08/20/12

Amen Corner

I’ve been going all Ryan Lochte at the neighborhood pool. Giant chains. Monster tires. Ice grill. I even tried to trademark “Pah-shhh!

In Lochte fashion, I can also swim four 25 meter laps. In a row. Without stopping. Well, maybe one stop. But, very short. And a nap. With only one snack. And I might walk the last 25 meters, water aerobics style. With floatable hand weights (2.5 kgs). In goggles. And a scuba mask. Two tanks. Only one flipper, though. Otherwise it’s exactly how Ryan does it. Except slower. And, less swimming. More swim trunk. But a good bit less swimming. But, I’m like the 5th fastest at the McCarter pool in my age demo. Just saying. A lot of the lifeguards think I could have been pretty good if I had learned to swim as a kid. So I’m pretty decent.

103 miles. Do you know how many 25 meter laps of your neighborhood pool that is? 1 Trillion. 1 Trillion laps. That’s what Diana Nyad is doing. Right now. While I’m song blogging in an Ed Hardy Snuggie, she is swimming from Cuba to FLORIDA. What?? Not canoeing. Or jet skiing. Or wake boarding behind a Disney cruise liner. Or hydra-foiling. Or even hydroplaning. Swimming. Like one-arm-in-front-of-the-other, legs-kicking-up-and-down swimming. Not to be confused with “watching swimming” or “reading swimming books” or “not swimming from Cuba to Florida” swimming. Swimming.

I’ve been infatuated with Diana for what feels like about 20 years now, although I don’t think it can be more than about 2. She is a long-distance swimmer (has there ever been a more wild understatement?). She set all sorts of long distance records in the seventies for similar caliber swims to what she is now attempting and, in fact, tried to swim from Cuba to Florida in 1978 as a 28 year old. Strong winds apparently took her too far off course to continue.

She is now 62.

I’d like to end the post there. That number says it all.

103 & 62. The only details that matter.

Oh. And the sharks. And the cramps. And lightening bolts. And Poseidon, God of the Sea. And the 3 day sleep deprivation. And the 30 foot swells. And probably like a flock of snapping turtles. And hypothermia. And 25 mph squalls. (Whatever those are.) And the Box Jellyfish.

For all my life, it was the Portuguese Man of War. But, apparently, those are like firework sparklers compared to the Box. The divers intrusted with protecting and rescuing Diana were put out of commission by one, during her failed attempt last year. (Oh did I forget to tell you this is her third attempt post-60? If I can raise a spoon thrice to my mouth after 60 I’ll consider it an upset.) She, however, suffered multiple stings AND KEPT SWIMMING THROUGH THE NIGHT.

I’ve taken a half day from work for too much static cling.

Augusta National Golf Club the home of arguably golf’s fines tournament, The Masters, invited for the first time in its history, two women to become members: Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore. Among many more notable accolades, Moore is from my home state of South Carolina and the namesake of the nationally recognized School of Business at the University of South Carolina. I’m just saying. We’re amazing. (Let me double check. Nope. No Clemson gals were invited.)

Anyway, it’s a pretty big deal. The exclusion of women, in the 21st Century, from such a high profile club was this really strange juxtaposition. Even after some pretty serious heat for the policy, starting in the early 2000s, the club seemed unlikely to cave. And, they were facing relatively modest consequences. But, it’s not any kind of secret that women remain on the outside to a certain extent in business and politics, when they can’t get in the clubhouse or out on the course.

So you’d like to celebrate the reversal. But, it feels just sort of like a “duh.” Not super courageous or progressive or even polite to get around to inviting women in 2012. Mostly just a late pass.

Augusta National is known for many eccentricities, none more famous than a trio of holes beginning with the second shot on 11 through the tee at 13, called “Amen Corner” that require spectacular heroics to survive. Sort of like Diana’s swim. And, almost certainly like the advancement of women through these many centuries. Patient. Perilous. Precocious.

When I got up this morning I intended to write about a really special swimmer, exhibiting the highest sort of personal courage. By the end of the day, the story was even more profound for the symmetry in the two events. Diana’s outrageous refusal to quit. And the unrelenting patience of women to be accepted in the Club. The wallet and the purse. Surf and turf.

Amen.

Performed by ipoetlaureate. Music produced by djclutch.

Today’s song blog here:

Surf and Turf

08/5/12

The Flight of the Sciuridae

So “bars” are everything to an emcee.

Musicians call them measures. 4 beats.

One and two and three and four and . . . .

For the rapper, it’s like a private, inescapable metronome. Ringing in your head, quantizing every activity of life.

And, certainly in hip hop, bars universally come in pairs. A typical verse has 16. Especially to beat producers, an odd number of them is anathema. So hip hop approaches, with suspicion, anything called the “uneven bars.”

But, the way the United States’ All-Around Gold-winning Gymnast, Gabby Douglas, did it, was sort of fresh. I tore a rotator cuff and the seat of my pants just watching her routine from my couch. I’ve dislocated my entire rib cage reaching for a not too far remote. I can’t really guess about the disruption to the structural integrity of my skeleton were someone actually to lift me up to one of those bars, either the high or low.

They unimaginatively call her “the flying squirrel.” The scientific name for squirrel is sciuridae if you have a mind to throw that in a cheer or jingoistic chant.

She is the first woman of African descent, from any country, to win the all-around gold in gymnastics. This site has covered a good bit of race in sport. I think it’s pretty fair to guess that as a cultural and socio-economic matter gymnastics hasn’t been very accessible to the black athlete.

So, in a manner of speaking, when Gabby flies, she clears a bar of admission for her and her family, quite symbolically, uneven.

I don’t suspect that her victory will release the floodgates. But, as this site has observed before, it sure is a whole lot easier, as a psychological matter, to replicate success, when there is a picture of what it looks like for someone a lot like your own self.

But, her accomplishment, for a generation of girls, black and white, has flipped the whole vantage. Literally and figuratively.

In other Olympic news, Usain Bolt reversed the rotation of the Earth’s axis yesterday in order to save Margot Kidder from her performance in the 1978 classic, Superman. He also posted a sort of embarrassing wind-aided 9.63 in the 100m. Sheesk. That’s kind of slow.

For the speed of light.

Don’t forget, I’m right on pace for my medals totals predictions made here in January of this year and for my projection of the overall medals winner. I’m assuming you bet the farm as I’ve repeatedly advised.

Congrats, Gabby. And, all the girls of the universe. I’ve got two, myself, that are pretty fired up.

Performed by ipoetlaureate. Music produced by Sundance.

Today’s song blog here:

Uneven Bars

07/27/12

“Have You Hugged Your Foot Today?”

I was watching this memorable moment in Olympic history and I noticed the old school Nike shirt. That’s what sport is about right there. Romancing your gear. I can remember fighting sleep pillow-talking my Air Revolutions in the bed next to me. I won’t repeat what I said. But, let’s just say it was pretty smooth.

The opening ceremonies of the XXX Olympiad games are tonight. Olympic athletes model something for us that transcends sport. They remind us that to build anything of significance we have to tear and pound and break down. And, to gain we have to lose. And, to win we have to fail, over and over. That there exists some cosmic rule that without pain there literally is no gain. We can’t grow crops without tilling the soil or muscle without ripping the fibers. Businesses or churches. It has to hurt.

They toil in anonymity mostly. And, yet they are derivative of a host of witnesses that have cheered them through it all, parents, coaches, friends, teachers. They run and swim and jump and laugh and cry with a crowd in their hearts. Sometimes even a father has to come down onto the track. Winning is not an individual sport. (I think that’s what Obama sort of meant.)

Poor Mitt Romney, though, has been in London this week. As you might recall, he was called in to save and, did successfully, run the Salt Lake City games. How could you forget right? So it’s been just a week of foot devouring for the GOP candidate. One misstatement after another. But, it started with offering concerns over the unpreparedness of London to host the games. Now Britain, in its typical fashion, has expressed self-deprecationg concerns about its own readiness. Security for the games, for example, has faced some setbacks. But, Romney’s comments came off, at best, as sort of ungracious and, at worst, as an attempt to make London some political point of reference for his own well-administered Olympics and management chops.

But, what Mitt misses, and maybe even London overlooks in its panic as host, is that a “successful” Olympics isn’t some logistical accomplishment. It’s not good traffic flow or sufficient infrastructure. Winning isn’t coming in administrative first place. It’s a celebration of the incalcuable sacrifice of men and women to push human physical achievement to its limits.

Biggest, fastest, strongest matters in sport. That’s sort of the point. But, the Olympics has a way of reminding us of what winning looks like even in failure. And, it has nothing to do with being a well-run event.

One last thing. And, I’m just going to go there. There’s probably a whole separate wing in the underworld for people who do what I’m about to.

But, did you hear about this “blind” archer that set the world record at the Olympics in London today? Surely, you did because it was the top story on every web domain in the entire world apparently.

Ok, look. I’m aware of the concept of “legal” blindness. My mom suffers it. And, I get that those of us blessed with normal sight stupidly assume that only pitch black darkness qualifies. But, come on.

You’re either blind and incapable of repeatedly driving an arrow, from 70+ meters away, into a tiny two inch black eye until you score a world record some 700 points. Or . . . YOU’RE – NOT – BLIND. They’re like, “He can’t even read a newspaper!” Well, if we were in the Periodical Perusing Olympiad, then I would marvel at his ability to speed read above the fold and the back page in record time. But, it’s not. So, maybe he’s blind for reading or arm wrestling purposes but he plainly isn’t blind for shooting-arrows-really-accurately purposes.

Right? Am I missing something??!

We’re not talking about blindfolding Robin Hood or William Tell for a trick shot at an apple off a maiden’s head. He’s an Olympic archer. He does this over and over and over again. I’m pretty sure he can see the target.

But, if he can’t. I’m a big, big jerkwad. Pretty much am anyway.

By the way, watching the opening ceremony as I type. Is it just me or is there an eery resemblance between the Industrial Revolution phase of the ceremony and Saruman’s Isengard? I’m medium terrified that Uruk-hai are going to birth gelatinously from the stadium floor.

Wait? Did Queen Elizabeth just base jump into the stadium?! I can’t tell if she’s furious or about to vomit. They just said, “She has a ‘wicked’ sense of humor.” It looked like she had a small Warbler in her mouth at that exact moment. She does not look pleased.

Oh no. They just panned an ariel view of a giant baby doll in the middle of the arena. And, that’s after having just forged the all-seeing Eye of Sauron out of the one Olympic ring to rule them all. This has to be the most terrifying Olympics ever.

I renege. I think Romney got it just about right.

Performed by ipoetlaureate. Music produced by djclutch.

Today’s song blog here:

Torch Bear

07/4/12

Reading Between the Lines

You do this long enough and your mind starts conjuring those paranoid murals of irrationality out of news articles, linked by pushpins and colored string and collaged clipped phrases, indicating that surely all the world’s events are connected. Gibson in Conspiracy Theory or Crowe in A Beautiful Mind. The Heat won the Championship. Deadly Colorado wildfire. A million in the midwest and east without air-conditioning. Should have buried the power lines. The 100M women’s Olympic trial ends in a real-live and controversial dead heat at the finish line. Fourth of July and hot dogs. Katie Holmes leaves Tom Cruise because, while he is hot, he’s a nutcake. Well, maybe the last bit is a stretch.

Anyway. Heat. Fire. Power and finish lines. You can’t invent this kind of stuff.

But, the same seasonal heat that makes memorable our annual Fourth of July activities and celebrations, this year, has brought severe and permanent tragedy for many. We remember them, even as we’re thankful for so many blessings of God and country.

By the way. This is my 200th post. So, this one goes out to all the haters. (Actually, there have been exactly zero haters but that’s what you’re supposed to say when you make it. And, trust me, 200 self-important posts unquestionably means you’re made.)

Performed by ipoet. Music produced by Sundance.

Today’s song blog REMIXED here:

Dead Heat