Welcome Return-Guest Blogger Richard Galgano “Fantasy Football”

My son started a fantasy football league this year. I was in a fantasy baseball league about 15 years ago. My co-workers needed an extra team and nominated me for the role. I was clueless about the process and looked at my record more than halfway through the season. As expected, I was in last place and discovered that the manager needs to alter the lineup daily to make sure the players are actually playing that day. I managed to improve a bit but remained in the cellar.

Trying to learn from past experience, I decided to do a little research (very little, about 5 minutes.) Each team drafts players and selects a quarterback, wide receivers, running backs, tight ends, a defense and a kicker. There are a few reserve spots as well. When selecting players, especially the reserves, one must account for bye weeks when the actual player’s team is off. We had a draft, scheduled for 9 pm last Thursday. I had slept about four hours the night before and was running on fumes when the draft started.

Players are ranked based on their prior statistics. Highly ranked players are sought after because their statistics (yards gained, passes caught, touchdowns scored, field goals kicked, etc.) are what generate points for your team. About a half hour before the draft, I started reviewing leaders from the 2016 NFL season. I learned that there is a staggering amount of information available and that sophisticated programs mining “big” data create realms of analyses and forecasts. How was I, an analog guy who used a slide rule in high school physics for a semester, going to compete with the high-tech, computer savvy, data mining experts who eat, drink and sleep fantasy football?

I thought for a few minutes and then it came to me in a series of waves, like body surfing at the shore. I considered words of advice from great coaches like Vince Lombardi, Hank Stram and Don Shula, and remembered Joe Namath’s 1968 New York Jets thoughts about facing the heavily favored Baltimore Colts. Lastly, I recalled sage wisdom from “Moneyball” and decided there might be a way for fantasy football underdogs to compete.

  • Some people try to find things in this game that don’t exist but football is only two things – blocking and tackling. Vince Lombardi
  • Football is a game of recognition. Each team must determine what the other team is doing before it knows how to respond. Hank Stram
  • What do you do against a team which is bigger, faster, stronger and more aggressive? You use it against them, you trick them. Don Shula
  • (Referring to the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Superbowl III) Why would they change anything? For the Jets? They’re not gonna change anything? Joe Namath (More on Broadway Joe in a future post.)
  • People are overlooked for a variety of biased reasons and perceived flaws. … I believe there is a championship team … because everyone overlooks them like an island of misfit toys. Moneyball

Knowing professional and fantasy football are big business, I decided to treat this as a business, and developed a set of guiding principles for my team.

  • Focus on fundamentals
  • Do your own research and draw your own conclusions
  • Disguise your strengths
  • Evaluate players’ stats in context
  • Trust your intuition

After getting the “okay” to manage a team, it was time to get to work. Searching for a name, I thought about menacing names like “Genghis Kahn” or “Hammerhead Sharks,” but thought this would not help us keep a low profile. I opted for something a bit personal and disarming, possibly humorous and deceptive. “Rich’s Relics” immediately came to mind. Think about the advertising possibilities. Finally! A team which could attract interests from funeral homes. Our team slogan: “You don’t scare us. We survived decomposition.”

I needed a head coach. With an upstart team, there could be only one person who could fill the role — the late, great Sid Gilman. Gilman was an innovative coach for the Chargers as well as other teams and wore a bow-tie on the sidelines.

Next I wanted a veteran presence on my team, someone who epitomized toughness and coolness under pressure. The ultimate competitor and veteran. A man who could play two positions, quarterback and kicker. After doing a little checking, I signed Hall-of-Fame player George Blanda to a one year minimum contact. Well, he’s actually dead so I signed his remains. Actually, he hasn’t signed it yet but I’m hoping no one will notice and will try to make an “X” with his skeleton holding the pen. He was 48 when he retired so I don’t think anyone will be expecting him to look all that spry in uniform. (Full disclosure: I loved watching George Blanda. He won the MVP trophy in his 40s by winning a bunch of games in the last minute for the Oakland Raiders.)

I thought about our offensive strategy and decided we couldn’t run the modern NFL offense. Nowadays everyone uses the quarterback in the “shotgun” formation (not directly behind the center) for most plays. We could try the “I” formation or even the “Wishbone” — these formations may be vaguely familiar to some of my co-owners. I decided to bring back the “Single Wing” formation introduced by Pop Warner. Although there are a few devotees who still use the system, it went out of style after WWII. As we only play our opponents once per season, they won’t know what hit them.

The first round was ready to start and I had the 5th draft choice. Quickly going over the numerous athletes, one name caught my eye. He wasn’t top ranked but something about his name rang true. Fozzy. Fozzy Whittaker. Who could resist? Fozzy played college ball at Texas and was with Cleveland during his rookie year. He’s been with the Carolina Panthers for the last 3 years. Last year he ran the ball for 265 yards and caught 25 passes for 226 yards. Among all players, Fozzy was 68th in the NFL in total rushing and 186th in receiving yards. However, if you look at his trends, you will see that his productivity has increased in the last two years in Carolina.
Year        Rushes        Yards Rushing      Receptions       Yards Receiving
2015             35                      108                         12                        64
2016             57                      265                         25                      226

If he continues to improve at this rate, he should rush for 650 yards and receive 800 yards in 2017. That would put him among the league leaders!

Back to the draft. I looked at some players who had middle-of-the-pack ratings. Rob Gronkowski was among them. Although he’s been injured a few times, when healthy, Gronk is almost unstoppable. Perhaps, just maybe, the computer rankings don’t reflect a player’s true value. Could this be used to identify undervalued players?

In my youth I was a true football fan and was up-to-date on the standings and stats. Now-a-days, I’m a casual fan. I live near Boston and am most familiar with the Patriots. Julian Edelman was lost to the season because of a knee injury and I guessed that Chris Hogan would be getting a lot more action. Hogan was a lacrosse player in college and has become a good wide receiver. He averaged almost 18 yards per catch last year so I thought he would be another sleeper.

After a couple more rounds of surprises, my eyes were almost shut. The computer “selected” the rest of my team and I went to bed.

The next day I received an email of my draft. They gave me a “D” and the experts predict I’ll go 2 and 12. However they did remark: “Not a great draft. Or was it? Maybe you know something no one else does. A true underdog. If so, maybe you’re Toyota Hall of Fame material. Nominate yourself now.

I deferred nominating myself for the “Hall” but am keeping the option open for later in the season. Now, just a bit more work to do. Find a backup defense and kicker and start begging the Carolina Panthers to give Fozzy the ball!

Football Fan & Guest Blogger Richard Galgano

September 10, 2017

QUICK NEWS COVERAGE UPDATE FROM A MAN WITH NO DRY CLOTHES SHOVELING AGAINST THE TIDE — WELCOME BACK GUEST BLOGGER RICHARD GALGANO

“If one more plow fills in my driveway while I’m standing in it…”

Armageddon Storm Team 6 update: “It’s still snowing.” Thank God. I couldn’t tell with all that white stuff pelting my windows. So far, 24-plus inches have fallen. I’m grabbing a bite to eat and trying to warm up – for the past hour I’ve been attacking the glacier at the end of my drive. The glacier appears to be winning.

One of the city barns is on my street. All the trucks in our end of town have to drive by to get back to the barn to reload with sand, and so our street is always well-plowed. The disadvantage is that there is a whopping 10 feet of hard packed snow in our driveway.

Special Alert: As all the meteorologists are working, the broadcast cuts back and forth between them. One meteorologist standing outside near a highway, just announced, “When it’s snowing hard and it is very windy, you can’t see far.” She also said, “When there is a ban on driving in the Commonwealth, the highways tend not to have many cars on them.” God, what an education I’m getting.

Cut to the beach. It’s snowing.

Breaking news: “If it snows a lot, it can get deep.”

Ahhh! Something different! The station is now advertising their continuous coverage of the storm as well as cell phone apps.

Oh, Thank God… a real commercial!

Here’s something: One of the Armageddon Storm Team 6 vans is reporting and broadcasting as they drive down a local street. Sure hope the camera operator isn’t the driver. Oh well. It must be considered an essential vehicle. I wonder if they could pick me up a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.

More news: “If you see the snow blowing sideways really fast, it’s probably windy.”

Change of pace: The regular news anchors are talking about… (wait for it), the weather!

We are at number 8 of the biggest snowfall totals of all time. Worcester is at number 3 all time. The airports are the official measuring points. I’m guessing they didn’t record the Ice Ages because there were no airports then.

Back to the beach. Do I see someone surfing? It must be the total white-out conditions wreaking havoc on my brain.

I changed channels; a rerun of a 70s police drama is on. Those ties are back in style.

None of my four pairs of gloves are dried yet; I can’t go back out. Why aren’t Dunkin’ Donuts delivery vehicles considered “essential”?

I need a change of pace. Time to flick on the radio and get the latest on Deflate Gate.

Richard Galgano

January 27, 2015

KEEP IT OPEN!

I love Lick Observatory. It was built well over a hundred years ago on a peak that is 4,200 feet high in the Diablo Range to the east in San Jose. There are a number of domes at the observatory, and you can see them on the ridge from downtown San Jose and from around Silicon Valley.

Recently, the newly-hired President of the University of California, Ms. Janet Napolitano, announced that the facility will be closing for financial reasons. Since 1888, the University of California has operated Lick Observatory. Citizens, scientists, students, business leaders and political lawmakers have drafted letters and begun campaigns to save the observatory. Today, my U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren was one of 35 members of California’s Democratic Congressional delegation that urged the U.C. President to keep the observatory open. The text of the press release can be found at this address: http://lofgren.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=377280.

I, too, have written to Ms. Napolitano, and explained to her the positive impact this institution has had, and continues to have, on San Jose, greater Silicon Valley, the UC System, and the larger, global community. As a San Jose resident, I have felt a swelling of pride every time I have read an announcement, such as a discovery of a planet, hailing from the local observatory. I have driven up there many times over the years, for daytime tours of the facility and for evening summer programs. Years ago, in 1986 to be precise, I and many, many others drove the long and winding road built in the 1870s at a seven per-cent grade because that was the maximum for horses pulling large loads. Independently, people all over Santa Clara County chose the one viewing area they knew to be the best. The good people working at Lick Observatory did not sanction this event; it just happened. While most of us that night may have been unsophisticated in the night sky, two points were a given: First, Halley’s Comet was worth seeing, and second, Lick Observatory was the best place to view it unobscured, since it was soon to leave our field of view and not return for another 75 years. I am certain that no one drove down the mountain that night disappointed. Mars was gorgeous, too, if memory serves me correctly.

When touring the Lick facility, with its beautiful observatory buildings, the guide will probably tell you there are 365 curves in the road, one for every day of the year. True, it’s not the easiest road to drive, but can you imagine doing it on horseback or in a wagon? Once there, it’s an amazing sight. I remember looking east from atop this vantage point some years ago, clearly seeing the snow-covered mountains of the Sierra Nevada range, about 130 miles away. Instantly, that image was indelibly captured in my mind’s eye. And while there is an old photograph that was taken from Mt. Hamilton of the Sierra Nevada range on display inside the visitors’ center, it’s the night-time work that goes on there that is, well, stellar. Just a very few of the discoveries at Lick are moons of Jupiter, asteroids, and planet systems, and now Lick scientists are using the first ever robotic telescope to find planets near stars close to earth. (http://news.ucsc.edu/2014/03/apf-telescope.html)

Lick Observatory is a jewel, physically, and metaphorically. It is the vista I seek every time I am a few blocks away from my home in my urban neighborhood in San Jose, and can look out to see the Diablo Range, and specifically, the highest point capped with white domes. The history of the observatory is fascinating. The science is top-notch. What I find inspirational is that as Silicon Valley is home to thinkers and scientists working on the most minute of scales, with computer designs smaller and operations faster, thinkers and scientists at Lick Observatory use the same precision to make discoveries in the largest of fields, our solar system and universe. It is fitting that San Jose, and Santa Clara Valley, be called “home” to the industry of science representing both scales of exploration.

I know that other sources of funding are being explored and ascertained by business and government leaders, and as a citizen, I urge you to keep this monument to history, science, and our future, fully operational. There are ways we can all help. Below I’ve added a few links so you can see for yourself this historic, remarkable facility that continues to do fabulous work.

If you’re a history buff, or if you just like a good tale, you’ll enjoy reading about the man, James Lick. There’s intrigue in this bio; he survived a storm at sea in South America only to be taken prisoner, and then made his escape. There’s a lot of talk of gold, and some of heartbreak, and idiosyncrasies (Lick had trees planted upside-down!), and chocolate, Domingo Ghiradelli’s chocolate, to be exact. James Lick figures prominently in the gorgeous Conservatory of Flowers open today in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. He almost had a giant pyramid built, but thankfully, science won that argument and the observatory came into being. Go to:
http://collections.ucolick.org/archives_on_line/James_Lick.html

Click on the following link for fabulous photos: http://collections.ucolick.org/archives_on_line/bldg_the_obs.html

If you live in the area or are planning a trip, you can hear some great music this summer at 4,200 feet. The “Music of the Spheres” Concert series, held annually each summer, gives you two great reasons to visit Lick Observatory. Not only do you get to enjoy a concert, you will also observe through the Great Lick Refractor and the Nickel Reflector. Go to : http://www.ucolick.org/public/music.html

Lick Observatory offers another wonderful program each summer. You can observe through both the 36-inch Great Lick Refractor and the Nickel 40-inch Reflecting Telescope. Also, you will hear two speakers who will present programs even if the clouds or fog prohibit viewing. Check the web site for further information and to buy tickets, which are very reasonably priced. The Summer Visitors Program information is found at: http://www.ucolick.org/public/sumvispro.html

Whether you can get to Lick Observatory or not, you can help save it. Click on the link below to join “Friends of Lick Observatory.” http://www.ucolick.org/public/friends/index.html

Or, you can go to this page to: Make a donation; Get the address of UC President Janet Napolitano so you, too, can write to her; and Get the address of the UC Regents to send them some mail. But here’s what I really love — Lick Observatory wants to hear from you. Do you have any ideas to save this treasure? Click on: http://www.ucolick.org/SaveLick/help_save_lick.html

Thanks, folks.

Kathy Galgano
April 24, 2014

 

 

 

WELCOME GUEST BLOGGER NANCY WURDEN — TODAY WE WEAR GREEN FOR ST. PADDY, BUT WEDNESDAY WE WEAR RED FOR ST. JOE

Today, as we celebrate the life of a Roman named Patrick who brought the Christian faith to the Emerald Isles, I’m really looking forward to Wednesday, March 19, and the Feast of St. Joseph. If you are from the Southwest or California, you probably know him as San José.

I am not belittling Patrick. I have admiration for him, and Patrick has an amazing story. I am also wearing green in his honor, although I don’t have a drop of Irish blood.

There is simply something about St. Joseph that catches my imagination. My Italian heritage probably also plays a part in my admiration.

The folks from Mediterranean lands have been celebrating St. Joseph for centuries. Sicilians prayed to Joseph to relieve them from famine centuries ago, and his day is celebrated with feasting. Italians wear red to honor Joseph. More importantly, March 19 is close enough to the Spring Equinox to be considered the beginning of Spring. My dad would plant his tomato seeds in little pots and grow them under the lights, always on St. Joseph Day. In California, it’s the day that the swallows return to San Juan Capistrano.

But there’s more to the story of Joseph that inspires me. Much of it is based on tradition, as the Gospel stories are inconsistent and don’t give us much information. Joseph is the husband of the Virgin Mary, and thus, based on Christian tradition, is the earthly father of Jesus. Joseph is believed to have been a carpenter, or a worker in wood or metal. He probably taught his skills to Jesus.

But that’s still not the point. Based on tradition, Joseph married a pregnant Mary, and it wasn’t Joseph’s child. Why would he do that? He had a legal right to send her quietly away, but, after a dream or vision, he stepped forward and undertook the responsibility for her and the child. He moved beyond his comfort, what he knew and respected, and past his fear, to something surpassing comprehension.

Then we see him traveling with her to Bethlehem for a census. I have traveled in the luxury of a modern automobile on well-paved roads while pregnant. Most of the time, I was queasy and uncomfortable. Now imagine a trip, probably on foot (some art depicts Mary on a donkey) over dirt roads for miles. Joseph was responsible for getting them there safely.  

Mary gave birth to the baby in Bethlehem (we all know the story). They probably stayed there a couple of years. It was enough time to get settled, get some work, support the family, and give the baby time to grow before enduring another long, dirty, exhausting trip back home.

And then Joseph is warned in a dream (by God or an angel) that a jealous King Herod, alerted by three learned visitors from the East, is searching for the baby Jesus to kill him. So Joseph takes Mary and Jesus and they go to Egypt. That’s a very long trip to a foreign country where they don’t know the language, don’t know anybody, and don’t know what to expect. No doubt, no hesitation. Strictly on faith, Joseph goes.

At this point you are thinking, “Joseph’s a carpenter; he’s in construction. He can always get a job.” Probably so. We don’t know. The point is — he was faithful. Faithful to his God, faithful to his family. He didn’t give in to his doubts. He did what he was asked.

A few years later Joseph is told in another dream that Herod is dead and it is time to return. So back they go, but they don’t settle in Bethlehem — it’s too close to Jerusalem and another nasty king. Joseph takes them north to Galilee and they settle in Nazareth. Another new town, this time a very small town, but close to a large city that was rebuilding — good work for a carpenter.

And the next time we hear from Joseph, it’s when Jesus is 12. Mary and Joseph and Jesus went to Jerusalem, and they thought Jesus was in the group returning home. He wasn’t. If you have ever “lost” your child at the mall or the supermarket for a few seconds, you know what fear is. (One of my kids liked to play hide and seek in the middle of the round clothes carousels at the mall. Talk about panic! ) So Jesus is who knows where, lost in the Big City. Mary and Joseph must have been a mess. Anyway, Joseph takes charge, goes back to Jerusalem with Mary, and they find Jesus in the Temple teaching. At that point I would probably have hit the roof, but tradition tells us that Joseph remained patient, even when the pre-teen Jesus makes comments about being about “his father’s business.” Staying calm when your kids are being kids: something else to admire.

The Gospels don’t mention Joseph at the death and burial of Jesus. Legend tells us that Mary and Jesus surrounded Joseph at Joseph’s death. A quiet, peaceful death after a long, faithful life.

And here I would like to propose that Joseph was “obedient.” He listened to that “clear, small voice” that we often do not let ourselves hear, and knew that he was being called to do great, but difficult things. Without the faith to be obedient, Joseph’s life, and by extension Mary and Jesus’ lives, would have been disastrous. Obedience in our modern age is a negative concept. Civil disobedience is played out daily on the international news. Parents worry about obedient children falling prey to predators. And yet without obedience, we would all run red lights and refuse to pay our taxes. We would have anarchy.

Back to Joseph. Joseph is considered the patron of workers including craftsmen, engineers, and working people in general. He is the patron of families, fathers, and mothers, including expectant mothers. He is the patron of a happy death. He is the patron of San José, California, and any other town or church named in his honor.

A real estate superstition considers him the patron of house buyers and sellers. I’ve never heard my mother laugh so loud and long as when we were told by a relative to bury a statue of St. Joseph upside down in the yard so she would sell the old family house quickly. She didn’t bury the statue, and the house sold.

I am an American Girl doll collector. If your daughter has read the American Girl books about Josefina, you should know that Josefina was born on March 19 and is named for her saint’s day — San José.  (Josefina is a Spanish-speaking American Girl, and comes from the Santa Fe area when New Mexico was still part of Old Mexico.) It’s also my friend Josie’s birthday; her real name is Josefina. She was born on March 19, and named for her saint’s day.

Here in New Mexico, the traditional painted santos (or carved figure of a saint) of San Jose Patriarco (Saint Joseph the Patriarch) depicts him dressed in green and gold, holding the baby Jesus, and carrying a flowering staff. Local tradition has it that when Joseph was asked what the name of Mary’s child should be, he said “His name shall be Jesus” and his walking stick burst into flower. It’s a beautiful story.

Regardless of your faith or beliefs, or whether you hold the stories about Joseph as history or legend, I believe that there is much you can admire about Joseph. He was a man of principal and faith. He didn’t let his doubts keep him from acting and moving forward. He was a devoted family man. He was an industrious worker. He understood what was called of him, and was obedient. And he left this world without regret and in peace.

So on Wednesday, March 19, remember Joseph. Think of spring and the swallows returning to Capistrano. Think about wearing red in his honor, and celebrating.

Nancy Wurden

March 17, 2014

WELCOME BACK, GUEST BLOGGER RICHARD GALGANO – A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE TRACK MEET, PART II

I arrived at the Reggie Lewis Indoor Track for day 2 of the United States Track and Field (USATF) master’s national championship just after the events began. I checked in, informed the official that I wouldn’t be running the mile as I had planned months ago, and then learned there were enough volunteers for the day. Looking around, I saw some members of Mass Velocity Track Club, my team, and joined them in the bleachers. I met several teammates for the first time and watched the events. The 60 meter sprints, long jump and pole vault were in progress.

I’m not sure what is more impressive: watching graceful, athletic and powerful middle-age sprinters fly down the track or seeing the very elderly athletes do their sprints. There were world and American records set and frequent applause and lots of oohs and aahs. Occasionally an athlete would do something really spectacular and the air would be filled with cheers. Everyone seemed to know everyone and athletes mingled and renewed acquaintances. I met people who were world-class athletes in their twenties and thirties and heard some great stories. Although the competition is fierce, the friendships are deeper.

I was sitting next to a woman who hails from Australia. Her husband was entered in the long jump and the 200 meter relay. They now live near Washington, DC and we chatted about DC, Boston and Australia. We joked about the trials and tribulations of masters athletes and she laughed when I told her about my ill-fated attempts at long-jumping and breaking my rib high-jumping. She recommended that it may be best for me to stay away from pole vaulting just as the first vaulter made his approach.

If you have never seen the pole vault in person, it’s awesome. As the athletes takes flight, the pole bends backwards under their weight. It then recoils and you can see the force applied to the vaulters as they are thrust upward and forward. Feet above head, they somehow turn their bodies around and then fall backwards onto the mat. Occasionally a vault will not go as far as planned and the vaulter will have to adjust on the fly to make sure he or she lands on the mat. Michael Jordan was noted for his “hang time” when soaring in the air for a dunk. His maximum time aloft was calculated to be 0.92 seconds. One of the male pole vaulters cleared 14 and 1/2 feet and he was in the air for a long time. I found myself holding my breath every time an athlete made an attempt.

One of my favorite events to watch is the shot put. One doesn’t throw the shot put like a ball. Doing so would probably rip your shoulder out of the socket. I’ve tried doing the event a little, mostly to help coach children. Depending on the sex and age, the shot can weigh 16 lbs. It’s a very technical event and the putters aren’t just strong but also explosive. As a distance runner, I resemble Charles Atlas before he started working out. The “weight people” are BIG. Their arms are larger than my thighs. However, they are also graceful and have great balance. I’ve seen them train on balance beams. Most of them are also very fast. I raced some high school weight athletes last year over 40 meters and it wasn’t even close.

While the sprints were underway, I started thinking of entering the mile. Although I wasn’t prepared, I was well-rested (an old runners joke). There was a chance that I would be on a relay team later in the afternoon. Our team had a couple runners interested and being a warm body in the right age group could mean a ticket to race. A couple teammates encouraged me to enter the mile and I went back to the official table to let them know. I changed into my red singlet and running shorts, put on my warm up clothes and started to jog. I had also gotten the word that yes, indeed, I would be racing on a relay team later in the day. One of the problems of being 55 is the length of time it requires to warm up. It’s kind of like starting an old car in the middle of winter. Sometimes I wonder if there will be any energy left to race after warming up. After about 15 minute of jogging I went into the gym and started to do my dynamic warm ups (leg swings, skips, drills designed to prepare one for action). I ran a series of short strides to get used to moving faster than snail pace and went over to the starting area. Unlike road races where one can warm up until a couple minutes before the start, track races require some standing and waiting for your race. The trick is to stay warm while waiting. My age group was pretty large and we had two sections. The slower one usually goes first and I was in the first group. I shook hands with a few of the runners and lined up. The gun went off and I tried to run with effort but sensibly. I was near the back quickly and went through the first 200 meters in 50 seconds or 6:40 pace. This was much slower than I planned a year ago but was hoping it wasn’t too fast for my lack of training. I stayed on this pace for a few laps and while working, I wasn’t gasping either. Some of the faster runners started to pass me but my teammates were scattered around the track and I heard their encouragement. I finished in 6:40 and walked off the track and got a drink.

Running two events is a rarity for me. The last time I tried it, the second race was torture. I decided to jog for a bit then stretch. I hydrated and had a small snack and then went to watch more runners. Inactivity can increase the muscle tightness and an hour before our race I headed back to the gym for a warm up. My muscles were already a bit tight and I thought about Bill Cosby and the can of 3 in 1 oil in his go-cart skit.* (Bill Cosby was a fine athlete who competed for Temple University.) I got as loose as I could and went back to the track.

Teams of relay runners waited on the infield for their races to begin. The wait was longer than expected for my team’s relay race and we all started to tighten up a bit, so we tried to jog in place a little. Some teammates, aware of my injuries, gave me valuable training advice during the wait. The race officials had combined two age groups for this race because seven teams total had entered. In this race, 4 teams were in the 40-49 age group, and 3 in the 50-59 age group, my group. All we had to do was get the baton around the track and we would score points for our team. I was going to run the 2nd leg. My teenaged children had arrived to watch. They both run in high school and we were doing a bit of role-reversal. As a parent and volunteer assistant track coach, it’s good to feel their “pain” once in a while. I’ve learned not to yell “Go faster!” at their races. (I’m waiting for the day when a runner stops and yells back, “If I could go any faster, I would!”)

The runners in the first leg lined up at the start. On the outside of the track near the start, the runners in the second leg formed a group. The third and fourth leg runners also formed groups. My teammate took off and stayed with the main pack through his leg. Relays can be a bit of organized chaos at the exchanges, especially for the sprints, but ours went smoothly. I took the baton (French for “stick”) and accelerated. “Don’t sprint. Don’t sprint,” I told myself, and resisted the urge to go at full speed. I didn’t see the clock as I took off and had no idea of my pace. Going down the back stretch of the first of my four laps, I smiled and thought, “This is a blast.” The first 200 meter lap went okay but a little fatigue started to develop at 400 meters. I was running harder than in the mile but didn’t know if my pace was faster or slower. My rib felt okay. A couple runners lapped me on the back turn during lap 3 and I hoped they were in their 40s. Heading down the home stretch with one more lap to go I was breathing really hard and straining and went through the checklist: “Stay relaxed, lower your shoulders, stay on your toes, don’t drop the baton.” Was my son going to yell, “Use it now!”? (His coach will do this.) I tried to accelerate in the last lap but was probably avoiding slowing down. The final 100 meters seemed to last a long time but the hand-off went okay and my race was finished.

Back on the infield, still breathing hard, we cheered our teammates. We finished 3rd in our group (10 minutes 27 seconds) but were in the same lap as the other two teams. My split was 2 minutes 50 seconds, only 2 seconds slower than my best! We took some team photos, shook hands with each other and the other teams and enjoyed the moment. I picked up a bronze medal and headed home.

Woody Allen was right. “90% of life is showing up.” I don’t care that we were assured of finishing third in my age group (assuming we finished) and that I got to run, in part, by virtue of being a warm body. I got a chance to compete at Nationals and came away with hardware.

Richard Galgano, D.O.

March 16, 2014

* “Reached into my pocket and pulled out my trusty can of 3 in 1 oil.” From the sketch, “Go Carts” on Bill Cosby’s 1966 album Wonderfulness. Go buy it. Trust me; you’ll be happy you did.

NOTE FROM KATHY GALGANO  My brother, running with a busted rib and recovering from just about everything, ran the mile, not in record time for running athletes, but really fast in my book, at a beautiful 6 minutes, 40 seconds and fraction change. Then, he ran the 4 men 800 meters relay, and the team racers picked up team points, and carried away the bronze medal. How cool is that! Image

For a picture of Richard running the relay, go to http://johnkeklak.smugmug.com/Trackandfield/2014-USA-Masters-Indoor-Track/Day-2-2pm-End-of-Day-4×200/37776473_xNMddJ#!i=3129126944&k=3FDm8D3&lb=1&s=M

I Woke Up Wanting to Write Again

I woke up wanting to write again. It has been a long time, and I dearly missed my old friend, that part of me that on earlier occasions had multiple pieces all whirling around my head at the same time, taking shape with each spin.  As themes and descriptions and story lines brightened with each mind lap, the hardest part was choosing what not to write. Some pieces would just have to swirl a little longer.

It didn’t happen overnight. It took a matter of weeks and the ideas slowed and I felt tired. I jotted several things down, but didn’t publish. Then I just stopped writing. I even stopped looking at my blog’s Stats page where I follow how many readers look at my site, and from which country they hail. I didn’t have interest in knowing which themes my readers preferred. Yes, I still had a few ideas swirling, but they weren’t taking form.

This lapse, something like a little death, came after a dear friend of mine passed. She had been ill for years, but referred to her illness as “an inconvenience” and stated numerous times, “I don’t do ‘sick’ well.” We saw a lot of each other, including spending a good deal of time in the car driving to and from the hospital. We hung out in clinic rooms together when she received treatments. We laughed a lot, and once in a while grew testy at each other, as good friends sometimes do. We shared stories of our families, our kids, and her grandbabies. How she adored her grandchildren.  After settling into a treatment room, and after a tech had taken vitals and a nurse had visited, my friend would pull out her iPad and we’d watch a new entertaining video of her grandkids. Boy did this make her smile!

At treatments, she and I caught up on TV shows about fashion, and usually we provided our own commentary, verbally ripping apart the garments on the runway and laughing a lot. One time we elected to stay in the clinic an extra ten minutes, after a grueling seven hour treatment day, just so we could see exactly which “whadding dress” (we used to emulate Martin Short’s character, Franck Eggelhoffer, in “Father of the Bride”) the bride-to-be finally chose. We talked about new recipes we cooked up or wanted to try. She brought me up to speed on who is working where and who just moved and who is doing what; it is no surprise that she had more, true, good friends than anyone I have ever known.

We enjoyed the tastiest chocolate chip cookies the hospital bistro served, and in true form, my dainty petite friend savored hers I while I wolfed down mine. We listened to Bill Cosby CDs in the car, and “Noah” and “Ice Cream” and “The Buck Buck Championship of the World” really had us roaring. The nurses and staff looked forward to her appointments and her smile and banter and quick wit. I knew she was well liked; the nurses even hugged me for bringing her.

Recently she had expressed sadness that she couldn’t see some long-time high school friends who were getting together; she had to receive a transfusion that day. She was annoyed. Yet she still acknowledged that while plans for that day weren’t going to gel, she did appreciate that we had become closer friends as a result of all our time in the car and treatment rooms. That was a gift.

And now she has passed and so I grieve. Some days are better than others. That’s normal. Death is a part of life, and what a life! Even on my toughest days I can still smile when I picture my friend laughing, or playing with her grandkids. Her petite frame and giant spirit celebrated life to the fullest. It has been several weeks now since she has passed, and of course, life goes on, although I admit I haven’t felt like participating fully.

But today I woke up wanting to write again. And in so doing, I welcome back a piece of myself that I have sorely missed and truly hoped I would find again soon. In finding this spark, this impulse that I had lost, with the beginnings of a few potential topics starting to swirl in my mind, I hope to bring to my writing the energy, creativity and zest for life my friend brought to her life. I hope to connect with my readers in the way she connected with those in her large circle of family and friends who held her dear. I dedicate this piece to her memory, her spirit, and am grateful for this renewal and connection with my readers again.

Kathy Galgano

February 15, 2014

My New Career

Eureka! At long last, I have selected, definitively, and finally, a career for myself. More than a career – it is an avocation, a way of life, a vocation.  It has been a long-time coming and it feels great! Woo Hoo!

With purpose, gusto and aplomb I have stylishly angled, but sometimes hurriedly plopped on many a scarfed-brim over the years. Like everyone else, I have planned some jobs and career choices, and stepped into others because I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right moment, or because somebody knew me and took pity on me, figuring I wouldn’t do too much damage if they gave me a break. I had no idea I would be a legal secretary, but that was the temp job I scored when trying to put myself through grad school, studying for another professional field. When I moved out of state, I landed a position not in the area for which I had matriculated and amassed debt, but in a law office.

When the kids were in grade school and I spent a lot of time volunteering there, I figured that at some point I would be offered a job. A library aide position opened up; I read a book on the Dewey Decimal System to prepare for the interview. The principal called me the week before and told me about the job. “What qualifications do you have for this position?” she asked. I could have said, “I own a library card.” I could have said, “I’m an English major; I know my way around a library.” But I had the flu, so I responded, “I don’t have any.” There was a pause of about a second, and then I heard, “I encourage you to apply.” The school hired me; I found out why at the end of the interview. “We know you,” they said. They also knew my kids and where I lived, so I tried hard not to get too much hair on the heavy clear tape I used to cover the periodicals to give the dog-eared magazines a longer shelf life.

My new career choice is actually the culmination of all my jobs and experiences, including mothering my children and everybody else’s. Years of work have defined the moment. This chosen path is a result of blending, interlocking, sifting, expunging, moving around, retrieving from the trash, and re-mixing a lifetime of experiences, jobs, educational opportunities, mistakes, talents, faux pas, brain deficits, street smarts, chance meetings, gut feelings, opinions, beliefs, hobbies, conversations, laundry, health, meals, friendships, family and life. It’s the synthesis of my life’s work, whatever that may be. Years ago my dear aunt asked me what I did, and I thoughtfully replied, “I don’t know. But I sure do a lot of it.”

So here it is. My career choice is to be a minion. Not just anybody’s minion, you understand. Not the lackey who daily is relegated to trudge through the hailstorms and blistering heat and hurricane winds to fetch all the office coffees, only to have somebody snatch my own cup of joe because she changed her mind at the last second, without an utterance or hint of apology. No. These minions have no self-respect.

Nor do I want to be that toady-lackey kind of minion. You know the stereotype; it’s the kiss-up who follows somebody of importance around, flattering the heck out of the boss and making oneself important by virtue of being in close proximity to The Important One. It’s the sycophant who makes everybody’s stomach turn, even the folks who steal the coffee they didn’t order.

No. These minions are either regrettable or unforgivable. My kind is that self-assured, happy-skippy sort that uses brains and wit to get the job done, all the while enjoying life and loving the experience. They don’t have to stand out in a crowd. They’re better off in a crowd. Yes. I want to be a Despicable Me minion.

These are the industrious, creative, hilarious dudes who come through for their boss. The boss knows that without his minions, the work just wouldn’t get done. Minions are the critical component to every project, and the boss genuinely cares about them. The only downside of this job is the heavy slapstick formula, but like it or not, I must admit that I do share that specific accident-prone attribute. I’ve noticed over the years that my family has had to fight back chuckles when they inquire if I’m all right.

These denim-clad guys work hard, play hard, and really just don’t get bent out of shape when things go awry. You don’t see minions fretting because they are flying into space on balloons or falling into deep pits. They may utter an “Oh, Poop,” and then get on with it. How many times have I worked myself into a tizzy because I wasn’t able to keep to my ridiculous schedule and get everything done?

Well, minions are my role models now, and I’ve been making a concerted effort to relax more. When things get harried, I try to think like a minion. I’m learning! Here’s proof. We invited friends over for Christmas dinner, asking them to arrive at two o’clock. Well, two o’clock came and we were nowhere near ready. Wrapping paper covered the floor and the place was a mess. I hadn’t even thought about dinner. Did I panic? No!

We welcomed our guests and there were hugs and presents and laughter. Somebody poured beverages for them, and I ran through the obstacle course of packages and paper into the kitchen, and cut up some bacon quiche into bite-sized pieces, arranged them on a festive plate, tossed a few toothpicks into a shot glass and shoved the glass in the center of the plate. Voilà! Hors d’oeuvres.

An hour later, as my dear friend joined me in the kitchen with her glass of wine while I began prepping for dinner, I told her about the minions in the movie. How I would love to be like them! Who wouldn’t? They’re cute and yellow and wear these eye things and crack me up. They’re always smiling and having fun. We laughed when I tried to mimic their speech. Then the conversation moved on to our families and mutual friends and life. When I looked at the clock and realized that Christmas dinner was now going to be a full two hours late, I offered a playful non-apology for my tardiness. I told my friend that while I knew I should be at least a bit embarrassed about not being anywhere near ready for dinner guests, that for the first time in my life, I didn’t care! We both laughed. As long as my guests were comfortable and had something to eat and drink while I worked, that was fine. They were not zooming off to another house anytime soon, and I was going to enjoy every minute of my day. After all, I had just ‘fessed up: I want to be a minion.

My dear friend smiled broadly, and exclaimed to me, “You already are!”

Human Park Minutes (Following “Dog Park Minutes”)

  1. It was agreed upon yesterday evening by the quorum-plus assemblage that members and accompanying two-legged human companions (although no human companions present propelled themselves on one or zero appendages, they would be most welcome nonetheless, as we have noticed that our human companions make note of one of our kind who propels herself aptly with three appendages, and even with that handicap we cannot retrieve our playthings from her) (and any human companion who arrives at the Human Park with tasty morsels in pocket is particularly welcome, followed by playthings, and for one of our members, a laser pointer light for chasing) were enjoying a bit of pleasant weather and that none of our numbers was reduced to ridicule for the donning of a tweed, fisherman knit, or waterproof article of apparel.
  2. It was also generally agreed upon by all members that the addition of the new human companions to the Human Park was most welcome. These first-time visiting human companions immediately engaged in conversation with the other human companions in attendance. It was noted that the well-documented interaction of a human pawshake, while considered among our ranks an activity of questionable value, satisfied the human companions, along with visible non-aggressive teeth showings. The human companions did not, however, offer each other edible treats, nor did any of them sit or roll over at any time. Also, while the new human companions were being welcomed, all members of our quorum-plus assemblage customarily performed the accepted ritual of sniff, and energetically and agreeably accepted the new member within our ranks.
  3. It was also agreed upon by all members that while our personal playthings in our own domiciles are enjoyable, it is far better to promote group activity and personal health and utilize only one, or perhaps two of these playthings offered during our daily post-dinner gatherings at the Human Park. Most importantly, all members unanimously affirmed that human companions would be best served if any playthings held in reserve during these late afternoon meetings were offered for their enjoyment. It was therefore agreed upon that each member temporarily would discharge their personal ownership of their plaything held in reserve for the duration of the time they choose to remain at the Human Park each evening, and offer that plaything to the human companions, so they may feel the warmth and inclusion of the human pack, and engage in liberating running, tumbling, and general physical activity. Members have noted that human companions display more non-aggressive teeth showings when at play. It is for the welfare of the human companions that our members have voluntarily and unselfishly agreed to offer whichever playthings the humans desire during each particular meeting.
  4. It was also noted by one member that his human companion consumes a healthy meal and sleeps most soundly after being fully engaged in physical activity and human conversation with his human pack while at the Human Park.
  5. It was reported that while the human companions tend to become significantly more vocal, using heightened tones and greater decibel-producing sounds, when those among our membership engage in activity in the water-retaining grass and earth area of the Human Park, we do not share their concerns, and have been known to ignore the remarks of said human companions. In fact, the human companions take great pains to avoid these bog-like areas, all the while maintaining clean paws, and clean paw coverings. Unlike the human companions, we find that these areas provide for numerous pleasant activities, such as the rolling in cool watery earth, the burial and retrieval of playthings in this watery earth, and the deep excavation of these geographic areas. In addition, these regions are replete with tasty morsels, and so as the human companions do not enjoy engaging in these areas, we accept their decision and will continue to participate, and actively engage each other in these areas, thereby keeping them for our ranks alone. We accept the human companions’ offering of these areas for our use, and thank them for their consideration and generosity. We consider their offering of these areas for our use to be a lovely gift in exchange for our offer of our playthings for their amusement and physical health. And finally on this matter, the human companions tend to engage in more vibrant and urgent conversation with each other when they witness our happiness in these watery earth areas of the Human Park, and we know that as they are in need of these conversations and connections with members of their own pack, it is a positive experience for all.
  6. It has been observed by multiple members of our group that human companions exhibit signs of stress when one of our playthings is missing. We are thrilled that they take responsibility for the playthings offered to them for their enjoyment, but we are in agreement that it would be best for all involved if they were to observe and practice the art of relaxation. We are resolved to act as role models, and in so doing the human companions may observe, and then emulate our behaviors. It was decided that we need to model key behaviors to help the human companions on their road to relaxation fulfillment, such as rolling in scented regions of the Human Park, and searching for the delectable treats left by students. No human companion would be stressed were they to come upon a gift of beef taco or ham sandwich; however, it is doubtful that any human companion would be able to find them as quickly as any within our membership. Still, if the human companions are up to the challenge, they are welcome to participate in this stress-reducing activity with us.
  7. All members agreed to meet each other and their accompanying human companions on the following afternoon/ early evening. They implored each other to request that their human companions provide savory snacks, to be transported in their pockets, and also to continue to provide playthings during these outings so that the human companions could have an outlet for conversation, exercise and non-aggressive teeth showings. After all, this is their park and their time to socialize.

This account was barked to, and translated by, Kathy Galgano

January 8, 2014

Dog Park Minutes

  1. It was agreed upon yesterday evening by the quorum-plus assemblage that members and accompanying multi-legged canine companions (as one canine companion propels herself with great alacrity on three appendages, the phrase “four-legged companions” would be inaccurate and presumptuous) (and while the phrase “four-legged canine companions” might be considered redundant or at least unnecessary, it does depict an instant image in the mind’s eye), that the slight chill in the air that compelled us to wish we had donned a heavier sweatshirt could be considered akin to a “brisk spring.” It was also agreed upon by said group that as approximately five per cent of the geographic regions in the contiguous forty-eight states reported air temperatures above the freezing point at the same time, and perhaps even above the five degrees Fahrenheit marker, there would be no complaints tolerated regarding the fifty-something degrees Fahrenheit the group experienced at that time.
  2.  It was also generally agreed upon by all members present that the addition of the new canine companion was most welcome. The playful six-month old black lab mix instantly took to play with the other canine companions to the delight of the canines and accompanying parental units alike. The parental units of said playful pup were warmly welcomed by the other parental units in attendance.
  3.  It was reported that the sprinklers watering the field at the nearby secondary school have made the landscape “boggy,” and perhaps one of our members should notify an agent of said secondary institution of learning that a regulation of the ground sprinkling timetable would be in order. The rationale behind this revamping of the sprinkler assignment would be fiscal savings and the conservation of water during this exceptionally dry season. There was no appointment of a representative to notify said school of muddy conditions. The matter was taken under advisement.
  4.  It was offered by another member that while her canine companion enjoys frolicking with much favored orange and glow-in-the-dark balls at said member’s residence, the canine companion prefers interaction with other canine companions’ playthings, even when those preferred are the same as those brought to the field by said parental unit. Other members concurred, offering empathy and insight that this behavior is not uncommon.
  5.  Lastly, it was generally agreed upon by all members present that even with the added daylight of January versus that of a month prior, plus with the existence of street lighting and the lighting provided by the secondary institution of learning, in addition to the use of personal flashlights, it remains a challenge to spot the necessary relief droppings of the beloved canine companions. Multiple parental units were witnessed searching for said droppings, scanning the field methodically, foot by foot, from a northerly to southerly direction. Meanwhile, other parental units were seen searching said terrain for orange and glow-in-the-dark balls, with the latter no longer holding said glow-in-the-dark properties.
  6. All members agreed to meet each other and their accompanying canine companions on the following afternoon/ early evening.

Kathy Galgano

January 7, 2014

HAVE YOURSELF A MESSY LITTLE CHRISTMAS

It’s Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas!

If you’re not feeling it, however, I understand. The holidays are rough.

Painful rifts mean family members aren’t talking. Traveling is miserable. Christmas carols are ridiculously cheerful. People can’t find work. Parts of the country are slammed with storms. Christmas just isn’t the same without family and friends who have passed. A mid-week Christmas means lots of people can’t travel home. Actively deployed service members are in harm’s way. Firefighters and police officers respond to fires and domestic disputes. Loved ones are sick, and hospitalized. If today or tomorrow is your day to receive chemo treatment, then you go to the clinic. Chronic pain sufferers wake up feeling lousy, as usual. Homeless people wake up homeless. People suffering from mental illness don’t get a reprieve. Christmas is messy.

Well, life is messy for 364 days of the year. It’s just not supposed to be messy on Christmas, right? We’ve bought into this myth big time; it’s what the ads show, and the Christmas movies, the cards, and the Christmas carols. But here’s the real news: Christmas day is messy, too. The tradition started off that way; Mary was an unwed, pregnant teen. She could have been stoned for this. Joseph married her, probably enduring ridicule. They traveled to Bethlehem. Now, all you moms out there, surely you remember what doing anything is like in your eighth and ninth month of pregnancy? It’s miserable. Whether or not the couple settled in a stable, or in somebody’s house, the point remains that they had to find somewhere to stay, and Mary gave birth away from home. It’s the Christmas story, and we are celebrating Christmas. And it’s messy.

The weather is crummy in some parts of the country, but nice in others. It’s summer south of the equator. Not all traveling compatriots make you want to scream; some people trade seats on the plane so you and your kids can sit together. The hospital and clinic staffs are cheerful. Transportation crews are working extended hours in lousy conditions, plowing, and re-wiring power lines. You don’t have to listen to chipper carols if you don’t want to, there’s plenty of Christmas music performed in the Blues style. Or you can choose to listen to Christmas music from another culture. Family members can pick up the phone, or email, Skype, or write a note, or light a candle in memory of a loved one, or just think about someone.

It’s Christmas. Mary nursed her baby, and she and Joseph provided the best home they could for their infant. They relied on strangers for help. They persevered, were resourceful, and probably found some humor in the situation. While “tenacity” may not be the word you hear in carols, it’s the real deal. Messy, but real.

Sending you my very best on this Messy Christmas, everybody.

Kathy Galgano

December 24, 2013