Archive for July 2010
This is a special shout-out to Larry Sweitzer. Larry posted a comment on The Seeker late last week after getting a Google Alerts notification that something regarding Babe Ruth’s piano debuted on the internet. It turns out that Larry has recently written The Ghost, the Eggheads, and Babe Ruth’s Piano, and has been on the look-out for anything about the topic. Follow this link to check out more about Larry, including his blog and information about his book: www.larrysweitzer.com. Dig around some, and you’ll find video footage of folks testifying about how they saw Babe Ruth’s piano submerged in Willis Pond.
I’ve said it a thousand times on this blog: It’s a funny thing, writing. This episode further illustrates the point. Some people will call it coincidence that Bo and I worked on “In Search of… Babe Ruth’s Piano,” fully unaware that Larry had written his book. Other people will call it a phenomenon straight outta the theories of collective unconscious. I say, it’s a funny thing, writing.
Good luck with your book and writing, Larry. I’m glad you found us!
Readers: It’s the debut of music on The Seeker! The featured artist is Bo Ledman, who has been jamming on guitar for 13 years– the last 6 from his basement recording studio. Bo is a good friend, a coworker, and one of the creative forces behind Staff Infection, the faculty band at Zion-Benton Township High School. A few weeks ago, he was perusing articles about Babe Ruth’s piano and emailed me that he wanted to write a song about it. We got together earlier this week and pieced together a rough cut. I’ve posted a recording of the session below, along with the lyrics . That’s Bo on vocals and acoustic guitar.
In Search of… Babe Ruth’s Piano
By Michael Bo Ledman and Jeff Burd
Verse One: (D-A-C-G)
Listen up to this lecture
Based on theory and conjecture
It might change what you know
About a barrel-chested man
Who could hold the world in his hands
His name’s the Big Bambino
According to New England lore
There’s fish and frogs and so much more
In Willis Pond beneath the waves
Through the silt, beneath the murk
The Big Bambino’s piano lurks
For years and years spending its days
In the winter of ‘18
Babe threw a big party
The piano was out on the ice
He might have been drunk
Don’t know what he thunk
But I bet his singing was nice
The guests all went home
left the piano all alone
Nobody was complaining
After a month or two
The piano fell through
And Babe left for Spring Training
How did it get there?
Where did it go?
When did you learn to tickle
The ivories, Big Bambino?
Was it at St. Mary’s
When you were a boy?
Did the melodies fill
Your broken heart with joy?
Eighty-six years later
Poor Beantown was cursed
While Babe’s piano rotted below
Some thought it was the key
To set the Red Sox free
From the hold of the Big Bambino
Mr. John Fish
Had but one wish:
To rescue his team from despair
He searched all of Willis
But all he could tell us
Was the piano just wasn’t there
Then in ‘04
The Nation could take no more
As they faced the Cards in the fall
The series was a sweep
The fans began to weep
Because they beat the curse once and for all.
How did it get there?
Where did it go?
When did you learn to tickle
The ivories, Big Bambino?
Was it at St. Mary’s
When you were a boy?
Did the melodies will
Your broken heart with joy?
Sunday, July 18, 2010 ~ 8:30am ~ Vernon Hills, IL
Results: 27:10; 8th out of 22 male 40-44 age division; 144th of 403 overall
Bounty to date: 10 bottles of water, 16 protein shakes, 6 bananas, 3 apples, 3 nutrition bars, 4 bottles of Gatorade.
This was a cute idea for a 5K. The name comes from Vernon Hills cops (and others from Libertyville, Grayslake, etc…) who run, chasing stragglers and menacing them with fake night sticks. But cuteness only goes so far. What they need to realize is that there’s a magic time when a 5K in the middle of summer should start: 8AM at the latest. Sunday morning, as the clouds were dissipating, the sun was beginning to shine, and the humidity was climbing to an intolerable level, there were 400 people who waited until almost 8:50AM to start this thing. The race should have been over already. Instead, we were waiting for a train to clear part of the course– a train that wasn’t even supposed to be there, according to the people in charge of trains.
That was but one thing that went wrong. I felt like I had to pee the entire race (and I could feel it at the start line as I was waiting and waiting and waiting). It’s an uncomfortable feeling, your bladder dully pulsing. It gets worse when you run. My shoe came untied less than a mile into the race. I registered on the day of, which meant no goodie bag for me (and more importantly, no t-shirt). It seems the race organizers didn’t plan well enough to account for an excess of registrants. Furthermore, I was out late at a wedding Saturday night and may have had 2 too many cocktails for someone who wants to race the next morning. On top of all that, I didn’t sleep very well.
But I ran. And I ran a decent time, despite it being a minute slower than the July 3 run. I was happy about that– I take it as a positive sign that I can run strong in less-than-ideal circumstances.
But the heat… the damn heat. For the first time since I turned 40, I felt like I was 40. I downed 2 bottles of Gatorade right after I finished, had a much-needed protein shake when I got home, and was still wiped out on my chaise lounge for almost 2 hours before noon. It felt like 5Ks used to feel a few years ago before I got in better shape. But the heat… the race organizers are lucky they didn’t end up with injuries or something worse because the humidity was so intense.
This one is on my “do not run” list for next summer. It needs to be organized a lot more effectively than it was yesterday.
Readers: Intrepid friend of the blog Nathan Geist (he of the SGT. Danger chronicles, beginning in November 2008) is now a published photographer! Hopefully his success with a camera will be followed by success with his manuscript. Read his explanation below and follow the hyperlink to his photographs.
I am currently in the process of re-editing my manuscript (i.e., the emails I sent to you from Afghanistan) for the third time, and stumbled upon an exciting link. Several months ago, The New York Times requested soldiers to submit stories and pictures to be published. While none of my stories have been published in the NYT to date, three of my pictures have been.
“James Clark, Nate Danger Geist and Andres J. Lugo may not be the first names that would come to your mind if you were asked to list accomplished war photographers. But their work, seen here, exemplifies a remarkable development in the documentation of war: professional caliber photography — available to the public almost instantly — taken by the men and women who are also fighting the battles.” To continue reading this page (and see the pictures), follow this link please: http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/16/showcase-188/?scp=1&sq=GEIST&st=cse .
The first picture that comes up is mine; if you click on the “3,” you will see another; my final picture can be found by scrolling below (the wooden arrows).
They pumped you up for months before your cruise, dangling before your eyes visions of high seas adventure, tropical romance, and fruity, rum-infused drinks. Once onboard, they delivered the drinks to your chaise lounge on the Lido deck, made your bed, and serenaded you at dinner each night. It was all a conveniently-packaged Caribbean aphrodisiac; a Mickey Finn in your Mai Tai. But when it’s all over, Carnival Cruise Lines will strut out of your life with the cool detachment of a frat boy on a Sunday morning.
Perhaps the Carnival customer services people could do more in the wake of your adventures to help you readjust to reality. A list of convenient reminders might help:
1. Your Sail and Sign Card means nothing at the local pub. They’ll laugh you out of the place the first time you try to use it to cover a round of drinks.
2. You can wander around your house looking for pizza and ice cream at all hours if you wish, but you’re probably not going to find much.
3. Get used to sunburn– chances are that a woman you just met and barely know is not going to rub SPF 30 on your back.
4. Walking the sidewalks of your neighborhood at 2AM will raise suspicion about you rather than fill you with the sense of romance and euphoria you felt when walking the decks of the ship in the wee hours of the morning.
5. Go ahead and pick up the waiters and waitresses in the middle of dinner at a local restaurant and swing them around . Find out what happens.
6. Karaoke isn’t nearly as fun in front of your friends and family as it is in front of strangers.
7. For the most part, sunrises on land are overrated.
8. Sure you can walk from your home to a restaurant to a show lounge to a comedy club to a karaoke bar to a piano bar and then back home all in one night; just don’t expect to have much time or energy left to enjoy any of them.
9. Don’t walk around on your porch/patio/balcony at home the same way you did on the balcony of your stateroom. Unless you have some bail money set aside for the occassion.
It’s hard enough adjusting to post-cruise life without feeling like you’ve been dumped by Carnival. If they can’t provide you with a list of convenient reminders, maybe they can just hold you and whisper that everything is going to be alright.
Saturday, July 3, 2010 ~ 8:00am ~ Palatine, IL
Results: 26:13; 11th out of 16 male 40-44 age division; 81st of 214 overall
Bounty to date: 10 bottles of water, 16 protein shakes, 6 bananas, 3 apples, 3 nutrition bars.
This one came outta nowhere! I killed my previous time by 40 seconds, which means in 4 of my last 5 races, I’ve run my fastest time since I was 19. I was on a similar streak my senior year in high school when I kept running my best time 5 races in a row.
I’m surprised this happened. I’ve had one full run since June 20, and that was last week when I did a leisurely 3.6 miles at Rollins Savannah. I wasn’t running because I wrecked my legs playing soccer last week, and didn’t want to risk anything. Again, I felt gassed about halfway through the race– like I wanted to slow down or walk. But I think that’s something I’m going to have to get used to. It means I’m running at my fullest potential.
I’m in a new age division now that I’ve turned 40. For most races, that means I’ll be running in the 40-44 division. I like the separation between divisions because it shows where I really stand amongst my peers. I did pretty well in the 35-39; I won the division in a race 2 years ago, and have finished in 6th or better since then.
I guess all this means that I can finally be a varsity Cross Country runner. For the two years I ran in high school, I was the slowest runner on the team. It was agonizing, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit (after all, I’m still doing it 23 years later). One time I ran a 22:17, which was my personal best. Another time, in 1987 at the New Prairie Cross Country Invitational, I beat Robbie Uetrecht. He was the second slowest runner on the team.
The funny thing is that even with my 22:17, I would have been a varsity runner at all three of the high schools where I have taught. So let’s get a team together again; I think I can be one of the top 7. Hell, I’ll settle for fluctuating in and out of the top 7. Just give me the damn jersey when I earn it!
I might have this 40 thing figured out. Just in time for my 40th birthday, which is today. In the least, I have a better understanding of it. I think it’s a reckoning with mortality. But why at 40? Why not 37 or 42 or 48? 40 is a nice round number, a plump target that roughly signals the 1/2 way point in life. We’ve learned plenty about ourselves, gotten punched in the nose a few times, had our disappointments, and perhaps realized that we’re not all that. The sun will rise tomorrow with or without us.
If it’s the 1/2 way point, approximately, then here’s the chance to make things right. And if not right, then at least a little more correct. Some of us don’t want to go on or march towards retirement carrying the burden of memories of those we’ve wronged or left behind or those we didn’t appreciate when our lives intersected with theirs. That would explain in part some of the unusual and unexpected contact I’ve received in the past year.
And I’m still not sure if that applies to me. I’ve called the old friends, kept the family ties (kinda) tight, spoken with the ex-girlfriends, thanked the professors and coworkers, all that stuff. It’s become habitual to me in the last fifteen years. I’ve found it necessary for my personal peace of mind. This isn’t to say that I have all my friends and everything is as hunky-dory as a David Bowie album. It’s not. There are people you let go gradually as you grow apart, and others you severe ties with because there are heated disagreements and blow-ups and insults for which an apology is never made. But where I’ve done wrong, I have tried to make as right as possible. Funny thing, that… once I learned how important it is to apologize, and how to do it, I’ve not had to do it so much.
This started with me wanting to talk more about physical mortality, which is something I have experience with. The body is going to break down. You have no choice. Death comes to us all, even in small doses. There have 2 periods in my life when I have fallen out of physical condition, and it’s been a monumental task to get that condition back. One was in my mid-20s, after college and into my first year of teaching. Once I started to work on getting in shape, it took forever. I started by trying to run two miles on a track on my 26th birthday. I made it, but it wasn’t easy. It had been about 4 years since I had run, and I forgot how hard it was. But I had done it at one time; I had figured it out and did a decent enough job at it. Those 2 miles killed for days afterwards. I spent the rest of the summer trying to run 20 minutes without stopping. It took a long time, but I made it. I built up from there to where I could run a 5K, and haven’t really done much beyond that.
What I relearned, that which was most important, was how running builds mental toughness. My high school Cross Country coach always preached that it would; I just didn’t think he was talking to me when he was saying it. Most of the discipline and determination I have (read: jackass stubbornness, and cockiness [as I was recently reminded]) has its roots in being a runner.
So imagine how I felt 2 years ago when I started to think I wouldn’t be able to run anymore. I suffered an Achilles injury that put me out for almost 2 years. And I suffered it because I thought I was immortal. I thought that regardless of what I did, I would always be able to run. So I ate all I wanted whenever I wanted, ran just to get some exercise, and even ran through pain that was signalling me that something was wrong. When I was 37 and tried to run like I was 27, I got a rude awakening when I almost ruptured my Achilles. My determination to be tough and run through it only made the situation worse, and kept it from healing for well over a year.
So that all came to me the morning of May 8 this year when I was running a 5K, the same one that I had run the previous 2 years on the same weekend. The same one that the last 2 years had ended my running for the summer because I thought I could run through pain and everything would be fine. But not this time. Because I finally learned how to slow down and let myself heal and do what my doctor told me to do all along.
On May 8, I ran strong and consistent 9-minute miles, finishing in 27:26, pain-free and with a strong kick at the end (I couldn’t help it… there were 3 women in front of me coming into the last 1/8 mile, one of whom I had seen walking at one point, and I’ll still be damned if I’ll let myself get beat by someone who I saw walking).
The race is a symbol, though, and a pretty important one for me. I’ve never run so consistently. My first mile was a 9:05, then an 18:02, then the 27:26 after 3 miles and change. That’s consistency; tangible evidence of it that I created and maintained.
That’s normalcy. That’s what I’ve been striving for in my mind.
So here’s 40. I’ve been anxious about it for 7 months now. But why? I’m running better than I have for 10 years or so. I’ve lost significant weight. I just had my finest year as a teacher. I’m having more success with my writing than ever before. It sounds like I should stop worrying and start celebrating.