Tuesday, June 16, 2009

This isn't the Make a Wish Foundation

As I may or may not have mentioned here before, I have a side job in my free time (read: ass-crack early pre-dawn hours), coaching rowing. It's something I love, and get a lot of enjoyment of, even as I've evolved from a young "hip" coach of high schoolers, into an older "experienced" coach of adults.

My current program is a group of adults with 1-6 years experience, who are interested in recreational, but not competitive rowing. This makes my job significantly easier, because I don't have to push them to a breaking point, mostly just get them back in one piece, and with no equipment damage (some days harder than others).

The program is made up of men and women between about 35 and 60 years old, most of whom are what we would politely call "out of shape." To their credit, they get up at 5am, 3 days a week, and come down and work out, and do their best to slow the ravages of age.

One of my rowers, in particular, has a harder fight than most. He's suffering from the early stages of Parkinson's Disease. His body is no longer able to stand up straight, his shoulders slump and round as though he has scoliosis. Despite this, he shows up, every single practice, never takes himself out, never complains. I want to admire him for that, I really do...

Except he's KILLING my boat...

I know its a non-competitive program, and so far, almost no one has complained to me about his situation and how it makes them worse. But he has lost all flexibility in his body, he doesn't have strength to pull his torso back up the slide in time for each stroke with the rest of the team, and his hands are so shaky that he's unable to drop his oar fully into the water to take a stroke. He mostly just waves it weakly over the river.

Today his oarlock popped open mid-row, and while its no burden to stop and let him fix the situation, we all had to sit there for 3 minutes and watch his hands shake as he tried to adjust the clasp. It's just sad and painful. I was hesitant even to take them out on the water today, as we had to row with just four today since so many other people were absent.

Knowing he'd be unable to keep up, and with the instability of a four, I was nervous to say the least. We did get back without any drama or incident, but I don't know how much longer I can argue that he's not a safety hazard. I don't want to ever be the kind of coach who cuts someone from a program, especially someone who loves rowing that much. He watched two daughters row in high school and college, and now has been rowing himself for 10-15 years.

But what do I do? His situation is limiting the other rowers ability to improve. They'll never have a boat that glides after strokes or is fully set as long as he's sitting there. I just sat there following them in the launch today, with no desire to really "coach" their technique, I just made sure they didn't collide into a bridge or buoy.

Am I being uncharitable by wanting to pull him? Or should I let him keep going for as long as he's physically capable?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Musings on This Weekend's Wedding

Why do they call it a rehearsal dinner? Have you ever felt the need to practice eating for other occasions of your life?

I'll be reading from "Apache Blessing" during the ceremony, yet I'm Jewish, the bride is Irish and the groom is Mexican...

The bride and groom keep telling friends to "crash the reception" at the end of the night. Apparently its not considered gauche to have extra people show up once the dinner course is cleared out?

The maid of honor demanded that she wear a different dress than the rest of the bridesmaids, apparently she forgot that this wedding isn't for her.

The wedding is across the street from the White House. It would be tragic if the motorcade rolled through mid-ceremony (shit, I better not have jinxed that)...

Monday, June 01, 2009

Rieslings, Viogniers, and Gewurtztraminers... Oh My!

Any of you who have met me in real life (which is almost no one) knows that one of my favorite weekends of the year is the Virginia Wine Festival. It's actually two weekends a year, because additionally there is an event called Vintage Virginia (this past weekend). For the past 9 years, I've dragged a bunch of friends into VA horse country to traipse around a muddy field and drink (mostly bad) Virginia wine. This year I decided to shake things up a bit...

Yesterday, I stepped over to the other side of the pouring station, and worked for one of the wineries, Cardinal Point, from Afton, VA. After spending the past week trying to memorize all their various selections, and reviewing tasting notes (e.g. smells like pineapple, with hints of honey, gooseberry, and lychee) and pairing information (lightly breaded crabcakes with a spicy remoulade, or soft scrambled eggs with mushrooms and butter), I felt I was ready.

The people were great... Cardinal Point is a family run winery, and it shows in the way they interact with each other. Everyone is friendly, relaxed, and there to sell wine, but make sure that have fun while they do. I couldn't have asked for a better group of tutors to steer me as I acted the "expert" for a crowd of strangers, from white trash to wine snobs. That being said, I quickly picked up a few things from the large crowd that I was pouring for:

1) No one is impressed with my command of French, German, and Italian wine phrases. They're all too busy holding out their glasses for more.

2) 95 percent of the attendees are actively looking to get drunk. If they feel your tasting pours are too small, they'll be all too happy to let you know this.

3) You can tell people pretty much anything about wine, and they'll believe you. I was making up all sorts of food choices to go with our wines... pasta salad - Yes! pork chops - Yes! Tastes like blackberry - Of course it does!

4) From 11-2 there is one group of tasters at the festival; they stand there thoughtfully absorbing every word you say, pretending to swirl the wine around the glass, admiring the "legs", and then trying to come up with adjectives to impress their friends. After 2pm, the other group starts showing up; "hey, ummm y'all got some whites??"

Nonetheless, I had a total blast, got paid in wine for my time (best paycheck ever, btw), and made new friends who will hopefully have me back at future festivals. So what's the final lesson?

If you're interested in drinking some wine in the next month or two, give me a call... I'm really well stocked!