Archive for category my background

2017 Extreme Sports Compilation

We have seen some of these video shots before. But there are some breathtaking clips that are not common, from around 4:14 to 5:36 that I found scary and incomprehensible. Clearly these are NOT ordinary people. I really can’t relate to their mentality.

I Have A Trick

Here is a clever solution to improving at sports that I believe is transferable to all of one’s life. I complained to Greg Reiss about my weak tennis backhand. Greg coaches squash and tennis at Millbrook School in upstate New York.

When we met for a lesson, he said that he had a trick for dealing with my problem. Instead of focusing on the poor backhand, he would work on my much stronger forehand. He told me to move a step to the left, when I was receiving serves, so that I could have more chances of using my forehand. He said to give up on a hard topspin backhand, which I couldn’t do, and only hit a backhand lob, which I could do. He said to focus on my strengths, instead of debilitating attempts to master a stroke that continued to elude me.

And it worked. I felt better about my game, odds of winning points, self confidence. Maybe if I weren’t so old and coming so late to the game, Greg would have given me different suggestions. But this was sound advice at my stage of learning.

Clearly this can be applied to everyday life. You just have to know what your strengths and weaknesses are. You might have to accept that you are good at speaking, but not at fixing car engines. You need to know yourself and pursue those paths that mesh with your skills.

I Am Not As Healthy As I Thought

I went to my first naturopath this month. I want to encourage you to consider going too, even though Wikipedia is very skeptical of the benefits.

My father was a chiropractor who was only sick four times in most of his adult life. In those long-ago days, when I was growing up at home, he and his colleagues were called quacks, ridiculed by most medical doctors, and even regarded as fakes. But I often heard at dinner how he was healing people who had come to him as a last resort after nothing else worked. So I have always been open to alternative health practices, including acupuncture and Asian healing methods.

Dad told me that “you are what you eat.” And he taught me to take vitamins every day, avoid excessive alcohol, drugs and cigarettes (although he drank and smoked himself). He also encouraged me to exercise and set a good example here, as he would walk on the golf course, rather than rent an electric cart. By following that advice and being gifted with great genes (parents died at 88 and 94), I have arrived at 75 with good health and the ability to play tennis three or four times a week, while many of my classmates are either dead, using walkers and canes, seeing doctors frequently, recuperating from surgeries and procedures.

So imagine my shock to discover that I have minor problems I never knew about until today. Just heard them after the most thorough analysis of my blood ever. Way beyond what I learn from my annual physical. EVERYONE SHOULD DO THIS!

For example, my lead and mercury levels are so HIGH (95th percentile) that I MUST give up tuna and swordfish for at least a year. Those top of the food chain predator fish are full of the stuff. Drat. I just had delicious tuna sushi last week. Who knew that it was my final morsel. And next I will have my well water tested for lead. Flint, Michigan seemed so far far away…

In spite of taking vitamin B-complex, my B-12 levels are so low that he gave me the first of three injections and then supplements to follow. I should be in the upper areas of a 200-1100 range: but I am only at 283. This huge deficiency might affect memory, balance, energy and make my nervous system so “restless” (rather than calm), that it shakes.

My kidneys need more water, and just like one tennis coach warned me, kidneys are hurt by too much Motrin, which I have been taking for months every time I play tennis to mask the discomfort from my tennis elbow. Now I should only take Motrin AFTER I play if it hurts…not before.

My magnesium level was only 4.5, instead of closer to 6.4. My thyroid is low, which can cause reduced cognition, sluggishness and digestive tract problems.

My Vitamin D level was only 33, instead of 45-plus, which is better for cardiovascular functions and reduced cancer risk. My selenium was also low, only 175, instead of closer to 350.

Now there was lots of good, even great news: no scarring of my liver after the hepatitis and jaundice I contracted in Korea, when I was 22. No Lyme disease, even though I had that in the last 20 years as well. No anti-immune problems, no lupus.

My cholesterol at 172 is ideal (thanks partly to the statin I started seven months ago, and I will begin taking a supplement to eliminate the tightness in my calves and back that is a common side-effect from the statin). I should be eating more plant oils, avocado, coconut, fish oil, shrimp, sardines with oil. These will all stabilize my nervous system.

So a new phase begins. It’s almost a decade since my annual blood test disclosed that my cholesterol at 239 was just touching heart attack range. I had to learn all about cholesterol and what foods cause the high levels. I gave up frequent–sometimes daily–pleasures, like butter and cheeses and ice cream and tasty, crispy, flavored chicken skin. I have survived well. Now it’s time to make some more changes. All a process.

But the results can be worth it…at least they are to me. Now if I can only improve my serve…

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Jason Doornick Arm Wrestles With World Champions

Jason (L) and Allen Fisher do battle

Jason (L) and Allen Fisher do battle

When I was a kid, I used to arm wrestle now and then. My most memorable match was over 30 years ago after our family’s New Years Day party, when my brother, Michael (who is 16 years younger), challenged me yet again. He had never beaten me, even though he was much bulkier and did a lot of Tai Kwan Do. But I had a strong wrist and biceps.

This incredible contest took over 10 minutes. I have it somewhere on tape. You can hear us both yelling, enduring our pain, determined to not give up, our father urging us to call it a draw, our stepmother screaming, “Enough…stop already,” terrified we were going to tear muscles or break bones or have one of the blood vessels popping out on our heads burst from exertion. We both sweated like horses. I won again…it was our last match.

Years later I had a son, he grew up, and he brought over his friend, Jason Doornick, who also liked to arm wrestle. I could never beat him. He was good. And last November he sent me this email and photos.

Dear Ira:

Here are a few photos of my arm wrestling ventures just in the last month. The bald man is Allen Fisher. He is currently the oldest arm wrestler and also holds the most titles ever. Here is a link to his page.

Jason and World Champion Carolyn Fisher

Jason and World Champion Carolyn Fisher

What it says there is “Allen Fisher is a 26-time World Champion Arm Wrestler featured on AMC’s new hit series Game of Arms. He has been in the sport for over thirty years.”

Allen and his wife are in a few photos. HIS WIFE IS THE WORLD CHAMPION in armwrestling. She ended up beating me twice and I beat her once. Her name is Carolyn Fisher. The photos of all three of us are at his home in San Diego, CA. (My friend) Lisa set this up for me actually. She knew that I loved Allen and surprised me with a “road trip” to Bakersfield CA where you see us photographed hand in hand to meet him in person. My jaw nearly dropped. We spent the whole day at my first armwrestling tournament (where I did not compete) and watched Allen and his friends practice and also compete for titles. After this, we scheduled the private lessons at his home in San Diego. As you can see, we did more than that. We became such close friends with him immediately after that we stayed for dinner, drinks and got shnockered to the point where we armwrestleed everyone at the party. We had a wonderful night which ended up in “you’re always welcome here.” That being said, Allen’s wife asked me to help coordinate a birthday surprise for him which includes an evening at the famous magic castle in Hollywood California, a stunt driving session with me at Willow Springs Raceway and a night at a beach house in San Clemente.

Jason and Devon.  Guess who won?

Jason and Devon. Guess who won?

The other photos of the gentleman in the grey shirt, that is Devon Laratt. He is currently the reigning champion and undefeated. He is in his 40’s, has a family and is from Canada. The photos you see are of him visiting Venice Beach and inviting fellow arm wrestlers to come down and practice with him. Which is what we did. We came down early, met up with Devon, hung out and then before we knew it, a huge crowd spawned around us. There was also Shawn Lattimer who is also a world champion.

I’m currently suffering from tennis elbow and pain in my brachial muscle tendons in both arms. It limits my arm wrestling but not my training. I’ve almost doubled the size of my forearms and biceps since my visit with Allen Fisher over two months ago. He gave me a great work out regime. Resistance bands are key, I’ll tell you that. I do about 60-100 reps with a 65-pound resistance band (black color band.) I’ll try and do about 500 through out the day on each arm. This is just for wrist. Then I have my biceps work out which is the same but with different motions on the band. You can actually see the same resistance band that I use in this photo below where Allen Fisher’s arm is gripping a pole to the right of the photo.

Let me know if this information helps you at all…Jason

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How To Pick Up Girls At The Gym

There are a lot of videos giving advice about how to pick up girls–and guys–at the gym. Very useful. Check out the first minute of this video to also learn something about the Strongman competition from champion Robert Oberst. He eats six times a day to ingest 20,000 calories. He needs the fuel to lift the weight. He also travels through the supermarket emptying out parts of the meat section.

He admits others have the abs…but he has the titles.

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851 Days Of Exercise But No Burpees Yet

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Just did some barbell bent over rows on my 851st day in a row of some kind of exercise…not counting the 2-10 hours of tennis each week. A satisfying disciplinary achievement.

Also read about the benefits of HIIT: high intensity interval training. I was out of breath just yesterday doing some painful push ups—I really resist doing them. Here are some excerpts from this article , which suggests burpees as the best exercise to do.

I don’t do them, but I should start. Here are two burpee videos. The first shows a modified burpee that is less stressful on your back. The second one is amateurish, kind of sexist, but I included it because it was shot at Flamingo Park in Miami Beach, where I played as a kid, won tennis trophies at ages 11 and 12, and was just at the exact spot in the video, before competing on the tennis court last November at my high school reunion. So it’s pretty nostalgic for me.

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The secret to shedding fat fast is exercise intensity, study after study has found, including a recent one from the American Journal of Health Promotion.

In the study, investigators tracked 4,511 adults ages 18 to 64, assigning participants to four workout groups: high-intensity long bouts, high-intensity short bouts, low-intensity long bouts and low-intensity short bouts.

Both groups of high-intensity workouts lowered their body mass indexes, which lowers risk of being overweight or obese. Neither of the low-intensity workout groups showed the same benefits.

Additionally, each extra minute of high-intensity physical activity was linked to a decreased obesity risk of five percent for women and two percent for men.

This means that even if you’re short on time, you can still get a great workout — that may even help maintain your health over your lifetime.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the way to lose body fat, build lean muscle and increase your metabolism.

“HIIT is an all-out effort followed by a short period of rest,” he explained. “It should leave you out of breath and breathless, not like a slow, steady session of cardio.”

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Roz Savage Rows Oceans Solo For Adventure and Awareness


“I don’t have a bean…But my life now is one long adventure. Instead of waking up and knowing what will happen today, I have no idea what that could be. I don’t own designer clothes, or a sports car, or a huge house, but I am seeing the world, experiencing amazing things, and I have become an environmental campaigner.”

I bumped into Roz Savage during her radio interview. She is the first woman to row solo across three oceans: Atlantic, Pacific, Indian. She has a 23-foot rowboat. Most interestingly to me is that she was a successful management consultant, married, affluent…but something was missing. So she started rowing and bringing more awareness about the environment. The video above is more a pitch to take care of the planet, but she points out that she rowed 15,000 miles with 5 million oar strokes…one stroke at a time…and we can make a difference one decision at at a time. Not sure I agree with her strategy for stopping corporate and national pollution, but it’s her story and passion. You can read some of her advice here about how to live your own life. She is very supportive in helping people make changes they are afraid of. Here are some of her suggestions:

Don’t waste mental energy asking yourself if you CAN do something. Just do it. You’ll surprise yourself. I did.

Be clear about your objectives. Ignore others, stay true to yourself and measure success only against your own criteria. I was last to finish the race – big deal. I went out there to learn about myself, and I did.

The only constant in life is change. So don’t get depressed by the bad times, and don’t get over-excited by good ones. Accept that things are exactly as they are, and even bad times have something to teach us.

You used to be a management consultant. Why the change?

“I’ve been fortunate enough to find out through personal experience that money and material possessions don’t make you happy. I used to think that they would, but instead found that the materialistic lifestyle left me feeling empty and unfulfilled.

Roz starts rowing to Hawaii

Roz starts rowing to Hawaii

I did an interesting exercise one day – I sat down and wrote two versions of my obituary. The first was the one I was heading for if I carried on in my present lifestyle, and the other was the one I dreamed of having. They were very different.

So it was time for a change. I didn’t want to get to the end of my life and look back with regret on all the things I hadn’t done. It was time to stop dreaming, and start doing.”

Isn’t it dangerous?

To an extent – anything to do with the ocean is dangerous. But equally I could get on the London Underground and get blown up, or go to cross the street and get hit by a bus. You can’t wrap yourself in cotton wool if you want to really live life. And I do all I can to reduce the risks. And I seem to go into a different mindset when I am on the ocean. I am extra-vigilant, and more sensible and practical than on dry land. I’m very aware that when you’re on your own in the middle of an ocean, there are no second chances.

You can read more about her here and here.

On the youtube page that showed this different, earlier video below, Roz disclosed that she rows completely naked, except for her baseball cap. No fear of sunburn and skin damage either. What a woman!

thumpaholden:

I DO understand the environmental issues Roz is promoting (I’ve worked in environmental policy)… so I’m a tad embarrassed to be asking this trivial question: Roz, While rowing, you are always wearing singlet-tops. Aren’t you worried about getting skin cancer? Sunscreen can only protect you to a certain extent – especially when you’re sweating.

Roz Savage in reply to thumpaholden:

Thanks for your concern! I use organic sun cream to protect my skin. Actually I don’t usually wear even a singlet top – I’m usually wearing nothing but a baseball cap, but I put clothes on for filming!

Icreatemore:

You are entering my life just at the right time…I have 8 summers left, doing a lot of self awareness work and at 64 still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. Sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Roz Savage:

So why don’t you break free? It might not be as hard as you think–and once you get to the other side, life can be amazing!!

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731 Days Of Continuous Exercise

On November 12th, 2011, I started a daily exercise program to see if I could be disciplined enough to stick with it. Just 5-15 minutes of push ups, abs crunches, weights, rowing, anything. EVERY DAY. No matter where I was in the world, no matter how many hours of travel, tennis, business, family. I was not able to exercise often before that time. Now I do it religiously. And as Jerry Seinfeld says, “Don’t break the chain.” Here is what I wrote a year ago.

I still can’t grasp that I do it. Two long years. It has wrecked my dinner-eating schedule, because I often procrastinate doing the daily drill for hours, and don’t want to eat until AFTER I exercise. But I am still willing to pay this price. It is often inconvenient and tiring and a real effort. But I am still sticking to this routine. It is not easy. Other people swim every day, or go to the gym four times a week, or run consistently. However I have no interest or discipline in those sports. I play tennis enthusiastically 2-4 times a week and also do my brief little daily workout. It keeps me toned. No muscles. But satisfied. You just have to find what works for you. And I have been very fortunate to have found something at all.

Some friends and family members have also started counting how long they could stick to an exercise routine. One was up to 50+ days. I don’t ask if that has continued…don’t want to make someone feel badly if they stopped. What’s most interesting is how annoyed people are that I do the drill every day. Maybe they are jealous, envious, pissed that they can’t do it. But I ignore their displeasure. I keep on slugging it out.

You ready to start doing anything? Doesn’t have to be every day…just do some exercise every week…

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How Often Do You Dance?

my dad's dance friends had women dressed like this, but not in competitions

my dad’s dance friends had women dressed like this, but not in competitions

I read an article titled Why Don’t We Dance Anymore? When is the last time you danced in public or a party?

When I was a teenager in high school in Miami Beach, and other kids were watching American Bandstand and dancing to that music after school, I had to work after school and on weekends. So for years I was a cabana boy at the hotels serving the tourists. I picked up towels and cigarette butts and straightened out the lounges people lay on. I did errands. I also ogled the young teenage girls, and after work, would head very often to the Teen Room, where a grown-up played records we could dance to and make sure we acted properly.

Chaperones aside, I met lots of girls and taught them how to watch “submarine races” from the beach. And I did lots of dancing. I had the moves. I could really do fancy cha cha cha steps, the lindy, the twist. You had to stand out to impress the girls, and I was highly motivated. Plus it was good exercise (hahahaha!!!).

dancing is fun for all ages

dancing is fun for all ages

There was lots of dancing at frat parties in college and also after graduation. Every party had music of course. But with aging came less dancing…and less and less. There was that Studio 54 period, but I was already married and raising kids. When I separated and eventually divorced, I studied modern jazz at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center studios. I loved to shake to the music. And it was always helpful for a single guy trying to connect with single women…although most of them weren’t too talented. Some were put off by my unconventional moves. Others were perceptive enough to ask me if I were a professional dancer!

As the decades flew by, my peers danced less and less. A couple took tango lessons and went to Argentina with their instructor and classmates. But most sort of made a few easy steps at weddings and reunions. I remember a friend’s 60th birthday party, when we did line dancing and really went crazy with vigorous music. But for the most part, dinner parties with background music had become the norm. I missed those vibrant rhythms.

I remember so well working up great sweats jumping around, shouting and showing what I got. I remember great fun bringing out my old gestures and patterns. I thought I was cool. I remember trying to imitate new moves that I observed. But as an older guy, dancing is a relatively rare pleasure. It’s always with my wife, who is also a good dancer. In my circles, dancing with another women “just ain’t done.” It’s rarely so vigorous that we end up sweaty. And I’m not as nimble as I used to be. So I do it with wistful memories of former times.

My daughter says she and her friends still dance at parties and clubs. Maybe it’s an activity that most people relegate to their youth.

My father didn’t. He loved to dance and did it his whole life, even into his 80’s. He struggled with my mother their entire time together–he wanted to be first on the floor, before it became crowded…she wanted to be the last on the floor, so no one could see her limited abilities…But dad could do all the dances: the Latin variations, like samba, mambo, cha cha cha, salsa…fox trot, ball room dancing, square dancing…he was even a caller and they wore western costumes and went to other cities to dance with regional enthusiasts. My poor mother suffered.

After dad and mom divorced, he danced at a community center every week, and that’s where he met his next wife of maybe 30 years. They danced at contests, hotel bars on Miami Beach, and at fancy ballrooms. One visit to Florida, I joined him (in his mid-80’s) and my step mom on an evening of dance. He limped by then from a car accident, yet he twirled two women at a time. There was a man in a red suit gliding by, and the women were in all kinds of formal or show businessey gowns. It was hysterical. It was elegant. It was magnificent. And it was a “family” of like-minded dancers, of all ages, and backgrounds. Maybe I could find such a gathering in the rural area where I live.

Dad and his breed aside, most of us seem to do it rarely. Too bad. It was/is great fun. A month ago at a friend’s daughter’s wedding, my wife and I hit the very crowded, portable floor under a tent in a horse pasture and tried not to collide with the bride and groom and their boisterous and very energetic friends. They really let loose. There were even some old people who were flapping their wings and stomping quite admirably. Kind of reminds me what I heard about the great cellist Pablo Casals in his final years (he lived to 96): he was arthritic and could barely move…but when a bow was placed in his hands, he came alive and played his cello like he was decades younger.

One high school reunion, maybe the 40th, there was an Elvis impersonator hired to sing the oldies from our 50’s years (we graduated in 1958). I came in late to the hotel dance room, and there were my classmates, now rotund, gray, wrinkled, dancing like kids. They were teenagers again. Some guests of the hotel were watching from the back and laughing at these old people dancing out of character. They were appalled at the sight and shocked at the spectacle. Grey hairs acting like children…instead of the sedate walking dead acting their age. I should have told them about Casals. I should have told them to never act your age, if you don’t want to. But I didn’t. I knew better. And I loved seeing the class’s best dancers still being the best dancers…

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Astonishing America’s Cup Comeback

the Oracle catamaran that came back from behind

the Oracle catamaran that came back from behind

At least 30 years ago I hitchhiked a ride on the Coast Guard’s press boat to watch an America’s Cup race at Newport. Just showed my business card that stated I was a publisher. I didn’t really follow the races much until this year, when I became obsessed with the American team’s unbelievable comeback.

The USA/Oracle boat was down 1-8. The team had actually won three races, but it was penalized two wins for something illegal done by a crew member that the skipper and owners supposedly didn’t know about. Lose that team member…New Zealand needed just one more victory to reach the magic number of nine wins, and it could take the cup home.

By making adjustments to its boat, changing the on-board tactician and never giving up, America won the next three races. At 4-8 I bumped into the contest and was hooked. I followed it like a fanatic.

In the old days, you couldn’t see much from the shore and the TV broadcasts were either nonexistent or dismal events. People used to say watching a race was like watching grass grow. But these days there are on-board cameras and microphones, astonishing computer graphics, helicopter views. It’s thrilling.

Little by little, race by race, the Oracle team kept winning, and eventually it was a tie game. Guess who won?

You can see the first 18 races at this link. The 19th and final race is right here. Even if you are not a fan of these huge and unbelievably fast boats (50 mph), you should glimpse at what the coverage looks like these days.

riding the foils

riding the foils

And the boats are unlike anything from the old days. See the video above. They are catamarans that rise up out of the water and ride on ski-like runners called hydrofoils (foils) . Crewed by 11, the AC72 catamaran is a lightweight speedster that measures in at 72 feet long by 46 feet wide and weighs 13,000 pounds. The AC72 is powered by a wing sail that stands 131 feet tall and covers 2,798 square feet in area.

The dimensions add up to an athletic yacht that’s long and light, wide and stable, and possesses incredible speed potential. When the windspeed hits 18 knots, the AC72 sails at 35 knots (40 mph).

When the boatspeed reaches 43 knots (50 mph), a speed easily achieved off the wind, the catamaran is capable of sailing its 72-foot length in a single second. By comparison, the sloops used in the 2007 America’s Cup had a top average speed of 12 knots, meaning they sailed their 80-foot length in four seconds.

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I Never Give Up

One of the lessons I learned early in life is that you can’t give up. You have to keep plugging, trying, working to achieve your goal. It sounds obvious, but I am amazed how often others settle for second place or failure. Now second place doesn’t sound so bad…unless there are just two of you competing on opposite sides of the tennis court. So often I have to pep up my partner in doubles who is resigned to losing…even though that partner is a much better and more consistent player than I am. Surprising!

We were losing something like 2-5 and down 5-40. But I told my partner that “I never give up.” I am sure he smiled skeptically…but we came back and won the set. Fortunately for me, lots of other players were watching our comeback. Gave me some cred with these much better players. I was just a sub at the time, scraped off the bottom of the barrel at the last minute of desperation. Since then, I have been invited to sub more often.

I was proud to show my children how I wrote an op ed piece about partisanship and fights between Repubs and Demos. Then it was rejected by the NYTimes and some other major papers. I found a list of the 100 biggest papers in the country and started offering it to the largest circulation ones first. I was pretty worn out by all the rejection, but the 45th one I sent it to–the Seattle Times–published it enthusiastically. A good example and role model for a child.

I used to tell salespeople who worked for me that if you contact 100 prospects, you might find 10 who are interested…and then one–only one–might bite. But you have to keep calling. You can’t stop after 13 and say no one wants what you are offering. I built a successful publishing company with that attitude.

So all those years of successes after persistent action gave me more encouragement and confirmation that you should keep going, put in more effort, never stop striving towards your goal.

What happens if you do that and fail early on, never succeed, don’t see the sense of continuing to make the effort? I guess your life experience would convince you that you should stop trying. I mean what’s the sense of keeping going? Only rats keep going down the same dead end of the maze.

Is it just luck? How did I acquire that attitude of persisting? Was I born with it? My father was an extreme optimist. My mother thought he saw the world with rose-colored glasses. She wasn’t as hopeful about things as he was. I thought he was often naive. I thought she was often more realistic. But both world views seemed to have rubbed off on me. Helped me turn out pretty well.

I am a believer…I never give up…

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Mongolian Culture

Some other visitors have made their own videos and slide shows of Mongolia from a more common tourist tour point of view. I included these in case you are interested in getting a more balanced overview of the Mongolian culture and landscape. The music will also give you a flavor of what is traditional.

above is a really good slide show. More than half the people are nomads moving their animals around and rounding them up often on motorcycles.

this one at 2:14—2:30 shows you how a ger is built, and clarifies why it is so portable.

This orchestra is interspersed with slides. What interested me is that on TV I saw Russian and Mongolian feature films with plots and then intercuts of formal singers and orchestra dressed up in military uniforms in a war movie. So the background musicians were not only filmed, but closeups of the soloists singing like those in this video.

The stainless steel statue of Genghis Khan on a horse (at 4:43) is 130 feet high, and one can enter it like the Statue of Liberty. It was only just built by a private entrepreneur in 2008, and has a museum at the bottom, archery range, and the raptors I photographed in my earlier post.

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Playing Sports Until You’re Too Old

Gardnar Mulloy at 95—2008

Maybe he looked like this when he taught me to play tennis in 1953

Tuning into the Tennis Channel, I saw an old man being interviewed. Turned out he is 98, was a doubles champion, and he taught me to play tennis at a clinic when I was 11 and 12 years old. I actually won the clinic’s first place and runner-up those two years. Wish I had stayed with the sport, but dropped it for…who knows why?

Gardnar Mulloy (born November 22, 1913) is primarily known for playing in doubles matches with partner Billy Talbert. The pair won the U.S. men’s doubles title in 1942, 1945, 1946, and 1948. He also won the Wimbledon doubles with Budge Patty in 1957 at age 44. Mulloy was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1972. He won over 127 national championships and 25 international titles in over 75 years of playing and achieved #1 U.S. singles ranking in 1942

What was most poignant was hearing him say, “I’d like to play, but all I can do is sit against the wall and fall down.” It reminds me of when my father was in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s and yelled out one day, “Throw the damn thing out. All it does is sit around all day and do nothing.” Of course he was referring to himself.

My father and I saw Gardnar again around 1994, when we visited Miami’s Fisher Island, where Mulloy was running the tennis club. Astonished to bump into him after 50+ years, I told him about our earlier connection. I also spoke to Pete Sampras, who was practicing serves just prior to the Sony Ericsson tournament only a few miles away.

Growing so old—or becoming so infirm—that you can’t play tennis is a sorry state. I am not looking forward to it, and am playing as much as I can, while I can. The other day was a sad moment. I had just been invited to join a threesome that had lost a long-time fourth who had moved away. It was a strong group that I had subbed in last year. After a game and a half during the first time we all played, one of the players took a break, said he had twisted his leg a bit. But he then decided that he couldn’t continue and apologized for disappointing us. No big deal. We played round-robin singles.

But later in the week, I heard that the fellow who had dropped out was through with tennis forever. He was hanging up his racket. Not worth risking a major injury that could cripple him. Wow. There is a real finality about that decision. A bit scary for me to know that the odds of playing tennis into my 80’s and 90’s are low. Yet I’d like to keep on going. Friends describe with envy and admiration their buddies who died on the court.

Whatever happens to me, I will keep on pushing and staying in shape. I may not have a fabulous six-pack, but I sure feel good hitting those unexpected winners and volleys…

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Sacrifices For Shoveling

just 2 1/2 days back from Florida heat—10/30/11

lift, toss, don't overdo it

The other day I came back from Florida and watched 18-20 inches of snow crash down in a few hours. A freak storm. The historical record here for October is just 1.7 inches! We lost power for five days. Some people lost it for over a week. Even though I have a generator for part of each day, it’s still a more primitive existence.

Afraid that one of our flat roofs might buckle from the weight, I started shoveling off the heavy, wet snow.

Perhaps every time there is a big snow storm, some one over exerts and has a heart attack. Sometimes they die. Too out of shape, too fat, too macho to take it easy or pay a younger, fitter man to do the job. I thought of how with all this snow, I might be that idiot who drops dead. But I also thought that it was unlikely. I am fit, thin, do cardio on the tennis court. The odds were with me. Though I tired, I kept tossing the increasingly heavy shovels full of snow.

As I made progress clearing the roof, working my way through the tedium, relishing my abilities to heave the weight, I thought of all that I had given up over the years to be able to accomplish this task:

I have not enjoyed thousands of memorable and tasty meals with butter and cream sauce.
I have missed out on a million fabulous desserts with whipped cream, syrups, and icings.
I have passed on years of delicious alcohol drinks, like the sambuca and coffee beans that I was given at the hotel in Florida, and I was sipping every night.
I have pushed myself to exercise, when I didn’t want to.

You pay a price for everything, life is always a compromise, and I guess I made the right decision for me, no matter how much liquor and liqueurs I have not savored over the years…Is it really worth it? To have lived such a deprived life? Not totally, of course. I weaken now and then. There is no Big Brother ready to jail me or chain me when have an occasional pie a la mode. But I am constantly denying myself gustatory pleasures. Almost every day, I say no to some taste treat or spend time on a couch, rather than do push ups. And what’s the benefit? To be able to shovel snow? To not die from that effort?

We all make our choices, pick our paths. Some go to the gym and make muscles. I look in the mirror and wish I had the discipline to do that. Could I if I had to? Of course. But I don’t want to badly enough. I guess I was born to shovel snow sometimes. And think about anything but the boring chore of throwing frozen water drops off the roof…yet somehow, I am proud of this silly achievement.

Two great comments from Michael:

2011/11/14 at 10:41 AM

If you had been the village idiot, the rescue people would have had to go up on your slippery roof to get you down…further reducing your chances of getting to a careplex or decent cardiac unit on snowy, icy roads out in the middle of hooterville where you choose to reside. Perhaps after getting their shoes covered in snow, they would have slipped going down the three flights of stairs with you on a backboard or gurney, and dropped you over the railing…OMG, now look at the paperwork we will have to fill out. Or, in the words of my nephew, tripped over that little white ball of fur (sic…useless white dog) that was barking and biting at their heels encouraging them to hurry up and get the alpha dog out of the house so it could be in charge again.

I think we know (and I have proven) that being fit is no guarantee you will conquer the white stuff building up on your roof. While I have made a few less culinary sacrifices than you, I have for years made more fitness sacrifices. Hours lifting and toning in the gym, triathlons, kayaking, hundreds of abs each week, hiking, walking, spinning, aerobics, etc.

So I don’t worry about a little butter in my food…I never have eaten cream sauce [mom gave us margarine and corn oil, worse than butter by far…who knew].

I don’t eat many desserts, just the occasional piece of pie (once a quarter maybe), and perhaps some ice cream every couple of weeks. {Don’t you dare bring up the first cheesecake I made in almost 30 years, yes I know I ate most of it, how was I to know that no one else in the family liked cheesecake, I couldn’t let it go to waste. It took me two weeks to get through it after all.}

My cardiologist says one or two alcoholic drinks helps clean out my arteries but I choose vodka not a sweet syrupy concoction like sambuca (yes I know my liver is paying a price, but we are discussing heart attacks here. What do you mean how often do I have those one or two drinks?…next question!)

I have not been a big beef or pork eater since the mid 80s when our military served my chow, at least I hope it was beef and pork…(now maybe once a month for each), limiting myself to reasonable portions of chicken, fish or other seafood (shrimp, oysters and scallops on occasion…can’t remember the last lobster…sigh!!)

Lastly, most importantly I believe little or no fried foods, no trans fats at home, fresh vegetables and salads at every meal (no, not breakfast, I don’t eat breakfast except on the weekends, so put your egg yoke back in your repertoire and save it for someone else please). I have never had a rise in cholesterol after eating eggs for breakfast the weekend before. Did I mention I can’t remember my last lobster, I think it was responsible for about a 30 point gain one year…sigh!

So in spite of this reasonably healthy lifestyle (exceedingly healthy compared to most of the world, and certainly most Americans) I wind up with an aortic valve replacement and a double bypass at 55. Would I give up shrimp scampi if someone guaranteed me that I would not have needed to have my chest cut open…certainly. But there are no guarantees like that.

Do what you can, find your balance, check your levels annually and make some choices. If you wind up in ICU with a breathing tube and a whole lot of pain killers in you, you will still not know if it was bad choices or bad genes, all you can do is mitigate the chances of getting there.

Great pictures of you shoveling, a much higher chance that you would end up with a pulled back from twisting than a heart attack anyway. Still would have required a paramedic to get you off the roof on a backboard…I’ll stick with my two egg yokes and hire a 20 something to shovel my roof..like the man said it’s all about the choices.

Michael

2011/11/14 at 10:43 AM

Oh and by the way, the cheesecake was post surgery while I was recovering at home. If I survived open heart surgery, I ought to be able to make it through a piece of cheesecake!

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Lob Return In Tennis Doubles By Joe Marshall

Here is more insightful tennis doubles strategy from Joe Marshall, who plays a very unconventional game that results in numerous victories. He tells you where to stand and how to maximize the effectiveness of your lobs. This is Joe’s fourth article, and you can find the earlier ones by typing his name into the search box up above on the right.

Once you become proficient at the basic tennis shots (ground strokes, lobs, volleys, and overheads….also serves and returns of serve), you can focus on strategy…..here is where most matches are won or lost…especially in doubles.

There are three basic positions for a doubles team to choose from: The first is one partner at the net, and one at the baseline.

weakest defensive position that most club players choose: one up and one back

The second is both partners at the baseline.

second best position: both back near the baseline

The third is both partners at the net.

The strongest position is the last. The weakest is the first. Yet most teams play the weakest most often and the strongest the least!

The idea is to get a decent approach shot that challenges your opponents to beat you from the baseline when you have two players at the net waiting to put away a volley or an overhead.

most aggressive and best position: both players at the net

The lob return of serve, used as an approach shot (that means that each partner of the lobbing team tries to get into an aggressive position near the net) accomplishes a shift of advantage from the serving team to the returning team. If you can get the lob deep enough that the net man can’t hit an overhead on it, and you follow it in to the net, you team is in an offensive position, and your opponents are in a very difficult defensive position, which is compounded by the fact that 99% of teams don’t move properly to defend the next shot.

To hit a lob return, start by playing in the two-at-the-baseline formation. In this way, you still have a decent chance to return an overhead if your lob is not so great, yet you have plenty of time to both approach the net if your lob is good. When lobbing from the deuce court, position your self out wide, with one, or even two, feet into the doubles alley. This will encourage your opponent to serve toward you backhand side, which is what you want. As soon as the server begins his toss, slant in quickly toward the net, a couple of steps or more in front of the baseline, running around your backhand, anticipating a serve that you can chip up high on your forehand. Move into the ball with quick feet, eyes at ball level, like you would on a volley, but follow through up high, pushing the ball at a 50 or 55 degree angle ten feet or more above the net man’s head. This is an aggressive shot with weight behind it. Think of the ball peaking halfway between the opponent’s baseline and his service line, or even deeper. You will be amazed at how the ball stays in the court. Follow the shot in to a position just inside your service line. Try to read if your opponent is going lob or pass. If you read “Pass,” move in further, If you read “Lob,” be prepared to back up or move in quickly for a smash.

Don’t do more with the next shot than you feel comfortable with. If the opponent hits you a decent ground stroke that dips below the net, don’t fell obligated to try to angle it away…..Just block it back deep and controlled (not necessarily hard). This keeps the advantage on your side, the opponent must still come up with something good. Keep blocking the ball back until you get a ball that you can hit aggressively: A poor lob leading to a chance for you to hit an aggressive overhead, or a high ground stroke that you can move into and angle away.

As I said before, 99% of teams don’t defend this strategy well. When you hit a lob over their head, the net man moves to the other side of the court to allow the deep man to return the lob….but the net man SHOULD move across and BACK TO THE BASELINE. This would allow his team a chance should his partner hit a less than perfect lob and your team tries to put away an overhead……in other words, they should go into defensive position (two back) against the opponent’s (that’s you) two-forward offensive position.

Once you employ a successful lob return or two, you will notice that most opponents’ net player will back off the net a step or two (as he should). This will open up more room for your ground stroke returns, and make it more difficult for him to poach. Once they back up, you can even try a ground stroke return right at the net man, since he is going to have a more difficult time angling a way a volley from his deeper position. Any spin you can put on the lob return is also helpful in both controlling the shot, and making the opponent’s next shot more difficult.

If you sense that an opponent wants to lob YOU at the net, play in close, then suddenly back up quickly as your partner serves. Looking for the overhead….you just might spook him into a mistake or you might put away an overhead.

And remember: two back on defense, two up on offense…that’s winning doubles!

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Life And Death Coincidences

Did I cause this?


I need to talk about some serious events that most people will call random coincidences. But I am feeling a bit like a poltergeist lately who may be causing these events. Do you think it is possible? I mention these incidents, because much of what I do and write about concerns taking control of my health, diet, exercise…largely with the purpose of living a long and active life to the fullest. Of course I love the sports—they are thrilling when I play them. But the exercise and diet are often done because they are “good for me.” Friends who see me avoiding delicious foods to minimize my cholesterol intake either admire my discipline or scorn it. Many think the deprivations aren’t worth the extra years of life I am aiming for. Nor do they believe all that effort justifies or guarantees my goal of not only living longer, but being fit, mobile, even athletic during my remaining years.

Sure much of my good health may simply be good genes. Lucky break for me. Very lucky. Totally out of one’s control. But whatever I was born with, I want to enhance its good potential by living healthfully and avoiding much in our environment that is terrible for humans. We can skip those obesity-causing, artery-blocking, trans-fat foods, along with cigarettes, and tanning salons. We can also move away or protect ourselves from harmful pollutants around us that are beyond our control: leave the city for the country; live far from a factory; use sun block; don’t breathe gasoline fumes when refueling, etc.

In these ways, I have a tangible influence on some physical events around me. But how much beyond that? Some of us let life events cause us stress that affects our health negatively. Some of us have optimistic visions or goals for the future that we turn into realities.

But what about seemingly random events? Psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote about coincidences as not entirely accidents. He suggested that when they happened, and one noticed them, it was possible to take some responsibility for them. He called this “synchronicity,” which has been described as the experience of two or more events, that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, that are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner.

I have paid attention to such synchronistic events for over 35 years. I am always wondering if I am merely linking unrelated accidents or not. Sometimes I pretend that I am totally the causal agent.

Here is what happened recently. Read the rest of this entry »

Capoeira Days

Watching the free running tapes two days ago reminded me of capoeira, a Brazilian martial art that I practiced for three years almost three decades ago sometimes three evenings a week. I was probably the oldest guy in the class—someone asked me if I was 24, when I was actually 42—and also one of the few white students. Some of the guys were street venders or construction workers. It was a strange contrast to leave a photo exhibition on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street with the Wall Street suits buying up art and walk three blocks to a run down dance studio that smelled of sweat and lacked ventilation.

If I didn’t know these gentle athletes who laughed and sang with me, I might have feared them in the street as strangers. It bothered me a lot to realize how easy it is to be prejudiced and so wrong about people you don’t know. I do recall one conversation in the dressing room, when a young man I really liked with a big smile was telling his friend that someone had started a fight with him, so he gave him a special capoeira kick that knocked him out and worried the kicker that he had killed him…

I loved the music everyone played and the songs we sang in Brazilian Portuguese as we formed a circle (roda) around the two “fighters” in the center. In the video above, you see the bow shaped birimbau and the tambourine (called a pandeiro), which I enjoyed slapping. I also played the triangle and the agogo, which sounds like a cow bell. Everyone clapped to cheer the capoeiristas on to more energy and more dangerous moves.

Capoeira originated with African slaves in Brazil in the 16th century who were not allowed to have weapons. So they developed this dance and music to fool their masters, while they practiced one of the deadliest fighting styles in the world. By inserting razors in their toes, they could easily kill their enemies. And even without any weapons, they could dominate most fights. The sport is still one of the most powerful of all martial arts.

The stylized sweeps and kicks in the videos are all meant to miss your opponent and simply practice the deadly moves. This “dance” has become an art form on its own these days, and just this week Jelom’s Viera’s dance company, DanceBrazil, is performing at the Joyce Theater in New York City.

DanceBrazil from Tiba on Vimeo.

I went on a trip with some classmates to Salvador and Rio in Brazil that was organized by Jelom when he was my mestre (master). It was a fabulous adventure to work out in the day in the dank heat…then at night watch my new friends in colorful costumes as they performed in swank clubs for tourists. The spontaneous shows I watched earlier in practice halls as three birimbaus were played from the heart or the top athletes tried to outdo one another with sparkling and unexpected moves made the choreographed club performances seem soulless in comparison. But the paying, drinking customers in the clubs never knew what they were missing. For that brief period, I was an insider and have reveled in that experience with fondness and gratitude.

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The Difficulty Of Thinking About Your Future

I spent yesterday visiting with two great kids around 20. The girl was beautiful and bronze. She admitted that she tans easily and didn’t use sun screen yet this summer. He admitted that when you are 20, you never think about what life will be like when you are 40. We were talking about staying fit and healthy, and I had mentioned how many women I saw who may have gained just two pounds a year after college, so they were 40 pounds heavier at age 40, or weighed an extra 60+ pounds by the time they were 60 or 70.

The concerned parent in me told the girl how I worked as a cabana boy in Florida during high school and even used baby oil to intensify my tan. My blond hairs against a bronze skin were often admired by the tourist girls I was trying to impress.

At my annual physical, when I was in my 50’s, my new doctor in Connecticut was also very impressed: “Lots of sun damage here.” He explained that it can take decades for the harm from excessive sun tanning to show itself.

My doc insisted that I see a dermatologist every six months. It may have kept me alive, because in addition to various, benign skin cancers that appeared and needed to be removed, there was one very deadly cancer, melanoma, that surfaced. It was removed early enough that five years have passed without a flare up or serious consequence. Lucky me. But a friend’s friend died of melanoma after years sailing joyfully, and unprotected, in the sun.

So it’s hard to be young and worry about consequences later, when you are old. That was me too in college. I was just trying to pass some courses, get a date, have fun, earn some respect. Normal and very understandable. Maybe many people don’t ever see how earlier actions are connected to later results. I read that the human brain can’t think very far into the future until it is around 25 years old. That is why insurance rates for drivers are so high until age 25. At that time those drivers still alive have a bit more “common sense.” It’s not true when it comes to eating. Not when one third of the people are obese and another third are overweight.

And it may not be true when it comes to our leaders anticipating international relations, economics, climate change. So we just have to muddle along, trying not to be fearful of all the foods we encounter. Being aware enough to not fall into the hole of denial. Controlling what we can of the choices we have. Taking the time to become informed.

Most of us don’t have the energy to do this in addition to all the demands of a busy overstimulated, overwhelming life. We are simply trying to survive, to make it to the next day, the next paycheck, the next vacation or family dinner.

Sometimes we can’t change our behavior, even when we know what the consequences are likely to be. My father used to say, “If the crime is worth the punishment, then commit the crime.” I read an essay about cancer this week by Christopher Hitchens, a famous intellectual who wrote books, high-brow essays and appeared on talk shows. I saw a video today in which he states, “I am dying. Read the rest of this entry »

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Re-Channeling Anger To Become A Tennis Terror

I wrote earlier ( http://www.irasabs.com/?p=2240) about how I lack the killer, cuthroat instinct. How it shows on the court. I am definitely competitive and want to win and try what I think is my best. But if I lose, big deal. It’s only a game. And I am constantly saying just that to new doubles partners: “Relax. We’re here to have fun. You never have to apologize for a bad shot and say, I’m sorry.”

Observers of my tennis game have commented on my nonchalance about winning. They say my niceness shows up, that I don’t run desperately for each ball, that my net volleys are firm, but not so forceful as to knock someone unconscious if I hit them in the head. I should be tougher.

All that changed yesterday, December 7th, when I was playing and became pissed. Now I must interject that I have had some personal setbacks, disappointments, anxieties about a relative dying, friends with their own problems. And the doubles game was going slowly. I grew impatient for a speedier match, and all my suppressed negativity broke through. I was outraged, annoyed, ticked off—at the world and the difficulties of living a life. At the raw deals people are stuck with, and their daily burdens. It all busted loose. I may have wanted to scream and shout.

So I took it out on the tennis balls. I served rapidly, faster and harder than ever before. I hit powerfully for me, deep and accurately. The other team was commenting on how impossible returns were. And what was going on stroke after stroke?

I was experiencing new and rare emotions that I couldn’t recognize. I felt enraged and ornery and furious and threatening. God damn evil and dictatorial. Some caused I’m sure because a relative of someone I know had been murdered a few days before. If I’d had a hammer, I might have hit someone in the head. There was a lot of pent up energy.

So I channeled it into my game.

When it was over and a few hours had passed, I thought about who I had become. Read the rest of this entry »

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How To Catch And Cook A Pheasant

Went hunting for pheasant twice last week. With a double-barreled, side-by-side, 1929 American-made (an L.C. Smith), 20-gauge shotgun that has art deco, large-leaf engravings. Five and a half hours walking in swamps, mud, cornfields, hayfields, woods, brooks and briars. Joyfully watching two friends’ dogs sniff and search for birds. There are now two pheasants and a quail in the freezer that I prepared for Thanksgiving dinner.

Ira, Blitz the German Shorthaired Pointer, and shotgun get the birds—11/10/09

Ira, Blitz the German Shorthaired Pointer, and shotgun get the birds—11/10/09


Pheasants and quail caught for Thanksgiving dinner—11/10/09

Pheasants and quail caught for Thanksgiving dinner—11/10/09

Non-hunters can never know the glorious hearts of canine breeds that find those still and silent birds. These pets track bird scent with the grace of ballerinas and have almost inexhaustible energy. When close, some dogs freeze, point and wait for the bird to bolt…or the hunter to prod the prey into the air, where it rockets suddenly at 40 to 60 miles per hour. Hopefully a retrieval follows.

Other dogs, like my English Springer Spaniel, Bella, are flushers. They track and do the bump as well. You just have to keep them relatively near by, because the shotgun only has an effective range of 35 or 40 yards. The pointers can wander all over, maybe a football field away. Some will stay motionless with nose aiming at the pheasant for 20 minutes. Then the hunter has plenty of time to close in for the shot. But a flusher out of range is a real frustration. You just watch the birds fly away, and curse, and yell at your dog.

As I mentioned in my bird stocking post (http://www.irasabs.com/?p=2430), the pheasants have a much better chance than chickens raised for supermarkets. In fact on the second day, during four hours of hunting, my friend and I fired at five pheasants and a woodcock, but only took one pheasant home.

My English Springer Bella after a swim—6/11/08

My English Springer Bella after a swim—6/11/08

Bella was lame for many months, so she hasn’t hunted for two years. She now seems healed. Hopefully we can search the fields together soon. She loves to romp and jump. She gets so excited when I take out the neck bell that helps me locate her as she scours the bushes and grasses. It is grown-up Hide and Seek.

For the birds the stakes are high. It is not a game. Yet they would probably not be alive in the first place if there weren’t hunting clubs eager to purchase them. Over 10 million pheasants are raised each year. It is an annual ritual anticipated by two million American hunters. These sportsmen welcome the challenge, the camaraderie, the preparation of the birds and the various recipes. My favorite way to cook pheasants is double-basted in raw eggs and flour, sauteed and topped with strawberry liqueur.

art deco shotgun engraving

art deco shotgun engraving

I only learned to hunt as an adult after I moved from Manhattan to Connecticut in 1990. Read the rest of this entry »

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Notice Your “Perfect” Moments Before They Pass

I used to know Duane Michals and meet him for lunch on occasion. He is a world-famous, fine art photographer who also did commercial assignments. He is renowned for hiring models and creating sequences of images that tell stories.

I think we met in the late ’70’s, when I ran the Nikon Photo Gallery, and we were both speakers at some photo event. We would talk about metaphysics, religion, the meaning of life, the Big Bang, whether dreams or waking time was the real reality. I also owned a company acquired in bankruptcy that had published and distributed some of his books.

We had a stimulating, intellectual friendship. I remember he said that only a few extremely rare people made a huge difference over history—leaders like Jesus, Mohammed, Einstein. The rest of us were more analogous to tiny sperms who didn’t reach the egg: we were no longer needed and ended up flushed down the toilet. It was all relative, of course. He wasn’t saying that we ordinary humans should be eliminated or didn’t have some value. It’s just that our contributions paled in comparison to the handful of great changemakers.

In one of Duane’s books called Homage to Cavafy, there is a powerful image of his that has impressed me for decades. I have been thinking about it a lot since my injury this past July.

moment of perfection by Duane Michals

moment of perfection by Duane Michals

The caption Duane wrote under this picture reads, “He was unaware that at the exact moment he removed his undershirt, his body had grown to its perfection. With his next breath, the moment had passed.”

I have always presumed that after that instant of perfection, the body in the picture starts to decay. Just as a flower that has bloomed to its fullest begins to dry, whither and turn brown. The decaying of a human body might last 50 or 80 years until the conscious life is over and we are “dead.” It is a gradual process that we can imagine speeded up by watching flowers or insect lives documented with time-lapse photography. Then come the worms and bacteria to transform the organic residue into dust.

Humans do have second chances. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why Does Winning Matter So Much?

I grew up with a father who played golf for “the fun of it.” He loved being outside, walking the course, enjoying the sunshine. His score wasn’t that important. Sure he wanted to do his best, maybe beat his personal records. But he loved the social and physical experience above all. Much more than besting his fellow players.

These days I bump into tennis opponents who “play for blood.” They are dominated by the need to win at all costs. They become enraged if they miss a shot. They yell at their doubles partner if he hits a ball into the net. And they will hit to the weakest player on the other team over and over and over, rather than mix up their placements to their opponent’s side of the court.

What is that all about, I keep wondering? Sure I do my best to win, run hard after each ball, focus on serves, well-placed shots, return unexpected gets. I strive throughout to hit where they ain’t. But if I lose a point, I frown—sometimes I curse—and get ready for the next shot. If my partner blows an easy one, I recall that I’ve missed a slew too. If we lose in a long rally, I shrug, smile and praise the victors. I am glad for all the excitement, good exercise and harmless tension.

For me it is all just a game. I can’t seem to get too upset on the court, when other less fortunate people are losing their jobs, watching storms destroy their houses or being maimed by suicide bombers. But for some locals I know, these sports entertainments are not just a game. It appears they are contests to assert dominance, build ego, establish superiority, enhance personal stature and to prove that they are better than I am. At least I think that might be the real aim of their victory.

I know that I am competitive when I run after the ball that no one else might have retrieved, practice in between matches for hours with a ball machine, against a wall or hitting serves. I took two-hour lessons almost every week for a year to improve my performance in the beginning. I believe I am clearly serious about becoming a stronger player. And though I have only been playing less than 2 1/2 years, and some of my competitors (aged 45 to 93) have been playing regularly since they were kids, I can often hold my own and earn their respect. At least they will play me weekly or call me to be a substitute. So I am good enough to give them a challenging game. Or beat them.

But I just don’t have that killer instinct they do. I am never out to draw blood. Read the rest of this entry »

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I’m Back After 40 Days and 40 Nights

That is how long since I went to the gym. What an intermission. Lots of excuses, soreness, travel, family responsibilities, and my own ordinary human nature. As I confessed in the posts about my background (see “my background” posts on April 4th), I have a history of not being disciplined about exercise, never went to a gym before two years ago and rarely played sports regularly.

I did injure myself (I think it happened when I was setting personal best records doing pull ups), went to a nurse, took anti-inflammatory pills, met with an orthopedist, and now a physical therapist. I’m told it could be a lot worse than it is, and I am almost sure to heal with a few weeks of special exercises for my right forearm, elbow and shoulder. (I did tear my right shoulder in three places back in 2006).

There is really no physical excuse for not doing abs work like crunches. There has been nothing wrong with my abdominal area. Nevertheless, I did crunches just six times. Three of those efforts were during the first two weeks of August (max of 750), and the latest was today, when I ground out only 350, mostly the more difficult bicycle type.

During this 40-day period in the workout desert, I could have lifted weights with my left arm. But I basically stopped. It was all mental. Too pressured and too lazy. And then too guilty. Could barely even write on this site. As much as I quote that “two steps forward, one step back” mantra, it’s painful to accept it. I hate it. Thinking about the Nadals, Picabo Streets, and a thousand other top athletes who get injured and push through their setbacks to return to their game and shine should be an inspiration. Well I am trying to be inspired.

Here’s the breakdown of my limited home crunch exercising: Read the rest of this entry »

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What Hunters Like About Hunting

Was determined to reach the gym—need two more visits this month to make eight total. But also wanted to practice archery in preparation for the turkey-hunting season, which starts on May 6th. So at 6:30 pm, I went out to the life-size, three-dimensional rubber turkey target and fired off a few arrows for the first time since last fall.

The first two hit the bird; then I started missing. In the second group of eight arrows, only three hit the target. But by the end, 8/8 were in the turkey. This is really good for me. So I stopped and raced off to the gym, which stays open until 10 pm.

I learned how to hunt in Connecticut (many many men do it here) with a shotgun in the early 90’s. My neighbor used to own a hunting and fishing shop, and he introduced me to this aspect of rural life. I discovered that I loved the outdoors, the silence, the aloneness, the commune with nature, bumping into deer and coyotes and bobcats and many birds singing their different songs. I learned that I loved the taste of wild turkey, which is nothing like a domestically raised bird. I loved the challenge of finding the turkey, calling it in close with a noisemaker that simulates a real bird, hitting it, plucking it, gutting and dressing it and learning the different ways to cook it.

It’s all part of a hunting/gathering tradition that humans have known for thousands of years, and almost all city-folks are totally unaware of. I felt like I was connecting with my roots, my past, unknown ancestors and the present natural world at the same time. I must confess that I was such a city guy, so naive and uninformed about the outdoors, that I did not realize until I was 46 that birds had different sounding songs that could be used to identify them. Can you believe that? I am still astonished that I was so out of touch with Mother Nature. Read the rest of this entry »

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Managing Your Food…If You Can

I have learned that as undisciplined as I am when it comes to exercising, I am very disciplined compared to others when it comes to eating. My father always said that “You are what you eat.” My wife calls me the “food police.” Since high school when I weighed 170, I have reached 185 pounds and dropped to 163 or so. But that drop was during a brief period when I jogged for a couple of months on a dare to run in a seven-mile road race.

It took me years to realize that when my clothes became tight, it was NOT because they were shrinking in the wash—I was gaining fat. So I would then give up the desserts I love and bread and muffins and lose the weight. I was that disciplined. Once the pounds were gone, I was back to ice cream every night, and sometimes three desserts a day between Thanksgiving and New Years. Predictably I regained 10 pounds each December…that I would then lose over the next few months.

About two years ago, my cholesterol rocketed up to 239, which is almost heart attack range I read—so I instantly changed my diet and my life. I began exercising daily on a rowing machine that had been gathering dust, gave up ice cream, chicken skin, sea urchin and many other high cholesterol foods. Within three months I was down to a cholesterol number of 178. Amazed everyone. I stopped the rowing. Now the number is 204. Not bad. Much safer.

But I asked my doctor at this year’s physical why people who say they want to lose weight continue to eat foods that are clearly fattening. “I can’t lose weight,” they whine, and then they drink almost a whole bottle of wine, snort that blue cheese down or have just a “tiny” spoonful or two of cake or ice cream at most meals. “Not everyone is as disciplined as you,” doc pointed out. “They don’t want to give up those good tasting foods that you can avoid.” Even though some of them go to the gym more than I do, spend an hour on a machine to lose 300 calories and then have one drink or dessert that in five minutes puts all those calories right back on them. Not logical…but people aren’t logical. Read the rest of this entry »

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