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Narrative/Journal

Winter Photos: Safety First

Safety First

I figured that it was time to start posting some cool “found” winter pictures, the way I do for summer.  The thing is, it is not nearly as easy to find fun, photos of winter–it’s a more serious season, in many ways.  Google “winter” and you get a lot of landscapes and snowy foliage, as opposed to the surfing and bikini babes a ‘”summer” search turns up.  Nevertheless, I found a few.

The image above reminds me , however obliquely, of my own The elementary school days.  My school was at the top of a hill–not a precipitous slope by any means, but in winter before the age of kneejerk school cancellations, and during the heyday of large, rear-wheel drive american cars, there was no shortage of tire-spinning mechanized behemoths churning halfway up the street before surrendering to gravity and backing their way back down the hill.

My children today fixate on the possibility of delayed schedules the moment word reaches Mercthem of even a single flake, but back in the day snow meant getting ready and going to school a half hour, maybe even forty minutes early, in order to join the daily round of “smear the queer” (yes, I know how that sounds, but I guarantee that not once of us ever gave pause to consider sexual orientation and, in fact, in this game “the queer” was generally the role of the bravest, boldest, and most athletic of the lot of us) which wasn’t as bad as it sounds: in short, one kid has the ball and he runs like hell while all the other kids try to get it from him.  We played in snow over asphalt.  There was often blood.  It was wonderful–we all wanted to be the queer.

Even better, however, was when twenty or thirty of us would be busy beating the living tar out of each other and a car would start spinning tires on the slick hill, and we would run out into the street, en masse, and push it up the hill, laughing and shouting, erupting into a boisterous cheer.

Can you imagine that happening today.  I’d be terrified of the liability issues if a horde of children surrounded my car on a slippery hill.  Eventually, a driver called the school to complain and the principal herded a bunch of us into the school library and proceeded to shout and foam at the mouth along the way towards banning that tradition.  He stopped “smear the queer,” too, just because he could.

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An Exhausting, But Damn Fine Weekend Part 1: Swimming District Championships

I don’t keep a diary or journal all that often–scrawled notes, here and there–of things I want to remember, but the majority of my life I’ve confined to the dark recesses of my increasingly lethargic memory.  Occasionally, I take an exception and inflict the journaling on you, gentle readers.

Cardiac_Hill; Michael Rosella 1953
That’s me in the skirt.

At the end of last week my kids and their team-mates traveled to Trees Pool at the University of Pittsburgh for the WPIAL District Swimming Championships. It’s a love-hate thing–we love our swimmers, but this event is perennially noted for sub-zero temperatures and nearly impossible parking.  The Pool is located at the top of a step hill, and the University parking lots are reserved for faculty and students, the hospital and business garages are posted “lease only”–some have even made special signs, just for us “NO SWIMMER PARKING.”  Pittsburgh is a very friendly town, but UPMC –whose garages had those signs–is another matter.  Their signs pretty much screamed “Fuck You.”  Big surprise.

trees-poolIt seemed hellacious at the time–we parked about a mile away–and half a mile vertically–in the bitter cold.  Afflicted with a nagging cold and what turned out to be bronchitis, my throat seized shut the moment I began exerting myself in those temperatures, which was scary but gave me new understanding of what it’s like to deal with asthma.  It sucks, by the way.

FFH-FullHouseFortunately, I survived, as did my friend Skip who, wearing just a thin leather jacket, stuck with my slow progress up the hill, didn’t flinch at my frequent stops for binges of disconcerting hacking-coughing-gurgling-convulsing. The guy had to be freezing his ass off–and he also dealt with navigating his Suburban through all that city traffic.  Kudos to Skip.

IMG_6573The meet went well–our girls finished high in both relays–200 Medley and 200 Freestyle, qualifying for the PIAA State Championships, with both of my daughters posting significant time drops.  One of the girls did very well in an individual event, also, nailing another spot at States.  On the boys side, the results were similar. On day two, the girls qualified a third relay and one of our other swimmers finished second overall in her premier event.  All in all it was a spectacular pair of days in what was supposed to be a “down” year with a diminished roster–the boys finished IMG_7375fourth overall, the girls fifth, and the only that lack of depth kept us from contending for the District Championships, but we won our Section handily–as we usually do–something none of the marquee teams (football, basketball, etc) can boast.

We stopped for a celebratory visit at a TGI Fridays which was fun, but not awesome.  They refused to take reservations for our party of 40 parents, coaches, and athletes, so the kids didn’t get to sit together or even get seated or served at the same time–but those of us who weren’t behind the wheel got to down a few cold Yeunglings while we waited for tables to open.  The great thing about swimming is that the parents and athletes are all pretty great–not just on our team, but in general.  I think it comes down to the fact that it’s all about quantifiable results.  If your kid makes a relay over my kid, it’s generally because your kid is faster–it’s difficult, and counter-productive, for coaches to play favorites.  We cheer for our kids as individuals, but the big accolades come from team success, which also helps.  Finally, swimming is AWFUL–it’s grueling, mind-numbing, exhausting, repetitive, and somewhat lonely.  Success requires great discipline and sacrifice, which more than anything else serves to weed out the assholes.  Even the most naturally talented kids ultimately fall short if they don’t do the work.  Those left are quality–though sometimes quirky!–individuals, an almost literal crucible.