Remember the fun days of summers from your youth? Well, they’re still there, even if these days we are mainly occupied with work, achievement, and all sorts of other important things. However, after watching this summer youth program along the Potomac River yesterday, I started to think about a conversation I once had with my college professor brother. Having asked him why he had chosen to remain a college professor for life in the place he did instead of entering the corporate world to make the big bucks, his reply kind of took me by surprise. He pointed out that while he recognized the earning potential of those who toil at their work all year round, he had made the conscious decision to choose a career where he “had not worked a single summer since his high school graduation.” Summers were his to engage in all sorts of personal projects and activities, and that long-term freedom must certainly have a value that cannot be measured by dollars alone. Fun? Summers off? Freedom? You can only imagine what was going through the head of yours truly, a never-summer-off dedicated public servant who spent most of his professional life in the United States Marine Corps. So here I was with my camera at the Washington Sailing Marina recording how much fun summers can be, thinking about how few of them we will have in our lifetimes, and realizing that my brother was a genius for the choices he made. It took a bunch of laughing, giggling, sun-drenched youth fumbling over sails and choppy waters to remind me of that.
Ever come to the realization that there are just some things that only the young can do? Or should do? Well, I have. And while I would prefer to think of it in terms of growing older and wiser, I hate to admit that this jumping over trash cans and concrete steps was never “my thing.” Not that I could not think of the mechanics involved in such daredevil acts, mind you, but rather that pain (or the possibility of pain) has never been something I willingly accepted as part of growing up. These folks downtown Washington, DC didn’t seem to be too concerned with such mundane things as crashing, smashing your face against a trash can, breaking bones, or painting some of the pavement with their epidermis. Nope, all they seemed to care about was speed and landing on that skateboard after soaring in the sky for a few seconds. And they were pretty good at it too. That they gave me the opportunity to try out a manual-focus camera on a fast-moving sport like skateboarding was even better. Thank you guys!
Are we having fun? Don’t blame you if you feel a little down after hearing what the IRS has been up to lately, but this is a question that we ought to be asking ourselves on a much more regular basis. Walking down the Wales Alley in Old Town Alexandria yesterday with my camera, I was asking myself that very question when I came face-to-face with this bicycle just outside the old Bike and Roll shop. Not that taking pictures on a beautiful sunny day is not fun, but rather that seeing this old, so-called Penny-farthing bike made me think of the innocent fun we used to have when we were young. Fear of a broken arm? Nope. Knee scratches? Survived plenty of those. Helmet? You’ve got to be kidding. Did we survive our dangerous youth? Yeap. Carefree days zooming down the neighborhood streets on a wobbly bike, and with lots of dreams in our heads. It is refreshing to remember who I was before I became who I am now. And the more I think about it, the more I’m convincing myself that I just may have to give this Penny-farthing bike a try after all. Wish me luck.
You know Washington, DC is a sports city when you walk around the White House on a winter day and you come face-to-face with flying hockey sticks and young men trying to recapture some of that High School glory. I have to admit that some of the hockey moves I saw there gave me some disturbing visions of medical traction equipment and year-long therapy sessions, but you have to admire anyone that can skate on concrete as if their feet were being moved by subterranean magnets. After all, I don’t think I could move that fast even if a tsunami were chasing me. But there they were, oblivious the the curious gaze of strangers, moving like Michael Jordan on ice (well, you get the idea), and reminding the rest of us of all the beauty and spontaneity of youth. Funny how that feeling never dies, or grows old, even if our knees are not what they used to be. I’m glad that there are things that time will never change.
Watching the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon from the sidelines this past month, I couldn’t help but be extremely impressed by the number of runners who dared to venture out on a cold October morning to reach that magic 26.2 mile mark. Like most sane people around the world, I have never attempted such a feat, as my knees would surely buckle within the first few miles. Nevertheless, as I patiently waited in the dark for the runners by Key Bridge in Georgetown, I couldn’t help but think of a famous essay I had read many years ago on the issue of transportation, movement, and speed. The name of this brilliant essay was “A ramble to Africa,” by Mary Rhydwen, an Australian adventurer who had sailed to Africa from Western Australia. She had submitted the essay in 2001 for the Economist magazine essay competition based on the topic of “Going faster, but where?” You see, Ms. Rhydwen won the competition not by writing about going faster anywhere, but rather by writing about the virtues of slowing down in your journey. As the first group of elite runners bolted past me at a lightning running pace which I’m sure nature had reserved for cheetahs and gazelles, I couldn’t help but think of what Ms. Thydwen would have made of all this rush to the finish line. Don’t know, but something tells me that she would have told those runners that slowing down to a “ramble” in order to enjoy all that was around them would have been a more rewarding experience, even if that meant forsaking the medal at the end.