May 22

Riding into the weekend

Finally, we were able to get in another bike ride this week. The two extra days off did my legs no favors. But someone didn’t seem phased. I was playing catch up for 90 minutes.

At the very end of the ride I caught her.

Or, seen another way …

Even then, it took a well-timed break — near our pre-selected turnaround point is the home of a few friends who were out in their yard so we stopped for a chat — and a desperate chase just to stay in sight.

She’ll get faster before I do, probably, which is the real concern.

Did you know I am still putting dive videos on social media? I am still putting dive videos on social media. Here’s today’s dose. I’ve got about five more weeks worth of clips, I’m sure.

That’s it for now. See you Monday. Until then, check out my Instagram. And did you know that Phoebe and Poseidon have an Instagram account? Also, be sure to keep up with me on Twitter as well.

Apr 22

The last sports show of the semester

I took a picture of a monitor showing someone taking a picture of a jib camera, which was shooting video of the person taking a picture. I wish I knew how to be more meta than that. Plenty of people can, but I’m just shooting from the hip, which is why this is framed so awkwardly.

Anyway, it’s basically senior night for the sports crew, so I got to take pictures with some of our graduating people. I keep a folder of them now, so I can pull out the right picture at the right moment and make them remember the little people.

Here’s Ta, who is going home to work for a company called Main Stand where he’s going to do just incredible things. We all know this to be true because he does incredible things on a regular, daily basis already.

Here’s Jevan, who will surely be making his next big announcement any moment now. He anchored tonight, his last show. He wore the same suit the first time he sat at the desk a few years ago. It was a conscious closing of the circle, I think.

His classmate Sean is also destined for great things. He’s been with this bunch for two years, but he’s been so instrumental in seemingly everything that it feels like he’s been there forever.

And it was also Old Home Week. This is Justin. After working with the sports crew here for a long time, he graduated last year. These days he’s doing local news at KEPR in Washington state. I remember when he and I talked about this, and about the job interview, and I asked him if he thought he could enjoy news, because it’s a different animal than the sports he’s always focused on. And, I said, you have to want it, because the news is demanding of your time and attention and your emotion.

He loves it.

He came back to visit his brother, who is also about to walk. He also talked to all the young IUSTV people tonight. That was just the coolest thing.

They’re all quite cool, honestly. Being around them was the best part of my day. Even when they made jokes at my expense. (Sometimes I set them up so nicely, they can’t not make the jokes.)

(Usually that’s a deliberate choice on my part.)

Jan 22

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes …

We got a text in the pre-dawn hours this weekend, the sort that comes with a sting and a great ache created by a newly formed hollow place.

Our friend Brian’s father passed away. He’d been fighting some heart-related problems and things were starting to improve until, suddenly, the doctors and nurses had to say they’d done all they can do. It’s just terrible.

Tom was a husband, a grandpa and a father. He is the father of one of the most steadfast men I know. Brian and I worked together for four-and-a-half years. Everyone called us office spouses. We shared a cubicle, mostly because I didn’t drive him crazy. I only didn’t drive him crazy because I admired him so much.

And that was the guy at work. Away from keyboards and glowing screens, Brian is the person that knows my wife and me as a couple longer than anyone. He delivered the toast at our wedding. He helped us move. Multiple times. For many years, when we lived in the same town, we dined with Brian and his wife, Elizabeth, weekly. We have celebrated countless little successes with them. We have boasted unceasingly about the achievements of their brilliant daughter. We have all held each other and cried in the most unimaginable grief.

Tom and his wife, Janet, who (I’m trying to find a not-clichéd way to say it, but she) is just about a perfect gem of a human being, took us in for no other reason than we were their boy’s friends. It is part of their shared generous spirit to the world beyond their door. A lot of people do that, sure. The McAlisters made it feel like it was just for you, like you were the only lucky people that got added, which was far from the case. Felt like it, though. They met because they were spelunkers, and it worked. They had two sons and their family, official and otherwise, just grew and grew and grew.

Here’s Brian and his dad, Tom, after Brian’s daughter’s birthday party. She was a wee thing then and is a certifiably genius college student today. I don’t have a great frame of reference for father-son moments, but this felt like one, almost 14 years ago, to the day.

It looked important and cool. I didn’t want to intrude.

What’s more, their welcoming spirit was familiar. Felt like part of my family. My grandmother was that same way. Never met a stranger. She ministered with food and laughter. There for most anyone for most anything at most any time. Tom and Janet, always gave off a known sort of kindness. Their easy, unspoken, cherished bosom buddy sort of personality was normal.

One terribly sad year, Brian and Elizabeth decided to not have Thanksgiving. Their son passed away a week before and they needed some time to themselves. Rather than think of them being alone, I invited Tom and Janet, the grieving grandparents, to my grandparents’ for Thanksgiving dinner. They didn’t live that far away and it was the obvious gesture. I don’t recall if I asked my grandmother’s permission to bring people into her home. Probably I did, but I knew she wouldn’t care. These were good people because they were my people and that would have been enough. Besides, that’s what she did. There was never a “Why?” but “How many plates do we need to set out?”

And so Tom and Janet drove over and 10 of us sat around the kitchen table. In the blessing, I prayed for the family that was with us and I prayed for those who were elsewhere. I asked for strength and health for those who needed it and peace and patience and understanding for those seeking it.

Eight days earlier they lost a grandbaby and had to watch their son and daughter-in-law crumble before them. And Tom and Janet were rocks, smoothed and weathered by time and sharpened by experience. They were the great, steady, oaks of the forest. They were the comforting lights in the night. Only they were better than all of that. We don’t have imagery for such an inconceivable thing, really. After one of the services, I wrote about our friends, Tom and Janet, “You don’t know of pain until you see a parent who knows they can’t comfort their child. You don’t know strength – a true strength borne of love – until you see them do it anyway.”

That Thanksgiving, I realized that you don’t know vulnerability, real human rawness, until you’ve seen people unabashedly share their grief in a stranger’s kitchen. I also learned that you don’t know the best stuff of the human spirit until you’ve seen strangers grieve for new friends.

We laughed, too. Everyone told tall tales and we all tried to talk about other things. Tom and Janet, so grateful for a brief evening of normal, stayed a long time. I was proud we could all do that and not at all surprised that they were sent home with food.

I’ve always thought of that as a story about my grandmother. It’s one of my most precious and fondest moments with her, the materfamilias, always teaching the best of her traits by example, always demonstrating that the simple things are the important things. But I’ve come to realize it’s a story about the family I was lucky enough to get, and the family I was wise enough to choose.

I’ve been writing this with teary-eyed emotions, but now comes the hard part.

Four years later, when my grandmother died, Tom and Janet made the drive over again. For just a moment, in a way I couldn’t have anticipated, dear sweet friends covered the unfillable hole.

Since we got that early morning message I’ve thought of little more than how difficult it is to fill such a hole, even temporarily, for the people you love. How I want to do that for my friend Brian, and his mother, Janet, and that lovely family.

Dec 21

The memories park

This is the park where my lovely bride played as a child. She’d dangle in the trees off to the left of the frame. And she would swing on the ropes and the monkey bars that used to stand through those woods in the background. These days we walk on the paths and run on the track.

It’s also where, 13 years ago yesterday, we took our engagement photos. We just happened to find ourselves there again yesterday, but without the snow. Because, you see, we took our photos in 19.7 degree weather.

We tried to recreate a few of the photos. Only our faithful photographer — who shot our engagement in a Nor’easter and our wedding in the hottest heat wave of the summer — wasn’t there.

Here we are today.

And 13 years ago.

Once more, today.

And, again, in 2008.

For the record, that bench was still cold, this week.

Here’s a low stone wall and the woods of Connecticut. It couldn’t be any more authentic if you put a Joe Lieberman sign out there.

And last night we picked up a pizza and had dinner with The Yankee’s college diving coach. Dan is a lovely guy. Wonderful conversation, and the best tomato pie around, from Pepe’s Pizzeria.

And, perhaps the best part, we had plenty for leftovers.

Dec 21

A weekend in Savannah

Yes, this is Monday, but I’m writing about Monday. The next few days will be in arrears. It’s a vacation thing and I’ll somehow cope with the difficulty of the problem.

Spirits were high before the 10K. Here are most of us. Anne was on the course doing a 5K because she’s an awesome overachiever. The Yankee, Brooke, Andre and Stephen and I all did the slightly less ambitious 6.2 mile run over one of the tallest bridges in the southeastern U.S. We had to run the bridge twice.

Anne ran the bridge three times. (She also finished in second in her age group.)

This is at the starting line. Limited field by design. Everyone had to show proof of vaccination and all of that. Here, I thought, is a sign of maturation as a human and my bowing to inevitability. The joke I used to make right here was “Look at all of these people I have to pass.”

(Knowing I would never pass all of those people. I have landed on the podium in exactly two foot races as an adult. Both, you might say, were of a limited field.)

But, today, my joke was “Look at all of those people that don’t have to pass me!”

And here we all are, after weaving through many of the beautiful squares in the historic district we finally have our first good view of the bridge we’re about to go over.

And one of the views from atop the Savannah Bridge.

This is the largest single ocean container terminal on the U.S. eastern seaboard, and the nation’s fourth-busiest seaport. It is a cable-stayed design, and it’s 185 feet from here to the river below.

Off the bridge, around a cloverleaf, up one little kicker and around a little right hand turn you’ll find the finish line, and your medal, and some fruit and other healthy snacks.

Speaking of food … We tried a new place for dinner Saturday night, on account of the mileage we’d already enjoyed. Plus it got good reviews, and we’re going to give Cha Bella another good review. It’s a farm-to-table concept, a term that’s lost all meaning, I think, but Saturday night it meant tasty. We had a gnocchi appetizer.

I had a tasty grouper entree, which did not photograph very well, but it was tasty. We tried the cheesecake, which had a goat cheese blend. It was a super creamy dish, and every now and again, you got that hint of goat cheese.

It was a delicious outdoor dining experience. And we made everyone go back with us again on Sunday night. Because there were other things to try.

And, look, if you have different servers on different nights and they both react the same way when someone orders a specific dish, you get that specific dish. This is the hog chop.

And I’m pretty sure I don’t need to ever have another pork chop in my life. But I also wonder why everyone doesn’t make their chops like this one. Because they should.

And this weekend I also had the opportunity to enjoy a few ghost signs. This was one of the better ones. Everybody knows, Uneeda Biscuit.

That’s a 19th century brand, made it all the way to 2008, when Kraft (which took hold of all of the old Nabsico properties in 2000) discontinued it. The old original Nabisco, NBC (itself a product of three different mergers) rolled out the Uneeda campaign in the 1890s, when no one said things like “rolled out the campaign.” Within a year or so, NBC was selling ten million Uneeda biscuits a month.

I don’t think I ever had a Uneeda, which you’d, of course, today call a cracker. But I did have some good biscuits this weekend.

Tomorrow, we have to leave Savannah and travel back to Indiana. But I probably have two more days of content to work through here. Anything to extend the trip.