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Post #135: An Open Letter

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An Open Letter to the Hotel Pool Lifeguard in Montreal who Suffered From the Delusion That She was on Baywatch While I was There Swimming With my Kids and Not Doing Anything Wrong and in No Danger of any Kind:

First off, and I’m not just being hyperbolic, I’ve never seen a lifeguard at a hotel pool in my life.

Second off, we were here last night and the lifeguard then was so hands off and on-her-phone-the-whole-time, that I honestly thought she just liked the sweeping view the penthouse floor afforded of the Montreal skyline or was maybe hiding from her annoying family or dealing with a text-based spat with her boyfriend. It wasn’t until my sons and I were toweling off and slipping on our shoes and I was reflecting on how weird it was that this girl had been sitting there playing on her phone for over an hour that it occurred to me: she’s a lifeguard. This small hotel pool has a lifeguard. This small hotel pool has a lifeguard? She was so non-lifeguardish, and rightfully so–hell, it was just me and my two sons in the pool–that I felt bad for her afterward, wondering what they paid her to sit there all day while moms and dads brought their kids up to the pool to swim, and hoping that they threw in the free continental breakfast to make it worth her while.

Third off–this is not Baywatch. Okay, I know you’re a lifeguard, and therefore you are actively being paid to guard lives, which means you should be on your game and ready to intervene if and when a life needs to be saved, but let me break this down for you. Your hotel’s pool is like 20×20. The deep end claims to be 7 feet, though was more like 5 1/2 because I am under six feet and could stand up flat-footed and have my entire head out of the water. Same goes for the shallow end, which claims to be 4 feet, but is not. I am here with my two sons, and am actively swimming with them. I am a visibly capable swimmer. As is my eldest son. There is another family here with three small children, but both parents are present and they are both in the water, and no more than three feet from their children at any given time. And yet, you feel the need to walk the perimeter and glare down at us like you’re huffing the fence line at Guantanamo, ready to shoot the first thing that moves. There were moments when my youngest son Leo climbed onto my back for a “dolphin ride” and I could feel you walking over in your creepy slow-motion footsteps and hovering over us, your arms interlaced behind your back, that I was sure I was doing something horribly wrong. Had I kidnapped these children? Had one of them hit his head and was bleeding out into the chlorine and I hadn’t noticed? Was I a horrible parent? Oh, no. Wait a second. That’s right. We’re in a tiny fucking hotel pool and I’m swimming with my kids.

I have to wonder, which of you–the night before hands-off life guard, or you–was better living up to the job description outlined for you? Because your approaches to the job couldn’t be more different. I picture the lifeguard interview process, candidates being grilled like Jason Bourne before they throw that bag over his head and water board him to test his allegiance in The Bourne Ultimatum. What are you willing to sacrifice to keep these guests safe, even though they are in no apparent danger, nor will they be?

“Do you swear to protect and serve the guests of the Residence Inn Marriott even though they don’t need protecting?”

“Yes!”

“Don’t swear unless you mean it soldier!!” (slap across the face)

“I mean it!”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes…wait, what’s the pay again? Seven-fifty an hour?”

“Let’s not mince details soldier!” (slap across the face)

“Wait…how deep is the pool? Under six feet?”

Perhaps I’m being unfair. Perhaps you suffered a mis-hap earlier in life, or a water-based tragedy and you’re committed to making sure that never happens again. If that’s the case, you’re the best, and I take all this back.

Perhaps you’re bored and lonely in your personal life, and so goose-stepping across the wet tile and gesturing with your index finger at the too-large splash my son has just made playing Marco Polo, helps fill in the gaping hole in some way.

Perhaps this is your small contribution to making the world just a tiny bit better.

Either way, lady, you’re freaking me out. I’m here swimming with my kids. If one of them starts to drown, please feel free to jump in and save them. But since that’s not going to happen, fuck protocol and let’s see that cannonball, eh?

**PS…this is my second recent post which would seem to disparage Canada, Canadiens, and Montreal specifically. Let me just say for the record that I love Canada, Canadiens, and Montreal in particular. But c’mon, we bloggers have to use the material life throws as us!

Post #133: Stomach Flu 1, Me 0

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Today is my fourth day with a vicious bout of what is almost certainly stomach flu. As such, it felt like a good time to make a list to document my experience.

THINGS I HAVE NOT DONE THE PAST FOUR DAYS:

 

  1. Gone to work
  2. Slept for longer than 2 hours without waking up cloaked in sweat
  3. Taken off this red sweatshirt I’m wearing right now
  4. Eaten an adult sized meal
  5. Had coffee
  6. Consumed an adult beverage
  7. Left my house for longer than 10 minutes
  8. Changed out of sweatpants
  9. Showered (okay, I showered this morning, but it was a solid three days)
  10. Hugged or kissed my wife
  11. Hugged or kissed my children
  12. Worn my glasses
  13. Driven a car
  14. Seen any of my friends or colleagues
  15. Read more than 2 pages of a book (no energy)
  16. Kept any food or drink in my system for longer than 90 minutes (gross, I know, but it’s true)
  17. Worried about what the mirror was telling me
  18. Put on deodorant (what’s the point?)
  19. Been able to be even a half assed parent to my two sons (praise my wife)
  20. Had a conversation longer than 5 minutes
  21. Been without a mild to severe headache
  22. Gone longer than three hours without taking my temperature
  23. Consumed a beverage (excluding water) that doesn’t end in “ADE”
  24. Had on a pair of shoes for longer than 10 minutes (see #7)
  25. Stopped thinking about how awful I felt and when, oh sweet lord, when was it going to end?

 

Keep me in your thoughts, won’t you?

 

DREAM ON by A. K. Small

A wonderful piece by my friend and writing group buddy A.K. Small! Well worth the read.

3QR: The Three Quarter Review

But I cannot shift  the geometry of space. When I was seventeen and dreamed big ballerina dreams, I also revered Aerosmith. I sat on the window ledge of Pacific Northwest Ballet memorizing Steven Tyler’s lyrics with my friend Jenna Butala. Crystals dangled from our necks. Names of boys like Santo vibrated against our lips, as we threw our buns back. Joe Perry jammed inside our Walkmans.

We had no body fat, and we could do splits against the walls and turn thirty two times on the tips of our toes whenever the urge compelled us. Frat boys begged to take us to concerts at the Space Needle, while random men on roller skates at Lake Washington flew down onto their knees asking us to marry them.

“Dream on,” we yelled at the top of our lungs and laughed as we strolled away in our cut-offs, never looking back at the men’s faces.

Then one day, after a boy…

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Post #80: Did You Get Healed?

jazzTook my lady to see The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra at our beloved local theater, The Flynn, the other night. We sat front row in the balcony and watched Wynton and the cats do their thing, and as always, the experience was pure bliss. I was a little tired that night, and in truth, gave my sweatpants an extra look before pulling on my boots and coat to brave the sub-zero January. As usual, though, there is no substitute for live music, jazz in particular.  Jazz is one of the few constants in my life, a continued source of pleasure and inspiration that mostly feeds a private place in my soul, a little garden that always prospers and always has plenty of sunshine and rain. It’s been that way for many many years and Wynton has long been a hero of mine, both for his musical genius and for his advocacy for the arts and arts education. And for how damn cool he is. I’ve seen Wynton seven or eight times over the years, though haven’t seen the orchestra since college, and their precision was astounding. When you hear a group of men playing so together, it’s easy to take for granted what they’re achieving because the music, and the individual contributions necessary to make it, are so seamless, so empathetic. This is the essence of big band jazz. And when it’s working best, you barely notice it.

Here’s a few clips of Wynton for your Monday morning. This one is a nice interview with Wynton and Paul Simon that’s about Simon’s contribution to American music, but it’s cool to see them together. The second, below, is Wynton’s quartet with Frank O’Connor and Frank Vignola sitting in on Sweet Georgia Brown.

And a third of the orchestra doing Chick Corea’s “Wigwam.” Enjoy. Have a banner week.

Post #77: Haunted

I was at the post office the other day. The line was painfully long, crawling in fact. All I needed was stamps. I was kicking myself for not having ordered them online ahead of time and saved myself the torture.  It was a week before Christmas and all around me people had holiday packages stacked up to their chins, or resting on the counter before them. We were all miserable waiting.

Standing there, I began to imagine that a gunman was about to walk in and begin shooting at us. And when he did, I wondered, what would I do? There was a frail old woman just to my left, her hair a sculpted frozen wave, a Certs jogging around in her mouth, appearing sporadically between her ruby lips. Would I help her first? Pull her down behind the island? Throw my body in front of hers? Or would I knock her out of the way and hurl myself over the counter to escape the rapid spray of automatic weapon fire as it peppered the plywood and people started screaming?

I wasn’t imagining this is the typical day dreamy way you do, when silly thoughts come into your head. When you see your reflection and pretend you kind of look like Harrison Ford, or wonder if it’s too late to become an astronaut. For a few seconds, I full on expected it to happen. Right there in my local post office, it seemed entirely plausible.

A few nights ago, I took my wife out to dinner and a movie. We ate like royalty, then saw “Silver Linings Playbook,” which is great, by the way. Same thing happened as at the post office. The theater was crowded. Packed nearly to capacity. And as the movie began playing, the thought came to me again: what will happen when one of these people stands up with an automatic weapon and starts shooting at all of us? Will I be able to protect my wife? Myself? What will it sound like? Feel like? Will I ever make it home to see my children? How many of us will die before he either shoots himself or someone takes him down?

This is dark terrain, I know.

But that most recent shooting at Sandy Hook is pinballing around in my subconscious and I can’t seem to make it stop.

 

 

 

Post #70: KG and Karl Rove

Here’s a couple of Slate pieces that caught my eye the past couple of days.

The first, available here, is a tribute to the one and only Kevin Garnett, power forward for the Boston Celtics, physical anomaly, occasionally scary human being, and beacon of warrior passion. This piece complies some of The Big Ticket’s choicest sound bytes, particularly his fondness for and acumen with employing metaphors, at which he is surprisingly adept.

The second, available right here, is a piece about Fox news. Now, loyal readers will know that The Almost Right Words is not a political blog, nor do we often venture into the dark wormhole of political argument and thought; however, we’re going to make an exception today because watching Fox news on Election Night (as we did for some perspective) was one of the scarier and more entertaining (for all the wrong reasons) things we’ve seen in a long ass time. This piece looks through a keyhole at the zealots over in Roger Ailes land and comments on how in their vitriolic crusade to oust Obama and take over the world, they may have done some serious damage to conservative thought and perspective. And to the party they’re trying so hard to protect.

And if you don’t feel moved by that, here’s a clip of  the odd and desperate happenings over at Fox that night to help bring you around.

 

 

 

Post #58: Badminton Scandal!

Last week at the London Olympics there was a kerfuffle over badminton, of all things.  Apparently what happened is that four of the top female badminton teams (China among them) lost games on purpose because, oddly, losing a game would prove beneficial in later rounds of the competition, potentially allowing them to compete against lesser teams later on.  In the case of China, the referee warned them during the match as they sluggishly whiffed and purposefully hit the birdie (shuttlecock) out of play or into the net, and the London crowd booed to show their displeasure, having no illusions about the pathetic excuse for a badminton match they were witnessing.  Swiftly, an investigation ensued and the teams were disqualified from olympic competition.  They were later zipped kicking and screaming into weighted bags and hurled into the Thames and never heard from again.  Okay, that last part isn’t true.

Here’s a video from the crowd during the Chinese match.  It’s shot on some pretty low quality equipment, likely a cell phone, and doesn’t display the full scope of the scandal, but it’s easy to hear the crowd’s dissatisfaction and knowledge of what they’re seeing.

I still haven’t decided what I think about this.

First off, why is there a competition where LOSING could prove advantageous?  There’s got to be a way to rectify that.  It seems pretty clear that if you’re China and you’re the best badminton team in the world, meaning you could beat everyone else, you’d only lose on purpose if there was some very real benefit for doing so.  Why would such a situation ever exist?  Try to imagine Roger Federer or the U.S. Women’s Soccer team losing on purpose because they could play someone easier in the next round and increase the chances of winning gold.  Try to imagine Ryan Lochte or Michael Phelps or Gabby Douglas losing on purpose for the same reason.  Clearly the badminton planners having their birdies out of whack.

But it happened, and now we need to make sense of it.  So, let’s talk about sportsmanship.  I’ve always liked the idea that how you accomplish something holds weight and contributes to whatever results you might achieve.  I think in the abstract most people do as well.  It feels good.  It means that I should comport myself in an honorable way at all times and that the journey is as important as the destination.  That if my journey is full of scandal and lies then my destination is corrupted.  In this line of thinking, a gold medal achieved after being unsportsmanlike, say, losing on purpose, would be tainted goods.  Would be dishonorable.  Right?  And yet, clearly four of the world’s best badminton teams and their coaches didn’t see it that way.  Why not?  What do they know about sportsmanship that the rest of us don’t?  It’s disheartening to think about a coach advising her players on losing as a strategy.  But maybe I need to stop being so naive and pretending like the olympic games bears any resemblance to my youth soccer league where we all got orange slices and a trophy for showing up.

So then, where’s the line between being a good sport and playing the game “right” and winning?  If there is one, it sure as hell isn’t straight.  It’s jagged and hard to follow and drawn with invisible ink.  Would we rather have athletes play “correctly” and lose, or do what they have to do in order to win?  Let’s face it, we are obsessed with winning.  The big W.  Last night I watched American sprinter Lashinda Deamus lose gold by four one hundredths of a second in the 400M hurdles and after winning silver, she collapsed on the ground crying tears of disappointment over being second best in the world.  Still don’t believe me?  Quick, name who came in second in the men’s 200M Butterfly at the Beijing Olympics.  Quick, tell me who came in second to Mary Lou Retton in 1984.  Yeah, I don’t know either.  In sports at large, and in the Olympics in particular, winning is the measure of success.

And yet, it’s complicated.  Sportsmanship matters to me and a lot of other people and I don’t see how the Olympics, or the Badminton Federation, can condone losing on purpose and not punishing it with some gesture on behalf of their sport’s veracity and honor.  Regardless of the semantics of “fairness,” it’s clear these badminton teams embarrassed themselves and their sport on an international stage.  Badminton purists around the world watched in horror, afraid their sport would be tainted and ignored because of these acts.  Relegated to the likes of table tennis and squash.  In this, I (mostly) support what was done in DQing the teams.  They had to do something.  Sportsmanship is not an abstract idea and even though we pretend there’s a huge gray area, it’s really pretty simple.  You either try your hardest or you don’t.  The problem comes with accountability.  Who do you blame?  The athletes?  These athletes train their entire lives for these moments.  They train for gold.  They train to win, not to play “right” or entertain the crowd.  Anything second to winning is a failure.  Especially in China.  So, if a system exists where losing on purpose increases their chances of winning, how can we blame these athletes for helping their gold medal chances?

Your thoughts?