I was out in Oberlin, Ohio this weekend to attend my son's wedding. He chose this town because both he and his fiancee are graduates of Oberlin College and thought it would be centrally located for the families. For me this involved a 6-hour drive from PA with two of his high-school buddies, who were also slated to be groomsmen. The story of that 6-hour drive is something that would need to be addressed separately; suffice it to say that watching a 20-something obsessively chewing his nails while texting and driving 75MPH is not something you want to do for ANY amount of time, much less 6 hours. But on to the odd occurrence ... The Chapel During the Friday rehearsal at the chapel there was a mid-twenties gentleman with a ponytail sitting in the pew in front of me, holding what appeared to be a bamboo box on his lap and furiously scribbling on tiny bits of paper. I thought nothing of him except that he had the look of a martial artist - maybe because of the way he was sitting upright, but more likely because of the ponytail. During a pause in the rehearsal he started chatting with me, telling me he was a friend of my son's and hailed from Maryland, attended grad school in that state and practiced martial arts. When I queried him for more details he said "Xing-Yi and Ba-Gua". Heh, heh ... I told him of my own preferences and his eyes lit up like a kid in a candy store with a $10 bill in his pocket. He jumps up out of the pew and starts doing some Ba-Gua circle-stepping and Xing-Yi strikes, then asks me to show him some Taiji. I look around, not wanting to draw any further attention to ourselves, but the wedding party is out in the entrance-way working on their choreography (or whatever they call it) so I figure it's okay to throw down a few moves. I do the opening third of the 108 Form and my new-found friend is drooling. "Want to do some pushing? How about we go outside and do some pushing"? he asks, all jittery and excited like a meth-head without a stash. I tell him that I'm sorry but I'm concentrating on my son's rehearsal right now - maybe later. Those two simple little words - "maybe later" - would come back to haunt me for the entire 3-day weekend. During the rest of the rehearsal I could feel him watching me, like a dog that wants to go for a walk and I'm holding the leash. Rehearsal finally ends and he literally explodes up from his seat, babbling "Now? Now?!?" I tell him that my son has invited me for pizza and beer for the after-rehearsal nosh so no, "now" would not be a good time. His face fell like an elephant with a broken leg, and I swear his ponytail shortened a good 3". Now I don't like to disappoint a fellow internal artist, so I told him "How about 7 o'clock? Where are you staying?" He told me he was staying at Kahn Hall, which of course was the dorm I was staying at (to make a little extra money the college offers the use of dorm rooms for such occasions at greatly discounted rates compared to the local motels and hotels). So now it turns out that he's 2 doors down the hall from me. An involuntary twitch strikes my right eye. "Okay", says I, "7 o'clock outside the North entrance". I finish the pizza with my son, have coffee instead of beer, wish my son well with his adventures with his friends that night (= boozin', but I give him some cautionary fatherly advice which he seems to accept), and head back to the dorm. As I'm walking down the hall to my room to change clothes my new-found friend is standing in front of my door. "Are you ready? Are we going to push now? Are we?" This guy is basically vibrating at the same frequency as an excited electron, and I'm reminded just for an instant of the classic novel Of Mice and Men and Lenny Small, that book's large and immensely strong character who unfortunately has a limited mental capacity, doing things like crushing little bunny rabbits because he pets them too vigorously. My left eye now begins to twitch. I feel like a debutante whose mascara is running. I beg leave to change my clothes, telling him I'll be out in a second. "Are ya' sure? Are ya' SURE?!?" is all I hear as the door thankfully closes between us. My spider-sense is in the red zone by now, but I shrug and head outside, leaving my fate to the great and wonderful Tao. We stretch, bow in and assume the push-hands positions. Push-hands quickly leads to moderate-level sparring, his hard, straight punches against my circular attacks and joint locks. The latter surprised him - "Hey! No joint locks!" "What?" I replied. "How can you spar without joint locks?" He seemed to accept this and we continued. I let him land a few strikes to see what he was all about, and my initial evaluation of his fighting skill proved pretty much accurate - he had the ability to be good and fast, but he still hadn't reached the point yet where he could combine those two qualities. As a result, his fast strikes were inaccurate and soft, while his measured attacks had poor technique but good targeting. Of course I moderated my responses, but every once in a while some devil would grab me and I'd let loose with a quick barrage of strikes or a take-down. Every time this happened he'd back up, bow, and have this hurt look on his face, as if to say "HOW could you DO that to me?" I know it's terrible to say, but I was playing with him. I was USING him for my own personal, warped pleasure. ... and I LOVED it. Yeah ... like that. After a while we lost the light and I decided to call it quits for the night. We bowed out and he immediately asked, "When can we do this again? How about tomorrow morning? What time?" *Sigh* "Okay, how about tomorrow morning at ... 8AM?" "Sure, I'll be here!" The morning comes, I'm just finishing my personal work-out when he appears, a little-worse for wear, since he admits to having gone out drinking with his buddies after our practice session. I tell him we can postpone, but he won't hear of it. Okay, lesson time. He tries something new - his version of Drunken Style. I kid you not - this guy, who had an honest-to-goodness hangover, is trying Drunken Style against me. It's a sin, really, how easy it is to just evade his large movements. ... but then, I've been known to enjoy a bit of sinning on occasion. I guess I became too smug, though, because he landed a nice hammer-fist on my forearm that left a goodly-sized bruise. I re-focused and went back to taking care of business, as a result of which, combined with his physical state, he begged-off sparring for a while. This was Saturday, the day of the wedding, and with all the hoopla involved on this day I figured it was a good thing that we finished early. An hour goes by, two ... I'm reading my pocket-edition of The Tao Te Ching (this one the Legge translation from 1891), enjoying the peace and quiet under a huge oak tree on the quad, when who appears but Mr. Drunken Style. His hair is soaking wet, he's wearing a new set of sweats and he asks if I'm ready for Round #2. Now, I thought I had hid myself rather well from any interruptions, but obviously I failed miserably. I look at my watch - just shy of 11AM. The ceremony is at 4PM, the photos at 3PM, and the pre-wedding brunch is at 1PM. I beg off but he won't be happy until I say yes - I can just SEE it in his face. I put down my book, we bow, and he starts with the direct-line Xing-Yi stuff. I have to admit that I'm kind of ticked at this point, so I'm putting more into my strikes than I really should. I catch an ear, a tooth, a leg, a wrist - I think to myself that this guy is going to be attending the wedding using a walker, but he doesn't want to stop although I offer several times. Now we're getting a crowd of spectators, some of whom are in the wedding party. Oberlin is big on bicycles - they have a bike co-op on campus and there are bikes all over the place - so now we have strangers in bike shorts and helmets stopping and gawking. I'm waiting for the cops to come - maybe Oberlin has a law against public internal arts practice. As soon as I think that, campus security pulls up in their little white Honda SUV. They idle for a few minutes watching us, shake their heads and leave. I remember that you have to be careful what you wish for. It's noon. Time to grab a shower and change into my Sunday-Go-To-Meeting clothes. But Mr. Xing-Yi doesn't want to stop. He's obsessing - he tells me he wants to land one good blow. I'm thinking I should just let him do that, but my pride won't allow me. We keep going. I begin targeting his ribs. He's hurting, but his pride must be as strong as mine. I'm aware of the crowd murmuring now. I want to end this, but in a way that we can both be happy. It ain't gonna' happen. He's losing control now, swinging wild, charging in - all the things you should NOT do when facing a Taijiquan practitioner. Time to end it. As he charges in one last time I turn, re-direct and apply a rear choke - lightly, not targeting the windpipe or arteries, just enough to let him know, physically, that it's over. He struggles a bit, then resigns. Finally. He's red-faced, his hair all over, grass and dirt on his sweats. We bow. He asks when we can do this again. I start to get the impression I'm not so much dealing with a martial arts practitioner as with a masochist. I tell him we'll have to wait and see, since my son's wedding IS after all the real reason I'm here. We get a little applause from the gathered crowd. Thankfully I can slip out and get going. As I'm walking the half-mile back to the dorm I turn back and look - he's still animatedly talking to the crowd. Good for him. Okay. Showered, shaved and shitted. Smell good, look good. Well, as good as I can expect to look, anyway - there's only so much make-up you can put on a pig - it's still a pig. We have brunch, do the photos, the ceremony goes off great. I give my son mega-kudos for having the courage to dress in authentic Highland garb in honor of his bride's heritage - Fodder and Sun Yeah, I know - I got a little belly going on there. I blame the brunch. And the local water. And the air on campus - definitely high-calorie air. The MINUTE the ceremony is over and the guests are coming out of the chapel, Mr. Straight-Line sidles up to me and asks, "How about now? Wanna' push NOW?!?" Really?!? I'm a bit abrupt in my response - "No, thanks, I have a reception to go to." There comes a time when enough is enough, ya' know? His sad face does nothing to sway my decision. If you look REAL closely you can see him hiding behind the stained glass We show up at the reception, held at a local art museum. There are paintings on the walls and sculptures on pedestals all around the room. I shuffle in, start to figure out where to sit, and Ba-Gua Bobby comes up and assumes a fighting stance. I take out the wedding favor I received and blow bubbles at him. He's crushed - he wants to spar IN THE MUSEUM AT MY SON'S WEDDING RECEPTION. This isn't enthusiasm - this is mania. This is madness. During the course of the evening I see him pouting, shooting longing glances my way and generally moping around. I ignore him and enjoy the reception, leaving around 10PM when the youngsters are going out drinking and my son and his bride are calling it a night. I start the two-mile walk back to the dorm, the insects singing their night-songs and the occasional swooping of a bat through the darkness. I sense a presence up ahead at the corner of the quad. Yep, it's Him. He Who Will Not Be Denied. "How about now? Wanna push now?!?" I believe there was a news story the next day about the seismic event that struck Oberlin. I'm here to inform you that it was just my sigh of exasperation. I knew he was going out drinking with the other kids, so I helped us both by telling him that I was pooped and had to get my sleep. He almost cried, but begged for a morning session before I left. Just to get rid of him I agreed. He asked what time - that's when my sadistic side came out. "6AM". He agreed and, already lubed-up from the home-made wine at the reception, tripped off to the one local bar in Oberlin to join the festivities. I wished him well. 6AM. Even the friggin' BIRDS are still asleep. I'm out there at 5, doing my own thing for an hour. He's not here. I wait 15 minutes, and just as I'm getting ready to go he shows up looking like a drowned terrier. He stretches briefly, bows, and assumes the push-hands starting position. Another seismic event occurs and I join him. What happens for the next hour is too gruesome to relate here on a family board. Needless to say I took no pity on this poor soul. As he limped back to his room he asked for my email address, saying that he wanted to keep in touch. I gave him Kevin's email.