A couple years ago, I was in a position where I had to either walk or ride a bike for transportation. I did it for about a year and a half. Many times, I would put listen to my ipod as I walked or rode. Although being in the position was kind of a pain, and it slowed my life down as well as made my world considerably smaller; I found that both of those qualities were actually good things. My body liked it too, although it cursed me several times, like when it was raining, or extremely hot, cold, or snowing, as well as the grudging muscle soreness that frequently met me in the mornings. However, I found a few songs that helped me strike a rhythm as I moved about. The one posted above was especially helpful. So much of the quality of our life depends on our attitude. The song by U2 sets up several life situations in which it would be easy to grumble and fall into the frustration of the moment…
Stuck in traffic…
A failed relationship…
Yet the chorus reminds us to look around and see the beauty of the world around us. It also suggests the continual optimism of life above ground. My father was a preacher, and used a wonderful illustration which made the same point, yet in a counter-intuitive way”
“There was a old man and old woman who lived in the country and had an apple tree growing in their back yard. At harvest season, they would gather the apples from off the ground and off the tree, put them in baskets, and then store the baskets in their cellar. Every morning, the little old man would go down to the cellar, choose apples which were beginning to go bad, and then bring them back up into the kitchen where the little old woman would use them for their meals of the day. The result of this recurring practice was…
…the couple ate rotten apples every day… all year….”
Dad would go on to suggest that it can be easy for us to do the same in our daily lives. Our habit seems to be in constantly reminding ourselves of what we have lost, or what we don’t have rather than how we have been blessed. Dad would also suggest that we too often try to live in tomorrow, rather than enjoying the day we live in now. I would call this practice “being present in the present.” I am not always adept in this practice. My optimism usually begins tomorrow rather than today. I see the promise of tomorrow, yet too easily form the habit of slogging through THIS day in order to get to the GLORIOUS future. I realize this is a mental habit, and have to be reminded to live fully in THIS day, because It’s a Beautiful Day…
Men At Work:
Earth, Wind and Fire:
We were mainly football players. We attended a small christian college in Kansas and played NAIA football. When you play small college football, you play because you love the game…. not because you think it is an avenue to the pros. We were a band of guys who never let studying get in the way of our leisure activities. This is who we were:
Al: My roommate. He was originally from Minnesota and played Strong Safety. Al was a juco transfer and was a junior college all-america player. Al was smooth as a player: 6′ 1″, 195 and ran a 4.6, 40 until he jacked up his knee throwing a snowball in a snowball fight in the first month after he’d arrived in Kansas at semester. After the knee injury, his best 40 was about 4.7. Al would hit you and was a great leader on the field. But here’s the best part…. Al owned a 1968, black Ford LTD. It had to have been a mafia car in a different life and if it had been water tight, could have been a house-boat for a family of 4. Great car! Because we were a STRICT, conservative religious school, neither guys nor girls could come into each other’s apartment. We were subject to the rule, because the college owned the apartment complex in which we lived, and so was considered campus housing. Al was always creative. He used to borrow my portable TV and an extension cord then take them to the Safeway parking lot just up the hill from King’s Court where he’d plug into power on the light pole, and his girlfriend and he would sit in the back seat of his black boat and watch TV. Al was a positive guy. I asked him to be one of my groomsmen in my wedding. A quied leader, yet always ready for fun AND to tell the truth plainly. He had a big heart for people, especially his friends, and willingly told you what you needed to hear.
Russ: Russ came from Bourbonnais, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He had dark hair and the physique of Michelangelo’s David. Women drooled over Russ. We loved and hated him at the same time…. Russ was 6′ and 195. He played Cornerback for his first two years and them moved to Strong Safety. A Chicago Bears’ fan, Russ’ favorite player was Doug Plank, a hard hitting Safety on so many bad Bears teams of the late ’70s and early ’80s. Russ loved to hit…. not just other football players. One night, another buddy of ours came home with Russ after a few too many…. Ok, maybe waaay too many… The two of them proceded to Russ’s room and decided the room needed another doorway. They put on one of Russ’s workout inventions: A football helmet without a facemask, but with a steel rod screwed to the top to put weights on for a neck workout. Brock, our other friend, put the helmet on first, got on one end of the room, took a running start, lowered his head, and pointed it towards the wall which seperated Russ’s room and another bedroom. On the other side of the wall, another apartment roomie, Dan, lay on his bed, studying. Suddenly, a crash, and a football helmet came through the wall. All the guys from the apartment sprinted upstairs to find out what happened, only to see Brock pull his head out of the wall, take off the helmet and give it to Russ, who put it on, and make another run at the wall. This time, a circle of guys were yelling and laughing and chanting… Before it was over, there was a new doorway between the two rooms. Eventually, Russ had to repair the hole. No problem…
Dan: Our Hardee’s connection. Dan moved in second semester. I think he may have felt a little strange. Dan wasn’t a football player, so the culture was different than his former apartment. He was a shift manager at Hardee’s and we used that fact to great measure. He certainly became one of the boys, though, as we hung out in the living room.
Kenny: Kenny was the equipment manager of the team. He was a friend of mine when we both lived in Colorado during high school. One year, the college allowed Kenny to use his job as football manager as a work/study grant. Work/Study grants were funded by a partnership between the college and federal government where the college paid 25% of the student’s hourly wage, while the government picked up 75%. Kenny made out like a bandit…. a HARD working bandit whose hours were much longer than anyone in financial aid expected. The coaches and players weren’t surprised, though. We knew how many hours Kenny put in. They never used that same combination again… Kenny was also my backgammon partner. He would come home at night, put a dip in with spit cup in hand, lay down on the floor with headphones on listening to Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and we would play game after game of backgammon. We would have the TV AND stereo on, while playing ‘gammon.
Kenny’s chosen nickname for me was, “Holmes.” as in: “Some Backgammon, Holmes?” I would respond, “Sure, Tit…” oh…. Kenny’s nickname was…. Tit. He got the name when he allowed his head to be shaved with the rest of the offensive linemen… and me, a tight end…. and one of the boys said his head resembled a woman’s breast…. I know…. very politically incorrect and offensive …. But that was his nickname…
Kevin: Kevin was older. He and Kenny lived in the same town in Colorado and were friends. Kevin worked in construction right after high school. He came to our school to play basketball. Kevin wasn’t tall… about 6′ 1″, but he could sky….. his vertical jump must have been about 36″. He also had a KILLER stereo…. 200 watts… a lot back then. That stereo provided a constant background to life in the apartment. I had an old stereo in my room, but it was oooooold then…. 8-track stereo and turntable and receiver in one unit. Kevin’s was a COMPONENT system. No 8-track. Turntable, AM/FM receiver, and I think cassette. We mainly used the turntable and receiver, though. Kevin left at semester to go back to Colorado, but left the stereo for us… Kenny took it home at the end of the year. Kevin was really low key. Blond hair, blue eyes and was another of the guys we loved to hate. Women really liked him. I really liked Kevin, and missed him when he left.
Bob: A local kid. Bob played Defensive Tackle. He was 6’1″ and about 270. Right after high school, he attended Wichita State and played there one year before transferring. Bob could be prickly. He said what he thought, whether you liked it or not. But he loved football, and we were teammates… nothing else really mattered. In later years, Bob became an assistant coach in the program. He was the curmudgeonly coach every team has that is hard on the kids, but they all seem to love. Bob coached defensive line and was very effective… But in the apartment, he had a water bed… and was gone alot… In January, when it was freezing outside, Bob’s bed was heated… a bad combination if we had a morning class…
I’ll never forget my first impression of 2345 when I moved in. While going through the move-in tour and filling out the checklist with our RA, we walked into the kitchen to find a long, thin plant growing out of the drain of the sink. Looking in the dishwasher, we found a mousetrap and dead mouse laying in the bottom. The rest of the tour was uneventful. Actually, it wasn’t a bad place. Our furniture consisted of a couch and chair, neither of which had legs, a stereo, and TV. Our typical evening started when everyone got home, usually 11 pm. Then, the boys would hang out, watch tv, listen to music, give each other crap, play backgammon, and….
yell at each other when it got too loud to study…
… Who am I kidding…. that rarely happened.
Earth, Wind, and Fire:
My freshman year in high school was pretty cool. Our family lived in the small, southwest Kansas town of Elkhart. The high school had about 250 students in it, and you knew just about everybody, at least by name. My first initiation into high school was through football. As a freshman athlete, you could play varsity in football and track, but not basketball. The previous year, I had made a bold… or cocky…. statement to my male classmates while we were outside of the gym, waiting to switch classes. I don’t remember what the conversation began with, but somewhere along the line, I made the statement that my goal for the next year was to start on the football team… varsity, not jv…. as a freshman… My friends started to really rag on me. They thought I was crazy. Maybe I was, but that was my GOAL! Its what I was working for. My carrot for myself. And my friends laughed. At the time, their laughter fueled my resolve.
The season started with two-a-days. All football starts with two-a-days. Pros call it training camp, but it’s pretty much all the same… two practices a day and you work your ass off! My first practice went off without a hitch, but during the second practice, I ran a pass pattern and one of my best friends threw a really terrible pass…. I’m not sure why he tried out for quarterback, and it didn’t last long because they moved him to tight end shortly… The pass was low and behind me, so I dove. I really don’t remember much after that because my head hit the ground and I was knocked out for a moment. Getting my bell rung wasn’t the worst thing, though… the broken collar bone was.
So much for my bold prediction… I had to sit out of practice for the rest of two-a-days and for the first 3 games. Because I couldn’t play, I was able to march in the band, of which I was a member as a drummer. Not quite the same spotlight, but it really turned out well for me. During one of our games, I met a girl…. She played the clarinet… and her name was Joan. Joan had dark hair and blue eyes… great, slightly almond shaped eyes. During the third quarter of one of the games, Joan and I started to flirt. I thought…”Hmmm, maybe the band isn’t so bad after all.”
Eventually, I got up enough nerve to ask her out. She was a Junior, so I was just a little intimidated, but she seemed to be sending me the right signals, so….
Elkhart is in the farthest southwest corner of the state, and is a pretty low key place to live, not many options for a date. At the time, the closest movie theater was 40 miles away. Now there are good things about having to drive to an activity during a date. You get to talk, listen to music, get to know each other… So I asked her out to see a movie. She said yes!
I took her to see “Jaws!” Although it might not seem so at first, “Jaws” was a GREAT first date movie! There are several times in the movie where the suspense builds into a surprise appearance of the shark or disappearance of a swimmer. That was good for me, because the beautiful girl at my side would automatically grab my arm in fright. Our first date was very nice, and led to several dates after that. Actually, I consider Joan my first girlfriend. She was a great first girlfriend. She liked me for me… pretty cool. And my dad said he thought she was the prettiest girl in school. Lucky guy!
One thing I will never forget is parking in front of Joan’s house. For those of an urban background, “parking” in southwest Kansas means pulling your car somewhere private, parking it with the music going, and then making out… Not many people “park” in front of the girl’s house… Her dad it too close…. with his guns…. and if he doesn’t like you or what you are doing with his daughter….
So most kids would drive out in the country for some privacy. However, Joan said that her dad preferred she park in front of the house, because he thought it safer for his daughers… he had three… than being out in the country. ( I bet safer… more intimidating for the guy… smart dad!) I was ok with that, anyway. Iwas scared to try much of anything anyway, other than kissing. And boy could Joan kiss…. Great days and nights, with all the music on my playlist above. When I hear those songs, my mind goes back to Joan…
However, I was destined to be an idiot. Eventually, my shoulder healed and I was able to play again. I suited up for two jv games, but only got to play in one. I did pretty well, though. By that time, I just wanted to hit someone and did so a lot, which is a very good thing in football. So, the week before the fourth varsity game of the year, our head coach approached me and said, “Larry… would it bother you to play against a 200 pound lineman?” At the time I weighed about 170, and 200 pounds was big for our level of ball. “It wouldn’t bother me any…” I confidently responded. So the rest of that week in practice, they got me ready to play defensive end against the biggest team in our league. The senior who usually played the position had injured his shoulder and was out for the season, so they were looking for a replacement for the rest of the year. Our team was 3-0 and their team was 3-0, so I was going to start as a freshman in the biggest game of the year against the toughest team in our conference. Pretty cool… or so I thought.
I finished the year as a starter and lettered on varsity as a freshman. Joan and I continued to date throughout the season, and my head began to swell. For some reason, I began to think I would like to date other girls. I was a jerk to Joan…. really, really stupid. She was a great girl! After we stopped dating, she eventually became involved with another guy and they got married.
Served me right….