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 Saturday, December 4

I took a dollar van to Bergenline where I got the 111 bus out to Ikea and the Rexplex. When we got past Laurel Hill, to where the vista of the Swamps of Jersey opens up, Pulaski Skyway on the left side, meadowlands on the right, the little girl behind me gasped in wonder and exclaimed, "Look, mommy! It's so beautiful!" I had to smile; to put it mildly, most people don't react that way to that area.

I got to the Rexplex without incident, checked in, and watched the kids in the seminar before mine grapple for a while. The locker room was locked, so I had to change in a bathroom stall, but got to my seminar on time and spent a pleasant hour grappling with some gals from the Manhattan school. The point of the seminar was that we were supposed to be blindfolded, but apparently there are some technical issues with blindfolds and headgear so we all just agreed to close our eyes. In any case, I learned a couple of useful concepts that should help me in the future. The two Manhattan women were red and high red belts, so I was happy to more or less hold my own with them. At the very end we switched up and I got a high blue belt, whom I was able to take down easily.

Then it all went pear-shaped. They cleared us all out of the ring areas and told us to pretty much just stand around in the lobby for a while while they got the rings ready for the competition. I looked at the utter garbage they sell as food to the usual kid clientele, I listened to the shrieking sugared-up kids in the ball room and the arcade, I waited around. Then they started letting people in, but you needed some kind of wristband. I went back to the front desk and found out that I'd have to pay the full twelve dollar admission to get in, even though I'd taken (paid for) the seminar. Fuck that. For twelve dollars, I demand at least partial nudity.

So that was like 60 bucks and my whole Saturday afternoon spent schlepping out to Elizabeth for what was basically one grappling class. At that point I decided I'd given Mr. Schulmann all the time and money I was willing to give him this week, and chose to cut my losses and head for the 3:36 bus.

There wasn't a 3:36 bus. I stood in the cold and waited for the 4:06 bus. It arrived at 4:21, with the driver deeply involved in a life or death emergency cell phone call about how she doesn't like the starch on rice so she always washes it off. Three or four of us got on at the Ikea/Rexplex stop and then we drove on, absorbing more helpful nutrition tips as we rode, until the bus made its other stop, at the Jersey Gardens outlet center. There the bus filled to crush capacity, with people packed into every seat and the aisle until it could take no more. All holiday shoppers, all bearing huge bags of Christmas and Chanukah Chazerai and all annoyingly Chattering. I actually fell blessedly asleep for a while and awoke somewhere in Union City. The bus made a couple of stops but it was dark and I couldn't see where we were and it wasn't until I realized we were heading downhill into the Lincoln Tunnel that I made a break for the door and had to walk a few blocks back to where the dollar vans went, cursing loudly, oh yes I was.

Got back to Bergenline, hopped on a dollar van, and the little girl in front of me was oh, I don't know, I'd say about the most annoying being I've ever encountered. Apparently her mother had bought her some crappy-ass piece of clothing and the little moppet wanted to encourage this, so she iterated and reiterated "I love you SO much, Mommy! I love you SOOOOO much!" in the tone of voice that would normally be used in a heartstring-tugging hospital scene to a coma patient. Even Mommy got irritated by it after the 30th or 40th time the little darling made an announcement to the bus at large: "ATTENTION, PASSENGERS OF THIS BUS: I LOVE MY MOTHER!" The woman finally snarled at her in Spanish and lunged as if to give her the smackdown she deserved—but she didn't—damn—and the little rapscallion snickered evilly and fondled her new Britney-wear.

I got home and made some creamed spinach and a mood-elevating French Silk Chocolate Pie. Which should be chilled and ready to eat right... about... NOW.

7:30 PM

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