Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Karate Kid

"My mom says you look like Ralph Macchio."

Hearing these very words I panicked a little bit. I was something like 16 or 17 and I was in the process of escorting my date, one Ginger Ingram, to my car.

'Ralph Macchio?' I thought. 'You mean...the 'Karate Kid?'
That wasnt what I was looking for. Frankly, I was aiming more for the other guy starring beside him in 'The Outsiders'...Matt Dillon. Dillon had edge...Dillon had angst. Girls liked Dillon.

Ralph? Really. Ralph?

Dont get me wrong. Like everyone else in the day, I liked the original 'Karate Kid.' But by Ginger's mom's implication, at least in my young mind, I was still the fresh faced apprentice to the world. I was no Burt Reynolds. I was no Harrison Ford.

I was Ralph.

Ginger wasnt into Ralphs. Ginger liked Dillons. But somehow I had managed to work my way into her hemisphere with origami poetry, bad jokes, the inappropriate use of sunglasses in class...and tenacity. I think I might have actually put glitter into a letter that I mailed to her. Maybe she put the glitter in a letter that she mailed to me. I sure hope that the glitter was her idea. Otherwise...her mom was right on.

When I was 16 and in high school, I was a babe in the woods when it came to girls. In fact, pretty much everything I know about women I learned from one Bob King...that's K...I...N...G. Thanks Bob. Before I met Bob, and later Heather (my next step), I was the kid who would walk a girl to school, do her homework, take out her trash and be too much of a gentleman to kiss her even if she was sitting next to me in my car for two hours looking at the stars. Sorry Anne. I was Ralph. Should have been a Dillon...I know this.

Maybe it is true that girls liked the 'Ralph' sometimes. I understand that they like the sensitive, yet combat ready, types now and then. Still, at that tender age, I was too naive to play on my strengths. Ralph was lost on me.

As far as the ladies were concerned, I needed my own Mr. Miyagi. And that Mr. Miyagi was Bob King. K. I. N. G.

Bob was about 19...an old man. And Bob had four fiances living in the far corners of the world. He was an actor by trade who bore a striking resemblance to Matthew Broderick of 'Ferris Bueller' fame. Bob took a strange liking to me and before long I was in training. He taught me about my hair...'Wax on. Wax off.' He taught me about foreplay...'Paint the fence. Paint the fence.' And he taught me the Karate of confidence.

Bob was anything but subtle. I was at a cafeteria once when I spied a buxom young cashier. I made a spectacularly unsuccessful attempt at getting her number when Bob surreptitiously cast me out of the building (ostensibly for 'bothering' the young lady)...right on my behind. "And stay out!" he yelled. Five minutes later and Bob stepped into the car with the girls phone number, as well as complete and detailed directions to her house.

Yep. Still Ralph.

Karate is all about confidence. And when I was a kid, I didnt have a whole lot of that going for me. I was too green. I still had far too much to learn.

The much anticipated remake of 'The Karate Kid' is coming out. I recall the series of 'Karate Kid' movies from the past with fondness for the most part. Everyone, after all, needs a Mr. Miyagi in their lives. I've had a few of them at different times in my life. Gurus.

In the real world, unlike in the movie, there is no one indefensible move like the one that Macchio pulls off at the film's end. Real Karate is about preparing yourself to win, or to lose. It's as much about the mindfulness of who you are as it is about technique and training.

Maybe Ginger's mom was right when she saw the Karate Kid walking her daughter to his car. My heart was in the right place after all, even as I fumbled with the seatbelts and later got the two of us pulled over by a traffic cop because I ran a red light when Ginger's hotness Karate chopped my ability to focus on the road. Bitter lessons to be sure. But young men are students of the world are they not?

There were other lessons along the way for Ralph. No glitter is one. Never. Never glitter.


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