Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Taking the Plunge

It's the Olympics again, and as it does every go 'round, it brings with it delusions of grandeur (see here).  The Summer Olympics are even worse for me, considering that I played many of the sports, including gymnastics, swimming, field hockey, and soccer.  But I think where I really could've been a contender is in diving.  Ever since I first jumped off the board at age four, I really had something special in me.

When I was maybe 13, I joined the diving team at my summer pool.  Two of my friends were on the team, plus diving meets had a way better snack bar than at the swimming meets.  It was a natural fit.  Except that you needed four or five dives in order to really be a contender, and mostly I could just do a front and back dive.  That didn't stop me from trying, though.  I'd get up, do the one-two-three step approach (I mean, hey, even if I wasn't every good, at least I could go through the very professional motions) and give it my all.  I was terrible.

2011-07-04 Off the diving board 110
My diving prowess may or may not have looked something like this.
Image via Flickr, courtesy of Rattler97

By high school, I needed a diversion to get me out of swim practice.  And our team needed female divers, so taking one for the team, I stepped up.  Besides, it got me out of lap swimming halfway through practice.  Totally worth it.  High school diving was only slightly less intense than summer league.  We needed four dives . . . a front dive, a back dive, some sort of flip, and "diver's choice," in order for it to count.  I had the front, back and diver's choice (I usually did either an inverse or a reverse), but I could not get the pesky flip to save my life.

Every week, I would fill out my dive sheet, declaring my dives -- including the imaginary backflip I simply could not perform -- and go through the motions.  When it would come to the backflip time, I'd very carefully walk to the end of the board, balance on my toes as if I were Greg Louganis , and jump straight back into the water.  It got to be a joke on my team to the point where nobody ever even expected me to make the flip, least of all myself.

Then one Saturday, during a particularly boring meet at our home pool, I went through all the same motions as I had in the past.  I marched out onto the board, stood on my tip toes, balanced my arms back and forth, and flung myself into the air.  It wasn't until I hit the water that I realized I had finally managed to flip all the way over and not just jump off the diving board like a brave three-year old.  When I finally popped up from underwater, the reaction of my team was electric. It was as if I had BECOME Greg Louganis and scored a perfect dive with no splash or overrotation.  My teammates were screaming, my parents were screaming, my coach hugged me.  And in that brief moment . . . I WAS Greg Louganis.  So, you have your Olympic memories and I have mine.  I just don't have a medal to show for it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

You've Got to Suffer For Art

I was sitting at dinner tonight with friends of a certain age (and by "a certain age," I mean my age), discussing great concerts.  Somehow the topic of procuring concert tickets came up.  In today's age of getting online and clicking a button, the machinations that the rest of us went through to get tickets back in "the olden days" (aka the 90s) seem slightly ridiculous.  Or nostalgic.  Whichever, depending on your certain age. Sure, you might've taken the easy route by pressing speed dial with the Ticketmaster 800 number, but the die-hard amongst us took a more drastic step. 

Take for instance a certain concert in 1998.  The Tibetan Freedom Concert, right here in D.C. Any self-respecting 22 year old needed to see this show.  Spanning two days and with a lineup including the Beastie Boys, Radiohead, Sean Lennon, Mutabaruka, Money Mark, A Tribe Called Quest, Dave Matthews Band, Sonic Youth, Nawang Khechog, Wyclef Jean, Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters, Buffalo Daughter, R.E.M., KRS-ONE, The Wallflowers, Blues Traveler, Live, Pearl Jam, Luscious Jackson, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chaksam-pa, and Pulp (I'm pretty sure Beck and U2 were there too, as were Brad and Jennifer in the dawn of their relationship, but Wikipedia doesn't mention that), it was all a young and hip person needed to confirm her awesomeness.  It was life-threatening to not procure tickets.

Which brings me to the actual procuring of the tickets. In the dawn of the internet age, when Al Gore was just dreaming of the possibilities of what we might achieve, the rest of us still had to figure out how the hell to get the hottest ticket in town.  The speed dial method just wasn't cutting it.  And thus, we resorted to that age-old tactic of sleeping in the street outside the sales venue.  In this case, it was the (now defunct) Tower Records on the GWU campus. 

I can say with near certainty that nobody cared particulary much about the plight of the Tibetans (with a musical lineup like the one above, why would we?  We were 22, had disposable money, time to sleep in the street for tickets, and a lack of social awareness).  We just wanted to see the most kick-ass bands of our time.  And so it happened that about 100 of us slept on the sidwalk outside a record store (Google it, they used to be a thing) for tickets to the hottest show in town. 

I should pull an aside here to say that I don't camp.  I don't forgo beds, showers, toilets, or warm food for the "thrill" of "roughing it."  BUT . . . apparently for the privilege of seeing Dave Matthews, Radiohead, and the Beastie Boys, I'm willing to abandon my principles and sleep in the street.  I, of course, use the term "sleep" loosely, as we merely dozed in between sad boombox (also used to be a thing) blasts from each of the bands slated to play the concert.  Looking back, I can say with certainty, it was one of the most miserable nights of my life. 

But then the morning came, the lights in the store came on, and the doors opened.  One by one we filed in to get our tickets. There was no simple click of the mouse. There was no advance purchase for fan clubs or American Express card holders.  We were all equal -- equally miserable after having slept on concrete.  And we all got our tickets. 

The show was great -- despite some girl being struck by lightning -- with some of the greatest bands of my generation. And while I'll always remember the concert, what I remember more is that night, camped out (the closest to camping I will ever get) on the sidewalk at GWU, waiting, hoping we'd be able to get tickets before they sold out.

These damn pampered kids today don't know how easy they've got it.  You haven't really enjoyed a concert until you've suffered for it. Trust me.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Typical Monday

For years, WH has said I remind him of Elaine Benes from Seinfeld.  Played by the incomparable Julia Luis-Dreyfuss, I always took it as a compliment.  Of course, he also always teases me about my abnormally large head.  Devotees of Seinfeld will know where I'm going with this, but for the rest of you, just read on. 

Ever since we moved last month, I've had largely uneventful walks to and from work each day.  Aside from one day when I saw a hipster bend over and his pants fall down revealing a little bit of buttcrack, there hasn't been anything really out of the ordinary.  Until today, of course. 

I was walking the four blocks to my office, in a state somewhere between lost in thought and caffeine-deprived, when it happened.  A bird.Flew.Into.My.Head. It was one of those this-would-only-happen-to-me moments.  I'm pretty sure I jumped up in the air, flapped my arms and muttered something along the lines of, "Jesus Christ!" I can tell you this, it scared the hell out of me.  It made me feel dirty and afraid I had been pooped on. I worried that I might contract some sort of poultry-borne illness.  But mostly, I just felt like an asshole.  I mean, besides Elaine Benes, who does something like that happen to?  Oh, wait, me. Duh.

Figures.  It was Monday after all.  And let me tell you, sometimes, if I concentrate real hard, I can still hear the flapping . . .