I have a friend my age who graduated from a school that was in our athletic conference.  We got to know each other well when we ended up at the same college.  (Neither one of us made it past two years.)

He liked to tell the story of when they were going to be playing Luverne in basketball and his coach prepared a scouting report on us.

There were paragraphs about our team’s star and the many ways he could beat you — and several sentences about each of the other leading players on the team.  For me, it was just one word.


No proof of this was ever provided, so it could all have been made up.  But it rings true.

My basketball skills were rudimentary, although I did know the fundamentals of rebounding, something which seems to be a lost art in these days of running and gunning.  I was the sixth man, role-playing material.  Hey, those other guys needed a break every now and then.

I had more success on the football field, which is how I found my way to that college.  But it was straight ahead all the time — no fancy moves for me.  If they were in my way, I just tried to run over them.  Crude enough for you?

Drumming was the same way.  I was pretty good at it, but I was a banger there too, on snare drum in marching band and timpani in concert.  A drum set was beyond my abilities.  I mean, you want me to play different rhythms with my hands and feet?  Have you not been watching?

Piano?  Crude.  Typing?  Crude.  In class, Mr. Weinman would stand over me and try to get me to go faster, but I hadn’t inherited my mother’s ability on the piano or the typewriter.

I could go on, but what’s the point?  The pattern is well established.

On a long bike ride yesterday, I was mulling over all of this.  I know, kind of an odd thing to be doing.

Then, I was thinking about how you see people texting while they’re riding and going down the trail with no hands on their bike.  No hands!  I was feeling a little proud of myself, since I’m always super careful, hands on the bars, watching where I’m going, ready for anything.

About a half minute later, I was approaching a culvert that goes under a highway.  It’s quite narrow, so you have to pay attention, but I go through it regularly.  In all the years of doing so, there’s only been a few people there when I am, since it’s not a heavily used part of the trail.

But this time, a man and a woman on a tandem bike turned into the culvert in front of me (going in the same direction).  I was surprised that he didn’t duck given the low ceiling, since I always do.  As I watched them go further in, I got distracted and caught an edge of the entrance.

There was some water on the floor of the culvert and I slid a little on that as I tried to regain my balance, but I first hit one wall and then the other before doing one of those slow-motion cartoon crashes.  I’m surprised the people up ahead didn’t hear me yell out a swear word, but as I laid there, I could see them pedaling on their way.

My bike was messed up, but I could fix that.  My body was messed up too, but that will take a bit longer to heal.

I was a few miles from home and felt fine, so I decided to finish the ride in a leisurely fashion.  A while later I went by a guy who said, “Woah,” not because I was going too fast, but because of what my face looked like.  Shortly thereafter, a man standing on the trail talking to someone said, “Sir!  Blood!”  (People always call me Sir now.)

It wasn’t as bad as it looked, but it looked bad.

For someone who has spent most of the last two years cooped up, I’m going to be seeing more people I know this week than during any other over that time.  Today is a family graduation party.  Tuesday and Wednesday we’ll be attending the annual Twins/Yankees gathering with a bunch of my cousins.  And at the end of the week, the foundation board I’m on will be having its meeting in my hometown.

I get to bring my new face with me for all of it.  It’s kind of crude.

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