Monday, April 23, 2012

contortions, convolutions and miscalculations: fun with gymnastics

reason for absence: view-monia.
live-blogging the washington state gymnastics finals, 2012

we're here at glacier peak high school, home of the grizzlies...and the best cafeteria view i've ever seen.

seriously, these kids have a 30-foot high wall-of-windows view, across a wide verdant valley, of the north cascades mountains. it's ridiculous. if i were teaching here, i'd hold every class in the cafeteria. if i were a student...well, i'd be arrested for impersonating a student. but if i were a student, i'd be late for every class, staring out at this ridiculous view.

we're not in the cafeteria, however, we're in the gym. it's hot in here. unlike every other metro seattle gymnastics meet ever, where you can't wear enough layers to stay warm through three hours of sitting, shifting, sitting some more...suddenly it's uncomfortably warm.

i'm not complaining.

the falcons from seattle pacific university, decked out in their usual purple and lighter purple and silver sparkles, are ready for this meet. they're peaking at the right time, competition-wise, in that they're here and there's a meet going on.

after march-in, in which the gymnasts, um, march into the gym, the host and announcer usually says, "and now everyone please rise for the national anthem." i was literally shifting into a nonsitting position in anticipation of the ritual, when the guy said, "okay, we did the national anthem earlier today, so we're going to get right to the events. gymnasts, let's move out."

i feel strangely unsatisfied and anxious now. apparently i'm a creature of habit.

the first event for the falcons is the vault. in this instance, the vault is a quick run down a blue bowling alley lane, launching off a springboard into a handstand, followed by a flop onto a four-foot-high cushion. it looks like it would be a great place for a nap, if it weren't for the constant stream of gymnasts flying around and raising a ruckus.

avery is good at this flopping. this year she's put up a string of 9+ scores in this event, setting a high standard for springboard flopping. the score is based on the average of two running flopping attempts. our girl ran fast, flopped expertly, and came away with a 9.025.

"great flopping, AG!" her mom and i didn't really yell. it's best not to distract her with that kind of unnecessary embarrassment.

in between events, there's a lot of waiting. this is particularly true at gyms that have no heat in winter and no AC on freakishly warm spring days.

we're sitting, we're sitting, we're waiting. we're sweating...and not with nervousness. must. not. doze...

holy moly, it's time for the bars. i must've dozed. avery's up! get the video rolling! focus! she's launching!

this seems like an opportune time to note that "bars" is a bit of a misnomer here. yes, technically they're competing on the uneven parallel bar apparatus, but at no time do they actually touch the upper bar. it's all-low-bar all the time for the level 4 gymnasts. which is just as well. avery is neither confident nor proficient in this event. every meet, there's some disastrous error/miscalculation/equipment failure that keeps her off the medal stand.

she over-rotates, she under-rotates, she forgets to stick the landing. this despite my excellent, season-long imitation of olympic announcers who thrill tv audiences with, "she sticks the landing!" whenever a gymnast does, in fact, stick the landing.

back to the bars. she's doing pretty well. she's neither under- nor over-rotating. she's yet to hang upside down when she should be right-side-up. all that's left is the landing...

she didn't stick the landing. she did, in fact, fall on her butt. there's gonna be a deduction for that, i'm pretty sure. and the scoreboard says...8.575. that's gonna keep her off the medal stand. barring huge, breakthrough scores on beam and floor.

where there are more events, there is hope.

nothing's happening now. the falcons have moved over to the vicinity of the beam, so we can only assume their next event is beam-related. it just wouldn't make sense to have them warm up on beam if their next event was floor. so, the team moved moved from a seated position under the washington state championships banner to the doors near the beam. then they moved to the wall next to the beam, and resumed sitting. nothing's happening.

we sit. we shift. we note, once again, that it's warm in here.

now seems like a good time to get up and leave the gym. hit the restroom. take some iphone photos of the ridiculous cafeteria view. stand by...

...and we're back. turns out, i missed the event. the falcons had, in fact, warmed up while i wasn't looking. no, i wasn't dozing. so almost immediately after i left, the team raced through their beam routines. i caught the very last one, and it wasn't avery. according to the missus, she wobbled like a weeble but did not fall off. this was not good enough for a breakthrough score. she received an 8.75.

perhaps there's a 10.0 on floor in our future. that might get her on the stand. probably not. we wait. no, i'm not leaving the gym.


it was a solid floor routine, but not a ten. the girl's final score on the final event of the year was a respectable 8.75.

and on the final tumbling pass, with the compulsory back handspring...

she stuck the landing.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

the kate escape

you know who likes running?

my dog.

kate loves getting out of the house and away from her pack-mates. they're barky little dogs, and kate isn't much into the barking. she's smart and affable and disinclined to scurry around yapping every time a raindrop hits the house.

so, a couple times a week we gear up and head over to discovery park, a semi-sane place where people and dogs and other wildlife can go be bucolic for awhile. to forget, temporarily, that we live just a jog from downtown and jammed-up traffic and foolish urban errands.

i say, "kate, go for a run?" and she heads toward the door, waiting for her leash. she does a little dance and bursts out the door ahead of me, like a racehorse at the gate. and so we go.

i keep her on the leash most of the time, but if there aren't too many people about (i.e., when the weather sucks), i let her off to run. i wasn't sure what to expect the first time i did that, semi-worried she'd disappear into the woods after a squirrel. nope. she stays right with me, within a few feet ahead or behind. i find that very endearing.

in the park, we transition from road to paved trail to dirt trail, winding our way through woods, over hills, always in sight of water to the west. on a clear day, the olympic mountains glow crystal white across the sound, breathtaking. and so we go.

the vet says kate is built for five to seven miles of running, tops, so we keep our little journeys to 4.5 - 5.5 miles. i'm now "training" for a half-marathon in june, so on "long run" days of eight, nine, a dozen miles, i'll have to leave her home.

running alone, i wear headphones and listen to music. with kate, the headphones stay home and we talk to each other. yes, i do most of the talking, but she communicates very well...

"i need to slow down a bit."
"i'm thirsty."
"i'm going to roll in this grass now."
"i have to pee."

(note: those are the things i say to her. generally, she just says, "whatever, dude.")

kate was a rescue. she was abused early in life, and when we got her at six months old, she was like some feral creature that didn't even know she was a dog. it was the little dogs who taught her how to be part of the pack (for which i'll always be grateful...even if they are yappy little dogs).

that was two and a half years ago. people who met kate back then can't believe how much she's changed. the dog who cowered and cringed and feared every unfamiliar sound has transformed into a confident, attention-seeking biscuit-hound. "she's a completely different dog," they say, perhaps thinking such a thing was impossible.

she still doesn't like loud noises, but then again, neither do i. which is another reason the park and its quietude and expansive breathability are so appealing. also...i'm grateful for the company. much better than the headphones.

kate likes running.

and so we go.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

on the dark side

organized religion is adorable.

it's so full of enlightening enlightenment that its subscribers don't know whether to joyfully celebrate or go on a five-state killing spree.

so, obviously, sometimes they do both. just to make sure their spiritual behinds are covered.

other times they merely meander about, spreading the gospel-as-they-see-it. the results are usually hilarious. or sad. or alarming.

the yoga thing, for example. denominations from baptist to muslim to oh-i-don't-know, seventh-day krishnas have condemned the practice as wicked. or heretical. or just too darn much fun and too good for you to be anything but evil.

as a sometimes-practioner of and benefitter from yoga, i can confirm that it is, indeed, mystical. magical. other-worldly. it has powers beyond the understanding of most humans, and several species of kelp. it can restoreth health and sootheth the soul in ways you didn't even know you needed. the best part is, it happens from the inside out, rather than the opposite, which confuses and frightens some people.

and that is why the perniciously pious would like to shoo people away from the practice--they don't understand it and cannot control it.

or, it could be because the typical yoga class is populated by scads of scandalously clad yogis, a transgression over which righteous folks tend to feign horror. and, to be honest, healthy, scandalously clad people practicing yoga are a distraction...unless you're doing it right. in which case, you know, om.


it's interesting how many people, instead of celebrating life, prefer to celebrate death. then again, what do i know? maybe that's how they celebrate re-enacting horrific-tragic-death-things. it helps them feel like they're more alive than dead people.

titanic cruise, anyone?

see, you go out in a big boat, recreating all the fun of the titanic's maiden voyage (okay, its only voyage, for those of you keeping score).

like this:

The organizers are trying to capture the onboard experience — minus the disaster — including the food and a live band playing music from that era, in a tribute to Titanic's musicians who reportedly played their instruments until the ship sank.

While on board, passengers also will dine on meals based around dishes served in April 1912, with a formal dinner on April 13 made up entirely of dishes served aboard the Titanic.

note the very careful "minus the disaster" clause. this is probably to avoid lawsuits from passengers who bought their ticket expecting a terrifying collision with an iceberg, followed by a fatal plunge to the bottom of the ocean. wouldn't want to mislead those folks.

also, note that the voyage is carefully orchestrated to mirror the rest of the titanic onboard experience. the costumes, the food, the band, the music...and yet, inexplicably, some people are questioning the, um, propriety of the venture.

which is crazy, obviously. even if tickets cost up to $9,500 and the whole thing sounds like a mel brooks movie.

"I don't think the cruise is morbid. It's like saying Gallipoli is morbid or commemorating the (Crimean) war," said Carmel Bradburn, 55, who is from Australia. "Remembering those who died is not morbid."

which is true. remembering them isn't morbid. at all. a creepy recreation of the voyage of the damned? that's morbid. ghoulish, even. ("guess what, mabel? i've booked us a fabulous cruise on the love-death boat!")

sidebar: auschwitz. the killing fields. pearl harbor. you know what these places have in common? lots of people died there. that, and they're all big tourist destinations. really. look it up.

the difference would seem to be that those places aren't choreographing unintentionally funny re-enactments of the atrocities. (though it appears that the cambodian government is going all-in with a khmer rouge theme park nearby. divine!)

then again, in a world where anything goes if there's money to be made, maybe these people are missing the boat (see what i did there?). maybe what's missing from these solemn, respectful memorials is the chance to experience the sensation of being trapped below deck in a burning ship, or role-playing scenes from sophie's choice.

what? no? too much free-wheeling capitalism? tell that to the folks at the holy land theme park in beautiful orlando, where you can watch a blood-splattered jesus being crucified and resurrected six days a week! but never on sunday. obviously. that would be an outrage.



that's a big part of what you learn in yoga. just...breathe. in. out. focus on being present and balanced. embody a state of wellbeing. move fluidly, languidly, with just enough purpose to feel the heat of your qi.

that i can write this without a hint of irony or self-consciousness is testimony to the blasphemously euphoric effect yoga can have on one's soul. it's that, or my sad susceptibility to the insidious seduction of sin. (a lot of esses there...soundsss like a ssssnake...)

either way...namaste.