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11
Sep 18

Sports as culture and 9/11

Showed part of this in class today.

Thought a lot about almost everyone on campus doesn’t have a clear personal memory of that day. And that’s both good and unfortunate. Maybe documentaries and all of the many media opportunities we have make it seem both far away and close at hand.

Fewer people, about quarter of America now, know of the hundreds or thousands of small personal moments like this:

The jets would be armed within an hour, but somebody had to fly now, weapons or no weapons.

“Lucky, you’re coming with me,” barked Col. Marc Sasseville.

They were gearing up in the pre-flight life-support area when Sasseville, struggling into his flight suit, met her eye.

“I’m going to go for the cockpit,” Sasseville said.

(Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney) replied without hesitating.

“I’ll take the tail.”

It was a plan. And a pact.

And there’s a full generation of people for whom the large, greater, moment onboard United 93 is only a piece of history. That’s the way of it. That’s the way of time. The way of moving on.

You wonder if it always happens that quickly. Did someone feel like this in December of 1958 when they read about another anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor? Did people have a similar reaction in the fall of 1934? Was it like this in the early 1880s? Of course news come so fast now that seemingly endless wars and almost-secret wars seldom get any attention at all. Of course pivot points in history are inevitably due to be swallowed up.

But through it all, Ray, there’s been baseball.

I should have played that in class, too.


7
Sep 18

To the immediate days ahead of you

I had two ideas today. That’s a lot for me. One of them, I suggested to someone, and you could see the notion percolating in the imagination of another person. That was neat. How often do you get to see the whole range of expression from blank expectation to unsold kernel growing into a ‘tell me more’ moment? And then you have to tell the person more and you know someone might be able to run with it. And finally, there’s the note-taking, and the ‘Let’s talk more about this?’

My other idea is perfectly formed, it arose in one clear moment with a precise degree of technical certainty, so much so that I sought out some information that might put the lie to the entire concept. But, no, the idea sound. So I’ll need to figure out some way to polish it up a little bit, so I can suggest it to some people so nothing will come of it.

A man told me once I was an idea guy. I wasn’t, but I liked the notion and have tried to incorporate a bit of that into everything I do ever since. Very, very occasionally someone will run with my idea of the moment. Usually it is dismissed, until someone else thinks it up. Then it’s brilliant. Ideas are about timing, their framing and who pitches them.

How was your day?

For a moment late this moment all my Apple products were each charged to 100 percent. I may never again achieve Inbox Zero, but I’ve made my peace with that. Apple 100 is a bigger challenge anyway.

This afternoon’s official music video, because this afternoon needs an official video. The chorus makes it worth it:

I’m writing this at the best part of the week, the idealism of the weekend is upon us. It hasn’t really sunk in yet — for me, that’s usually when I turn in and realize I can turn off my alarm clock for tomorrow.

Of course, right after that I begin to think of how finite the weekend can be. Maybe they should all be three-day weekends, after all. There’s a feeling that never goes away, so there must be something to it.

Regardless of how long this weekend is going to be for you, I hope it is a blast.


6
Sep 18

How can they see with sequins in their eyes?

I woke up before the sun this morning, before my alarm went off, even. And sometime after that I got my act together and walked out the door with my bicycle and had a little quiet ride. Some of the roads were mine alone, as the day stirred into action.


I could go for more rides like this. It is only the up and at ’em part where I struggle.

Class today was a continuation of sportswriting. We had a guest, a local writer of considerable talent and ability. The only problem is that in addition to his talent and experience, he also has some sort of stomach bug. So I was on my own.


Fortunately I had just enough time to dash off some slides and we discussed lead writing for an hour.

Then I caught up on email and went into the studio for the evening. There was television to produce.


They shot two different shows tonight. One, a highlight show, will be out tomorrow. The other is a talk show, and they are really getting those segments down to something tight and special. That show will be out sometime over the weekend. This was week two for the sports crew, and they’re off to a great start. Next week the news folks start their shows for the semester.

I made it home just in time for dinner.


16
May 18

We went flying over the Tuscan countryside

We woke up so early this morning that I actually demonstrated how upset I was. On any other day, this would be strange. But this was a vacation day, of course, and so there’s a layer. And I’m terrible at time zone adjustments, so there’s another layer. And it was obscenely earlier, friends. Had it been any regular day, then, this would be the thing that was remembered, the bit that was etched into family lore, the part of the tale never untold.

But, we did this, and this is a way better story:

Now, I don’t know about you, but occasionally I see a hot air balloon and I think, “Oh, how neat.” But it has never really occurred to me to be a thing I should pursue. I’ve always thought I’d enjoy it. But it always seemed like it belonged in a different world than mine, maybe. I’ll just blame all of the places I saw it on television as a child. It was always an extravagance, or an incredibly low-speed getaway. Well, no one chases me, thankfully, and I’m not an extravagant person, so the hot air balloon ride was someone else’s achievement, some other person’s signal.

And to do it in Italy? Well, friend, that just seems right out, doesn’t it?

But, of course, if you’re going to enjoy a hot air balloon ride — and how we did enjoy it! — you probably ought to start in Tuscany. So we did. And there it is. So much fun, so beautiful it all was, that I really struggled cutting this footage down. But if you’re going to glide over Tuscany, you want to record a lot of it. And you may as well show it off, so people can see, and you can remember.

And if you’re going to glide over Tuscany in a hot air balloon, make sure you get the pilot that struggles coordinating the landing zone with the proper speed and gas variables, so your flight is longer.

These things are very weather-dependent, as you might imagine. We shared our balloon with a very fidgety couple down from Rome. They’d been trying to take this trip for some time and had their flights canceled four times because of one kind of weather or another. They both worked the overnight shift at the da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport and had come down at the last minute to finally get this in. We were fortunate to get our balloon ride on our first try, despite unseasonably gray skies.

And after you do that, make sure you stand around in a Tuscan field and eat meats and cheeses and drink heavy drinks because it is barely 9 a.m. and you’re on vacation and you were just up there, using physics and the wind and basic aeronautical design that started carrying people more than 300 years ago. Also, you’re in Italy and it’s beautiful and wonderful and perfect.

Then you go back to your 17th century farmhouse and take a nap, because this is going to be a beautiful and wonderful and perfect trip — it already is … — but you need your rest.

When you wake up, your rental bikes have arrived. And so we’ll spend a week going up and down the hills of Tuscany on a pair of nice, 10-year-old-or-so Motobecanes. We took our first ride this afternoon, a simple shake out ride, but I didn’t take my phone because it looked gray and rainy and I was too tired to remember it anyway. We road up and down the Via di Botanaccio, a perfectly unremarkable country road suitable for bicycles. Except we’re in Tuscany and there’s vineyards over there and olive groves over here and that’s just everything. Oh, and there are two 15-degree ascent climbs on the road. We’re going to be trying to get over the top of those a lot in the next few days, too.

Tomorrow, we’re going into Siena.


14
May 18

Where are we?

This guy just sits up there all day and keeps time. Him, a roller and a lonely squeegee. I wonder how long it took to create that. At least an hour, right? And when does that guy gets a break, who keeps things on schedule up there?

This particular art is in the Amsterdam airport:

Oh, by the way, we’re traveling. And Amsterdam was a layover, but also your first hint. We left Indianapolis this evening — it was supposed to be this afternoon, but that flight got canceled for whatever reason. So, instead of going through Detroit, we went through Minneapolis:

We saw cool clouds. I sent a picture of this to one of my former students:

He said that’s a virga cloud, which produces rain, as we see here, but the dry air evaporates it before the rain gets to the ground. He said that is what often creates the classic wispy look in clouds.

Anyway, our flight cancellation meant we got an upgrade. So we had those nice first class seats that all but turn into beds. This became a red eye, but I can’t sleep on planes. So I watch movies. Only this time the inflight selections were, I felt, somewhat lacking. I did watch Darkest Hour:

I fell asleep in the last few minutes, just before Gary Oldman’s big speech before Parliament. But I woke up in time to have breakfast, or lunch, or who knows, and watched the end of the movie. And then we landed in Amsterdam. And then another flight. And a car rental, and a brief drive and checking in and then dinner. Oh, finally food and sleep.

Where are we?

Here’s your second hint:

We didn’t have calzones, because the regional food here is bistecca fiorentina. (That’s your third hint.) Our host recommended a place, we went there, and had the bistecca fiorentina. And that was a delicious steak.

And now, the jet lag. Tomorrow we’ll figure out where we are.