Friday, September 20, 2013

This Old Salle

My salle d’armes is a modest and rustic place. 
It started out life as a garage. It was owner-built, with help that was paid liberally in beer. Thus, nothing in the structure is quite square, flush or plumb. A singer’s dream; a carpenter’s fevered nightmare.
It was reincarnated as a salle d’armes thirty years later, under the supervision of a handyman-of-all-trades, with even less skilled folks like me supplying the grunt labor.
The 20x30-ish size is good for my practice, because I like working with small groups of 6-8 people at a time. That’s a perfect number to allow for safety, a good group dynamic, and some personal attention, too. Not a real money-maker, though.
Inside, we have one wall with mirrors floor to ceiling. Weapon racks. Some inspirational artwork.  A small stereo. Rubber gym mats provide a comfortable working floor. One large blank wall is perfect for showing swashbuckling movies, like swashbucklers themselves, bigger than life-size.
But the building needs a lot of work.
A lot.
The “insulation” (notice I put that in quotation marks) keeps out the cold about as well as a damp Kleenex would stop a .45 slug.  In summer, bread would rise at warp speed.  However, a wide variety of insects and small rodents find it irresistibly comfy.  The floor has become uneven in spots (much like my temper), likely because the garage was built in a slab and not on a real foundation. The ventilation is poor, the roof is sagging like an out-classed fighter staggering into the championship rounds. The siding has long since begun to rot, and one or two chipmunk entrances have appeared in the fascia boards, one of them with a traffic light. Entropy, in short, is hammering away with hooks and uppercuts and overhand rights as we rock against the ropes, try to cover up, and answer with a punch or two of our own, now and then, when opportunity presents.  But we’re way behind on points and our scoring a knockout, or our opponent suddenly suffering a massive heart attack, seem paths to victory that are equally remote.

It struck me, in a moment of tequilafied clarity, how this old salle is a perfect metaphor for chivalry.
Inside, we fight to preserve something good and clean and noble, while all around us the world crumbles into corruption, decadence and despair. It’s a full-time chore to keep that decomposition from finding its way inside us, taking root in out hearts,  rotting our spirit, rendering us caricatures of ourselves, the way Elvis, himself, became the world’s most mediocre Elvis-impersonator.
Stone walls do not a prison make, they say, nor iron bars a cage. But it doesn’t hurt.
Nevertheless, a salle d’armes, too, is not made of wood, and stone and steel.
It’s made of spirit.
If we can keep our spirit strong we will prevail, good over evil, justice over corruption, and bleach over mildew.


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