Friday, May 27, 2016

#422 Who Says You Can't Go Home?

During my recent trip to Auburn, I spent the morning with two teammates at a 6 a.m. basketball workout with two soon-to-be seventh graders.  I didn’t work out – Chantel worked out Lisa’s son Hayes and another boy.  I busied myself by shooting around on a side basket and occasionally observing. It’s always interesting to see a friend you met at age 18 now be in a role of authority.  You saw them at their goofiest and most immature (oh, I was in the same boat for sure), then you see them commanding attention and being great at it. 

 After that I drove/walked around campus.  I walked through Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum, where we used to practice and play.   There is now a shiny new arena (since the 2010-11 season) with all the bells and whistles next door.  I’ve attended games there and it’s very nice.  But I will always love that old coliseum.  

I poked my head into the training room, where we got taped every day and iced our aching joints.  It’s also where I was subjected to the then-tortuous sound of country music coming out of the speakers.  The stereo was in the main office and the head trainer would turn on the stereo and lock the door so no one could change the station.  That’s where I first heard Randy Travis’ “Diggin Up Bones” and Steve Wariner’s, “Lynda.”  (I just discovered the true spelling of the title and am a bit disappointed.  I always thought he was singing to me!) 

Outside the training room I saw what looked like the exact scale where we weighed ourselves every day.  This machine struck fear in all of us.  Some were terrified that they weighed too much, others, too little (that would be me). 

I’m pretty sure I saw our old locker room, which was upstairs.  At halftime we had to run up two flights of stairs and around a corner to our locker room.  It is now boarded up but the location and the bathroom next to it look familiar.  It wasn’t much.  Very basic.  We had cubbies for our stuff but that was it. 

Locker room door
I saw some showers that might be the same ones we used.  I remember Ruthie and her sister Mae Ola would sing in the showers after practices and games.  Their harmonies were wonderful.  One of my favorites is “Cornbread and Black-Eyed Peas.”  (This version is sung by her brothers and other relatives.) 

Lovely showers
Outside the Coliseum I spied the perch where Chantel and I got stuck one fall day.  Auburn had just built the Athletics Complex and we wanted to check it out.  We walked into an office and then out onto the balcony.  The door closed behind us and we were locked out on a third story balcony.  Uh oh!  We finally got the attention of a grounds person and they were able to free us. 

From there I walked toward the old track.  They built a new track prior to the 2006 season.  I ran many a timed mile and 100s on this track in the wee hours of the morning. 

After leaving the track, I looked for the opening in the fence surrounding the football practice grounds.  One Thanksgiving weekend many years ago my teammates and I slithered through a small opening between the chained fence door and played Nerf football in the practice bubble.  And got caught by campus police.  We escaped the coaches’ wrath but they eventually found out.  Vickie’s butt wouldn’t fit through the opening so we hoisted her up and over the tall fence.  (She was our All-American our bad knees.)

My last stop was the old Student Activity Center and new Wellness and Recreation Center.  I played pick-up basketball games in the Student Act in the off-season beginning with my sophomore year.  Is it a coincidence that a guy I liked played there too?  I never stepped foot in that place as a freshman, and then went every opportunity I had during my last three years.  I always say I was doing the right thing, but for the wrong reason.  The Student Act courts were a string of side-by-side courts and some classrooms.  The new center is like a spa, complete with outdoor pool and climbing wall. 

I enjoyed my trip down memory lane.  I haven’t taken the time to wander like this on previous visits.  As I made my way back to Lisa’s house, I did drive by where Sewell Hall used to be (it’s now a ginormous dorm) and my old Dorm J. 

Dorm J, Room 403
All of these new facilities are great.  Me?  I’ll take my Coliseum, old track and Student Act.  Ok, maybe I’d trade Dorm J for the new dorm.  (Those new ones are pretty sweet.)  As I talked with one of my former teammates at the Mighty Ruthie premiere reception, we came to Auburn because we wanted to come to Auburn.  We didn’t come for state-of-the-art facilities.  It’s great that the current students get to enjoy these newer facilities, but I do wonder if they have too much given to them.  All the Under Armor gear and luxury accommodations.  We had Converse cotton sweats (we loved them), thick polyester uniforms (we did not love those) and short, mesh practice pinnies.  We received one pair of Converse shoes for the season.  (I don’t think we got socks).  And we thought we had hit the jackpot! 

Things were much different then.  We were much different then, too.  I don’t live in the past, but I do like to reminisce now and then.  My teammates and I always seem to pick up right where we left off.  Some say you can’t go “home”.  I believe you can.   

Sunday, May 22, 2016

#421 #Mighty Ruthie

Last Wednesday I saw a private premier of ESPN Film’s SEC Storied series, “Mighty Ruthie.”  It is the courageous story of my friend and teammate Ruthie Bolton.  She was a star in college, is a two time Olympic gold medalist and starred in the WNBA.  She still plays and is still a “beast” (for her, the gun show is always open).  She is also a victim of domestic abuse. 

I am grateful that the Auburn University athletics department put on this premiere.  It was a truly special night and I am grateful that I was able to attend with my teammates, coaches and fans.  Not to mention many of Ruthie’s family (she is one of 20 children). 

I encourage all who are able to watch this at 9 p.m. Eastern, May 22 on SEC Network. It will also air at 9 p.m. Eastern May 24 on ESPN2 and 8 p.m. Eastern May 30 on ESPN. 

Ruthie is a year ahead of me and I played with her for three seasons.  I am so proud of her for sharing her story.  I know it was not easy for her to do this but her hope is that it helps others. 

During the Q&A after the film one of the Auburn women’s basketball fans stood up and talked about how they loved to see us come back, they loved to watch us on the court, they put us up on pedestals (so to speak) but in actuality they don’t know us.  They think they know us, but they don’t really know us.  That goes for all of us.  We as Ruthie’s teammates had no idea any of this had happened.  Her family didn’t know for a long time.  None of truly knows what is going on with our friends and loved ones.  All we can do is be there in any circumstance, good or bad. 

After watching this powerful film one of Ruthie’s last statements was equally powerful.  She talked of forgiveness.  Forgiving others and herself.  I struggle with that sometimes.  Thanks to Ruthie I plan to work on that.  If she can forgive after what she’s gone through, I can most certainly do it myself. 

We love you Mighty Ruthie!  

Monday, May 9, 2016

#420 Push Down & Turn

I am a huge music fan and see many national acts each year.  Already in 2016 I have seen the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Tony Bennett, Barry Manilow and Salt N Pepa.  All good shows. 

On Saturday, April 30 I saw my most favorite local band, Push Down & Turn.  My friend Alyce introduced them to me in the late 90s, when she “dragged” us to a show at a bar on Meridian Street on Indy 500 weekend.  She was familiar with them, as they all attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, and she had seen them many times on campus. 

I remember liking them, and later that summer Julie and I stumbled across them at the Indiana State Fair free stage.  Back then, the free music stage was tucked back by the poultry barn.  We heard an announcement over the loudspeaker about Push Down & Turn and we ran over to see their set.  We were practically the only ones there.   We laughed, wondering if they were thinking to themselves, “What are we doing here?” while playing for no one off in the corner. 

After that I started to see them more regularly, usually at The Rathskeller.  A core group from work would go so we had our own little group of “groupies.”  From there, PDT played more at The Patio in Broad Ripple.  They played their own songs and mixed in 80s covers.  They were just a really good, really fun band. 

The lead singer, Jason Brown, was a good frontman with a strong voice.  And a good-looking guy with great hair (whatever the length).  Tay Bourquein was on bass and backup vocals.  I describe him as having a “Cheshire cat” grin.  Also great hair.  His signature song was “I’m Just A Gigolo” if that says anything to you.  Sam King played guitar and also sang backup, but sang solo in a few songs (Prince and Queen to name a couple) and always killed.  Keyboardist Jason Barth was the quiet guy in the back.  I always thought he resembled a thinner Chris Elliot.  Matt DeVore was on drums.  The drummer is always in the background so doesn’t get a lot of attention, and as a result I didn’t notice him much.  That meant he did his job well. 

I have all of their CDs (that I know of).  I have never met them.  However, I have always wondered if they remember me being at their shows, “Hey, the tall girl is here again.” 

After 11 years together, they decided to disband and their last concert was January 18, 2003.  A sad day for all. 

Fast-forward to January, 2016, when I saw on Facebook that PDT was staging a reunion show in April.  I bought my ticket right away.  Then settled in for a tortuous wait until show time.  Last weekend I met former “groupie” Kelly and we made a night of it with dinner at Binkley’s and a drink at HopCat.  Doors opened at 8 p.m. so we wanted to get in early to get a good spot.  There was already a line of about 50 people when we crossed the street right at 8 p.m. 

As we entered, we received a VIP credential (everyone got one) that consisted of a PDT photo in front of The Vogue Theater.  Cool!  Kelly and I both bought tickets that entitled us to a limited-edition T-shirt.  We saw a merchandise table in the corner with one T-shirt hanging up.  After the show Jason Barth started handing them out.  Very cool!    

After 13 years, it was like they had never been away.  They sounded amazing and even showed old footage from television and their own home movies during their break.  And they all looked great.  Kelly and I were right up front for the whole show. 

Kelly and me before the show.  We're so excited, and we just can't hide it!  

We stood in front, but off to the side, so as not to block anyone's view (one of my tall rules to live by).  

The place was packed!

If I may be so bold, I have to say that this may be the best concert I will attend this year.  Oh, I love me some Barry Manilow and I am going to see James Taylor later this summer, but I hadn’t seen my PDT for 13 years!  They were awesome.  I was right in front and got a T-shirt. 

To quote one of their most popular songs, “I want to give the gift of music to my friends.”  You most certainly have done so.  Thank you for this wonderful gift!  

Please don't let 13 more years go by!  

Thursday, May 5, 2016

#419 We Got To Pray

Today is the national day of prayer.  Earlier this week my mom called me at work and asked me to send something in for the Indianapolis Star’s “Let It Out” section. 

This is her quote:  “Thursday, May 5 is the national day of prayer and if we ever needed more prayers, it’s definitely now.”

I was raised in a Christian home and prayer has always been a part of my life.  I remember not being able to go to sleep as a child until one of my parents came into my room to say prayers.  There were two standards – “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep” followed by “The Lord’s Prayer.”  Then I would add on a request for God to bless a string of family members. 

As I grew older I didn’t need my parent’s presence any longer, but continued to pray on my own.  To this day, I can’t go to sleep unless I say my prayers after my head hits the pillow.  Wash my face, brush and floss my teeth, say my prayers.  Every night. 

I don’t know how I would stay sane without prayer.  Yes, I still worry a little (ok, sometimes a lot), but I finally get to a point where I just give it up to God.  When I had no idea where to go to college, I asked God to give me a sign.  A street sign and a sweatshirt later, I chose Auburn.  (It did happen to have a good school and a great basketball program.)  When looking for a house, I liked the first one I walked through.  Shouldn’t I look at other houses?  I said a prayer and bid on it, and go it.  I’ve been there over 16 years. 

A couple weeks ago I had a conversation with a co-worker whose husband is a minister.  She has been here maybe six years and I had never heard this story.  When she first started working here, she was assigned to a certain person but, being new, was a little intimidated by their work style.  She didn’t know what to do and prayed, “Lord, I can’t work with this person, please help me figure something out.”  A little time passed and right before she was to really dig in and begin the working relationship, there was a change in some of the assignments and she ended up working with someone else. 

Sometimes prayers are not answered the way you’d like, but that doesn’t mean they are not answered.  “No” or “not now” are answers we don’t like, but God will never give you more than you can handle.  Hang on and He will see you through.  Sometimes what you wanted is not what is best for you. 

When I was drafted in the American Basketball League I wanted to stay close to home and play in Columbus, Ohio.  I was eventually drafted in the last round by Seattle – one of the furthest cities from Indianapolis.  I was happy to be drafted at all, but not happy to be going so far away from home.  I played in Seattle for two seasons it was evident to me very early on that Seattle was the best place for me.  They had the best front office and the most wonderful city.  How could I have wanted to live in Columbus vs. Seattle?  (I’m sure Columbus is a nice city BTW.)

During our current crazy political times, it’s easy to get discouraged and feel like our country is “going to hell in a hand basket.”  I recently came across this video of Andy Stanley that emphasizes the importance of faith, which goes hand-in-hand with prayer.  We pray, having faith that God keeps his promises and knowing nothing can thwart the will of God.  God is in control and can be trusted. 

I am pretty good about praying regularly for my family and friends, but I don’t always think to pray for our country.  Let’s all remember the good ole USA in our prayers.  It is a powerful thing.  We got to pray just to make it today!  

Monday, May 2, 2016

#418 Breakfast Club

This post is not about the 1985 movie, “The Breakfast Club.”  I am actually referring to a Saturday morning activity that takes place on the campus of Purdue University.  Students get up at the crack of dawn (sometimes before the crack of dawn), dress in costumes and line up at the bars to start their day of drinking.  This mostly takes place on football weekends, but also on Grand Prix weekend in April. 

Breakfast Club began in the late 80s, started by bar owners.  Initially there were different versions at different bars, and then the students decided to wear costumes.  Pete’s Bar and Grill was one of the first Breakfast Club bars.  Currently, Harry’s Chocolate Shop is one of the most popular bars in West Lafayette. 

Last year I attended my first Breakfast Club.  The plan was Breakfast Club, then attend the Grand Prix.  Now a little about the Grand Prix - it is billed as the Greatest Spectacle in College Racing.  Like the Indianapolis 500, the race consists of 33 drivers.  Unlike the 500, the cars are go-karts and the length of the race is 50 miles (160 laps).  The current course is modeled after the World Kart Championship Track in Japan.  Previously it was held in the parking lot at Ross-Ade Stadium. 

The weather did not cooperate last year.  It was in the 50s and raining.  I drove to Purdue with my brother, sister-in-law and nephew Friday night, and I spent the night at my niece’s sorority house.  Paul, Lori and Aaron had a hotel. 

As a non-sorority girl, it was fun to stay at the Phi Mu house.  I slept on a futon in Megan’s tiny room, which was near the stairwell door, so the door slammed shut all night.  I had my earplugs so it wasn’t too bad.  I got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, conveniently next door to her room.  I decided to leave in my earplugs so as to not have to smash them in my ears again.  The bathroom had two sides – one with several sinks and toilet stalls, the other side, shower stalls.  So I’m in the toilet stall and I hear someone talking.  I could hear it, but didn’t pay attention with my earplugs in, and I couldn’t understand everything.  As I flushed and exited the stall, a girl was standing there in her “going out” clothes, looking at me, a huge, 46 year-old woman.  She said, “Oh!  I thought you were “Brittany!”  I introduced myself as Megan’s aunt and apologized for not responding, then explained I thought she was talking to someone else.  It was maybe 2 a.m.

Megan and I got up around 5 a.m.  Her sorority sister, Lauren, brought us McDonalds and we got dressed in our costumes.  Not a good choice for a cold day – we were the Silver Twins, the dark-haired baton-twirling girls with the Purdue All-American Marching Band.  (There is the Golden Girl, the Silver Twins and the Girl-in-Black.)  Lauren was the Golden Girl. 

We made our costumes out of gray tank tops sprayed with glitter and sparkly sarongs.  I even scored batons and Megan made sliver P’s for our hair.  Since it was cold we wore our gray Chuck Taylors and white rain jackets.  No pants.  It.  Was.  Freezing.  We got to the Neon Cactus around 6 a.m.  The line was already super long.  We stood there for a couple hours and didn’t move.  I finally had to go to the bathroom and stood in another line inside the laundromat.  At least it was warm.  Although when I went back outside I felt colder than before. 

Outside the Neon Cactus

Paul and Lori were dressed warmly as Minions and Aaron was Gru. 

Our next stop was Harry’s.  We heard it opened at 9 a.m.  When we got there, we found out it actually opened at 10 a.m., so we had to wait another hour.  At least we stood under an overhang so didn’t get wet.  This was the longest morning EVER.  Once inside, we did score some window seats.  And lots of popcorn.  I toyed with ordering food, but the popcorn is free so ate several bags. 

Drinks?  I had a Baltimore Zoo (a Harry’s staple) and a Green Dragon.  The Baltimore Zoo is described as a glorified Long Island Iced Tea without the coke, and like drinking Kool-Aid.  It contains one shot each of vodka, light rum, gin, triple sec, Southern Comfort peach liqueur, amaretto almond liqueur and grenadine syrup, along with one dash each of sweet and sour mix and beer.  Tasty!  Harry’s is said to have the best. 

I can’t find a specific recipe for Harry’s Green Dragon, but it’s a bunch of liquor in a cup and it’s green.  And good!

So we hung out at Harry’s for about five hours.  It was warm, we had popcorn, and I was feeling good.  The Grand Prix was cancelled due to weather so we had no place to go anyway.  Eventually we all got in Lori’s car to drive back to Megan’s.  Even with our jackets on, Megan and I still got glitter all over the inside of Lori’s new car.  Whoops!  (She’s still not happy about it!) 

Back to present day - this year I skipped the early-morning drinking and instead arrived for mid-morning/early afternoon drinking.  We hit Brothers and Harry’s.  I also didn’t dress up this year.  I considered dressing as the girl on the Big Comfy Couch, but since Paul and I drove up that day, I thought by the time we got there Megan would be done with the bars.  She and her boyfriend, Taylor, dressed as Bananas in Pajamas. 

The weather was much improved from last year.  Sunny and warm, and in the high 60s. 

Brothers was lots of fun.  Very loud, but fun.  They played music videos – a video jukebox of sorts, and they played mostly 80s music.  I was pleased to see most of the students knew all the words!  Even County Road Take Me Home!  They may not know who John Denver is, but they know the song.  It warmed my heart.  They even played Lee Greenwood’s, “God Bless The USA.”  Paul and I each had a double Bloody Mary. 

We moved on to Harry’s (we were getting hungry) and slid in with Megan’s friends who already had a table upstairs.  This time I followed Megan’s suggestion and got a Grateful Dead.  Again, don’t know what’s in it, but she said it is similar to the Green Dragon but tastes like cherry.  Very good as well.  And this time I felt the effects (just a tiny bit dizzy).  I also successfully did my cherry-tying trick in near record time.  

Paul and I left Harry’s, got some lunch and made it to the race this year.  (For the record, we walked to lunch and then on to the parking lot by Ross Ade to catch the shuttle to the race.)  It was very exciting!  Cars No. 1 and 4 ran very close and battled it out for first/second place.  Car No. 1’s driver won the past three years and was trying to be the first four-time winner.  Car No. 4 was a rookie from IUPUI.  Car No. 1 eventually won – Jimmy Simpson.  It was a good race and the weather was perfect. 

Don't think I could fit in there!

Team 3270
Lori’s brother helps out with one of the teams so we hung out after the race with him and his wife Candy.  Those cars are super small.  Some interesting facts – the tires are used for the whole race.  They come in a set and are not changed out during the race.  The cars do pit, also like Indy car, but to get more fuel, they exchange fuel tanks.  They take out the entire fuel tank and replace it with a full one.  And they only need to do it once during the race. 

Megan was napping when we got back to her apartment so we said a quick goodbye and went home.  Most of the students do not attend the race.  They dress up, drink and then go home to sleep it off.  There was a good crowd out at the track though, but it is probably more skewed toward alumni and family. 

Another successful Breakfast Club Weekend!