She ’bout knocked me through the wall…

We were in the middle of one of Dawn Callan’s AWAKEN THE WARRIOR WITHIN workshops, where in two days this little human dynamo would teach women more about self defense than most teachers could convey in two years. But this one woman, “Molly”, was a tough nut to crack. She was so filled with fear, timidity, had been so beaten down that we couldn’t get her to hit the pads. She couldn’t kick the shield. Molly would break down into tears at the very idea that she should or could fight back. “I can’t!”

None of the other instructors had been able to help her, so in desperation they brought her to me. I was holding the pad, as tears and snot ran down her face, a woman utterly convinced of her helplessness and unworthiness to defend herself.

This was, I decided, a defining moment in her life. This wasn’t about “doing karate.” This was about an adult human being deciding that she had a right to exist, to defend her space, to choose the rules by which others could enter her world. This wasn’t just about her body, it was about her dreams, and words, and values. About the ability to look at the world and say: “I love you, but you will not define me.”

I saw in her tentative movements, her face frozen in terror, her stuttering speech a lifetime of making excuses, of perceived failure, of attracting predators into her space, of a false self-image that was dragging down her life and extinguishing her dreams.

And decide that it was going to end TODAY. When dealing with a client, the only intent must be to help them. Period. To put their hands on the controls of their life, by any means necessary.

So…I cheated. I looked at her and said: “do you have any kids?” (more…)

Life Story–Part III

I wrote my first story, “The Yeti,” when I was in third grade. It was about an abominable snowman in a Canadian lumber camp and starred “Bill Conway,” a character I would revisit for years. “Yeti” was certainly a clone of tales I’d seen on Strange Tales of Science Fiction, Thriller, Chiller, or one of the other Creature Feature shows I loved.

But that was the first, and it was followed by others. At this time, I thought I wanted to be a scientist when I grew up, and I remember my sixth grade teacher Mrs. Turner catching me misspelling the word “Science” and making me write it a hundred times on the blackboard.

That was cool.

I attended a summer camp for the first time, “Camp Round Meadow.” I had the time of my eight-year old life swimming, horseback riding, and learning about secret badges and ceremonies inside the YMCA.

The idea of belonging to a secret club of guys . . . that was just too cool for words. If I had enough brothers, maybe it would compensate for not having a dad. Maybe.

When I graduated to junior high school, somehow things slipped sideways. Maybe it was the fact that we were all maturing, entering puberty. But the hierarchical nature of kid politics became more pronounced, and I was at the bottom of the pile. (more…)

My autobiography part I

A Life From Two Perspectives

People think that they must satisfy countless social, religious, and personal groups. Countless friends and family individuals.

They are wrong. There are only two people you have to please in your life.

This is about how I learned that. And how I came to please them.


My dad, Emory Barnes, died March 8, 1995, when I was in my early fourties.

I remember standing at his deathbed in San Jose, California. He had deteriorated greatly, the cancer eating him until he no longer resembled the handsome singer who had performed with Nat King Cole, who I’d actually watched record the back-up vocals for “Rambling Rose.” (more…)