Oxford is

5 11 2013

image





“Oh yeah? I’ll show you!”

22 07 2013

image

I do hope some enterprising youths have had their picture taken here. 

The possibilities exist.





Ludic

21 05 2013

lu·dic adjective \ˈlü-dik\: of, relating to, or characterized by play

 

 I learned a new word while reading Sayers the other day.  Well, I should be honest:  I was reading a blog penned by an older English lady back in 2003 in which she reviewed Sayers’ Wimsey mysteries.  She (the blogger, I mean) was working on her dissertation, and she would often pause to write these really critically-constructed reviews of the mysteries’ characters and genre.  As a bonus[1] to an anglophile like me, the comments are largely written by other Britons, and so I find myself an wallowing in riches three times over:  Sayers, blogger “Truepenny,” and the commenting public of the island nation.  Witness my reverie for a moment, if you would.  Okay, that’s enough.

And so it was within the golden ashes of a long-abandoned blog that I discovered the word ludic, which is a rather old adjective relating to sport.  You’ll kick yourself in a moment if you haven’t already made the connection to the more contemporary adjective ludicrous, but there you have it.  I was delighted to realize that here, here was the legitimate grandfather of an adjective I had met in my youth and seen corrupted in my teens by a certain actor/hip hop artist.  Not since the discovery of burgle had I encountered a word so effortlessly peremptory, so readily available to one already afflicted with pretension in spades.   

As I thought more about ludic, I gradually began to wonder how it had dropped out of our vernacular, at least in America (although I believe its usage is rather rare in England as well).  Ludicrous had no trouble sticking around, but that is often the case with adjectives placed further toward the end of the spectrum.  We are a people who miss the forest for the trees, clearing them in a frenzy to expose the utter west of our nation.  England has retained obsequious, we’ve opted for suck-up.   That’s the way it is, and I think I’m okay with that.  We are a people defined by our unquenchable thirst for convenient consumption, but that need not restrict our and my vocabulary today. 

I played soccer tonight, and there was nothing ludic about it other than the rules.  We got murdered, not literally, although Sayers actually described some homicides less grisly than the one my team experienced.  Our frustration mounted along with the goal margin, and by halftime we were down lots of goals.  Like, all of them, basically.  Just so many, many goals that went in the wrong net.  Like the one where I, filling in for our erstwhile goalkeeper, accidentally batted a ball into our own net.  At first, I was utterly disgusted with myself, our team and the game of soccer itself.  Then I took a deep breath, thought about what was really important in life, and calmly retrieved the ball from a corner of our goal to drop-kick it into the netting surrounding the field, getting it stuck behind a post about eight feet off the ground in the process.  It’s kind of like when the basketball gets stuck in between the rim and the backboard, except much more humiliating.

“Oh,” I thought.  “This probably doesn’t make me look good.”  I looked around casually, and noticed the following:

  • That our celebrating opponents were jogging back to their half of the field unaware of my artistic little pout.
  • That the referee was discussing something with the scorekeeper and had his back turned to me.
  • That my team had their heads down in shame, looking anywhere but at the seething glare upon my not-really-sweaty face. 
    • (Goalies don’t exert themselves much in games like this for the simple fact that they don’t make much contact with the ball.)
  • That the only people who knew where the ball was other than yours truly were the spectators who had just witnessed my triumphantly petulant burst of idiocy.

It’s a funny thing about adult sports:  You tell yourself that you’re playing for the exercise, the camaraderie, the healthy competition or whatever, but eventually you will discover that your inner nine-year-old has always been the driving force behind it all; you will also eventually discover that he has just been dying for the opportunity to metaphorically pants you right when you’re feeling down.  At 26 years old, gainfully employed and moderately mature, I had summarily executed my dignity for everyone to see.  Good thing most of them weren’t looking.

That ball couldn’t stay there forever, though.  I stood there thinking about it.  If I did nothing, someone would eventually point out the location of the ball to the players on the field.  Adult soccer players are not known for their intellectual agility, but I would be found out one way or another, and it would probably be humiliating.  It was already humiliating.  Alternatively, if I pointed  out the ball to someone else, they would inevitably wonder how the ball got stuck up there and how I was the only one who knew where it was.  This had the tempting advantage of at least delaying my embarrassment for a few moments while everyone’s curiosity was piqued by the ball retriever hoisting himself up to get the ball.  But someone would ask him, and he would tell them, and they would say, “Really, that Robert guy?”  That part would suck. 

No, I had clearly burned every one of my ships back to the island of self-esteem when I punted the ball with all my pathetic might just a few moments ago.  There was no choice:  I had to get the ball myself.  The amused onlookers surely had a good laugh as I nonchalantly trotted over to the netting, jumped as high as I could, and supported myself with one hand while I artfully scooped down the ball with the other.  In case you don’t care much for sports and you’re not clear on how the game was going, let me clarify:  this was, by far, my most successful moment of the evening.  As I landed, I mediated on the fact that learning humility and maturity while playing a child’s game with other grown men is a rare event—granting that I learned anything at all—and hey, I at least executed the retrieval maneuver correctly.  I’m an athlete, you may have heard.

I’m not sure when I’ll give up playing soccer completely, but I know I’m closer to quitting today than I was last year.  I love the competition, but it’s pretty clear that I’m neither appeasing nor refining the most admirable of desires during this one hour a week on a soccer field.  If I’m honest, I probably get loads more healthy satisfaction (not to mention genuine exercise) from regular jogging than I ever will from sporadic competition.   Even the fact that I now talk about quitting as a “when” as opposed to an “if” is coldly real to me.  After embracing the ludic for so long, I’m reluctant to admit the increasing presence of the ludicrous along with it.  There’s a certain pride that comes from participating in sport well.  It’s tough to hold on to that pride when my age keeps whispering louder each week, sometimes voicing itself in aching joints and ankle braces, or if I’m lucky, only in my fruitless attempts to keep up with those 19-year-old college players.   I am not what I was, but I do know what I want to become:  a man willing to hop up and retrieve that ball shamelessly with a smile on his face.  And even more than that, a man who doesn’t have to run that far to retrieve it in the first place.  

 

 


[1] I originally started to write the phrase, “As an added bonus” before subsequently excoriating myself for exercising the “Biggest pet peeve” faux pas that has caused me no end of teeth-gritting over the past few years. Image





Here’s a Thing That Happened

24 04 2013

Image

For my birthday last year my mom scoured bookstores for a rare-ish Nero Wolfe novel I had been wanting to read.  While unsuccessful as of my 26th, she nevertheless persisted and eventually persuaded a small bookstore proprietor (the store was small, the proprietor average) to order a used copy of it, which she then surprised me with a few weeks later.  And yes, since you’re dying to know: it made me cry.

Mom told me a little while back that this bookstore has since folded, which is either sad or instructive.  There is probably a lesson here!

 

 





Untitled Cicadian (on lunch break)

16 02 2013

image

image





Rose Parade 2013!

1 01 2013

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image





Home Ice

22 10 2012

Home Ice by the late Jack Falla is a wonderful book.  I highly recommend it to everyone.  It’s sort of a memoir of a hockey-infatuated father, husband, writer who is best able to express himself and point out his flaws in relation to the ice rink or a frozen pond.

* * * 

I gave all my hockey gear away on Saturday.  This marks the end of the line for me.  I had just finished Home Ice the week before, but I have known that it is time for me to move on for months now.  I guess the thing that really drove this point home for me was last month, when I got a text message from the goalie of the 18+ inline team I’ve played a few seasons with since 2009.  

As much as I enjoyed a few more stolen seasons of hockey, and as much as I loved the exhilaration from skating up the rink and executing a perfect pass or a tip-in, it was time.  I’ve pulled a groin muscle on my work softball team last year, and I think I bruised a rib last year out at the rinks in Corona.

My brother and I have always relished the competition and measurement offered by sport, but he’s been a good example to me in the last few years of how to transition from needing to compete to truly desiring to succeed.  And for him as well as me, success is becoming more and more clearly defined by what happens during the workday, during my downtime, and how I serve others at home and at church.

Taking hours each Saturday (and spending plenty of money besides) just to slake my sporting thirst is no longer permissible to me.  I started feeling guilty when I realized I didn’t care much about the people I was playing hockey with, didn’t care much who saw me succeed.  I really found myself mainly caring about what I did relative to what I thought I was capable of.  That scared me.  If it’s woodworking or writing or running, pushing yourself to excellence is an admirable thing that requires dedication and hard work.  However, what I saw was something twisted and self-absorbed beyond what my sense of responsibility could let me get away with any longer.  

It was fun, for a time.  Rarely, it was a joy.  I still won’t forget the smell of stale sweat and bearing lubricant as I hopped off the bench to take my first shift wearing a crisp #7 Minnesota North Stars Neal Broten jersey in 2011.  I scored two goals that game, and I started thinking that I was “breaking in” the jersey, finally getting it ready for what jerseys are made for: playing.

“In life as in hockey, you’ve got to play hurt,” Falla says in Home Ice.  He’s right.  You have to accomplish  things without the benefit of comfort or consolation, because those things are a distraction far more frequently than they are a reward for a job well done.  And once we find ourselves seeking comfort and consolation as ends in themselves, we wind up working at the same place for thirty years because it’s easy.  We increasingly devote ourselves to vices and amusements to satisfy urges that we used to have the strength to temper.  We become bodybuilders who only work on the glamour muscles, working all day long to stave off insecurity while the most vital elements of our well-being and self-defense grow flabby and impotent.

So I gave up playing hockey.  At least for the future.

Of course, after reading Home Ice, I would rather skate by myself on a 40-foot backyard rink at 6 in the morning than almost anything else.