Sunday, October 31, 2010

Stage Three: PHO, MIX, TRI

There is method to WK Turnen's madness.

TRI finds volunteers on the press tribune, a prime seating area where journalists watch the competition and type away. We're there to "help the journalists." In reality, I sneak photos during the women's team final and refrain from clapping. Dutch Reuters man next to me is very disgruntled when I do so.

But from here I get to see Alicia Sacramone's amazing save on beam. Mattie Larson's unfortunate collapse on floor. The Chinese and Romanian coaches verbally guiding their gymnasts through the routines from the side. The Romanian coach talks constantly. The Chinese coaches walk away when their athlete falls.

MIX is frightening. The center, roped-off ring is for the media. The surrounding ropes (and backdrops of Rotterdam) are for the athletes and coaches. They can move through in a (supposedly) fluid curve to chat with the press. This is all well and good, except the mixed zone happens to be sandwiched between two hallways. Just as the zone is at its fullest, everyone who's not an athlete nor a coach needs to get from one hallway to the other, and they need to get through now. Working the mixed zone is an easy way to get people to dislike you.

The Japanese and Chinese media are quiet. So are the athletes, who stand with perfect posture to answer the questions of their countrymen. The German men, by contrast, are loud and exuberant, and so are the journalists. But don't get me wrong -- the victorious Chinese and Japanese are just as happy. Just more reserved.

PHO means you're on the border of the field of play. You hide your accreditation because the glare will disturb the TV cameras. You stand on the side and make sure the photographers don't pass the rope. You make sure everyone behaves. But really you watch the competition, closer than ever. I'm just by the scoreboard as the women vault. I'm not far away when He Kexin misses her bar routine and Beth Tweddle walks away with the title. In fact I feel like I'm part of it, this whole energy, standing quietly and orangely.

Maybe not so quietly.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Stage Two: Rotterdam Centraal

Though we're on the constant look-out for people with three arms, the train has red velvet seats and small tables. It's classy. It's also crowded. Lena looks exhausted and so am I, although we slept for twelve hours.

I'd like to say that Rotterdam greets us with open arms, but the station is under construction. Tape and machines every. It's cold. Makeshift corridors point us to the metro, the tram, the other tracks. Where are we going?

Our two-hour metro card fails to work after half an hour. The machine won't let us buy new ones. The only people down here are two sketchy men who catcall at the girls. Luckily, Santa appears. Literally. A long white beard and a jolly spirit. He issues us new cards.

By the time we roll our luggage into Ahoy, the place looks like it's been abandoned for the night. We find the press center, somehow. We are told to run to the bus to the hostel, or otherwise we'll be stuck there for a long time.

We board the bus packed with orange pants and orange-and-white jackets. Dutch fills the air. The girl and guy in front of us talk in English about articles in Spanish versus articles in German. Later that week I see them holding hands. Linguistics is love.

The hostel is new and quite clean.

It is also filled with eighteen-year-old volunteers boozing up and running around at night. Shades of Southampton? Or any college? They run, they hit walls, they laugh.
I fall asleep at midnight and wake up at 2:30 am. I am wide awake. I write by the light of my phone. I do that whole tense-and-relax-each-muscle thing that has, in fact, never worked for me. By the time 6:30 am arrives, I'm awake to greet it.

Our first day at the arena is slightly disorganized but straightforward. Danielle gives us a tour just as a Frenchman tears his Achilles on floor. Lena goes to "work."

Meanwhile, I discover the training halls. 

I'd rather stay there than watch men from unknown countries compete. But by 3:00, I don't want to do anything besides hide at the hostel and sleep.

I cry a little and manage to switch my shift with Bart, whom I haven't actually met yet. Lena and I take the shuttle back to the hostel, where we watch "The Office" on her iPhone and fall asleep at 8:30. I wake up at 5:45. I am ready. I will not cry today.

Food for thought

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Stage One: En Brussels

At first it seems that we're destined to pace in the waiting area and next on the runway. There's the terrorist (a solo man on two cell phones, talking into neither), Vogue (a man reading out loud to himself from the magazine), the inexplicable delays. Soft rain on the windows glowing orange. I race through Lena's Glamour before take-off.

Next the turbulence. One hour of sleep. The grim reaper sitting across the aisle.

Then day breaks.

 By 10 a.m. (4 a.m. back home), we're driving through Brussels with Lena's uncle. Originally we thought a nap was in order. But her aunt and uncle have other plans.

At 8:30 EST, I could be driving to work. Instead I'm walking through Europe's oldest mall, her aunt leading us to Neu Haus for chocolate. The day drizzles but the architecure is still stunning, the streets clean, the air sweet with waffles. They're everywhere.

I am the only person in Europe without a winter jacket. The wind is sharp but I hold up my camera anyway. We see NATO, the European Union Commission, the International Press Center, palaces and regal buildings whose purpose I can't recall, the city center. I'm wide awake.

Every city has its twist on the Belgian waffle. The Brussels kind is egg white and lightly sweet. Lena whispers that I need to try the Liege waffle, the full-fat kind. I do the next day. It's delicious.

Back at the house we pass out for two and a half hours. Dinner is takeout Vietnamese. We watch Keanu Reeves act in Dutch subtitles. The cat curls on my legs. Do we have to leave?

The next morning we visit the military museum and stand on top of the grand archway.

We drive to Waterloo to see where Napoleon met his defeat. The sky darkens and it's time to be dropped off at Midi, catching the last train out of the city before the strike. Rotterdam is darker. We don't know what awaits us there, and we're not sure we want to find out anymore. It's easier here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dreaming in Dutch

I'm back!

And plan to write some epically long posts manana. Pictures, too. Get ready!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Neither tool nor bag

Is it wrong that I will miss Nick and Pete while I'm abroad?

I'm pretty sure I'll be strong.

Rechargeable batteries. Outlet converter. Mini alarm clock. Black suede boots. And as the best send-off, the girls nail their beam routines.

Here I come, borderlands.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Appellation mountains

Let's give it up for the progressing rescue of the Chilean miners!

Monday, October 11, 2010


is not today.

Last night I thought how cool it would be to catch 10:10 and ten seconds on 10.10.10, except when I looked at one clock it had already turned 10:11 and the other 10:12.

Without hesitation, I pressed the clock's buttons so the minutes ran up to 59 and back to zero, counted back up. At 10:10 I released. Counted to ten Mississipies. Enjoyed the alignment of the times like an equinox. Then advanced to 10:12. And so we shape our destinies.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


And so it is true: I did not purchase a bike. Primarily because my dad said, "We'll go to the store later" in a distracted way, and when "later" rolled around, he said that the store was closed.

But I still hold big plans. Maybe this week. Perhaps after Europe (the financially wise decision, to be sure). But this is the right season. The temperature clicks down with a breeze and the leaves still hold their green.

And why? I want new stories to tell. To know new ways.


I like to outpace Google's search as I type my query. Human beats the machine.

Saturday, October 09, 2010


Can it be?

Will today be the day I make my father proud and purchase a bike?

Stay tuned.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Prince Ali

One of the girls FINALLY GOT HER MILL CIRCLE TODAY. I feel like a proud mama! (I hope Em nods in approval upon reading.)


I did something I vowed I wouldn't. It was a rapid turnaround, in fact; the night before I swore one way, and the next day acted in the opposite fashion.

I bought faux-jean leggings.

In my defense they look and smell like real jeans. Only the front pockets are fake. The back ones are alive and well, the pants skinny and bunched up because they're a bit too long, like all of the pants I've ever owned. There's a real seam running from ankle (well, bottom of foot) to hip. "But they look so nice with boots," I say as you cuff me for hypocrisy. And perhaps in your compassion you'll glance down and say, "Not half bad."


Despite the terror born of a text message from a number I didn't have in my phone, it was a lovely evening with the old guard. Gotta keep swimming, you know, the sun misshapen and fluid above water.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

about suffering they were never wrong, the old masters

My instinct is to delve into the classics, the "you should read this" canon. But I've forced myself to mix it up with modernity. Books of this year or similarly recent. See what's out there now. Learn a bit of the market.


The modern pile:
  • The Ten-Year Nap = a real snooze
  • Olive Kitteridge had me going until a ridiculous, overly sentimental story midway through pulled me right out
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo did keep me turning pages, but in the end, I don't think it's superior to other books I've read in the genre.
  • The Lacuna is what I'm currently on, and I'm past page 200 hoping it will get better. I read an NPR review today that echoed my feelings, and I'm pretty confident it won't improve. Back to the library!
  • The Heights is the runaway winner of this category. Unpretentious and genuine.
Keeping it classy:
  • Crime and Punishment, much funnier than I thought it'd be
  • Notes from Underground, dark and absurd
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude = love, major love
  • The Things They Carried, which I recognize is not "old," but somehow I was never assigned it in high school unlike 99% of students.  Major love. Major "I wish I wrote some of these lines."
The old school keeps my heart.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


On the road to SHS. Don't know where I'm going.

I know the general vicinity. I've been there before. But to get there from here--well, I'm just not sure. I cruise toward the traffic circle, hand against the glass.

It's not the first time this has happened. I drove to SBS to move in for RA training and it dawned on me near Riverhead that I had no idea how to get to Sunrise. (Ah, my youth!) I'd visited as a high school senior with my mom, and later over spring break senior year of college. We parked, walked around campus, gave it an approving nod, and peaced. The roadways did not imprint themselves on me.

That day I called Lena and she guided me, bless her soul. But not today.

What gives? In the age of the GPS and Google Maps (even Mapquest feels obsolete), I leave the house with neither machine nor map. No analemma, compass, crumb path, North Star. No weatherwane to point me toward the wind. Just this girl going at it solo.


I check the Sound tonight. Just to make sure. Last time the birds were tossed through the sky like swirling leaves, flying in nonsensical patterns.

The waves return tonight. No engines or creaking swings or self-important gales to drown them. The stars caught in nets of clouds. A steady breaking.

Monday, October 04, 2010

He pretends not to hear. This is a good sign.

Five pages a day is the beat I wrote to over winter break, and so I drum it out now. Sometimes the shift of "he" to "I," but more often extensive changes. Still enjoying myself.


It's a cold nostalgic wind out there and I think of Ph.D. programs. I'm just not sure. I know I want that doctoral title, but I want to enjoy it all the way through. And I think I may want life, not just hints of what I've read in theoretical papers, to inform my study.

Preposterous? I say no.

I've just begun contributing to an online gymnastics blog, which the writer is using as part of her Ph.D. dissertation about new media's representation of women's sports. I'm sure she spends days trudging through academic "historical context." But a gym blog as part of one's research? That's not the academic cloister of Ph.D.-dom. That's awesome.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

three potions and a skill

I feel rejuvenated by this latest round of revision. Three chapters in and so far, it feels right.

My favorite part of the requisite Revising and Editing course was "the lard factor," in which we deleted as many words as possible and calculated the fraction that was lost (I believe this is also called "the paramedic method").

I strive for clear language, for rhythmic lines without burden. On this round they come through cleanly, with far less "and here's the backstory you need, sigh." I find new places for expansion. It's excavation and sculpture at once, you see, a simultaneous stripping away and illuminating.