Travel Diary: Somewhere in Kensington

By: S. Davis

September; London:

Full Disclosure: This is written across several mediums: In the notes section of my phone while in bed, by hand on a notepad, and on a few napkins that were within arms reach. This is explicit in nature, it is scattered at times and trails off incompletely at others – and I left it in its original format for fun.

What day is it? My head feels cloudy and the sun is shining on my forehead. Of all the other real estate in the room, the rays hit my skin. I guess I need to get the hell out of this bed. There are bottles of water, chips and popcorn on the table nestled next to the window. I didn’t go to the store last night. Did I?

What happened last night?

There’s a stench in this room so thick where I can almost see it hovering below the ceiling. I can’t sleep any longer. I want to. There is some chic, navy blue, stilettos by the bathroom entrance, well there’s one that I can see at least. My vision is blurred and I feel a headache coming along.

What the fuck, Sean?

A jeweled purse hangs from the chair and there’s a glass, half full, of wine and an unopened bottle of Guinness. That’s me; definitely. I hear a soft groan and feel the heat of silky thighs as they meet my skin. Two kisses on my right shoulder and then…sleep. At least one of us can. How much hair does she have?

I smell…licorice for some reason; from her. Oh shit! I feel nose blind. I rise to blow my nose and the floor is freezing. I have flaky, dry residue on my stomach, inside my belly button, on my upper thighs. That’s sex. I brush my teeth, wash my face, and then search for the used condom – or the wrapper at least. I search and I can’t find it. Fuck! I’m getting nervous. Terrified! No amount of alcohol could distort me to the point where I don’t use protection, or am I wrong? Fuck that!

My nasal passages open and now a licorice scent is on my lips. I lick them and don’t taste anything but skin. I drop to my knees on her side of the bed and I locate a condom wrapper. She turns under the covers and her bare ass approaches the edge of the bed while a used condom plummets and lands on my left hand. Yes! The last thing I need is an international “She’s fucking pregnant!? Of course she is, Sean, it’s your life!” situation. Hmm…

I smell her back and last night begins to come into focus, it was a complete mess of booze, vagina sweat and absinthe remnants emanating through our pores. Absinthe does it again.

Her ass is appetizing. She definitely exercises that area of her body. I should bite it but I decline and pull the blanket over her bare skin after I run my fingertips across it. She’s dead asleep. I’m jealous. I flush the condom (and the wrapper) before retrieving her dress from the bathroom and hanging it on the back of the chair. I locate a second used condom in the shower drain, trash it and also collect her other shoe and neatly place both under the chair with all of her garments. There’s no sign of her underwear, or her bra.

I warm a pot of tea and butter a bagel before my eyes open with glee as I spot strawberry preserves. Winning! My phone’s dying and hers is at 1%. I plug both into the wall. I go back to the table and her dress smells so spectacular. What is that perfume? It’s understated yet glorious and…whewwwww. She’s about to have her sleep disturbed. Ha!

The sun is blocked out by the clouds and there’s a slight drizzle on the window. I open it ever so slightly and the screeching sound annoys the hell out of me yet she doesn’t even react. The wind enters: damp, chilly and fresh. It feels like New York. It feels refreshing.

 

I have 24 hours or so left on this trip…provided today is Saturday. Did I miss my flight? That would be uncharted territory for me. I started in France, flew to Germany, flew to Austria, took a bus to Bavaria – and then back to Austria – and flew to the UK. It’s been a month on the road and I just dread this part of the trip. The sadness that comes as it’s ending.

Why am I an actor? A writer? Producer? I know what I was getting myself into and yet it all seems so…odd, unfulfilling and shrouded in mystery. I wish I wanted to be a teacher or a doctor, maybe a lawyer but those careers never appealed to me. Maybe another office job? I’d rather slit my wrists – but I can recognize the stability in it all. I live a transient lifestyle. I’m a nomad – with a love of travel.

I love that I’m living my life on my own terms but I can’t say much of what I do is leading anywhere. It’s blunt, it’s direct and it’s the damned truth! It’s sobering. I’m still trying to figure this shit out. I should have it solved by now. I don’t – and I don’t feel close to capturing some clarity. Maybe it’s time to move…here.

One thing working in favor of London is that I don’t have to deal with a language barrier at all. Truthfully though, London is New York adjacent and I live in Los Angeles because it’s NOT the Big Apple. I love NYC but I don’t need it right now. It will always be home – and I will take up permanent residence there at some point but I need something else. Berlin blew my mind away and I can see living there. Paris surprised me too and I gave a lot of thought into calling the number I saw advertised a block away from the hostel for a vacant studio apartment. Salzburg is amazing but ultimately the locals will mistake me for a refugee. That’s an inside joke that none of you will get.

Rome. Which, if New York City is my wife, Rome is the girlfriend I’m falling for as I reach for the divorce paperwork; it’s that serious.

This needs to work out, this LA move. I know what I need to achieve in order to deem my time in the City of Angels a success and, currently, I am failing. It hurts. It frustrates me and it’s the major reason for my recent increase in migraine headaches. My insomnia has also been reactivated lately. Bullshit!

What’s the purpose of any of this? Maybe I should just pack up and move to Europe. It invigorates me. Just the thought forces my heart to beat loudly within my chest. However I know that at some point I’ll become restless and grow to hate my surroundings. Then what?

Who knows? I’ll probably get to Europe, love it temporarily, and then find myself looking for something else…somewhere else…in an infinite loop.

I don’t care to be a father or even a husband for that matter. I could be interested in a breathtaking fiancée – and travel the world together. I wonder if she’s single. Ugh…I should know that. Honestly that piece of information is irrelevant at the moment.

What am I doing? What have I done?

The rain intensifies as I eat a second bagel and stretch out, placing my feet on the chair with her dress. I spot a couple running towards a taxi while another runs to catch the bus in the hopes of escaping the downpour.

I don’t want to board that flight tomorrow. Yet I know I have to leave. It’s a quarter past eight which is too early in the morning to be waking up on vacation. (Or close to the time I arrived home on a few days while in Berlin!)

Absinthe. Sex. Women. Parties. Clubs. Festivals. Museums. Beer. New Friends. Hostels. Hotels. Apartments. Flights. Food. Culture. Euros. Pounds. Photographs. Dancing. Trains. Buses. Walking. Talking. Dancing. Kissing. Flying. Laughing. Sadness.

I crave the world. However the world wants to date other people.

There’s movement under the covers. I ignore it to stare into the sky. A groan. I breathe in the brisk air. She sucks her teeth. Seconds later her arm reaches for her phone – and I can see her sending a text. She then drops her phone onto the floor beside mine. I quietly fix her a cup of tea and bring her one of the bagels that someone paid for. I haven’t eaten a bagel since I was in the States and when I went to the market here, I bought salmon and chocolate chip cookies. She must have done this last night, I guess. I remember her attacking my face and biting my neck, hard.

Her toes peek out from under the soft blankets so I walk over and squeeze her big toe. She makes a weak attempt to kick me and I snicker.

Fuck off, Sean! Aren’t you tired?

After a brief chuckle I respond simply, “Yes, I am. I can’t sleep.”

As I placed her tea on the nightstand, she touched my leg with her hand and popped her head out. She cleared away all that thick, dark, luscious hair. Our eyes met, we both smiled and I motioned for her to sit up in the bed. She pressed her back against the headboard as I handed her the hot drink and the plate with the bagel.

Her piercing eyes followed me as I sat back at the table. I focused on the rain while she ate quickly, but with little noise. It was as if a hamster was nibbling on a treat. Cute.

She thanked me for breakfast and pulled the covers over herself. She mumbled, wondering if I was coming back to bed. I don’t recall giving her an answer. I wasn’t even sure of the day. Is it Friday morning? Sunday? Mid-week? Does she have a job? Or school? I hope she’s on holiday if that’s the case.

I want some of this shit to matter
I just want to stay awake
Thoughts varied and abundant like a succulent platter
This long journey is mine to take
I’m growing bitter
I’m confused
Keep trying to win
And yet I lose
Motivation waning
Feeling blue and abused
Life doesn’t want me to win
Burden drains my soul from within

She fell asleep. I clean a little. I got dressed and walked the neighborhood so I could feel the rain, the air. It’s my favorite weather, honestly. My phone’s upstairs; I’m not going back for it either. I better buy some headache medicine while I’m out here. I do.

I’ve got to go back to Los Angeles.

I return and she’s still asleep. What the fuck did we do last night? Besides have sex in the shower and the bed? I remember dancing and kissing – and I remember her hair in my mouth as we kissed. I see she pulled her hair into a ponytail while I was gone.

While urinating I realize that I haven’t showered so I undress to do so before taking the headache pills. I stink. As the steam begins to dominate the bathroom I open the window which gives me a glimpse of the neighborhood but more importantly the weather.

My life needs to make more sense than it currently does.

I sit in the bathtub and let the water glide down my back. I stand and lather myself with vanilla soap. Thunder booms in the sky above as the rain falls in full force. It’s loud, jarring and the pellets hit this window with the force of pebbles. I think I hear footsteps. Suddenly, lips on the back of my neck and another soft kiss on my cheek. Nails, gently but firmly, traverse my chest before they rub the soap into my skin.

A single, soft kiss.

Naturally I move her into the shower stream once I notice the prickling of her skin, goose bumps. I clean her skin, slowly, as we hold each other and I take my time as I lather her hips and butt. She rests her head on my left shoulder and exhales. We both stand beneath the water and wipe the soap away. She bites my neck, ravenously. Is she a damn vampire? We kiss intensely. I pull her hair, turn her towards the wall, trace her spine with my tongue and bite her ass as if I needed blood from it. She whimpered as she bit the inside of her fingers and then a sly smile formed across her face.

I have 24 hours before life begins again.

 

Travel Diaries
Part 1: France
Part 2: New York City (JFK)
Part 3: Berlin
Part 4: Salzburg Airport
Part 5: La Parrilla Steak Restaurant
Part 6: Salzburg Airport (Departure)
Part 7: Hostel
Part 8: Berlin Wall

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Travel Diary: Berlin Wall

By: S. Davis

September; Berlin:

The World War II era is a period of history that endlessly fascinates me. Europe, Asia and the United States were all pulled together in conflict. In our current age where hyperbole is the norm, at that time the world was truly engulfed in war and it isn’t an embellishment by any means. One of the biggest contradictions I find as an American is how the United States entered the war to stop the senseless oppression of an entire group of people but is guilty of the same sins, since its inception, and still carries out the practice presently.

Remnants of the war can be seen all over Berlin – a constant reminder I suppose – and today wasn’t any different. This city is connected to its past and it wants everyone to be reminded of it. They do a phenomenal job of striking the right balance.

 

It’s pouring! I’m standing underneath this building structure as my arms are tired of holding this umbrella to shield me from the deluge. Usually I don’t mind getting wet but I have a whole afternoon to bleed out before I inevitably find myself blazing a trail through this historic city. The last thing I want to do is get sick again…like I did in France. I’m off to the Naturkundemuseum and according to my map the Berlin Wall Memorial runs a few blocks over. Since I left the Dorotheenstadt Cemetery I feel that I need to reset, mentally and emotionally, before I spend time at another reminder of a war that probably couldn’t be avoided, sadly.

After leaving the museum – which was a great way to kill three hours – I ventured out into the rain and it tapered off a great deal due to the personal photo shoot I conducted indoors. I didn’t want it to stop completely! I stroll past a group of grade school kids, all holding hands at the teacher’s behest as they cross the street. A few of them smile and wave at me; I do the same. Rain pellets hit my neck so I reach into my backpack for my scarf. I thought I ate this cheese danish; oh well, I will right now. It’s not drizzling but the clouds are still above so I’m sure the rain will kick up. Weather, please cooperate with me.

As I make my way down Julie-Wolfthorn-Str there’s a quiet that wasn’t present just moments ago. I know I’m close to my destination. I spot a large block of greenery. I’m here. Depending where you happen to be in Berlin, there are times it will be loud and busy like any major city and then you travail a few feet and then it all stops. It was so serene that I could hear the couple across the street having a conversation.

I step foot on Bernauer Strasse where the wall ran, diving the east (Soviet controlled) and west (controlled by the Allied Forces) of Berlin. The apartments along the street were in the east but the streets themselves were the west. Think about that for a moment. Just attempting to venture onto the street that lines your apartment could result in your death…and for some that was their fate. A guard tower still standing is off in the distance and I’m sure troops fired from the high ground. I’m sad now.

I begin to read some of the stories peppered throughout the open air memorial here. Thin, copper-colored, columns stand in for the old concrete slabs that stood here not that long ago. The choice to design this memorial as an open, communal, space is a great touch but this is not a place of recreation. I choose wisely at it pertains to what I want to photograph. There are some moments that don’t need to be captured; some are meant to be felt above all else.

Could you imagine the struggle to escape the east? People swam, used cars, a hot air balloon, walked a tightrope, dug tunnels, diverted trains and some just opted for the direct approach: climbing, hiding and running. The ripple effects of war.

There’s cool graffiti on the walls here. A cemetery is just back there. I’ve had my fill of cemeteries for the time being. Besides, the grounds where I’m currently standing, well…you get the point. There’s a small map detailing the area around the wall while it stood. The memorial is poignant. It’s melancholy. The steel pillars are coarse to the touch. I step back and survey the cement. Although I fixate on the grooves, art and craters I’m reticent to place my hands on it. Once I do I look to the ground and say a prayer with my eyes closed.

My thoughts immediately transition to those crying on each side of the wall. To those killed for having the courage to escape Soviet rule. Man and his wars…

An installation of pictures memorializing several victims at the wall rests on the lawn so I get a closer look. A woman to my left dabs tears away from her eyes with a handkerchief. My feet take over as I peruse the grounds. I’m in tune with my mortality at this exact moment.

It had to be distressing to live at the border. I’m also thinking about what it had to be like to live in Nazi controlled Germany. What’s the recourse if you were opposed to their beliefs? Hmm…

I walk further, exploring all the nooks of the memorial. I wonder about the exact moment when people grabbed their tools to tear it down. What emotions coursed through their body as they converged on the cement with hammers, axes, screwdrivers, jack hammers, etc. The feeling when they were reunited with family members and friends; working to reestablish connections with cherished ones paused by politics, ideologies, pride and a lack of communication. I contemplate those who never were reunited, those who committed suicide and those who were killed. This is another special day for me in a foreign city that feels comfortable.

I’m calm. I’m relaxed. I’m mourning people I’ve never met. My mother, sister and aunt spring to mind.

My days in Germany are spent soaking up culture and my nights are a haze of booze, women, music and random eateries before I go to sleep when most people are starting their day. This vacation is attempting to end my life and I love it. My nomadic sensibilities force me to question my present and future…but I’ll leave that bucket of piranhas for another time. 

My time here is burning away but I’m going to make it count.  There’s a personality to Berlin that I connect with.

 

Travel Diaries
Part 1: France
Part 2: New York City (JFK)
Part 3: Berlin
Part 4: Salzburg Airport
Part 5: La Parrilla Steak Restaurant
Part 6: Salzburg Airport (Departure)
Part 7: Hostel

A (Date) Journal

By: S. Davis

As a teenager I kept a journal. I probably started one around the age of 15 and kept it updated until 19 or so. In my twenties, I thought of starting a new edition but it never gained much steam. Honestly, I don’t find my life that interesting – although I’ve experienced noteworthy moments that qualify for a journal entry (or sixty). Keeping a daily – or weekly – statement of record isn’t something that appeals to me.

I remember I wrote to relieve the clutter inside my mind. Sometimes it helped, whereas at other times it didn’t produce a single benefit. What used to give me a great sense of levity was reading about the women I chased, argued with, kissed, etc. Another reason why the journal ceased is that I didn’t want to risk indicting myself; think of taking a notebook to chronicle a criminal conspiracy that you’re an active participant in. That’s not a sharp move.

Recently I found myself on a date. Ok. People in my life want to know why I’m single. I only have one answer: I don’t know. I’m intelligent, handsome and hilarious; I know I’m a catch but for whatever reason there isn’t a romantic relationship near my orbit. Also, I’m not actively seeking one.

A few months back I said that I’m going to try to date, seriously, as I’ve grown tired of casual dating. I rarely feel that way. I enjoy being a bachelor, but it’s not as exciting as it once was and I wanted to confront it directly. On a personal level, I think it’s pivotal for my emotional and mental maturity to try a stable relationship. (Of course it has to be with the right woman. I won’t settle; if I did I will eventually cheat, break her heart – or both.) The reasons are too deep to dive into now but I feel it’s imperative that I give it a solid attempt.

Back to that date I mentioned above…

Date? It was a great deal of fun. It lasted just under two hours. She was stunning, sharp, witty, introspective and a fantastic conversationalist. She fit the mold of the type of woman I could possibly date. I don’t have a type, by the way.

A few weeks earlier I spotted her – and had to talk to her. I don’t really do much of that anymore as I approached a woman a few months ago and she was 19. That’s younger than my little sister and the ages of 18-34 can be ambiguous in a city such as Los Angeles where women really cater, exclusively, to their physical appearance, naturally or otherwise.

After introducing myself to her we talked for over an hour. That’s not common for me. Usually I kindly ask if I can have a few moments to speak, offer a genuine compliment, I ask their name – offer mine – and ask if they’re in a relationship. That’s it. That’s my approach. After that 30-45 second interaction we’ll exchange phone numbers – or not – and I’ll continue with my day.

I didn’t advance to the number exchange with her until later in the evening as we fell right into a conversation that lasted…an hour. Odd. “Ok, let’s see.” That was my only thought as I walked to my car.

About the date…

I was impressed, truly. There wasn’t a hint of pretentiousness, arrogance or judgment. She wasn’t moved or motivated by material wealth. A rarity in Los Angeles, honestly. There was passion to her; in her dreams and her pursuit of them. Her perseverance was admirable; her conviction was evident and compelling. Her laugh brought laughter out of me. We talked about our respective schedules over the next few days and we both decided we could see each other the next day: 24 hours later. Being the guy, of course, I had to ask. Her response: Yes. A second date booked while still on the first? I am maturing. This is progress, right?

Prior engagements capped my time limit for the date so we walked towards her car. The positive energy continued to flow. I gave her some Valentine’s chocolates that I picked up on the way to the date as I had to make a stop at the supermarket for cereal. She was on my mind so why not? She appreciated the gift. We hugged and held each other for a bit. She smelled terrific. We kissed.

I don’t initiate kisses on first dates. Nope. It’s not part of my strategy – and it never has been. It’s psychological to me. I follow the tenet of always leave them wanting more but more importantly I just favor keeping the physical contact minimal. There are times though, when the moment is there.

She didn’t push for it, neither did I…it just happened. I’m glad it did. Cool.

We exchanged post-date texts. Cooler.

I ran my errands the next day inspired to clear the slate to open the evening – to see her. I left her a voice message to alert her that I was still on for round two. As I completed my last task an hour later and turned attention to actually planning the night’s activities I heard my text ringer.

There wouldn’t be a second date. In her words, she went from “excited to see me again…to anxiety” to dropping the whole thing because of how the anxiety affected her.

What can you say about that? How do you respond?

I asked if she was alright and/or wanted to talk. She reiterated how she couldn’t ignore the anxiety and that was it.

I wasn’t upset. I was confused. What the hell is going on?

It took me two hours to move past it which says something as I brush things off rather swiftly. I was disappointed in myself for wasting 120 minutes thinking about our initial meeting, the first date, her laugh, her eyes and the surge of energy I felt after we kissed and how she beamed directly afterwards. Ultimately, I really wanted to see her again. There’s no doubt in my mind that the second date produces a third date and then…oh well, whatever. She dominated my thoughts well into the next morning. I was frustrated. I had to reconcile it all within myself.

Dating is a murky enterprise. I can’t comprehend it or relationships to be honest. I don’t understand humans either, even though by evolution and my ability to put sentences together, I am one. I don’t feel connected to my humanity at times and when I do I can say that it’s a fleeting attachment. I hear humans say that relationships are an important component of a complete life experience, specifically romantic connections. I guess.

I’m better at one-night stands and casual sex. I don’t understand the machinations needed to foster anything more substantial. I’m single because I can grasp that. This is a journal entry in my thirties.

UFC 220 + Bellator 192 = Supercard

By: S. Davis

Can you hear that? You should be able to if you’re on this planet. The world has been entranced with the power of Francis Ngannou and it’s no longer a secret that the soft-spoken, jovial, survivor from Cameroon is on a swift track to stardom. We’ve seen improvement in his footwork since his debut even though he hasn’t spent much time in the cage – other than having his hand raised.

The UFC hasn’t ignored his rise in popularity and are primed to push him with the entire promotional machine. The official trailer/teaser highlights both men in the main event but there’s a certain angle they’re portraying – or, at the very least, attempting to. The production value is stellar and it’s driving a point home: Ngannou stock is being purchased in droves and they’re in the market for him as a face of the company…deeply.

The flavor-of-the-month cliché has been in full bloom. That’s not a slight to the challenger at all. In events such as these, when all the attention is devoted to the shiny new toy on Christmas morning it’s easy to overlook the action figures that were there when you were bedridden with the measles, the weekend at grandma’s when her wi-fi was down because she switched providers hours before you arrived and the time your little brother threw a fit because his favorite toy broke so you handed him yours. Remember that? Reliability. Consistency.

Miocic is the man actually in possession of the championship, just in case anyone forgot. He’s the one over there garbling his words, hanging up the phone on his wife while piling up an impressive list of finishes as well. Let’s take a moment to acknowledge his skill and technical acumen in the cage.

The champion seeks a successful defense to set the heavyweight record at three while the challenger looks to stamp his rise by winning one of the few, shiny, gold titles that actually mean something within the company. The problem with predictions in the heavyweight division is the fact that the weakest heavyweight can end the night with an accurate strike. These two both launch missiles to end fights but Ngannou has the kind of sudden power that’s both impressive and chilling. When his uppercut found Alistair Overeem’s chin, I was concerned that he might not walk again.

As for the bout itself, I want to see if Miocic pulls the fight into the later rounds as Ngannou has yet to enter the third frame in his entire career. There could be an opportunity to frustrate the challenger and test those lungs should the fight last longer than ten minutes. As a boxer, I give the champion the edge in terms of foot placement and movement. I also add a plus in the champion’s column as it pertains to cardio.

Defense is going to be paramount here. Miocic has been hit – and has survived in most cases but it only takes one to land for that belt to be wrapped around the challenger. As of yet Ngannou hasn’t been frustrated in a fight nor has he been tasked with fighting from a deficit. How will he respond if the champion remains poised, active and outside of his reach while scoring points? What’s the strategy if he finds himself pinned against the cage when he gets in punching range and can’t turn out the lights quickly? Will he use raw strength to escape a bad position over a technically sound option that leaves him vulnerable to being added to Miocic’s highlight reel?

I wonder.

I appreciate the fact that Bellator 192 – I wish they would change the name – is holding their event on the same evening as I’m melding both cards together. I’m not going to pay much attention to UFC 220 outside of the two title fights. The best fight of the night could be Douglas Lima defending his welterweight crown against Rory MacDonald. I’ll change that: It will be the best fight between both cards.

By the time Chael Sonnen vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson begins, I’m hoping that Daniel Cormier is walking to the cage so I can shift focus from my laptop to my television. I don’t have high hopes for that tilt and I’m concerned about the viewing experience for the customers when Sonnen does what he does. I think Michael Chandler is going to put on a show and Aaron Pico returns to kick off their main card.

A brief aside to discuss the circus around the UFC Lightweight Championship, if I may…

I think stripping Conor McGregor is too…clean. It’s easy and it would be the lazy course of action. Simply remove the “Interim” tag from Tony Ferguson’s portion of the title and name him the “Co-Lightweight” champion while also affixing the same label to McGregor. (It seems like they’ve done this at 7:49 of this video for what it’s worth.) Transfer the lineage of the 155 pound title to both men. Eventually McGregor will have no choice but to defend his half of the title – that would be split in this scenario – because he chose to sit on the bench. He’s healthy and therefore there’s no reason why he can’t compete. UFC brass capitulated and allowed him to box instead of draining his bank account in court proceedings when that was their standard modus operandi when they wanted to flex their power; at least in the Fertitta-era.

Of course if he’s truly stripped, he’ll rally his followers to dismiss Tony, Khabib Nurmagomedov or whoever reigns over the weight class. He’ll accuse them of being fake. MMA drones will agree and if he were to come back to capture the title a second time, he’ll boast about becoming a two-time champion, casually ignoring his refusal to defend. If he’s stripped, he dances around the responsibility of defending – and losing the title. It’s a hurdle that every combat athlete must clear. He’s not exempt from the same standard that every title holder in the history of sport is mandated to meet by virtue of becoming a champion. He’s a legitimate champion because he won the belt – and that can’t be dismissed. However he hasn’t defined his reign with a single defense. If McGregor were chasing after a champion that conveniently refused to defend, denying him the opportunity to share the cage in a title bout, fans of mixed martial arts would riot. It’s time to make the walk; put down the phone or become an asterisk in the history books.

Picks: Miocic, Cormier, Sonnen, Lima, Chandler, Font, Karakhanyan and Pico.

Travel Diary: Hostel

By: S. Davis

September; Berlin:

Evening.

What a night in this jubilant city. Not only am I burning the candle at both ends, I’ve dipped it in diesel fuel, hopped on the back of a dragon and tossed it into an active volcano. Am I high?

Did I coherently write that incoherent statement above?

I’m staring directly at a raucous Friday night after getting home just after 8am because Berlin gets in your bones and implores you to stay out. You find yourself in abandoned warehouses and office buildings dancing with people who can’t speak a common tongue but you connect with in…other ways. These last 24 hours have been a futile exercise in squeezing – or at least, attempting to squeeze – an abundance of activities to fit into a block of time that isn’t ample by any means.

Renate was calling to me; with their live circus, inside of the dance club, so everything in the last 8-10 hours was an exercise in body management while pushing through sleep deprivation. You only live once, right? I’m tired. I’m ready for tonight’s possibilities though.

I went grocery shopping to prepare my dinner. The local food is flavorful and plentiful but a few nights of expensive cab rides makes one reconsider taking another trip to the ATM for euros. Pasta, artisanal sauce, fresh baked bread, salami and green tea are on the slate. I didn’t cook too often in France so I’m walking as fast as I can to get this main course prepared. Damn it, I have to put these bags down and find a place to piss.

Why did I walk into that kitchen?

So I just survived a small accident on my way back to the hostel, partly due to the fact that I was processing one million fucking issues at the same moment and almost lost a leg. I just don’t feel like myself. I wasn’t myself in that brief episode. Trust me when I say that it has nothing to do with the scant nibbles of sleep I’ve been teasing my body with. I was off. Period.

After blazing through the room like tornado force winds – and ignoring Whitney who was fine-tuning her makeup and starting her pregame with wine to kick the night off, I dropped the bags and went to the shower. I needed to hear…just…water. I had to be alone at that moment. Between Whit and our kick-ass, cool, roommates I wasn’t in the proper frame of mind to be social – and I know I would’ve been pulled into the conversation so I had to be the one to remove myself…for now.

Once I turned the lock and heard the audible click, I pressed my forehead against the door. The pace of my heartbeat began to gradually decrease. I turned on the water from both the faucet and the shower and fixated on the liquid as I closed my eyes and took a long, deep breath. I exhaled once, then twice – and a third. My attention turned to the puddle resting in the sink and I stared for about 10 minutes without moving an inch before stepping into the actual shower. I studied the pellets dancing down my forearm. The off-white shade of the soap in my hands and the faint scent of rose hips emanating from it danced up my nostrils along with the steam.

I was searching for zen. It came. I recharged, dressed and headed for the community kitchen to eat, alone, and get myself ready for the club with a LIVE circus INSIDE. Is this city from a weird, children’s book or something? That’s a compliment! It’s time for some fuel.

Sean, why did you walk into that kitchen?

Upon keying in the code and entering the dining area there was a woman preparing…yeah, pasta. Having the space completely to myself was out of the window at this point. Whatever. Sand colored eyes framed by a gentle face…accompanied by a stern facial expression that could melt brick. Did I just infringe upon her search for tranquility while enjoying her meal?

Very brief “hellos” were exchanged. She told me where to find the clean pans and assisted me with the oven controls as they were a bit tricky. She mentioned how “dirty” the other guests left the kitchen when she arrived – and she was correct. I got started on cooking and took care of the stray dishes with full portions of rice and meat resting atop them as my pasta started to boil.

As I took a seat, a small conversation began to develop. Similar interests? Yes. She turned her attention to the shredded cheese she had to the left of her plate. “It’s ok.” It leapt from her mouth as if she wanted to convince herself that it was true. She shrugged her shoulders and said it was as if the cheese wanted to be mozzarella or parmesan but it “failed” at both.

She insisted that I try it. I did. It hit my palette and my brain surmised that it seemed as if mozzarella and…cheddar, I guess, had a baby so it was perfectly adequate. However I don’t favor a cheddar-lite taste with my pasta. I snickered about the cheese and we both laughed. A genuine smile formed upon her face. Her eyes were illuminated. They were suddenly green.

I went for my food, topping the pasta with olive oil, sauce, her depressing cheese, bread and thick slices of aged salami. She packed her plate with a second serving, emptying the contents of her pan. She eats, twice, and both of her servings were as large as mine. That’s rare – and a positive sight to behold. Honestly, I have to admit I wasn’t keeping score. I was having dinner with a compelling stranger from another country…in Berlin.

Further conversation birthed more laughter than anything else. My dinner was completely satisfying and I realized that I didn’t want to be alone in that kitchen at that moment. She mentioned her four-hour visit to New York City during Easter weekend a few years back and she described how, in her country, retailer H&M has a limited collection compared to other countries. We then discussed film production and our views as creative artists.

We described the day’s events in Berlin, our schedules over the preceding hours/days, being tourists, wandering, snapping photographs and enjoying the city. Her thoughts shifted to a local film festival and a movie that piqued her interest. She “might” see it in a day or two. “Or I might not,” she casually uttered as she stabbed four noodles onto her utensil. She then offered an invite.

“Maybe.” We finished our meals and started to tidy up. I cleaned all my dishes before eating my meal but I wanted to lend her a hand.

Why did I walk into that kitchen?

There wasn’t a romantic tone throughout our interaction. I’m speaking for myself but that energy didn’t come from her either. To be frank I turned off my body language meter once I got back to the hostel as my brain had other stimulation to occupy itself with. No touching of one another, none of those corny gazes; no.

I’m sorry I brushed against you…but secretly I was trying to brush against you. Were any of those moments present? Not a single one. She’s attractive, that’s actually a gross understatement, so there’s no disputing that but that’s not the reason I remained engrossed in the conversation. It was her mind. Her tone, direct, with no room at all for gray area when expressing her point of view; the piercing look on her face, it was her intelligence that was enthralling.

We shared a few laughs and exchanged contact information as we finished cleaning together. I did I swift profile scan of her. She’s a stunner. As we sat at the same table where we ate a few minutes prior, she released her hair from its tie. Part dark blonde, part brunette, curled, it fell to about her shoulders.

It would have been much easier to go buy dinner, Sean. I mean, really? I mean…

The focus, my focus, that was scattered earlier had been engaged and sharpened. Slow down, this isn’t the part where I go into pursuit mode. No. However I was aware that I was no longer viewing her in the same capacity. Honest.

I marked my groceries and she talked about her remaining days in town – as did I. Evening plans? She was thinking of shooting pool downstairs and then turning in for the night. I told her that my itinerary for the night wouldn’t truly begin for hours. She welcomed me to send a text and “if not, cool.” I told her that I would do so in “a few minutes.”

I caught up with Whit, grabbed a sweater and headed down. The hostel was awake. It was noisy. The music pulsated throughout the entire first floor. Chatter among travelers filled in for the lyrics. Girls were dressing to go out and guys were, well, trying to see where they were off to. I love it. Energy.

There was an active game of pool going with a large number of spectators and yet there wasn’t anyone who was next up. I sent a text and…a response: Hold the table! I told her that she didn’t need to worry. Two or three minutes passed before I noticed her approaching with a purpose. An abundance of eyes and neck turns were left in her path, I have to admit. I met her a quarter of the way with two pool cues. She smiled. I nodded. She snatched a cue from my hand and told me, confidently, that she was going to win. Escalation much?

Confidence. She boasted about her skill level. Her trash talk was sharp and she did back, most, of it up. I playfully ignored her which earned me several middle-finger salutes. She nudged me with her hips, pushed me, and completed the assault by aiming the cue at my head. Can I report this to someone? Ha! Ultimately the focus was on the competition; winning the match and all that. She prevailed.

Immediate rematch? Yes. This game moved at a quicker pace than our initial meeting. There was considerably less chatter but more gestures: eye rolling, laughing, mocking, blocking each others’ walking path, etc. I took the rematch, naturally. We rested the cues atop the table to dive into conversation. She mentioned her thoughts on how the tie-breaker could be postponed until tomorrow night. I was fine with that. Once again her thoughts turned to the movie she was interested in seeing at the festival. She started to search for the show times but her phone consistently lost the connection to the wi-fi. I didn’t mind. She talked, I listened. Staring at her phone, she then blurted that she’s “impatient.” I asked if that just occurred to her and she burst into laughter; I followed shortly thereafter.

Whit came over and asked if I was having a good time. “Yeah,” I replied. “It sure looks that way, Sean.” I blew off her response. I knew where she was going with the comment and it wasn’t something I was ready to acknowledge or even entertain. Go that way, Whitney. Thank you.

Naturally, I’m respectful to women. Additionally my default behavior is to be kind, attentive and charming. That’s not flirting. It’s my standard modus operandi. Now has it been confused or taken as “flirtatious behavior” from the opposite sex? Yes. Women have perceived it as such whereas I’m just being kind. True.

I never initiate physical contact with women. Key word: Initiate. I could be on a date for hours and I won’t touch her at all. If we’re on the dance floor, that’s one thing, but taking that atmosphere into consideration my hands are on her hips for the time we’re that close. It’s about respect and I wouldn’t want to make someone spending time with me uncomfortable in that manner. I leave it to the woman to dictate the physical terms. I might gently tap her shoulder or softly place my hand on her back if I need to get her attention.

Anyway…my dinner mate/pool adversary returned just as Whit strolled away with the cheesiest grin on her face. A pool cue was thrust into my chest and so the final round was set to begin. I kind of felt like I didn’t have a choice; I doubt I did. Whitney returned, “What about tonight? Are we going to see this circus…in the middle of the club?!”

Remember how I spoke about throwing the candle into the volcano? How my body has been alarmingly without rest? Whitney and I walked over to the bar to discuss the night ahead. She had a look on her face that I recognized. I had that look after a few hours of sleep earlier in the day while brushing my teeth in the mirror. She, too, had been pushing herself to the brink in Germany and she, mentally, wanted me to confirm her true line of thinking. She didn’t want to go the circus, not because she wasn’t game for it; she was tired. She also had a date on the other side of town that she didn’t want to miss.

She needled me about my new friend to which I simply stated that we’re having a “good time.” Whit and I continued on just as my competitor started the game. Whit finished her beer and uttered, “I see chemistry there.” My brow furrowed slightly and I shook my head before stating, “No, Whitney; I don’t think so. I’m not paying attention to that.” She took a drink of water and replied, “It sure looks like it. No?” She giggled with her entire upper body, we hugged, and she left me with another cheesy grin as she vanished into the swath of travelers at the hostel bar.

Round three began and it was much slower than the previous two matches but there was much more talking and laughing. I noticed the streaks of blonde in her hair, her posture, her smile and her walk. I won the game and we hugged. She wanted to turn in for the night. I understood. We went to a quiet corner of the hostel and talked for few minutes about…life. About 20 minutes later we walked to the courtyard and shared a few more stories before hugging. She told me to “be safe” and I wished her a blissful evening of sleep. Goodnight.

Why did I walk into that kitchen?

I glanced at my watch for the first time all day and it was a few ticks before midnight. I grabbed my phone from my locker and did a final scan in the mirror. Yeah, I’m looking good.

I exit the hostel and walk a few blocks away. Groups of people are buzzing around from every direction; into and out of cabs. A bar on the opposite of the street seems promising. One, two, three, four, five…six women just emerged from a taxi and entered the front door. It’s obvious where my night will begin.

There’s a faint smell of rain in the air. I take a massive, deep, breath. I begin to walk. Alone. I’m in Berlin with a whole night to explore. I don’t need to be anywhere else.

Cooking dinner was a smart decision.

 

Travel Diaries
Part 1: France
Part 2: New York City (JFK)
Part 3: Berlin
Part 4: Salzburg Airport
Part 5: La Parrilla Steak Restaurant
Part 6: Salzburg Airport (Departure)

UFC 219: The Best Women’s Fighter Ever?

By: S. Davis

 

 

I’ll avoid the legacy blabber as it pertains to the winner of the contest. You can get all that analysis elsewhere. A sound argument can be made to validate the fighter that gets their hand raised at the conclusion of the event. No matter your thoughts on the outcome this is a monumental fight in the women’s division overall. Taking their collective accomplishments into consideration both competitors enter tonight’s bout supremely decorated.

Cris “Cyborg” Justino wins after pinning Holly Holm’s back against the cage and unleashing a relenting, punishing barrage that leads to a stoppage! I’ll buy that. Holm stays true to her counterstriking prowess, uses Justino’s aggression against her – matador style – and captures the title with a pinpoint, devastating head kick. It’s possible.

I’ve been wondering over the last week if Holm could employ a strategy that could win her the title on points. It’s strange to consider once you begin to realize that in Cyborg’s 20 fight MMA career she’s 18-1-1 with only two of those contests reaching the scorecards. She’s a fight finisher unlike most of the loudmouths of the sport boasting 16 stoppages on her ledger. Throughout her career only one made it to the fourth round; a TKO of Marloes Coenen.

Imagine Justino eschewing her new-found, measured, approach after (possibly) finding minimal success this evening, provided Holm remains on the horse. As one that doesn’t initiate a ton of offense as a lead fighter, Justino does bring the kind of style that could allow Holm to flourish. Holm has to keep the fight at distance! In close-quarters, Justino will use her elbows and knees and if that’s the route the evening takes this is an easy night for the defending champion.

If Holm dictates the fight and controls the pace on her terms there is a path to a victory. Her oblique, side, and push kicks will be crucial and I can see her scoring points with her combinations – which, honestly are foreshadowed with her loud exhalations – to begin building a slight lead.

Will any of this happen? That’s why they’re in the ones locked in the cage. Cyborg’s path to a successful defense is written in her previous matches. She takes control early and often with her physical dominance and powerful strikes, especially her right hooks. Now I have noticed that she ducks her head to the left when launching the strike and tends to drop her left hand at times as she hits the target. Hmm? If this minor technical glitch has been scouted by Jackson-Wink, the right side head kick is there.

Size won’t be the advantage that it has been in the past for the champion as Holm is the same height – and does boast a one inch reach advantage. That advantage is negligible as Holm doesn’t employ the jab as a true weapon which is startling as she’s a former boxing champion and a dominant one at that. Cyborg’s built like a tank whereas Holm is leaner but physically impressive in her own right. I’d love to see them in a clinch battle although it does expose “The Preachers Daughter” to clinch fighting and the understated jiu-jitsu of the defending champion.

I think the fight will be exciting after the first three minutes; I believe there will be an auditing process as they survey one another and calculate their moves. Both women are great fighters and I hope they both enter and exit the cage with their health intact.

Has Khabib Nurmagomedov made weight? Can someone check? Whew. Lastly, since The Ultimate Fighter has been relegated to building the roster while paying the new fighters pennies why haven’t they built a season on unearthing talented women at women’s featherweight? Why isn’t the UFC propping up their champion and creating a true division around her?

Women’s flyweight was created on the reality show – and it was needed to give the women more options – but did they have to crown a champion? Since they did, why not blow out a season on finding true featherweights or maybe, I don’t know, three other women that are actually fit to compete at 145? The only women listed at featherweight according to the UFC website are Megan Anderson and Tonya Evinger – a bantamweight. As for the rankings in the division, there aren’t any.

Looking past tonight, who’s the next challenger in the division? I’m sure that if Holm wins they will book an immediate rematch but who does Cyborg fight next if she retains? Use TUF  to populate the division and give Cyborg some exposure by having her do interviews on each show and have her interact with the women who will be vying for a title shot upon completion of the season.

It seems obvious the UFC doesn’t want to put her on a pedestal and give her a larger platform. Why?

They haven’t promoted this event like they have others. Maybe they were afraid about Nurmagomedov’s reliability on the scale. They were scrambling to find a marquee fight to headline tonight and were forced to push the women into the main event once those options evaporated. It’s the show that closes the year and the main event can sell the card, if the promoter actually went out and promoted.

Picks: Carlos Condit, Carla Esparza, Marc Diakiese, Nurmagomedov and Cyborg.

Travel Diary: Salzburg Airport (Departure)

By: S. Davis

September; Austria:

I’m about to fly out to ole England and I’m furious and depressed. This is leg four of my trip. The only flight remaining after this is…home. Ugh! Push past it, Sean; we have time in London – which will be the first international city I’ve returned to. I’m looking forward to it.

I want to staaaaaaaaaaay in Salzburg for a little while longer. Maybe an extra day? Who am I kidding? That’s not enough time. At every airport I’m both excited and sad: elated to get to the next destination while lamenting that I have to leave the current one.

I really wish this annoying dog would stop pawing at my feet. Doesn’t it know that I’m trying to sulk in my despair while making eyes at the red-head with the braid crown? I softly pat its head which exacerbates the issue and it stands on its hind legs with its front paws on my knee. I try to ignore it by staring at my phone screen but the curious critter licks my knuckles. My cold, dead heart melts so I place my phone into my pocket to give him some attention. His owner laughs as I surrender.

I’m going to miss Salzburg. It’s a stellar city. From just about any corner of it, taking a photograph is a carbon copy of any expensive postcard you will ever see or purchase. Inch by inch it is quite possibly the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen. The mix between contemporary and traditional architecture, the seamless balance between nature and city life; the fortresses, castles, trees, food, etc; it’s going to stay with me for an abundance of reasons.

That fresh air! About that air…

A major part of this trip centered around World War Two history. Berlin is a lively city – and I enjoyed that but I wanted to really see it: Bradenburg Gate, Holocaust Memorial, the Berlin Wall, etc. There’s an energy in the city that’s aware of its past and that’s never lost no matter where you happen to be.

I’ll get to that in a future entry, I promise. It’s going to take a while to craft – and honestly, to sit down to type it all recalling those moments, hours will be tough. The entry’s already written but I’m missing a page that I’m positive is somewhere in my messy bag – that’s still unpacked from the trip. I’ll locate it and it shall be posted.

 

Travel Diaries
Part 1: France
Part 2: New York City (JFK)
Part 3: Berlin
Part 4: Salzburg Airport
Part 5: La Parrilla Steak Restaurant