La Barilla, La Barilla
On Saturday I drove to Marlborough to see my friend Serpico’s batizado – the annual promo / demo / dance party held by his capoeira school. Outsiders would recognize elements of a religious festival or a block party: the older mestres in the back, strumming rhythms on their berimbaus, while people take turns singing lyrical, pulsing chants into a mic. The casual circle of friends and strangers, watching and clapping to the beat. Then, one by one, the students step in and start doing flips.
Capoeira may not focus on self-defense, but there is no doubt that it is a martial art in the literal sense of the word. Consider the tremendous conditioning it takes to drop to a one-hand stand and kick someone in the head with your foot. Now consider the tremendous training it takes to do all that without kicking someone in the head. Capoeira blends the exciting elements of violence with the communal joy of dance. When practiced well, watching it live is a treasure.
And even when practiced haltingly it’s fun, too. Serpico’s capoeira school teaches a small herd of children, ranging from the mestre‘s curly-haired daughter to a tow-headed kid with thick glasses who could pass for me at age 8. The instructors “play” with them at a diminished tempo: shifting from one foot to the other, lowering their heads to allow the children to try at a sweeping kick. At the end of each circuit, the official batizado, or baptism – dropping the younger student on the floor to teach them humility – is done with gentle affection: scooping them up, wheeling them like an uncle playing Airplane with a nephew, and grazing them across the tile. Always the consciousness for the newest generation – for capoeira is an oral tradition, passed down by the descendents of Brazilian slaves, and the heritage of the dance keeps it alive.
Professor Coldheart Fails at Anarchy
Walking down busy Arsenal St. yesterday to meet Vickie Victoria for lunch, four kids on bikes buzzed by me. They wove around me on the sidewalk, rattling inches past my elbow or onto the thin strip of grass between me and roaring traffic.
My first thought: Shouldn’t you kids be in school?
I said nothing aloud, though, waiting until I had Internet access to uncover my error. Apparently Boston public schools get Yom Kippur off. Is this typical of public schools? I went to Catholic school for all but two years of my education – and you see how well that turned out – but I don’t recall getting anything other than the typical federal holidays when I went to a public school. Also this is the second time in five days that I’ve forgot about Yom Kippur (had I remembered it when I wrote my post about forgiveness, I would have mentioned the propinquity). Clearly the Jews in my life need to lecture me more.
Anyhow, these children had every right to be where they were. They rode past me, heading toward whatever pleasures Watertown Center could offer thirteen-year-olds on a balmy Monday. Biking against the flow of traffic (as the Boy Scouts teach), they weaved in and out of the cars parked outside the Toyota dealership. Leathern men in silk suits paced between the leaves on the sidewalk, murmuring urgently into cell phones.
“Hey!”, one of the kids yelled to his compatriots. “Stay off the fucking sidewalk!”