Monday, September 17, 2012

Back in Time

Summer's technically almost over, so that means it's OK to talk Anyway, I noticed a couple of things with hoops connections that I thought were worth mentioning.

Do you know who Derrick Rose is? He's the successor to Michael Jordan as the star of the Chicago Bulls. Last season he suffered an injury that requires a long rehab, which he's doomed to work at for several months even if things go as planned. I'm sure it's hard, painful work, with no crowd to cheer on his little successes.
Even so, he had a public moment last week intended to put him out front at the introduction of a new sneaker carrying his name. The event showed footage of Rose's injury and some of the work he's already put in to get off the disabled list. Apparently Rose had not seen these things before, but when he did, it all became too much. He began to cry. He's a Chicago native, and some things outside his own life have seemingly been bothering him as well, including a violent local summer and the Chicago teachers strike.
Watching Rose break down was not something we're used to. People can often hide their feelings, even in public. But it's hard to think of a professional athlete crying on purpose for any reason. Let this serve as a gentle reminder that we cannot know precisely what's on the minds of others. I wish for him a full, timely recovery, and a happy, satisfying life.

Then there's the story of President Obama's part-time life as a hoopster. He did quit smoking, but the President's schedule keeps him from many of the pickup games held around the White House. He's now just past 50 years old. What's more, the group that gets together for these games isn't just a collection of flabby Cabinet officials. They ALL played in college and are now in their thirties and forties. Some of them even played for PAY, though none made it as far as the NBA. It's a formidable group.     
Here's how the president sees himself in this setting. His job is to help his team prevail by doing small things - assists, rebounds, anticipation - that help a team get a tiny edge. Two things, I read, will get your name removed from the list of potential White House players: taking bad shots and giving him (the president) special treatment. Does this say anything about the President's capacities as a world leader? Not really, but there it is.

Rather than take a 4,500 mile round trip last month, I passed on the Muscatine High School Class of 1967 45th class reunion. I did, however, order the directory of classmates' addresses, phone numbers and E-mail addresses which they published along with a few details of the lives of those who filled out a form. It came in the mail last week.   
What is it about the passage of time that makes mundane things seem profound? Perhaps it's the unspoken question hanging in the air above it all: "So, what have you done with your life?" Perhaps it's the vague terror that whatever we have going for us will all end some day. In fact, it has already ended for over 40 out of our class of around 300 first wave Baby Boomers. Perhaps it's just the realization that everything changes with time.
Wherever my old high school year books can be found defines pretty accurately where the "musty" area of  the house is. Still, I couldn't help digging out the last one to look over old names and photos of a group I now have ZERO contact with outside of the reunions I no longer attend.
There we are. The book is entirely black and white. There are smart students, attractive ones, those doomed to die in war, those with happy family lives and those consigned to loneliness. Today's directory confirms that our school helped produce a judge, a few lawyers, a medical professional or two, and one or two tycoons. They live in all corners of the US, with a few spilled over into Canada.
But there are also a good number whose lives are unrecorded for the directory. A star athlete who now lives in an apartment not far from downtown. We had one classmate who sought to become a physician, like his father, but was turned out of medical school with a mental condition that plagues him to this day. Lots of stories, none of them finished, but all begun when the yearbook was new. Some high school sweethearts are still together, but not all. A pom pom girl who's now an author. Another who's still working as a "sandwich artist" at Subway.
Finally, almost a third of the class are now beyond any reach. These are they for whom there is no current record or reply: a pole vaulting son of a doctor, a student who grew up as a Jew, then took his Gentile bride to live in Chicago, a guy who tried running a "head shop", a girl with striking looks whom no one seemed to really know at all, a Jewish girl, once Miss Muscatine and a fine singer, who had adopted a Texas accent.
I've resolved to send off a few E-mails to some of the people I was once close to. I'll put in capital letters at the top something like "NO REPLY REQUIRED", and assure them that I haven't stepped out of the past to raise funds, promote a candidate or recruit salespeople. I may not get a single reply, but I'll feel better for having done it.


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