I know, I know. Oxymoronic construction. But if you’re into it, earlier this month there was an achievement of historical proportions in the Sinquefield Cup tournament played in St. Louis in late August through early September. By the way, St. Louis has become the center of American chess and is home to the World Chess Hall of Fame. Who knew?
A couple of weeks ago I had a disturbing realization. I can no longer ride a bike. I know, it’s something you’re never supposed to forget, and I’m sure I remember how to spin the twin gyroscopes and keep the contraption upright and moving forward, it’s just that I can’t. My right knee doesn’t bend far enough to push the pedals all the way around, I get stalled at the top of the stroke on that side. Well, I could if I raised the seat high enough, but that would put me in such and awkward position that if I tried to put a foot down when I stopped I’d be in danger of going over.
On Sunday, Reb and I attended the Golden Gophers Women’s Basketball game against ninth ranked Ohio State. The Gophers were coming off a disappointing loss to Wisconsin in which they played terribly. The girls put forth a tremendous team effort and pulled off a huge upset. On the way home from the game we stopped at the grocery store and ran into Sid Hartman, the StarTribune’s ancient sports columnist. I couldn’t resist asking him if he was going to write about the Gopher Women’s victory over Ohio State.
As you may know, I’m working on a garden renovation. It’s a work in progress. My vision is of a fairly primitive look, old rocks and bricks and the proper amount of kitschy gee gaws around. I’ve found that rocks are fairly expensive. So I’ve been making an effort to find free rocks. Those of you with a rural background might be saying, “Rocks? Aren’t those what farmers dig out of their fields and deposit in piles on the roadside? You pay for rocks?” But I’ve found Â that in a more urban setting the free market has put a rather high price on rocks.
Yesterday was a beautiful sunny, cool day so I decided I’d start my day with an endorphin blast, I grabbed my trekking poles and set off for a brisk walk. As I wound my way through the neighborhood, I came upon a pile of rocks stacked up Â near the street at the side of a corner lot. At a passing glance it looked like mostly useless rubble with a few good rocks. I rounded the corner and saw the owner out front working in her yard and talking to a neighbor. Not wanting to interrupt, I poled past with a neighborly hello, she returned my greeting with a bit of a smirk, I suppose that, in my flat cap, cruising along with the aid of ski poles, she found me an amusing character.
I proceeded up the Boone Avenue hill to 36th Street and then headed East to the first left turn, several blocks down, that put me on a road that wound back down hill to meet up with Boone again. The route took me past the rock pile neighbor once again, she was still out in the yard working so I stopped to exchange pleasantries. After the usual talk about the endless work of home ownership, I popped the question, “Are you planning on doing anything with those rocks piled over there?” She answered, in a defensive tone, that they were going to get rid of them soon, she must have thought I was going to complain about the eyesore. This being Minnesota it wouldn’t actually be a complaint, but a passive aggressive sideways hint that they’d been sitting out there for a long time. I assuaged her fears, “Can I take some of them?”
“Sure, take them all.”
“Well I probably won’t take them all.” I had no use for the broken concrete and other rubble.
“Help yourself, you can take all of it.”
“Thanks, I probably won’t take all of them though.”
“Yah, go ahead and take whatever you want.”
So I went home, showered, had lunch, got some work done and then jumped in the car to pick up what I thought was a few rocks. When I backed up to the pile and examined it more closely I realized it was a treasure hoard. There were nice sized field stones, flat limestone steppers, and old bricks, all the perfect accessories for the eccentric old couple garden. Since I was thinking that there were only a few rocks to move, I hadn’t really come prepared to work, I was wearing loafers, no socks and clothing that I didn’t really want to get filthy. I piled the back of the car with as many rocks as I thought it could haul and headed home. I changed clothes, donned appropriate footwear, grabbed my wheelbarrow and, in four trips unloaded the rocks in the back of the garden.
As I was working on the first load I got the feeling I’d just fleeced the rubes. I’m sure that if they had advertised on Craig’s List with the stipulation that the purchaser would have to take the bad with the good, they could have had it hauled away for free, or even made a few bucks on it. I started to worry about her husband coming home and pitching a fit that she’d given all the good stuff away. I decided that if anything was said I’d tell them they could certainly have them back, but they’d have to come get them. I started imagining all sorts of scenarios in which my rocky windfall would evaporate. For all I knew I was dealing with an insanely jealous husband who would come home and beat me to death with a paver for playing in his rock bed. I remembered that she had mentioned that hubby was in the Naval Reserve, so I thought that I could build some rapport by wearing an old ARMY t-shirt I had. Not that I was ever in the Army, but I have relatives. I could almost say I come from a military family.
Mrs. Rock House came out to the pile as I was loading up my second trip. She was probably even more convinced that I was a goof ball, since I had exchanged my cap for my Panama hat. So here’s this skinny, sweaty old guy hefting rocks into his station wagon wearing a very practical, but not exactly fashionable hat. She still seemed perfectly happy to get rid of whatever I wanted to take. She asked if I was interested in bricks, “We’ve got tons of bricks in the garage.” It seems as if she and hubby were recently married and that he is a retired Navy lifer who’s never owned a home. She said she told him now that he owned a home there would be no more trips and vacations, just working on the house. I knew then that I had nothing to fear concerning him wanting to keep the rocks. I realized she was completely in charge, she’d found someone who was used to having a commanding officer and was more than willing to fill that role.
So I got free rocks, met a neighbor and got way more endorphins than I had bargained for at the start of my walk. Rebecca informed my that I had enough rocks now and I wouldn’t be going back to get the bricks in the garage.
On Saturday night we attended the annual Mardi Gras Party at the Beckers. Any party at the Beckers is a great party and the Mardi Gras Party is the greatest of the great. I could have gotten the award for the lamest costume, Becky found me a sport coat that had a pattern of target logos all over it. The novelty of the fabric was one thing, but I wasn’t actually costumed as anything. Multi-targeted warhead? The host’s two older daughters pulled an good prank. They’re not twins, but they do look somewhat alike. One was dressed in a ball gown and the other had a wedding dress on, one was wearing flats and the other really tall heels. I noticed that they had done their hair exactly the same, but thought nothing of it. Midway through the party they switched costumes and I’m not sure anyone noticed. Â The youngest daughter’s husband entertained on the piano, including accompanying her on some of Â her songs that she’s preparing for her role in Guys and Dolls.
I’ve been obsessing about painting in Photoshop. I’m trying to upgrade my skill level with the Wacom, I’ve been drawing heads and figures and trying to color them, without much success. I’ve had some success scanning some of my pencil drawings and giving them simple color treatments, which is what I was most interested in doing with the tablet, so I can use them to get a little more visual interest here at HA. After all, as long as I have an published editorial illustrator in the office I might as well throw him some work. That, along with the drawing at left segues nicely into the next random topic.
I’ve been working out at the gym pretty consistently since I bolted the 9 to 5. I worked my way to the point that I think I’m in better condition than before the knee disaster. Motivation is a challenge for most of us who try to keep to a workout schedule and we have to find it where we can. One the things that brings me back to the gym is the people watching. I know it’s mean spirited to make fun of people, and God knows that I probably look as goofy as the next, but there are some folks who’s appearance is so odd that I just have to share it. If you recognize yourself here, I apologize. On the other hand if you don’t want people to make fun of you, try not to be so frickin’ weird.
I’ll start with the guy pictured. Older gent, probably around my age. Long stringy hair that doesn’t look like it’s been washed this century, held in place by a headband that probably was white in the Twentieth Century. He looks trim and fit, it seems like he’s there working out most times I am. Other than the hair, from the knees up he looks pretty normal, in an 80’s kind of way. But the thing that puts him over the top in the weirdness category is the fact that he always wears knee high brown dress socks and brown street shoes. I have to look away every time I see him to keep from laughing out loud.
Another guy, much younger, isn’t so much weird as he is scary.Â He’s always there, working the free weights. His arms are bigger than my thighs. I guess that’s not saying much, so much bigger is a better description. Yesterday while I was pumping some paltry weight on a machine, I watched as he strapped what had to be 50 pounds to his waste and knocked off about 20 pull-ups. I don’t think I can do one pull-up, even if I was in moon gravity.
Then there’s a guy who looks a little bit like John Belushi. He has shoulder length hair that he usually has tied up on top of his head some way. But this week I saw him with it down. He had it in a classic flip, like every girl in my ’67 high school year book. Think pretty hair on a jowly, pasty complected, five o’clock shadowed, scowling, hairy man. Another case where I have to practice smirk avoidance.
There is another man who it would be cruel to make fun of since he’s obviously overcoming some real challenges. But, being the mean bastard that I am… He has a hugely developed upper body, just massive. This barrel is supported by extremely short legs for it’s size. And one of those legs doesn’t work very well, he walks with a cane and it looks painful. He was wearing one of those wrestling style sleeveless t-shirts. One of his very hairy breasts had popped out, which was a disturbing sight. He passed me in the weight room as I was climbing into the crunch machine for my final set for the day. He sat down on the Cybex arm press machine and as he began to lift he let out a sound that I can only compare to the roar of Â lions and tigers at the zoo, moaning at their captivity. Or maybe it was like the sounds I made while trying to take my first dump after surgery and a week of powerful narcotics. Whatever you compare it to, it was really loud and really frightening.
I don’t feel bad at all about ridiculing this last victim, because frankly he’s one of those guys that makes you dislike them almost at first glance. He’s about my age, very fit, very trim and has a silvery brush cut, like a sergeant in a comic book. When he’s in the weight room he speeds from machine to machine, lifting heavy weights too fast, looking gruff and impatient with anyone who gets in the way of his routine. He might as well have a sign that says “compulsive narcissistic asshole.” That’s opposed to me, I’m a compulsive narcissistic nice guy. He always wears one of those jerseys that you used to see in the eighties, the sleeves cut off and the jersey itself cut off, exposing his belly. And maybe I’d do the same thing if I had a six-pack at sixty. But I noticed last week that protruding from the front and back of his shorts are the edges of what looks like some kind of absorbent pad. I’m sorry but please don’t share things like that with the public. When I look away from him, it’s not to keep from laughing.
Big sports day today. Starting off with a trip down to Williams Arena to watch the women’s basketball team take on Michigan State. I’ve subleasing one season ticket for a few years now, great seat, eight row just past mid-court opposite the benches on the same side as the Gopher bench. The raised floor at Williams arena gives those seats a fabulous angle on the action. Pretty close to player eye level. It’s a great place to be sitting when the Gophers are playing a sideline trap as well. Â I really enjoy watching teams that play good aggressive defense and that’s the signature of a Pam Borton coached team. I love to see it when they turn up the pressure and the other team gets those rattled looks on their faces as the shot clock runs down. Or start trying to run there offense too fast and throw it out of bounds. They like to create turnovers and score off them, they do a really nice job in transition with Kiara Buford, China Antoine and Brittany McCoy leading the way, blazingly fast, excellent ball handlers and passers. Half court offense, another story. It’s always an adventure, but it helps if the other team makes the mistake of not double teaming Ashley Ellis-Milan, which rhymes with Ashley’s always smilin’.
And then the Vikings game.
Note to self… Start a hoops category
Dodged a bullet. I almost committed an act that would put me in jeopardy of having my man card revoked. Our younger daughter who works at the Guthrie, gets two free tickets to each performance. She called last week and offered us her tickets to Romeo and Juliet. I’ve often said that we don’t take good advantage to the cultural opportunities offered here in the Twin Cities and this sounded like an chance to increase our highbrow credentials. Rebecca was on the phone with her relaying the info while I was in the middle of something important like reading Facebook entries. A range of dates was offered. I replied that Sunday would work.
Now I’m not a huge football fan. I have never once painted my face purple or maroon, or even cornflower and maise (not Michigan, Carleton.) But I have jumped on the Vikings bandwagon this year. It’s so much fun to watch Brett Favre when he’s playing for your team rather than picking it apart. I was also kind of distracted. I know there’s really no excuse for not realizing that the play conflicted with the Vikings playoff game against Dallas. Dallas. Playoff. It’s enough to boil the blood of guy my age. Not to mention the fact that I would definitely bring my guyhood into question if I spent an afternoon listening to iambic pentameter. Besides I already know the ending of the play.
I know this identifies me as obtuse, but the conflict didn’t hit my radar screen until yesterday morning. My stomach did a backflip and I broke into a cold sweat thinking about what I would say to the first guy who said, “Did you see the catch Rice made in the back of the end zone?!?” And, if I were to be honest, I’d have to reply, “No, I missed it, I was watching Shakespeare.” I couldn’t bear the shame. I also fully understand the repercussions of backing out on a date with my wife. Things could get icy at casa Keller if I didn’t approach this with utmost delicacy.
“Hey Beck… Do you think one of your fiends might want to go to the play tomorrow.”
I explained my predicament. She said that she was sure that she could find someone and she’d call around. All of a sudden I felt like I was the one being ditched.
So I’m off the hook. But knowing the Vikings, I’ll still be watching a tragedy.
Yesterday I went to the club this morning and put in 45 minutes on the treadmill, at a pretty good pace for me. Between 3 and 4 miles per hour most of the way. That’s a huge improvement over where I was two years ago, or even three months ago. But the workout left me questioning my sanity a bit. I was working out to Rock’n’Roll on the iPod and when Los Lobos live version of Marie Marie came on I pumped the speed up to 4 mph, which is a pretty good walking clip. When it was over a slow Bonnie Raitt song came on and I slowed down to it’s tempo. I was getting into Bonnie’s slide work and kind of closed my eyes. When I opened the up again, the treadmill’s control panel was running away from me. I had obviously slowed down too much and didn’t realize it. I was about to go off the back end, not able to reach the shutoff and too little time to catch up, and a concrete wall right behind me. I surprised myself by thinking fast enough to kick my legs out from under me, get my feet on the floor behind me and stop my fall with hands on either side of the moving pathway, on the edges of the treadmill. Thank God I’ve been working out, I never thought I’d attain that level of agility again after the year of the knee.
So I get plus marks for the physical realm for the 45 minutes of walking that endless highway and having the agility to to fall down without injury. I’ll even give myself a point in the mental column for realizing, in that split second before I went flying into the concrete block wall behind me, what I had to do in order to make a safe landing. But I’m a little concerned with the mental process that put me in that situation in the first place.
Yesterday R posted “puce” on facebook. I started noticing other posts simply naming a color. I didn’t make the connection until a couple of hours later but coolass tipped me off to this. R came downstairs rolling her eyes and admitting, “I am such a dork.” She thought that people were just randomly posting colors, so she jumped on the bandwagon. I was wondering, because I didn’t think she owned a puce bra. I’m glad I didn’t jump on the bandwagon.
Thursday night my friend Brad and I braved the elements to watch the Gophers WBB take on Northwestern. It was a great game, the Gophs came back from 16 down with a dominating second half performance. At one point Goldy, the mascot sat down in the seat in front of me. I can tell you that Goldy kind of stinks.