Thursday, March 29, 2007

Brothers Are We

Are you familiar with the phrase, ‘It Sucks to Be Me’? What follows is funny only if you are not me. In the ordered world we live in, that is ALL of you. Carry on, but please retain some degree of sympathy for the one person in the world that is actually me.

When I travel without BEG to an out of town track event that lasts no more than two days, I pack light. I pack so that I have one carry-on small suitcase. If BEG goes, she’s taking half the house and we are checking luggage so I may as well take more too. But when traveling alone, I dress in one set of clothes and I put my track gear and competition clothes and toiletries in a hyper small suitcase. I will only wear the clothes half the time I’m away, the majority of the time I will be at the track venue in track clothes anyway.

So last Friday morning I dressed in a black silk long sleeve mock turtleneck and pressed blue jeans. I also had a light jacket vest (black) that was not needed in Texas but was necessary in Boston. On my feet were tan slip-on Arnold Palmer loafers. I looked good, eh? At my side was the small suitcase the brown-eyed girl had tried to separate from me earlier. Barney Fife had released me on my own recognizance.

I retrieved my boarding pass from the e-ticket machine and then sat at the gate reading for an hour and a half. Remember BEG dropped me off early? Ten minutes before the time shown for boarding the plane I went to the men’s room. I’m sort of a micro-planner. I wait until boarding time is near to go pee so I don’t have to go on the plane. Because I waited, I really HAD TO GO; full pee load on board.

When I turned the corner of the men’s room I saw all the urinals were occupied. I went for a stall. I rolled the suitcase in behind me, closed the door, unbuttoned and zipped down the fly of my jeans. I reached in for the man part and pulled Sleepy free. That’s right, all us men name our penis. My part is aka ‘Sleepy’. Too much info? The thing is that a penis is always in the dark. It only has two functions. If you think about it a penis spends most of its life in the dark hanging around and doing absolutely nothing. So I figure they do a lot of sleeping. I would if I were a penis. Sleepy seemed like an appropriate name to me. Some guys go for Big Jake or The Big Boy, which seems grandiose and even fantastical to me. I like the understated ‘Sleepy’.

So as I was saying, I pulled Sleepy out of bed and aimed him at the big bowl. It was time for him to do one of his infrequent tasks, the lazy slob. For you women that have not been around men, we typically hold our man hose in one hand and the other hand holds the pants slightly aside. I know you can see this in your mind’s eye. All you guys know I’m right. That was my position as a full stream of saved up pee splashed into the porcelain and water below. A second or two after commencing, my cell phone rang. It was in the pocket of my ‘carpenter style’ jeans on the outside of my right leg about mid-thigh down.

I could still aim Sleepy with my left hand and reach down with my right hand, but that meant I would have to open the phone with one hand, push the talk button and hold the phone to my right ear. That seemed very awkward to me. I devised a workaround on the spur of the moment. I retrieved the phone with my right hand by slightly squatting and reaching down while continuing to hold my best friend with the left. Since I was in a stall with the door closed I pushed my jeans downward enough to create a safe trajectory for the stream, exposing half my rear, but it freed my left hand (Sleepy was peeing solo at this point). I used the now unoccupied left hand to transfer the phone to my customary listening ear on the left.

I said hello, maybe the only normal thing that was to follow. It was a teammate calling from Houston. He had a horrific story to tell about one of our teammate’s car catching on fire at Houston Intercontinental Airport. This story he was telling me is worth telling you, but I’m only going to tell one story at a time since I’m not a skilled novelist. But believe me it was one of those “Are you shittin me!” kinds of stories. I was totally absorbed by the story of the fire in Houston, but I could also feel my pants starting to slip farther down. I instinctively retrieved them a little higher while I listened. Totally amazed by my comrades story I continued to pee and listen. Then I felt something warm on my right leg. I looked down. Sleepy was no longer aimed at the bowl.

When I had pulled my pants a little higher during the phone conversation I had pulled the fly to a position high enough where I was peeing half into the bowl and half into my jeans. I adjusted in a split second. I told my friend I had to go. No, really GOODBYE, I’ll see you in Boston.

I finished. I pulled up my jeans. From the crotch, where the trajectory had been aimed, to just above the right knee they were soaking wet!

I had accidentally peed my pants! These were the only pants in my possession. It was approximately 3 minutes until boarding time. In the stall stood a grown man with peed pants. He owned a ticket to Boston for a flight that was scheduled to leave in minutes.

I assessed my options.
1. Go to Boston on a totally full flight with peed pants.
2. Don’t go to Boston.
3. Tear the bathroom to pieces in a fit of rage.
4. Accuse someone else of wetting my pants.
5. Take off my pants and soak the whole thing in the lavatory and declare my dryer at home is broken.
6. Have a brain hemorrhage.
7. Put on my track clothes and fly to Boston looking like a semi-retard.
The track clothes I had packed looked a lot like this gents.

I chose option 7. I heard the boarding announcement for my flight over the restroom intercom. I opened the suitcase and rifled through the contents in a near panic. The confines of the stall were not helpful. I found the running gear. I took off all the other clothes. Have you ever been standing totally naked in a toilet stall at the airport? It’s very weird. Even reality TV can’t invent my life. Sweat dripped from my forehead into my eyes.

I put on the running clothes. I re-considered not going to Boston. I wondered how to explain to teammates that I couldn’t come to Boston because I peed my pants. I hurried faster, my elbows banging against the sides of the stall. I smushed all the clothes, yes including the jeans, into the suitcase that was not designed to carry that much. It bulged like it was going to have baby suitcases. I tied my running shoes and hit the men’s room door in a light trot. The suitcase was tucked under my arm like a gigantic square football.

I was the last person to reach the jetway entrance. The gate agent took my pass and gave me a ‘twice–over’. She asked if everything was alright? I said, oh yes, most certainly. I pretended people fly everyday wearing track clothes. What does she know anyway, she only stands at the boarding line each day.

The last man on the plane walks down the aisle with a pregnant suitcase wearing the clothes of a man who appears to want to challenge other passengers to a race on board the plane. What the hell, its a long flight. Every face on the plane searches mine for a clue to my secret. I gave them the biggest and sunniest actor’s smile I could summon. Of course right now I have a mouth full of braces. I think I looked a lot like Eddie Murphy in Bowfinger as I smiled my way down the aisle to the only seat left on the plane.


I squeezed into the middle seat next to a young mother holding an 8 month old baby boy named Evan. On the way to Boston, Evan and I became best of friends. After all, we have some things in common. We have man tools. We pee in our pants. Brothers are we.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Is There A Problem Here?

Want a story about BEG? OK, get your coffee.

When I went to Boston last weekend I asked BEG if she would take me to the airport on Friday morning. That way I wouldn’t have to leave a car in the remote parking lot at the airport. She said she would do it, but she was also going to a seminar in Fort Worth that morning so she said she would just drop me off early.

My flight was at 9:30 am and she had to be in downtown Fort Worth at 8:00 am. I won’t bore you with the details of the timeline, you only need to know that she was on a mission to drop me, then head 30 miles to the west and she didn’t want to be late.

When we arrived at the airport she accidentally overshot the correct terminal for my flight. That meant she had to make a full loop through the traffic of the wrong terminal in order to return to the correct terminal.

That took extra time. It was extra time she used to scrunch her face into a look that seemed to say “you are not my favorite person right now.” I don’t know why. I didn’t miss the turn for the terminal. She frantically honked at a man pushing an empty wheelchair through a pedestrian zone. He stopped and looked at her completely confused as to why she was honking at him. He was approximately 90 years old. It took a while for him to re-group, confounding the exasperation of one “I’m in a damn hurry you ignorant old fool” BEG. I sat quietly wearing my wrong turn assigned guilt like a good soldier.

I bought BEG a new Ford pick-up truck last year. We needed a truck and she likes to feel safe when driving. No problem. She is now an authentic 107 pound Texas girl in a four door pick-up truck and she drives as if she understands her vehicular rank when she is in a hurry.

We ultimately arrived at the door of the proper gate at the proper terminal. Her watch was ticking like a time bomb in her ear. I opened the door of the truck and got out. She said “I love you, run like the champ you are.” I closed the front door. BEG drove off.

I quickly banged my fist on the trucks bed. She waved merrily with her right hand and I could see her smiling at me in the reflection of the rear view mirror. She was gaining speed as she moved out of the drop-off zone and into the flow of traffic.

I chased her waving my arms. I’m pretty damned fast, but I preferred to save the running for the track meet in Boston. I yelled. A cop on the sidewalk looked at me and blew his whistle at BEG trying to help. She kept going. I kept going!

Finally she saw me running behind the truck, looking like O.J. in the commercials of long ago, jumping seating and suitcases in pursuit of a flight, except I was chasing a truck.
She pulled to the curb and stopped. She lowered the passenger window to talk to me.
She asked “What’s the matter, did you forget to tell me something?”
I said “No”
She said “Did you forget your tickets?”
I said “No”
“Oh”, she said, "you are so adorable; you forgot to say you loved me back. That is so sweet. But, I’m really going to be late sweetie, I’ll see you in a couple of days.”
The cop that blew the whistle came up behind me, tapped me on the shoulder, and wanted to know what was going on.
As I explained the situation to Barney Fife, BEG rolled up the window, blew me a kiss and took off again!
I started chasing her again, waving my arms and yelling at the top of my voice. Fife was yelling at me to stop running.
She saw me in the rear view mirror again. She stopped and rolled down the window again. All the love was lost. Her face was imploring. It was a face that seemed to both glare and say WTF is it with you???????....
I decided I better tell her straight out and not try to answer her questions this time, besides Fife was on his way down the sidewalk again. He owned persistence, but not my trained and honed speed.

“Could I please have my suitcase from the backseat?” I said.

BEG lit up in the biggest grin this side of a Texas sunset, and said “Seven, you are the most forgetful thing, you worry me sometimes.”
I smiled, opened the rear door she had never given me a chance to open 50 yards up the terminal street, took out my suitcase and stepped back to get out of her way.

When she was gone I muttered under my breath in a way that would make Steve Martin proud, “Well, EXXCCUUUUSE ME !!

Of course that was about the same instant I realized my cell phone was in my pocket. Hers was in the truck's console. Calling is easier than running, but after all I am forgetful it's said.

Postscript: It wasn’t a great morning for me. There’s more. It gets worse. Wanna hear about it?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Words Matter

As I told you Friday, I went to Boston this weekend for the USA Masters Indoor Championship track meet over the weekend. After running two hard races on Sunday, I arrived home last night a little after midnight. I had to fly from Boston to Houston, and then backtrack from Houston to Dallas, a total of 5-6 hours in the air with a very gabby seat mate. So, I was remarkably fatigued, both mentally and physically as I sat here in my office chair around 1 am thinking about the whole of the weekend. I re-learned something this weekend, and I want to tell you what the renewal involved.I say re-learned because I know this particular fact of life and yet I often need to re-learn old wisdoms.


Sunday I was waiting in my lane before the finals of the 200 meter dash. Legendary track announcer Peter Taylor was announcing the six finalists to the crowd at Reggie Lewis Center prior to the start of the race. I was in the upper lane, lane six, and so I was the last to be announced. The race included two of my teammates who are members of the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame and hold individual world records, their resumes are impeccable. I fidgeted and adjusted my blocks, listened to the credentials of my friends, monster sprinters I was about to compete against, and I wondered what Mr. Taylor would have to tell the crowd about me. When he came to lane six he told the crowd of my usual credentials and yet had not given them my name on his pass through the introduction. As he was summing up, he said “he is often known as Seven, but his real name is Rick Riddle.” I wasn’t completely caught off guard because Mr. Taylor had chatted with me earlier about reading the blog, but I was very surprised to imagine my writing name had been linked to my track career and indeed to my very persona in front of a crowd of track fans and fellow track athletes 1,500 miles from my home.

And what did I re-learn from this incident?

It’s a lesson as simple as kindergarten really. It is this; ‘Our Words Matter.’ Our words have power and they hold meaning about what we are, what we think and in fact, our words form an image for how others perceive our motivations and behaviors. I didn’t know a famous and highly regarded track announcer had ever seen my little blog attempts at describing my world, but he has. And it is logical to assume his understanding of my beliefs and personality has been structured by his reading.

That is a scary proposition to consider for many of us that love to write. It can be equally scary for those that love to talk.

We can wring the scary out of the proposition. We can discipline ourselves to use our words in ways that are meaningful yet truthful. We can choose words that are charitable yet authentic. We must choose them wisely. We must understand we can hurt and create damage with careless words. We will fail at times. There were masters athletes this year that took nasty tumbles after furious dives at the finish line, their bodies depleted from the racing effort. They got up and they raced again the next day. This is how it is with words I believe. We will fall down. We will misuse our words sometimes. But we must get back up and use the words that define our intent, beliefs and even love, and we must do it even after falling or failing. And of course we must always use our words with whatever wisdom we can summon.

What the elder track cat, ‘sometimes known as Seven’ re-learned this weekend is that his words matter. If I fall, maybe you will pick me up with your own kind words. Thank you, Mr. Taylor, for reminding me with your own kind and instructive introduction.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Off to Boston

I'm flying to Boston this morning for an indoor track meet this weekend. And oh my...it's in the 30's and 40's there! Brrrr.
So sorry I haven't been around to see everyone in the past 2-3 weeks. The biz and personal schedules have been unrelenting.
So...I'll see you when I get back and will come to visit like a good fellow blogger should.
TTYL
7even
Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Across The Harbor

Paco had grown old in spite of his willful opposition to the idea. The wind from the ocean knifed through his windbreaker. The sharp cliffs of Salina Cruz veered high above the ocean below, and now as he sat on the uppermost perch of the highest cliff for many surrounding miles, Paco began to think about a woman he had known many years before.

On his right sat his wife Raina. They peered into the horizon above the oceans surface anticipating the setting of the sun over their native Mexico. On this night it seemed rather useless as a thick fog of gray mist clung to the bottoms of the clouds overhead. In the distance Paco could just make out the steady blink from the lighthouse at Caruba. The ever present sea gulls soared through the fog as if it were only a part of another days work along the beach, their loud squawking announcing whatever it is gulls announce with such hardy proclamation. Paco and Raina had sat on this same rock on countless nights holding hands and understanding in unison that many of the mysteries of life are easier to make peace with if they first considered the mighty ocean alongside their own mortal ignorance. Paco was not an ignorant man really. He was a scholar of physics, having held the title of Professor in the United States while teaching in California. He was retired now and he and Raina had come home to Salina Cruz and their homeland.

The woman on Paco’s mind was not known to Raina, she was instead a memory of Paco’s passion and romance from his wandering days. He dared not speak of her now; there was no point these many years later. The woman had been unique in a thousand ways to Paco’s senses. Born in Thailand and an immigrant to the United States, she had positioned herself front row and center of Paco’s physics lectures.

There were so many memories of her that Paco would often ruminate about their time while he sat with Raina on the cliff. He meant no disrespect to his wife. It was something about the cliff and the ocean and the mystery of nature that reminded him of her native beauty and wisdom. She taught him to look into everyone’s eyes, not just the faces of his students and passersby’s in his day, but to look deep into their eyes. The eyes, she said, were the harbor of the soul and the reflector of all emotion. Over time he had come to understand that she was right.

She taught him to dance, something he had only done when it was forced upon him. On a beach in California, much like the one below him now he had danced an entire night with her, learning to move without self consciousness around the small fire she had constructed, her flowing skirt billowing out in the wind, her panty clad small bottom entrancing in its predictable appearances below the edges of the skirt as she twirled.

She taught him the power of water. She showed him how to see the soul of water and she had even taught him how to divorce the physics of the water from his mind and stand in the pouring rain with a smile on his face as big as all of Mexico. She had taught him he didn’t even need to understand why it made him so happy. She said “Happy is enough by itself.” He didn’t always understand, but he loved all of her ideas and challenges, and he always tried to understand all she had to say, even when it seemed bizarre to his scientific nature.

There was one saying she taught him that had always stuck with him. He had the saying written on an old piece of paper. He had kept it carefully stored over the years, and now he had forgotten where it was kept. It didn’t matter really. He knew the saying by heart and its deeper meaning still evaded him. Scrawled on the now lost paper was something she told him in their last days together. If Paco closed his eyes he could still see it written clearly, “Sexual Energy and Spiritual Energy are identical Energy. When Source Energy flows through you, it flows through you. You cannot separate one from the other.”

The physicist in Paco always got in his way of understanding this saying. He felt it was true, but he could not explain it with equations. He knew energy as a slew of equations, a cascading flow of numbers across a chalkboard intended to prove that something about energy was true or maybe false.

Paco stared across the ocean at the lighthouse beacon, its rhythmic blinking pulsed on and off, its signal insistent and steady. Raina buttoned her coat and pointed at a freighter in the distance. She shivered slightly, a signal to Paco that their date with the sunset was concluding. He knew that he would be back the next night to contemplate what the young student had told him. It was funny, he thought, that such a young girl from another side of the world had given him a saying about energy he knew to be true, but could not prove. After all, he should have been the one handing out theories about energy.

As Paco looked across the harbor at the fogged in beacon he realized his lack of understanding was bound up in the metaphor of the lighthouse. Maybe this energy of the soul was like the rain, he didn’t really need to understand to know the feelings it brought him. Perhaps the fog meant nothing; after all he knew exactly where the lighthouse lay. There are times when our personal fog obscures the reality of what the small lights signal, he thought, but we still know the truth of what lies at the base of the light, often from memory, therefore the fog has no real power.

Raina rose and brushed her hand across the seat of her pants, then held the same hand out to Paco. He smiled and looked into her eyes. She wanted to know what he was thinking about, but he could see that she had decided against asking.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Old Habits Die Erect

I collect change in jars. When one gets full I find another one and just keep filling them up. Today I became aggravated with myself because I had just too many full change jars in my personal space. I dumped all the jars into one giant plastic paint bucket and took it to my grocery store. My grocery store has one of those change counting machines where you dump in all the change and it counts it for you, then screws you out of 7 percent of the total. When I was finished with my dump, and had taken my 7 percent screwing I had a voucher for $337 US.

At first I thought it was kinda cool. But then I realized the only reason I have so much change is because I use cash all the time. I carry a lot of cash, sometimes $600 or 700 dollars in my pockets. It’s an old habit. As the Rolling Stones sing, old habits die hard; which come to think of it is exactly the way I wish to die, rigid in all parts, it just seems heroic to me.

Anyway, I also realized that not many people carry cash any longer. Debit cards are the way to go, and yes I do have one. Still I use cash a lot. That makes me part of an old class of hombre. I see a day, starting tomorrow, when only old men will carry cash around, sort of like a dying breed, similar to how old men also wear Fedoras on their head, but no young men wear Fedoras unless they are in a rock or blues band. Or, maybe if they are retarded and shop at Goodwill, no offense intended to the retarded that might be reading here and you know who you are. Maybe. OK, and also no offense intended if you shop at Goodwill. Who would buy a hat at Goodwill anyway?

I carry cash and I feel really dated.

I’m old. I have cash. I have change.

Don’t judge me.

Help.

Oh crap. Damn change.

Damn 337 dollars.

I wonder if they would credit my debit card instead of giving me cash?

I think I need a Fedora. A new one to make me feel like one of the band.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Catching the Sun

Church bells rang in the distance. The rhythmic harmony of the chimes washed across my sunlit face, danced across the air and into my ears. The back of my head rested on my folded shirt. I had removed it to gather the sun’s heat across my chest. A light breeze had minimal effect on the warm surface of artificial grass that lay below my shoulders. Small beads of sweat rolled from the edges of my forehead as if to herald the coming spring.

The combination of warmth, blue sky and sunshine combined with the peacefulness of the bell tower’s chimes bathed me in one of those ‘everything is alright’ beautiful feelings that come along too rarely.

When those moments come for each of us its difficult sometimes to stay right in the moment, isn’t it? I managed nicely today to hang on and feel the warmth and peace of it all. It was a gentle workout day at the track. A day of stretching from the hard track work of yesterday, a few sit-ups and pushups combined with some gentle running on the grass.

When I was complete with my work, I went back to my previous horizontal position on the turf and began to think about the peaceful feeling that had washed over me. I also thought about my inability to hold onto the moment for as long as I wished. With equal perspiration I wondered about the origin of the feelings.

On the north end of the track two masters track athletes in their sixth and seventh decades of life completed their workout. On the south end of the artificial grass field young high school athletes stretched under the prodding of their middle aged coach.

I contemplated if the oldsters and the youngsters were possibly sharing in my fleeting moments of warmth and peace.

I think these moments are far too complex to analyze or describe in an easy manner, and certainly they are far too individual to personal circumstance to assign any quantitative analytical data. Instead, they are in my opinion moments of spirituality and understanding as unique to the individual as a fingerprint.

Some spiritualists teach that we must first dance with death before we can live. What they mean is that we must embrace the reality of death, coming to full grip with our own mortality, understanding that each day before the end beckons is a day of celebration. I have seen this in friends with a terminal illness. They come to understand in the final days of their lives how to truly be alive and love those that surround them. You have witnessed or heard of this phenomenon I am confident. Confronted with death, we come to understand the value of being fully alive. This is the ‘dance with death’ taught in many native belief systems. I have seen it at work and I hold it to be wise counsel.

There is another kind of being fully alive. It is the glory of childhood. It is the philosophical polar opposite of the ‘dance with death’. It is the absence of understanding that life has any path beyond play and discovery. It is the remarkable character of mind that we see in a child of 2 or 3 years. They are unassuming about consequence or need, fully alive in a God granted blissful ignorance of death and lack, living in the moment so soundly that even make-believe becomes real.

It occurred to me while lying on a warm turf football field, sun and blue sky overhead, excited chatter and laughter of surrounding athletes filling the air that I had surmised we come down to two possibilities for owning these fleeting moments of peace and understanding. We can be childlike or we can ritualistically ‘dance with the dead’.

Either way I stumbled across a handy and convenient truth; both are a choice freely exercised. There is also a sparkling paradox embedded within both ideas. Both choices are a form of being ‘born again’.

The church bells began to chime once again as I daydreamed in the sun.

An hour had passed.

Time.

Its valuable, especially when its so very real.