old bike. old guy.

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My giant purple butt.

When I finished up with my Army-sponsored field trip of Bavaria and was getting ready to return to Athens, I got myself a present: a new mountain bike for riding between my apartment at West State and Shaffer and OU’s campus.

I’ve never done much actual mountain biking, but my 26-year-old purple Giant Butte (known at my local bike shop at the Giant Purple Butt) continues to be reliable. It’s mostly for recreation these days, but I appreciate the fact that the creaky old guy and his creaky old bike still have many miles left.

Both of us creaky oldsters are riding on Sunday, but not strictly for pleasure. We’re participating in the 16-mile portion of the Tour De Cure Pittsburgh, a ride to raise money for the American Diabetes Association. The ride takes place outside of Butler, on the hilly roads between the Big Butler Fairgrounds and Lake Arthur Country Club.

You guys know already that I have type 2 diabetes; that’s not really why I’m A) riding or B) asking you for a donation. I’m riding because this year is different. None of us has any idea what health insurance policy will look like by the end of this year, but there’s an excellent chance that me and my fellow diabetics could be facing the restoration of coverage limits, of premiums that jump because of our preexisting condition … or maybe being denied coverage altogether. And the potential scope of the problem — 30 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with diabetes and another 86 million have been identified as pre-diabetic — is horrifying.

What’s the solution? A better option than waiting on the 2018 midterm elections is to find better treatment options right now. To better educate people about the disease, its causes and how the risk can be mitigated right now. To find a cure … right now.

I don’t want to leave these problems in the hands of people to whom they are abstract policy bullet points. So I’m asking you to donate — right now. Click here to get to my donor page; you’ll need just a couple minutes and a couple bucks to help solve this problem for ourselves.

And me and my creaky, old Giant Purple Butt will be honored to ride on Sunday on your behalf. Thanks.

take the ride.

openstreets

You guys will recall that I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes two summers ago.

You may also recall that I wasn’t especially happy about it.

Since then, it’s been kind of a struggle. I did really well early on, but recently I’ve been a bit lazy, especially about running … even though it was a big reason why my A1C dropped a bunch from my initial test to my second one.

Recently, though, I’ve discovered a new motivation for getting back to the things I was doing well in the first year after my diagnosis. And that motivation is coming from Congress.

Yes. Really. Let me explain.

I am fortunate. I have pretty good health insurance. The deductibles are higher than I would like, but overall, the coverage has been excellent, particularly for someone with a chronic condition like mine. Prescription coverage in particular has been helpful. I pick up a mess of pills, insulin, needles and other fun stuff every month; if not for my insurance, I would have quickly gone broke trying to keep up.

This isn’t the case for everyone. My coverage is a luxury, and those who have a more bare bones insurance policy might struggle to keep up. And depending on what happens in Washington this summer, that problem might become even bigger. If health insurance “reform” is adopted in its current form, 22 million people who are currently covered would lose their insurance. And if any of those folks are paying for the same Lantus, the same Metformin, the same Farxiga and the same testing supplies I’m paying for, they’re going to be in trouble.

Potentially, it gets worse. The House version of the bill would end requirements that those with preexisting conditions must be covered without penalty. That means an insurance company could, for example, double or triple my premiums because I have diabetes; it also means they could just flat out drop me.

And that’s just me. The American Diabetes Association estimates that there are nearly 30 million people — adults and kids — in this country who have diabetes. Another 86 million have been identified as pre-diabetic. If a good share of those people see their premiums skyrocket — or if they lose their coverage altogether — we’ll have a full-blown crisis on our hands.

Obviously, there is a political discussion to be had here, but I’m more concerned with what I can do now, outside of whatever happens with the various health-care bills in Washington. And what I can do now is raise a little money. I can contribute to efforts that will educate people about what diabetes is and how it can be prevented. I can help ensure that treatment methods are effective and efficient.

And I can help fund research that eventually will find a cure.

On July 23, I’m going on a bike ride with Tour de Cure Pittsburgh, on a course just a bit north of Butler. I’m taking the short ride, the 15-miler, mostly because I used to live there and I know exactly how hilly that part of Butler County is:

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Check out the elevation graph. Ouch.
Not a super long ride. But trust me, I’ll earn whatever money you decide to throw my way.

See how I snuck that pitch in there? Heh.

I need your help. I have to raise $200 to be able to participate in the ride. I think I can do that without much trouble, but I’d really like to double that total. And do it before July 23, which is not quite a month away. And if you have a few dollars to spare — and a minute or so as well — you can help me reach that goal by visiting here.

Remember — this isn’t for me. I’m doing OK. This is to make sure that the millions of people who have diabetes have the access to treatments they need. It’s to help others understand what they can do to avoid getting it in the first place. And, at some point soon, it will be to develop a way to fix it once and for all.

Again, please click here to donate. And thank you. <3

Hoops ain’t happening.

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It would start sometime around now.

This week would normally be when the first posts about my annual college hoops contest — this year would have been the Twelfth Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Bocktown) — would start showing up on the blog.

For several years now, that last part — the BTYBB part — has become pretty important to the annual shindig. The support of Chris Dilla, the owner of Bocktown, has make the AUCNFFC pools a lot more fun for me … and, I’m sure, for you guys too.

Bocktown closed earlier this year. I’m still bummed about it. And that, combined with an insanely busy schedule this spring, means I’m going to skip doing the pool this year.

My intention is to bring this back after a one-year break … but no promises, boys and girls. We’ll see how things are going next March.

The other thing I need to take care of: the winners of the past two AUCNFFCs. To last year’s winner, AJ: I’ll give you a $50 gift certificate to the bar/restaurant of your choice. Or I will buy $50 worth of wings and beer and Mrs. Crappy and I will show up for dinner at your place. You pick.

And as you may recall, Kewyson, our 2015 winner, graciously donated his $50 winnings to be shared communally by whatever AUCNFFC participants could make a date of our choosing. I’m going to make good on that promise on Thursday, March 23. If you’ve ever been an AUCNFFC contestant, come to Piper’s Pub that evening and I’ll buy the beers until my $50 tab runs out.

I hope to see you there. And I hope to see you back here for TwAUCNFFC (Brought To You By Something Else) next spring.

another lifetime ago.

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I thought I had already said goodbye to Derrick.

When I found out last week that he had died, I realized I was wrong. And this was harder than I thought it would be.

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I hadn’t seen Derrick since … my wedding, maybe, almost 17 years ago? I have a more definite memory of my last contact with him, although I don’t recall the date. It was a message on AOL, and he asked about a mutual friend; immediately after I answered, he was gone. After a couple more attempts to get him to respond — and a few more passing weeks — I understood that I wouldn’t hear from him again.

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I was mostly OK with that. That Derrick wasn’t the Derrick I worked with at The Post, or the one who had been one of my best friends when I returned to Athens. I was largely insulated from that Derrick, although I know that wasn’t the case for everyone.

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And in that respect, I’m lucky: the memories I have of the real Derrick — the one I knew in Athens, the one in these pics — I get to keep for the rest of my life. I remember meeting him, in R.J.’s office, not long after I returned to school following my Army-sponsored field trip to Germany; I think we were both a bit dubious of each other, but it was quickly clear to me that Derrick, who was editor of The Post that year, was the real deal: smart, talented and driven. I figured out something else a little later on: Derrick’s prickly exterior wasn’t as prickly as it appeared to be. If you were willing to weather a bit of abuse — and maybe give a little back — you were in.

derrick me tight

And I was. For the three years I was in Athens following my return from the Army, Derrick was one of the best friends I had. And like everyone else, I learned a lot from him too, even though I was the old guy coming back to Athens and The Post when I finished with the Army. He was so smart about journalism and about running a staff of kids who were just figuring out how to make a newspaper work. He could be intimidating — even to me, a little bit — but without fail, he’d stop and help anyone on staff figure out a writing question, a difficult source, a bit of political juggling. He wanted to be better, and he wanted that for everyone who worked for him.

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We are the sum of our experiences and the people we share them with. I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t had that time with Derrick. I owe him. For all the time at The Post. For all the pitchers of Lowenbrau Dark at The Union. In the pink house. Above Campus Sundry. All over Court Street. For Ren and Stimpy:

For Ween:

And for that goddamned awful song he insisted we play at every single staff party so we could pogo around someone’s living room (and if anyone remembers what song that was, let me know?).

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This is the Derrick I knew. This is the Derrick I’ll remember when we attend his memorial service in Mentor-On-The-Lake this afternoon.

This time it’s for real. Goodbye, my friend.

yogaversary.

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Two years ago Sunday, I walked down the hill in Grandview Park on Mount Washington, accompanied by some pretty significant misgivings, for my first yoga class. In spite of my nerves, that morning was close to perfect: sunny and warm, but not at all uncomfortable.

Two years later — on Sunday morning — I walked down same hill under a stack of gray, drizzling clouds, and headed for the bandstand, which would shelter us from the rain that was starting to strengthen. And feeling none of the apprehension I had in 2014.

***

I’ve written before about what I felt before that first class, and how it translated to a mental block I had constructed for myself over the last year. I wrapped up the workshop weekend feeling confident that I was going to work through that block — the one about doing shoulder stand — but at that point, I hadn’t done it yet.

Here’s what happened since: I did it. With a lot of help.

One of my teachers, Holly, definitely read the part of the wrap-up post where I said I needed to have a stronger core; in the very next class I had with her, she hammered us with core work — and then stood over my mat while explaining that that’s probably what I should expect when I wrote about needed more core work. I’m almost positive that I could hear her smirking while she spoke … but I don’t know for sure because I had too much sweat dripping in my eyes.

Starting the Saturday after Chrissy Carter was in town, my other teacher, Ashley, started a three-week series of classes built to prep her Saturday Morning Yoga Party students for … wait for it … shoulder stand.

The coincidence is incredible, right?

This involved a more core work, plus extra time opening shoulders so we’d have a strong platform to build from. On the second Saturday, Ashley hauled out the chairs — backless versions of the basic metal folding chairs we all know — for prep work for the Week Three climax. Part of this was using the chairs to help us into halasana, a pretty common jumping-off point for shoulder stand.

chrissy chairAnd that’s when it changed. Ashley was sitting right next to me, ready to help swing my legs all the way over my head; as I started, I said, out loud, “I don’t think I’ll be able to do this” … as I tucked my legs into my chest and then straightened them out to the seat of the chair behind my head.

I could have done shoulder stand right then, but I was so surprised at myself and the strength I didn’t know I had that I sort of forgot what I was doing.

But I didn’t forget the following Saturday.  when Ashley brought out the chairs again, I did what Chrissy demonstrated in her workshop. I even felt like I could have held it for a while.

The fear was gone, replaced by the strength I needed to really do the pose for the first time. Another thing had vanished, as well: the voice in my head that tries to convince me that I can’t do the thing I’m trying to do. There were two best parts about this process of the last month: the first is being able to set aside that voice — even if only for a little while — and doing what I wanted to do.

The other best part? If you guessed it was getting shoulder stand, you’re incorrect. The other best part is that my two teachers took it upon themselves to help me get there. I’ve mentioned this before: this is my yoga family. For some reason, the universe took me up to Mount Washington for that first outdoor class two years ago. It also took me up that long flight of stairs to BYS the following August. That’s where I was supposed to be; these are the people — all the teachers and all the people I practice with — I am supposed to accompany as we all walk this path together.

This is home.

***

After we wrapped up Sunday’s class under the bandstand, I told Ashley and Kristi that I wanted a picture with the two of them, to commemorate my second anniversary.

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As is often the case with these people, I got more; I wasn’t the only one celebrating an anniversary. As the director at BYS, Kristi was one of the first to offer outdoor classes in Pittsburgh, now a pretty common thing here through the summer. Ashley walked into her first class at BYS ten years ago this week. And Ashley’s mom, Dee, started with an outdoor class a few years before I did.

So I got a photo with four yogis, and four anniversaries. And I got a final bit of wisdom from Kristi:

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Always take the jumping pic. Always. See?

Happy anniversary, yoga family. And thank you, so much.

nerves.

first yoga

I took that shot as I awaited the start of my very first real yoga class.

I was nervous. Nervous enough that I almost didn’t get seated in the grass. Nervous enough that I almost left.

I had been through a couple of demonstration classes at Venture Outdoors Fest two weeks before; I did those with a friend, and I enjoyed them enough that I talked myself into following up with a studio. I met a woman who owned a studio in Bellevue, just a few minutes from my house at the festival, and geography made that choice a natural one. But I also picked up a flier for a summer-long series of classes — at Grandview Park on Mount Washington and in the little park at South Side Works — and those sounded interesting too.

They were interesting enough, in fact, that that’s where I headed for my first yoga class.

And I was fine with that decision. Until I got there.

I parked and walked up the crest of a hill in the park, the one you have to walk over to really get a look at the stunning view of Pittsburgh over there on the other side of the Mon.

I should have noticed the downtown skyline; what I noticed instead was all of the athletic-looking people — mostly women, and all at least 20 years younger than me — walking over the hill with me.

“I do not belong here,” I thought as I slowed my pace up the hill to a shuffle. “I am too old to start this. And I should just go home.”

I froze on the top of the hill, seconds away from turning around, chucking my brand new mat in the back of my car and heading to Carson Street to find a breakfast suitable for a fat old guy.

What kept me from leaving? I met the guy who was signing people in for the class, an instructor at BYS who appeared to be about my age and then seeing two friends who had already unrolled their mats and were waiting for the class to begin.

Seeing friends there was good. Seeing someone there who reminded me of, well, me — and a yoga teacher, no less — was even better. I was still nervous. But I stayed.

It’s been nearly two years since that class. There were more that summer, and more after than in the studio. Yoga — both in the broad sense and specifically with my teachers and my friends at what has become, without question, my studio — is now a pretty important part of my life.

And, oddly, as I approach this weekend, I’m feeling a little bit like I did when I walked up to that first class on June 1, 2014.

I’m signed up for three workshops with a visiting teacher on Saturday and Sunday. And I’m nervous about it.

The situation is a little different this time. Before that first class, I really had no idea what we would be doing. But I know pretty much exactly what’s coming in two of the three sessions, and one of those — Sunday’s shoulderstand workshop — is massively intimidating.

I know how this is going to go — we’ll break down poses into their component pieces, and I’ll be ready to do them or not — and this isn’t the same kind of doubt I felt two years ago. Part of what I’m feeling is excitement. But for the first time in a long time, I’m also feeling a little anxious about going to the studio as well.

No, I’m not going to turn around before I get to the top of the stairs at BYS. I’m not going to skip out on the workshop for a breakfast at Piper’s. Even if I’m feeling like a new guy again.