Friday, October 18, 2013
I have a friend who takes great pride in the fact that he is a self-proclaimed "freak magnet." It's his assertion that all things weird, wacky, and random just seem to gravitate his way and happen before his eyes. Over the years, he's born witness to riots in shopping malls, seen Santa Claus (or someone dressed as such) trolling for pornography, witnessed a new mother feeding her infant baby soft drinks, and was once kidnapped on a first date.
This doesn't sit well with me.
You see, I've spent 42 years of my life carefully developing my swollen ego and shallow sense of self-importance, and my egotistical brain would like to think that the world revolves around ME. Ergo if there's a freak magnet in the house, it should be yours truly, thanks much. It's MY assertion that my friend gets the pleasure of witnessing occasional weird and cool stuff in his life mostly because he's lucky enough to be friends with me. Or maybe he just hangs out at too many shopping malls. Either way, he's no freak magnet. Or so I thought.
Then last weekend happened. Let me set the stage. It was a Friday night and, for once, I was plan-free. That's why I found myself in the car with Friend Jason, driving around the Quad Cities aimlessly in search of something to do. After a fruitless hour wasting gas and watching other people clearly having more fun than either of us, I was out of ideas. In desperation, I flipped my phone open and sent a message to Facebook-land:
"HELP! BORED! Anybody doing anything worth doing?"
At first, the replies were sporadic. Then two messages came in. The first was from my friend Celeste. She was at an area pub with her hubby and some mutual friends and wanted us to pop by. The second was from my freak magnet friend, who was equally bored and wondered what we were up to.
As a general rule, I'm not much of a bar-hopping kinda guy. Unless the place has an empty DJ booth in need of beats, I'm usually more at home IN my home than in some random loud bar surrounded by inebriated yahoos. But since my house was busy winning awards for Mostest Boringest Place in the Whole Wide World Ever, I gave in. Within minutes, Friend Jason and I were on our way to meet up with the Freak Magnet and head for the pub.
I was bracing myself for the worst. Drunken smelly louts peacocking their machismo. Cute girls absolutely ignoring me like usual. Me not being able to hear anybody over some obnoxious unending song that'll either be Phish or a band trying to sound like Phish. Maybe someone will invite me to play darts or pool so that an entire room of strangers can bear witness to my absolute and total lack of coordination. Good times.
We got inside the door and immediately spotted Celeste and her friends. As we walked over, a tap on my shoulder introduced Freak Magnet, who arrived mere footsteps behind us. That's when Celeste came up.
"You got here just in time," she said. "...for the nunchuck battle."
Okay, maybe my friend IS a freak magnet after all.
Rock Island is a great town, but sadly, I've found it to be somewhat lacking when it comes to contemporary spontaneous outdoor ninja warfare. Not any more. Within minutes, a car pulled into the lot and out popped two honest-to-gosh ninjas. Well, they had ninja t-shirts on at least. And they were formidable dudes with equally formidable names: Jimmy and Cookie, henceforth known as Rock Island's elite roving ninja strike force.
I've seen at least two or three kung fu movies in my day, so I figure I'm somewhat of an expert when it comes to ninjas. And if there's one thing we experts know about ninjas, it's that they're stealthy little buggers. You know, you're walking down the street minding your own business, and then WHAM ninjas jump out of the darkness and proceed to ninja the heck out of you. They're all about invisible covert stealth -- which is why these guys were packing nunchucks with flashing rainbow-colored lights on the ends.
I also don't seem to recall the part in any of those kung fu movies where the ninjas did their ninja-ing to a boombox cranking Michael Jackson's "Rock With You," but that didn't stop Jimmy and Cookie. What followed was a full exhibition of nunchuckery to an entirely bewildered crowd, but it didn't take long for them to win us over. I was rooting for Jimmy, but sadly it was Cookie who took home the grand ninja prize... of a different t-shirt. Before it was over, another dude nearby up and started breathing fire. I couldn't make this stuff up.
Now, just in case you DIDN'T watch those three kung-fu movies that I did, nunchucks are basically two small wooden clubs connected at one end by a chain. In actuality, I fear I know precious little about martial arts weaponry -- but I do know, in the grand scheme of things, that nunchunks look difficult to master.
Sure, I get the advantageous combat strategy of smacking somebody upside the head with a wooden club, but what if you MISS? I'm no physics major, but I'm pretty sure that thrusting one of those sticks forwards means that eventually it's going to reach the end of its chain and double back on the thrustee, no? I'm fairly sure the most impressive feat of nunchuck mastery is somehow doing it without the chucks coming back and racking you in the nuns. I'm not exactly in the market for having a baby, but I don't want to take the option off the table via wooden club, either.
But most impressive of all was that nunchucking happened, and happened randomly in front of me, without fanfare or a calendar of events. Just your run-of-the-mill, no-warning, no-nonsense neighborhood nunchucking. I won't tell you the name of the bar, because in reality, mixing alcohol with combat weaponry probably isn't considered safe, smart, or too particularly legal. But Cookie and Jimmy appeared to be employing at least a modicum of safety, and I don't think rogue ninja battles are commonplace at this otherwise fine and legal establishment that probably never even knew its parking lot was playing host to good-natured urban melee.
It was just a crazy night, and that's precisely what I love about the Quad Cities. You never really know what's on the menu. Maybe my friend really IS a freak magnet. I'll have to settle for being one of the freaks.