about two days later, but it wasn’t until Wednesday that I was able to cough or laugh without feeling like someone was rapping a hammer against the inside of my chest.
Boxing uses all the muscles surrounding your upper torso, so for three days, everything from my chest to my shoulders to my back felt like it had been fused together into a slab of iron.
Noises Completely Off
It was very strange to walk into a theatre and not know anybody. After two years’ involvement with the Tokyo International Players, I had become accustomed to recognizing nine out of ten faces whenever I saw a live performance of any sort. I felt a little out of place in the lobby.
Noises Off is a play about a play, first showing the various problems faced in rehearsals, then expanding to show the run of the play itself, focusing on how the turbulent backstage relations of the players make a comic mess of everything. So when the producer came out and told us one of the actors had been injured in the midday show, I presumed it was part of the act.
No such luck.
The Saturday evening and Sunday midday performances—the last two performances of the month-long run—were cancelled. One audience member was annoyed that we had not been informed sooner, but I just felt poorly for the actors who were now unable to come onstage. I hung back in the house while everyone else went out to get their refunds. There’s something sad about an empty stage where a show was meant to have been. It feels almost like a funeral. Something was meant to be there, but you can't see it any more.
On the Road
A few months ago I found a brilliant cycling path a few kilometers from my apartment. On Tuesday I hit the path again for the first time in months. The open spaces and the smell of grass under the summer sun reminded me of riding through the Izu Peninsula years ago. It was a peaceful feeling that I hadn't realized I'd missed.
Unfortunately, I enjoyed it a bit too much, and came home with arms the colour of traffic lights.
On Wednesday, my internet connection just stopped working around 10:00 in the morning. I was overcome by an eerie sense of panic as I uninstalled and reinstalled everything I that might directly or indirectly have something to do with the problem.
I suddenly felt alone and vulnerable—all the moreso because I was reluctant to call my internet provider. The last time I called them, they refused to give me any help until I signed up for their consultation service, a process that required about four hours and resulted in the revelation that they’d given me the wrong password. I’d told them as much in the first place, but it seemed they needed to run my problem through a litmus test, a CAT scan and a mass spectrometer before they were ready to believe me.
After banging my head against the wall for about 24 hours, on Thursday morning I checked my mailbox and noticed that I hadn’t paid my bills while I was away in Austria. They’d even been kind enough to notify me that my service would be cut on the 29th of June. Problem solved.
On a positive note, when I called to figure out when I would be reconnected (Within an hour! Huzzah!), the girl on the phone asked who was calling on behalf of this Mike Kanert person, and I got to feel cool for having passed the gaijin vocal screening test.
Yesterday I went out to try my first photography session with a human subject. My friend Ai, the music director and conductor for Once Upon A Mattress, wanted some portfolio shots and didn’t mind having a rank amateur fiddling around. I did some research, then ran out on Monday to grab a lens with a bigger aperture.
I learned a lot throughout the day—I’d never worked with such a shallow depth of field, so keeping things in focus was tricky. The auto-focus liked to zero in on an elbow or an earlobe, and much tinkering was required. Quite a few shots were write-offs, but we got a few good ones in the end.
*No rabbits were harmed in the making of this production.