The Art of Movement

You could say that these guys do dangerous things in dangerous places, and they do. You could say they are trespassers, and they probably are. You could say they are vandals. Eh. Although I do suspect that things get broken, aside from their bones, I wouldn’t necessarily call them vandals. Skaters and borders who deface buildings by intentionally scraping their wheels and boards against them are vandals. On the whole, I think it’s fair to say that free runners may be careless, or thoughtless, but most of them aren’t vandals.

Think of them what you will, but you have to admire their ability. It takes great discipline of body and mind to accomplish such feats. One must have physical strength and mental precision to put their feet right where they want to after tumbling and twisting in the air. They jump high, they jump far, and they fall farther than I would want to climb down a ladder.

I was never really this athletic. I was first chair trumpet, first chair baritone, and first chair French horn. I could run the bases in PE and lift weights and climb the hill at the academy. But never anything on the order of parkour.

There should be a free running sport at the Olympics.

dictionaryparkourHow many different math and science disciplines are they exercising without even knowing it? I’m sure they don’t sit stare at a group of buildings trying to figure out the squared hypotenuse of the radiant triangular degree of axial momentum. Or whatever. They see some buildings and surrounding features and just decide they want to jump it.

But what do you do to prepare yourself? How do you train for something like this? How many bruises and broken bones does one have to suffer?

I’m sure that they don’t start out on the high buildings, but even jumping from one cinderblock to another has the opportunity for a broken ankle or twisted knee. At what point do you develop the confidence and courage to jump, roll, twist, fall, and turn a hundred feet up or more.

There are videos of parkour fails. I don’t have the heart to watch those. As stupid as some people seem, although it appears that they deserve whatever is coming to them,  and as funny as they may be, I’m not into watching peoples’ pratfalls.  I’m sure they depict just how difficult practicing this sport is, just how dangerous it can be.

I called it a sport. It may be unorthodox, unorganized, and unsanctioned, but by any standard of definition, parkour qualifies.

stonedIt would be tough to be a stoner or a meth-head and still be able to perform like this. The mind has to be clear and sharp to do the gozillion calculations per nanosecond that it takes to successfully pull something like this off. Not that it would be impossible, but you can see where it would really inhibit performance.

I’m glad this wasn’t a thing when I was chasing bad guys all over town. I’ve been on a few rooftops (maybe I’ll tell you about them sometime), but I’ve never run into anything on this scale. I could hop a fence with the best of them, but wearing a bulletproof vest, boots, and I don’t know how many pounds of equipment around my waist, anything more would have been miraculous. I can tell you right now, they’d have gotten away.

You may think they’re hooligans. Some of them may be, but I admire their talent.




Islands in the Field

I was cruising around WordPress and came across this picture at Netdancer’s blog. It reminded me of a place a long time ago in a neighborhood far, far away. I’m not even sure how old I was.  I was old enough to run around the neighborhood with my friends until the sun went down, but young enough to lack the wisdom of age and experience to not drink from the nearest hose in anyone’s yard when I was thirsty.

The reason this picture reminds me of that place is because at the end of my street there was a T intersection that bordered a corn field. In the middle of that field was an island just like this one. That island was our base of operations during the winter months. After Christmas, we would gather Christmas trees from nearby houses after they were taken outside to be picked up by the garbage collectors and drag them to this island where we erected a fort. From there we launched into all kinds of adventures. Sometimes we had to infiltrate an enemy’s stronghold. Sometimes we had to hunt down a bank robber. Sometimes it was just a matter of survival. We had crackers, Pop-Tarts, and canteens of water. The first one to bail was a sissy.

As you enter the field from my street, to the right, at the edge of the corn field, was a forest. I couldn’t begin to count the hours we spent exploring the vast woodlands. There was a small stream, possums and woodpeckers, snakes and bugs, flowers and trees, Mushrooms and moss, and rich, loamy soil. It was the kind of place that you wanted to get lost in. It was peaceful, calm, and quiet. We fought wars there, hunted for buried treasure, and solved some of life’s biggest problems under the canopy of leaves that rose so high overhead that we couldn’t see the tops.

Between my street and the cornfield was a thicket of wild raspberries and blackberries. I remember taking large butter tubs and filling them full of berries when they were in season.

I remember the name of my friend, Jeff Demorest. My brother, 18 months older than I am, hung out with us often. Besides the cornfield and woods, Jeff lived on a slope, which was perfect for sledding in the winter time. We also used his garage for our hundreds of army men. We each took one of the four large concrete squares, set up our armies, and fought it out. When it rained, we collected rain water. We played baseball, had snowball fights, and just ran around and had fun.

It was a magical time in my itinerant life.

My father was upper management at the Dana plant in Ecorse, Michigan. They made steel frames for GM cars. When I was only a few years old, right around 1970, they had massive layoffs, which included my father. I was too young to remember the intervening time between when he was laid off and when he started his next job. All I remember is that he went into real estate. So did my mother.

We moved. A lot. We lived, in no particular order, in Taylor, South Lyon, South Gate, Trenton, Allen Park, Novi (twice), Lincoln Park, Sterling Heights, and I’m probably forgetting one or two.

My dad had a private pilot’s license and flew out of Grosse Isle. There was a golf  course there where my brother was a caddy.

Those were years of feast or famine. I remember living in a three level house with a finished basement, a large, two car garage, and my brother and I each a balcony outside our rooms. I also remember getting IOUs for Christmas one year and my mother crying as we opened the envelopes.

I also made a lot of money when I was a kid. I cut grass in the summer, raked leaves in the fall, and shoveled snow in the winter. My best friend in Trenton was Paul Mithoff. We had regular customers we went to every season and we were paid well. Some of them had hot chocolate for us.

I wish I had known about Apple, Microsoft, Intel, Berkshire Hathaway . . . .

He lived on Kenwood Drive. We had a gang. We called ourselves “The Kenwood Killers.”

We played Monopoly using two boards, and we made deals in the tens of thousands. We had to make our own large bills. We played Risk and added continents, airplanes, and ships. Games of Monopoly and Risk would last for days.

We had beer can collections. Some of my cans were worth $30 or $40. We had fish tanks and spent a lot of time at the Day One Tropical Fish Store. It was a pleasant bike ride over a brick paved bridge. They’re still in business after almost 50 years. I bred angel fish. When they were about the size of a half-dollar, I would trade them to Day One for plants or a couple of fish. Just before we moved, my kribensis started laying eggs. I was looking forward to raising those beautiful fish. The memories of setting up an aquarium and caring for tropical fish have stayed with me. Shortly after I was married I set up a 55 gallon tank that was probably the most beautiful I’d ever done.

Of all the places we lived in Michigan, Trenton and Novi hold the best memories. I had a pleasant childhood. It wasn’t full of drama. Compared to kids these days, it was pretty mundane.

I never had a lot of friends. I always only had one or two, but they were very strong. And I was okay with that. I can’t think of anything I would change, could I travel back in time and do so. Those experiences made me who I am today. It wasn’t all wine and roses. There were some hard times, but I don’t focus on those. They’re there, but they’re tucked away in a little room that I keep locked and only open to jam something else into it and quickly shut the door again. But I wouldn’t change anything.

I think Captain James T. Kirk said it best. “Bones, you’re a doctor. You of all people should know that guilt and pain can’t be taken away with the wave of a magic wand. They’re the things that make us who we are. If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I want my pain! I need my pain!”

The joys and pains we experience form our opinions and shape our philosophy. They color our vision and give us a perspective that is unique to each of us as individuals. They influence our personality and prejudices. They motivate us to reach for the next level and make us want to be a better person. They make us interesting and give us depth. They make us stronger and more empathetic. They make us care. They make us love.

They give us life.



Are Your Prepared?

When I was very young we lived outside of Detroit, MI. Tornadoes absolutely terrified me. Thunder and lighting were not really a big deal to me, but a green sky and angry clouds could keep me glued to the television. Especially those boiling mammatus clouds. Eerie.

I can remember the Emergency Broadcast System sounding their attention alarm on the television, interrupting whatever I was watching. The weatherman would appear in front of a map of the state and point to the counties that were in danger from severe storms and tornadoes and he named them off. He warned all of his viewers of the dangers associated with tornadoes and hail and urged everyone in the weather system’s path to seek safety immediately. Afterwards, a screen crawl would continue the warning on the network stations.

For the life of me, I could never remember which county we lived in and always had to ask my mother where we were. If the weatherman mentioned Wayne County in the list of counties to be decimated by this evil monster, I was totally freaked out. I would go from window to window looking at the sky. I just knew we were gonna be goners. I watched the clock like someone waiting to get out of prison. When the warning expired I was relieved and tired. Stress like that takes a lot of energy.

I’m much older now, and, I hope, a bit wiser. Storms don’t scare me as much, and I’ve developed more of an interest and fascination in super cells, mammatus clouds, and severe weather.

In spite of all my childhood fears, I never actually saw a tornado. I saw a funnel cloud in Milwaukee years later. But I’ve seen what tornadoes can do. They have awesome and destructive power.

Earthquakes have a similar ability to affect my life, now that I live in Southern California. I’ve felt a few that rumbled through, but I missed the Easter Earthquake in April of 2010. It was a 7.2 trembler. 


We were in Tucson when this happened. I had two new puppies, Chihuahuas my wife had given me for my birthday just a few months before, Cassiopeia and Cepheus. We had them in a large pen in the center of the living room. When we heard about it, we had someone check our house. I was most concerned about the large picture window that was also in the living room. The house was secure. My puppies were safe. We were much more blessed than a lot of people we know. They suffered some significant losses. Mobile homes were shifted off of their risers, and had gas and water leaks.

When we got back, we didn’t encounter the destruction we thought we probably would. The freezer in the garage was moved away from the wall about 18 inches and the eight foot, solid oak pool table was no longer square in the middle of the room. In the bedroom we prepared for my mother-in-law, two things had fallen off of a shelf and nothing broke. In fact, the only thing that broke was a jar of Worcestershire  sauce that fell out of the pantry. A bunch of plastics fell out of the kitchen cupboards and a lamp or two fell, but none of the televisions were lost. It took us maybe three hours to put the house right and you couldn’t tell anything had happened.

Right now, if it doesn’t register above a 3.0, I won’t even feel it.

Earthquakes can happen at any time. There’s no season when then are more or less likely.

While tornadoes can also happen at any time, there is a season in which they are more prevalent. The 2017 season has just begun and it’s already off to a near record start. While year to date totals are not record-breaking, they are well above average. 

You can predict with pretty good accuracy when a tornado is likely to form and track it to send out warnings.

Not so with earthquakes. We don’t have the technology to predict those yet.

All things being equal, however, I much prefer earthquakes to tornadoes. At least where I live here in the desert. If you’re in a mobile home and a tornado come through, unless you have an underground shelter, you’re screwed. Earthquakes can destroy a mobile home too, but all you have to do is go outside and stay away from anything that might fall on you.

I’ve tried to prepare for a big earthquake. We have a lot of food and water stockpiled, including a 30 day supply of freeze-dried food from Legacy, a fire pit, gas grill, wood, cast iron everything, a big emergency medical kit, two-way radios that are good for up to 36 miles, and a whole box of other things I haven’t listed. I’m sure I’m missing a few things as well.  It would be smart for me to get a large tent, camping furnishings in case our house becomes uninhabitable, and a generator. I have a big  enough fenced in yard to pitch a 10 person tent without crowding, and then some.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has a comprehensive checklist HERE, and there are countless others published by government agencies and prepper groups.

Hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires, volcanoes, and other natural or man-made disasters can all happen in the United States. An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) doesn’t have to be born on the back of a nuclear explosion high in our atmosphere, although it could. Our own sun puts out mass coronal ejections that can, if  powerful enough and on target, overpower and render useless our satellites and knock out power in large regions. 

You don’t have to be a prepper, you just have to be prepared.