Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Changes in the Air


I haven't posted in several days.  Have you noticed?  If you haven't, I have.  It's been weighing on me.

That's the thing...

I do this for fun.  It shouldn't be something that weighs on me.  However, since I've started several "series" on here, I feel OBLIGATED to post regularly.  That fact is making this blog a burden.  I have enough burdens in my life.  (Do any of you feel that way sometimes?)


I'm going to make some changes around here.

1.  I'm dropping the WMBO-Fitness Update series.  It's making my exercise a burden too.  I need to enjoy it, so no more obligations in that regards.  Otherwise, I might get totally discouraged and just quit.  I'll still post what I'm doing from time to time, and add some pictures from the road, but no more weekly posts.
2.  I'm going to wrap up the Christianity 101 series.  I will finish it.  I have three more posts in the series.  Then, no more of that one.  I'll still post my thoughts on faith from time to time, but I'll be done with the obligation of the series....and, it will be back to the fun of posting my thoughts as they happen.
3.  I'm going to keep the Muncie Boyhood series.  I'm actually enjoying that little project still....so it stays....for now.  This project seems to be my most popular feature on here anyway...by a large margin.  It's a good thing I'm likin' it.

I had promised some "Henry the Preacher" cartoons, but they have been slow to materialize.  I still plan on posting them once in a while, but I need to find some time to create them.  The good news is that my daughter got me some good cartooning pens for Father's Day, so when they do come along, they should have the added flair of some color.

One side effect of the "obligation" that I've felt toward this blog is that it has taken almost all of my creative energy for writing just to keep up.  That being the case, I've not found time to finish my book I've been working on.  The story should be done by now, but instead it's still stuck in my head.  I really want to get this adventure out and on paper for some folks to read.

I'll be back soon.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Muncie Boyhood: Space 1999 and a Rumble in the Hood

Ernie's house is gone now, but this yard was the site of my rumble.
I was in middle school and early high school during the era of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Wars, and various sightings of UFOs around the world.  My young mind was intrigued by the possibilities of space travel and extra-terrestrial visitation.  I spent a great deal of time during those years with my buddy Jerry from over on 22nd Street.  We had been friends early in elementary school, but then sort of went our own directions until 7th grade came along, when all of the sudden our friendship rekindled.

We were into three things:  Superheros, Star Trek syndicated reruns, and playing war with a bunch of little plastic army guys.  I might share more about the army battles and superheros in another post, but for now I’m going to focus on the Sci-Fi fascination.

Star Trek started it.  I remember the show being on as a regular series in the late sixties, but I never watched it.  It wasn’t until it was in syndication in the mid-seventies that with Jerry’s help I discovered it.  What a great show!  I still love it today. 

We fashioned our own phasers and tricorders out of wood.  We ran around battling Klingons and Romulans; wishing that we could kiss Yeoman Rand, the pretty blonde assistant to Captain Kirk.

It was only natural that when I learned of the existence of Space 1999, a sci-fi series starring Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, I was all over it!  In the summer of 1976, I was eagerly awaiting its season premiere.  “Eagerly awaiting” might be an understatement.  The fact is that the only consoling factor to me concerning the coming of fall and the start of school was the first episode of that season’s Space 1999.  If a preview was aired, I was bug-eyed watching it.  I read up on it in TV Guide and checked all the listings to make sure I knew exactly what day and time it would be on.

I was a bit obsessed, but finally, the time arrived.

I had a TV in my bedroom and it wasn’t unusual at all for me to take my dinner in there to watch a show while I ate.  To the detriment of my grades, I would often do my homework on my bed while simultaneously following the antics of Happy Days or Mork & Mindy.  (Maybe that’s why I struggled to pass Mrs. Denton’s Geometry class.)  This particular night, however, was devoted to Space 1999; the premiere episode that I had waited ALL STINKING SUMMER TO SEE!

I positioned myself on the end of my bed right in front of the screen.  The time rolled around.  Eight-o-clock, oh yeah!  The intro music and initial scenes began to flash across the screen…

In walk Ernie and David, two younger boys from the neighborhood.  I was a freshman in high school and they were still sixth graders.  “Blah, blah, blah.  Yak, yak, yak.”

“Shhhhhh!  I’m trying to watch this!”

More “blah, blah, blah” and “yak, yak, yak.”

“Come on guys, please.  I’m trying to watch this show!  I’ve been waiting all summer for it!”

“Blah, blah, blah!  Yak, yak, yak!”

“If you won’t shut up, then just get outta here!”

“Meet us out in the street at nine-o-clock, then!” dared David.

“Fine.  I’ll be there.  Just shut up and get out of here!”

I figured that they’d get distracted by something else and would probably forget all about it by then, but I also decided that I would keep my word and show up at 9 pm in the street in front of Ernie’s house.  It seemed fair enough to me.  I was older, but there were two of them.  Besides, I doubted much more than a few more stupid words would be exchanged.

I was quite wrong.

I watched my show, but I don’t remember anything at all about it.  In fact, unless I look up some details on-line, I really don’t remember anything about the storyline or the plot.  What I do remember is all that happened AFTER the show.

It was my “rumble in the hood.”

At 9 pm, I walked out my back door, out my back gate, past my dad’s garage, and out into the street between my house and Ernie’s home.  There they were…waiting.

It was David who stepped up.  Ernie pretty much stayed a few steps behind him.  In retrospect, that isn’t all that surprising because David was more of the aggressor.  He’d started some trouble the previous summer that led to brief scuffle between me and his brother, Tony.

Tony had befriended me just before my sixth grade year.  Quickly, he had become the third leg in our friendship stool along with me and Tim.  We played baseball, football, and army together in the neighborhood.  He was even in on the notorious Poop Monster games.  He was a year younger than me, but we were roughly the same size.

Anyway, David stepped up in front of me.  He came right up and with his foot drew an invisible line in the street and dared me to step over it.  Freshly pumped full of adrenaline from an exciting hour of space adventures, I promptly stepped over his line, and it all broke loose.

He started at me and I shoved him hard, so hard that he tumbled across to the edge of the street and fell down.  That done, I turned toward Ernie and started in his direction.  Ernie quickly back-pedaled into his own yard.  When I reached the edge of the street, I sensed that David was back on his feet.  I saw him coming out of the corner of my eye and turned, and as I did I swung my fist around.  I didn’t swing hard.  After all, I had no experience with fighting.  I just swung it around about waist level.  I wasn’t expecting the boy to jump into the air.

I connected.  He fell on the ground doubled up.

Apparently, when I swung and he jumped, I accidentally hit him in the groin.  I certainly didn’t intend to, but it seems that is what happened.

That was the end of it…or at least I thought so at the time…and I went back home.

About fifteen minutes later, David’s entire family with the possible exception of his dad, were across the street at Ernie’s house, and they were screaming obscenities at our house; daring me to come back out in the street.  Tony was there.  His older sister was there.  David and Tony’s mom was there.  It was nuts!  They were determined to get me and make me pay for what I had done.  The yelling, taunting, and cursing went on for what seemed like hours.

We didn’t call the police, and I didn’t go back outside.  Eventually, they grew tired and went home.  The only obvious evidence of their presence the next day was a piece of wood sticking out of one of my dad’s garage door windows.

My dad's old garage at 21st & Hackley Streets.  There used to be two heavy wooden doors that hung on a rail.  The rail is still there.  There were a few windows in each, but most of them had been replaced with pieces of tin.  There was one less glass pane after this event.

It was over, but I knew that it wasn’t really over.  I knew Tony would feel obligated to defend his family’s honor against the perceived offense.  What I couldn’t be sure of was whether or not Tim would help him.  Tony was still at Wilson Middle School, but Tim was at Southside High School with me, and I always walked to school alone.  Frankly, I was really worried that I would be jumped and beat up.

Over the next couple of weeks, or maybe it was a full month, I began to vary my routes to school along with changing my start times every day.  When I was home in the neighborhood, I stayed close to the house and constantly watched for any potential trap.  Sometimes, Tony would ride by, and he was obviously looking for an opportunity.  If I was out in the street, he would veer toward my direction, but if I headed toward a house, he would veer away.  He was stalking me; waiting for an opportunity to pounce.  I had witnessed him do this with other guys in the past, so I knew how he worked.

Time went by, and I learned that Tim would not be part of it.  I felt a little better, but I knew Tony was still looking for an opening.  Finally, one day I was outside and Tony rode by.  He stopped and called over to me.

“Mike, let’s be friends again,” he said.  “I’m tired of this.”

“Are you serious?” I asked.  The truth is that I missed our friendship, and I did want it to be over and back to the way it had been.  I wanted to believe him.

“Yeah, I’m serious.  This is dumb.”

I was hesitant, but I really wanted to be friends again.  Slowly, he convinced me, and although I continued to be wary, I eventually let my guard down.  He came over to my yard and we hung out.  After a while, we decided we were thirsty, so we walked down the alley to Cantrell’s Barber Shop to get a pop.  I had some change, so I bought both of us a bottle and we walked back laughing and guzzling our drinks.

Carson Cantrell's Barbershop at 22nd & Hackley Streets is the building on the right.  He kept several pop machines along the front of the house on the left.  They were the coldest sodas in town.

“Let’s play some basketball,” he said.

There was a hoop hung on a makeshift backboard that was in turn hung on a tree in the alley beside Ernie’s house, so we went over and started shooting around.  Ernie came out and joined us.  We were having fun and I forgot completely about the problems that we had just recently been having. 

It was when I bent down to pick up the ball that I felt his arm wrap around my head.

He pulled the glasses off of my face and handed them to someone…might have been Ernie.  I also realized that his brother, David, had arrived.

I was bent over and he had me in a headlock.  He punched me in the side of the face.  I forced my way up and then threw him down.  David lunged at me, and I tossed him aside.  Tony was back at me and we struggled across the yard until we were leaning across the back of Ernie’s mom’s car.

“Mom!  They’re fighting out here!” I heard Ernie yell.

I grabbed Tony’s hair and pulled his head down toward the trunk of the car, and gave him a little punch in the side of the head.  David came onto and over my back.  Somehow, I managed to through him off again and not lose my grip on Tony.  I think he must have gotten in a couple of more punches and I might have thrown one or two, and suddenly we were separated and I was standing there with my fists in the air.  Again, it was two on one, but this time one of them was my same size and much more experienced at fighting than I happened to be.

I was standing there, waiting for more, unsure of which one would be on me first (but not running), when my dad came out of the back gate and yelled at us to stop.  I don’t know how he knew we were fighting.  He was usually inside and at the other end of the house watching TV.  Maybe Ernie’s mom called my mom.  However he happened to find out, I was glad to see him.

The fight ended there.  I went inside and Tony went home.

A few minutes later, our phone rang.  My mom answered.  After a second or two, she handed the phone in my direction and said: “It’s Tony for you.”

I was still hyped up from the fight and my face was flushed, but I took the phone.

“Hello,” I said.

“Mike, It’s over now.”


“You know I had to do that, right?” he explained.


It really was over this time.  We never had another tussle.  Slowly, our friendship resumed, but I never felt completely comfortable with him again.  The trust was gone.  My friendship with Tony felt like playing with fireworks; they’re a lot of fun, but if you weren't careful, they might blow up in your face.

Thus ends the story of my rumble in the hood.  I guess the moral of this story is:  Bad things happen when you come between a nerd and his science fiction.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Christianity 101-Magic Words, Secret Formula, or Grace?

There were two things that I really liked when I was a child: magic and cakes.

“Abra Cadabra!” and the guy pulled a rabbit or a card or a colorful hanky out of someplace that it should not have been. The magician would put a girl in a box and with a few waves of the arms he’d open it up again, and she’d be gone. Amazing!

Big Wacky Cakes. German Chocolate Cakes. Cheese Cakes. My mom had the recipes down. She didn’t need to check the cookbook. She just knew the formulas for making great cakes.

With those two metaphors in mind, there is at least a reasonable chance that I’m going to step on someone’s toes with this article. I guess we’ll see.

First, a review of the stuff we’ve come through already…

• With God, it’s all about the relationship!
• The most important commandment is to love God!
• We have sinned…all of us!
• Sin causes separation from God! (We caused the separation.)
• God doesn’t want us to be separated.
• That separation is a predicament for both God and us.

Remember the example of the folks who tried to swim from New York to London? Some went much further than the others, but in the end they all died. It really didn’t matter who went further, they were all equally dead. It is the same with our sin. Some might be more righteous in and of themselves than other people, but when it is all said and done, in and of themselves they are separated from God due to whatever sin they actually have committed.

So, what is the answer? What do we do about it?

The answer is NOTHING. We, you and me, can do nothing to change our situation out of our own ability. The answer rests with God.

But, let’s examine a couple of “answers” that some folks cling to.

First, there are the “Magic Words.”

What are magic words? Well, they are words that when spoken at the right time and in the right order and in the right way will bring out a magical reaction. Here are the magic words that I’m referring to:

“Lord Jesus, I am a sinner. I am truly sorry for my sins and I want to change. Please forgive me. I believe in you; that you died for my sins and that you rose from the dead. I invite you to come into my heart, and I will follow you from this day forward. In Jesus name I pray, amen.”

This, or something very similar to it, is commonly used in church circles today and it is called “The Sinner’s Prayer.” It sounds very good. And, I think it contains a great deal of truth. It holds all of the attitudes that an individual should possess who is coming before the throne of God. It even sounds scriptural.

I have two problems with it, however.

1. It is not found ANYWHERE in the Bible. This is a nice compilation of someone’s concept of how a person would or should respond to God, but there is no scriptural precedent or example from which you can directly pull it. There is no example of anyone in the scriptures ever responding to the message of Christ in this manner.

2. I have often heard this presented like it is the magic words of salvation. It’s almost like the words themselves held some sort of power over God. “Say this prayer with me, and you’ll be saved.”

Abra Cadabra! The magic words! Wam, bam! I’m saved! No purchase required!

Second, there is the “Secret Formula.”

Kind of like baking a cake, this approach makes it a scientific effort. As long as you put all the ingredients together in the right order, then you’re saved; simple as pie.

  • Hear
  • Believe
  • Confess
  • Repent
  • Be baptized

And, we all know that the most important one is baptism. Right?

Really? What ever happened to what Jesus said was the most important thing? (For those who may have missed it, He said it was to love God with all that you are.)  And, is repentance really less important than being dunked in water?

Again, it’s like the formula holds some power over God.

Now, like the earlier example, I do believe that there is truth in this. All of these steps are found in scripture. In this case, there are actual hard examples that point toward these very things, and I believe they are important.

However, there are some basic things missing.

1. There is no “heart” in the process. It is very clinical. Where is the heartfelt remorse over your sin and your separation from God?

2. Where is the love? Where is the desire of the heart for the relationship with the Father? Maybe a person has that, but the formula doesn’t address it.

Either way, as I noted above, there is nothing WE can do to bring about our own salvation on our own. It is not within our power. But, God has the power. Let’s take a few minutes to explore the answer HE has provided.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:1-10


We are saved by GRACE.

Grace makes the difference.

We didn’t do it. We couldn’t do it. It is beyond us.

We can’t earn it. We can’t be good enough. It is a GIFT!

The “magic words” without GRACE are nothing but empty syllables. The “secret formula” without God’s GIFT is a worthless act of a helpless soul.

We all fall short, but it is the grace of God that makes up the difference. Consider the following scale.


Whether we fall short by a little or by a lot, we are all lost…except that THROUGH the GRACE of God we aren’t. It is GRACE that allows us to stand before God when we deserve to remain spiritually dead.

Consider this…

I think that we, the religious ones, often expect that everyone needs to be at least as righteous as we are BEFORE God’s grace can help them. They aren’t good enough to be saved unless they’ve at least met our own standard. WE ARE JUDGING BY THE WRONG STANDARD! After all, and again, we have ALL fallen short. We are all dead in our transgressions.

On a side note, consider this chart…

Think about this. If God’s grace is big enough and strong enough to bring salvation to the thief, the murderer, and the rapist, then can it not be enough to handle the person who otherwise follows God with all his heart but misunderstands a point of doctrine that we consider critical? Surely grace can fill the gap in doctrine as well as in life.

I don’t know where God draws the distinctions and the lines with regards to who is too far gone. I just know that the Judgment Seat doesn’t have my name on it, and I’m pretty doggone reluctant to sit down in it these days.

I love the next verse because I think it really gives us insight into how God feels about each one of us. For a little background, the situation is that King David’s son Absalom has murdered his brother Amnon and has fled to escape the consequences. David is heartsick both because of the acts that his son has committed, but also, and perhaps mostly because of the loss of his relationship with his son. He wants Absalom to be with him. As a result, he is completely downtrodden to the point that his right hand man, Joab concocts a plan to spur David to bring Absalom home. He sends a woman to David to pretend to have a distressing situation that is specifically designed to get David to soften his heart and to arrange the reunion. Ultimately, David figures out that Joab is behind the scheme, but it still has the desired effect, and soon Absalom is home.

However, there is one line that the woman speaks that I think gives real insight into God’s feeling toward us:

Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him.
2 Samuel 14:14

As I’ve been saying…GOD IS ALL ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP! We separated ourselves through our sin just like Absalom separated himself from his father. And just like David, God wants us back

So, he devised a way. (Jesus. A cross. A rolled stone. An empty tomb!)

We don’t deserve it anymore than Absalom did, but God (our Father) is heartsick enough to manipulate all of history to bring about the salvation that is our gift in Christ.

Grace is defined as an unmerited gift, one freely given. It is the love of God given to us.

One last thing…

If I asked you to mow my yard, and in return I’d give you $50, then you would have an opportunity to earn the reward. When you did the work, I would owe you the promised amount. However, if I said I had a gift for you, it was $50, and all you had to do was come over to my house and get it, then you are not earning it by showing up and sticking out your hand as I extended the money to you with mine.

Any gift given must be received and taken, or else it remains in limbo. God has given a gift. That gift is collectively called “grace,” or “the grace of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Even though God has prepared the gift, each individual must receive it.

A few weeks ago, I decided to give a little money toward my nephew’s mission trip to Cambodia. It wasn’t much, but it was a gift. I sent a message that he needed to come see me. My intention was that when he came, I’d write the check and hand it to him. It wasn’t long, and he was at my door. I told him to follow me up to my office. He followed me up. We talked for a while, and then I handed him the check.

Hmmm. Would he have gotten the money from me if he had ignored my message? What if he messaged me back and told me to come bring it to him instead of him coming to get it? Hmmm.

Often times, we know that God has given us the gift of Grace, and all He wants is for us to come get it. But, we don’t show up. We don’t respond. Or, worse yet, we want it on OUR TERMS. “Bring it to me, God!”

In the next several posts, we will explore our response to the gift.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

WMBO-Fitness Update-Week 23

Here is my monthly update of the view of the creek on McGregor Road.  I'll have to put all these together in December to get the progressive view.

Red's Corner, located at the corner of Acton Road and Rocklane Road.

A stream on Maze Road.  I believe it is located on the Aikman Farm.

The Brookfield Baptist Church in Brookfield, Indiana
 Just a side note before I start my weekly report, but did you know that if you want a closer look at any of the pictures in my blog, all you need to do is click on them?

This was a good week for me.  I had the most consistent week for exercise activity since January, and I think I've finally kicked the sickness that has been dogging me since mid-May.  I rode my bike several times, and I walked in between rides a few times.  One walk I'm particularly proud of was in Owensboro, Kentucky.  It was a scorching hot day in the mid to upper 90s, and I'd been traveling all day, but I got out and walked over two miles!

I like to exercise, but sometimes I'm just tired.  This week, I pretty well pushed through that and got my miles in anyway.  Often it is hard to do that, and I do give in to the weariness at times, but trying to hit a particularly lofty goal like 2011 miles in one year helps to motivate me out of my chair or off my hotel room bed.

I've been thinking a lot about that goal...complete 2011 miles in the year 2011 by walking, running, or cycling...and I'm starting to doubt that I'll be able to get there.  I made some rules for myself to make it a tougher goal to hit...only miles completed outside will count...no treadmills or exercise bikes.  With that in mind, I've seen that with my work and travel schedule that limitation is a real hinderance.  That said, I'm not going to change the rules in mid-stream.  I'm going to hang with this program and do the best I can to get there, but I'm thinking I'll repeat the program next year and allow the indoor miles.  In the second year, the primary focus will be fitness, and utilizing the tools of the treadmills and indoor bikes will play right into that.

Shifting gears...

Yesterday, I went out for a 17.4 mile ride and two things of note happened:

1. I rode south on Acton Road to start off.  My plan was to ride to Red's Corner, then turn around and head back to Acton where I'd veer off for a side loop.  Well, as I rode into the light southerly wind, it just seemed like it was taking way too much energy to pump the pedals.  A few things went through my mind as I was grinding out the ride.  One was that maybe the wind was hampering more that usual because of my weakened legs due to the inactivity last year after my Achilles surgery.  Another was that maybe I'd really lost more steam than I'd thought by being sick in May.  Hmmm.  I kept shifting to lighter gears and pumping along...sweating profusely.  I just couldn't wait to get to the turn around point. 

So, I reached Red's Corner and stopped for a breather and a good drink of water.  I unclipped from the pedals and stood straddling the bike for a couple of minutes, enjoying the break.  When I finally decided to get going again, I went to scoot the bike toward the road and realized that my rear tire didn't want to move.  I scooted it again, I guess just to confirm that I wasn't imagining it.  Upon futher inspection, I discovered that my rear brake was stuck in a position where it was dragging heavily on the wheel.

No wonder I was having trouble peddling.  I adjusted the brake and the rest of the ride went much better, but when I was done, my 17 mile ride felt a lot like a 37 mile ride.

2.  Toward the end of the ride, I turned north on Acton Road from one of the side roads in the town.  I hadn't gone far before a minivan passed me and some dufus stuck his head out of the window and made an incomprehensible comment.  I say "incomprehensible" truly because I could not understand what he said.  No matter what he said however, I could tell by the tone that it was supposed to be funny at my expense.

Ha ha ha.

Why do people have to compensate for their own idiocy by trying to belittle someone else?  Maybe I'll send a recommendation to the mayor to put up a sign on Acton Road: "Caution.  Rednecks Crossing!" or "Caution.  Dufus at Play!"

Okay, here are the numbers...

Miles Completed:  317.5
Percentage Completed:  15.79%

Current Weight:  257.2 lbs  (Down just a bit.  Right direction anyway!)

Time to go.

See you on the road.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Liberty, Indiana Courthouse

I saw this courthouse today, and I think the old architecture is cool.  So, I thought I'd share.  It's too bad that they don't make 'em like this anymore.

It's located in Liberty, Indiana.

Interesting history.  I enjoy Civil War history, so this caught my eye.
My job takes me to a lot of small towns and cities in central and southern Indiana and northern Kentucky.  In traveling through those places, I see quite a few interesting old buildings.  I've decided to try to remember to carry my camera and get some shots to share.  I hope you like what you see.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Muncie Boyhood: Football and Cowardice

That's me...middle row...all the way on the left.
Now days, a young person has any number of sports he or she can get involved with, and they all start when the child is barely able to comprehend the sport at all. When I was a kid, there were three “real” sports: baseball, basketball, and football. Oh, of course, you had cross country and track, but those weren’t really sports, they were like organized activities. Soccer was something they played in foreign countries. The high schools had tennis, but a blue collar boy wasn’t really introduced to that sport except through watching Chris Everett on TV.

I was a baseball nut. I loved it. I ate it. I drank it. I dreamed about it. It all started in 1972 when I discovered the Cincinnati Reds and the Big Red Machine. By the summer of 1973, I could practically name the entire roster, give you their batting averages or ERAs, and tell you how the leaders stacked up against the other leaders in the league. I bet I can almost name all the starters still: Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan, Dave Concepcion, Denis Menke, Bobby Tolan, and Cesar Geronimo. The best pitchers were Jack Billingham and Don Gullett, and the best reliever was Pedro Bourbon.

(Okay, I cheated a little bit and looked some names up, but I remembered most of them.)

Basketball was definitely not my game. I had the leap of a concrete block, and the speed of a sloth. Dribble and run at the same time? Are you serious? It was way down the list of my favorite sports. I think I preferred playing Poop Monster to playing basketball.

Football was not my favorite either, but I could at least keep up. We used to have neighborhood games in the Cecil and Irene’s back field. When I got to Wilson Middle School, it was time to play for real on the school team. I suppose I was spelling fun: m-i-s-e-r-y

Keep in mind that I didn’t like to get hit hard. I hated to be hurt. I didn’t like the stretches, the running, and the warm ups. Pain and I were not on speaking terms, but I went out for football anyway. My friends were all doing it. It seemed like the thing to do. I had no idea what I was doing.

It didn't help that I was practically blind without my glasses, and you can't wear glasses in tackle football.

The problems started when we picked out our gear. Most of the boys somehow knew all about how to pick out a football uniform. I had no clue. We went past the helmets. The rest of the boys got the nice modern-looking ones, and I ended up with an ancient helmet that was shaped differently from everyone else’s. I did okay on the shoulder pads and the jersey, but I really messed up royally on the pants and the leg pads. No one told me that football pants don’t come all the way down to the ankles…my thigh pads hung over my knees and my knee pads fit nicely over my shins. I looked like a real dork. Sometimes, looks really aren’t all that deceiving.

The worst thing that happened to me during football was Denny. It began at a practice. I don’t even remember what started it, but somehow we ended up being sent to the locker room for the balance of the practice. I guess I did something he didn’t like, and we kind of had a few words too close to the coach, and off we went to sit in the school, just the two of us. In retrospect, that really seems like a stupid thing for a teacher/coach to do. Why would you send two boys that you think are about to fight off by themselves into a locker room where no one can supervise them?

There was no fight. Denny wanted to. He dared me to. He taunted me. I refused. Remember, I was not fond of pain. I didn’t like to get hit. Frankly, I was a bit of a coward.

As you can guess, that wasn’t the end of it. He knew he had the upper hand on me. He knew I wouldn’t stand my own ground. This was probably September or October, and Seventh Grade lasted until the end of May. It was a long year of taunts and insults.

I am ashamed of myself for being such a coward. Eventually, I grew out of it, but not without suffering wounds to my self-esteem that took years to heal. I know we’re not supposed to encourage kids to fight, but if I’d just punched him once, the rest of that year would have been so much smoother…at least I think so.

By Eighth Grade, Denny seemed to have moved on from his abuse of me, and my football career had ended. When high school came, we went to different schools, so I didn’t see him again until we were in our twenties. I was organizing a recreational church softball team, and Denny was playing on another church team. We ended up on the same practice field at Heekin Park one day and our teams scrimmaged against one another. He seemed like a regular guy. It’s odd how differently a boy acts when he’s not in seventh grade anymore.

Age changes things. I got cut from my favorite sport four years in a row and subsequently gave up baseball. I never played football again. In my late twenties, I started playing basketball, and just to show how bad I was as a kid, I was still getting better when I hit forty years old. On top of that, my favorite part of the game became playing defense under the basket in the paint where I would often nail someone hard if they drove the ball inside. I decided I liked dishing out the hits. After all…

A little pain never hurt anyone.

Monday, June 6, 2011

WMBO-Fitness Update-Weeks 21 & 22

The Hot Wheels Ramp.  Later, they ran a truck down the ramp and it did a jump.  I tried to get a shot of the jump, but without a good telephoto lens, I was too far away.

They had some vintage winning cars do a few laps with former winners as drivers.  It was cool to watch them go around.

As always, there was a large, and often interesting crowd.

The Stealth Bomber did a fly-over.  Awe-inspiring.  You really can't hear it until it has already passed over you.  It's good to not be the bad guy.

Current cars on the track in turn four.

The aftermath.

I had a good time.
You may have noticed.  I skipped a week.  I didn't post on Memorial Day Weekend.  Frankly, I just really didn't have time.  Since my last post, I've been to the Indy 500, held a graduation party for my youngest daughter, helped prepare for the party (at least a little), worked on muddy landscaping projects, consoled a young girl who was in an auto accident, attended ump-teen graduation parties, and participated in a leadership retreat....and that's just the highlights.

I went to the Indianapolis 500 with my buddy Brian, who lives in Parker, Colorado.  He called me a few months ago to tell me that he was coming back to Indiana to go the race, and would I like to go.  I said: "ummm, let me think--YES!"  Now, in doing so, I put myself in a bit of a spot.  You see, my wife LOVES the race.  I simply enjoy it.  She does things like downloading the sounds of the racecars as her cellphone ring tone.  I.....well...I just enjoy it.  She was a good sport with me though, and didn't give me too hard of a time.

If you've never been to the race, it is an experience.  You and hundreds of thousands of other people all sitting in a giant oval watching cars going REALLY fast!  In some ways, the other thousands of people are almost more interesting than the race itself.  I didn't see too much craziness this year, but it was still interesting.  I will comment on a couple of observations...

1.  As part of the pre-race ceremonies, the race organizers always ask a minister to offer a prayer.  I don't recall the wording so much as the tone.  I remember thinking it was a good prayer.  The thing was, I might have been one of only a handful of people who actually listened to it.  The guy in front of me couldn't stop sipping his beer long enough for the prayer to end, and the group to my right chattered on as loud as ever as if there was nothing going on.  In fact, the whole crowd only quieted slightly during his benediction.  However, a few minutes later they played TAPS, and immediately the entire crowd became solemn and quiet.

I'm proud that they had enough respect for our fallen soldiers to give them the silent respect that they deserve, but it really saddens me that so many people cannot give enough respect to the One who gave it all for everyone to at least set the beer down for minute.

2.  Brian and I had parked downtown and rode a bus to the track.  It is a great way to get there, but a bit tougher way to get home.  You see, the bus riders file in a few at a time for several hours before the race, but everyone wants to leave and go home at the same time.  Anyway, the bus dropped us on the 16th Street end of the track, and our seats were almost at the other end of the 2 1/2 mile oval.  It was a long walk to and from on a pretty doggone hot day, but I didn't mind it too much.  On the way out though, I saw an image that reminded me that some people just shouldn't go out into public when they drink.  Walking down the middle of Georgetown Road was a young woman.  She was with a group and I'm guessing that she was probably in her middle twenties.  I'm sure she is normally quite attractive as well.  However, on this day, she gave off an image that pretty much killed any sense of attractiveness...at least it did with me.  You can start with dark hair and tanned skin.  Typically, that's attractive.  Then add the skimpy bikini top.  That would catch the eye of most guys.  Then, add a bit of a pouch or slight overhang to the stomach, a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other, and her short shorts unfastened.  Ummmm.  Not my idea of a beauty queen.  Sorry.

Time for the fitness update. 

Things are still a bit tough for me.  I think I have a touch of some bug that is hanging on to me and sapping my strength.  I'm getting tired really easily.  This last Sunday, I had gotten good sleep the night before, but still I came home from church and slept for about four hours.  Besides that weird weariness, the weather, my schedule, and all the graduation festivities have made getting my miles in a bit problematic.

All that said, I have added a few to the tally, including 11.3 miles just today.  Here are the totals:

Goal:  2011 miles by walking, running, or cycling in the year 2011
Miles completed:  288.8
Percentage of Goal Completed:  14.36%

Current Weight:  257.8 lbs

The weight was an issue last week.  I actually jumped up over 259 on the scales on my unreported last week.  However, I dropped back down this week.  I still need to get the trend line moving downward though.  I'll feel much better when I get below 240.

Enough for now.  I hope you enjoyed the pictures.

See you on the road.