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“The old dog barks backward without getting up.
I can remember when he was a pup.”

–Robert Frost, “The Span of Life”


My boyfriend’s older brother was twenty-one. We were seventeen at the time, so twenty-one was a glamorous wedding with destiny. But “Russ” just sat there all day in the TV room, an extra bedroom on the second floor of his mom’s house. He watched back-to-back Kung Fu reruns. To me, watching Kung Fu was like watching televised golf. Why would a young person with a living brain do such a dull thing to himself? If you are going to do something to yourself, let it be graphic and bloodcurdling and real. Go out and behave in a way that will cause you deep remorse. GO out.

One time we dragged Russ to the beach, which was a coup. He drank too much beer, though, and passed out on his scruffy bath towel. We weren’t paying attention to him. We were too busy killing time and inner pain by being asses to each other. We just left him in the sand in his denim cutoffs, and he got burned to a crisp. We felt badly about it later, but not as badly as he did.

There is a faux-spiritual overtone to those old Kung Fu episodes. Guy on a mission comes to town, spreads enlightenment as he metes out justice. Wise traveler brings a higher purpose to the 7-Eleven hot-dog-eaters.

Russ had a fantasy of growing a long braid down his back. He had Chinese fighting stars lined up with his beer cans on the coffee table in the TV room. He cracked brilliant, wicked jokes and he played the drums. Sadly, he died young.

And now even Disney makes martial arts movies for tweens. Throw a wig and a miniskirt on a stunt double and you’ve got yourself a blonde, valley-girl, Shaolin warrior.

They say your time has come. They say this is your battle with destiny. They say watching televised golf can kill you.

Respect your elders.