How high can you jump?

(A summer repeat from August 11, 2011)
I have the aerodynamics of a sofa. “How high can you jump?” never resonated with me since the answer was never one I wished to share (“I can barely get off the ground“).

In the 1900 Olympics, no high jumper could hope to succeed unless he did the scissors kick to launch himself over the high bar. It was thought no one would ever jump higher – that is until 1920 when the track and field world was stunned by a high jumper who dove over the bar. This added nearly two feet to the world’s record. It was thought that no one would ever jump higher – that is until 1968 when a young man from Oregon revolutionized high jumping at the Mexico City Olympics by going over the bar backwards! Today, as a high jumper if you cannot master the “Fosbury flop,” you may as well take your gym bag and go home.

So how high can you jump? What do you do to challenge yourself? Improve yourself? Motivate yourself – and others? What goals do you set? And reach? I like to think that the sky is the limit. W.N. Murray who was on the Scottish Himalayan Expedition said “Whatever you can do or dream you can. . . begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

The Turtle in the Tire Track

(A summer repeat from 2/13/2012)   In 1969 I was in Tucumcari, NM. I’ve always been interested in Indian artifacts so I took a drive to “look around.” Outside of town, I took the long road of the Chappell Spade Ranch along the Canadian River. I pulled up to the ranch house where a man was standing. I asked if there was a place one might find Indian artifacts and was told “Mr. Griggs” might help but he was out walking. “Out there” the man pointed. I was driving my 1964 Ford Falcon Sprint – ragtop. Top down. So I headed off into the desert — driving on a two tire track “road.”

I bounced along and found Mr. Griggs about 2 miles out walking with a young girl who was on horseback.   I asked about artifacts and he shrugged. “You just have to look.” Big help he was. He asked if I’d drive him back to the ranch – so I said “sure” and he hopped in.

We came to the top of a rise. Below, the two tire track ruts were full of water from rain the night before. He said “you better gun it or we’ll get stuck.” So I did. Whoosh! Down the hill. And then I suddenly jammed on the brakes – skidding and splashing to a stop with water up to my hubcaps. He said “what the. . .” I got out of the car and about 20 feet in front of us a big turtle was cooling himself. In the water. In the tire track. If I’d continued, I would have crushed him. I held up the turtle to show Mr. Griggs. I set the turtle on the side and got back in the car. He stared at me. I looked at him somewhat defensively and said “I didn’t want to kill the turtle.” He nodded and thought a moment “You did the right thing. You want Indian artifacts? Go that way” – he pointed.  I slushed out of the water and we lurched across the desert in another 2 tire track “road.” And we stopped, climbed to the top of a butte and he showed me an Indian burial ground. He told me the story of the Anasazis who had lived there. I found some neat things – some of which I took. Today, I have in my office a well-used mano (corn grinding stone) – one of three I found that day along with a metate (the stone on which corn was ground). Every time I walk in my office – and glance at the mano – I think of the turtle in the tire track . . . . and that very special day.

A Sixth Grade Lesson

(The RH has been in and out of town.  Here’s a repeat from November 23, 2011). 

 On April 2, 2007, I presented a paper to the Chicago Literary Club on 5 lessons that I had learned in life (see post of August 16th for one). A big one occurred in 6th grade.

One afternoon between classes, I saw Tim H in the hall. In a show of 6th grade bravado, I grabbed him and pushed him bodily into the girls’ bathroom. And I held the door closed – chortling – while screams of girls and cries from Tim resounded down the hall. What happened next occurred in a kind of slow motion though I’m sure it took place in a flash. I felt a hand on my shoulder which spun me around. Suddenly a bright light exploded on the side of my face. My teacher, Mrs. S, had slapped me. Hard.Don’t you ever do that again.” Tim escaped. I wobbled back to the classroom. When I got home, my mother was there – arms akimbo. She knew. . . . Instead of hugging me and spitting about the mean teacher, my mother simply commented that she hoped I’d learned my lesson. I had.

I learned a lesson. It was epiphanal. I learned that there were lines that were not to be crossed. In today’s world, Mrs. S would’ve been summarily fired, the school system would have been sued by some money-grubbing plaintiff’s lawyer and there would’ve been nasty articles expressing righteous outrage.

I tend to think our educational system needs options for teaching lessons (even like this one) — without the consequence. After all, who wins? I sure did. . . . .

So this Old Guy. . . .

So this old guy goes to the golf course. “I’d love to play,” he says to the pro. “But my eyes are really bad. I hit the ball pretty well but I can’t see where the ball goes.”  The pro smiled – “I’ve got just the guy to pair you up with. Old Scott isn’t much of a golfer but he has got eyes like a hawk. I’ll put you and Scott together.”

So the old guy and Scott are introduced, shake hands and head for the first tee.  The old guy bangs his drive about 250 yards.  He turns to Scott “did you see where it went?”   Scott looks over “I saw precisely where your ball went.”  They get in their golf cart – and start rumbling down the fairway.  They drove and drove.  The old guy looks over at Scott “so where did my ball go?”  Scott rubbed his chin “gosh, I don’t remember. . . .”

There is this girl. . . .

There is this girl. Her name is Lisa.  She is captivating and I’ve admired her for a long time. Donna is vaguely aware of my interest in Lisa but she let’s it go.  I have gone on websites to read about Lisa.  And there was one occasion some years ago when our paths actually crossed.  It was in Paris.  There she was.  And I stood. Watching her.  For quite a while.  From about thirty feet away.  Lisa’s last name is Gherardini.

I guess I’m not the only guy in the world who has had a special interest in Lisa.  You see Lisa Gherardini is — the Mona Lisa.  

Lisa – the young wife of Francesco del Gioconda – was painted by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) between 1503 and 1506.  However Leonardo – who claimed he “never completed a single work” – continued to refine Lisa after he moved to France.  He may have applied the final touches of paint in 1516 or 1517.

After Leonardo’s death, the painting was purchased by Francis I of France.  Louis XIV moved Lisa to the Palace of Versailles – and after the Revolution, Lisa was placed in the Louvre.  In 1911, Lisa was stolen by a Louvre employee – Vincenzo Peruggia – who felt that Lisa should be returned to Italy.  Peruggia’s theft was discovered two years later when he tried to sell Lisa to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.  There have been several attempts to deface Lisa – but she continues smiling seductively – behind layers of bulletproof glass.

The aesthetics of da Vinci’s painting are nuanced.  Lisa is sitting upright with hands folded in a reserved attitude.  There is an imaginary landscape behind Lisa which introduces for the first time an “aerial perspective.”  Lisa is considered the most famous painting in the world.  And the most valuable – with an estimated worth of $782,000,000.   I can’t wait to cross paths with her again. . . . .   

Don’t believe me just watch

Over the last few years, I have posted on some favorite music videos (see January 5, 2014); those that have interesting “follow up” (like Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” girls on November 29, 2015); and the record-setter — Psy’s “Gangnam Style” — with 2.6 billion views (see March 5, 2015). 

The third most popular music video in the world (1.7 billion views) is one that everyone has heard (especially if you watched this year’s Super Bowl halftime show).  “Uptown Funk” is a superb choreography and bold music offering.  The song was recorded by British producer Mark Ronson with vocals by Bruno Mars – an American.  Released in November 2014, the song soared to the top of the charts — where it remained for many weeks.  While Bruno Mars does the vocals in the video, watch for Mark Ronson’s cameos.  The song has been a global sensation – winning the 2015 Grammy Award  for “Record of the Year” and “Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.”

The music is creative and is influenced by the sounds of Prince, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.  It makes me want to get the old group back together (Donna is not keen on that idea).  As the oft-repeated refrain goes – Don’t believe me just watch.    

A Ten

I scored a point or two by asking Donna if she wanted to go out for dinner on Friday (ka-ching).  “No . . . how about if we stay home and have something simple.” Now I have come to realize that “simple” in Donna’s parlance means plain chicken, rice and asparagus.  Three of my favorite things.  Not.   So I offered to make dinner.

I went to Fresh Market (my usual haunt for dinner inspiration) and bought 3/4 of a pound of wild Atlantic sockeye salmon for Donna.  Simple.  But I got three crab cakes for myself (a regular crab cake; the “ultimate” crab cake; and a salmon cake). I wanted to try them all.  The salmon was drenched in olive oil.  Seasoned with turmeric and pepper and baked for 20 minutes at 400.  The “cakes” I sautéed in olive oil until brown. 

Then (be still my heart) I got organic white potatoes; organic carrots; and some Shiitaki mushrooms.  The potatoes I diced thinly and sautéed in butter.  Topped with ground pepper, turmeric, Kosher salt and garlic powder.    The carrots and Shiitakis were washed (the carrots were filthy), the carrots skinned and everything diced and sautéed  in olive oil.   Both took about 40 minutes on low(er) heat.  Candles.  A little Gato Barbieri crooning in the background.   “Well?” I asked.   Donna looked up.  “This is probably a nine and a half.”  She paused.  Savored a bite.  “Actually a ten” (ka-ching).  And then – the píece de résistance – I whipped out a Talenti Sicilian Pistachio gelato to close the meal.  And did the dishes.  Ka-ching ka-ching . . . . .