Bananas with Kimo

Kimo liked bananas. I'd run into him around one of the plazas in Old San Juan, close to the supermarket where he'd buy his fruit to eat out of the plastic groccery bag on a park bench. You'd run into him everywhere in the old city, white shirt, gi trousers, flip flops, shooting the breeze.

That was the thing about the sensei, you'd never know where you'd find him. Like seeing the priest outside the church in civvies, a bit unnerving at first. So he'd invite you to sit down, grab something from the bag, a grape maybe. Shoot the breeze.

It could happen on a Friday night. I'd hear a Jorge san over my shoulder and there he was, tropical shirt ironed and colorful, ask you to buy him a Perrier with lemon, sit at a table close to the pub door, sit there awhile with the sensei, taking in the bar scene and the passerby. I didn't mind except I couldn't smoke or drink all that much, didn't dare to.

Jaime sensei used to tell me that the custom was to look after your teacher, do his bidding wherever, the simple pleasures, to sit at his pleasure. That that was all part of it. It's true. I did it then and I do it now. So it was the custom for black and brownbelts to take Kimo out to his favorite Chinese restaurant, to talk shop every so often. It was no burden, really, he asked for little, fruit, a time at a table in a bar or sidewalk cafe, a walk through the cobblestone streets at dusk. It could happen at anytime, anywhere.

We all collected our "I ran into Kimo" stories. I remember one night going past a place and seeing Kimo doing kata in a pub and it turns out that a poet was reading something about a brother stationed in Okinawa. Kimo was game for just about anything.

What made the moments with him memorable was not that anything special was said or learned. Being around him was calming, almost soothing. Hard to explain. Because nothing really happened. You just felt good, at peace, a pause in the helter skelter of things.

I experience that now whenever I run into an old dojo buddy, how time sort of stops. How we can just sit there doing nothing. Sharing an old Kimo yarn or some other dojo tale.

Looking back, it smells like Zen to me.

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