Monday, January 08, 2007

No Phoenix From The Flame

In this picture, I'm standing about a mile from the old gym where I used to practice gymnastics three hours a night for many years. The gym had the basics -- a springboard mat, balance beam, uneven bars, and a vault. No frills would be putting it mildly -- the place barely had a working water fountain. If practice was to end early or late and we had to use a phone, we'd have to jog over half a mile to Pecan Valley, the Mental Health/Mental Retardation Crisis Center and beg to be allowed a local call. Our coach, a bitter young woman who hated her husband and her life, yelled at us all the time and wasn't a stranger to a few friendly "taps" when we screwed up routines which was not as infrequent as one might have hoped. Terrible as it all seems, I found the whole thing oddly comforting. There's something about playing a sport that you cannot do well (my body type did not really fit, I was terrified of breaking my neck half the time, I had little to no balance) with a great passion that creates a realist. It did not, as the bullshit propaganda about sports and kids would suggest, bolster self-esteem. You get self-esteem by doing something well, not by someone telling you that you are good. The thin reed I hung my tiny little hat on was that I did not give up, even when the odds were bad and the air-conditioner wasn't working.

Last night, I went to see We Are Marshall. What's to say except that Matthew McCoughnahey can look good, even wearing an authentic seventies coaching outfit. It was a predictable, tragic true story tearjerker about a town who loses nearly its entire football team to a plane crash and has to rebuild everything with the help of an crazy, slightly simple outsider, the classic phoenix from the ashes story. Corndog as it is, what I wouldn't give for an ounce of that feeling! Most days I feel like the main character in a truly great football movie, North Dallas Forty, where the coaches keep shooting Nick Nolte up with painkiller and forcing him to play more and more injured each time, more and more numb. I'm pretty efficient in my own life -- I get to be the coach and the player. Why pay for more actors when you can do it all yourself? Many coaches talk about "heart," that elusive quality that makes athletes do things they cannot do, win matches they shouldn't win, come out the other side, bloody and battered, but victorious. If you have to be shot up with drugs, taped and bandaged to high heaven, and running on empty, well, I suppose that's heart as well, and even if there's no phoenix from the flame moment, there will be ashes to mark what you have done.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"All my dreams are made of chrome/ I have no way to get back home." Tom Waits, "A Sweet Little Bullet From A Pretty Blue Gun."

Cocktail Hour

Drinking story suggestion: "The Lady and the Pet Dog" Anton Chekhov

Benedictions and Maledictions

Happy Monday!


Anonymous said...

Gymnastics? Dear god you poor thing, isn't that the heardest sport in the universe? I have trouble with a front role, so all resepect to you.

btw Your my new fav person cos you quoted Tom Waits

Laura said...

The only thing I was ever good at in gymnastics was the balance beam. Of course, now if I tried that stuff, I'd probably break my neck. I want to see that movie We Are Marshall too. I like movies about football, even if they are "corndog".

George Costanza said...

Go Ohio State! Beat those fruity Florida what's there names!

Woody Hayes said...

There will be no ashes for Ohio State tonight at the University of Phoenix Stadium. Victory!

Special said...

Oooooooh. Vicky Secret undies. So cool. Michelle is such a hot number.

paul said...

Cajun Queen FoxyDLady
Balancebeams givermethewillies
O Mighty iSIS
R2 C2!

The Walking Man said...

Sports you can not do well, is that different than sports you could do well but chose not to? I was nearly 250 lbs and 6' tall as a junior in HS and my father thought I was pure pussy for not playing football for glory and training.

I instead wanted to write so being much bigger than him and too big for him to deliver anymore "friendly taps" like he wanted to.

So he waited for another year haranguing me all the way about the sissy writing stuff and then got rid of all my work leaving just the ashes in thier place.

When I returned from boot camp and all of the books I had been writing in since I was 14 were gone I said nothing. That was a gymnastic feat on my part. I simply spent my week home and wrote when I got to my ship, throwing every piece overboard for the ocean to have and decide if it was worthy.

Some of it Neptune must have liked because the seas were calm and others he must have been enraged by because the ocean would throw fifty foot waves at us, one time breaking my elbow as she tried to wash me over board for a talk with the god of the sea. We never got to have that talk and I never got to throw more work to the sea because I had to leave the ship permanently because of the elbow.

After that I just scribbled work on whatever was handy and threw it away sometimes to the wind in the mountains and sometimes to a strangers hands, and sometimes just to a trash barrell but never until I met you did I start to keep what I wrote.

If it wasn't good enough for my old man then it wasn't good enough to keep. After all he got his Bachelors, Master's and Doctorate in 6 years after spending 6 years in the war on an aircraft carrier in the pacific. So he was a man and I was simply his sissy child who looked up to him for approval.

It took me a long time to realize that I was the master of my fate and I was like you say the only player and coach on the team. Yet I rose from the ashes of many things many times, and should have died during most of those things but didn't. I simply walked away leaving the music of my words behind me to let the earth know I had crossed that way and that was good enough for me.

Heart, stamina to keep walking, to see that there is an end to the walk in this life time, to sit and warm yourself by a fire you made without a Zippo, that is the heart you have.

Our differences are not that many in our lives except we walked different trails, paths and roads but yet in many ways we end or will end in the same place of peace. And in that place we will leave ashes everywhere because of those fires we warm ourselves by. you write and publish I just help a few people with words, and sometimes yes at the end of it all we are bloody and battered but we always walk away until we come to the place where we can beg to use the phone and the person we are begging from can say yes or no, with the glory of that being we no longer have to be in charge of what's happening at that moment in our life.

Peace my friend
for from it all good
things grow


Beaver Cleaver said...

I can't help imagining you weirdly impaled on the pommel horse, Michelle.

Tickle me Elmo said...

Do it again. Do it again.

Beaver Cleaver said...

I can't help imagining you weirdly impaled on the pommel horse, Michelle.

Olga Corebutt said...

I can see you missing your dismount from the uneven bars after spinning wildly out of control like a detached fan blade, Michelle.

Tickle me Elmo said...

Do it again. Do it again.

Olga Corebutt said...

I can see you missing your dismount from the uneven bars after spinning wildly out of control like a detached fan blade, Michelle.

Bart Cunher said...

I fancy you impaled on my balance beam.

Tickle me Elmo said...

Do it again. Do it again.

Bart Cunher said...

I fancy you impaled on my balance beam.

Luma said...

Michelle, that good that it survived of leached ashes stops in counting these histories to them. We need to have courage, to face the fears to grow, therefore yes! It forgives my absence.
I am of vacation!
Wandering for the world!
But I came to desire an exclusive and special year to it!
Happy new year!

JR's Thumbprints said...

Ironically, we all need to struggle at something. I've found that the best writers are those that have struggled for a better part of their lives. Keep up the good fight, Michelle. Your experiences are well worth writing about.

Anonymous said...

The only good thing about gymnastics is... wait... is there anything good? I don't think so.

You take the awesomest pictures! You have inspired me! haha

John Ricci said...

Dear Michelle another lovely post and view as always. I was most pleased to see OSU demolished. My retired friends in Naples are most pleased. Bravo!

Cheri said...

Sometimes I think that those cheesey mooshy predictable stories are the best thing to cheer me up!

I could never be a gymnist- one I'm too old and two I have no concept of balance whatsoever!

You are beautiful Michelle, I don't think we could ever get sick of looking at your pictures. =D