Although I’ve seen all the YouTube videos, including the fails, I really had no idea what to expect from a Parkour lesson. Rather than try to describe it, here is a brief video of everything we did over the course of 2.5 hours at the Valhalla Elite Training Center in Santa Barbara. (As an aside, what I got out of this video is a visual of just how much weight I’ve lost since going vegan and that I probably need to buy some new clothes.)
Also for your viewing pleasure, here is The Office’s take on the parkour phenomenon.
My son, Jackson, has brought to my attention that you can actually take classes in parkour, which is something I’ve been dying to learn for a long time. I’ll be joining him and his friends for an introductory lesson tomorrow.
For the uninitiated, here’s a video clip of some kids doing parkour at UC Santa Barbara.
Unicycling, slack lining, jumping stilts, yarn bombing, and drumming have now been checked off, with ballroom dancing and eating right being works in progress on the learning side. That leaves 5 more to be accomplished. (Paragliding has been tentatively scheduled to begin at the end of July.)
On the giving side, I’ve built homes, fostered a puppy, volunteered to donate bone marrow, did graphic design work for a mitzvah and next Sunday will donate 400 square feet of knitting to Warm Up America, while having my blood, sperm and hair rejected. That leaves 7 more to be accomplished. (I become eligible again to donate blood on December 25th so that will likely be GR12.)
This is where you come in. I need suggestions for the remaining 12. Is there something you have been wanting to learn, but aren’t ready to take the leap? Is there something you would like to try, but worried it will be too difficult or time consuming? Use me as your guinea pig. Let me pave the way. Is there something you’ve learned that you think others should try too? Is there a charity you know of that could use a hand? Tell me how I can help.
Send me your suggestions. Share your thoughts.
I picked up drum sticks for the first time in my life just 83 days ago. It was incredibly foreign to me, focusing on how my two hands and two feet could come together to create beats that my brain has been replicating for decades. I set a goal to play AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” in front of an audience at the next SB Drum Lab recital. Today, that goal and this resolution has been realized.
My son, Jackson, was my inspiration and his initial instruction got me going with the basics. Then I commandeered his weekly lesson with Craig Thatcher at the Santa Barbara Drum Lab, where we would discuss the philosophy of drumming and tricks of the trade. Craig pushed me to play through mistakes, to have fun with it and to challenge myself every time I pick up those sticks.
For 2 1/2 months I played the same song over and over again, practicing every day, except for the 2 weeks when I was in and out of the hospital, and I loved every second of it. I didn’t have to “drag” myself to the garage to practice, but I did have to force myself to step away from the set and take care of things like work, etc at times. I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for what a drummer can do and with the help of Jackson and Craig, I look forward to continuing to develop my skills.
Huge thanks to my wife, Barbara for volunteering to host the recital and my friends Peter, Jeanette and Pam for coming to watch.
Without further ado, for your viewing pleasure, I present me on the drums at my first recital.
My recital is only a few weeks away and the progress to date has been less than stellar so it was time to kick it up a notch with a lesson at the Santa Barbara Drum Lab with Craig Thatcher. I learned 2 important lessons today. (1) I can do this and (2) I have a lot of work to do.
I’ve been watching Jackson play the drums since he was 8 years old. I’m in awe of how he can pick up a beat from his instructor and instantly bring the movement of 2 arms and 2 legs together to make that precise combination of sounds. I’ve tried before and couldn’t get simple snare and cymbal combos to work.
This time will be different though, right? Well, it better be because Jackson has not only volunteered to teach his old man a new trick, he’s signed me up to perform at a recital on April 15th in front of a group of seasoned young drummers from the Santa Barbara Drum Lab. I hope this doesn’t become one of those, “It sounded like a good idea at the time.”
Here is a collection of outtakes from my 1st lesson.
I’ve been confined to my driveway unless Jackson happened to be available to go with me when practicing on my jumping stilts. The impediment was my inability to get back up if I happened to fall. So long as something about waste high was available for me to lean on I was OK, but that usually isn’t the case. So today I was determined to do what it took to learn how to get up on them without any assistance whatsoever. With that accomplished I could move on to far more exciting uses for the stilts.
I watched several videos on YouTube, but as usual, most were less than helpful. Then I found Balthezar Arith’s video and within 5 minutes I was up and running.
Progress! Today I was able to turnaround on the slackline for the first time.
She came into our lives only a few days ago, but she will forever be a part of all us in this house. Sugar, a beautiful 10 week old white Boxer mix, came to us after being taken from a negligent home where she was malnourished, infested with fleas and riddled with worms. Her 5 sisters and she were due to be euthanized in Camarillo when DAWG SB, a no-kill shelter, stepped in and rescued them all. A friend of Barbara’s forwarded her a plea she’d seen on Facebook asking for people to foster the puppies. Barbara asked, “Would this satisfy your giving resolution?”
The Giving Resolutions, defined as doing charitable things that don’t involve writing a check, were intended to “inspire others and myself to be more caring and considerate by gaining a new perspective. It’s an attempt to pierce the bubble of my world.” Sugar, her sisters, the other foster parents, DAWG volunteers, my family, my Facebook friends & their friends, and Ulyana & her family all played a role in helping me do exactly that.
In just a couple of days we rid Sugar of the fleas, fattened her up a bit, finished with the worms, taught her a few tricks and gave her enough love to make sure that all of that bad stuff would be nothing but a distant memory as she goes off to live on a big property with a family that is excited to pick up where we left off.
I’m not going lie, it was hard to say goodbye, and my son requested that I keep him out of future giving resolutions that involve fostering, because saying goodbye was just too hard on him. We’ll miss you Sugar!
As much as I keep reminding myself not to get attached, it’s hard not to. Sugar is such a sweet girl and so smart. In no time at all she has learned to respond to her name and a brief, distinct whistle. She’s so easy to potty train and gets along with everyone in the family, especially Stella!, our 95 pound Italiano Spinone.
I won’t deny it’s hard work training a new puppy, especially knowing I won’t be reaping the benefits. The 1am walks, the weaning away from her mom and sisters, it’s a traumatic time for a puppy and the hardest few days of owning a dog. At 1:30 am this morning, with Sugar sighing loudly in her sleep next to me and me expressing my frustration with not finding her a home, Barb asked me if I was sorry I took on the task. Truth is, I’m not.
This is precisely what I was looking for when I made the Giving Resolution. Writing a check to the shelter would have been much easier, but this experience has already changed me and given me a new perspective. I got a glimpse into the lives of shelter workers and discovered a whole group of people I didn’t even know existed, the fosters. One woman I met has fostered and found homes for 35 puppies who had been sentenced to death.
When I see Sugar running around playing with Stella, I think to myself, “I did that.” She was slated to be put down 3 days ago, when I and 3 other volunteers plus the DAWG shelter rescued her whole family. I can’t save every dog and may never foster again, but the experience, and Sugar, have enriched my life. I think it’s made me a better person already.
PS Please help Sugar find a loving home. She is a 10 week old boxer / pitty mix. Send me a message, share a link to this blog, and/or join her “Sugar Needs a Home” facebook page. Even if you’re halfway around the world from Santa Barbara, it can help. Think six degrees of separation.
Today we picked up an 8 week old pitty boxer puppy we have named “Sugar”. (Isn’t that what all boxers go by?) Sugar is part of a litter that was recently rescued from a neglectful home with her 5 sisters and parents. She’ll be staying with us until either we or Dawg can find her a permanent home. She has such a sweet temperament and quickly settled in with Stella, Sadie and the kids.
If you know anyone looking for a cute, well behaved puppy like Sugar, please contact me. By the time she leaves us she will be house broken, well trained and socialized.
I have become the Mr. Miyagi of unicycling, spreading the gospel to anyone who will give it a try. While it took Jackson and I days to learn how to ride, we lacked the advantage of having any clue what to do. Just how much of a disadvantage that was came to light as we taught my nieces and nephews how to ride on our trip to Florida.
If you’re going to try it for yourself, here is my advice. 1) Just do it. 2) Lose your fear. Nothing stands in the way of progress more than fear of falling/failing. 3) Err forward. If you fall, make sure it’s because you leaned too far forward. 4) Pedal. Especially when you feel like you’re about to fall, keep pedaling. 5) Pedal. Unicycles wont move unless you pedal (you can’t glide) and like a bike, its hard to stay up if you’re not moving. 6) Put your arms out to balance yourself. The inclination is to hold onto something like a person, wall or even the seat. Don’t. All of this will only impede your progress. 7) Look where you want to go. Just like driving, snowboarding and cycling, wherever you look, thats where you’re going.
To see the proper starting position check out Jackson’s video at How To Do Random Stuff Now
Follow these simple instructions and you will be riding within an hour, just like Matt was in the video below.
Includes slacklining and off-road unicycling.
It seems like there is no common name for these contraptions. Some call them “Boks” because they look like the legs of a Springbok, but the most common name I’ve found on the Internet is “jumping stilts” and after trying them for the 1st time, it’s also the most sensible name for them. I’ve seen them sporadically from afar over the past couple of years and always wanted to try them, but it never seemed to happen. The Learning Resolution provides the perfect opportunity for me to pull the trigger and truth is, that’s kind of the point in it, to get me off my ass and do some of the things I’ve often wanted to do, but never did.
Once my Powerizers arrived in the mail, I had to run out and get wrist guards, elbow and knee pads before getting up on them. I ran to the closest sporting goods store (we don’t have the big chain stores in Santa Barbara) and picked up a set of pads for $19.99. I wore them for the first outing but had zero confidence that they would help in any way should I need them. That’s why, as you’ll see in the video, I refused to make an attempt on them without holding onto either a car or my son. The next day I drove to Sports Authority in Goleta for a proper set of pads and look forward to giving it a real go this afternoon.
I’m starting to get a complex. It seems no one, not even those begging for donors, want anything I have to offer. The Blood Bank turned me away because I’d been to Haiti on vacation and now the Sperm Bank rejects me because I’m too old. WTF?!? Tony Randall has a kid at 78, but my sperm is inferior because I’m over 38?
They say the problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard, but they’re wrong. As infertility becomes more common and gay marriage finally becomes a norm, the sperm banks are quickly becoming the gene pool’s self-designated lifeguards. But are they qualified?So who do you want propagating the species, 37 year old guys who need to sell their sperm for cash or a 44 year old, health conscious, fit, blue-eyed, six foot tall, 175 pound, employed, caring father, without a criminal record, NYU MBA with a zest for life?
This giving resolution is harder than I thought. No wonder most people just write checks.
It begins with what is supposed to be a 550 mile drive from Santa Barbara to Tonto National Forest in Arizona, but thanks to errant directions from the GPS it’s now an 850 mile drive with a detour through Tucson. I’m making great time and around 8:00pm with just 15 miles from where I think I am stopping for the night, I have a casual dinner at Swenson’s. Minutes later I realize I’ve made a horrible mistake, having driven 150 miles out of the way. I reverse course and get back to where I should have turned off originally, but now it’s almost midnight. Exhausted, I give up on getting to the campsite tonight and with the help of the “Around Me” app on my iPhone, find a Comfort Inn with availability for the night.
Duffy at the front desk informs me that not only is his hotel full, but all hotels in the area are booked thanks the Barrett-Jackson car auction being in town. He calls around as a favor to me, but to no avail. I ask what’s up the road from here, thinking I can make it a little further to the next town, but find out there is nothing between here and the campsite except cacti and dirt, with the campsite being another 100 miles into the middle of nowhere. I let my wife know that I have no other option but to drive on into the night. “I wish I drank coffee,” I say to her. She suggests I drink some soda at least for a caffeine pick-me-up. I guzzle two bottles of Mountain Dew for maximum caffeinage before getting a follow up call from her saying she found me a room at the local Holiday Inn. I lie in bed until 2am hopped up on caffeine, with my alarm set for a 6am wake up.
The drive into Tonto National Park at Sunrise with “La Grange” by ZZ Top blasting on the radio and passing places like Whiskey Springs and Kitty Joe Creek is manna for anyone who loves the Old West.
It’s 8am when I arrive at the Grapevine Group Site on Roosevelt Lake in Tonto National Forest. I’m the first to arrive, or so I thought. Turns out the rest of the tent assemblers arrived at 2am and were sleeping in their RVs nearby.
Four adults and three kids, we erect nearly 50 tents for the 160+ other volunteers who will be arriving around 2am tonight. It is exhausting work, with many of the tents incomplete, broken or lacking instructions, but we get it done. I installed my slackline in a perfect spot away from the many spiky cacti.
The kids arrive in the dark after a 10 hour drive, exhausted and cranky. Seven hours until breakfast and the 30 minute drive to Apache Nation.
We are broken up into 7 groups of 24 kids and 3 adult supervisors. Each group is shuttled to a different work site, each building a different family a new home. Upon arrival, our site has nothing but a few stakes in the ground and some string hanging between them to mark to outline of the home’s foundation.
The adults, all construction professionals except me, go through the plans and begin to dole out tasks for the kids. Over the coming days we will lay the foundation and install the underground plumbing.
Around midnight, after our first full day of work on the sites, our makeshift tent city is punished by gale force winds knocking down half the tents on the kids, snapping tent poles and shredding two beyond repair. I spend Day 2 back at the campsite reassembling tents, duct taping poles and canvas, and generally attempting to bring order back for the kids, so they’ll have a place to rest their weary heads.
The organizer of this effort is Amor Ministries (www.amor.org) and its founders Gayla and Scott Congdon are an inspiration to me. After witnessing poverty on college junkets, these two have dedicated their lives to improving the lives of others. They’ve built thousands of homes for the needy in Mexico and are now committed to building 1600 homes for the Apaches of Arizona. What I came away with is not so much a dedication to this particular cause, but to the simple idea that individuals can make a big difference. You just have to make the effort and be committed.
I recently went to the Reel Rock Film Festival at UCSB, and both my son and I were most amazed by the short about Sketchy Andy’s (aka Skandy) slacklining escapades. Then last week, while shopping for camping gear at REI, my son spotted the slackline box and although I initially dismissed it as a possibility for the Learning Resolution, his pressure and my curiosity got the best of me. Truth is, it satisfies the requirements perfectly, so I’m giving it a shot. Hey, the way this resolution is playing out, I may have a future as a Carny.