This weekend I’m participating in the Future Church Summit put on by Fresh Expressions. (I’ve had the privilege of teaching in our doctoral program with a couple of the presenters, so I decided to pop in and see what they have to say.) Last night the conference coordinator prayed that God would speak to us in our dreams. (Yes, I believe that God can and sometimes does speak to us in our dreams.) Feel free to psychoanalyze me if you like, but I dreamed of coffee. Does that count as an answer to prayer?
My introduction to swimming pools began a long time ago in Reading, PA. My brother and sister and I grew up in a row home with a very small backyard, but it was big enough to accommodate an inflatable pool. My Nana, who lived just a few houses down the street from us, also had a blow-up pool. We eventually graduated to the real thing, as the East Reading Swimming Association featured an outdoor pool that was only a few blocks from our house. Neighborhood kids loved it, even though it was an odd size for racing (33-1/3 yards instead of 25 or 50 yards/meters). The faded color of these Kodak snaps shows how long ago they were taken.
I Love Lucy fans will remember the iconic 1956 episode, “Lucy’s Italian Movie,” where Lucy hopes to get cast in a film about Italian winemaking. In the process, she ends up in a comedic situation involving squished grapes and a hostile grape stomper. Rumor has it Lucille Ball nearly choked to death at one point while filming the scene. All are glad she survived to keep making us laugh over the years. As a bonus, enjoy another classic Lucy (and Ethel) scene—this one at a chocolate factory.
Athletes know “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” as Jim McKay put it, and usually there’s more defeat than victory over the course of one’s career. So, here’s a page of thrill from my high school scrapbook. Manheim always gave us fits in the pool (as did Wilson, Governor Mifflin, and Hempfield), but I remember one special meet where we all came together and swam well as a team against the Blue Streaks.
What made this particular meet gratifying was that some of us swam events outside our speciality, which helped us patch together a surprise victory over our division rivals. Additional wins over the other contenders catapulted the Red Knights to a league championship that year, with many of us qualifying for states. It was a good season of hard work and personal bests.
In the “agony” department, I’ve already posted about breaking my arm at a the end of a 50-yard sprint in college. I could also post about various false starts, disqualifications, and losses over the years, along with that time I broke my toe during a swim meet at Lasalle, or got a black-and-blue eye during a water polo game at Lower Moreland. But we’ll just go with the thrill of victory today. This clipping from the Reading Eagle newspaper tells the story.
O.k., I know I overdo the memes sometimes (especially with my “Just between You and Meme” posts), but this was way too good not to share.
For those too young to catch the reference, on January 6, 1994, Olympic figure skating hopeful Nancy Kerrigan was attacked after a practice at the Cobo Arena in Detroit, Michigan. The hitman was Shane Stant, who used a collapsible baton to strike Kerrigan’s right leg. When the full story emerged a week later, the nation was caught up in a real-life soap opera.
One of Kerrigan’s chief rivals for a place on the U.S. Figure Skating Team was Tonya Harding, who had a hand in the attack via her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, and the hitman he hired to do the job. With Kerrigan unable to skate, Harding won the championship and a place at the 1994 Olympics. Long story short, Harding was eventually banned from U.S. Figure Skating for life, and Kerrigan went on to take the silver medal at the Olympics.
The meme is meant to poke fun at the current Vice President pondering how she might take out the President, replacing him in the top slot of the U.S. government.
(Save your outrage. No political message is implied with the posting of this meme. Simply good old-fashioned fun.)
The very first concert I ever attended was Billy Joel at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. I don’t remember the exact year, but it was probably somewhere between his albums The Stranger and Glass Houses. A bunch of us Reading High swimmers drove together in an old beater and had a blast. The Spectrum is no longer there, but Joel is still going strong—at least on the concert circuit. (He hasn’t produced a studio album in over 20 years.) I have trouble picking a favorite song because the repertoire is so vast.
Beautifulballads include “She’s Got a Way,” “This Is the Time,” and “C’était Toi (You Were the One),” which I adored, in part because I was learning French when it came out. “Just the Way You Are” was always popular, but it’s a bit too lounge-lizardy for my taste. “Honesty” is lovely, and “She’s Always a Woman to Me” is hauntingly tender, even if somewhat wretched in verbo. “She’s Right on Time,” on the other hand, is evocative and hopeful.
Up-tempofavorites include “Uptown Girl,” “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” and “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.” There’s plenty of crudeness across his collection (e.g., “Only the Good Die Young,” “Captain Jack,” etc.), but there’s much raw talent, energy, and passion, too. In many ways, his work is the musical embodiment of the human story—broken, beautiful, and always looking for the right chord.
Joel is best known for his songs “Piano Man” and “The Entertainer,” which is fitting because that’s exactly what he is—a piano man and an entertainer. In fact, I’ve always found his piano instrumental “Root Beer Rag” to be one his most entertaining pieces, though it never received the accolades it should have.
Enjoy a few Billy Joel songs, which always throw me back to the soundtrack of my earlier life.
Here’s a classic Monty Python sketch to make you smile on this wintry weekend. It’s also a reminder that there’s a government grant for just about everything under the sun these days. The first time I saw the presentation, I laughed my way through it until the secretary made her appearance. Then I just let out a full-throated cackle. Poor Mr. Teabag never did get his coffee.
You can enjoy some background information on this sketch here.
I got to see Tim Hawkins live in concert several years ago, and I wound up getting a migraine from laughing so hard. Others around me had the same experience. Never before had I gotten to the point of wanting a comedian to stop making me laugh, but it happened that night. He crescendoed to a rapid fire finale that was almost unbearable. Here are a few of his more gentle riffs, separated out so you don’t get a headache.
As members of the WVU swim team, we would sacrifice our Christmas vacation to go on a 2-week training trip someplace on the globe that was warm and sunny. During my years in college, that included St. Croix (U.S. Virgin Islands) and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Those trips were like “boot camps for swimmers,” with every day featuring triple sessions. The first session was an early morning swim practice lasting two hours. The second involved weight training, calisthenics, plyometrics, and/or runs on the beach for about 90 minutes. The third was an evening swim practice lasting two more hours.
On Christmas Day they lightened up on us, mandating just one two-hour practice in the morning; then they gave us the rest of the day off. (Thanks for that.) I remember how dreadful and depressing it was to have to practice on Christmas morning!
Below are some snaps from the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Center. Once a week all the teams who had gathered to train swarmed the pool for what they called “Fifty 50s.” It was only a 2500m parctice, but the lanes were crowded, and there wasn’t much time between sprints. Finding a place to dive safely was a challenge. The whole thing was exhausting and annoying, even for this sprinter.
Between sessions we hit the beach or went out on the town, and after the 14 days of agony, we enjoyed a trip to Disney World. The rest of the time we ate or slept.
I got to see John Branyan do this riff in concert about seven or eight years ago. As something of a word nerd myself, with an affection for good literature, I had my socks knocked off, and I snortled my way through the whole thing. So, this clip is a gift for all my word-nerd friends out there. It’ll have to suffice until I’m able to play the real “Words with Friends” game with you again. 🙂
Note: The first minute is the remnant of a riff on marriage. That’s funny, too.