Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hey, Woody and Buzz, Come Fix My Roof!

Don't let the rain come down
My roof's got a hole in it and I might drown.
--Serendipity Singers, "Don't Let the Rain Come Down"

Sometimes, a forty-one year old man can fool himself into thinking he is still a kid. It doesn't last for long, but there are those moments: the first day of vacation, an unexpected bout of inclement weather that keeps him from work, an exceptional ice cream cone on a hot day. These moments are quite valued, even by the most cynical and serious among us. Even a dour old coot like Ebeneezer Scrooge had a little bit of the child hidden deep within his Grinchy heart (an oddly mixed, seasonally inappropriate analogy, but, like a petulant six year old, I don't care).

Yesterday, Monkey and I went to see Toy Story 3 (2d). It was a wonderful, sentimental, exciting story, as you might expect. Disney's involvement notwithstanding, I enjoyed the film, and was even, perhaps, a bit touched by the picture's more maudlin moments. Afterward, we walked a few blocks to a favorite ice cream shop (where Monkey is apparently a Facebook celebrity (or nuisance...I couldn't exactly tell)), and spent an exquisite ten minutes sitting on a bench in the Haymarket, eating Peanut Butter Marshmallow and Pumpkin Praline sugar cones. The day was rather pleasant temperature-wise, which made the sitting outside all the more enjoyable, and, even on break, the sense of decadence brought about by a movie and an ice cream cone enjoyed on a Tuesday afternoon is undeniable and awesome.

But, days like today conspire to remind one that thirteen was a long time ago, and real life is always just around the corner to smack him into adulthood. During a recent spat of late Spring/early Summer rain, it was made clear that our roof has lost its integrity. There are three obvious spots (all on the first floor) where water has gotten into the house. Two of those three spots are brownish water spots, which, given much more opportunity (i.e., more rain) might develop into actual into-the-living-room drippers. The problem of pooled water above our heads notwithstanding, I am glad that these spots did not actively leak into our house. It saved us some pandemonium. However, there is a spot on the kitchen that left a bit of splish-splash on the floor. And, I am grateful for that. It convinced Monkey and I that we shouldn't wait any longer. We contacted a roofer for an estimate today. (Yeah, I know, we waited a bit longer...well....)

This is when the adult world really sucks, of course. A roof is going to cost a lot of money. And Monkey and I were just congratulating ourselves on the fact that we had been doing such a good job of setting aside money to put in the savings account every month. This isn't exactly why we were socking cash away, but I am glad we have it when we need it.

Now, to protest the ensuing five figure price tag that I am anticipating, I am going to go eat a Popsicle and submerge my feet in a kiddy pool. Anybody wanna come over?

***Grammar Note:
The word "popsicle" is capitalized. It is a brand name of a kind of ice pop. In the same way that Band-Aid and Kleenex are brand names that have been adopted as the general name of the product that they refer to, so Popsicle. I did not know that.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Our First Ride

I took another lengthy ride last week, from our house, out east about 45 blocks, then north for several miles, then further east on the out of town extension of the trail that I had ridden earlier in the week when I was finding my way to my new school. I rode back home on the same trail I rode back on earlier in the week, too. The round trip was about twenty-six miles, I think, as I basically did a loop around town, with a little out and back spur through the eastern country side. But that was not the best ride I took last week.

My favorite ride of the week (and maybe forever), was a forty minute pedal through the neighborhood with Monkey. She just bought her first bike, and this was our first ride together. Not only was she on her first bike, but she was basically on her first bike ride! She just learned how to ride last summer, and is now confident enough to have bought a bike and to take it out for a spin. A courageous act, for sure.

But, it was so much fun to just tool around, with no particular place to go, with my favorite riding companion in the whole world. Hooray, Monkey!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Bike Commute Quandary

Monday, after the morning gully washer had passed, after some R and R with the dogs, after soccer, lunch, and other trivial pursuits, I decided to pedal my wait out to my new work environment to see what the best way to bike there might be. Perusals of maps determined that it was possible to get from here to there using commuter trails, rather than on road routes, but the situation on the ground is always a little different than it is on the map, ain't it?

My new place of business is in the opposite diagonal corner of town, and at least twice as far. That alone will be a change that I am not looking forward to. In CoMO, my commute was ten minutes (on a bike). I was literally, around the corner from work. My last position here in Lincoln was about twenty-five minutes. I knew that I was looking at at least forty-five minutes of ride time, but I needed to know what kind of ride it was going to be.

In order to stay on trails, I had to ride away from my destination in order to pick up the trail that would take me the way I wanted to go. As far as I can figure it, there really isn't an equally safe, more direct way to go, so I am spending the extra time to ensure my own well-being. This trail, however, basically becomes a wide sidewalk just before it passes a major thoroughfare, leaving me to wait for the crosswalk. This is the same as waiting for a light, so no problem there, but I don't like riding on the sidewalk. That's not a trail, in my opinion, but I understand the dual-use idea makes all trails walks of some sort. I guess I just need to get over it.

Once over the major thoroughfare, the "trail" winds its way along a newly developed (and still being constructed) road with a trail beside it. At this point, the first trail connects to the second trail that takes me in an easterly direction (before that I was headed north-west), however, on the ground, the trails are not marked at all. There are the occasional arrows on the ground, but at this point on this ride, those arrows were few and far between. By the time I came (for the second time) to another major thoroughfare (one I would be crossing in the opposite direction from the one I had already crossed it earlier), I didn't know if I was on the trail, or just riding on a random sidewalk.

I looked to the south and realized I had been on a random sidewalk. There, a giant yellow sign with a bike on it indicated the trail crossing. Ironically, from a safety standpoint, there is no light at the trail crossing, but there is one at the random sidewalk...hmmmmm. I crossed at the trail and continued on my way.

My detours not withstanding, this was a nice trail. Wide, clearly marked, and lacking much in the way of hills. There were quite a few road crossings, but most of the roads were residential and not busy. I made my way east, until I came to another weird intersection and found myself crossing 66th Street. I was looking for 63rd. I must have missed it.

I rode up 66th, looking for a place to backtrack, and when I did, I easily found 63rd. My powers of subtraction are impeccable...up to three digits. I also noticed an apartment complex I had already pedaled through and marked that as a short cut back to my trail, since, now, I was leaving the trail and heading straight out 63rd.

I had to cross a few busy streets along this last leg, but nothing too hairy. A few hills on this little street were tough, especially in the heat of the day, but I managed. Once I arrived at my school, I had been traveling (not counting for back tracks, detours, water breaks, etc.) for exactly one hour. That's a long haul to make every day.

The ride back was quicker by about eight minutes, since I had a better idea of where I was going, but a fifty-two minute commute is one I don't know if I can make everyday. I don't know, yet. But, right now, I am leaning toward biking twice a week. Of course, I really enjoy biking to work, so I may just go all in. But a one hour ride, for me to be mentally ready for school everyday at first bell, means I have strive to be in the saddle at 5:45 every morning (which realistically means 6). That's awfully early, my friends.

--bike image taken from Biking Buck

Monday, June 21, 2010

Consolation Prize

What a weekend of camaraderie, sportsmanship (poor and otherwise), local travel, and frustration we had here at Central Standard. Our foray into the world of competitive rec league basketball left us with a realization that we really aren't as quick as we used to be, our Monkey is a good sport, and I play ball with a swell bunch of guys.

Saturday's first game, against a team of sub-21 year olds, was competitive for the first half, but young legs outlasted old (and no one was pantsed), and the wiser of the two teams lost by double digits. My legs and back held up, but our predicament was most likely summed up by one of our guards, who said to the opposing guard (and it was true), "I played against your dad in high school." It was disheartening, as well, when Monkey (a spectator at all three Saturday games) pointed out that any member of our team was old enough to have fathered any member of their team. Ick.

For game two, at 11:30, we had to drive to another high school gym. We played five games over the weekend, at three different venues. Fortunately, all of Saturday's games were nearby the Monkey House. The team we played for game two was not as young as our first opponents. They had at least a few players in their mid-20s. But, they were also faster and taller. Two players on this team were nearly a foot taller than any of our oldsters. Put those two things together, and you get a beat down. We lost by about thirty in the second game. We didn't even score until about ten minutes had elapsed. It was not pretty.

With what could be construed as mercy, we were not scheduled to play another game until 5:30. We were able to take a break, eat some lunch, help some friends move some furniture, and get some new socks, before heading back to play the first game of the 3rd place games. We had gone 0-2 in our pool, so we were seeded third in our pool and were slated to play a 3 seed from another pool. This was by far the most exciting game we played, not because of the competitiveness of the two teams, but because the team we played was full of whiners, cry babies, poor sports, and total dicks.

It began after a few minutes, with the old guys holding a slight lead. The opposition started arguing with each other. Then they began complaining to the refs that we were pushing them too much under the basket. They protested every call. They protested every non-call. They never shut up. We had them rattled, for sure.

One player in particular, in UCLA shorts and wearing some kind of new-fangled do rag, was particularly violent in his play. He first elbowed one of our best shooters, drawing blood and swelling his cheek. Our injured shooter was out of the game, and was unable to play the rest of the weekend. UCLA's next foul was on a three-point shot. As our old man released the ball, UCLA gave him a shot to the ribs. Our player took offense to that and flipped off the kid. I am not condoning such behavior, but such actions just shows the uncalled-for nature of this foul. Maybe the elbow was an accident, but a shot to the ribs on a jumper is not accident. The angry youth followed that up by tackling an old guy after losing a rebound. Our bench called for an ejection or a flagrant foul. Their bench continued to woof, and they were assessed a technical foul. While our player shot his fouls, the other team stood at mid-court and yelled at him. Good sports, huh?

When the game was over, we had taken their best shot (literally) and had won. It was a bittersweet victory. It was good to win, but I, personally, hated playing them. After the game, all but two of their players refused to come out and shake our hands. Two of our players got into a shouting match with their bench. I tried to drag our players away, but they wanted to beef, so I got out of their way. Nothing came of it, thank goodness, but I felt a bit embarrassed by our players, as they descended to the opposing team's immaturity. After all, we were the more mature team. I wanted us to act like it. Alas, all's well that ends well, eh?

Sunday, we found out that we would play two games. One game at 10:30, and then another at 11:30 if we won. The 11:30 game would be for the Bracket Three gold medal. Our first game started much later than 10:30, due to the pace of the two games played before ours. The trouble with that was that we had a 12:15 game scheduled with the other over-35 team to decide the medal for that bracket.

After a flurry of emails from our team organizers, the CSG powers that be decided to let us play out our original bracket. Of course, if we won our first game, we were going to stay and play our 11:30 game and forfeit the other, but we were worried that a late start would leave us unable to make a 12:15 game if we lost. Our focus, however was on the matter at hand. We had a game to play some time soon.

Once we got under way, we could tell that we were going to be able to run with our morning opponents. That had a mix of older and younger players (some of their guys could have qualified for our team, I think), but they had one whippersnapper who was quick and could shoot. We played a zone defense to eliminate his ability to cut to the basket, and we hit a few shots ourselves (even I hit a three). The game came down to free throws. We missed ours and they made theirs. As our last desperate three sailed past the rim, the buzzer sounded and we had lost 45-43. It was noon. We were at least twenty minutes away from the gym where we were supposed to play our amis ancien. The organizer at the site came over and told us that the other team and the refs would wait for us. We gathered up our stuff and hit the road, driving (basically) from one end of town to the other.

This final game was the most enjoyable game we played. The pace was more to our liking (i.e., slower), the opponents were adequate sportsmen (we were slapping each others' hands as we walked back and forth to the locker room at half time; we congratulated the opposition on good play), and we all took the game seriously, but not too seriously. In the end, after our old guys held the lead for the first thirty minutes, their old guys made a run that we couldn't answer. We got as close a three points with a minute to play, but we came up short at the end.

And, so, after going 1-4 over the weekend, we walked away with a silver medal. Not bad to have something to show for an exciting, at times frustrating, but, overall, excellent weekend of basketball. ATR's stat line for the weekend: points: 5; shots: 7; shots made: 2; shooting %: .287; 3pt shots: 3; three point shots made: 1; 3pt %: .333. Don't worry, I am not quitting my day job.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Age and Treachery

I play basketball a couple nights a week with some guys in a tiny gym that is part of a local church. It is not a full size court, by any means. As a matter of fact, it is most likely smaller than the small court I used to play ball on down in the bowels of the Columbia Daily Tribune complex. The guys I play with are as misfit as the court on which we play. We have an age range from late teens to early fifties. We have a skill range from non-athlete to former prep star. What is similar amongst us all, is that no one gets too worked up about the games we play, and everybody plays fair (within the bounds of a pick up basketball game...there are some ways to circumnavigate the rules that are as time honored as peach baskets and the movie Hoosiers).

This weekend, a group of the over-35 guys are playing in the Cornhusker State Games. We run our first game at 8:30 in the morning. Yes, EIGHT THIRTY IN THE FREAKING MORNING. However, that's no worse than when we used to play softball games that used to start at 10:30 PM. Remember that?

Yesterday, our "coach" (the guy who registered the team (who is in Florida this weekend, and most likely won't even play in a game with us)) sent out an email telling us that we were mixed in with the over-19 age bracket. Why? Because they only had two over-35 teams sign up. So, as a result, instead of playing some old-timers league games with some equally slow guys who used to wear parachute pants, we now are expected to run (regulation-sized courts, mind you) with caterpillar-lipped boys who think Vanilla Ice is something you use to "ice your bros."

Are we bugged by this misrepresentation of our expected competition by the Cornhusker State Games? Well, I am. However, as you know, I will not back down from a challenge. As a matter of fact, I make them up for myself, sometimes. (Wait til I tell you what I bought today....) So, tomorrow morning, I am going to arrive at the Lincoln High gymnasium, with a backpack full of IcyHot, and the will to show some bad-ass kid who's been buying his own cigarettes for six months, that we old guys might not be at our physical peak, but that our years have honed our "skills" to a razor's edge, and that we might know a little Harlem Globetrotters trick or two (Is pantsing a foul?). The old saw: "Age and treachery will over come youth and enthusiasm" may never be truer than tomorrow. On the other hand, there is also the adage that says: "If you can't catch them on the fast break, you might as well pack it in." I'm expecting NOT to be packing it in.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sitting Still

In 2006, Monkey and I spent part of June in Maine. In 2007, Monkey and I spent part of June moving from CoMO to Lincoln. In 2008, Monkey and I spent part of Jun in Italy. Last year, Monkey and I spent part of June in OCMD. This year, we aren't going anywhere.

For the most, we are staying put this month due to our new puppy. We will be heading to Colorado at the end of July, but, right now, we think he's a little too young to be left in the care of someone else (especially if he'd be around strange dogs). This is, after all, his formative period, and we wanted to be here to form him, of course.

It's fine by me to be keeping close to home. I find plenty on the old homestead to keep me busy, including reading (of which I have done too little, so far). Add to that that World Cup eating up anywhere from an hour to six of any given day, I am perfectly content to be here.

In a way, however, I am traveling. After three years teaching at my school, my position was cut due to budget tightening. As a result, I spent several weeks this past semester interviewing with other schools in the district who, due to transfers, resignations, retirements, etc., had openings. Lucky for me, a high school position was available, and I was offered it. So, I am moving to a new school next year. I am still in the LPS district, so I keep all of my seniority and such, but I still had to pack everything up and store it here until I can get into my new location.

It is frustrating to lose a position for such arbitrary reasons, but I feel fortunate that I didn't get laid off and left to fend for a new job in a completely new district. That would have really been tough. I am, to some extent, looking forward to the excitement of a new school and new classes.

Yet, staying in one job for a while wouldn't have been bad, either. That seems to be something I haven't done for a long time. And, now that I think about it, the last time I was in the same job for a long time (ten plus years), I kind of grew to hate it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Out of Retirement

I have always been a Brett Favre fan. He's always been an exciting football player, he seems to do a lot of good work for charity, he seems to be a decent husband and father. He just doesn't know when to quit. Apparently, I don't either.

In the two months plus that I have been un-CS, I have felt something has been missing in my life. And, darn it, a lot has happened in those two months that I could have been writing about. For awhile there, I just felt like I had no voice, no direction. Now, I feel like I need to get back to keeping track of even the most inane things that happen in my life.

I hope to keep from making a "will he or won't he" spectacle of my life every few months. That's not what I am about, and most likely, nobody will really pay that much attention to li'l ol' me. But, I think I need to keep this going.

You are welcome to come along, if you wish.