The human memory is a very interesting and extremely varied thing. I like the interesting and varied. At its best, memory steers societies in positive directions. A remorseful people will say, “Remember when we did that one thing and as a result life for everyone turned into this metaphorical daily gorilla-fisting we’re enduring? We probably shouldn’t do that thing again. Actually, someone write that down. Right now. We don’t want our great grandkids making the same mistake after we’re all dead from gorilla fisting related maladies.” And hopefully things are better for future generations, which is for the greater good.
At worst, the memories of horrible experiences can infiltrate your psyche and turn you into one of those dudes who does something that makes national news, complete with interviews where your neighbors tell reporters that you seemed nice enough, but kept to yourself. No one learns shit from that and innocent people end up as the guest of honor at funerals.
I’m a lucky enough fella that as of this writing I’ve had 38 years and about four months behind me that have produced no memories that make me sleepwalk and pee in my closet nor think that the best way to solve disagreements with my wife is by slappin’ a bitch. And since I’m living this pretty good life and am a relatively happy guy, even the memories that are pretty embarrassing I can actually enjoy. Like this one that popped up out of nowhere the other day:
When I was in high school, I lost a wrestling match to a one-armed guy.
No, it wasn’t armwrestling where you really only need one arm. And not thumb or Indian leg wrestling. We’re talking the kind of wresting where a guy with two arms has a considerable advantage over a guy with half as many arms.
Now, to this dude’s credit, I actually wasn’t a totally hopeless wrestler. I really enjoyed wrestling, and probably won about as often as I lost. But I didn’t really have the build (I was lanky and not real strong) or temperment to be great or, apparently, one of those guys who has no trouble with opponents with one arm.
I should also defend myself a little and say that this was before this cool, extreme era of “handicapable” (damn, I hope that’s not an offensive term now) that we’re in now. Awesome stuff like athletes with no legs flying around the track at incredible speeds, like Oscar Pistorius weren’t as common as they are today. Yes, a lot of that has to do with massive advances in prosthetics, but there’s been an attitude shift. Maybe it’s because we see so many videos of people missing limbs totally bringing it on YouTube. My parents raised me to be very open minded and accepting, and I was. But I certainly wasn’t personally experienced with the fact that just because someone looked to be at a serious disadvantage, that didn’t mean they weren’t fully able—and maybe even likely—to prove otherwise by way of totally pimp slapping the odds against them—and me.
I actually don’t remember the details of the match. But I remember it was at a tournament, not a dual meet, which was for the best since my match wasn’t the only one happening. I recall also that I went into the match nervous because of the obvious unusualness of the situation. But despite this, I was also feeling confident that I could totally beat a dude minus not only a hand, but also a forearm, upper arm, as well as a shoulder to connect the whole works to his body. I mean, HELLO?! 100% more arms over here.
I also remember that I didn’t just lose by points. My dead-fucking-wrong-to-think-I-was-going-to-win ass got pinned.
And now that I think about it, him beating me wasn’t even that big of a deal to everyone. It wasn’t like in the movies where everything went into slow motion as the ref’s hand slapped the mat with a thundering, echoing crash, only to return to regular speed as the crowd roared and rose to their feet, triumphant music swelling. He and his mom weren’t weeping, overcome with emotion as she rushed from the stands and hugged him and he kinda hugged her back. This dude had obviously beat unjustifiably confident assholes before.
By contrast, on rare occasions a girl wrestler would show up at a tournament. I’m sure there are some great female wrestlers out there, but the few that I saw always got their asses kicked. Just sayin’. (And there was one time that a guy forfeited a match to a much-deserved showering of boos from the crowed.) But the one match that I saw a girl win, well, it got noticed, big time. Poor Jared Worm. Lost to a girl and also was named Jared Worm. Actually he was a cool guy. Still did okay with the ladies too, if I remember right.
Now, even though it was a total nut-stomping at the time, I was glad that this memory popped up the other day. For one, I’m always pretty stoked by opportunities to drag myself over the jagged slopes of Mt. Shredward. It’s funner than a motherfucker (and also it’s hard to keep coming up with stuff to share with you people now that I get more way more than zero visits a day). Consistently, we’re experts on one thing more than anything else: ourselves (I know I am), so I can comment on myself with more authority, dexterity and sheer joy than anything else. Losing to a one-armed wrestler? Well, material like that is just a fucking gift wrapped in beef jerky. I’ve been really busy this last week and have had this piece rolling around in my head and I’ve been dying to get it down on pixels. I couldn’t make something this great up if I tried. Lost to a one-armed wrestler. Wow, do you ever suck, Beach.
Also, there was a little riding/life lesson in it. It wasn’t one that I didn’t already know, but more of a reminder: watch out for the gimme. I’m not saying that the kid with one arm was a gimme that I just wasn’t ready for, he beat me like a prematurely balding step child, but the memory did make me reflect on the danger of stuff we don’t sweat out on the trail. I don’t have to take a scientific poll to figure out that it’s rarely the totally burly, scary-as-shit stuff that knocks us off of our saddles and into the grit—or worse—into the ER. Like all of us, I’ve had wrecks, but have actually never had a bad wreck on anything that I should have wrecked on. Going down steep cement steps in the trail. Chaparral trail in Joaquin miller at night. Done and done, many times. I kid around about what a pussy I am because I don’t bomb the big stuff, but I’ve ridden my share of potential broken limbs, and have never had that major wipe out on that stuff. Nossir, it’s the moves that we think we can take in our sleep that usually produce scabs and pissed off joints that keep us out of commission for a couple weeks. At least that’s been the case with me.
And it’s kind of a conundrum. You can’t ride around paranoid. That’s no fun (and actually being tight leads even more crashes). But you’ve got to always be vigilant too.
Maybe the real lesson is one of acceptance: if you put yourself out there, from time to time, we’re going to get a humiliating ass whooping, and that’s just the way it is. No, that’s the way it should be. And after all, the memories of those good old fashioned, unexpected, yet occasionally needed, ass whoopings make us better at moving down the trail.