Don't Kill the Referee by Matthew Gudwin

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The previous chapter  A Common Thread


Chapter 6

     As my eyes opened, I noticed the space that I occupied was surreal. Earth was below, and I was slowly falling. The way I was falling made me realize that I was dreaming. Never the less, I hated falling and proceeded to close my eyes before reaching the ground. After I landed I dusted myself off. The wind gathered and directed me where it wanted me to go. A large group of people had assembled in the distance while others were exiting homes to see what was happening. I turned around to see people stepping out of buildings, with much interest and heading my way.  I was curious and tried to walk, but without any control I ended up jumping high and then flying over several blocks to where everyone had gathered. The place resembled Steinway Street in Astoria except it wasn’t. We were in Astoria, but it resembled an Italian Renaissance city, but I wasn’t sure during which year? The main roads were not paved but included torch posts by the main buildings.

     I landed in front of the morning crowd as a man was being dragged to the center. People around me were talking and circulating hearsay about the man. Apparently he had committed a petty crime of stealing bread and was about to receive his punishment.  More people crept up to see what was happening, and I began to sweat. In reality, I laid in bed with my eyes closed dreaming and sweating profusely while acknowledging that stealing is wrong. It is a moral issue for someone forced to steal to feed one’s family for survival, and thus the only time I would accept such a sin. Many spectators had looks of horror in their eyes, but some cheered. Before the man was to be decapitated, I noticed something else. A man tested his blade by chopping the head off of a dead pig and was referred to by everyone as a boia and decapitator. The sun began to hit my eyes directly, and I now saw everything happening at once as if I was on top of a hill with binoculars zooming into a wide angle of the crowd.  Someone had to do something but what was I to do? Who the hell was I? I began to spin 360 degrees, and my anxiety grew as everyone now seemed to be focusing on me, and close-up. It was a mob of people, and their voices echoed with, “let him die for thy sin” or “set him free.” I felt like their faces were too animated for this early in the morning, and it made me wonder how often this happened. I noticed a section of people that were dressed beautifully and sophisticated, with full gown dresses, men in tuxes, but mainly people were in normal attire. I decided that I had to either run away now or intervene with the possible consequence of my death. I began running away or thought I did until I found myself back with the decapitator. Looking around I realized that I was next in line to have my head chopped off. What the hell happened I wondered to myself? How did I get here? Did I turn back and interfere with trying to spare the poor man’s life? I could see the eyes of the masked executioner. They were strong, heartless, and I knew I was just a fly near him that was about to get swatted away. The pupils in his eyes grew bigger and stronger along with his clenched fist on the ax, or what a patron had earlier called an ascia. Regardless it now controlled my fate. He began to lift slowly as the town was watching me about to die for trying to save someone whose greatest offense was to steal a piece of bread to feed his young wife and seven-year-old son. I began to feel like a pawn in a chess game that has little chance of survival. How many pawns promote to the other side? Not many, unless you are the great late Bobby Fischer. I have always considered myself a rook except for moving backward. Someone who moves forward in life and when I need to avoid things I can go to the right or left. I was looking to the left and right, and all I saw were faces of strangers. To the front of me were legs of a man. Someone that I never talked on any level with other than during these chaotic moments. Music began to play in the back of my mind, and it oddly began to calm me down. That is when I could see the man with the ax start to make his final decent to my neck, and I was fully buckled in. I began to scream with the rest of the crowd. He began to touch my neck with the blade as the music grew louder until I opened my eyes in confusion and great relief. I rolled over to the side of my bed to the sound of my music alarm going off. There were many other dreams last night, but that one was the last and most meaningful one. I technically experienced the Italian phrase patibolo; execution is the equivalent English term.

     Dreams are fun but full of surprises, and I never know where I am going before I close my eyes at night, but that is part of the fun. However, I am aware of certain repetitive dreams based on events from my life. I am not an expert on dreams but enjoy reading Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung’s ideas. To me, they are both right but on different levels for their reasons. Freud and Carl Young’s theories have intrigued me for some time. Dreaming is as much a part of me as living.

     My dream had been meaningful to me for several reasons, but mainly because I stood up for what is right and didn’t ignore the wrong. In reality, most of my fighting had been executed succinctly like a character nicknamed Fonzie from a 1970’s TV show and with his wisdom in mind. This was also the specific reason the Judo event had me intrigued. I knew that foresight of situations could only get a person so far.  I wasn’t prepared to take on learning Judo, but for me it was paying my respects to Francesco, a man who had saved Anya’s and my life by using that art and skill set.  It was also a way for me to experience something new and broaden my horizons. Who knew what the Judo event could bring? Some of the people who I met when Francesco took me to the Employees Only Restaurant a few weeks ago were also quite intriguing.

     I decided to put on some music and write in a composition book that I have dedicated to my dreams.  I put on the song Atom Heart Mother by Pink Floyd. Six minutes into the song I was reminded of everyone in the crowd from my Renaissance dream looking at me with their eyes of joy, fear, hatred or helplessness as I became decapitated. 

     When I was very young, I invented a machine so powerful that I became rich, rich beyond my years.  The only problem was that the invention was in my mind and one I had no idea how to make. I remember being a kid old enough to absorb life experiences and venture out on my own, sometimes with friends. We explored the world wandering through the woods, parks, towns etc. We went everywhere our feet, bikes and imaginations took us. Luckily we didn’t have the Internet, or cell phones to get in the way of our exploration. Dreams are also reflections of experiences gained and thoughts gathered and felt. Back then, I realized how much I enjoyed dreaming, and I wanted always to remember them. I reflected on the possibility of someone inventing a device to capture every dream that each person has ever had. A device to see my old dreams seemed fun but improbable.

     It was Sunday March 29th and the day of the Judo event. I arrived early because I was new to the New York Athletic Club and wanted to explore it a bit. Francesco met me at the door where I was informed that the event was completely sold out. I had an extra ticket and knew someone would desire it. At the same time, I had no one specific to give it too. Francesco had to leave, and I stayed in the lobby. It didn’t take long but by the time I went to check my jacket and come back I happened upon three strangers entering the New York athletic club for the first time like myself. We talked and exchanged introductions.  He was an artist and painter by the name of Chris Tijerina, who was accompanied by his wife Melissa and a good friend of theirs named Sid. Chris was from Texas but apparently had lived in Brooklyn for some time years ago. He was visiting New York City with his wife who was new to the big apple. He was also here to promote his artwork. He had a couple of art shows coming up in Brooklyn. He told me how he loved painting and expressed his deep desire to make it as a man who not only expressed his art through the painted pictures, but the stories told within them. He considered many of his drawings and art to be comical and cartoonish but also meaningful. Apparently this comical artwork was one of the two styles he preferred. He opened his sketchbook, which he took everywhere. Chris showed me a new drawing. It was of a convict looking down a slide through prison bars, the type of slide seen at a children’s park. He is reaching his arm down to help a crying man dressed in a college graduation gown that is falling into a fire at the end of the slide. It is a two-part drawing like out of a comic strip divided down the middle of the page in half. On the second half, the graduate slowly starts to burn, reaches out and pleads heavily for help. The convict pulls him up and says, “I’ve been to hell and back, it’s more affordable in jail.”  It intrigued me, made me think and messed with my mind. My new friends needed one more ticket, so I gladly gave them my extra one and in return asked Chris to give me entrance to one of his upcoming art shows. We exchanged info and then I headed up to the Judo match.

     The room was packed like on the uptown four train before a Yankees game. The ticket was for the VIP section, which included unlimited beer. Looking around I knew it would be hard for me to find Francesco and headed for the beer station. Drinking my beer I noticed the U.S. women’s team getting ready when I spotted Francesco hanging over a railing of a balcony that overlooked the whole Judo event on all sides. I decided to find a way through security to head upstairs. I saw one of the camera people in charge of filming the event heading that way. As the security man tried to stop me, I pointed to the cameraman to suggest that I was with him, which worked.

     Arriving upstairs the view was great and much less claustrophobic.  Francesco continued to look down at the event without looking at me even when I stood next to him. When I arrived he began to speak. “These events remind me of the historical football of Florence, Il Calcio Storico, a sport where 27 men would face 27 other men in a cruel battle where the only rule is NOT to kill the referee. An ancient Roman game played in Florence by the four sections of the city, divided in colors, White (my color), Red, Green, and Blue. Also, the team fighting in this competition was wearing four different colors in inspiration to the Florentine antique tradition.” Turning slightly to his right he acknowledged me and smiled. “I see you found the beer cart.” Francesco then turned back around and replied, “that was my idea for this competition.” Francesco began to point to specific people in the crowd. “See Matthew many of the spectators are past mercenaries and Historical Football Players who have gathered in New York City for this event. Notice their harsh features.” He pointed to John L'Acuto the man from Employee’s Only sitting in the first row and cheering for some of the fighters. He then stated, “to the right of John is also a very tall man with big hands, and was one of the best Boia's that Florence had who never missed a clear cut of a decapitation. However when Boia's would make mistakes the crowd watching the event unfolding would spit at them and throw rocks at the Boia's; that was an infamous job. Also assisting the event was Stefan (the Swiss) and see Bicci over their accompanied by a beautiful woman."

     Around the room people cheered for the athletes representing their country. It was intense on the mat where the judokas were fighting, and the fans in the crowd loved every moment of it. They reacted to every movement and cheered as if they were watching nonstop home runs. Francesco began to speak again. "Speaking of women they were now battling. It’s exciting to now have the women fighting and at such a great level, with Olympic Judo medalists like Kayla Harrison and Marti Malloy facing Olympic Judo medalists from France and Cuba. After centuries of women watching men battle on the courts of Florence for their glory we now had Women battling on the Judo mats of New York City for their countries while the men were now the spectators and cheer for those powerful, skilled and incredibly resolute women.”

     We spoke for a bit but he needed to be elsewhere as Francesco was one of the sponsors. When the final match concluded it had been a long day, but it was not yet over. Francesco invited me and some other’s upstairs to the 9th floor for a fancy dinner. This place was as much a museum as it was an athletic club, and I began to understand why he cherished this historic City House so much. We ate, drank beer and talked as he explained to me more about this building. He told me about the beautiful painted ceiling in the dining room that faced Central Park South. The ceiling’s design was purposeful and elaborate. It looked to me to have symmetric wooden carved shapes. It was comparable in Francesco’s mind to the Renaissance, and he told me how it reminded him of “Salone dei Cinquecento.” He said a way to interpret that phrase would be to say “The room of five hundred” because five hundred people would meet in a room. It was the ceiling that stole his attention, as he was able to eat without looking down at his food. He was in awe, and I could see by his look that this place has a special and deep meaning in his heart.

     It was an interesting night full of great athleticism, a very compelling and controversial drawing by a cool artist, plenty of beer but more importantly plenty of history. That is when Francesco told me more about his joy and excitement of seeing all the women compete. He stated that, “It was not a coincidence that every match played by the Women in the final ended with a clear Ippon (Judo knockout) with Arm Bars and chokes; just like a Samurai that takes the life of another Samurai without pain and injury.” That night the U.S. women were number one. As I grabbed my coat Francesco put his arm on my shoulder and spoke. “I hoped you enjoyed this experience, lets talk next at my film studio. I invite you to come to my next party in Chelsea.” He handed me the address turned around and walked away. I put on my coat and decided to go home.

Chapter 7  Frame Of Reference


About the author


The following is a series of stories based on one’s man’s wisdom gained over the years from either personal experience or from what was taught to him. It also includes ideas and thoughts about modern society and how many of us are losing our way. It is important to have…

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