Tear gas wasn’t as serious at Watkins Glen, with a side of white privilege to start

The Winnebago we had at Watkins Glen wasn’t as grand as brother’s current 57-footer, but getting a place inside was a good thing

Well, it was the Fall of 1979, which kind of makes it ancient history, but having paid $15 and change for two wall panels I’d written some important Kansas lyrics on (that’s right, graffiti!), I had my college degree, and it would only be another two months before I got a job to use it on.

Our carload of properly stoked-up college buds were heading across New York to pick up a seventh passenger near Rochester before getting a Winnebago for the weekend of Formula 1 races at Watkins Glen, when the flashing lights behind us got everybody a LOT more serious than discussions about Mario Andretti’s chances or the powerful Ferrari team.

It was dark-thirty or so, we probably weren’t doing 55, and the trooper said he stopped us because there were a lot of heads in the car. There might have been a little haziness in the vehicle, but knowing we were definitely going the wrong direction with a transporter plate on that big ol’ Caprice was a reality.

Every time I hear that “white privilege” phrase I think of this event, and hearing the officer say, “Well, if you’re transporting this to Massachusetts, you’re going the wrong way,” was just as chilling as the possibility he wouldn’t ignore the smell of that haze. I’ve never doubted that a black driver or any ‘brothers’ (besides our two Italian guys) would have entailed a much more significant interruption of our race plans.

About fun with tear gas

Seven guys with nine cases of beer worked out fine, as did setting up camp the first site we tried, because once the wheels went off the pebbled road into soggy earth, we were there. That two guys crapped out and I got a place inside the ‘bago, that was great. We never went anywhere without beers in every pocket, I still have the Ferrari hat purchased with poker winnings. But about the tear gas…

Watkins Glen fell out of the F-1 scene because it lacked the financial backing to improve the track adequately, but part of the historic ‘charm’ of it was a place called The Bog, where rowdiness was available every night. This was the time of a second OPEC gas crunch, and I haven’t forgotten the guy standing next to a gas guzzler, hoping somebody would take it to that wild area and sacrifice it, which is how torching cars was regarded. Allll part of the party, although the yahoo trying to aim a Bic lighter into the gas tank of an upended Datsun was about as smart as not wearing a face mask during a pandemic.

It was actually the second night there when “Joey G.” and I roamed that direction, picking up the pace as people went past the other way, talking about getting gassed. Neither of us had that life experience yet, and after standing aside so a phalanx of riot-geared cops could go past, we headed to The Bog. Imagine our disappointment when we arrived and no tear gas – something I’m SURE the people who’ve gotten that, plenty of pepper spray, and some of that “non-lethal munitions” nastiness won’t feel the same about.

Sorry I can’t tell you how it felt, but ask the mayor of Portland, Ted Wheeler, for a recap – I’m sure his memory is fresh about it.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, center in black with goggles looking away, stands at a fence guarding a federal courthouse as tear gas drifts by early July 23, 2020, in Portland Oregon, during another night of protest against the presence of federal agents sent by President Donald Trump to quell unrest in the city.Jonathan Maus/BikePortland via AP

Young men still do adventures, bonding counts

While I’m going nowhere next week while bro Mike does D.C. and Carlisle, PA trip, youngest nephew and recent UNC grad buddies flew west while several of their job starts were delayed, nailing an 18-day odessey in something more like Mike’s vehicle above than that long ago Winnie. Fishing because they’re all good at it, catching some SNOW in July, and rolling wherever. Any other time this would be the shit that cements friendships as a damn-straight American rite of passage, but this particular time, scarily dangerous beyond all norms.

Don’t we have the same data-driven fact, that LOTS of America is on COVID fire? Yet he and his buhds, and David, the NY part of us four brothers – who I couldn’t bust in person about hitting SIXTY yesterday – wife, and daughter, went NY-KY-Dakotas-Washington State driving, hiked a few of the major parks that just reopened. Ryan & Crew got trail passes easily after parks reopened from COVID.

That’s just people I know, but keeping to themselves over 3,000 miles, being very traceable if anything happened out in the wild – and David, 60 yesterday, Donna and Maria have self-quarantened in Ballston Spa, NY for two weeks afterwards – but so far, all ultimately safe.

As the French say, “C’est la vie.” Reopening anything safely should be as carefully planned as those successful trips.

Tuesday I’m hoping that the only driving I’ll be doing is nine holes at a local club, while Mike starts his road trip Wednesday. I still think cutting my time “out there” with COVID is legit. I’m still primarily a remote worker, and my options improved by two this week – I’m in 2nd phase of process, with video interview portion scheduled and skills evaluation.

I’ll be getting out for first time, and seeing how the muscle memory is on my irons would be getting back to normal a little, maybe playing two balls. Could be more people available to play Tuesdays with almost 50 million unemployed, I don’t know. I’m ready to invest around $20, Hitting off the tees is a decent option, they have chipping and putting too. More 90s in weather forecasts? Psshhh, it’s July in Charlotte, man.

On the topic of memory, its been good to see America recognize the passing of a passionate American, Rep. John Lewis, an iconic figure from the days of Martin Luther King, Jr., the March to Selma where he nearly died, a gentleman who epitomized the looking forward ‘Merica we want to fight for, getting into Good Trouble.

That a practical memorial would be renaming a certain bridge for Mr. Lewis, for what its worth, I concur. Keep it together ‘Merica, we’ll get the EPA back on that “sea to shining sea” thing again. Black Lives Still Matter.

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Shooting hoops in 90-plus degree heat and political analogies might be ‘Foxworthy’

Sure you get a little loopy if you’re out there in blazing heat, and when it’s 86% humidity at 11 a.m., some extra truths might come to mind. When its 75 under the trees when you leave the house, its 86 two miles later at the school, and 92 after twenty minutes hoisting Js, you might be in Charlotte.

If you couldn’t put it in the ocean sitting in a rowboat, there are flashes of light before your eyes, and you just want to do a Donald and make a stupid going-home shot and declare victory, its probably from the heat in Charlotte.

If you can’t make an ‘and one’ free throw in ’21’ after going back to 15 five times, and you’re wimpering because you forgot to bring water, state that its not your responsibility, declare victory and go get a cold one in Charlotte.

If you go 0-for-the day on shots from the corner, say “It was a great day of shooting anyway!” 16 times, and then complain to the bodega guy about the wooden blocks on any other rim with the glass backboard as government overreach, you might blame the heat in Charlotte.

If clanging stuff off the rim makes a REAL racket, and you immediately demand funding to all schools be cut off unless they stop wearing masks, it might be from the heat in Charlotte.

If you can’t make a decent jump shot or free throws because the ball is slippery with sweat running down your arm, just take a bunch of layups, declare 15-footers the work of anarchists, and whine about the humidity in Charlotte.

If the ball richochets off the curbing under the basket, and you haven’t got the energy to run three steps to cut it off and wind up walking halfway across the parking lot to get it, that’s probably from the @#$%&*@! heat in Charlotte.

If you’re shooting from around Juneau, Alaska because your eyes can’t seem to focus good on what wrong or right in the moment, and your Daddy isn’t there to tell you how to cheat it, you might fall victim to the heat in Charlotte.

If there’s nobody around, not even on the playground, to yell to about how much better you usually shoot than anyone you know, that’s probably because most people are smart enough not to be out in such wicked heat in Charlotte.

OH, and because the governor in North Carolina said he wouldn’t allow a no-masks, COVID “Super Spreader” event in Charlotte’s nice indoor, air-conditioned hoops-hockey arena – and thanks for the $50 million deposit – gooooood LUCK to anyone planning on being in Jacksonville’s OUTDOOR stadium in AUGUST. They say politics can be ugly, but if 25 minutes is plenty in Charlotte heat…

Westbrook, MLB, others won’t play with COVID, Reality says NY road trip not worth it either

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Editors Note: About 10 hours after I wrote this, I got a text from NY brother. Some places are a LOT more serious about COVID (in red, below)

The most up-close and personal examples of disaster almost always involve family, and one brother of mine repeatedly asking another to reconsider a three day car show as part of a 2,000 mile road trip to upstate New York and back, was such a toughie.

My decision last week not to accompany an older brother in his 57′ motor home, then just hanging while he shows off his terrific Mustang with all the trimmings in Carlisle, PA on the way back, still doesn’t strike me as worth the risk when the country is on fire with COVID-19. Sadly, this is a situation where votes – and fears apparently – won’t make a difference.

Mike, You need to reconsider your trip to NYS. EVERYONE in NYS takes this seriously (14 day quarantine in NY, NJ, CT from states with high COVID rates). Violators are fined and publicly shamed. We see it on the news every day and wouldn’t have it any other way.

We are self-quarantining through 7/22 because of the states we traveled through (going NY to KY and X-C to Wash. St.) NYS will *require*us to register you (for coming to NY) because your state (NC) is above 10%. Failure to do so is a $2,000 fine. For the 10 days you are here and TWO WEEKS after, Donna cannot see clients, Maria and Donna cannot work at the farm store, Maria cannot coach rowing, and Donna’s Mom can’t work in the office because you will need to use that bathroom.

These are our families livelihoods, and Maria’s final coaching stint before college. To give you an idea how bad your state is, NYS is below 1% and is VERY serious about contact tracing. Thus the hefty fines per violation. NYS system is working extremely well, stops the spread dead in its tracks. They deal swiftly against dissenters.

The safest place to stay is PUT. But, if you insist on going to show, I can send you trump wearables for the car show. 

While staying ‘in place’ together since mid-March, my getting out for sanity-saving bike rides and shooting baskets without facial covering is legit. Wearing a mask and gloves when going to the grocery store, doing a first church furniture pickup since February recently, and no dates/social life, its been a careful, not so onerous couple months. I’ve been a remote worker (and still available) as a content creation – writer for about a year, so the change wasn’t dramatic for me. Bro Mike just went back to his office last week, with only a handful of other workers around.

I still haven’t seen any $1,200 stimulus check, family has thankfully helped with some economics, and whether I’m a weenie because I don’t feel as free or – well, lucky – as the last road trip I made to New York. is a small but real pinprick to the mind. I’m not concerned about the NBA’s (in Orlando) or NHL’s (two cities in Canada) ‘bubble’ efforts to have playoffs as I am about his health, and my safety when he returns.

Baseball begins a sixty game season July 23rd, hockey is restarting in August, and nobody will have fans in attendance.

Considering how much TV I’ve watched – although not F-1 or NASCAR racing , Australian rules football, and only a smidge of golf – I suppose I should be grateful for all that high-priced talent putting real sports back on the menu.

Luck, control, dangerous heat

Is it dumb luck that makes the difference during a pandemic? Perhaps taking the words seperately is more accurate: Both the prez (valet) and his son (girlfriend) have been very close to people who have tested positive without becoming positive themselves.

On the other hand, the 30-year old who admitted going to a COVID party, where the host is *known* to be infected and people were apparently willing to find out if being there would bring on a truly negative result – DEATH – instead of being a hoax, that’s dumb.

Recognizing that several employees have been shot by shoppers who reacted VERY badly to being told they couldn’t be in the store without masks, its made me (somewhat) easier on the stores who tell employees NOT to try changing things. Shooting baskets near a father with son and daughter also shooting, I was glad to hear HIS kids wouldn’t be going back into schools “just because” trump or his Education Secretary, the reprehensible and equally incompetent Betsy DeVos, threatened school districts with funding cuts.

In Charlotte, this will be a second straight week of definite 90 degree weather, which certainly isn’t too crazy for July here. Looking at the weather map, the entire middle of the country is blazing (100+), and its doubtful you’ll hear that usual “But its a dry heat,” out of many Arizonians.

Of all the things America has to be concerned about, including a new name for the NFL’s Washington team since sponsors like FedEx really put the wood to owner Daniel Snyder, Roger Stone, Russian ‘bounties’/payments to Taliban members for killing U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, or whether the Repubs get more delegates to their Jacksonville convention than the mere 6,200 who appeared in Tulsa (and VT cancellation), some things come across as more important. Pay attention to those.

I know “my people” are safe, at least for now. I have a significant supply of quality CBD oil to help keep things on a relatively even keel, and I hope that despite wicked temperatures, we can keep our collective mojo from boiling over regarding dumb and/or criminal actions by our “leaders.” 

President Kennedy said we – meaning the country called the UNITED STATES – didn’t have lofty goals, like putting a person on the moon AND bringing them back safely before the end of the decade (1960s), because it was easy, but because they were hard. If it was easy to believe my brother, your nephew-elderly aunt-Dad-best bud-neighbor can stay safe, that wouldn’t be the hardest thing, keeping it True might be a bit tougher.

See you in the streets if our “leaders” try to EXTORT the behavior that will put your kids in schools that aren’t truly safe (DeVos got *nailed by CNN on “whats the plan IF…” but don’t forget that Black Lives Matter just because six weeks have passed.

(Ed. Note: Bottom line, bro is not doing NYS, but still on track for 3 days at car show.)

 
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Maintaining ‘lifestyle’ is a worthy goal during Regular Times, too ‘Merica

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Knight’s Stadium in downtown Charlotte, NC has big city ambiance, and civic jewel Romare Bearden Park the other side of right field fence. Pro sports are facing challenges of gearing up, but good thoughts for your Fourth ‘Merica.

Exchanging FB messages with a favorite cousin, we concur that, whatever is going on in lots of places at this point in time, we’re still not severely cut off from all civilized pursuits, our lifestyles, as it were. Confederate statuary be danged, that “When you’ve got your health…” stuff comes up on both our attitude-radar regularly.

Frank is retired, would probably be spending the summer in Minn. if not for all that’s transpired. My brother Mike and I have been in-place since just before the official start in late March, and having lived together off-on during long stretches of life before, we’re doing pretty good on staying relaxed. I’ve got an office at one end of house, he winds up using the kitchen table. Yes, there’s been too much TV watching, the dogs demand regular petting, and they follow my every move in the kitchen.

I was essentially a remote worker the last year, so COVID-19 didn’t have a major effect on my daily timing. Knowing this week will be a scorcher, I expect bike rides will be earlier vs. in energy-sucking humidity of Charlotte afternoons. Brother Steve asked Mike for a lift back from here while riding yesterday – I shot hoops earlier this morning, had early lunch and being blog productive all afternoon.

Time on task

Sometimes it really does feel like vacation, and what needs to be accomplished in any 2-3 hour window might be vague. Missing a blog is most often a lack of discipline, but also a signal that’s reminded  you throughout life about attitude affecting outcome. You let it slide, it becomes a negative.

Every time I leave mid-program, after any too long escape from screen/keyboard or food-making, I give myself an attaboy! Artificial Intelligence (AI) might be able to turn ‘it’ on-off in the future, but only being in the saddle actually gets results in 2020. Period.

Having opinions about BLM, face masks, and when stimulus checks show up? are kind of in the personal mix, but really, only getting the dialogue written for my creative stuff with wattpad, or making sure an RFP hits the clients criteria described on Indeed, thats a ‘more is better’ situation. Discipline is always the deal.

Sports – Who knew we’d do okay without…?

  • Charlotte has Carolina Panthers football, Hornets basketball (23-42, 10th in East, out of any restart) and Triple A hockey Checkers (2018-19 champs, 34-22-5, tied for 3rd in Atlantic Division), and Panthers owner David Tepper pushed through his purchase of an MLS soccer franchise ($300M worth) that doesn’t have an official name yet.
  • It’s doubtful any of these will be putting fannies in the seats in the near future. After two train-wreck seasons, the Panthers return is certainly the most anticipated. The retirement of beloved Luke Kuechly, the amazing goodness of Christian McCaffrey’s rarely achieved 1000-1000 yard productivity, an exciting new coach (Matt Ruhle), a necessary all defensive (7 picks) draft, and the arrival of QB Teddy Bridgewater from New Orleans, and offensive coordinator Joe Brady from national champion LSU are all positives. 
  • According to CBS Sports, the big sendup for Major League Baseball will be the Yankees and reigning World Series champs the Washington Nationals on July 23rd. That will be the focus game, with the rest of whatever season they figured out starting the next day. Could be Max Scherzer or Stephen Strasberg for the Nats, Yanks battered 306 HRs last year (and the Twinkies-no-more had one more).
  • I got my motorsports ya-yas out years ago, with a couple Formula I races in Watkins Glen and Montreal, and satisfied any NASCAR yearnings with a 300 miler in Charlotte that took almost seven hours, with wrecks and rain delays. I was in a hospitality suite, so food, drink, staying dry was all good, with a great view of everyone pulling into the pits without the various fumes.
  • Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick were at the top in Pocono 350, Harvick leads the standings with 581 pts. (3 wins, 8-Top 5s), Hamlin is 4th, with 506 pts. (4 wins, 9-Top 5s). You figure it out.
  • Dustin Johnson’s -19 took the Travelers Tournament, Kevin Streelman was 2nd at -18, and because he was one of the ‘names’ in tournament, Phil Mickelson was T-24th at -11, Sergio was T-32nd at -10. Webb Simpson leads the FedEx standings with 1,583 points (7 tournaments), Justin Thomas (1,543 in 11 events), Rory McIlroy (1,270 in 9 outings) is 4th.
  • Formula I is a whole ‘nother deal than just going left, and if you’ve had the opportunity to samba in the streets with Brazilians, you have partied with the best. Having no crowds trackside, those sports mean very little. The golfers don’t seem to mind any lack of  crowd ‘juice,’ and its probably easier to keep your mind on doing what most think of as free money, hardly a real job.

For those who wondered, former Panther Cam Newton has landed in New England as their probable #1 QB, since 42-year old Tom Brady has left for Tampa Bay.

Bombshell good news – ‘The Comeback Trail’

While doing our first furniture pickup for a shelter supply ministry since February, our four-man crew moved a large table downstairs for a lady’s neighbor, receiving 300mg. vials of prime CBD (hempseed oil) for the effort. Having been a content creation person for a manufacturer last year, I appreciate the quality of it, much better on anxiety levels with .5 of a dropper several times a day, compared to the $2.49 version (wine) from Aldi.

good timesdave-michStill, beyond just knowing everyone is safe – including Mom, even if they had a breach at her senior community on 17th – and Favorite Nephew and wife arriving in other corner of country, getting really GOOD news is a slice of Life that works wonders.

Family counts plenty under circumstances like whats out there, with 40 million in some stage of unemployed, and not many you can have a beer with.

 

That came with a note on FB about a movie my “fifth brother,” David Ornston worked, and his getting a producer credit for comedy ‘The Comeback Trail,’ starring Robert DeNiro, Tommy Lee Jones, Morgan Freeman, and Zach Braff.

It’s not “Jenny from the Block” or “Straight Outta Compton” huge, and for most its just info you’d look for at the beginning or end of the film. As a bro thing, when an important part of your life involves getting a bunch of stars on the same project like ‘Comeback,’ that’s a good professional result, worth an attaboy.

Right now I’ve got RFPs for remote work out, I’d like to try some outdoor brew pub entertainment three blocks away, will keep an eye out for that elusive stimulus check, continue a healthy amount of activity including my good-looking jump shot, and edit another chapter of Platinum Fury.’ y’know?

Time on task man. And please wear your mask.

 

 

 

Sports is the American way, we love winners, believe in fairness

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If there’s a game with more macho to it, someone is going to have to show me.

After wasting essentially three hours on FB on an overcast-rainy Wednesday (right? I’m not always 100% on days now, anyone else feeling fuzzy on that?), I’ve purged enough of my angst about political buffonery to write a legitimate blog.

Having planned on doing something ‘sporty-ish,’ my initial observation is that, lacking any juice from crowd excitement for the NASCAR and golf I peeked at, its less interesting than some of the (repeats of) NCAA action in baseball, football, lacrosse, and hoops I’d seen years ago. Of course, showing finals, or YUGE! upsets is part of that.

Duke (6-0) was #1 early in the 2019-20 season, and while they were a good looking pick in the NCAAs – where losing one is Death – coming up short to the Lumberjacks after 150 straight Ws at home versus non-conference teams was avoidable. If you saw it, SFA earned that  85-83 win by crushing the Blue Devils 36-27 on FGs, barely being outshot on 3-pointers (2-10, 5-15) and shot 11-17 FTs, but Duke made only 24 of *40* from the line, which will bite you just about any time.

When you lose like that, everyone has to do some unpleasant navel-gazing. Notre Dame beat Navy 43 years in a row (football), and you’d think beating on your little brother wouldn’t be any kind of thrill after that long. But, ask long-time powerhouse Nebraska how it feels when all those teams they pulverized in the Big 12 rejoiced when THEY finally won, or seeing the Huskers get their heads handed to them since they moved to the Big 10 (14 teams now, funky B1G logo).

Navy’s win against Notre Dame had to be better than sex – nobody’s father or grandfather ever got it while playing there.

UCLA (men’s basketball) beat California 52 times in a row, meaning our place *and YOUR’S* 26 straight years, and a common quote by ‘overdogs’ at times like that is, “I knew it would end at some point, it just sucks to be on the team when such strings end.”

Penn State (women’s volleyball) won 109 matches and four NCAA titles in a row  through 2010, and the UConn women’s hoops 111 games (plus four consecutive championships, two during the streak) in a row. The NCAA record for consecutive match wins is held by the UMiami men’s tennis, with 137 straight from 1957-64.

Minor political comment – THAT is what actual WINNING looks like.

The other side of the coin

How one ranks a DISASTER is often relative: When the British retreated from Kabul in Afghanistan (1st Anglo-Afghan War, 1839-1842) in January ’42, almost the entire British-Sikh force (750 British, 3800 Indian troops, 12,000 “camp followers” – families, not fans)  was slaughtered in Khyber Pass, “disaster” is *very* legit. In a fairly strong comeback, two British armies returned to crush the Afghans in Kabul in August, 1842.

The NY Giants beating New England 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII, when the 18-0 Pats were looking to become the second undefeated champions, that’s a loss, not disaster.

Super Bowl 51 – Atlanta (omg!) versus New England

Along with the annual NCAA hoops orgy, Super Bowl wins and losses determine who is held high (or regarded otherwise). For anyone who watched it, the Falcons seemed like they were poised to topple the Patriots dynasty after an eight play-85 yard drive early in the 3rd quarter gave them a 28-3 lead, 28-9 after three quarters.

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“A game that made grown men cry”is how its usually remembered, and Ryan, who had a 4,944 yard/38 TD Most Valuable Player season and a 17/23, 2 TD Super Bowl, has barely gotten the taste of ashes out of his mouth since.

You simply don’t forget losing a championship like that.

Choke? Well, there’s not a lot of ways to make losing in overtime acceptable when you’ve owned a team so totally most of the game. In the fourth quarter, a great tippped ball reception by Julian Edelman kept a Patriot drive alive, a sack-fumble against Falcon QB Matt Ryan led to a touchdown, and a unreal 43/62 for 466 yards and two TD day by future first ballot Hall of Famer Tom Brady hung a 34-28 overtime loss on Atlanta instead.

The Worst – Georgia Tech pulverizes Cumberland 222-0

At a time where air-raid passing attacks in college football can score six-to-ten touchdowns with ease, and running up the score isn’t favored, knowing how this 1916 pasting came about should earn anyone a beer.

Cumberland had actually discontinued its football program before the season, but they weren’t allowed to cancel. Tech coach John Heisman (yes, that Heisman), whose baseball team had been thumped by Cumberland 22-0 that year – possibly while using ‘ringers’ – had actually offered the Tennessee college $500 to play or face having to pay $3,000 as the guarantee for the game.

Cumberland only brought 12-16 players, Tech scored 63 points in the first and 63 more in the second quarter, held them to -42 yards rushing. Heisman, apparently with his blood lust sated, allowed the 3rd and 4th quarters to be 12 instead of 15 minutes long.

“That’s why we don’t play them on paper”

Having used two personal underdog stories throughout a long sportswriting career, this is still where they belong: An 8-2 win against Ithaca College by my rag-tag bunch of players called the Brockport State Women’s Ice Hockey Club, and a 6-3 semi-final win in the Upstate Rugby Championships by the Schenectady Reds over our arch-rivals (and aggressively un-humble) group, the Albany Knickerbockers.

My hockey team lost to Ithaca on our ice the week earlier 3-1, when IC scored an empty net goal with :02 left. I’d pulled our goalie with a minute to go, and we played textbook hockey, keeping the puck in their end, and getting six shots on goal, until they slid it the length of the ice to score. Terrific effort from a team with five freshman, but an L.

The next week, with only ten skaters, some borrowed equipment (several of them had intramural helmets without cages), only five players with green-gold jerseys and our outstanding goalie (Julie Dufresne) in a purple-yellow LA Kings jersey, four girls scored twice each. The four wet and stinking jerseys I borrowed from the men’s team Friday afternoon, didn’t wash – ooops! – but handed out before the game, that’s an underdog situation. Unforgettable!

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The rugby match was epic. The Reds hadn’t beaten the Knicks in 13 years, since they’d broken off from what had been a powerhouse and become the best team in the Upstate. Utilizing ‘rugby whores’ (give them a jersey, they’ll do what you want) to fill out a ‘B’ side, winning the championship was a hard core defensive effort over two days.

We held the Knicks scoreless until the last play of the game, essentially three straight shutouts, then they made a penalty kick because one of our players punched someone right in front of a referee.

Winning that championship was a two day, hard core defensive effort; holding the Knicks scoreless until the last play of the game was  essentially three straight shutouts.

In overtime, we made two kicks, they missed their second, which is how ties are settled in such tournaments. For anyone who has shaken the hand of someone who doesn’t believe they lost to YOU guys and says, “Too bad it had to get settled that way,” smiling and offering a “Yeah, right” is like winning the lottery. (Okay, maybe finding $10 in a pair of jeans in the dryer.)

I was also on the wrong side of 52-0 whuppin’ in another tournament (Saranac Lake) in 20 instead of 40 minute halves. As a bonus, on the last play of the game, an Old Blue player karate-shopped me in the ear as I attempted a tackle, then slid in for the score.

Ahhhhh, SPORTS! I have no idea how pro baseball, hockey, football and basketball will get things back on seasonal tracks, and I think a brother has sold his Panther seats, so I doubt I’ll see them any time soon, but its the American dream – anybody on any day can be a hero.

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It’s the ’60s again – SpaceX, civil rights, but COVID-19 is bigger than Vietnam

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During a week of exhaustive coverage for nationwide protesting over the killing of George Floyd – a black man whose life was ended by a Minneapolis cop who knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes – many people were still excited about Americans taking off from historic pad 39-A at Cape Canaveral Saturday.

NASA was involved, but the SpaceX launch, with visions of “Mars and beyond,” was Musk’s baby. So what if he got a $700M bonus for success.

It didn’t take over the news, but after a non-launch Wednesday, Elon Musk’s Falcon 9 rocket, a slim, 24-story tall projectile compared to the thundering Saturn 5s of yore, it wasn’t another COVID-19 related story either. When Doug Hurley and Rob Behnken successfully docked with the International Space Station 19 hours later, science nerds weren’t the only ones loving it.

That said, for over fifty years Vietnam has been the standard for a situation that divided our country, but in less than 100 days, the lies and mismanagement by an administration that perpetuated a meat-grinder of young lives and treasure lost for nearly a decade, is now relegated to second place.

With a pandemic that has cost more American lives – over 106,000 as of yesterday – than any 20th century war except the Big One, WWII, and 40 million unemployed that trumps the Depression our parents and grandparents told us was the worst of times, reliving the tumultous Sixties proves there can be a new bottom.

But America DID put people on the moon, and now we’re trying to match that shining pinnacle, even as we struggle with civil rights brutality and personal malfeasance at the highest levels by an administration that seems to thrive on sucker-punching its citizens.

The Real Sixties

The Cuban Missile Crisis, hippies, the Beatles and English Invasion, Hendrix, Baby Boomers, the protest marching and sit-ins, the Black Panthers, Muhammed Ali, the Black Power salute of John Smith and Juan Carlos in Mexico City that shoved athletes 100% into political mainstream awareness. The 1969 Amazin’ Mets, Jets, Knicks, Woodstock! Timothy Leary and LSD, Rachel Carson and the beginning of environmental awareness, American astronauts walking on that orb in the sky “before the end of this decade,” winning the Space Race against the USSR. Walter Cronkite, the most trusted man in America; (original) Star Trek!  LOTS of hair; the oral polio vaccine (Sabin, 1963); Ford’s Mustang; Smiley face; Mr. Ed and The Wild, Wild West.

A legendary one liner is “If you remember the Sixties, you really weren’t there.” I was a well-sheltered Boomer (1957), getting A’s in Catholic grade school who saw life on TV more than I participated. I saw Lee Harvey Oswald get killed live, police *whaling* on protesters at the ’68 Democratic Convention, couldn’t have missed the moon landing, and Jim West was THE coolest imaginable dude. We prayed for Apollo 13 (which was actually 1970).

I’ll qualify that “more than I participated,” because our family of four boys traveled plenty of places with our pop-up camper, that we routinely got set up in fifteen minutes and could go exploring or swimming, always a prime consideration on a 3-day drive. Dad helped Mom make dinner.

Our classic was 5,353 miles over 13 days. Yes, I’ve been to the Lincoln Memorial, climbed into the crown of the Statue of Liberty, watched a game in the Astrodome, ate bignets in the French Quarter, two blocks from a *very* high Mississippi River. Walked on the turf at Dallas Stadium and Michigan, rode the Arch in St. Louis. Gettysburg.

Being shotgun meant something when you were on-off the interstate every 40 miles for three days going to Florida. We read the maps, knew what south and west were from anyplace on the map, how good the road would be. We counted all the military vehicles in convoys, mostly kept track of totals.

I hit the floor *fast* when an arch-typical red-faced with hat, BIG ol’ gun and gut cop, somewhere in the Deep South going to Tampa, snapped a look at the station wagon where someone had decided to give a double snort of piggy sound.

My baby brother, David, was born in 1960. We lived in West Palm Beach when the Everglades and airboats (and snakes!) were across the dirt road and adults were nervous about Cuba; Dad’s 7-Up floats were a big treat, and a $1M house, pssshhh, build it where?

There was also unending violence.  Church bombings, lynchings and vicious German shepherds, the assassinations of now iconic figures – JFK and Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. But as a fact of life and death, VIETNAM, especially nightly body counts on the 6:00 news, over-shadowed this country like nothing since the American Civil War a century earlier.

History repeats itself because…

Lincoln said “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” and after 3 1/2 years of Trump’s us/them-red/blue division, there’s nothing to indicate he was wrong. After 243 years of democratic rule of law, it looks like even agreeing that covering our faces to protect ourselves from each other during a pandemic is impossible to accomplish.

Prayer, even saying the Pledge of Allegiance, has been essentially stricken from our schools as a daily factor, replaced by on-going, onerous, and instant profusion of “tweets” that are taken as “Word from on high” by some.

COVID-19 may not have been caused by Trump’s administration, but his willingness to take the low road, and kill by 1,000 cuts, the rule of law in this country that we’ve held up to the rest of the world as something to be desired is the side that’s crumbled. That return to the Sixties was epitomized on Monday by a black man who died with a cop’s knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Even Brian Williams suggestion that parents get the Spot the ISS app, while not new but still definitely cool, cannot overcome how dramatically wrong what happened in Minneapolis, MN was, or that this country, actually the WORLD, knew it.

We can take this SpaceX mission as a slice of Goodness, and for police who took the extra step of interfacing with instead of tear gassing protestors in LA or a city near any of us, who physically KNELT in acknowledgement of that wrongness and silently asked for forgiveness, that wasn’t a lesson from the Sixties.

More like Colin Kapernick, 2016. Think about it.

If Dr. Fauci was an umpire, his SAFE! call would be the end of “in place” griping

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Equating Dr. Fauci’s influence in so much relative to this pandemic with the ability I, as an umpire, held sway over decisions that affected how events went forward in the lives of others,  is specious.

Still, while its permissible to gripe about some calls, when the ump says, “This is how it shall be,” well, a lot of  ‘Mericans seem to count that as more factual than Fauci’s forty years of expertise gets him about Next, coronoa-wise.

Before each game, I went to both dugouts to discuss “the high strike” in arc pitch softball, that area at the top of arm but below the shoulder, where the tough calls are. Anybody can call ’em down the pipe, and pointing out the specific area *I* called a strike, my exit line was usually, “But you’re all hitters here, right?” meaning working walks is mehh.

A player I recall saying he didn’t LIKE my strike zone – but I called it consistently – was all anyone should ask for. For those clamoring for “freedom” from the  tyranny of being told not to congregate to improve chances of NOT getting sick, just know that I let a pitcher throw a strike to someone who stepped out of the batters box without asking permission.

‘Outside’ as helpful, not ‘bum rush to’

Umping in a medium pitch league, by the third inning I’d sent enough guys to first that the catcher was catching heat from his pitcher. I told him, again, “Tell your guy he’s this much (thumb-forefinger couple inches) off the plate.” A couple more walks in the fifth, he yells, “Hey ref! I been putting it in the same place all night!” I took one step onto the plate, pointed at him and asked, “Which of us better change what they’re doing then?”

The reality was, that strange motion he had when looking at his catcher for location, was because HE WAS LEGALLY BLIND in his left eye. Talk about flipping a cliche. The point I expected to convey was, straight up, that my opinion was the one that counted.

Frankly, Fauci has done that step up more than a couple times during truth-oriented situations, even with his political boss nearby. In the video conference he did with the Senate this week, he handled Rand Paul admirably – no, he’s not political or the “be all” on answers – but there is forty years of well-regarded expertise.

When Trump said “Maybe there’s nothing in the fall,” he came right to the mike and said, “We WILL have a wave of corona virus in the fall.” IMHO, that’s a definitive call on the second half of a double play grounder.

If anyone, my nephew included, questioned my calls (he did, in a minor league LL volunteer stint), you are two pitches from being struck out.

Umpiring and standing up for ‘right’

There was a girls league in Charlotte where they apparently worked the “run rabbit run!” style. The (obviously) better team would get people on, then, because *you can’t lead or steal until the ball crosses the plate,* they essentially went wild on the catchers throws back to the pitcher.  Inaccurate throws around the infield to stop runners quickly became a cycle of two runs and someone on second.

I see part of the umpire’s job as fairness. Following the catcher to the backstop (she really couldn’t stop much), I told her to call time out. Then throw the ball to the pitcher, after which I said, “Play ball.” After a single inning of that, the A-team manager asked what I was doing, and while I knew I’d never be coming back, letting people run wild and getting mercy-ruled by errors is a humiliating way to lose an un-fun game in three innings, that I could do something about.

Fauci as Umpire:  Check the states “re-opening” and having spikes in their infected rates about un-fun. If Dr. Fauci controls the “we’re gonna go-go-go operation” (I did), makes the call on scientific results (and expertise) vs. going to instant replay or another court case, that’s an ump who hits a righteous standard.

Rules matter

While unprepared, I volunteered to do a charity tournament game wearing topsiders, a tank top, and Ray Bans. Left field was actually unfenced, allowing outfielders to chase foul balls. With runners on 1st and 2nd, left fielder catches a long foul, and throwing to third from an angle, he clongs it off a light tower, it ricochets into center, and two runs score.

After searching for the guy with ground rules, it becomes one base on the throw, so only one run scores. Unfortunately, one person (female) wouldn’t quit “discussing” it, so I finally gave the word: Next yapping I heard, she’d be leaving.

After the game, two large players came over and asked me about singling her out. I explained that I went and found the ground rule and applied it. I had umpired plenty before, I didn’t have to put up with the sh*t, but if I left, the game was going to be in trouble. I wished them good luck and walked away..

An all time favorite was a runner interference call. Runners on 1st and 2nd, one out, with a major pop up to the shortstop. Runner from second was *right* in front of her, she dropped it, girl from first scored off two errant throws.

I couldn’t help myself – I said, “Boy, if that happened to my shortstop, I’d probably want to talk to somebody about it.”

The catcher held her hand up to stop the pitcher, turned to look at me, then walked out, and while talking to the pitcher, pointed back at me. She came back and said she wanted to make an appeal; I asked whether the runner going from 1st-2nd, or 2nd-3rd. She got the answer right, I yelled “runners out!” and both teams changed, with the manager having no idea what happened.

As for one guy cheating up in batters box, knowing the pitcher couldn’t get it in his strike zone with arc AND across (vs. land on) the plate, or, very likely have to give him a pitch he could cream, my job is still ensuring a fair game. I told the catcher, “Throw it any way you want,” which was essentially flat.

Batting box cheats and  people carrying military-style assault rifles while protesting ‘in place’ rule in Michigan, but not in NY is a valid analogy. Why? Because in NY the rule is you empty your pockets into little trays before going through a metal detector in state buildings, and pistols, AR-15s, and grenade launchers DON’T come in the building.

There are things YOU want to do, that might be good for you, but that aren’t fair to others. If it was simply a matter of rights, and it might trim the herd appropriately by doing something uncool like exposing themselves to unseeable but deadly viruses, fine, but the fact is, that behavior might affect me, and that’s not the best way to run a pandemic.

I’m still willing to look for the SAFE! sign from Dr. Fauci instead of listening to the bench saying, “Looked good from here, ump.”

 

Dad’s ‘Good Death’ had finality of “rest in peace” – COVID families won’t get that

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Mom and Dad’s 25th annniversary, with a gym full of friends and family at St. Helen’s. Best buddy Al Loffredo’s wife and Mrs. Kline kept it a total surprise.

That Monday “Would’ve been” Dad’s 91st is the way some people represent a loved one’s passing, adding the years since to their chronological age at the end. In Waldo Fitzgerald Shorkey’s case, that was the end of January, 2013. He was laid to rest on Groundhog Day, and unlike many of the 70,000-plus Americans who have died in this pandemic over just the last three months, there were friends and family joined communally close afterwards to recall a man’s life well lived.

Congestive heart failure was the end reason – Dad was down to about 15% function, on straight oxygen – and his youngest brother, Donnie (USAF) died in the same Tampa hospital two days before from the same thing. I mention Donnie’s service because Memorial Day is close, and all four guys in Dad’s family served – Howard was a Marine trigger-puller during two Pacific island assaults, Harold was a tail gunner on a Corsair (USN), Dad was also Navy.

That’s when one nurse said, “I can’t help that guy, but I don’t like the looks of you either” to Dad. He got checked out and they kept him. Monday afternoon, Mom said she really didn’t know why, “he didn’t look that bad to me,” and the doctor who came in shortly after I arrived said small declines or changes over a long time are often not recognized by those who see it every day.

“He looks a lot better than he did yesterday though.”

That’s when Mom stated again that both of them had agreed anything like this would be a DNR situation; no extraordinary means, no ventilator. No sense cracking an old man’s chest, or putting him on a machine he’d never come off was Mom’s position, so the end was only a matter of time.

We weren’t in control, but things moved in a steady, reasonable, end of life way. No ugliness or unknowing stress and foreboding by families, seperated much earlier by the rules COVID creates, not witnessing the suffering of their loved one’s end.

I took Mom to the retirement house they’ve lived in since 1988, just a block and a half off terrific Bayshore Boulevard, and came back to sit with Dad, lifting the mask and giving him occasional ice slivers until after 11:00.

It seems a good death because they got to follow through on choices made long before, not hasty decisions violently thrust on them. Dad was only in the hospital two days; there was no pain, no emotional roller-coaster wreck for Mom, no expensive treatments totally dismantling the safe economic future they’d worked on for her to go forward with.

Compared to most COVID-19 families, Dad’s passing will sound like a fairy tale. It might be close to how you’d imagined those final circumstances for yourself though.

Being there for even a day of service to my father, Gratitude is the word. I was there for Mom, knew he went in peace, that he wasn’t alone and unseeable, or just an image on a screen. Ask those 70,000 or so families if events like that came together so well in the time of COVID-19, the ability to gather a family worth of support. 

He had a good death, being there counted

We didn’t get to the hospital until almost ten on Tuesday, and I went to the cafeteria for a cup of coffee. Waiting to be buzzed back into ICU, I met two communicants from my folks church, and I put Dad on their list for delivery. When we had to leave so they could “do hospital stuff,” to the phone call, and the final breaths after the oxygen was turned off, was about ninety minutes.

Almost like the movies good timing, I walked in the back door and Mom’s phone was ringing, the hospital saying there’d been a turn for the worse.

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“The Dad Project.” Hand tools and famous blue level as apartment ‘homage.’

Mom had actually dropped me off at the house to go shop, I got the message just as my cousin Debbie arrived. Sending her after Mom I rolled, making calls to three brothers on the way back. One left Albany, NY with the clothes on his back; I caught Mike just as he started driving from Charlotte to Tampa, and he made it back to the airport, catching the same flight as brother Steve.

Dad received Last Rites by the time I got back to the hospital, and Debbie delivered Mom – Dad passed at 2:00. Not too long after he passed, we drove two blocks to the same neighborhood funeral parlor that had served Mom’s parents, and my Aunt Jo’s and Uncle Frank’ s funerals.

We had to made arrangements to move Dad, because the small hospital didn’t have facilities for keeping bodies overnight. It wasn’t the piling up of bodies in refrigerated trucks in NYC we’ve seen on TV though.

My three brothers all arrived at 6:00, just one trip to the airport for me, and eventually a week together for the mourning. I got to fill them in about how things went down early in the process so Mom didn’t have to remember. The next morning we all went to the funeral parlor with the right paperwork – Yes, a veteran funeral, left or right location relative to her parents, do you want the $350 inset vase, or just what the VA provides?

There was a roomful of people at the wake, and a good-sized group at the funeral service the next day. Cousin Pam and her husband had another funeral in upstate NY Friday, then made it to Tampa. I took a couple random pieces of wood from Dad’s scrap barrel and quietly put several hand tools into my car – ‘The Dad Project’ pictured represents how he always kept his work area neat.

Mom told Mike he hadn’t spoken very loudly during his eulogy, he said he’d done the best he could. I got through some words at graveside, using ideas from the takeaway piece I’d produced for their 50th anniversary in 2005, a thank you to people who had loved them from the beginning, had shared joy with them for so long. At the top is my favorite picture, Christmas, 1983 I believe, and some forty reasons why it made a difference to be part of their family.

Having always believed that listing was a feeling I wanted to share at the point of their greatest joy, I knew it would stand the test of time, be true to the end. That idea of not saving the thoughts till the end when someone can’t hear them guided me, and its got to be a lousy thing to miss saying final goodbyes to someone dying from an invisible monster.

At some future time, a great many Americans will have a collective time to mourn our dead. Yes, I’m grateful for the difference of being there for Dad, and Mom, made. If its possible to convey that simple caring for someone resting in peace to any readers, consider it sent.

  Picture 
Glenn Shorkey – Creative eDitorial Talent Enterprises 
(704) 502-9947

Cam, Luke, Greg are gone, will all defense draft be Panther “difference makers?”

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As practically the only “sports event” that went as planned – okay, online instead of with thousands of people attending in Vegas – the NFL distribution of new talent was this past weekend.

Off the top, let’s believe that yes, Coach Ruhle and the Panthers might have done what’s necessary to right the Carolina franchise over a three day weekend. Nobody else in the common draft era (since 1967) has used all their picks on that side of the ball, but there’s not a feeling they’ve blown it, or taken any great risks.

That All-American defensive tackle Derrick Brown will play immediately is almost a given. Panthers were the worst (5.2 per rush) against the run last year, and with Dontari Poe gone, he’ll have every chance to prove he’s The Deal. So will  edge rusher Yetur Gross-Matos (6’5″, 265 lbs., Penn St.), Jeremy Chinn (safety, Southern Illinois), fourth-rounder Troy Pride, Jr. (CB, Notre Dame), Kenny Robinson (safety, West Virginia), and Bravvion Roy, a 330 lb. chunk of DT who played for Rhule last year at Baylor.

Some pundits, including this one, have suggested that an offensive lineman at #7 instead of CB Stantley Thomas-Oliver (Fla. Int’l) would have been legitimate, but GM Marty Hurney and Rhule both maintain they held to their draft boards, For Panther fans who still worry about Christian McCaffrey getting worn out (only if the carries that $21.4M signing bonus around), the other three running backs on the roster, including Reggie Bonafon, are no better than average.

As many note, nobody plays game until September (if then), so changes on the O-line and somebody who can catch a swing pass or two while CMC gets a cup of water can still work out.

If we’re being catty, the Panthers might have improved just by letting Eric Washington go. He was defensive coordinator the last two years, when they clearly couldn’t stop anyone, and rejoins Sean McDermott in Buffalo as defensive line coach, the position he held for six years with the Panthers.

New guys with backstory ‘blemishes’

During the long reign of Mr. Richardson as owner, the question of personal character was often a criteria, with Greg Hardy being suspended and shipped after allegations of physically abusing a girlfriend as an example.

While Tim Biakabutuka (6 seasons, 611 carries/2,530 yds./17 TDs) was a better choice of character than the collegiately productive Mike Rozier in the draft, a Christian McCaffrey’s dazzling goodness that makes you want a chocolate chip cookie and glass of milk just watching him, isn’t available every year.

Derrick Brown is such a leader and quality citizen by all metrics, and #3 pick Jeremy Chinn is often referred  in favorable terms as “Simmons Lite” (Clemson’s versatile safety-linebacker Isiah) size and speed, but a couple new faces have overcome youthful transgressions admirably.

Give Chinn an extra check mark for being a three-time Academic All-American, Brown one for becoming president of Auburn’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and SEC leadership council after deciding to return to Auburn for his senior season.

#2 Yetur Gross-Matos was a consensus All-Big 10 (or 16, actually) in 2019, with 40 tackles, 15 for loss, and 9.5 sacks, compared to 54 tackles, 20 for loss, and eight sacks in 2018, which looks like teams didn’t run to his side as much last year.

The “blemish” is he and a Penn St. teammate were suspended for disciplinary (but still undisclosed) reasons the summer before his junior season, and in today’s reality, if it didn’t even generate a police report, “live and learn” seems to work. His physical up-side and football IQ aren’t in question, “whatever” from 2018 should be allowed to die quietly.

#5 Kenny Robinson was cut loose by West Virginia for “academic fraud,” and had a good year in the XFL instead of a senior season, which seems a trade-off both he and the Panthers can view as a positive. Recognizing that safety was a sore spot for Panthers the last two years, although Eric Reid was a solid pickup last year (and has moved on), careful vetting and his own written explanation of events should help close that factor as a negative once the pads go on.

That’s not meant as a dusting of hands “boys will be boys” attitude, but in the history of the WORLD,  twenty year old boys are more often guilty of “uh-oh, Mom and Dad are going to be upset about this” acts than becoming Alexander the Great world beaters.

#4 Troy Pride, Jr. shouldn’t be considered “blemished,” especially when the Notre Dame product feels he didn’t fall so much as land where he’d be able to succeed. Pride has what is always called “elite speed” based on his track background. In hoops they say, “You can’t teach seven feet tall,” and in football, saying someone runs well is the criteria, and 4.3 is valid on that count. For those that say “burners who can’t catch play D,” or track guys can’t tackle, we shall see – Deion Sanders had a pretty good run.

Speaking of running, at some point Pride and Donte “Action” Jackson will have to lace it up and go. Jackson came to the Panthers saying, “I’ve always been the fastest guy as soon as I got out of bed,” and while he’s definitely got the make-up for mistakes afterburners, he often made tackles after the catch. Coaching will help Pride work on any small deficiencies he might have, and he’s got a professional attitude about his Next.

Ahhh! competition comes later, but right now, the Panthers draft looks like a hand of Texas hold ’em – any two cards can be good until you see the flop.

If WR Robby Anderson chose the Panthers as a free agent because of Coach Rhule, and Teddy Bridgewater can distribute the ball, and puh-leeze throw lead and touch pass like the departed Kyle Allen gave Moore (87 catches/1175 yds./4 TDs as a rookie), all these new defensive helpers could indeed be the difference.

 

“In-place” Sunday on greenway, a moral lesson from bike accidents

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Sunday’s accident was a scraped knee, it could have been worse, like Memorial Day, 2016

Because the parks in Charlotte are blocked off to traffic, brother Steve came by Sunday with his carbon fibre bike, but he zoomed away as soon as we got to bottom of the ramp for the greenway behind the Hindu temple.

He’s considered essential with Wells Fargo, is looking for a workout when he gets the time, and using other brother Mike’s knobby tired, 21-gear mountain bike instead of my usual Miyata, I wasn’t worried about matching any training pace.

Sunday was an optimal day though, LOTS of people on the greenway, and whatever medical ungoodness is a fact of Life in America right now, being grateful for family and Carolina sunshine was working to lighten the load in a big way. Getting out again today, with mid-70s possible, has been part of a regular routine built around remote ‘gig’ work for most of two years.

I had an accident at the furthest point of my ride Sunday, right at Providence Road, and while I took some skin off a knee, kind of jammed two fingers, and heard my helmet scraping on the concrete, it could have been a lot worse, so lets talk health care.

2017 and ACA is the Standard

Cycling is more recreational training than a separate sport for me, I’m not even sure about the mileage of several urban routes I’ve used for years. I’ve had a couple glorious rolls in a peleton during three MS 150 Bike to the Beach fundraising rides with the Mojo Riders, and two-100 miles in a day (with a mountain in the middle) rides that required some extra training time to not get embarassed.

Since the earliest days, biking has been part of freedom, and it also gets most of the credit for keeping a solid fitness level (194) all those years of having a bum left knee. Biking meant I’d regained full range of motion after a late 2017 knee replacement, allowing me to walk versus have to skip across the street to avoid getting run over.

On Saturday of Memorial weekend, 2016, I was enjoying a ride like Sunday’s, when I became too enchanted looking at *something* and crashed into a curb, catapulting over the handlebars and face-planting on concrete. Everyone asks “Were you wearing a helmet?” but its not as helpful when your face is the contact point.

Four people stopped to ask if I was all right (I was bleeding, but not gushing), the EMTs arrived shortly thereafter, eventually there was an ambulance ride, and several nurses at Novant mentioned my good humor for a guy whose face was kind of messed up from sunglasses and concrete scrapes. (No, the nose was like that long ago)

The puncture wound – deep but not long – in bony (protective!) area over my right eye took six stitches, but the fact I was still using BOTH eyes to see was a great reason to be excited.

The two times I’ve really needed fixing up, the Affordable Care Act worked for me. On the top line, that bike accident was $6900 – I paid $325 for the $900 ambulance, and my $100 deductible. 

Knee replacement and rehabbing,   with a top line of $28,700 changed my physical trajectory for a small fraction of that from me, and no one will ever convince me “Obamacare” didn’t work exactly as I needed it to. A huge difference maker, you betcha .

There is zero respect for the social club member who pooh-poohed it every step of the way, but got HIS knee worked on with explanation that, “He shouldn’t be only person who didn’t take advantage of the (terrible, over-reaching, Democrats forced on us) program.”

CHOICES and Reality

What seemed like a legitimate analogy, even a moral, came with a two-beer examination of just how lucky someone can get while putting a bicycle into some rocks.

Maybe its germaine that having missed a deadline for submitting a simple tax form by one day several months ago, I’ve been “skating naked” insurance-wise. Not that the premiums were exorbidant for me as a 63-year old single, but just ONE MONTH I’d be required to pay almost $1,000 before ACA coverage kicked in was more than I could handle. Statistics indicate a lot of people are that close to similar lines.

So nobody else was going to pay for an emergency room visit when, in the moment I asked two ladies “How much further to the end of the greenway?” my foot slipped off the flat pedals of the clunky mountain bike, I lost my balance touching down, different brakes, boom! I’m down.

The two ladies come over to check on me, and I’m smiling from six feet away, feeling lucky there’s no real problem. The bike isn’t damaged, I tell them the same story about last accident, and away I go.

Community spread –  my biking example

When I needed first responders for that 2016 accident, the number of people involved:  4-6 drivers with passengers who stopped to help, with thanks again for the gent who delivered my pretzeled bike to the house. Plus two EMTs checking me out, two ambulance people, probably 4 nurses along the way, a doctor, and my sister in law who picked me up.

That’s 16 people, minimum.

It only took one instant, with the right answer directly in front of me, (“duh, the new section ends at Providence) and a flat pedal situation almost got me messed up. I don’t know how I’d handle a major economic hit for that.

Watching this situation about a renewed spike with COVID-19, protesting in-place regulations as tyrannical, and I think of elder care, where it truly only takes one careless moment for someone out and about at a protest among often unprotected others, to kiss their favorite aunt or grandmother, to touch a child, and THAT triggers “more.”

Freedom of speech, “except for yelling fire! in a crowded theater” was the theory I heard growing up. What’s righter about that gridlock stuff? 

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This scene at Whitewater Center isn’t the way of the world in April, 2020, but social distancing is going to be a byword for foreseeable future.

And for God’s sake, that old expression about “If you can’t be part of the solution, at least don’t contribute to the problem,” still works. Causing traffic jams that prevents those front line people from getting to where they’re needed, that is SUCH a negative.  That nurse blocking a pickup from jamming up a crosswalk, that’s an American I’ll shake hands with – well, at some point.

 Picture 
Glenn Shorkey – Creative eDitorial Talent Enterprises 
(704) 502-9947