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The Lost Tape

I was in a place I shouldn’t have been and doing something I should not have been doing…

The explosion of social media and almost constant barrage of picture snapping and video recording by the younger generation has caused many to be thankful smart phones didn’t exist ‘back in the day’.  However, recent news events around a certain judge’s Supreme Court confirmation have made many of us in the over-40, err, I mean, over-50 crowd realize, perhaps those closet skeletons we thought were safe may not really be so.

Although I have no plans to run for any type of office, and I certainly won’t be on any short list for justice positions, I felt it best I go ahead and confess. Because, well…there is a tape…or at least there was. And there was maybe an assault.

Regrets

After 50 years on this planet, I’ve accumulated a regret or three. Most of these I’m able to shrug off and put in cold storage. There’s one particular decision that I just can’t quite shake off, though. In early March 1986, I should have been in Columbia, SC. Instead, I was in Gatlinburg, TN.

Let me back up a year. On March 15, 1985, it was a packed house of 3000+ at the Irmo High School gym for the AAA South Carolina State Basketball Championship. It was defending state champs Riverside Warriors up against the 6′ 5″ Praylow twins and future Villanova star Rodney Taylor of the A.C. Flora Falcons. Despite being in the finals for the second year in a row, the Warriors were the underdogs. Yours truly at 5′ 11 and 3/4″ was backup point guard for Riverside.

1985 State Championship

1985 State Championship

In a highly unusual move, Coach Louie Golden actually put me in the game for a minute to give starting point guard Derek Polson a short break. During that time, I managed a steal, and with the 6′ 6″ 230 pound hulk Rodney Taylor of A.C. Flora breathing down my neck, somehow beat him to the basket for a two-point layup. In a low scoring, defensive struggle, we ended up stunning the Falcons by one point on a last second basket for the upset victory. I’ve joked for years that my two small points made the difference.

The following Monday, I joined my other team on the baseball practice field, having already missed six games due to the basketball playoffs. I soon decided that I’d go out on top in basketball, and not play my senior year. Despite being the likely stating point guard on a team that might make it to state championship for a third year in a row, I felt missing that many baseball games again my senior year would hurt my goal of playing college baseball.

That’s why in March 1986, when Coach Golden and crew found themselves in the AAA State Championship for the third year in a row, I found myself at a church retreat in Gatlinburg instead of on the court.

A Little Ditty

Being in Gatlinburg led me to do a second thing I regret about that weekend – doing that thing I should not have been doing. I committed what might be considered an assault against a girl who was a friend of some dude named Jessie and two other individuals named Jack and Diane. My friend and baseball teammate Todd and I decided we’d plunk down cold hard cash at the tourist trap recording studio, and we recorded two songs – “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield and “Jack and Diane” by John Cougar Mellencamp.

This was long before the days of autotune, and the recording left nothing to the imagination, while it broadcast over the loudspeakers on the sidewalk . We were awful. At least I was.  Apparently, being part of the church youth choir for years didn’t help in the recording studio. I couldn’t use my  choir strategy of sitting between and blending in with the Chrises – O’Rear and Stokes.

I do not know what happened to that tape. I don’t have it, and I lost touch with Todd over the years. I hope he threw it out long ago. I suppose if I really wanted to put my hands on it, I could run for public office. I’m confident it would then magically appear.

Greg

PS. The 1986 Warriors faced A.C. Flora and Rodney Taylor again for the championship. This time Rodney took no prisoners. The 1986 South Carolina AAA Basketball Player of the Year scored about 30 points, and the Falcons kept the Warriors from winning their third straight championship. Sadly, Rodney passed away in 2015:

https://villanova.com/news/2015/1/25/Villanova_Mourns_the_Loss_of_Rodney_Taylor.aspx?path=mbball

PPS. I guess if the basketball team made it back to the finals, then my skills weren’t missed too much. I certainly wouldn’t have helped much against Rodney that night. I never did play college baseball, but our 1986 baseball team did win the state championship. Makes the regret of skipping basketball a little easier to live with.

 

A Long Time Ago. Galaxy Far, Far Away.

The F Words

“Dad, I know what the ‘F’ word is.”
This took me by surprise. How did a kindergartener even know there was such a thing as an ‘F’ word? I played it cool, though.

A Long Time Ago. Galaxy Far, Far Away.

A Long Time Ago. Galaxy Far, Far Away.

‘OK, son,” I said, “Whisper it to me”. I leaned down, and he put his mouth up to my ear.
“Fart,” he said.
It was all I could do not to laugh. I also breathed a huge sigh of relief.
“Yes, son. That’s it. Let’s not use that word, OK.”
I also told him, “If you ever hear other words that you don’t know, come ask me first. If they’re bad words, I won’t be mad if you ask me. If I hear you using bad words, though, I won’t be happy, and you’ll be in trouble.”
He agreed.

A couple of years later, he came up to me again and said nonchalantly, “Dad, what’s a motherf&%$#$?”
I almost choked.”Where did you hear that?”
“Charles said it.”
I composed myself, remembering our agreement. “Well, son, let’s DEFINITELY not say that again. Remember when you told me you knew that the ‘F’ word was fart?”
“Yeah.”
‘Well, the part of that word after ‘mother’ is another ‘F’ word, and it’s REALLY bad. I don’t wont to hear it again, but you did the right thing by coming to ask.”
“OK,” he said and went on his way.

The Others

It’s been a long time since I had those conversations with my son. Unfortunately, these days, we all know about THAT word, as it seems to be way more popular than I’d like. However, there are several other ‘F’ words I’ve decided are almost as bad, except they are allowed on network television. Here they are:

Forty/Fifty

40th Birthday

40th Birthday – 2008. Oh my.

Turns out, right in the middle of life, a couple of effin’ ages come at you. The first is 40. For some, this is about the time when the print on screen or paper starts to be tough to read, and the doc introduces you to reading glasses. In my case, these were expensive prescription progressive lenses, a fancy modern name for bifocals.

I also had several other problems. I was out of shape and weighed the most I ever had. Then, soon after turning 40, I faced the possibility of a layoff when the economy crashed in late 2008.

But wait! There’s more!

As soon as your 40’s wrap up, something worse comes along – 50! This happened to me this year. As much as I tried to stop it, there wasn’t much I could do about the calendar.  The good news is that physically, I’m handling it much better. More on that in a moment. The bad news is, I’ll admit, 50 has been tougher mentally than 40. Probably, due to the next F word:

Failure

This ‘F’ word is my Jekkyl and Hyde of the ‘F’ words. For many years, one of my personal mantras was “Just dumb enough to try.” For certain pursuits, like chasing a Boston Marathon qualifying time, failure was almost guaranteed. At first anyway. And if I didn’t succeed, it was no big deal. My livelihood wasn’t dependent on my running success. The early failures at qualifying didn’t bother me as much as they served to drive me, and I eventually succeeded.  That’s the Dr. Jekkyl. Good medicine.

But what if the failure IS your livelihood. What if the near-miss layoff at age 40 turned into the real thing at 47 when your employer left town and took away the jobs of several hundred people? Sure that company decision wasn’t your fault, but what about the inability to pull your career out of the ditch over the next three years? Is that failure? This is the Mr. Hyde I wrestle with every <Fart?>-ing day. Is this daily battle going to drive me to success again in my field of the past 28 years or is my head going to explode at the office? We’ll see.

Failure Part 2 – Fiction

NSbook_3D_400x448The other week, my daughter told me I needed a side hustle. I laughed, and thought: “No, I just to do a better job at the one I have.”  See, one other failure over the past two years is my writing journey/side hustle. If you’re reading this, it’s likely because you signed up for the mailing list from some guy with a site called GregFowlerAuthor.com.

Yes, he wrote a book. Therefore, by definition, he was an author. But you likely signed up expecting to receive some regular content. Well, news from that guy has been spotty at best. And when he did post something, it was likely about running. Heck, even his book had a little bit to do with running. (If you still haven’t read it, you should, by the way.)

While pondering my tendency to write more non-fiction, especially about running, I had an epiphany of sorts.  This also brings me to the final ‘F’ word of this post, which may be the ugliest ‘F’ word of them all for most people over 40:

Fitness

50th Birthday

50th Birthday

I mentioned back in the Forty/Fifty section that I was able to physically handle age 50 better than 40. If you’ve followed my writing over the past decade you likely already know what happened – I took up running that December day in 2008 when I first thought I might lose my job after Christmas.

Unlike Forrest Gump, who eventually stopped running, I continued. Then I added more than running to my list of tricks, like swimming, cycling, yoga, and sometimes the dreaded weightlifting. As a result, I arrived at 50 in better physical shape than age 40, possibly even 30.

I also believe my commitment to running and fitness over the past ten years is one of the major reasons I’ve survived the latest rough patch. For this reason, and my propensity to drift back to writing about running, here’s the epiphany part: I realized I wasn’t going to give up running and training, but I still wanted to write. So why not write about what I love doing? As a result, I have started a new blog/fitness site dedicated to fitness after age 40. Just a quick glance around shows a whole lot of people could use this.

The new site is called Second Half Stronger and is dedicated to doing the second half of life better physically than the first. This is the journey I’ve been on for almost 10 years now. It will certainly have a running tilt, but I’ll hit other activities as well as habits, motivation, and perseverance.

Finale

So what does all this mean for you, a subscriber or reader of GregFowlerAuthor.com? You have two options:

First, do nothing, and you’ll still see the occasional posts here. I currently have several fiction pieces in the works, and I’m committed to finishing the work-in-progress second fiction novel. I’m just not committed to a timeframe yet.

Second, you can go check out the new site at SecondHalfStronger.com. I have a couple of posts so far, along with a product review of my 2018 Father’s Day gift – Bose SoundSport Free earphones.  If Fitness is a dreaded ‘F’ word for you, please subscribe. I’d like to help change that for you.  If you’re already into fitness, I’d like you to subscribe as well. We can learn from each other. On the site, you can also find links to follow my new Twitter account – @2ndHalfStronger.

Currently, new subscribers receive a new ebook I’ve written called Don’t Stop Believin’ and Other Musical Running Lessons. Click on the image below to go to the site and sign up to receive the ebook. Just scroll to the bottom of the page for the subscription pop-up.

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Thanks for reading,

Greg

Musical Note to Self

As I enjoyed some downtime between Christmas and New Year’s Day, two realizations came to mind.  First, I had not watched my favorite Christmas show, the Rankin-Bass stop-motion animation classic Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. I love this story mainly because it contains the song behind my personal mantra “Put One Foot in Front of the Other”. Kris Kringle’s lesson to Winter is a great life lesson. I skipped watching the whole thing and just went straight my favorite part on YouTube:

Second, I realized I was not prepared for 2018 because I had yet to pick out a theme song. One of my practices over the past few years is to have song that reminds me to stick to my goals for the year. Usually, it’s a classic rock or pop song that I’ll hear every now and then on the radio, offering a random reminder. I’ll also usually include the song in playlists for race events and training.  For example, during my huge training surge in 2016, gearing up for my big Boston Marathon qualifying attempt, I made sure Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” was in every race playlist that year. 

Then, in 2017, I was slack – no theme song. Perhaps that was part of my 2017 letdown. So, in this year of getting back on track, I must declare a song. Before I reveal this year’s winner, though, let’s review some that didn’t make the list:

  1. “Do You Think I’m Sexy” – Rod Stewart with DNCE. I was not a fan of this song during its first run in the late seventies, but I have to tell you, this remake is good. It has a solid groove and would be fun to run with. Nicely done, Sir Rod, but probably not the right song for a guy staring down 50.
  2. “Breakdown Dead Ahead” – Boz Scaggs. One of my favorite Boz songs and has been know to make it into playlists. Again, not good for the impending AARP stuffing of my mailbox.
  3. “Waterloo” – ABBA. This is actually a great running song. I occasionally put it in playlists where I imagine the going will get tough during a race. 
  4. “What a Fool Believes” – The Doobie Brothers (with Michael McDonald, of course). I’ve never had this one on a playlist and don’t plan to start now, even though it’s a favorite.

Now, here’s the short list of contenders, some I considered just by quickly skimming through the songs on my iPhone.

Everybody knows
It sucks to grow up
And everybody does
It’s so weird to be back here
Let me tell you what
The years go on and
We’re still fighting it.

– Ben Folds, “Still Fighting It”

  1. “Still Fighting It” – Ben Folds. A pretty deep song from Ben, written for his son. I really like the message. After all, I’m battling this aging thing as hard as I can, but, unfortunately, this is a terrible running song.  Perhaps, I’ll add it to the future piano lounge lizard set list, but that’s a blog post for another day.
  2. “Don’t Look Back” – Boston.  The title track of Boston’s second album, no doubt titled with the massive success of their first album in mind. Should be a good lesson for us all. A strong contender.
  3. “Don’t Stop Me Now” – Queen. Another frequent playlist entry. This implies momentum, though. Being currently stopped, perhaps this isn’t the right song this year.
  4. “Go Your Own Way” – Fleetwood Mac. Heard this on the radio this week, so it met one criteria. And this does cross my mind each morning right before I exit the highway into the parking lot of the day job.

Alas, those just weren’t striking the right chord, so I had to take a trip back in time…

1982

The author. 8th grade. 1982.

The author. 8th grade. 1982.

One of my more important 2018 goals is to be more involved with my daughter. She’s in her last year of middle school, the twilight zone of youth, and I know she’s going through a rough time. Nothing really specific, just that brutally awkward time of adolescence. Thinking about her predicament gave me an idea.

I decided to go back to that time in my life when I was her age. – the early ’80’s – and a student at Northwood Middle School, and look up what where the songs that meant the most to me. Maybe there was something from the 14 year-old me that would be a great theme song for the 50 year-old me.

Thanks to Google, I quickly found the list of the Top 40 songs from January 9, 1982. The number one song that week was “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John. Hmm. I would never use that on a run playlist, but could it be a sign that I should write that Fit after Forty book, I’ve had in the back of my mind? She was taking about exercise, right?

I kept looking down the list and  chuckled as a saw “Don’t Stop Believin'” at number 18. Maybe “DSB” should replace “Put One Foot in Front of the Other” as my mantra song. I also got a kick out of Queen’s “Under Pressure” at number 29. That could certainly apply these days, and I already use it on run playlists regularly. I kept scrolling, but nothing screamed “The One.”

I decided to dig deeper and spent a few minutes reviewing some of my favorite artists and whether they had albums in 1982. I was now going for the deep track – songs that never made the light of radio or perhaps were from the B-side of a cassette. It didn’t take me long. Right under my nose, and already on my phone, was  “Never Give Up”, the 9th track (out of 10) on Sammy Hagar’s 1982 album Three Lock Box. Sold!

No I’ll never give up.
‘Till I make this dream come true.
I’ll never give up on you.
I’ll never give up.
No I’ll never give up.
I’ve just got to see it through.

-Sammy Hagar, “Never Give Up”

 As the schedule would have it, I had a January race, giving me a chance to try out the new/old song on a playlist. While I didn’t beat my target time, I did OK for an old guy who was nursing a sore hamstring. Sammy’s young voice was a good reminder to the old me to keep at it. Thanks, 1982. Now, let’s go kick some 2018 butt.

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2017 – 1. Greg – 0

Whew! Glad that’s over. I won’t lie; 2017 was rough.  There were high hopes. After all, 2016 started slow but ended strong with finally achieving a couple of long-term goals in running and writing. I fully expected to ride a wave of momentum to continued successes in 2017.

Sisyphus and Me

Sisyphus-Overcoming-Silhouette-800pxUnfortunately, as the year wore on, I began to feel like old King Sisyphus. You may remember Sisyphus from your high school Greek mythology days. After angering the gods, Sisyphus spent the rest of eternity pushing a large boulder up a hill. Just as he’d near the top, though, he’d lose control and the rock would roll back down.  Sisyphus would then have to start over.

Two years ago, I found myself back at the bottom of the hill for the second time in my career – another company layoff. And while I’ve been employed at a new job now for well over a year, I don’t seem to making progress pushing the rock around the valley floor, much less back up the hill.

In a way, my writing “career” has had similar ups and downs – some decent stretches of blogging and writing as I made progress up the hill, only to slip up and let inconsistency and distractions roll me back down. Unfortunately, that’s where I am today.

So, I’ll start 2018 in two valleys – valley of the lost writer and valley of the sputtering day job. This time, though, I’m at least equipped with the knowledge of how to climb back toward the writer’s peak – put in the work and deliver content.  For a floundering day job, I’m not so sure. I’ve put in the work over the past year, but I’m not making much progress. On top of that, I’m not sure I want to climb this particular hill.

Hopefully, you find yourself in a better place to start 2018. If so, awesome! Keep up the good work and don’t lose the grip on that boulder. If not, it’s a great time of year to pick yourself up, and start pushing again. That’s my plan.

So, here’s to a great 2018.

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