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Archive for June, 2015

A Brief Father’s Day Visit From My Dad

My siblings and I only need to remember one weekend each year when it comes to celebrating my Dad. His birthday almost always falls within a day or two of Father’s Day. So it was that I found myself in Rhode Island the past couple of days, in the company of my Mom and a guy masquerading as my Dad, a guy who was very curious about the new fella who’d dropped by for a visit.

Getting old is not for sissies, my friends.

Somewhere inside, deep inside, there’s still some of my Dad in the jumbled up connections of his mind, carried by the body that failed him in such spectacular fashion 2 ½ years ago. Dad is extremely intelligent, the only family member in his generation to have gone to college. Quite the athlete, he used football and the GI Bill to pay for school. Like so many in his generation he then worked, raised a family, and put himself through grad school. He won his club championship in golf twice at the ages of 50 and 60. No typo. Beat the reigning RI State Amateur champ on his home course for the first one.

As we sat on the porch of his house overlooking the par 5  14th hole, I had an ever so brief visit from that guy. From my Dad. Like a citizen of Brigadoon he came slowly through the mist of his mind to join me for a bit. We’d always bonded over golf. My brother and I never turned down an invitation to join him on the course, either as partners or as caddies for him and his buddies. It was quite a privilege to do either; my Dad’s most elemental essence was expressed on the golf course.

A light breeze was blowing through the forest in the back yard just beyond the rough. We chuckled at the golfers who failed to take the wind into consideration, sheepishly trying to sneak into our yard to retrieve their out-of-bounds second shot. Dad talked about caddying as a kid in the Depression. We both noted the absence of caddies as the foursomes passed in and out of view. It was really very nice.

I quite like the Dad of my adulthood. Quick to smile, slow to anger, unfailingly loyal and kind. It’s hard to imagine now how distant he was when I was a boy, his friendship as an adult is so easy. I’m not sure how long we sat there to be honest, nor when I noticed that he was slipping away. As surely as the village of Brigadoon disappears, the mist had returned to claim him. I got up, walked over to his chair, held his hand and gave him a kiss. I wished him a Happy Birthday and a Happy Father’s Day, hoping that I’d made it on time. That he was still there. That he knew it was me, Darrell, his oldest child. I told him I loved him.

He smiled and gave my hand a little pat as he disappeared into the mist.




Sunday musings 6/14/15

1) Droll. Troll who spent some time at Second City.

2) Pressure. “Pressure is a privilege.” Billie Jean King.

Perhaps Ms. King means that “pressure” is felt only by those who participate in an activity by choice. Those who have no choice feel no pressure because they simply do what they must. War. Poverty. Disease. Little or no time or energy for pressure. One must simply do.

Lots of layers to explore in that little gem.

3) Joy. “Take a chance on joy.” Saw this about 7 times in the last 24 hours in 7 very different places, 7 very different ways. Must be a sign.

Seriously, why not?

4) Profit. We ought to understand that the first priority of any business is to stay in business. The overarching priority of every business man/woman is to keep their business open. We should never be surprised when the true owners of a business make this the desired outcome of their strategy, and IMO we have no standing to criticize any legitimate business that does so.

We are, however, free to be surprised by their tactics.

5) Authenticity. Several friends and acquaintances checking in from travels afar this morning have me thinking. What constitutes a culturally authentic experience? Serious question. The follow-up, of course, is who gets to decide on behalf of a particular culture whether or not said experience was indeed authentic?

There are more questions in this bucket than answers, at least from me I’m afraid. As one not of a particular culture, is it even possible to have an authentic experience? Is the simple fact that one is without cultural “chops” nullification of authenticity? At a distance, reading about a particular culture for example, what makes it possible to have true empathy with a character? To have an authentic experience by proxy, as it were?

I am by nature a curious being, constantly on the prowl for knowledge. As I age I find that my thirst for knowledge is quenched more by experiences gained than by the acquisition of skills with practical application. It’s a search for enrichment, I think, more than a skill set. Perhaps adding a requirement of authenticity is unnecessary, even a bit precious or presumptuous. Is it even possible for a child of the unoppressed, barely burdened American middle class capable of experiential authenticity? Dunno.

In the end it probably doesn’t really matter, eh? The take home message, at least for me, is simply to seek experiences that are outside my own cultural silo. To do so respectfully, and in a way that they are as close to authentic as they might be, in order that I may then expand my understanding of cultures ever further from whatever may be my own.

Maybe–just maybe– that’ll make the experiences authentic enough.

I’ll see you next week…


Sunday musings 6/7/15

Sunday musings…

1) American Pharoah. History. 37 years in the making.

2) Chignon. Multi-purpose Spanish word that means awesome, cool, strong, smart, tough. Always something good. Used prior to the Belmont by the American Pharoah team to describe their horse.

My new favorite word.

3) Time. Maybe it’s a stretch, but it seems to me that the a watch depicting a single time is somehow a bit…I dunno…provincial in some way. Shouldn’t one have an eye on at least one other time zone?

Kinda like knowing more than one language?

4) Dulya. Ukrainian word for control-alt-delete or “force quit”. Also comes with a hand sign equivalent to the letter “T” in ASL (no idea why) which has quickly morphed into a dismissive gesture roughly translated as “forget you”.

All of which makes me think of the wildly different interpretation of otherwise culturally innocuous gestures across time zones and cultures. You know, like crossing your legs, a ubiquitous sitting position in the West which can get you banned from households in parts of the East.

Or the peace sign. Did you know that our All-American, iconic gesture created seconds before “Teach the World to Sing” is a vulgarity in Western Europe? Yup. Means “up yours”, or something equivalent, if you turn the palm side of your fingers towards yourself.

Just when you thought those Parisians had forgiven you for ordering your Pommes Frites in English.

5) Easy. Man, it’s tough out there. Just last night my iPhone ran out of battery power while I was Tweeting in a restaurant that didn’t have WiFi while straining to watch The Belmont on a 30 inch screen. The struggle was real, I tell ya.

I know you can all feel my pain.

Funny, isn’t it, how “First World Problems” take on such outsized importance? We are surrounded by convenience that only 10 years ago would be unimaginable. More than that, we have so internalized their existence, those conveniences, that we have come to prioritize them in many ways. Admit it, you don’t even blink at your data plan bill but you chafe at every doctor’s office co-pay. It’s come to a point where we not only expect comfort and convenience, but we are annoyed to the point of near anger when the next wave is slow to arrive.

Fat-burning pill, anyone?

What makes this phenomenon all the more interesting is the fact that we are likely wired both mentally and physically to respond to inconvenience. To difficult. At least when it comes to the further reaches of performance. There is a veritable bounty of research that shows better and deeper learning if the material to be learned is presented with even the tiniest of obstacles. Heck, just taking notes with pencil and paper rather than a laptop increases retention.

What does this have to do with CrossFit? Kind of a batting practice fastball, that one. “Relative intensity” by its very nature forces us into a zone of discomfort. We never really get terribly comfortable if we are doing it right. How many times have you heard something that goes along the lines of “It never gets easier; you just get better”? The closest we ever get to comfort is becoming comfortable with discomfort. I don’t think you can escape the conclusion that we, as physical beings, respond to relative difficulty in our physical training as predictably as we do when obstacles are placed along the pathways of intellectual gains.

After all, “chignon” was uttered by those around American Pharoah when they watched him work.

I’ll see you next week…

Posted by bingo at June 7, 2015 6:18 AM

Sunday musings 4/26/15

I travel a bit for business noways. In a shocking, barely believable turn of events, there are folks in the world of my day job who think I’m smart enough to fly in for a chat. Miami was one of my recent “smart guy” trips. Upon landing last night it occurred to me that I first visited Miami in 1972. There was only one terminal at MIA, and most of the flights were on an airline which ceased to exist 30 years ago. Miami always makes me think of my maternal grandparents. I never land here without thinking back to the day when I didn’t get to Miami on time.

My Gramp died when I was 17 or 18. The docs said it was a heart attack, but we all think it was a broken heart. Gramp had retired too soon, and his will to live seemed to retire as well. When I think of him and his passing I think of a story told about a little girl standing at the casket of her grandfather, stomping her feet in anger and righteous indignation. “He CAN’T be dead; I wasn’t DONE with him yet.” I surely wasn’t done with my Gramp when he left, and I think he probably wasn’t done with us, either.

My Gamma stuck around, and for me that was a wonderful thing. You see, I was the first male in a generation, and Gamma was my champion. In truth, she was champion to all 8 of her grandchildren, each in their own way. But I was first! Gamma stayed for many years after Gramp left us, many more than she really cared to if she was being honest. She passed as I was on my way to say goodbye, left us forever as I sat stranded in an airport halfway there. I felt just like that little girl, stomping my feet, not done with my Gamma. Alas, she was done with us.

Landing in Miami was kinda melancholy for awhile, to be truthful, but no more. With the passing of time I’ve gathered just enough wisdom to know that a large part of knowing that I’m OK is because once upon a younger time I had a champion who told me so. Gamma always told me that everything about me was OK. Told all 8 of us that.

Shortly before boarding my flight tonight I learned that Beth and I are soon to be grandparents of a grandson. It just seems right, don’t you think, that I should reflect on that on my way to Miami. That I should imagine what it will be like to say hello to my grandson as I travel to the place where I said goodbye to my beloved Gamma and Gramp. I will have a chance to be his champion, as my Gamma was for me. To tell him that he, too, is OK. That everything about him is OK.

It seems as if it was just yesterday, that long, interrupted trip to Miami. I do still so very much wish that I’d made it to there on time to say goodbye to my champion. My Gamma.



Lessons from a CrossFit Athlete Moving On

Gutted. Just a deep, sickening sadness when I heard the news. I confess, I wasn’t watching the Regionals feed, just reading and studying and occasionally glancing at various SM feeds. They all blew up at the same time, precisely 5 minutes after Julie Foucher’s achilles tendon did the same.

I wanted to throw up.

To be honest, while I would be saddened by any injury to a Regionals competitor, Julie is a friend, someone I know face-to-face. Seeing her hurting was a more personal thing for me and for all of Clan bingo. We know her story and we know her people. It felt like watching my neighbor’s kid get hurt, the one who always made you smile when you saw her outside playing. Her tears brought ours.

There is some anger out there in CrossFit land about this, and we will soon be hearing condemnation of not only the movement during which the injury occurred, but also by extension the entirety of CrossFit itself. Julie does not seem angry (we’ve not yet spoken; I’ve seen the same videos you have), and for whatever little it’s worth I’m not, either. I think this is misplaced, this anger, and that it speaks to a continuing and fundamental misunderstanding of the differences between training and competing, between CrossFit and The Sport of Fitness®. As such it bears examination and illumination. Again.

Julie Foucher, and competitors at her level, is a professional athlete. She is paid for her outcomes. Paid for performance. As such, like every other professional athlete, she accepts a higher degree of risk in both her training and her competitions. This is a fact of life in every athletic pursuit. Full stop. As sports evolve one hopes that leaders strive to make essential aspects of those sports safer, but at some point it becomes impossible to increase safety without removing essential.

Smaller engines and slower speeds would certainly reduce crashes at Indy, but then it would be a commute, not a race.

Being injured in the heat of competition is very disappointing; being injured in training more so, because that which you do to become better has made you worse. The safety bar is therefore raised higher in the gym than in the arena. Indeed, the further we are from the pinnacle of performance in any competitive endeavor, the more important it becomes to emphasize safety.

Regarding the movement in question today, the Box Jump, this is rather straightforward: step down in training, and step down in competitions entered for your own entertainment and enlightenment. Again, Full Stop. You are not Julie Foucher. I am not Julie Foucher. It is folly to conflate a competition in which you perform functional movements at relatively high intensity against a clock and fellow recreational athletes with the CrossFit Games.

This, in turn, illustrates the folly and fallacious thinking of extrapolating a ruptured achilles tendon in an elite athlete at the highest level of competition to the conclusion that CrossFit is dangerous. Poppycock. Constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity is as safe as any other fitness methodology. It is especially so if you adhere to the classic progression, still taught at every CrossFit seminar: technique, then consistency, then–and only then–intensity.

The Sport of Fitness is also as safe as other sports. Injuries to women? How about the epidemic of non-contact ACL tears in young women playing soccer? The higher the level of amateur soccer played, the greater the number and higher the percentage of girls and women who blow their ACL. Not at the pro level though, because they train differently. Where is the outrage here? Achilles tendon injuries, you say? Ask your buddy the orthopod about middle-aged men who play basketball and racquet sports. It’s so common it’s a cartoon.

No, anger is misplaced here if it is directed toward either CrossFit or The Sport of Fitness. The best example of why? None other than Julie Foucher. What makes Julie such a special person is what she did and is doing after her injury: moving on. There is sadness to be sure. A sense that the journey ended too soon. A quest not quite fulfilled. After the tears, though, came a smile. Perspective. There was talk of fun. CrossFit with CrossFitters as fun.

We welcome Julie back to our world of training to be better at life. As she now steps down like the rest of us she has offered us one final gift as she moves on from competition: a smile and a hand up to each of us, a reminder that what we do is fun because we do it together. For that, and for the joy of watching her compete these many years, we in turn should holster our anger, dry our tears, and smile back at her in thanks.



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