Archive for November 25th, 2004

Getting Out of Dodge

4

As
mentioned in the posting below, it is hard to predict what will open
the floodgates of memory. Some are fond and fulfilling
memories, making connections and explaining enigmas.  Other’s make
it immediately obvious why the memory was forgotten in the first place.
Such a treasure trove of mercifully forgotten memories was rubbed raw
again by a feature in today’s Boston Globe on Adult Dodgeball. Apparently,
this archetypically
American Darwinian elimination activity is experiencing a comeback.

As vicious an outlet for pre-teen and adolescent sadism as has come out
of middle America, Dodgeball has been largely condemned and forbidden
in the recent past, our "enlightened" times.
For those of our readers too young or alien to be familiar with this childhood
trial by fire, let us explain the basic rules of dodge ball. A large group of
players, often mixed boys and girls, start out standing in a loose
knot in the center of an indoor gym or outdoor blacktopped playground.

One or more round rubber balls are introduced into this mix, and the object is
to take the ball, and fling it as hard as possible at any of the other players.
Should the ball strike any part of the target player, he or she is "out",
and required to leave the field of play. Should the target manage to catch the
ball before it hits the ground, the thrower was declared "out". In
a time-honored American tradition, reminiscent of the Shootout at the OK Coral,
the "last kid standing" is declared the winner.

Although seemingly innocuous, that textured red rubber ball, in size and weight
somewhere between a volleyball and a basketball, flung with all the force sugar,
hormones and frustration can generate in a pre-teen body, could painfully sting exposed
flesh, and so who would aim anywhere else?

Many of the non-athletically incline kids would awkwardly expose themselves on
purpose, or even throw gentle poofballs at each other, in order to be eliminated
as quickly and painlessly as possible, retiring to the sidelines to relax and
watch
the
remaining contestants embarrass themselves in a variety of manners. The bigger,
more coordinated
kids took sadistic pleasure in eliminating as many of these dweebs as quickly
as they could, flinging the ball with all their strength in attempts to elicits
cries of pain or better yet, cowardly spastic efforts to avoid the physical and
emotional pain of early elimination.

This dubious form of recreation and athletic activity was especially popular
in "primary" school,
grades
1-6,
which
in
the
US
means 7-12 years old. Gym teachers like it because it required almost no equipment
or active supervision; basically they stood around and watched us kids slap
each other silly. For
these
and
other
reasons
Dodgeball
has
largely been eliminated in today’s enlightened educational environments.

Being almost totally bereft of athletic skill, yet cursed with a highly competitive
nature, the adolescent Dowbrigade developed a cagey tactic of blending in with
the crowd, trying to avoid attention or attractiveness as a target by becoming
invisible. Moving around the fringes of the group, keeping away from the other
players still "alive" (offering the aggressive players less attractive
shots and fewer chances to fling the ball at a knot of victims hoping to kill
any one of the group), we were usually able to survive until there were only
three or four players left. By then, rivalries had developed between the most
vicious killers so that they were often blindly determined to eliminate each
other, forgetting us entirely until we were the only opponent left. At this point,
at least we had a chance, to dodge a few shots and hope to catch one before one
caught us.

So this is one sleeping dog we would rather let lie.  However, for
those sick bullies who haven’t had much fun since Dodgeball went out of
style, here’s how to get your jollies:

The new adult twist on the game was dreamt up by Paul Naddaff, 23, and
Sean Kemery, 28, and was appropriately inspired by Ben Stiller’s ”Dodgeball." ”Paul
and I went to see the movie and we both really liked it," Kemery
says. ”And I started mentioning how much fun I used to have playing
it, and
how I’d love to play again, and Paul’s reaction was, ‘I’d like to play,
too.’ "

If Big Kids Dodgeball takes off, Kemery and Naddaff hope to expand to several
geographical regions around the state. Meanwhile, Kemery says he’s not
surprised at the favorable response to the league.

”I really remember loving dodgeball when I was a kid, and I think
a lot of people feel the same way about it," he says. ”I hate
to sound cheesy, but you can be a big kid again."

from the Boston Globe

Sail on, Sailor

9

Memories swim up from the distant past at
the most unexpected moments. Recently we had cause to remember one of
the signature events of public education in grade schools around America
– the school assembly.

Most of these assemblies were educational boilerplate;
district mandated citizenship training, patriotic pep rallies, ritual
readings of the riot act, feeble presentations by in-house choirs, bands,
cheerleaders or drama clubs or pathetic debates prior to student council
elections.  Mainly, they were seen by the students as a chance to
get out of the classroom, sit next to hot girls or amusing troublemakers,
pass
notes,
play footsie, mock the teachers, the performers and the entire educational
paradigm, and maybe sneak away from the pack in the mass confusion of
several hundred wild kids in the days before attention-deficit drugs.

But there was one assembly every year back there for a
while which we realize now, 40-some years later, probably had as much
influence as anything else in the eventual arc of our career and peripatetic
life up to this point. Once a year, back when the Dowbrigade was at his
most innocent and impressionable, our school was visited by a local couple
quite unlike anyone we had known.

Electra "Exy" Johnson and her husband Irving were inveterate
sailors who abandoned life and careers ashore and dedicated themselves
to taking students and paying customers on 18-month trips around the
world. They would leave from Gloucester, MA, their home port on Cape
Ann, sail down the eastern seaboard, through the Panama Canal, and down
the Pacific Coast of South America.  It was not a race; they would
stop and explore, trade for supplies, investigate ruins, and photograph
everything.

From South America they would set off across the Pacific,
stopping in Galapagos to visit the tortoises, fart around Tahiti and
the South Sea Islands for a few months, then down
the coast of Asia, south along the coast of Africa, around the Cape of
Good Hope, up the other coast of Africa to Morocco and Spain, and finally
back across the Atlantic to Gloucester.

They did this amazing route SEVEN times over the years,
taking 18 months each time. Between circumnavigations they would take
18 months "off", cruising up and down the East Coast and giving lecture/slide
shows at schools along the way.  Hence our assemblies.

From Exy Johnson we learned to the existence of places
which would later figure prominently in our own saga, spots like the
Galapagos Islands and Cuzco, the Imperial Capital of the Inca Empire.
We still
retain tales, locked deep in forgotten closets of our mind, of places
we have never been, but would still jump at a chance to see, without
really remembering why -places like Fiji, Tonga and Fez.

But what amazed us the most, and opened our mind to the
breadth and possibilities of the wider world, was the mere fact that
a person from Rochester, New York could go to places like that and see
things like that, and come back to tell the tale.

We had forgotten completely about the existence of the
Johnson’s and their effect on an eight-year-old Dowbrigade when we read
the following in this morning’s Boston
Globe
:

HADLEY, Mass. — Electa "Exy" Johnson, who took young people
on seven around-the-world voyages on tall ships, died Friday at a
nursing home in Holyoke. She was 95.

A native of Rochester, N.Y., Johnson attended Smith College and the
University of California at Berkeley. While returning from a summer
in France aboard
the schooner Wanderbird, she met Irving Johnson, a crew member. They
were married in 1933 and she began her adventurous life at sea.

Thanks for the tips, Exy.  You showed us a way. Clear
sailing.

from the
Boston Globe