$11 Million: Life Changing?

Not if you are Tiger Woods.

Tiger and other top golfers are playing in the Tour championship tournament with a $1.3 million prize. It is also the last of the tournaments that are part of the FedEx Cup which provides a $10 million prize based on finishes in select tournaments over the course of the season. Tiger comes into this tournament as the number 1 seed. If he wins the Tour Championship he wins the extra $10 million as well regardless of what any other golfer does. (Depending on who wins the tournament, Tiger could finish in the top 4-5 and still collect the $10 million.)

I read an article a few days ago talking about the pressure of an $11 million prize. What if it all came down to the last put? How would Tiger react?

The author was discussing that despite the pressure of a large money prize, Tiger has the ability to block everything else out and focus on what he needs to do on the course. To me his basic premise was wrong.

All I could think of was that despite the normal pressures of playing in a professional tournament and being expected to win each one you enter, for Tiger the money would not add any pressure. The chance to win $11 million not add pressure? Let that role around in your head for awhile.

$11 million would dramatically change the lives of the vast majority of people. It would certainly change mine. But Tiger is already worth a few bizzilion dollars and earning many more all the time. Not that he couldn’t buy a nice trinket with the extra money but…

Some day I hope to say that an extra $11 million would not change my life. Working on it. Only about $10,999,999 to go.

Dorm Life Gets Spoiled

Luxury, amenities, walk-in-closet, view of the river, privacy, heated pools. What do all of these words have in common? They are not meant to be associated with college dorms. And yet…

Purdue, Boston University and Arizona State University among others offer luxury dorm living for the already spoiled college student. It is bad enough that these kids all had rooms of their own at home and got to drive daddy’s (or mommy’s) luxury sedan while going through high school. College is where turning into an adult is supposed to happen. That means, along with other things, getting along with others. Learning to make it on your own. Living in less than ideal conditions.

What can you learn living in your own room with a jacuzzi nearby? I am sooo glad that my son’s dorm is just basic housing, bad mattress, used furniture and fairly small room shared with another. Bathrooms down the hall. No air conditioning. Really, this is not like being in a third world country walking a mile to the river for clean water.

I know why the colleges build these luxury dorm facilities…because someone will pay for it. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune these are the first rooms to go.

What are these parents thinking? I will never get constantly spoiling your kid–just ask my son. When will these kids grow up?

What a waste of a good recession.

Shanah Tovah

Friday night began Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. A common greeting on the holiday is L’ Shanah Tovah which roughly translated is “To a Good Year”.

I send wishes for a happy and healthy year to all my Jewish or not friends.

This has become a bittersweet time of the year since my mother died a year ago the day before Rosh Hashanah. Due to my people’s use of a lunar calendar I get to remember this event twice, once on the day before the holiday and once on the english date of September 29.

I will try not to be too maudlin but her presence has been felt all week and it was hard for me to watch friends with their moms or worse yet grandsons with their grandmas. I know that this too shall pass.

I also miss not having our son with us on the holiday. This whole college, separation thing may be good for him but it is hell for me. I feel as if the family is no longer together, at least not in the same way.

Moving on. This is the time for atonement. It is traditional to ask for forgiveness of our sins from both our G-d and from all nongodlike creatures whom I transgress from time to time. While this is meant to be done on a personal basis, I am asking forgiveness from any of those of you whom I have wronged. You know who you are.

And if I have butchered the English language with incorrect use of whoms then I also ask forgiveness of both Merriam and Webster.

L’Shanah Tovah.

Misery Loves Company…Or Is It Just For The Sex

Despite what Ben Bernanke recently declared, the economy is still in the crapper. People are unemployed, companies are struggling and I already know that my bonus will be dramatically lower than last years’ number.

I do find some comfort knowing that others are troubled too. This article from The Economist highlights another industry that is struggling and the impact on its specialized workers has been particularly dramatic and is in a part of the Country hit particularly hard by the recession, Los Angeles.

This article titled, “Hard Times” addresses a large industry currently on its knees. Actually, on  knees or back is common in the industry. Here are a few exerpts from the article.

EVEN Nina Hartley, who became a pornographic actress in 1984 and continues to be one of its most sought-after performers at the age of 50, is feeling the recession. “Last year I did a scene a week, this year I do a scene a month,” she says. As a sex celebrity, she has not dropped her fees, charging about $1,200 for a “straight boy-girl” scene.”

“Pornography had been immune to previous recessions, so the current downturn has come as a shock.” (Bold added by this author for affect–or is it effect–I can never get that right.)

If the Valley used to make 5,000-6,000 films a year, says Mr Kernes, it now makes perhaps 3,000-4,000.(Why would we need  3 thousand new porn films a year let alone 5 thousand. It isn’t like one is all that different than another — or so I have heard.)

For the 1,200 active performers in the Valley this means less action and more hardship. A young woman without Ms Hartley’s name-recognition might have charged $1,000 for a straight scene before the crisis, but gets $800 or less now. Men are worse hit. If they averaged $500 for a straight scene in 2007, they are now lucky to get $300. (First of all I am shocked at the reverse gender bias in the industry. Second, $1,000 per scene!!)

Pornography in general has become “like potato chips, everywhere and cheap, to be consumed and tossed,” says Ms Hartley. It’s not the same as in the golden age…( I love the potato chip analogy. As for the golden age, what is as good as it once was?)

Glam Life

Woke up yesterday in a Hampton Inn. Second of three days on the road.

Ate instant oatmeal and an egg-like yellow oval thing for breakfast.

Worked all day. Lunch was a out of a vending machine eaten in 15 minutes at 2:30.

Drove the 2.5 hours in a Ford Escape from Richmond to Dulles Airport to drop off a car. Took a cab back to another hotel. Now 7:30 pm.

Worked for a couple more hours.

Consulting. A Glamorous life.

Wait Until Next Year

Typically that phrase is used to describe my beloved Cubs. And once again it will apply.

However this year it also refers to the North Shore Century. I have entered this 100 mile ride the past three years, completing it the past two. It has become a part of my legend, to the extent you can apply that word to my life. Riding 100 miles and SCUBA diving are the two things I do that not everyone can or will do.

It is next Sunday and will go on in 2009 without me. If you have followed this blog for the past couple of years you may have noticed that except for my fall at the beginning of July, I have not said much about riding. Over the past three years it has been a source of pride and joy. Not this year.

This year the words agony and frustration provide a more accurate description. True, I did little last winter to stay in any kind of physical condition and I am sure that was a contributing factor. And yet once the riding season began in April I followed the same pattern that has been successful in prior years. This year has been a struggle.

Instead of 50 miles becoming my base ride with the occasional 60 or 70 mile jaunt, I can barely complete 40-45 miles. My legs which have always been my strength feel dead. Each week I kept hoping that this next ride will be the breakthrough ride. But it never came.

As I have began to share my thought about not riding this year I inevitably got the same two comments. First, “why do you think it is harder this year?”. Second, “Why not try to do the 100 mile, you can always stop and have someone pick you up?”.

To the first my unsaid thought is always, I am not a doctor or physical therapist. I have no friggin’ clue why this is happening. If I had to guess, maybe the fall took a greater toll than I realized. I know that I have not been stretching enough. Maybe being tight has kept my legs from growing stronger. But really I do not know.

The second question just makes me feel worse about giving up than I already do — which is really badly. Do people not think that I have considered trying? Last year I did not think I had it in me but with some encouragement I tried and succeeded. Last year I was cruising through 50. Different story. Believe me if I thought I had a 50/50 shot I would go for it.

I am dedicating myself to next year with the idea that I will go for the Apple Cider Century. That ride has some rolling hills and is a tougher 100 that the NSC. I am starting now, will stay in shape over the winter and attack the road in 2010 like never before– or at least like 2 years ago when I was in the best riding shape of my life.

Stay tuned. I am not giving up, just taking a hiatus. A one year only hiatus.

Changing Of The Seasons

Today is the unofficial last day of summer.

Tomorrow we take our only child to college.

The day after tomorrow will be the first day my wife and I spend as husband and wife without our son living with us.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

Life: Quality Vs. Quantity

John Bachar

This is/was the story of  John Bachar, the world’s greatest free climber. He was this amazing (and I do not use this word to describe EVERYTHING that is above ordinary as so many do today)  man who attacked life by engaging in one of  the riskiest endeavors and died doing it at an age just younger than my own. His is a fascinating story of integrating extreme training, style and grace and even mathematical principles to what on the surface looks to be intuitive movements by a born athlete.

I admire people who excel at physically dangerous endeavors because they do what I will not. I do not excel at physical endeavors and I am hugely risk adverse.  As documented previously in this blog I am scared of heights. And yet in this case I not only admire what John Bachar did but how he went about it.

Here are excepts from an article in The Economist:

John Bachar climbed slowly, like a spider—or, as he preferred to say, a starfish. He seemed to move in slow motion, swinging his legs out in parallel to seek a ledge, pulling to a crouch, raising one graceful arm to grab a hold. Nothing was hurried; all was smooth and unforced.  His only equipment, apart from rubber-soled boots, was a bag of chalk slung at the back of his belt, into which he dipped his hands to dry the sweat and improve his grip. He had no ropes, bolts or pitons, and preferably no knowledge of the ascent except what he had gleaned from the ground.

Wouldn’t he fall? He seemed to be catching on nothing: propping his boot on a pimple, gripping a “smear” or a hairline crack, freeing both arms from the rock to make a lunge. More than 50 feet up one mistake meant death, and he was often on faces of 200 feet or more. He was, he admitted, terrified of heights. But he had got over it.  Did he ever dare look down? “Of course. It’s beautiful up there.” Besides, “just looking down isn’t going to kill you.”

To become the world’s best free-climber, he was, took years of training. At 14 he was a weakling who could do only two pull-ups; at 16, when he made his first free ascent at Joshua Tree, he could do 27. By his mid-20s he had mastered doing pull-ups with one arm, or with 140lb of weights. Tightrope-walking helped his balance. 

He concentrate until all he saw was the “little circle of rock” ahead of him, and all he was thinking of was the fluidity and perfection of his moves. If he needed a surge of strength, he imagined throwing an electric switch to flood his muscles with power. He pictured his fingers as steel hooks, himself as a dancer.

Craziness was also necessary. Mr Bachar’s fellow-climbers often thought him mad—mad to free-climb on faces such as the 400-foot New Dimensions in Yosemite. He found it as cool and addictive as “being on another planet”. And it was the only professional sport with no coaches or rule-books, where each climber planned his tactics himself.

He was a mathematician  majoring in math at UCLA until he dropped out to climb rocks. Each venture up a rock face was, for him, an act of analysis. His mental state he divided into three zones. Zone one, no harm if he fell; zone two, hospital, but he’d survive; zone three, death if he made a mistake.

Unlike mountaineers, he felt no urge to conquer the rock-face. Getting to the top didn’t matter. All that counted was the grace, control and style of how he got there. The rock was his superior and, he felt, should remain as if he had never climbed it.  He was offended to come across rusty bolts, or so-called free-climbers setting advance protection for themselves. The effect of all this was to “lower the rock to your level”, removing its capacity to challenge and surprise.

By the same token, if he escaped after making a mistake, the rock had merely let him get away with it. He got away many times; a bruised back was the worst injury he suffered until, on July 5th, he fell from Dike Wall in the eastern Sierra.

He was 52 when he died. He probably could have lived a longer life but I am not sure at all that he could have lived a fuller one. Many people survive to a far greater age and never live as long as he lived. The combination of hard work, grace,  math, and  purity he brought to his art make him special even among those who achieve much in their lives.

Makes me want to go rock climbing…with the key part of that phrase being “want”.

I’m Losing It

Actually for about 20 minutes it was completely lost.

First my eyesight, my hearing and my memory. Now I’m losing my mind.

After a brutal work week I slept for a couple of hours this afternoon. Then I needed to rally. Too many things to do that cannot wait. Officemax to pick up some last items for D before he takes off for college. Then to the grocery store to pick up a few things. I am about to get into the checkout aisle and I reach for my wallet. Not there. “What do you mean its not there” the left side of my brain screams to the right. Have you checked every pocket. Of course I have, twice. Where the hell can $200 in cash, all my credit cards my license and every piece of I.D. known to man wrapped up in an overstuffed brown leather package be?

I run to the car. Maybe I absentmindedly put it in one of the OfficeMax bags. No, damn it. I race across the strip mall to the Max. “Anyone leave a wallet?” I frantically ask the 16 year old cashier with the bad highlights in her hair. No.

I race back to the car to look again. Then back to the grocery store. Did I drop it in the cart which I had now abandoned for 15 minutes. Not there. on to the service counter. Anyone bring in a brown wallet. I must have looked like a total crazy person because the woman behind the counter could not pull all of the stuff out of the lost and found drawer fast enough. Still nothing.

A few memory cells kick in. I DID HAVE IT IN THIS STORE. I had pulled a shopping list from it. I was at the Pepsi display. Quick to aisle 10. Damn it, damn it. Not near the Pepsi. I race to the few other areas of the store I had been. At this point I have passed into that region beyond panic. Visions of some schmo buying expensive things with my credit cards and cash flashed before my eyes. It was the weekend and I was going to have to cancel my credit cards and we are to take my son to school in two days. ARRRRRRHHHH.

One last look in the Pepsi aisle. Wait, what is that on the four foot high stack of cartons? My wallet of course. Laying open for all to see. Maybe you had to be looking for it. Everything was there. Well almost everything. The money, credit cards, driver’s licence, etc were there but the shopping list was gone.

So you decide. I am I some unfortunate schlemiel or the luckiest guy in the world? All I know is that I am glad I found my wallet and my mind tonight. I hope neither disappears again too soon.