Sunday, July 24, 2011

People Are Crazy All Over, Alas

This week we learned the terrible news that people are crazy all over, alas. The carnage in Norway is still hard to believe, but there it is, pictures of bombed out windows and shocked, crying children, and sensible people can only shake their heads in disbelief. 

One of the understandable thoughts that kept coming up by numerous commentators was disbelief that that could happen in a place like Norway. We are used to carnage in the United States, because we have absolutely inane gun-control laws that allow pistols of all types, automatic or not, which can be concealed or slung on your hip like a desperado from the wild west. Since our country is so stupid about gun control it is no wonder that from time to time someone goes nuts and blasts a few innocent people in anger. In fact, it happened just when we were hearing about the atrocities in Norway: some well-armed nutjob killed 6 people at a roller rink down south. In this country, that's not terribly unusual or even all that interesting. The story came and went in a day. 

Norway has more stingent gun control laws but, apparently, even there they can fall into the wrong hands. People are crazy, alas. 

People are nuts in Washington, DC, too. In fact, in their case, it might be better if they WERE all armed. It would get messy quick, but then some sensible people might come in after the gunfire and clean the place up. While the world awaits a resolution to the debt-ceiling debacle, the politicians there are still intent on playing their games. Real leadership seems to be as rare as gun control legislation in that town. 

And I too am nuts, i'm afraid. 

Or at least I was last week. I played two matches last week in the midst of boiling temperatures in New York City. When you walked outside your office building you were hit by a wall of 100-degree heat and monstrous humidity. In this record-breaking heatwave I kept my appointments to play these matches, but I had a feeling I was in trouble when I walked on the court. It didn't seem to be much cooler than the outside temperature. Certainly, within about 5 minutes, the court's air temperature was in the 90s and the ball was hopping around like one of those dense rubber super-balls. 

I got hot, and quickly. I think I developed the world's first case of squash-induced thermocephalia. My brain got mushy, my thought processes -- always with me a dicey notion -- degenerated into what I can only describe as a gloppy bowl of mashed potatoes. I did stupid things, crazy things. I lost both matches, and the proof of my pathetic physical condition was the fact that I really didn't care. I was happy to be alive.

I am desperately sorry about the events in Norway, I'm getting more and more angry about the events in Washington, and I'm looking forward to a better outing on the squash court this week. The latter is insubstantial compared to the first two items, I know. I'm not that crazy....

Friday, July 8, 2011

Strange Night in Suburbia

Last night was odd.

About three times a week I get up super-early -- specifically, 4:40 AM -- to be able to catch the early train into the city in time to change and be ready on court to play squash at 6:30. It's crazy, I know, but I never promised anybody normality in this blog, now did I?

The timing works better for me, and I've gotten used to it.

So last night, about 10:30 PM or so, I laid my weary head down to rest on my soft pillow and prepared to slumber 6 hours or so before the next day would start with my alarm clock's annoying caterwauling. And restful sleep I did have ... until 1:10.

At about 1:10, somewhere down the block where I live, a dog decided to announce its presence to the world with a mournful howl. This wasn't terribly interesting to my sleeping ears, but to my dog this was very interesting indeed, so he let out a series of full-throated, amply decibelled masculine barks to let the other dog know that he was there and he felt his pain.

I woke up and looked at the clock: 1:10 AM.

Oh shit. There are nights when my brain will unnecessarily switch on and I can't get the darn thing to shut off again. I briefly thought about all the work that is piling up in my office, but quickly got on to a much more interesting topic, and that was the match I would play later in the morning. In a few short hours, in fact.

My opponent has been giving me a hard time. He's not significantly better, but he has a few nice shots that have been troublesome to me, so I go over things I should do to avoid putting him in position to pull those shots on me. And then I go through a variety of ways that I might recover from trouble should I find myself subjected to these annoying shots of his. This occupies my mind, even while in the back of it, somewhere just to the left of the occipital lobe, I am telling myself that I have to shut my brain up and go back to sleep.

I toss. I turn. I notice that my nice soft pillow is beginning to bug me. Is it too damned soft? or maybe I could use a little more cottony bounce to it? Is this the pillow that I like that we got from LL Bean last year, or did my wife steal it again?

I replay an interesting point from the other day when an attacking boast caught me off-guard and I was barely able to move a muscle it happened so quickly. I told myself I have to bend down more and split-step for every shot, not just the ones I think may prove troublesome. I can't get lazy, I say to myself, no sir. And look, dammit, always.

I turn to stare at the clock. It's big digital face announces that it is now 2:20.

What?! 2:20 already? I've been up for more than an hour! All because of that damned dog outside.... That dog should be inside someone's house, like my two dogs are. My dogs are so coddled that they even go to a daytime doggie fun-park where other spoiled 4-footed big-nosed terrors get to run around and have a gas all day long. I briefly envision such a concept, but for humans, where adults could go and chase one another around in circles and play tag games and run for balls and things. God what fun we would have, why is that sort of thing limited to dogs and kids, anyway?

I replump my pillow and think of the match I'll be playing soon. I have to remember to bring a new knee strap as my usual one is getting frayed. I also must buy new squash shoes soon as the current ones are getting old and shoes that slip can be dangerous. We don't want to suffer a tear of the ACL just because we got cheap with the shoes, now do we? I think perhaps I could suggest we play with the pro ball I have, you know, the white one. It's hard to see on a normal court and that might give me an edge... Hmmm, only problem with that is it might also completely screw me up; better not.

I look at the time. WHAT?! 3:30? That can't be, please god say it isn't so, I can't freakin' believe this! This has got to stop! Please, please, stop all the pig-slop in your head and get the hell to sleeeeeeep!

Oddly, out there in the neighborhood, I smell the odoriferous remains of a skunk having protected its turf by wielding the one weapon god in his wisdom decreed to it. The smell is gentle, so the skunk must have done his thing farther off. Maybe he nailed that howling dog from earlier, I think. I ponder the skunk smell a bit and realize it's really not so bad at this intensity; kinda smells like summer. Hmmmm.....

Eventually I must have dozed off. For the next thing I know the clock is caterwauling at me and it says it is 4:40 am. Wakey-wakey time in suburbia. I struggle up from the horizontal and prepare an extra-strong thermos of coffee.

I don't know why I looked at the clock last night at 1:10, then 2:20, then 3:30 and then 4:40. It was a little trick that was played on me I guess; a strange night.

I actually didn't play too badly, either, oddly enough. Although that aggressive boast of his still won him the match.