Thursday, March 20, 2014

Just Play The Game!

I remember walking into a bar some months ago, (as can happen), and looking at the t.v. above the
bartender's head. An NBA player dunked the ball, landed and then celebrated. It was a celebratory dance popular these days with just about every athlete male and female in all sports. The choreographed move entails clenching the fist(s) holding the head still or rocking it back and yelling as loud as possible with mouth as wide as possible. I'm extremely tired of this move as should you be. It is not only overdone it is often used when the achievement has been standard--par for the course. When a 7' basketball player dunks the ball in the first quarter  and engages in this celebration it's childish not to mention commonplace. When an NFL middle line backer does the move 3 games into the season and four minutes into the game the move is premature and superfluous. It is a line backer's job to stuff the run, it's what they're meant to do. We're also seeing it in tennis after every other point…in a 3 hour match! The over the top roar has got to go or at least subside.

When I voiced my near disdain for the exhausted dance the bartender placed a beer in front of me and said, "Don't be a hater dude, I've done it myself a few times."

"When you pour the perfect pint?" I asked with a laugh realizing I'd more or less insulted the man who poured my beer. I smiled to ease the potential build-up of testosterone. Briefly the bartender looked pissed but then backed off and said, "I play a little pick-up b-ball at times and I've been known to get a little emotional. Don't hate dude."

Pick up b-ball? Are you serious? Should I celebrate getting across the street before the walk signal changes? Or should I rock my head back and roar when I find that missing sock in the bottom of the laundry hamper? Of better yet, maybe I should shout from the roof top when the new phone book arrives (a la Steve Martin's The Jerk). At this point I considered teaching this little upstart a lesson. A lesson where the old school--me, teaches the new school--him, what it is to have style, to be chill, to be…cool. But then I remembered that I'm no longer in the business of teaching lessons…with the exception of drum lessons of course. Exactly where does this jazz come from? Why is it that today's athlete pro to novice feel the need to roar-triumphant after feats commonplace and at times average at best?  I suppose confidence is a factor. We're all aware of the latest stats that revealed America's youth is more confident than ever before and not necessarily due to tangible achievements or accolades. Part of the problem--and in defense of today's over celebrator is that we live in a time where we are photographed, video taped and surveilled more than in any other time in history. In other words; over-celebrators know 'the cameras are rolling and I'm going to be a star, build my brand or go viral…by opening my mouth as wide as I can'.

celebration justified!
Let's blast a little further down this trail. Many (not all) parents today are ramming figurative esteem pills way too far down their children's throats. Encouragement is good. Healthy self esteem is also good but the confidence pendulum has swung too far into the overus confidencius. (That's my poetic license-latin there folks) As a result athletes celebrate WAY too often for precious little accomplishment. For example, if a basketball player scores 10 of his team's 109 points should he celebrate every single basket with a gladiator roar? Hell no! The bartender on that day called me a 'hater' but he and dang near everyone else are imitators. They see Lebron James do the celebration dance and then they copy the exact move…on the pick-up b-ball court. It's insanity! You've done nothing of merit dummies. Just play the game.

The rules are as follows: If you win the championship of your sport,  heavyweight title or Olympic gold; go for it, go nuts. If your'e on the pick-up b-ball court or comparable facsimile thereof; knock it off. You're simply a misguided embarrassment of obnoxious slow witted braggadocio. And now that I've successfully use braggadocio in a sentence I must roll my head back, open my mouth wide and roar! AH!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Life Change: from the gridiron game to the yoga mat

 One day you're a kid on the playground and your buddies (or teachers) tell you to act your age, and the next minute 50 is around the corner and you're feeling your age. With karate classes and increased time at the drum set muscles occasionally nag, tweak and spasm without so much as a 'by your leave'. Back in the day a good old fashioned deep tissue massage did the trick but now--not entirely.

Thus, I sat down at my kitchen table and embarked on a one man think tank. After 6 seconds I uttered a curse, but that didn't help. Then I remembered that 'ah ha' it had been quite some time since I rolled out the old yoga mat. Thankfully there's no judging in yoga for if I were to practice it in front of a yogi tribunal they'd say:

"Hmm, well first of all not bad for your first day."

"Actually I've been doing it off and on for years my esteemed yogis," I'd respond.

"Oh dear, have you considered other activities? And remember we ask from a place of peace and love."

And so it would go. Luckily I've not been summoned by the yogi tribunal. In the past yoga always made me feel good (when done with any regularity). And there it was, I immediately put myself on a 1 hour per day 30 day yoga challenge. Although there is no 'challenge' in yoga with the exception of challenging frigging poses. Done: one man think tank meeting adjourned.
I've always done my yoga at home. Pop in the DVD and rock n roll. I knocked out 17 days straight without a hitch other than one stubborn hamstring that is not a fan of the activity. On the 18th day I was to head to Vancouver. My trips to Vancouver tend to be the low key hang with family and friends coupled with very little exercise--we're talking vay-cay which is hipster for; vacation folks.

Part of the trip would be spent in Surrey, B.C. so I hopped online and found a studio near my lodgings. (yes I said lodgings, so what). The amazing studio (Vayusha
 replied to my inquiry by email and text. Ha! They had me at customer service which is a luxury rapidly heading into extinction.

I arrived at the studio early knowing there'd be a waiver to sign plus a guy needs to find just the right corner, locker or cubbyhole to stash his shoes and socks. What is a cubby anyway?

The place was jammed with happy yoga-clad ladies…and me, the 200 lbs. nervous brother who's crappy at yoga. Again, thank god there's no judging in yoga. 'I can do this,' I tell myself. I used to play football. I used to come up so hard and fast on a guy that when I hit him he'd cough up the ball. Although, win or lose something always hurt by the final whistle. But this was yoga with a lot of women in Lulu Lemon gear. What could hurt other than foolish pride. And why is it that pride is always foolish? Why can't it be genius pride? That's it, I decided right then and there to take back the genius pride streets. My pride was going to be genius, moving forward. Unless, of course I fell ass over tea kettle during the class in an attempt at an unnecessary balance pose.

After the quick introduction to Candi who I believe is the owner I was thrown an unexpected yet happy curve ball. It went like this.

"Do you know what Jonathan there's no charge for you today. Just enjoy the class."

Well how do you like them yogi apples? I thought. Clearly my pathetic lost puppy dog look (which would later meld into several downward dogs) moved Candi to waive the usual drop in fee. No wonder everybody smiles so much around this joint. They're flexible, they breathe better than the average bear and sometimes stuff I like this world, sign me up!

I grabbed a yoga mat and hefted it to a position as far back and away from the instructor as possible. As I said earlier I'd never done a class before; just videos. Don't forget I had genius pride to protect. I posted up beside an emergency exit. Clearly that door was meant for me. The first thing the instructor did was thank us for coming. "Especially while Canada is playing in the hockey semi final. 'Sh**' I mumbled to myself. I'd forgotten about the game. My eyes flash to the emergency exit. In fact it called to me like a devil on my shoulder.

"Come on pal, push this tiny lever and in ten minutes your feet will be up on a couch watching Canada's favorite sport."

"No," I tell the devil-door.

"Technically you're on vay-cay so you could have a beer while watching the game," the door mocked. If not for the fact that my shoes and socks were in a cubbyhole I may have done a shoulder roll out the door. (Incidentally shouldn't a cubbyhole be called a 'shoe and socky-hole?' Wait a minute socky rhymes with hockey. NOOOOOO!)

But I fought temptation and stayed for the class. We began with breathing and light stretches. No sweat, I got this. I'm in the zone. We slowly got deeper into the poses and deeper into ah, er, yoga I suppose. I was heating up whilst keeping up. Pride: still genius. There were even times when light laughter broke out. Good heavens these women were getting fit and laughing. No wonder all of the smiling. Being the only dude (and brother) I felt like a fly on the wall…or perhaps fly on the yoga mat. This was like infiltrating a hen party or a bachelorette party or even more accurately a book club. I was on the inside. I was the inside man in all of my 200 lbs shoeless glory.

60 minutes later we were done. I'd managed every pose although my crow pose was extremely brief. And there were even a few ladies that managed the side crow. Allow me to paint a picture for those not familiar with the side crow. Basically your face is 10 inches from the matt and you're balancing on your hands. Your legs jut out to the side. One of your thighs/knees rests on one of your elbows. Looking at you head-on you'd look like a big rig truck that is in the middle of jack knifing. In fact, if I ever teach a yoga class for dudes; both tough guys and former tough guys it would go as follows:

"Okay dummies move into jack knife big rig. Breathe dummies. Your breathing is your air brakes. Hold the pose! If you don't that 18 wheeler is going through the guard rail and you won't make your delivery! Come on guys we're rigs! We're big rigs with heavy duty super charged engines dammit! Hold the pose!"

side crow baby!
Bottom line is Vayusha Yoga is a great facility with an excellent class. The studio is clean and warm with big windows that allow plenty of natural light. I'll definitely be going back next time I'm up that way. I managed to make 27 out of 30 days of my yoga challenge which was hatched by my one man think tank at my kitchen table. I don't believe I failed in achieving my goal as there is no judging in yoga. And where I once donned the football helmet I now roll out the yoga mat. Because it's all about body awareness and ahem, acting one's age.

**Getting back to the issue of cubbyholes. Wikipedia claims that a cubbyhole is a small safe place for children to play. Wikipedia also claims that the origin possibly stems from the old english word 'cub' meaning; pen, stall, coop etc. 

I thank wikipedia for their effort however they have it wrong. Cubbyhole comes from a little den in the ground where animals such as foxes keep their cubs. Today we have cubbyholes which are small or 'cubby like.' Hence; cubbyhole. My theory which is ironclad arose from my one man think tank at my kitchen table and cannot…be disputed. Now get out there and yogafy people!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ah, The People We Meet

As a basic rule I'm generally not a Starbucks guy. However, there are times that by hook or crook--Starbucks is where I can be found. One Thursday morning I stopped in for a chocolate chip cookie; a delicacy I allow myself one to two times per annum. I brought out my notebook and started writing--yes I know a novelist taking up real estate in a Starbucks, how…vomitus. I sat at the communal table across from a nice looking woman in her late 60's. She had long straight black, gray streaked hair. Each of us went about their business: she upon laptop and me upon old school papyrus.

Fifteen minutes into our 'work' we slid into some small talk as she stood to leave. She claimed that she rarely frequented Starbucks but needed the WIFI. She asked what I was writing and in under 500 words I told her of my first book Crescendo and how I was writing book II; Drumroll Please. When I told her my main character was a drummer she asked if I too was a drummer. I answered in the affirmative and she added, "me too." Her British accent possessed a sprinkling of the cockney.

"Cool," I said, "and good for you we need more female drummers."

"Yes, I dated a drummer for awhile and when he wasn't home I'd play his drums. After awhile Mitch started teaching me a few things."

"Mitch?" I said working on a long, long, long shot of a theory.

"Yes, a bloke named Mitch Mitchell."

My heart nearly busted out of my chest. I sat up straighter and attempted to shrink the size of my smile but failed.

"Do you mean Jimi Hendrix's drummer Mitch Mitchell?"

"Yeah, do you know him?" she asked smiling as if we had a bloke in common.

"Well, yeah. I mean I don't know him or didn't know him but…Jimi is my all- time favorite artist. So you…you and Mitch…wow!" I say brilliantly. At this point in the conversation 'Tracy' put her lap top back on the table and sat back down. We hit it off like long lost friends. We had commonalities after all. We both dug Jimi and Mitch; we both liked to talk and were both non-Starbuckians on passing rafts on the Starbuckian sea of over priced drinks, cheesy writers (like me) and high priced dumb-dumb CD compilations.

 Apparently 'Tracy' hung out back in the day near Abbey Road. She and her close girlfriend would frequent the pubs. She claimed that she 'looked pretty good' in those days and thus had most of her drinks bought for her by the likes of Mitch Mitchell (obviously), Paul McCartney, Brian May (guitar player of Queen) and a host of others. I grinned like a kid does on his first roller coaster ride but without the screaming…barely without the screaming. Even if she was fabricating I didn't care I was all ears. But I believed her, I could see it in her eyes. She was the real McCoy. We ended up talking for over 90 minutes.

I'm a people guy not a Starbucks guy yet I have Starbucks to thank for if Starbucks didn't occupy every damn corner in North America I would not have met 'Tracy' the sweet 60-something British dame with the straight gray-black hair who used to run with the heavyweight british rockers from back in the day. Ah, the people we meet. Ain't life grand!