Category Archives: Sports and Recreation

I’ll never go om

I hate yoga.

When was the last time I tried it? 1969.

Progressive thinkers that they were, my parents made me take yoga when I was ten, believing it would help me to become more focused and improve my grades. I may have told you this before. Every Saturday morning, they drove me into the city for class. While my friends were eating Cocoa Puffs, drinking Tang and watching cartoons, I was saluting the sun and hating every minute of it. I decided then that when I finally had complete freedom to make my own decisions, I’d never go within 10 feet of a yoga mat. Forty-one years later, I’ve held to it. I also remain one of the least flexible (and least focused) people I know. Such is the price of freedom.

Many of my friends and acquaintances do yoga and love it. Being barefooted, moving slowly in a quiet room, is not my cup of chamomile tea.

However, I am aware that yoga has changed vastly in the decades since I first experienced it so unpleasantly.

For example, I recently read about something called “Laughter Yoga.” I might be able to warm up to that. Also called hasyayoga, this discipline involves self-triggered laughter that spreads among people in the class. I assume this enhances the workout in some way.

I’m a fan of contagious laughter, though perhaps not enough so to combine it with exercise forcibly. I laugh plenty in Jazzercise, as my friends and I make faces, exaggerate our dance steps and share dirty jokes on the floor. But that’s genuine, not contrived.

I know there’s also “Hot Yoga,” which involves exercises performed in extremely hot and humid temperatures. Sounds like weeding the yard in July to me.

We have a friend who’s into all sorts of other kinds in a big way, so much so that he recently took a break from his career to focus on yoga full time. As part of a side project, he recently invented something called “In Sink Yoga.”

Setting aside my overall clumsiness and lack of muscular flexibility and strength, I might also find this doable. Here, take a look:

I love this for so many reasons. Did someone say “cleaning fetish?”

Maybe for his next video project, he’ll do Om on the Range.

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It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad lib

When I was a kid, they didn’t make cars with DVD players in them. Even when my son was little, we never had such a thing in the car.

When we went on long trips, we played games like Twenty Questions, “I went to the supermarket” and a word game called Ghost.

Often when we got to our vacation destinations, and there was no television, we played games. I recall many seasons as a kid in Ocean City, playing Mad Libs. I cut my little word nymph teeth on Mad Libs.

For those who don’t remember, Mad Libs were–still are, I guess–short stories written with blanks in them. The blanks call for certain parts of speech to be inserted in various places in sentences within the story. The person who holds the book asks his or her play mates for nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and exclamations, and occasionally, names of body parts or famous people, which, of course, are provided arbitrarily and without context. After all the blanks are filled, the holder of the book reads the story aloud. Hilarity ensues.

This past Monday, Leonard Stern, co-creator of Mad Libs, died at the age of 88. Amusingly, his Washington Post obituary was written in Mad Lib form:

“As a writer, director and producer, Leonard Stern was a legendary (noun) in show business. He had an (adjective) career that took him to (geographic place) with (celebrity name). Fond of (article of clothing), standing (a number) feet tall with a gray (body part), he (verb) more than a share of (noun), including (liquid).”

I was interested to learn also that Stern was a writer and producer of “The Honeymooners,”  “Get Smart” and a few other classic sitcoms. Apparently, Stern got the idea for Mad Libs when looking for an adjective for a Honeymooners script. He and a friend then began writing stories with blanks in them and took them to cocktail parties; the rest is history.

Yesterday I discovered a website that allows you to play Mad Libs online.*

Maybe on your next family trip to the shore—or at your next cocktail party—you can pull out your iPhone, log in and have a rip-roaring good time.

Rest in peace, Leonard Stern. You were a (adjective) (noun).

*By the way, I tested the Mad Lib-generating website. You can only imagine what I did to Hamlet’s third soliloquy.

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Not so gym-dandy

What’s the temperature in your gym? Yesterday mine was 98 degrees.

Once, when I said something in a post about going to the gym, my son chimed in. “Don’t lie, Mom. You don’t go to the gym.”

Rude accusations aside, he was wrong. I do go to the gym. I don’t go to a health club or a fitness center or a recreation facility. I go to a gym.

Remember gym? Big room, wood floor, retractable bleachers and a basketball hoop at each end?

Yeah, the gym. I happen to exercise at one owned by a local Boys & Girls Club. It’s not air conditioned; typically it’s about 10 degrees warmer than the temperature outside. Not only that, when I work out really hard, it spins around.

This is a pivotal time in my workout cycle. My current eight-week session is about to expire, hopefully before I do. My cue is, when I start to see spots, it’s time to back off.

I dragged myself back there yesterday after recovering from a bout with my respiratory illness. The air was like melting Jell-O. I made it though my one-hour class, motivated by knowing I’ll need to put on a swimsuit and a party dress within days. As if one workout were going to do magic. So I plowed through, periodically stepping outside into the 90-degree heat to take a breath.

I need to find a summer exercise alternative that isn’t going to cost me a flabby arm and leg.

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Gold in the freestyle

Did you hear? The United States took six gold medals over the weekend.

No, I’m not a year early for the Olympics. The event to which I’m referring didn’t take place in London but rather, in Trondheim, Norway: the biennial World Beard & Mustache Championships, considered to be the premier competition of the world’s facial hair elite.

Following last weekend’s competitions, organizers announced that Keith Haubrich “completed the three-peat in Freestyle Moustache. Newcomers to the world stage Bill Mitchell from Georgia and Giovanni Dominice from Arizona won in Partial Beard Freestyle and Imperial Moustache respectively.” For an interpretation of what this means, and to get a sense of the hairy-ness of the competition, do spend time on your lunch hour today combing through the organization’s website, which is translated into 19 languages.

In case you were wondering, I didn’t happen on the news by trolling obscure sources for blog topics. This world event was covered by CNN, which ran a pre-event story online last Friday and used up all the good hair puns (e.g., the competition has its roots in a 1990 event).

A couple of quotes CNN ran caught my eye. Ole Skibnes, the president of the host Norwegian Moustache Club, said, “You can’t just judge the size of the moustache — you have to see if the hair is well-groomed, see if it suits the person, see if it makes them look good.” Notice Skibnes uses “they” in lieu of a masculine pronoun. Interesting. Could it be that the games aren’t Just for Men?

CNN also reported: “It was at the Anchorage games that the United States emerged as the ‘premier power in world bearding,’ according to Beard Team USA captain Phil Olsen, who predicts that America will net a staggering eight out of 17 possible gold medals at the games.” Olsen’s prediction fell short by two, but I’m giving him points for using “bearding” as a verb as though it were an Olympic sport. 

By the way, Team USA will hold its next national competition this fall in the Amish country of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Be there or be without hair.

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Marathon man

He has run four marathons in the last five months.

He has run 35 marathons in the last 14 years, plus several 30-milers, many 50-milers and a 60-miler.

He sometimes has trouble getting up and down the stairs, but he manages to run some 50 miles a week.

He is my husband and today he is 62.

Hey, if you were married to me, you’d run too!

Happy birthday to my husband. Have an ultra great day.

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Famed phobia

Do other Vanity Fair readers out there read the last page first? As soon as VF comes in the mail, I flip to the back, to the Proust Questionnaire, a regular feature in which celebrities are asked to reveal their true selves–even if their true selves drive them to provide flip answers.

The questionnaire is fashioned after a list of queries developed by French writer Marcel Proust, who believed that, in order to know others, we must first know ourselves. It asks things like “What is your idea pf perfect happiness?” and “What is your greatest achievement?” as well as “What do you consider the most overrated virtue?” and “How would you like to die?” Every month I read the responses of the featured celebrity and imagine what my own might be.

When asked which talent they’d most like to have, it’s surprising to me how many would like to play the piano. I would too, though being smarter and being able to sing would be higher on my list.

One of my favorites—an example of a flip response—was, when asked “What do you value most in your friends,” Dustin Hoffman replied, “private planes.”

We all relate to those who deplore cruelty in others and admire hard work. I’ve never related more to any answer than I did to one this month by New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter. To the question, “What is your greatest fear,” he said “Being unprepared.” Bingo.

We’ve all had that dream about going into a final exam after forgetting to go to class for a whole semester. Or being out in public without a stitch of clothing. I also have one in which I’ve neglected a pet too long. Gruesome, I know, but it reflects the depth of this fear I share with Jeter.

Perhaps it comes from showing up at Catholic school without my homework or permission slip, or not taking some of my college courses seriously enough. Somewhere along the way, these experiences of my youth led to some pretty compulsive behavior in my later years: packing three pairs of pantyhose for a one-night trip or leaving the house in perfect order, just in case something happens to me while I’m at 7-Eleven. Never running out of milk or floor wax or Q-tips. Reading the whole paper in the morning, not necessarily because I want to but because someone might ask me about a column or an obituary or the Dow. Getting my car inspected before it’s due and filing my taxes three weeks early. I can’t sleep at night if I don’t have at least an inkling of what I’ll blog about the next morning.

I know nothing whatsoever about Derek Jeter, or the New York Yankees or baseball for that matter. I do know, though, that Jeter’s favorite hero is The Incredible Hulk, that he would come back as an elephant, that he thinks he overuses the word “obviously” and that he hates bullies and his own skinny legs. I’d like to know how he overcomes that fear we both share and if he’s anywhere near as neurotic as I am in compensating for it.

What’s your greatest fear and, just to make me feel normal, what quirky compulsions do you throw at it?

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The big tournament

All eyes are on the big tournament. That great American competition that captures national attention this time every year. It’s time to see how your predictions will play out.

No, not the run-up to the Sweet Sixteen. It’s the official American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, held this weekend at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott. If only Word Nymph had the forethought to apply for press credentials.

Following opening ceremonies last night (not exactly the Olympics, but a nice wine and cheese reception), the bloodfest begins this morning at 11:00.

Throughout the day today, contestants will complete a series of six crossword puzzles against a ticking clock. Then tonight, look out! It’s Games and Quizzes Night, featuring “The ACPT-zing Race,” a puzzle version of television’s “The Amazing Race.” Then it’s “Life Is Shortz,” a one-act crossword play named for New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz.

Tomorrow morning, there’s a talent show by Tournament contestants and officials, followed by the championship playoffs, in which the top three contestants in three divisions compete in sudden-death rounds on giant grids. NPR’s Neal Conan and Washington Post crossword editor Merl Reagle will give live, play-by-play commentary on the final rounds. I’m all aquiver.

The top prize is $5,000 but the real thrill has got to be just being there for it all. Or even getting to meet  Shortz or Reagle in person. You can compete online for $20, but then you miss the excitement and pageantry of the event.

Yesterday I decided that, if I can’t get a press pass for next year, maybe I’ll try out as an amateur. On the ACPT website, there’s a sample puzzle that’s supposed to give prospective competitors a sense of  their worthiness. Apparently, if you are able to complete it in 15 minutes, you would be competitive at the tournament. A time of under 10 minutes would be excellent.

As part of my usual bedtime ritual, I set out to work that very puzzle, timing myself, to gauge my aptitude. After the pretend starting buzzer sounded, I sped through the clues, surprised to find them so easy. Alas, I stopped after 18 minutes, after answering only 68 of the 74 clues.

Truly, I am a faithful amateur. There hasn’t been day in the last 10 years that I haven’t worked a puzzle, though I’m years away from being an expert. There are certain rivers and playwrights whose names I’ll never commit to memory. But I love good wordplay and find nothing more satisfying than breaking the code on a Sunday grid and laughing out loud at the cleverness of the masters.

How cool would it be to cover the tournament live for this blog next year?

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