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Octogenarian Runners – Hurrah!

edwhitlocktorontoThree cheers for truly senior runners!

My last Boston, darn it!  That was the subject of a previous blog.  And, indeed, I have promised my beloved Margie that, from now on, I will limit my competitive runs to half-marathons or less.

But then, just last week, I read that Canadian Ed Whitlock, 85 years old, three years my senior, not only had run the Toronto Waterfront Marathon but had done it in the amazing time of 3 hours, 56 minutes.  I did my last marathon, in Boston last April, in  6 hours and 8 minutes.  And I was, relatively, a  puppy of 81!

The last time I beat 4 hours was in Los Angeles in 2007 — 3 hours, 58 minutes.  I was then just 72 years old — 13 years younger than Ed Whitlock is now.  Age makes a huge difference!

As Whitlock, a retired mining engineer, told The New York Times:  “I believe people can do far more than they think they can.”  But he adds:  “You have to be idiot enough to try it.”

How does Whitlock train?  He runs laps around a Toronto cemetery (!) for three to three-and-a-half hours at a time.  I can’t imagine the boredom!  I almost always run by myself but I make a point of varying my routes in our Hawaii Kai neighborhood.  And I never go out without a headset affixed to my trusty iPhone radio, listening to news or talk shows on Hawaii Public Radio.  Perhaps Ed finds comfort in quiet — which surely a cemetery has in abundance!  I can understand that.

Perhaps most of all I appreciate Ed’s providing an example that there are some folks out there even nuttier than I am.

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Do You Believe in Miracles? — Yes!

miracleonice

Quick quiz: Who uttered these words and under what circumstances:  “Do you believe in miracles? . . . YES!

Hint:  You’re most apt to know if you’re a sports fan.  The answer is at at the bottom . . .

My focus here has nothing to do with sports.  Rather it’s wedding rings — actually a specific wedding ring, the one my beloved Margie put on my ring finger (fourth finger, left hand) 57 years ago, in Altadena, Calif.

OK, here is the miracle.

Margie and I attended my 60th reunion at Princeton this spring.  And somewhere during that wonderful experience my wedding ring came off — I know not how or where. I was certain it was gone for good.  Still, to report my loss, I wrote classmate Arthur Eschenlauer, who along with his wife Janet was co-chair for the reunion.

Word came back:  YES, he wrote — it had been found. He had no idea by whom or where.  It was turned into lost and found.

Talk about miracles!  He mailed the ring back to me via USPS and I don’t know when I’ve been happier to open a package!

OK, about the quote above.  It was uttered exultantly by famed sports broadcaster Al Michaels, who took pride — until that moment — in his ability to remain cool and objective.  The USA hockey team was just seconds away from recording the biggest upset in Olympic hockey history, beating the Soviet Union.51asSar-daL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_

“My concentration is as intense as it has ever been in my career,” he writes, in his book YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS UP.

“With 10 seconds to go, the crowd begins to count the seconds in unison. . . The Soviets are pressing in the U.S. end but the puck comes behind the net and gets cleared to center ice with about six seconds left. . . . The game is all but over. . . . A word pops into my head — miraculous.”

A split second later, it gets morphed into a question and answer: “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”

OK, so only family and friends cared a whit about my lost wedding ring. But being reunited with it was to me a miracle. Yes!

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Nostalgia, Reunions, Uncategorized

Sports Illustrated Cover Boys

Kit and Pete after P-Rade

         Kit and Pete after the P-Rade

Despite living about 5,000 miles from Princeton, N.J., Margie and I have attended most of my Princeton University class reunions held every five years.

I’m convinced that no other university in the U.S.A. does reunions quite like Princeton.  For one thing, the setting is comparatively rural and hence inviting.  Harvard and Yale, Princeton’s rivals in the “Big Three” of the Ivy League, are situated in urban settings — Cambridge, Mass., and New Haven, Conn.  It’s just not the same!

At reunions — and I know almost all colleges and universities do likewise — Princeton offers a rich variety of seminars for alums and families to attend.  Two that Margie and I attended this year were on guns and what’s going on with Russia and its neighbors.  Guns — talk about a passion-stirring topic!  The atmosphere was electric in the packed second floor auditorium in Whig Hall.

But perhaps what most distinguishes Princeton Reunions is the P-Rade, held on Sunday.

The P-Rade starts in front of Nassau Hall, the university’s iconic administration building.  The oldest classes lead the way. No surprise, at a 60th reunion, that included my class of 1956.  In fact, a good number of my classmates and their spouses opted for golf carts.

But not Pete Freck and I!  In fact, at most past reunions we have marched with our trombones in the P-Rade, leading the modest-sized Born Again Class of 1956 band.

Alas, this year our leader Bill Stein wasn’t able to rally enough interest to inspire a 2016 Born Again Band.

But . . . Pete and I marched (OK, walked) holding these signs:   Same two guys 60 years later. 

And, wow, did they stir a response from the crowd!  A course marshall was prompted to jump in and lead a traditional “Locomotive yell” for “Kit and Pete,” ending with: “Tiger Tiger Tiger, Sis Sis Sis, Boom Boom Boom Bah!!”

Seldom if ever have I been so moved!

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Million Dollar Smiles in Sudan

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Study this photo. I challenge you NOT to be engaged and fascinated. Who are these 10 delightful young people? And where are they?

The photo was taken at the Harvesters Reaching the Nations (HRTN) orphanage in Terekeka, South Sudan, in Africa. The site is about 60 miles straight up the the Nile River, due north of the capital city of Juba.

It was taken by Ellen Wicker Cummings, a wonderful lady with a heart for the young people of Africa, particularly those who have been orphaned. It was taken during free time the day after she arrived.

“As I recall, I was wandering around speaking to the kids and assembled this group for a photo,” she says  “They are naturally happy kids and were just playing and enjoying themselves.”

Her interest in South Sudan began around 2007 when she met one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan.”  She went to Sudan two years later “and thus began my love affair with this newest world country,” she says.

To date she has made eight trips to South Sudan, participating in slave liberations, working with victims of leprosy and polio, and supporting schools, orphanages, and hospitals. Now she is at the orphanage in Terekeka for six months while a search continues for permanent leadership.

How did I get to know Ellen? Indirectly, through my love of running. I met her daughter Rebecca as a member of the Team in Training marathon training program in Hawaii. I recall having a delightful lunch with Becca’s  immediate family, including her dad, retired Air Force Col. Ned Cummings. All good people!

Hey, there’s a message here for all us — particularly those in or nearing retirement years. We should actively look for opportunities to serve worthwhile causes and not wait for opportunities to come to us. We stand to receive enormous satisfaction, and the people we serve may benefit also. Win-win.

 

 

 

 

 

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Press secretary James Brady — quiet hero

James Brady, my hero, press secretary for President Reagan

James Brady, my hero, press secretary for President Reagan

We all remember where we were when important world events occur. I remember vividly Dec. 7, 1941. (I was a 7-year-old in Hawaii; it was early morning). I remember where I was when President John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963 . (I was at work at The San Diego Union newspaper). And of course the Sept. 11, 2011 attacks on the World Trade Center twin towers. (Margie and I were just waking up, in bed in Honolulu, six time zones earlier).

I also remember where I was on March 30, 1981, the date of the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan (at 11:27 a.m. West Coast time). I was in California, at the Stanford Medical Center visiting our daughter Patty, who was battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. (Sadly, Patty only had three more months to live, but that’s another story).

There were no fatalities in the immediate aftermath of the attack on Reagan, but White House Press Secretary James Brady, who was left paralyzed from a gunshot wound, died in 2014. Years earlier, soon after the shooting, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence was organized. And I have been a regular contributor.

Footnotes: Wikipedia reports that the would-be assassin was an obviously troubled young man named John Hinckley, Jr. His motivation was born of his obsession with Jodie Foster. While living in Hollywood in the late 1970s, Hinckley saw the film Taxi Driver at least 15 times, apparently identifying with Travis Bickle, the lead character portrayed by Robert Di Niro. The arc of the story involves Bickle’s attempts to protect a 12-year-old prostitute, played by Jodie Foster.

There’s much more in the Wikipedia report, including the fact Hinckley had begun to stalk President Jimmy Carter and was surprised at how easy it was to get to the president. In fact, Hinckley had been arrested in 1980 at Nashville International Airport for illegal possession of firearms. For more information click here to see the Wikipedia article.

 

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On a morning jog in Hawaii Kai

Us and Hawaiian flags

Us and Hawaiian flags

Last Sunday morning, in the last 2 miles of a 7.8-mile run, I spotted this scene, and stopped to take this photo. The photo indicates several things:

** The weather: It was a breezy and partly cloudy day.

** The location. Despite being in farmland, it is close by a 50-plus luxury home development In Hawaii Kai.

** Flying below the U.S. flag is our Hawaiian state flag — a combination of the U.S. flag and the British union jack. That tells me the flag likely was put up by a part Hawaiian person or persons fond of our state.

**The owner of the home in the background has joined the growing practice in Hawaii of installing solar panels, for at least part of the home’s electricity needs. Electricity rates in Hawaii are among the highest in the nation.

**Atop the ridge are homes that have cooler temperatures, breezier weather and certainly magnificent views. Margie and I live in the Hahaione Valley, on the other side of this ridge. We reside in a 46-unit townhouse complex — still a mighty nice place to live.

I’ve often said, all considered, there is no better place in the world to live than Hawaii.

Oh, about my 7.8-mile run. How could I be so precise about the distance? I took this photo with my iPhone 5S, in which I had also activated the “Log My Run” app. I continue to be amazed at how many functions one can do at the same time with Steve Jobs’ incredible creation of  less than a decade ago.

Oh, and isn’t the sharpness of the picture amazing! I’m old enough to remember cameras which had to be loaded with film — and with black and white film at that.

Darn, I forgot to take a selfie, to give the photographer unmistakable identity.

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Writing to Presidents — of the USA!

I’ve always enjoyed receiving mail. When I was a kid, I would even send off for free stuff, some requiring enclosure of a cereal box top perhaps — just for the fun of finding something addressed to me in the family mail box.
FDR gives radio talk

FDR gives radio talk

Better yet was getting letters. And during World War II, with my father’s encouragement, I decided to write to no less a figure than Franklin Delano Roosevelt, president of the United States of America and commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces. Remarkably I got a response — from the president’s private secretary, Grace Tully.
Letter from the White House

Letter from the White House

“He [the president] appreciates your friendly thought in writing and asks me to send you his very best wishes.” As I recall, we kids had the chance to purchase stamps at school, and I’m sure I helped staff a desk selling the stamps. 
 
Through the magic of Wikipedia I read that Grace Tully, writer of the letter to me, moved to Washington, D.C. in 1933 when Roosevelt was elected President. . . . She continued working for the President until his death in April 1945 at his “Little White House” in Warm Springs, Georgia, where she was present when he died.
 
Fast forward to 2012, a presidential election year. I wrote a personal letter of support to President Obama (hey, he’s a Punahou grad and everyone in the Punahou family should at least be proud of him, right?). I even enclosed a check to support his campaign. This time, though, my response was a printed card, saying: “Thank you for writing. In accordance with Federal law, we are unable to accept any political contributions.” The rejected check, made out to “Obama for America” was enclosed. And I still have it. 
 
Alas, no note this time from a private secretary.
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