Saturday, December 24, 2005


"Way of the Warrior" is how it is defined. Developed between the 11th and 14th centuries, Bushido is the code and way of life of the Samurais.

They do not fear death or danger. They live their lives with honesty, integrity and self-control. They show unwavering loyalty to the society which they serve. They treat all living beings with the ultimate of respect, regardless of their social status.

The Samurai is not supposed to show joy or pain. He displays no passion, that which may make him vulnerable. In this, I admit that I am not successful. My passion for fitness, martial arts and volunteering is what gives me the motivation and spirit to perservere under extreme physical stress. It is what drives me to voluntarily subject myself to various forms of torment in the pursuit of my goals.

Bushido is training with the Los Angeles Seido Karate dojos for three hours on the beach, after less than two hours' sleep the night before; the last technique as strong and spirited as the first.

Bushido is running around and around the leaf-covered hills in Golden Gate Park, executing our blocks and kicks while the torrential rain unleashed its wrath on us, vehemently shouting "ki-ai !" against the bellowing thunder.

Bushido is scaling the football stadium steps over and over again, weighted down by 75 pounds of sandbags, until my legs were trembling from overexertion.

Bushido is doing the above to one day have the privilege of holding a fire hose on a burning building, for no salary other than the satisfaction of the opportunity to do so.

This is my interpretation of Bushido.

Others may call it insanity. I'm not sure there's a difference.

But I'm having the time of my life finding out.

Sources: [Way of the Warrior, Wikipidea]

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Small Blessings

I am on the plane tonight, again to Toronto, to visit my family for the Christmas holidays. It will be a short trip, 5 days, just long enough to celebrate and to visit those I wasn't able to see last month.

I know traveling will be a pain in the butt. This time of year, everyone on the planet is rushing. Rushing on the freeways, rushing in the parking lots, rushing in the shopping malls. The airports will be madhouses, herding its patrons like wayward cattle to their destinations.

The airlines, of course, are happy to take your money. When I booked this trip, I wasn't told until after I'd paid for it that I was overbooked on my return flight. Which means I may not get on it. And to add insult to injury, the only seat available on the red-eye going into Toronto was a middle seat.

Not very conducive to sleeping.

This morning, I took advantage of the airline's web check-in feature. Just for laughs, I put in a request to change my seat.

It was granted ! I now have a window seat. Tonight, I will be able to rest my head against the window, and may even get a few hours' sleep on the flight.

Sometimes, the small blessings make a huge difference. This is one of those times.

It may be too much to ask to actually get on the return flight. But I'll figure that out when the time comes.

The Visitor

At work yesterday, I was greeted by a visitor, gift basket in hand. He looked vaguely familiar; I had seen him once before, but didn't fully recognize him until he told me his name. Then, the events of our first meeting two months ago came rushing back in an instant.

Medical emergency. Building 12. I raced off with my large kit bag and Emergency Response Team orange vest to the location of the call.

One look and I could tell it wasn't good. The patient's face was this horrendous yellow-grey color, unnatural, it seemed, for any human being. His eyes were drooping as he drifted in and out of consciousness, sitting propped up against the restroom wall.

As I was trained to do, I gave him oxygen with a mask from my portable tank, and another volunteer and I kept him talking while the Fire Department and ambulance arrived to take him to the hospital.

Three hours later, he was in surgery for a 100% blockage in a coronary artery. He'd had a massive heart attack while sitting at his desk at work. As is procedure, us volunteer ERT members had converged on his location to care for him until the professional medical teams arrived.

And now, 2 months later, he was standing at my desk, smiling from ear-to-ear. He was back at work, having recovered almost completely from this harrowing ordeal. His eyes were bright, and his face was radiant, almost unrecognizable from the degenerating state I'd seen him in previously.

As he handed me the beautiful gift basket, he said, "Thank you for saving my life."

This is what makes it all worthwhile.

All the training, all the drills, the big heavy bag, the stooping over smashed-up cars in the pouring rain - all of this is done for a reason. Sometimes we treat injuries, sometimes we simply calm and comfort. It is not for the praise or the ego; it is solely for the knowledge that we did something, however small, to help a fellow human being in need.

I didn't really save this man's life. I wasn't the one holding the instrument that unblocked his artery and allowed the blood to flow back to his heart. All I did was help get him to where he needed to be. But every single one of us volunteers who responded to the alarm on the radio that day made a difference in his life.

He's doing much better now. He has quit his 35-year smoking habit. He is exercising every day with his wife. He has cut back on the brutal, uncompromising work schedule, and is now taking time for himself and his family. The brightness in his eyes is testament to the brightness of his future, in this new and revitalized life. Although spurred by a frightening event like this, he is ready, now, to make that happen.

There is no greater reward than that.

Yes, I will share the gift basket Bailey's with my friends. But most fulfilling of all is the knowledge that one man's life was touched by our work.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Aging Gracefully ?

This is the screen that greeted me this morning when I logged into one of my online banking sites:

Wow, ING Direct took the time to wish me a happy birthday. How nice of them !

Actually, I really should thank the software programmer who put in the cute little graphic to pop up on all the customers' birthdays. Even though it was a computer-generated .jpg file, it still was a nice touch.

I always struggle a bit this time of year with the harsh reality that time is marching by, and I am getting older. The last time I was carded was about a year ago - by a checker at Safeway who couldn't have been older than 23 himself. The look of shock on his face when he saw the 1973 birth year was priceless. I'll be sad when those requests eventually stop.

I got this unsolicited message the other day from someone on Friendster:

"ur hot babe 4 ur age really hot"

4 my age ?? Gee.. thanks ? I guess that is a compliment. I took it as such, but it just goes to show that I am not as young as I used to be.

What made my day, in addition to my beautiful goddaughter Emily singing "Happy Birthday" to me over the phone, was a fellow student in my karate class, who asked me,

"So, are you turning 22 today ?"

Heh. Maybe I don't get carded much anymore, but at least my true age is still higher than what people think. :)

Tonight will be a night of dinner, dancing and revile till the wee morning hours. I don't think I'll make the 10am workout in the park tomorrow, but I might just give it a shot.

At 32, age hasn't affected my energy level one bit.

At least not yet.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Good Dog

One of the occupants of my current reading list is a book called Police Heroes. True-life stories of real officers and their canine companions in extraordinary and dangerous situations. Inspirational, and sometimes heart-wrenching tales of unsurpassed bravery, while protecting the lives of innocent people. I am thoroughly enjoying it.

At lunch yesterday, in the local Japanese restaurant, I read the chapter commending three K-9 companions who put themselves in grave, and sometimes fatal, danger to protect their human handlers and preserve the lives of those in danger.

Including the one about K-9 Cero who, though shot in the heart by a crazed suspect, still crawled to his officer's side for one last "Good dog."

Thankfully, I was sitting facing the window at the time I read that story.

The other patrons didn't need to see my tears.
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