Friday, February 29, 2008

Another passing

Not steal the thunder from the previous blogger but Mike Smith died within the last 24 hours. I was a Dave Clark Five fan.

A note about the guest blogger. His comments and that of Joe make me feel a little bit like Shemp in this three stooges triad of bloggers. I really think we need to hear from a Gallagher who can write, where the hell is Tom?

Where did that come from?

Guest Blog: Hard to believe that our quest blogger once umpired one out in McCook and may or not have had the call right.

I’m in my sixties now. And while my master strategy of how to not grow old, simply to never leave adolescence, has proved to be pretty successful, some interesting consequences from my accumulated years of operation have proven to be unavoidable. Like an oak I have grown thicker while my leafy cover has grown thinner. I’ve decided that this is a good thing, being more substantial, and have developed an attitude that those skinny kids are like saplings yet to prove their staying power. But something that is really bugging me are all these mystery aches and pains. Where did they come from, anyway?

In my youth, which I define from birth till last year, I was pretty much free from the appearance of unattributed boo boos. If something hurt I knew why. I hit my thumb hanging a picture, sliced my finger trying to cook, elbow hurt when thrown from a damn big horse. Whatever, I could trace it to a cause. But now these intrusions seem to come from the ether, effects free of the associated cause.

I’m soaping up in the shower yesterday and discover a tender spot on my shoulder, like it was bruised but I haven’t bumped it – that I can recall – in weeks. A mystery bump could be attributed to an alien intrusion that I have been programmed to forget. Although I hate to lay the blame for my mystery injuries on a species of what must be highly intelligent and obviously curious inter-galactic tourists, I have read Whitley Strieber and I know what they are capable of.

I would be prepared to believe the little green men did it theory but I am a child of the Watergate era and as such have difficulty accepting the obvious explanations. And why is it always little green men? Don’t they have little green women or are the green girls too busy in the galley to be spotted messing with us kidnapped and confused earthlings? So aliens did it just doesn’t work for me and still the mystery bumps, aches and pains continue.

Maybe it’s that I am being struck by sub-atomic particles, those quirky quorky projectiles that apparently zip around the universe flashing through matter without leaving a trace. I’m thinking that after sixty years of accumulated without-a-trace smashes they start to hurt. Kind of like that marriage seven or so years in that was once so great then was so ok and now is so unlivable. I know that gravity has had an accumulated effect on me, why not sub-atomic particles? I mean jumping now gets me all of three of four inches off the ground which is maybe a third of what my younger, pre-gravity build-up jumping could accomplish.

Several years back I went to a sports medicine guy – who must have been good because he was associated with Stanford University and their sports teams had dudes like Tiger Woods and John Elway. Anyway I’m at his offices because my right ankle was sorta always in pain. He snaps a few x-rays and manipulates my foot around a bit and tells me I have the ankle of an eighty year old and I can start chewing anti-inflammatory drugs or he can just fuse it. I didn’t like the look in his eye when he spoke of fusing half of all my ankles so I started a long relationship with ibuprofen. Thinking back I’m pretty sure he didn’t say I had the ankle of a sixty year old. I interpret this to mean that my mystery injuries will not be attributable to excessive accumulated hours of operation for another 130,000 hours, give or take 50,000 or so.

When all rational scientific explanations – like aliens, sub-atomic bombardments or normal operational parameters -fail to fit I am left with only the mystical realm to explain my condition. While these bumps, bruises, aches, and pains rarely involve bleeding and can hardly be called strategically located, they do have resemblance to injuries of the stigmata category.

I admit I am only assuming that stigmata related injuries have categories as my religious education much like my Spanish education ended before it really took. But working from these-are-of-a-religious nature perspective, the sudden appearance of unexplained boo boos sounds like stigmata to me. I even remember one scene in the Rupert Wainwright classic, Stigmata, when Patricia Arquette was in the bath tub and discovered her new unexplained injuries. I think that is pretty much the same as me in the shower, minus the strange little bit with the bird and its feather. I’ve decided to go with this stigmata thread because the only other mystical explanation I can conjure up involves someone with a doll and pins and that’s just not right.

So while I still have no idea where that came from, I am only left with god did it. You know sometimes Thor speaks to me, especially when the weather is threatening, so I guess he could send me little annoyances just for a laugh or two. Or maybe it’s that Loki dude. Would be just like him. Or maybe you know another explanation, something other than alien examinations, sub-atomic particle collisions, exceeded operational parameters, or divine interventions. I’m obviously at a loss but open to suggestion.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Smoking Ban

Nebraska is on the edge of establishing a statewide smoking ban. It is amazing to me that we have progressed this far in a state that frankly has so many rednecks that passing anything that suggests a restriction to their civil liberties seemed out of the question. We did pass a helmet bill for motorcycle guys, but this is historic.

Various cities in the state have passed local smoking bans, but generally that seemed to be too little. The only way to make it fair is to do it across the board, kind of like NY or CA or Ireland. The entire country of Ireland..makes you proud to be Irish.

I read in the paper this morning that many bar owners feel that there smokers will flee to Iowa to drink and smoke. The guy at Horseman's Park, large off track betting, actually indicated that his clients will run to Iowa. It seems that if they can't smoke they will all decided to go to Iowa and bet on the Dogs. Is he nuts?

If the playing field is level nobody's business will be crushed. Folks who like to bet the horses will not abandon the local OTB place, nor will patrons of bars move there drinking to Iowa. It is frankly, too far to drive and dogs over horse?

On another note is Astral Weeks really 46 places better than Moondance (Rolling Stones top 500 lps)or why is CSN's first album 111 places behind Deja Vu, a compilation lp? Things to think about.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Secret Pleasure

My sister Pam regularly goes to her video store on Tuesday mornings, grabbing any new release she and/or Dean want to watch. Me, I haven't been in a rental place since Blockbuster closed their store in my neighborhood. We did, however get a Netflix subscription, allowing us to have three dvds out at a time. It has been great for us as we work our way through a bunch of movies. Well, actually, movies and tv shows. We're caught up on however many seasons of Scrubs there have been, and I have watched An Ideal Husband for about the tenth time.
But, not unlike that Abba's Greatest Hits cd you own but keep out of sight, we have become hooked on a new secret pleasure. We are early in the second season of the new Battlestar Galactica. The Science Fiction Channel remade this classic tv show, first as a miniseries, in 2003, with a three hour what became a pilot/introduction to a still running series. Featuring only two actors you had ever seen or heard of before (Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonell), as well as several Canadian actors and a Victoria's Secret model, it has an extremely loyal fan base.
The original series has been updated in an interesting manner, with the Dirk Benedict character, Starbuck, now cast as a female, just as cocky(was going to say obnoxious) as the original.
Without giving too much away, like you're all going to start watching this, the main change is that now the Cylons, the robotic villains of the original, now look like us. That is, if we look like Victoria's Secret models, or look as if we're on Maxim's Hot 100 list.
Richard Hatch, the original Apollo, has a recurring role as "one man's freedom fighter is another's terrorist".
As I said, we're early in the second season, with the fourth, and supposedly final season starting in April, so we've got a long ways to go. I'll post a report.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Moonshot Hoops

Guest Post

I had the good fortune to be at the Hornets / Warriors game a few weeks back and like all fans was awed by the way these guys shoot. On that night the soulless shooters from the Bay Area were tossing them in from everywhere, rainbow trajectory nothing but net rain busters. It was overwhelming. I mean I know it’s not that easy .. I know because I’ve been there.

Well okay I haven’t been there at the NBA level or the CBA level or any level of college ball, not even major high school, but there was a time I played ball. We were athletes who wore high top black converse shoes, played in cracker box gyms with low rafters or school auditoriums with linoleum floors – sometimes on the school auditorium stage with the team benches in the orchestra pit. We ran three-man fast break patterns in practice until we could do them blindfolded and stood at 15 feet and worked up free throw techniques that we hoped would spare us the embarrassment of going 0’fer on the dreaded 3 for 2 foul shot opportunity.

We were mid century white kids with no hops and limited ball handling skills, but some of us could shoot. Not me, personally but some of us could. Now if I threw enough balls up from my ‘special’ dialed in spots, I’d get a few to clank in. I could even do it in competition with a hand in my face. Mostly I loved to run, getting out ahead of em with a like-minded and over drilled co-conspirator on the wing. One, two, three snapped passes and the full speed layup followed quickly by the coup d’ gras, a steal of their inbounds pass and another layup. Sweet. Much better than kicking the ball around the perimeter, running your offense, then hitting that guy who could shoot and watching his rainbow arch in from the top of the key. I kind of developed a dislike for that guy over time. Wonder if the Warriors sometimes dislike Baron Davis sitting out there at 35’ taking his shot with 19 seconds left of the 24 second clock. Probably not.

There was one time many years ago, and many years after my storied basketball career had ended, that for a strange spaced warped afternoon I was the greatest shooter in basketball history.

I was banging around the blacktop at Cherry Chase Elementary School a few blocks from home just getting a sweat up. Shooting from the top of the key and hustling up the rebound then pounding into the hoop for a layup. I was probably even running narrative in my head. When out of exhaustion or boredom or who knows what, I didn’t shoot the ball at the hoop as much as shoot it up in the air, way up in the air and gravity turned it back down and it swished through the rim, actually clacked through, at Cherry Chase the rims had chain nets not nylon. I thought how cool, a moon shot hoop. So I did it again from the wing with the same result, and again and again. I couldn’t miss, hell I couldn’t even almost miss, each shot a perfect swish. After 30 or so consecutive, perfectly executed moonshots from every spot on that blacktop I stopped. I had decoded the puzzle, touched the miraculous, viewed basketball perfection. The ball from my hand to the bottom of the net, guided there by unseen forces usually reserved for the Gail Goodrichs and Larry Birds of the sport.

The solution seemed to involve not shooting at the hoop or at just over the front rim – my historic target spot – but throwing the ball up to a point that will lead to the basket. Looking at the rim and tossing the ball up into the air. It might also have involved not caring if you made the shot when you shot thereby releasing yourself to make it. But then I was on the left coast and third eye related realties always seem more probable when you’re so close to the tidal pull of the ocean. I can only say that I have been smart enough not to try and work up an explanation through repeated efforts, slow motion video analysis, or CAD based structural examinations. I left shooting perfection on the blacktop at Cherry Chase for someone else to discover and went on to my day job and my personal basketball memories which have gotten better every year since.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

John Stewart funeral mass

Just a quick note. Nearly two weeks after his death, the family of John Stewart got around to having a funeral. The communion did not feature any kind of traditional wafers. Instead, his grandchildren distributed Stewart's favorite food, donut holes. Reports said even the priest was smiling.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Another view of running

I suppose for me this should be some form of closure. I haven't run a mile in several years, and never will again. That is hard to say, because running was an integral part of my life for over twenty years.
It all started rather slowly back late in 1976. I had been out of teaching for over two years and had put on a few pounds. I tried to play basketball on weekends, but, of course, that didn't help. We lived in San Francisco so we would see large groups of people running. There even was a race(Bay to Breakers) that had thousands of participants. One May we went to the edge of Golden Gate Park and observed the throngs of runners in that race. It was inspiring. I went out and splurged $30 on a pair of Nike Nylon Cortez running shoes and started slowly jogging around the big irregular block on Twin Peaks on which we lived. My first runs were about 3/4 of a mile. It was weeks before I measured my distance in whole miles, but within a couple months I was hooked. I ran my first race in February of 1977, a six miler sponsored by the Chinatown YMCA. I told my support team to look for me in about 48 minutes. I had never run that far before, but I know I could run a mile in eight minutes, so I was hoping the crowd, the adrenalin, and the excitement would allow me to do several miles at that pace.
Imagine my surprise when I finished in under 42 minutes. Now, I'm not only hooked on running, but racing. I want to compete. I knew I could get faster if I worked harder, ran further. So I did.

It is true. Somewhere in the basement I have records of every mile I ran, where it was, which shoes I wore, and how fast. I have detailed records of most of the nearly 250 races I ran. I could find the splits(mile times) of the marathons and half-marathons I labored through.
But I'll leave my statistical running reminisces for another time. What I need to address is the perceptions a pair of sixty year old guys have about their long-running hobby.
My co-conspirator spoke glowingly of my accomplishments and for that I am thankful. But I see this entirely differently. My "glory time" in competitive running was very brief. I ran, faster and further than I ever thought possible, for a few years, and then I very steadily slowed down. I have no idea why. I worked hard, watched what I ate, and did just what a distance runner is supposed to do, but I just slowed down.
But Kevin maintained his competitiveness year after year after year.
When he finally ran a half-marathon, sometime in his fifties, his time was as good as I ran in my thirties. I regularly opened the Omaha World-Herald for race results, because Kevin was always placing in the top ten of some metro area race.
Kevin managed to run, each successive year, very nearly as fast as he ran the previous year. It just drove me crazy. I was happy for his continued success, but frustrated at my inability to keep up.
It was probably my knees telling me it was time to hang up the New Balances. In any case, I have my new knees and just this week began my new exercise regime. And let me tell you how hard it is to walk backwards. My new exercise regime includes walking on a treadmill, mostly backwards, riding a recumbent stationary bike, and using an Airdyne, as well as a teeny bit of weights. Most unusual of all is my gym. I am just continuing to go to my physical therapy place, paying a token fee to join their "gym" program. I'm the only person doing this so it isn't hard getting to the equipment.
I will always treasure my running times and memories, and always respect Kevin for the long time he was able to run much faster than his contemporaries.
And I hope we can come to grips with the fact that our bodies wear down, and then find ways to maintain our health.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


A local suburban newspaper had an article about running. Nothing particularly interesting, just random thoughts from a young lady who suggested that running doesn't clear her mind. Rather she is fill with numerous thoughts about her surroundings and what might happen to her if she fell and broke a leg. I never had that thought, but I did fall.

The article reminded me about my own running and how it is clear to me that it is harder for me to discontinue running than it was to begin running. That's odd because there is a lot less pain in slowing down and not running 6 or 7 miles in the summer or winter. In the beginning, a mile run was exhausting.

It's not that I don't run, its just that I don't run. I still try to get 20 minutes or so on a treadmill and have graduated to various other machines to fill my exercise time. After two knee scopes and a third on the horizon I am pretty sure my dream of running into my 70's is unreachable.

I started running because Joe did and I figured if he could do it, I could do it. Now I would never suggest that I was anywhere near as good as he was, but I achieved more that I thought I would be able to when I first started. I guess we were both caught up in that 70's explosion of running that was attributed to Frank Shorter and others.

Joe was a machine. He would run to work, all down hill and he would run home, all up hill. He ran the first marathon I had ever seen and made it look easy. He ran sub 36:00 10K's and put in huge amounts of miles. I ran and cut back on my beer drinking and hoped to break 42:00 10K. I am pretty sure that Joe has a list of ever mile and race he has ever run.

I think that of all the runs we did together, he was always in front of me, the Perrier 10 mile comes to mind most often. It was run in Golden Gate park and as I recall we celebrated by going to a really great movie afterward. Anyone remember The Wanderers? A really good movie.

Anyway my journey is changing and I will need to change with it or figure out how to deal with the medical cost that comes with continuing to punish my knees. I guess that is what life is all about. So how is your life changing?