Stories of my Zaporozhets – second story

(Continued from here and here).

The nice side of driving a Zaporozhets was that traffic police did not stop them. Ever (at least, not mine). The reason was that in those distant times – may this statement be forgiven by the honest hard-working traffic cops of today, who I believe exist … I also believe in tooth fairy, but that doesn’t mean anything … anyway, what was I talking about – ah, yes, in those distant times the traffic cops really liked bribes, and since the image of owner of Zaporozhets in their mind was not consistent with the image of someone with money, stopping them was a waste of time, no matter what traffic rules they broke.
I wasn’t the only one noticing this pecularity in traffic police behavior. Kiev yellow press ran several articles about criminals who used Zaporozhets cars to transport corpses to be buried in the forest … guaranteed not to be stopped and searched.

And here I am, driving to work one day. In a bit of a hurry, so I’m driving aggressively, overtaking on the right, cutting in front of cars, but not too dangerously – no reason to get on people’s nerves, they’ve got a whole workday ahead of them for this. And so do I.

Three-lane road. Left lane is hardly moving. I’m in the central lane, but the guy in Opel Kadet in front of me is really slow, with no one ahead of him. Right lane is empty, but I can see a trolley bus ahead, really crawling. Alright, I should be able to make it. Turning right, gas to the floor, catching up with Kadet and now Kadet’s driver decides to wake up – the unthinkable happened: some Zaporozhets dared overtake him! Him, with his miracle of outdated German junk construction. He accelerates. But I already got the speed … I add some more and almost three feet away from the bus I go left, cutting Kadet’s nose … he continues to accelerate and scratches his front bumper on my rear.
Damn, I’m really going to be late now. OK, right turn signal on, get my car to the side of the road. Kadet also gets off the road, stopping in front of me at an angle – he doesn’t want me to run away. Well, I’m not about to give him that pleasure, first let’s see what we did to each other’s cars and who is this guy. Man of uncertain age, track suit hangs real loose on him – either he runs “unofficial” taxi business, or he’s a low-rank criminal, or he dresses up to pass for either of those. First he runs to check his bumper, then walks towards me with the evil grin “well, I’ve got you now” expression on his face. I open the door and slowly get six feet of myself from the car … dressed in long black raincoat … black fedora … impeccably white silk scarf on my neck … and cell phone already next to my ear – I do need to call the office and let them know I’ll be late. Something strange is happening to that guy, though: no trace is left of his grin, his face is completely white and it’s as if he shrunk in size too. And judging by expression on his face now, he really wants to be somewhere else, somewhere very far from here, the farther the better. He gets closer to me:

“Are you ok?”

“I’m fine and as for the car – I’ll take a look in a second. Are you ok?”

“Yes, yes, I’m ok.”

So, I go and take a look at my bumper. Nothing major – light contact, just a bit of paint smear, it’s not even a scratch.

“This is nothing. It’s fine. How’s your car?”

“It’s fine too. So, can I go?”

“Sure, take care.”

“Thanks, bye.”

He practically ran to his car and started it so fast, as if he was afraid I might change my mind. He probably read those articles. Driving a Zaporozhets definitely had its nice sides.

Published in: on April 30, 2006 at 11:43 am  Leave a Comment  

Open tournament

My first victory over A-rated fencer! It’s pool, not direct elimination, but it still feels great, especially since the victory was pretty confident – 5:2. There were 6 people in my pool – one A, one B, one C, two Es, and one unrated (me). I managed to win two bouts – with the A, and with one of the Es. This was my first time in a tournament of this level. Wow, tough bouts, really great experience.

I ended seeding 21st for direct elimination. First DE was against my “worst nightmare” of an opponent – tall, long-armed lefty, using a french grip on his epee. Of course he’s holding it at the pommel, which gives him another 4-6 inches of reach over me. As if his height and arm length weren’t enough. Well, I had some ideas what to do against such opponent, and some of them even worked, to my surprise. The bout turned out pretty interesting, though I still lost 15:11, and ended up 21st out of 31.

Published in: on April 29, 2006 at 11:00 pm  Comments (1)  

Club tournament and a little about lefties

Another club tournament tonight. 3 victories, 1 defeat, 3rd place out of 5. Those in 1st and 2nd place have the same number of victories and defeats as me, the places got assigned by indicators. That makes me pretty happy with my result. Especially one of the victories – against a very strong lefty. I consistently perform worse against left-handed fencers (and I’m not alone in that).

Lefties have an obvious advantage in fencing: a righty would fence against a lefty somewhat differently than against another righty. On the surface, lefty has the same problem – he would fence against righty differently than against another lefty. That means that practice and experience is needed in fencing both same-handed, and opposite-handed opponents. Now, let’s suppose that lefties are about 10% of the fencers in the club. Let’s also assume that each fencer in the club fences each other fencer roughly equal amount of time. If we look at long enough time period (a year or more), that is a fairly reasonable assumption. That means that righties gain experience against lefties in only 10% of their bouts, while lefties gain experience against righties in 90% of theirs.

While this holds true for large clubs, or individual fencers who compete often and get a wide variey of opponents, situation can be very different in a small isolated club. If we take a small club with roughly equal number of righties and lefties, both righties and lefties from such club will be at advantage. Of course, this advantage by itself, doesn’t amount to anything. It takes technique, speed, talent, mental training, and a lot of other things, but with all of the above close to equal …

It can be very interesting to watch two lefties fence each other. I have seen several bouts where a weaker lefty fencer from a large club won against stronger lefty, who was the only lefty in his club. Sometimes it does come down to just having right experience.

I am in pretty good situation in that regard – we have several lefties of different skill levels in our club, and recently my coach started giving me lessons, alternating his hand between righty and lefty “modes”. One of the DE bouts I won at NAC, and today’s tournament are the first results of that.

Published in: on April 18, 2006 at 11:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

North Carolina

A week-long business trip. Lots of work ahead, but I will leave a couple of evenings for myself. Got in touch with guys from a couple of clubs in the area, and made arrangements to practice and fence with them.

To transport my epees, I bought a large plastic golf case, it made a very nice travel fencing bag. Waiting to check in luggage at the airport, there’s a nice elderly couple next to me. The guy looks at me, looks at the bag, then looks at me again with “we share a common hobby” kind of a smile and nod, and asks: “Clubs?” In the same tone and with the same smile I reply, “No, swords.” This apparently causes him to swallow already prepared next phrase, and his facial expression is a little different now. So is his wife’s. Both of them very slowly, as if unintentionally, back away from me. Oh, well.

I land in North Carolina around 10pm. It’s about 30 miles drive to the hotel. Car rental place doesn’t have a car with GPS available, so they give me a map, and explain with a lot of detail how to get to my hotel. Trouble is that the weather is just “perfect” for driving in unfamiliar area – it’s pitch black, and the heavy rain soon turns into a thunderstorm. I am driving on an arrow-straight road with no idea whether I already missed my exit, or not. But I no longer care about that, because I am watching the lightning strikes above the road, and how they cut through the darkness. Too bad I can’t paint. Getting slightly lost is a small price to pay for such a view.

Well, in the end I got to the hotel just fine, even got enough sleep before driving to the office through traffic jams that are not that different from ours. The rest is not as interesting – what I planned for this trip got done, questions that needed to be answered got answered, etc.

And I was able to get those couple of evenings for fencing. I visited two local clubs. Got very nice variety of fencers at different levels, had lots of fun fencing with them, and was able to put some faces to names familiar from forums.

Good trip.

Published in: on April 8, 2006 at 11:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

And how was your April fool’s day?

My April fool’s (actually, my any day) depends on whether there’s a tournament within driving distance. Just my lucky day. Epee tournament, limited to D and lower ratings.

29 people, I am in a pool of 6. Starting to get to know the local crowd, there’s one person in my pool that I already fenced before. And that time he didn’t have any trouble dealing with me – 5:1. This time the victory was mine, despite all the help he got from his coach. My pool result was 2 victories, 3 defeats, seeded 17th for direct elimination bouts.

First DE bout, I am definitely in the lead. And my opponent’s epee breaks mid-bout. His spare epee either didn’t pass tests or broke earlier, or something. His clubmate is in the middle of his own bout and can’t loan him an epee. And somehow there’s no one else he can borrow one from… That is not the way I want to win. Yes, I understand that it’s his responsibility to bring enough working epees to the tournament, if I were in his place, I would also be ready to acknowledge defeat and have only myself to blame, but still, that is not he way I want to win, and that’s it. So, I loan him one of my epees. Two issues really bother me with that:

  1. If I win, would he think that he lost because of bad epee? The only way I can be comfortable here (and I am really the only one uncomfortable, it seems, because he was already prepared to acknowledge defeat), is to give him my best, well-tested epee, that I am confident would work. Done.
  2. If I lose, for how long will I torture myself and try to imagine what would happen if I also didn’t have a spare epee to give him? I sure am happy, that I won’t know the answer to that question.

So far, this bout is my personal record: victory 15:4 in two periods. And no, it was not an easy victory.

My next DE bout was against the guy who seeded 1st out of the pools. He was in my pool, and beat me there 5:4. Theoretically, it’s a promising result – a close score like 5:4 often means that opponents are at about the same level, and either one can get lucky. Well, in this case the theory didn’t hold water. I wasn’t able to create any opportunities to score like in the pool bout, and my opponent won very convincingly 15:7.

I ended up 11th out of 29, pretty happy with myself.

Published in: on April 1, 2006 at 11:00 pm  Comments (1)