“I challenge myself to stop comparing what I learn to the past.” Scott Belsky

Those high school cross-country legs
Weren’t much for running.
The mind rationalized yet another bad idea
Suggesting that running miles on trails
Might somehow impress the college basketball coaches.
Tough runs through a vacant William and Mary
In the cheese cloth air of an August afternoon
Proved to be the sign that the effort
Would have not effect
On the recruiting of my hoop playing abilities.
A few weeks later,
My cross country career was over,
Flaming out in a drizzle on a run to Mooretown Road.

A comfortable, climate controlled run
Shield from the August heat of southeastern Pennsylvania
With legs barely trained for a 5K,
Who in their stupidity are following an ego straight around a track
To see if the will to “do” is more palpable
Than the will to quit.
Kids play basketball on the court below,
The steps I take add up little by little
Until distance stops a journey
Letting the challenge end with so much as a whimper.
There’s no crowd to cheer, no coach to divert eye contact from,
Just a satisfaction that is hard to explain,
A knowing that comes with doing something hard,
Doing something worth being done…even if just for me.

 

compass_study_28492526773229During the school year
I attend meetings to learn more
About being a better teacher
All so I can flex out
Of an in-service day in May.

Today.

The sun is shining,
The air is heavy, and
There is one last baseball game to be played.
Honestly, it feels like Williamsburg
Way back in the eighties.

Yesteryear.

After months of coaching and
Trying to balance
A life of many directions
This is the week to get back
To fitness.

Now.

A morning run on an indoor track
Is nothing like the trails
At York River State Park
Or the perfumed pavement
Of DOG Street, but those memories still inspire.

Smile.

Coincidently, the Eagles are playing
One of the soundtracks associated
With living on Longhill Road,
Before streaming music and
Way before the vinyl revival.

The Long Run.

Williamsburg has been in my dreams,
Two nights in a row
I found myself wading in the creek behind Lafayette
Part scientist, part hunter, and
So appreciative of the natural beauty in those woods.

Carefree.

What of this drive to exercise or
Relive whatever it is Wet Biology is suggesting?
I could be traveling the world
Like my old friend who seems to be around San Antonio right now,
But I think the life vibe is just telling me to get going.

Embark.

Off-work work days do something to the mind.
They let thoughts run free
Giving a break to the weary way of the grind.
Funny how a soul finds comfort
In the familiar.

Exercise. Home. Fresh Starts.

 

Photo Credit: Google Images

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I moved around a lot as a young kid. Fortunately, most of my moves were in the same city, so I got to keep all of my friends. One of the places where I lived was nicknamed Snake Pit Acres. The “snake pit” was a standard apartment complex with four apartments per building, two downstairs, two upstairs. Our apartment was upstairs with a view of a large dirt pile that must have been made when the land for the complex was excavated. We only lived at Snake Pit for a couple of years, but looking back, I can say that it wasn’t as bad being there as the name suggested.

First, there were plenty of areas to play. There was a basketball court and it would be the place where I would start to develop a love for shooting hoops. There weren’t many other basketball players there, so I would spend most of the time firing up jumpers and pretending to be Dr. J. Keep in mind that this was still the days of the boring NBA versus the crazy, stylish ABA and I loved the red, white, and blue ball. Julius Erving was the first basketball player that I would follow and even when he broke my heart by beating the Lakers with a vicious tomahawk dunk on Michael Cooper and defying gravity with the greatest reverse lay-up in history, I always thought of Dr. J. as my favorite player. Magic and Kareem would ascend as well, but Doc was the first.

Getting out on the court and shooting can be a spiritual. I used to get lost in the Walter Mitty of the whole thing, draining buckets to win every game. I loved beating up on Dave Cowens and the Celtics, but at that young age, I had no understanding why. Later I would know, Boston and LA hate each other in basketball and I could not stand those green uniforms. Please don’t confuse my dislike of the Celtics for anything other than sports. The teams in 80s were great and the rivalry between my Lakers and Boston was the best ever. Too bad both suck now. It wouldn’t matter because I’ve converted, going with my basketball DNA and hanging through the years of tanking to live and die with every move of my 76ers! “1-2-3-4-5-6-76ers…”

There was also football at Snake Pit. I never played organized football, so the backyard variety was all I knew. Kids from Carver Gardens used to walk over to the apartments after school and we would have some good games. I wanted to be Drew Pearson or Roger Staubach. That’s right, a Cowboys fan… I haven’t been able to convert to the Eagles.  Since I never played, all those dreams of being a wide receiver would peak in the playground of the Acres.

The last thing that captured my sporting imagination was the swings. I always wondered if I could swing hard enough to go all the way around the pole. Physics says it’s possible, but I didn’t have the stones to go Jackass and see if it I could do it. Then, again, the swings were an opportunity to dream and the big dream in 1976 was to be a downhill skier. The Olympics that year featured a crazy high flying race to the gold by Franz Klammer. He pushed his skies to the edge of disaster, caught flight, and regained control of his rocketing body to ski into first place. My friends and I would swing and jump out trying to go as far out as we could. I don’t remember there being any mulch or tire chips to cushion our landing, so “falling gracefully” became a real thing long before Buzz Lightyear hit the scene.

Maybe my time at Tam-O-Shanter boulevard was less about sports than it was about imagination. Dr J., the Cowboys, Franz Klammer, each was a dream that help me to pass the time and got me outside doing things. I had imagination instead of a calendar full of travel practice schedules. There were no video games or the internet to wrestle for my attention. Heck, there wasn’t even cable or MTV yet.

There was play and I got to go outside and play.

Awesome.

Photo Credit: https://media.zenfs.com/en-US/video/video.pd2upload.com/video.yahoosports.com@898e12b7-1e49-32a9-b163-7348460b33af_FULL.jpg

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From the journal of Carter Hamorton…

10/27/84

Curfew came too quickly in high school. The rule is that wherever we are staying, we have to be there by midnight. Last night, we were hustling home after hanging out on the Parkway and having a little to much of the brewery’s finest. We were late and walked into Red’s trailer as Second City TV was about to start. Red’s parents were asleep, but being the cool peeps that they are, they left fried chicken on the kitchen counter. Since we didn’t have time to hit a “sleven” on the way home, the chicken became the focus of our survival instincts. We tore into that fried bird like it was out first meal in hours. It was.

With full stomachs, we each took a couch and started watching SCTV. I couldn’t get comfortable and kept switching my legs.

“What’s going on, Carter?” Red asked.

“My right leg won’t let my left leg be on top,” I answered.

The conversation ended there. Both of us were okay with the reason for my fidgeting and a skit with Count Floyd was coming on. Trying to explain the Count in this journal is hard, but he was one of those “creature feature” characters and given my legs’ indecision, the warmth of the cold chicken, the infused confusion of the local product, and the early lateness of the hour, I thought Count Floyd hyping Dr. Tongue’s Evil House of Pancakes was the greatest thing ever. I nearly broke a rib trying not wake anyone up with my laughing. “Ooo, kids, that was scary….”

I wonder if we’ll be laughing at this when we are 50? Will my kids pull the same stunts? What would they say if they read this? I’m pretty sure I’ll still be laughing about this years from now and I know my kids will do their share of stupid stuff. I’m not sure how I’ll answer them if they ask about my shenanigans, but honestly is probably best.

Photo Credit: Google Images

Thinking of places
Where people talk longingly of adventure
Hallowed grounds that maybe
Are the convergence of something holy,
Mystic, or just plain old folklore

Places so calm
Yet full of energy
Able to inspire greatness
That evolves with time
Savoring the current trends,
Wit, or just plain old rebelliousness

Places from my youth
The Library, where writing thoughts were born
In the stacks of biographies
Where sports heroes and historical greats
Taught me ambition and diversity when
One summer I played pepper
With Dizzy, Lou, and the Babe
Another was schooled in the wisdom of
Malcom, Martin, and Nellie

Then my father offered,
“Don’t ever go in there.”
Of course I was off to The Band Box
With its fancy pipes and
Posters of long haired hippies
Rocking it out
The stacks of albums and cassettes taunting
My varied tastes that included
Clapton, Marley, and Dire Straits

The end of the road
On this colonial style sort of Sunset Strip
Stopped at Paul’s
Where the Hot Holly
Came without pickles or tomatoes
Tabs were acceptable
The walk home short
And all I could think about was leaving town

When I remember those years on that simple street
I know I was more influenced by Steely Dan
Than Thomas Jefferson
But off to the side of William and Mary
I sure got an education
Without taking any classes
Or paying any tuition