Canadian Coffee Break: Your Karate Kid Past
The Canadian Coffee Break brings together some of the finest Canadian minds in Southern California every week for a topical, lively round-tablesque discussion over very dark coffee. Won’t you join us.
TOPIC #11: THE KARATE KID
Your topic this week is THE KARATE KID. Halloween draws nearer and with it every year come fond thoughts of Ralph Macchio in a shower curtain, mere days before he begins preparing for the All-Valley Tournament. Compare if you will your own Canadian high school experience to that of our protagonist Daniel LaRusso, avid bicyclist and recent Jersey transplant to the San Fernando Valley. I would like to know then:
- Who’s Mr. Miyagi
- Who’s Ali
- Who’s Johnny
- Who’s Bobby
- Who’s The Dude Who Looks Like Billy Idol (“Dead Meat.”) (in actuality Steve McQueen’s son)
- Who’s Coach
- What’s your halloween costume
- Where’s Encino Hills
- Where’s Reseda
- What and Where is Golf ’N’ Stuff
- What’s your Crane Kick
- What’s the soundtrack (Cruel Summer / You’re The Best / etc)
If your high school experiences do not resemble those of The Karate Kid’s in any way shape or form, (1) I do not believe you; (2) I would like to know why not.
I haven’t seen the Karate Kid since I was maybe six years old or so? However, I did see The Next Karate Kid in theaters for my birthday when it came out–which is a funny coincidence because my birthday was two days ago. OR IS IT? What I mean is, is it really a coincidence, or something more sinister, not is it really my birthday, because it was.
I did attend film school, which is a great place to see shittily directed versions of scenes from famous movies. Usually it’s Good Will Hunting, but in one advanced graduate directing practicum, a fellow student directed a scene from The Karate Kid (where I guess the main character has a black eye and tries to hide it from his Mom).
Now I don’t know how he got that shiner, but I do know that usually such injuries come from an ARCH NEMESIS. And let me tell you, when I was in high school, I had one of those. The “Johnny” to my “Daniel” as it were (maybe, I randomly chose that name from the list).
See, senior year a new girl transferred to my school. One who I could not stand. I didn’t like the sound of her voice, I didn’t care for her loud rap music, and I certainly wasn’t a fan of the way she tried to stab my friend in the leg with a fork. Plus, to add insult to injury, she had the same name as me. “Daniel” (names have been changed to protect the annoying as hell) made my life miserable every time she walked into the room. No, we never got in a physical fight, but I did go out of my way to fuck with her.
Graduation! Pictured above, from right to left: Me, smiling to hide the abject hatred, “Daniel,” my nemesis (hid her face but if anyone ever sees this they’ll know who she is), and Daniel (actual name), the lovable fella who once hatched a plan to fill “Daniel’s” (the nemesis) locker with milk on a Friday, so by the time she got to school on Monday, all her stuff would smell terrible. He never went through with it, which was good, because I shared a locker with her.
Like one time, on Halloween, I designed the haunted house for maximum scare-a-bility, which was great because “Daniel” was assigned to take care of the crying kids. I sent her teary-eyed urchins by the unmarked-white-van-load that day.
Oh yeah, so I guess our version of Mr. Miyagi would be the loveable Mr. Fowler (pictured, with googly eyes). One day he took me aside after class and asked me to stop being so mean to “Daniel.” I protested, bringing up the fact that no one liked her and also her voice sounded like a higher pitched Cartman, but it was to no avail. So I grudgingly stopped being outwardly hostile to her.
A Nova Scotian version of Mr. Miyagi. Sorry he’s not Asian, but Nova Scotia is over 94% white, so this is as close as you’re getting
Really, the more I think about it the more I think perhaps I was the bad guy. I mean, she was the new girl, just trying to fit in. Sure, she didn’t look like me, and her voice was really annoying. But I could have been more supportive. Well, don’t worry, the story has a happy ending. On the day of our after-graduation party, I made peace with “Daniel,” in a failed attempt to score pot from her. So I guess the joke was on me. But don’t worry kids, I still got high that night, higher than I’d ever been. But that’s… another story.
I had an atypical high school experience, having attended Herzliah High School, a tiny, co-ed, private Jewish learning institution in Montreal where we studied everything from Torah to Moliere in English, French, and Hebrew. Still, the universal language of waxing on and off and crane kicks should really apply to everyone, so let’s see if I can answer this questionnaire.
- Mr. Miyagi: I’ll go with Mr. Aviel, the talmud-slash-drama teacher, who immediately identified my unique acting gifts and took me under his wing, casting me in such classic Herzliah English Play Productions as Woody Allen’s Don’t Drink the Water and Wait Until Dark. Also, he once caught a fly between two dreidels.
- Ali: Ah, the beautiful object of Daniel’s affections, who’d later grow up to be a Vegas prostitute, thereafter never to be heard from again. I’ll go with my prom date and good friend Kathy DeKoven, except she ended up an anesthesiologist.
- Johnny: Well, since I was more of a drama guy than martial arts guy, I’ll say Josh, with whom I was often lumped as the same type (doughy pubescent Jew-nerd), and whose drama coach insisted he “sweep the leg” in order to win the lead in Neil Simon’s God’s Favorite. It didn’t work–I got the part!
- Bobby: Sasha, this Moroccan douchebag with a penchant for wearing mesh tanktops and picking fights.
- Dutch aka Chad McQueen aka The Dude Who Looks Like Billy Idol: Gotta be Marshall, Herzliah’s only Neil Peart-obsessed, long-haired “rocker.”
- What’s your halloween costume: Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull.
- Where’s Encino Hills: Posh Westmount.
- Where’s Reseda: Dumpy Chomedey.
- What and Where is Golf ’N’ Stuff: La Ronde.
- What’s your Crane Kick: My killer triple timestep!
- What’s the soundtrack: Baby I’m A Star (Prince), Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me (The Smiths), Gone Daddy Gone (Violent Femmes), and for the training montage, The Kid is Hot Tonight (Loverboy).
Though this is far from the ideal forum for mortifying confessions, I am the sole individual born roughly between the years 1980 to 1990 that hasn’t seen this slice of pop culture. Yes, I have not seen Karate Kid, Karate Kid II, Karate Kid III, or that Next Karate Kid shit with that androgynous gal who Clint offs in Million Dollar Baby. Now I must disclose that being unawares of all the magic that is Miyagi did not necessarily hinder me in Canadia; however, as per usual, America has been a different story altogether.
When I’m not being ostracized for pronouncing the last letter of the alphabet properly (’Zed’) or for my inopportune placing of the letter U in words like harbour and colour, people are usually throwing Crane Kick stances and sweeping their legs into my face. Don’t get me wrong here world, I have no problems with the Karate Kid or any of his Asian-American associates – it’s just that once you reach a certain age, you can’t attempt to discover things like this – they just don’t play the same way. For the record, I’ve also never seen Bambi, though I do have a Thumper tattoo. Paradoxes such as these involving obligatory childhood events are ubiquitous in my sad, sad life.
Growing up I enjoyed playing sports but wasn’t very good at them. In Grade 6 Mike D and I were lighting it up in intermural volleyball and they – coincidentally – were going to add two more people to the team. At lunch that day Emily Schmidt tried to put garbage in my mouth, so I chased her and dove and grabbed the hood of her sweater. Then she kicked my brace-laden mouth, at which point I started to beat her up, and was accompanied by Mike D.
In Grade 7 I made the school’s lob ball team (basically like softball) and we were poised to win the county championship, winning games 15-2, 17-1, 16-4, until we all ate too much pizza. After our pizza break we lost 5-2 because we were too bloated.
Along came Forrest Gump when I officially unofficially hired Tom Hanks as my running coach. I learned that all I had to do was run like Forrest to run fast!! I parlayed that into a successful track & field meet, and I applied my pizza/bloating knowledge and we won the county lob ball tournament.
And thus ends the exposition.
In Grade 9 I joined track and field and tennis. I was ranked 19th in Eastern Ontario at 300 meter hurdles, but that doesn’t matter (nor is it very impressive, now that I read it). What DOES matter is mixed doubles tennis.
Rachel and I constantly lit it up. She was good in the back court, I was good at the net. She was good at serving, I spent my first tournament serving underhanded because apparently I was only 5-years-old. She was good at staying focused, I was good at sort of staying focused while hitting on the girl on the other team and using my charm to completely disarm her.
The worst thing that ever happened was when Rachel didn’t show up. After spending the bus ride to Carleton Place crying, it was official that I would have to play against boys only (whom on I could not use charm). I lost 6-0 and 6-0 and 6-0 and 6-0, and only twice was the score 40-15. If you don’t play tennis: that sucks.
At the Eastern Ontario tournament, Rachel and I ended up in a deuce that lasted for SEVENTEEN MINUTES. I was the one serving for that super deuce and I am grateful to this day that my right arm is still attached to my body.
What happened?? Well, I didn’t beat Rachel up, we didn’t stop in the middle of the deuce for a pizza break, I applied Forest’s table tennis skills to tennis, and thankfully there were no hurdles on the court (my knees were always bloody after races)… I put all of my previous lessons-learned into this match and we won!!
Ta-da!! And that’s how I was ranked 3rd in Eastern Ontario in Mixed Doubles Tennis.