73-Year-Old John Maultsby Completes 50 Marathons In All 50 States

What I like most about this man’s accomplishment is not that he ran all those races. Not even that he didn’t start distance running until his late 50s and finished his first marathon at 60. No, what stands out for me is that he created this goal for himself that has so much meaning to him that it keeps him going and in shape and in training. Just recently someone said how fortunate it is to be excited about “anything.” My friend Joe always says that not too many people are passionate. Well this runner certainly is, and it’s motivating him to reach his goals.

Now that he is completed a marathon in every state, he wants to run one in every continent. Isn’t Antarctica a continent? How you going to run 26 miles there, Man?

John Maultsby completes his 50th marathon in 50 different states

John Maultsby completes his 50th marathon in 50 different states

Finishing just one marathon in your lifetime is something to be pretty proud of, but for 73-year-old John Maultsby, it just wasn’t enough.

Last November, Maultsby championed a feat few can lay claim to. He finished running a string of 50 marathons–one in every state.

Maultsby was cheered on by a crowd that included his wife, mother, and three daughters as he crossed the finish line at a New Hampshire race.

Maultsby’s daughter, Mabel, said that John had always been a runner, but took up distance running in his late 50s to help lower his blood pressure. He also adopted a vegan diet and soon started running long distances.

His first marathon was at age 60. It was during his first race, when he saw a man wearing a shirt that said “50 States Finisher,” that John thought he too could accomplish the feat.

It’s taken 13 years, but John finally completed his nationwide goal and now plans on running marathons on every continent. He’s run seven marathons this year alone and has run the Boston Marathon nine times.

“He’s so motivated,” Mabel said. “I’m so inspired by his motivation … by his balls-to-the-wall attitude…he still looks like the man he was in his late 50s!”

John believes he “looks older than he feels,” Mabel says, adding that he’s still very much “young at heart.”

As for the secret to staying in shape in his 70s? “The secret to longevity is happiness and a very supportive family,” Mabel said. “He’s trying to keep positive and always keeping goals. That’s what’s kept him going all this time.”

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Alan Eustace Sky Dives From Record Breaking 25 Miles

Alan Eustace rises to record balloon height hanging in his space suit

Alan Eustace rises to record balloon height hanging in his space suit

Well records are made to be broken. I wrote about Felix Baumgartner’s highest-ever balloon ascent in 2012, when he reached 127,851 feet, which is almost 24 miles. It was an exciting and televised event that was called the Red Bull Stratos and had Felix rising inside a capsule that he opened and jumped out of.

But I learned recently that last April 14th, Google executive Alan Eustace rose higher, suspended from another balloon in his space suit as part of the Paragon StratEx (stratospheric explorer) project. Alan released himself at 135,899 feet and made it back safely after a free fall descent and then a parachute.

You can learn more at the StratEx web site and also in this NY Times article .

For a little over two hours, the balloon ascended at speeds up to 1,600 feet per minute to an altitude of more than 25 miles. Mr. Eustace dangled underneath in a specially designed spacesuit with an elaborate life-support system. He returned to earth just 15 minutes after starting his fall.

“It was amazing,” he said. “It was beautiful. You could see the darkness of space and you could see the layers of atmosphere, which I had never seen before.”

Mr. Eustace cut himself loose from the balloon with the aid of a small explosive device and plummeted toward the earth at speeds that peaked at 822 miles per hour, setting off a small sonic boom heard by people on the ground.

Below is the short video available, and a longer documentary is in production. I learned about this achievement from one of the team members who was involved, and her enthusiasm and pride were very exciting to encounter first hand.

Imagine what it must have been like for Alan to say, “Well guys, I am going to take a few days off from work to jump into the atmosphere from 25 miles up. Hope I see you on Monday!”

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Michael Pollan Advice

Micheal's writing house in CT that he built himself, wrote a book about and that I used to drive by

Micheal’s writing house in CT that he built himself, wrote a book about and that I used to drive by

Michael Pollan writes and lectures about food. I relate to him in a rare way: he used to be a neighbor down the street…about five miles away. We never met, but I still feel somewhat connected.

A friend gave me a book of his (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) that spoke well of hunters, who are part of the landscape where I live in rural Connecticut. Michael moved to California and hosted a documentary I saw recently called “In Defense of Food.” He points out that his best advice distilled from years of exploration is to “Eat food, not too much, and mostly plants.” By “food” he means wholesome and natural edibles and not processed, artificial stuff like potato chips, TV dinners and ice cream.

I have been avoiding red meat, veal and pork for decades. But I still eat chicken and fish. I love ice cream, but cut that out, when I had to worry about cholesterol. Sorbet is the substitute, but that has lots of sugar. I had broccoli soup today, but eating mostly plants seems challenging. Fortunately I am active enough to not have to worry about losing weight. I have to focus on gaining weight.

But giving up good tasting items that you can eat, even if Pollan doesn’t call it “food,” can be very very difficult. If you are trying to not only be healthier but to also lose weight, one trick Pollan suggested to fool yourself is to serve your meals on smaller plates. I wish you the best.

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Awkward Lingo And Acupuncture

Funny to read in the December 21 post that Jason is also suffering from “tennis elbow.” My injury is from too much tennis. His is from strenuous arm wrestling. But I never heard of “arm wrestling elbow.” He is lucky that he can continue training during his inflammation.

For months now I have been advised to either have surgery or take Cortisone injections. I did neither. But I also didn’t stop playing–just cut back and learned a two-handed backhand. I did have five iontophoresis treatments, in which a medicine solution is poured on a patch that has an electric current sent through it that forces the liquid by osmosis to penetrate the skin and the muscle. Each session was about 20 minutes.

The therapist also used acupuncture at the same time for three sessions. During the second time, the muscle sort of jolted or popped or released when the needles were inserted. I don’t recall having acupuncture before. My father was a big believer in acupuncture long before it was legal in this country. He had an acupuncture doll showing where the meridians are and may have been one of the only chiropractors in the US in the 1950s who used his thumbs on the pressure points.

I wasn’t totally cured, but the discomfort is much much less. Unfortunately I have held off for months now using weights and doing push ups, so my upper body muscles have really dwindled.

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Daily Exercise For 1512 Consecutive Days

Haven’t missed one day of 5-20 minutes of some kind of exercise in over four years now. And you probably remember that tennis doesn’t count. Even if I play hours in any one day. Holidays, vacations, traveling, living in a tent in Mongolia…doesn’t matter. I have kept it going. A real achievement for a previously undisciplined guy who went years unable to remember to lift a bar bell in my office or who gave up traveling 25-45 minutes to a nearby gym.

With my elbow injury, I have been limited to yoga, stretches, abs crunches, capoeira roundhouse kicks, wall sits, abs rollers and most painful of all: planks that last five minutes. I hate them, shake, yell and almost cry. But I do them maybe once a week.

Masochism…but it feels so satisfying when it’s over!

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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Adapt Or Die

One of my greatest strengths–no brag, just fact–is my ability to alter my actions as my circumstances change. I have done it in business by creating new products to serve new markets or killing products that were in dying markets. I am now in my fifth or sixth career, learning new skills in the evenings to move out of fading or limited industries. I have relocated to the country from Manhattan, when I decided the Big Apple was too congested. I stopped eating high-cholesterol foods, when I discovered my blood fat was approaching likely heart attack levels. Somehow I can adapt. Not everyone can. Not sure it’s a gift…but it’s definitely a blessing.

Since I acquired a tennis elbow from too much activity, I have felt discomfort or pain in my arm every time I hit a backhand. A one-hand backhand. I love the beauty of the one-hander. I like being part of this minority: Just one in five professional male players uses the one-hander. 80% of pro and Challenger male players use a two-hander. Only two women of the top 50 WTA pros use a one-hander. From being pretty much the only way to hit a backhand prior to 1970, the shot has gradually been eclipsed by the sturdier, more dependable double-hander.

Whatever the reasons, I discovered that when I used two hands for a backhand, there was hardly any pain in my backhand shots. Voila! This was a terrific discovery. So for the last four matches, after not playing but once in two weeks over Thanksgiving holidays, I tried two hands. I hit some real slow loopers that often went out, but sometimes stayed in. At least I could do it. Fun without pain.

Yesterday I took a lesson and was able to practice a two-hander for the first time. Fifteen minutes. And some of the shots were pretty good. In and low and a bit of pop. I was adapting again. Giving up on the beauty of a one-hander and adding a another obstacle to my game. I had to forget about my 8-9 years of tennis playing and start acquiring a new skill in addition to all the other techniques I am struggling to master…actually not master, just execute better.

What the hell.

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Danny MacAskill On Spanish Rooftops

I love Danny’s amazing cycling talent. A friend suggested I should take up this startling sport. Not yet…maybe later.

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It’s All Relative

At the end of the summer, I was proud to boast that I had played tennis 18 times in 24 days…including two days with two matches each. But it was too much, and I acquired the infamous “tennis elbow.” Damn. I was playing so well, and now I was hurting. I felt pretty sorry for myself as my right arm had pains every time I hit the ball. I was envious of guys who had no injuries. I was disappointed that the top-level game I was playing (for me) had dropped drastically. I certainly didn’t want to take weeks or months off. Sucks. Even though it is only a game, I love the challenge, the exercise, the sweating and satisfaction. But it was a major setback.

Then I went to a college reunion and learned that one of my fraternity brothers there has cancer, and it is serious, and he may not make it to the next reunion in two years. Yes, at my age too many people are dying. So both college and high school reunions are every two or three years now.

Three weeks later I went back to Florida for my high school 75th Birthday Party. And again I met a classmate who just finished six months of chemo and was told that he is not likely to live more than two years and maybe as little as six months.

So it’s all relative, right? How can I bemoan a measly tennis elbow discomfort, when others my age are dying. No comparison. I am still playing sports and looking ahead to the possibility of 10-15 years of more life. I better not complain even the tiniest whimper. Yet we all forget these realities, when we want more money, time, success, happiness. We are all so greedy and unsatisfied. Is it just the nature of human beings to strive always for more?

I like to think that I am grateful much of the time. That I know this lesson well. That I am not as grasping or insensitive as many others who don’t even notice, much less care about, those who are less fortunate. But even I was disgusted with my injury. It took two trips to reunions to put life back in perspective.

How about you? Are you looking up enviously at those with more and better all the time? Or do you have the ability to look at those who have less and harder lives and feel blessed at your good fortune or wise decisions?

I can see how hard it is sometimes for me…even to make this confession. I came back from the second trip on the 16th of November, but couldn’t bring myself to write this post until now.

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Theo Sanson’s Relaxed Sunday Slackline Stroll

The story I read about this slackline walk started off with a nice question about how you spent your weekend? Raking leaves? Drinking beer? “But even if you’re fearless, we guarantee whatever it was can’t come close to the insanity of Théo Sanson’s Sunday stroll—along 500 meters of ribbon-thin slack line between two ridiculously high points in Castle Valley, Utah. Yes, it’s a new world record, and no, you probably wouldn’t ever consider trying it yourself.”

Here is another video in which Theo talks about his spiritual attitude that allows him to walk on his line. He says your mind and body and spirit are closely connected, and all have to be in balance. Also that your soul is your connection to the infinite. You must contemplate to have a calm body if your mind is uneasy…and vice versa.

In this video you can also see more clearly that he is attached to the line, so that if he falls, he only hangs a few feet below the slack line. Not to take away any credit for his achievements…

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Skydiver Dangles Dangerously After Jumpsuit Catches On Plane

After my buddy Joe jumped from a plane at 10,000 feet, he said that the hardest part was getting in position to jump by moving from the cramped cockpit and over the struts. Here is a story about how precarious it can be:

A skydiver in Peru is lucky to be alive after he got caught on the plane while trying to jump out.

Fernando Gava’s jumpsuit got stuck to the plane’s step according to Maurice Mathey, a friend who recorded the frightening footage.

Gava dangled precariously upside down for about 30 minutes while the plane circled at an altitude of about 10,000 feet.

Finally, Gava used a knife to cut himself loose.

Once he was free of the plane, he released his parachute without incident. His only injury was a cut to his hand from the knife.

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Joe Adler Parachutes 10,000 Feet To Celebrate Birthday

is he praying before jumping?

is he praying before jumping?

Although my friend Joe Adler still works energetically seven days a week, he is really not very athletic. In fact, his physical activities only include walking up and down one flight of stairs and strolling infrequently around a lake wearing Heavy Hands. But for his 75th birthday, he decided to set a record and wrote the following:

I don’t usually acknowledge birthdays — but yesterday I decided to commemorate the day by jumping from a perfectly good plane at 10,000 feet — with the added handicap of an almost perfect stranger strapped to my back!

flying like a bird

flying like a bird

After filling out the paperwork, they advised me that anything could happen — including “injury or death” — with no legal recourse on my part.
I was then asked to view a video where the developer of the Tandem system vowed that no system, no equipment, no instructor is perfect.

Here’s are some stills from my Leap of Faith — not easy for an avowed Atheist!
And here is the video .

fearless and relaxed like a pro

fearless and relaxed like a pro

When I was in the army, I jumped five times to earn my wings. But these were combat style from just 1200 feet and attached to a clothesline. My brother made 66 jumps between military and civilian. But his highest freefall was a “mere” 6500 feet. And that is why in our little group, Joe is the recordholder and champion!

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Slowing Down Aging

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 4.53.07 PM

Here is an interesting (though lengthy) article about causes of aging, which lead to decay and death. However some mammals, like whales, can delay aging and live to 200 years. How does this happen?

I was surprised to read that “…a huge body also puts you at enormous risk of cancer, thanks to simple mathematics: the more cells you have, the more likely you are to develop a harmful mutation. (Indeed, one study found that taller people are slightly more likely to develop cancer than shorter people, for this very reason.) And the problems become even greater the longer your life span. “When you live longer, you go through more (cell) divisions, so the likelihood of cancer increases hugely,” says Leonard Nunney at the University of California, Riverside, who researches the evolution of cancer.”

Who’d have guessed? Maybe this is one reason some Asian cultures have lower rates of cancer than Western people. Of course diet could also play a major role.

Interesting to think about, even if you can’t make yourself shorter!

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Linda Widrich Cycled Across America In 1969

Linda Widrich in 1969

Linda Widrich in 1969

Yesterday’s story about women motorcyclists reminded me of Linda Widrich Weitz…a high-school classsmate from Miami Beach who graduated with me in 1958. She may not have been a “badass,” like the women bikers in yesterday’s post, but she was ahead of her time!

“I owned several bikes beginning in 1964 when I moved to NYC and rode until 1971. I didn’t like buses or subways – taxis were $$$ and one had to wait for an available one. I was in Central Park one day and a gang of bikers drove through. I went to Better Ideas In Motion in midtown and bought my first bike. And that began my love affair with bikes. I wanted to compete in the bike scrambles in Fishkill and other nearby places but women weren’t permitted. It was a wonderful period in my journey!

“In 1969 I went to Woodstock with my boyfriend. We attached a trailer to his Firebird – nailed parallel boards onto the floor to hold the (motorcycle’s) tires in place – and got to within 17 miles of Yasgur’s farm where the road was deadlocked with abandoned cars. We pulled off the road – left the car and trailer – and rode in the rest of the way. To sleep we rode back to the trailer and threw a tarp over it to stay dry. It was an AWESOME experience. And the MUSIC …mind blowing!

“Sometime after seeing (the movie) Easy Rider, I got the bug to just get on my bike and ride. I quit my job, packed up my bike with my sleeping bag, and took off for a two-month, cross-country trip from NY to California. This adventure afforded me the opportunity to see our country and meet people in a way I could not have imagined.

“It seems like several lifetimes ago. Sometimes I get a bug and want to buy a bike but I know it’s not the right thing for me to do at age 75 living in Miami Beach with the world’s worst drivers. I envy your being able to get on your bike and ride…enjoy!”

I dunno. If she could ride daily in New York City, how much worse could Miami Beach be? But what a trip she took! She was a real free spirit and lived one of her dreams early on…

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Women On Motorcycle Front Seats

Nina Kaplan

Nina Kaplan

Rode my motorcycle home from the repair shop today and remembered this story about badass women on motorcycles…who are driving, rather than just being a showpiece on the back:

Motorcycling is primarily a male-dominated industry. Women, historically in motorcycling, have been used as more of an accessory in motorcycling. I just think with what’s going on politically, and just how progressive parts of the country are, a powerful woman is starting to become a more trendy woman. It’s starting to be cool, you know.

I don’t know if you’ve seen Maybeline’s new girl [Ruby Rose], but she’s this tatted chick, she’s very androgynous, she has short hair. She just looks like a badass. You can see [the shift] happening in popular culture. It’s really cool to see, and I think that’s totally translating to the motorcycling industry as well.

Imogen Lehtonen

Imogen Lehtonen

And I think that the photos that we’re seeing, these kind of all women’s motorcycle events, campaigns of Harley Davidson featuring all women are just kind of proof that things are starting to shift.

Who’d have guessed that as women see themselves differently, it’s affecting where they sit on a bike? Or that they are buying more motorcycles themselves. Especially as they see other women (and photos of them) who are riding around on the front. Empowerment creates change.

The story is about women who motorcycled across the country and also took pics of other women driving bikes of their own. They followed the roads taken 100 years ago by Effie Hotchkiss and her mother, who were the first women to complete a cross-country motorcycle trip.

Nina Kaplan up close

Nina Kaplan up close

Jenny Czinder

Jenny Czinder

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Did I Overdue It?

From August 12th to September 4th is 24 days. I am proud to say that I played tennis 18 times. Hardly tired. Thrilled I could do it. At the end, on the day of my “big” tournament match (that I lost), my arm was hurting. Poor backhand technique, maybe a strain, tennis elbow or just too much of a push.

Since then I have held off playing some times, hate the idea that I might be out for weeks or months, doing exercises, resting…until I am invited to sub. Can’t just stop for two weeks and really give it a rest. Love the game too much. Afraid of not being able to play.

Great to have passions. Stupid to risk serious injury. But I write these words after playing last night and not being smart enough to cancel tomorrow’s scheduled game.

Why are we all so silly???

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Wrong Attitude For Winning

I have to laugh at myself yet again. Played in the B-level doubles quarter finals, attempting to defend our championship from the year before. Won the first set in a tie break, 7-5. At the beginning of the second set, I told my opponents that I felt sorry for them, losing such a close contest. WRONG! I remembered that I should have NO SYMPATHY, but a killer instinct instead. Too late…

We lost the next set 1-6…and the momentum. Up 2-0 in the third, then up 4-3 and serving. Then lost 4-6. I wish I could blame it all on my partner. But that wouldn’t be honest. I played poorly. Missed too many shots or hit “winners” that were returned. I felt awful.

My friends tried to cheer me up, but I was really disappointed. Then one kicked me in my emotional butt and reminded me about the refugees trying to reach Europe. I stopped feeling sorry for myself right away.

The first year I published my book of commercial photography, one talent was really pissed that the colors on his page were not satisfactory to him. He ranted and raved. At one point of frustration with his attitude, I pointed out that life could be worse, “Think of the boat people,” (who were drowning as they left Vietnam and Cambodia in flimsy, overloaded crafts). I never forgot his response: “Fuck the boat people! I don’t give a damn about them. I just want my page printed better!!!

How we all distort our priorities. Even me. I immediately felt better after being reminded about the refugees pouring into Europe these days. You’d think I could simply enjoy being able to play in a tennis match just days after hearing and writing here about an acquaintance who died six months or so after retirement and just two weeks after discovering he was sick. It’s not always that easy. We all have our thoughts and misplaced values…

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Michelle Obama Outshines Me With Weights

Pretty impressive, especially because I do pec flys with just 25 pounds in each arm, and the FLOTUS does them with 35 in each. I better get in better shape!

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Life And Tennis Update

Well that was a big gap in writing anything. Longest since I started this site in April 2009. I was definitely in a funk about all the sad personal events as well as the global crises. But there is mostly good news.

I went to a second cardiologist who gave me a special new test for coronary disease and learned in 15 minutes that my blockages are right in the mid-point for people my age. In fact some arteries are only 15-20% blocked, while others are 30-40% blocked. Invasive surgery to look with a camera and possibly put in a stent is only done if the blockage is 80-90%. So no surgery necessary. That was a relief.

Being given the go-ahead to play as much tennis as I wanted–or could–I accepted invitations to substitute in other games in addition to my twice-a-week regular dates. But I overdid it a bit, playing six times in six days (twice–morning and afternoon–one day for 4+ hours total). That week stretched out to 10 times in 12 days, and I admit that I am sore and tired. The biggest problem is the 80-degree plus heat…because playing in the cooler, late afternoons (6 pm) is much easier.

Next challenge of course is to improve my game…a constant in my life.

Ten minutes ago I learned that a man I knew and respected–but haven’t spoken to in 11 years–retired at age 65 last June, only to discover in January this year that he had cancer. Didn’t even know it…and then he died two weeks later! So sad, so terrifying.

This is how life is…it’s not extraordinary. Today and last week the global stock markets are falling in huge ways, people are losing their life savings, there is panic and regret and fear of the future. Completely understandable.

All the more reason to enjoy and accomplish, while we have the chance. You can’t put off all the good times for the future, because you may not have a future. It’s just the way it is…

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Yoga Not Quite For Beginners

Laura

Laura

When I was in high school, my mother started doing yoga…and I followed in her lotus steps. I was reasonably limber and wowed the kids in college. I just heard last week that one of my favorite tennis players, Leander Paes, who is from India and moves so artfully, does an hour of yoga each day. It reminded me of my youthful excursion into comfortable contortions and satisfying stretches.

So with these thoughts in mind, I noticed an article that linked to nine instagram sites of yoga practitioners who have poses way beyond anything I ever did. How about you? Think you can manage any of these? Obviously I am impressed with upside down poses…

Masumi

Masumi

Verna

Verna

Amanda

Amanda

90% Healthy

When I was divorced from my first wife in 1975, I felt like I joined half the human (American) brotherhood. I mean half of all marriages failed, and mine was merely another one of millions. Too bad that I thought my marriage would last my lifetime. Surprise!

On July 1st I had a similar realization: I learned that in spite of my healthy ways, and maybe due to bad genes, I not only had a PVC, but I also have coronary artery DISEASE! I have been in shock. I was reminded that I AM an American male, and after consulting two other doctors began taking a daily aspirin and statin pill. I was devastated. I am still stunned.

I have now had in the last two weeks more aspirins than in my entire life. I am no longer this incredibly healthy guy. Everyone I talk to has been taking statins for 10+ years. And as one friend said to help me rationalize and feel better, “You used to be 100% healthy. Now you are still 90% healthy!”

My uncle died of a heart attack at 51. My father had cholesterol counts in the 300s. My younger brother has high cholesterol and had a double bypass. So maybe my good health is only because I have watched my diet, stayed thin, exercised constantly. Still a shock to have anything wrong…which is exactly how most people my age live all the time. At least those who have survived this long.

My cardiologist said that some patients are so shattered by the psychological effects of learning what I learned that they opt for surgery just to find out how serious the artery is blocked. I don’t think I want to do that.

But then on Saturday the 11th, my dog friend Bella died. Two days later, my son-in-law died. He was only 50. Yesterday another friend in his late 40s had unexpected surgery. It has been a very sad and confronting time. I always say that life is fragile. No doubt about it these days.

Let’s see if I can play tennis this evening…have to stay active and healthy. The doc said exercise is essential, and there is no such thing as “too much” of it.

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Confronting Death And Illness

Bella resting

Bella resting

It’s been a confronting month with regards to health and exercise. I am still doing 5-15 minutes of something, whether push ups, flys, etc: yesterday was 1318 consecutive days. I have also been playing tennis 3-5 times a week…even 6 times one week this month.

But I also didn’t pass my annual physical EKG automatically…a PVC (premature ventricular contraction) that necessitated two stress tests, the second with radioactive isotopes to look at my heart muscle with a cat scan. The cardiologist meeting is coming up July 1st, but it sounds like it’s NOT life threatening. She said I could continue playing tennis and to just watch out for symptoms greater than being out of breath for 5-10 seconds after a tough point. One player told me it takes him a minute or two to recover.

I only needed to raise my heart rate during the tests to 124 before quitting after one more minute of fast walking. I went to 170 and 155, which was terrific for my age group. I also started taking a baby aspirin a day, and after two weeks of this, I will have had more of those pills than in my entire life. I do like the citrus flavor.

However I really mind being normal and having health issues like everyone else I know. I am not used to it. I am spoiled. I have been blessed with good genes and also consciously avoiding bad foods and habits. In fact my cholesterol went down again to 187 from 196 last year, 218 in 2008, and 237 in 2005, when I first learned I had a problem. Changing my diet and exercising more often has really paid off. But I still have a slight abnormal blockage in one artery it appears.

I know, I know…it’s better than most guys my age. And nothing worth mentioning compared to others with far more serious illnesses, like cancer. Even my dog has cancer, has received chemo treatments for months and has not eaten for almost two weeks now. I thought we might put her down this morning, but we decided to wait another day. These sick friends and relatives have upset me terribly. I have been down and in a funk, though not depressed. It’s so sad, and I hate feeling helpless.

My dog breed’s life expectancy is 12-13 years. Bella is 12 1/2, so she is right on schedule and has had a great life. I can live with her demise more easily. When my father died at 88, I felt like he had also enjoyed a good run. And I have already had 74 years, so I won’t complain. Though when I had my birthday in April, I realized I may have “just” another 10-15 years…until I was shook up in May by my physical.

But it is very upsetting when friends in their early 50s become seriously ill, like one who died a few years ago at 54. I know Life is not fair, but it still pisses me off to see randomness in action. Living is such an uncertain and fragile adventure. Another friend fell two weeks ago and landed on her chest and knees. No broken bones, but she might have hit her head and been seriously injured. Two days ago I fell over a curb inside a restaurant, where it was dark and there was a gap between the potted plants. Luckily I landed on my knees and hand and didn’t shatter my right, tennis wrist.

I never forget that I could be living in a war zone, or starving, or lacking water. My friends from California who stayed with me this weekend were thrilled to take a shower that lasted more than three minutes. We must all savor the good moments.

Bella on Father's Day

Bella on Father’s Day

I will miss many of those I had with Bella, as she chased tennis balls I hit and flushed pheasants I often missed. She has been a loving friend and companion. As the android said in Blade Runner: “Time to die…”

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Insane City Cycling Race In Chile

Positively insane, terrifying, admirable! You cannot believe that people do this kind of downhill street cycling.

This happens on the streets of Valparaiso, Chile. The Valparaiso Cerro Abajo Race is a legendary urban bike race and is more extreme than skydiving out of an exploding F-18 piloted by Charlie Sheen. The rider must brave jumps, stray dogs, and flights of stairs along the steep downhill path. The first person perspective provided by the excellent helmet cam lets us take in every glorious and frightening detail. Do yourself a favor and watch this one in full screen mode.

Also, check out this still-photo roundup from the 2011 race, which was won by Filip Polc

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Bongo Lady Workout

MEMPHIS — The fans who pack FedEx Forum for Grizzlies games never know when it will happen. It could be a timeout late in the second quarter, or a break in the action early in the fourth. It does not even occur every game.

But when it does, and the sweet beat of the Miami Sound Machine hit “Conga” fills the arena, everyone knows to look up toward the giant video board that looms over the court. A set of cartoon bongos appears, and as various fans pop up on the screen in their haphazard attempts to play them, Malenda Meacham, a longtime season-ticket holder, knows that they are merely the warm-up act.

The moment is about to belong to her.

“Bongo Lady,” the Grizzlies’ Tony Allen said, “is my home girl.”

Meacham, 45, might just be the world’s pre-eminent air-bongo impresario. She flails her arms and bobs her head as she plays the heck out of those cartoon bongos, her movements defying easy description.

“I like to think that I play enthusiastically,” she said, “and with aplomb.”

Meacham has become a minor celebrity in Memphis — people familiar with her work usually greet her by shouting something along the lines of “Hey, Bongo Lady!”

“It feels like a workout,” Meacham said. “It’s seriously like I’ve just run a marathon.”

People are generally surprised to learn that Meacham practices domestic law and works as a part-time judge. Yes, Bongo Lady is a judge.

It should be noted that Meacham has no formal musical training. Her bongo wizardry is self-taught. The key, she said, is to stay on the bongos. Too many fans let their hands drift away, which makes their playing look inexact. Meacham strives for authenticity.

“And I don’t even know when Bongo Cam is coming on,” she said, “so I can’t warm up for it.”

As is the case in most great showbiz acts, Meacham has a sidekick: her 18-year-old son, Hayden, who often accompanies her to home games. He did not choose the role. He said he was genuinely mortified by his mother’s behavior.

Hayden was with her the first time the Grizzlies broke out Bongo Cam, during the 2012-13 season. Malenda Meacham heard the music and felt the rhythm, and something compelled her to rise from her seat and start thrashing away. It was unscripted theater.

“Hayden starts going, ‘Dear God, please don’t let them see her,’ ” Meacham said. “He’s next to me, shrinking over, and then the camera catches us.”

In that moment, Bongo Lady was born. By his mother’s third appearance on Bongo Cam that season, Hayden had decided to come prepared. As soon as he heard those familiar lyrics pump through the arena’s speaker system — “Come on, shake your body, baby, do the conga / I know you can’t control yourself any longer” — he put a paper bag over his head.

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How To Celebrate Your Birthday

Yesterday was my 74th birthday. I sat around the house enjoying family and friends. It snowed, I ate poached salmon and wine and carrot cake. Very sweet. Buttttttttt…..

For her 100th birthday, Georgina Harwood jumped out of a plane! It was her third (tandem) jump since she was 92! Now granted that I jumped out of planes five times in the army, when I was 22. So I could say, “Been there, done that.” But I won’t. Georgina earns a “tip of the hat, m’lady…”

And that wasn’t all. Two weeks later, this South African great-grandmother dove in a cage to see sharks up close. She said it was “the experience of a lifetime. Exhilarating.”

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