Monday, April 27, 2009


I used to coach swimming to kids. I started when I was 18 and continued doing it until I was thirty-four. When I was a law student at age twenty-three or so, I realized something that bothered me. I knew that if I continued to coach and interact with between 80-150 kids every single year, it was only a matter of time before we lost one of them at far too young an age.

A few months later, I got a call from my parents back home telling me about one of my swimmers who had died in an automobile accident. My realization had become a reality. A seventeen year old girl was dead at far too young an age.

This post is not about her, though. This is about Greg, the subject of the second such phone call I received. This call was last week.

Greg was the oldest of four boys. My fourth year coaching, I met Greg as an eight-year-old. He was very tall and thin. He did not start out being an exceptional swimmer, but then again most people don't. They get better from practicing. As the years went by, Greg improved. His brothers joined the team as they got old enough to do so and their family was one constant we could rely on. Greg was a backstroker and during the last year I coached him, I believe was the backstroker on a state champion medley relay. He was a smart kid. He always liked to read more than play with the other kids. Even his younger brothers were much more social than he was.

Last week I got a call from a friend who still lives back home. He left me a voicemail message telling me that Greg had passed away. He knew none of the details, but had just seen the obituary in the paper and thought I would want to know. I knew it must have been a suicide considering the lack of details. There was no accompanying story about an automobile accident or no phrase about a "lengthy illness."

I had not seen or spoken to Greg in several years. The odds are that had he lived I never would have seen him again. I'll still miss him though. He was a good guy and I just think it is very sad that he decided to shoot himself the day before his twenty-fifth birthday. I think it is sad that he spent his last day feeling so hopeless.

Here is a picture from a better day. Greg is the one on the right.

Friday, April 24, 2009


14 more wins until title number 18 hangs from the rafters. The Celtics have won 2 games in the playoffs this year.

To win a NBA championship, a team must win 4 best-of-seven series in the playoffs. That is only 16 games total. So, a team can go 16-12 and be the champions. It really sounds much easier than it is. I know this because only one out of sixteen playoff teams ever get that 16th win.

A team could go 15-4 and not be the champs. It's that 16th win that gets it. When you start examining the details and saying they will probably have to beat a team with LeBron James AND a team with Kobe Bryant without having the benefit of the homecourt advantage and without their best player, getting there it seems impossible. But it's not.

Sunday they play the Chicago Bulls and they can win that game. That is all they can do Sunday and if they do, the number will be down to 13.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I was reading comments from fans on and came across this one:

"I know Bull fans and Celtic haters are thinking that the Celtics will lose in Chicago, but you gotta remember that Paul Pierce hasn't had a good game yet. So you never know what factors can round into a game. You're not always gonna get beast games from Rose or Gordon to bail you out. I'm a Laker fan and I hate the Celtics as much as the next guy, but I'm just saying that the Bulls can't relax just because they are at home now. "

I added the emphasis on "beast."

Brandon walks around talking about how beast things are and how beast he is and how beast everything is... unless it is epic. Sometimes things are both beast and epic.

I guess my reaction is similar to what my father's reaction was when I started calling things "massive" and "awesome" back in the early 1980's. The difference is that "massive" and "awesome" where always adjectives. I'm not sure when "beast" changed its part of speech.

I have never really used the word "beast" all that much except for a couple of years in college when people referred to what they were drinking as "The Beast." The Beast was the nickname for Milwaukee's Best Beer which is far from beast by today's standards. It was cheap though. Of course, sometimes it was hard to get ahold of beer in those days so just having some of the Beast was beast enough for the night.

Friday, April 3, 2009


A while back I wrote an entry about the differences between living in New England and living in Louisiana. It was on Journalspace so you won't find it in this journal.

I encountered another difference today.

I was in a rural town trying to get an older man to answer some questions for me about a particular piece of property. He answered my questions and then had some for me. The first question he asked me was to what church I belong.

Where I come from nobody cares what church to which you belong or even if you go to church at all.

Fortunately I had an answer for him. I am not sure how helpful he would have been otherwise.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Healing the Red Heeler

A couple of weeks ago, Heather, Brandon, and I went to dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant. The restaurant is about a 10 minute drive from our house with about 5 minutes of it being through a less than desirable part of the city.

On our way home from dinner, we had to drive past the “Triple J” gas station that I like to refer to as the “Nine J” because the sign for it actually says “Triple JJJ.” That’s nine J’s total. The station is in that less desirable five minutes part of the drive.

It was pouring rain and I noticed a Red Heeler standing outside the convenience store. The dog was wet and had a frayed piece of rope tied around her neck. The rope was not tied to anything else.

I asked Heather if she had seen the apparently stray dog. She said she had but was trying to ignore it. She has a very soft spot for animals in need and was hoping to just drive past. My bringing attention to it caused us to both decide to turn around just to see if the dog needed food.

We pulled into the parking lot by the gas pumps and I got out of the car and looked at the dog. She seemed friendly enough but had a really bad rash and lots of hair missing on her back and neck. It appeared to be mange. I wanted to help, but did not want to step on someone else’s toes if she belonged to someone who was inside so I walked into the store to ask if she belonged to anyone in there. A dirty older man standing near the door said she was his.

“Do you want to adopt her?” he asked.
“No. I just wanted to know if she needed some food,” I answered.
“She can always use food,” he replied. “She’s probably tired of leftover Domino’s pizza crust.”

I went in and bought a $4.50 bag of dog food that costs $1.00 at most stores. I opened the bag and poured some out for the Red Heeler. I handed the rest to her homeless owner, JJ. (That’s 11 J’s all together if you are counting.) I hoped he would be able to carry the rest of the dog food and the six-pack of beer he had purchased back to wherever he and the dog were headed.

Heather and I told JJ that we wanted to help get the dog treated for her condition and gave him our phone number. Heather told him she would call a few places and try to find out where we could take her and how much it would cost and that we would handle it. All he had to do was call us back 3 days later and we would let him know what to do.

Heather called an emergency vet for their input that night when we got home. The next morning she called our veterinarian and called to Humane Society about trying to find a place to house her while she was being treated. We were going to get her mange treated, get her spayed, and get her vaccinated and de-wormed. We could not take her into our home because of the contagious nature of mange.

Heather asked what I thought she should tell JJ about how we would transport the dog and where she would stay.

“He’s probably not ever going to call us,” I told her. I hoped he would but I told her not to worry because she had done everything she could to possibly help that dog. It was going to be on JJ, who did not look like a picture of reliability.

JJ never called. It’s probably better for us personally, but I feel sorry for that poor dog. This morning on my way to work, I saw JJ on the side of the road. The Red Heeler was not with him.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


My sister recently re-sent me an email that our grandmother had sent to her about a year before she died from ALS. My grandmother had a rare form of ALS which impacted her ability to speak and swallow long before it impacted her ability to walk and otherwise function normally. She could still go to the store, work in the garden, and play solitaire.

She was reluctant to embrace new technology but as it became impossible for her to speak and use the telephone, she did start to use email to communicate, albeit sparingly. We got her a new computer specifically for this purpose but every time I went over there the only thing I ever saw her use the computer for was to play solitaire on the computer instead of using a deck of playing cards.

She tried using email, but just never got totally comfortable with it. Here is the email my sister forwarded to me:

"Dear Em Are you still planning on coming next week? You are always welcome. I hope the cold weather stops soon. What are you doing for excitement? I went up to Penny,s yesterday and bought a pair of slacks and a jersey. I took them back this morning. Love Gram"