If this is Tuesday, it must be Bettendorf
Sunday was a good day. First of all: cell phone charger for the car, where have you been all my life? My cell phone doesn’t hold a charge well, so I can make about 1 45 minute call before the little battery icon starts blinking and telling me I’m out of juice. You’d think I would have figured out earlier in the trip that I could get a car charger, but apparently I didn’t, because on Sunday morning Adamarie and I went to Best Buy, and that was truly a good buy. Maybe even the best.
So I spent all day yesterday and today in the car yakking up a storm while driving about 18 hours from Albuquerque to Denver to York, NE, to Bettendorf, IA. My parents are happier too, because now I won’t ever need the phone and not be able to use it. They may not be happy that I’m talking while driving, but they never need to know. Don’t tell them.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The rest of Sunday was a good day too. Adamarie had to work at Trader Joe’s at 2, and I met up with Abdullah, Faviola, and Thomas at the judo club at 1. We did some judo drills and then I worked with Faviola on some high guard moves—how to pass the high guard and how to use it herself, climbing her legs up the opponent’s back to set up an arm bar. As I mentioned, she is a wrestler, so her takedowns are good. So we also worked on a finishing hold she can do from the takedown, where she shoots in for a single leg (which is just what it sounds like: grab one leg and use it to put the opponent on his/her butt or back) and from there she can try to stay standing and apply a straight footlock.
I also sparred a little more with Abdullah. He helped me drill the D’Arce choke I learned from Sonny Nohara at Cobra Kai, the one that starts out with me in side control. We went over some possible counters to it and ways that using the move would make me (or anyone who tries it) vulnerable—am I leaving my arms open for an armbar? Am I likely to get mounted? Etc. The likelihood of all those things diminishes as you practice, so I’m glad I got a chance to rep the technique.
Abdullah is sneaky or lucky. I can’t decide which. He had been pushing for us to go to a churrascaria after training, but none of the rest of us was hungry enough. (And I’m trying to cut weight, especially after Abdullah told me that you weigh less in higher altitudes. Crap. I should have known that huge weight loss was too good to be true.) Have I described the churrascaria experience? I think I have. Actually, I know I have, in the glossary of BJJ terms on my main page (http://www.valerieworthington.com/7.html). It’s Brazilian BBQ, all you can eat of huge cuts of meat that servers bring to your table, an enormous salad bar, and cheese puffs and rolls that are palate cleansers or something. Something delicious, that is. Anyway, none of us was hungry enough for churrascaria after we were done training, so Abdullah suggested Thai food. Okay, I figured I could get soup. Well, the Thai place was closed, so when we asked what else was around, he said, “Well, the churrascaria is right around the corner.” That punk.
So, yeah, I ate about 2 pounds of delicious, delicious meat, and probably 6 or 7 cheese puffs and 4 fried bananas. I managed to avoid the salad bar completely—why gunk up your system with all those vegetables? And we had dessert too. Oy vey.
Here’s a picture of Abdullah, me, Thomas, and Faviola at our tiny churrascaria table. You can see the remnants of the meal, as well as the wooden cylinder with the red on the top and the green on the bottom. Red on the top means we were done eating. Abdullah looks pensive and wise. I look sweaty and full. Thomas and Faviola look cute and young.
Oh, and here are some pics from Adamarie’s and my trip to Jemez Springs. I don’t really know what anything is, but the scenery is just gorgeous. In one, you can see me in my new Ouano Sherpa jacket. The black one is a limited edition; I think only John, Sean, Johnny, Darren, and I have one. (I rule!) I also have a brown one. They are the coziest things ever.
Crap; I'm just realizing I never took any pictures with me and Adamarie. I'll get her next time!
So anyway, I had a blast with Abdullah, Faviola, and Thomas, and have tentative plans to get together to train with Abdullah again before he goes to China in the spring (for school). Thanks to all of them for such a great time! Abdullah, if you’re reading this, I like all kinds of cheesecake. All kinds of desserts, really. Just in case you’re in a baking mood again when we get together next.
Monday morning I had to say goodbye to Adamarie. She worked early in the morning, so I got on the road toward Denver when she left. It was a gorgeous day, and while I was sad to leave, I was also excited to start driving. I can say that because Adamarie gets it. She loves road trips more than I do. So thanks to Adamarie for a terrific Thanksgiving and a great weekend. And for friendship.
The drive was about 350 miles and went quickly. I alternated between listening to The Waifs (Australian country-sounding band that was perfect for the mountain scenery) and talking on the phone—with confidence that I would never run out of battery power! Felicia entertained me for maybe 70 miles with stories of her experiences teaching kettlebells (check her out in all her coolness at http://www.feliciaoh.com/). We also talked about how Alicia (check HER coolness out too, at http://www.aliciaphotos.com) posted a picture on the forum of Crystina trying (and eventually succeeding) to take my back at the On the Mat tournament, where my rash guard is riding up so you can see my stomach. I suggested that the caption for that picture should be, “This here is how we grapple in Dogpatch.” And I should be missing a tooth. And saying, “I reckon.”
The original plan had been for me to hit Denver mid-afternoon so I could spend some time with Lacey (my human friend) and Tallulah (my standard poodle friend) before going to Colorado BJJ to train. But the weather forecast was kind of iffy (snow expected in Denver today and tomorrow), so I decided to just spend some time with them and then get on the road again. (Don’t tell my parents that I drove at night.) I had a rude awakening when we went to the dog park. No, it wasn’t Munch, the dachshund whom some of you might remember seemed to like my arms and legs a little too much. It was the cold! I, in my infinite wisdom, have until yesterday been continuing to wear flip flops, even though it got down into the 40s at night in Albuquerque. I just couldn’t make myself resort to the closed-toed shoes.
And then we went to Chatfield and I almost lost my toes to frostbite. Not really, but they were good and cold. So I reluctantly dug out my hiking boots and put them on. Today it’s been warmer so I’m back to my predictable foolishness. It’s supposed to be really chilly in Chicago when I get there tomorrow and later in the week, so I’m just enjoying the fresh air on my feet while I can. I used to tease my parents for complaining about the cold when they’d come up from Florida to visit during the fall or winter. Now I feel their pain and take it all back.
So my visit with Lacey and Tallulah was short but sweet. They sent me off with a 12-pack of cans of La Croix, the flavored seltzer water I like. It was so sweet of them to remember from July. I had also bought 2 12-packs of 1-quart bottles of the stuff at Trader Joe’s. So if I can’t manage to stay hydrated in the next week or so, it’s because I am an idiot or have lost the ability to absorb water.
I drove about 500 miles last night from Denver to York, NE. I liked the motel I found; the lady behind the counter was very nice and there were cookies. This time Wen and Jimmy kept me company for a little while each, and other than that I listened to a lot of classic rock. They seem to like that in the heartland. I saw more than a few tumbleweeds (my notes for this part of the blog say, “Tumbleweeds. More tumbleweeds. Dang, I just ran over a tumbleweed.” It’s a great word, too, by the way.). I also saw at least a few cars in the ditches by the side of the road; it got a little slick there after a while. Again, don’t tell my mom and dad about that, especially because I’m fine and did not end up in a ditch.
I ended up in Iowa. I woke up this morning and drove another 400 miles or so to Bettendorf, IA, accompanied by Jennifer*, Jimmy, Viktorija, Joe, Colette, Ouano and Sean, Andy, and Mozart. Good thing I got that phone charger! (Though I didn’t need it for Mozart.) Jennifer* is planning her wedding to Pat. Jimmy was getting his passport updated. Viktorija and her husband Michael are working way too hard, but they are going to make time to see me while I’m in Chicago. Joe just got his brown belt and is going to open a Bad Ass Coffee franchise in northern Virginia (http://www.novabadasscoffee.com/). Colette is busting my chops at any opportunity, which means I should expect attitude on Sunday when I see her. Ouano and Sean were at lunch and thought of me. Andy is my host for the week. I pity him and envy myself.
Poor Bettendorf. It seems to be the city of the Quad Cities that nobody can remember. At least, in my unscientific sample of me and Vik, that is the only logical conclusion that can be drawn. Everybody (Vik and I) remembers Moline, Rock Island, and Davenport, the other 3 cities in Illinois and Iowa that are situated very close to one another and sandwich the Mississippi River between them. But everybody (Vik and I) draws a blank when it comes to Bettendorf.
It’s a very cute little town, though, complete with its own riverboat casino, the Isle of Capri. That’s where I am right now, along with several busloads of “cottontops,” which is my brother-in-law’s word for retirees. The casino is very modern looking and nice; unfortunately, my hotel room smells like body odor and desperation. Seriously. I hope those smells come out of my belongings and my nose. There are lots of weird smells around here. The hand lotion smells like wood chips. The lobby smelled like pizza and cigarettes, which is a jarring combination. And then there’s the BO in my room. I have a slight headache and I’m wondering if that’s why. It’s like the worst “smelly gi guy” imaginable (the guy who trains in his gi, throws it in the trunk or back seat of his car for a couple days, and then puts it back on to train, thinking you won’t notice the overpowering smell) has rubbed himself all over the walls.
But the town and the casino are very cute. Here are some pictures of the view from my window, including a shot of the Mississippi River. It's much prettier than the picture shows; my angle was weird and I was taking the picture through the window. Plus, it was much prettier when it was sunny.
I meant to check out the casino itself tonight, but as of 2am, I am too tired, which brings me to why I’m here, hanging out in the forgotten Quad City, in a stinky room, eating Sun Chips. I am here because I wanted to train with Pat Miletich, founder of Miletich Fighting Systems. MFS is kind of a mixed martial artist factory, serving as the home gym for people like Matt Hughes, Tim Sylvia, Spencer Fisher, Jens Pulver, and Sam Hoger. These names will not mean anything to my civilian readers, but my readers who train will recognize them. All of them are Ultimate Fighting Championship veterans and world-class mixed martial artists. And they train here in Bettendorf, in the same building as a chiropractor. (That’s probably what’s called “one-stop shopping.”)
Pat himself is the head of a team called the Silverbacks in the International Fighting League, a consortium of fighters from different camps that get together periodically to fight MMA. He recently lost his match against Renzo Gracie via guillotine, but that doesn’t detract from his badassness in the slightest. His instruction incorporates quite a bit of wrestling, like the kind you’d see in colleges. (Iowa seems to grow high-caliber wrestlers—Dan Gable and Cael Sanderson come to mind. I could have stopped at the International Wrestling Camp and Museum near Newton, IA, though I didn’t make the time to.) For instance, at the beginner class tonight, we worked takedowns (hooray!), and at the end of the advanced class we sprawled and sprawled and sprawled some more. I reinjured my right hip flexor sprawling on it, so the rest of the time I sprawled on my left one. Damn.
I had introduced myself to Pat before the beginner class, and he was extremely friendly. He also must have mentioned to Sam what I had told him about my jiu jitsu lineage, because Sam made a beeline for me and said, “Hey, we both have rank under Carlson, Sr.!” And he was excited to hear that my rank is under Carlson himself, as opposed to one of his black belts. So we chatted for a little bit before the takedowns started. I worked with a cool guy named Keith who was about my size. The interesting thing about this class is that since it is geared toward MMA, it accounts for the fact that you’ll be fighting in a cage or an octagon, someplace with walls or a fence. This is different from a straight grappling competition, which is on an open mat. So, among other things, we ran the pipe (wrestling takedown that I’ve been working on in Johnny’s classes—thank you, Mr. Ramirez!), but we used the wall to execute, which is different from what I’ve done before.
During the open mat that followed, Sam grabbed me and we sparred. He’s a lot bigger than I am, as you’ll be able to see from the picture, but he let me play, and we had fun. He was all excited that I knew stuff and kept saying, “You are definitely a Carlson Gracie student!” And that seemed to open the floodgates, because after that, I had a dance partner for every sparring session. I was happy with the way I sparred, because even though I still keep getting turtled, I’m starting to work from there. For instance, I recomposed the guard a couple times, and also went for a couple knee bars. So I’m getting better at seeing what’s available to me and going for it.
In the advanced class that followed, I got to work with AJ, who is a full-time MMA fighter and also happens to be Jens Pulver’s fiancée. She and I are about the same size, and it was a lot of fun to spar with her! She’s incredibly tough and had me on the run. She also made sure I had enough people to spar with throughout the class, which was basically an open mat with those sprawls at the end. After the class we talked for a long time about her upcoming fight in Korea, people we both know and people she might want to work with (she wants to spend some time in LA, and since I just came from there, well, we had a lot to talk about), and what we both need to work on technique wise. It was awesome! I will definitely watch for her.
Here’s a picture of Sam, me, AJ, and Pat. Jens and Spencer were training tonight too, but I didn’t get their picture. As you can see, we've all just come in from the rain. No, of course that's sweat. We trained our asses off. And add to the great workout the fact that everybody at MFS was terrific. So if you get the chance to go, you must!
After class I talked to Felicia some more. Kei is getting ready for an MMA event on Saturday at Soboba Casino, the same place I went with Johnny and Sean to watch Charlie’s fight. She’s helping him out. I mean REALLY helping him out. At last count, she had drained maybe 7 or 8 vials of fluid from his ears, which are getting the cauliflower. Now that’s friendship.
Okay, I’m pooped. Running on relatively little sleep and trained a lot tonight. I do have some insights about why I had to leave LA, but will share them later. Right now I will sleep and in the morning I’ll head to Chicago! Hooray! I’m actually kind of surprised at how excited I am, given how eagerly I left 5 months ago. Well, that’s sort of part of why I think I needed to leave: to make my peace with Chicago. I really believe that once I say a proper goodbye to the Windy City, I will hit on where I’m supposed to live next. We’ll see if I’m right.