Category Archives: Comedy

Pinball Wizard

I mentioned in my last post that I used to do gymnastics as a kid. I did it for a long time, and the main reason nothing became of it (career-wise) was that I only dedicated 1 hour once a week for a bunch of years instead of the minimum 4 hours, 5 days a week for a bunch of years that the pros put in. (And anyone who has watched the show Make It or Break It knows that if you want to be the very best, you put in something like every waking hour of your life for a bunch of years.) I also found that as I grew older, my body became ill-suited for the trials and tribulations of gymnastics.

The uneven bars, a women’s gymnastics apparatus, is where my current story takes place. The uneven bars as we are familiar with today are quite different from the uneven bars in the 1950s. Today, the uneven bars are held together by cables and have an adjustable diagonal distance between the two bars varying between 4.3 – 5.9 feet (as depicted below).

Modern Uneven Bars

This allows for more fluid movements between the bars, and makes it highly difficult to be touching both bars simultaneously. Back in the 1950s, the uneven bars were very different. They more closely resembled the mens’ parallel bars, only at different heights. Practically speaking, the bars were much closer to each other (as depicted below).

1950s Uneven Bars

I grew up on the 1950s styled uneven bars, as that’s what they had in my gym. Many of the skills we’d do specifically involved contact with both bars simultaneously. But because of the ever-changing height of kids, we were always adjusting the height and distance between the bars to suit each gymnast.

At the time of this story, I was in my early teens and had been doing gymnastics for many years. As such, I knew my bars settings by heart. It was the first class of the year, having just come back from a summer break. I set the bars to my desired heights, and proceeded to do my routine from the end of the previous year. Unfortunately for me, I’d had a growth spurt over the summer and the bars should have been slightly farther apart than they were.

What should have happened: I was in a front support on the high bar facing out. I was supposed to swing my legs back, straddle the high bar with the soles of my feet on the bar, swinging around the bar in a circle. (Imagine a side view: the high bar is the point in the center of a circle, and over the course of the skill, my butt creates the outer circumference of the circle, with my arms and legs being the radius throughout.)

What actually happened: I was in a front support on the high bar facing out. I swung my legs back, separating my feet to rest my soles on the high bar in a straddle. So far so good. All I had to do was let gravity start me off by pushing my butt in a downward arc. And I did. Except due to my new height, the low bar interfered with my butt. The bars themselves were made out of a somewhat flexible wood, and so upon contact, the low bar thrust me upward, causing me to ram my head into the high bar. And so it continued for about a minute – bouncing between the two bars, hitting my butt on the low bar and my head on the high bar, until I eventually released my hold of the bar for an unceremonious dismount. I collapsed on the mat in a heap of pain. Don’t worry. I was fine. Not even a concussion – just a bit of bruising. Sure, I couldn’t sit for a couple of weeks, but most of the damage was psychological. The bars had won, and I was too scared to bother finding a new setting for my new height. Besides, I still had beam, vault and floor to get better at. Who needs uneven bars anyway? I decided it was not worth the risk of playing human pinball again.

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The Baby-Sitters Club

For those of you up to date with Israeli happenings, the country is presently hosting its 19th Maccabiah Games – a sort of mini-Olympics for Israelis and Jews worldwide. While I’d like to consider myself an Olympic nut, the truth is that there’s only one sport I’ve ever really cared about: gymnastics. Having dedicated my entire childhood to doing gymnastics, I was always (and still am) fascinated by watching the pros. Last year’s gymnastics Olympic games were particularly exciting for Jews worldwide, as Aly Raisman – a Jew – won gold medal for her floor routine, bronze for her beam routine, and was part of the gold medal winning Team USA. This year she was honored by being the athlete chosen to light the Maccabiah torch at the opening ceremony last Thursday.

Last Thursday… the first day of the 19th Maccabiah Games. I’d been looking forward to watching the gymnastics events ever since I first saw the Maccabiah advertised on the streets of Jerusalem. According to the Maccabiah website, there would be a week of gymnastics practices before the final competition. Not knowing whether or not I’d be able to go see the competition, I decided to make sure I at least got to see a practice. So that’s how I found myself last Thursday at Tel Aviv’s Hadar Yosef Olympic arena trying to watch the gymnastics practice. It was an almost-worthless trip. Apparently the schedule listed on the Maccabiah website was for competitors, and not spectators. When I arrived at the arena, I was greeted by a sign on the door that read, “Entrance for gymnasts only.” Well, nothing said I couldn’t stand in the doorway and watch. Unfortunately it meant I was blocking the doorway, and I couldn’t see much anyway. In the end, I didn’t stick around very long.

I did, however, stick around long enough for this to happen:

I had to use the ladies’ room. It was quite a nice ladies’ room, complete with toilet stalls, showers for sweaty athletes, and a long mirror with sinks. One thing they did not have though was a handicapped stall. I had my baby in her stroller, but the stroller couldn’t fit into a regular stall (at least, not with me at the same time). My options were limited. Fortunately, there were some other people hanging out in the bathroom – namely the USA women’s gymnastics delegation (I’m pretty sure, after researching names and pictures, that it was the Junior league). They had finished up their practice already, showered, and were getting dressed and ready in their red, white and blue “USA” tagged sweatsuits and baseball caps – the USA delegation’s uniforms for the opening ceremony that would be starting a few hours later. I asked these girls if they were going to be there for another couple of minutes, knowing full well that they would (after all, even elite gymnasts take a while to straighten their hair), and if they wouldn’t mind keeping an eye on my baby while I went about my business. Once they agreed and I turned to find a stall, it suddenly occurred to me that I was leaving my most prized possession with a bunch of strangers. Without missing a beat, I whipped back around and said in my most threatening voice, “My baby had better be here when I come out. If she’s not… I know what country you’re from!”

And that’s the story of how I both threatened the USA gymnastics delegation and got them to babysit my daughter for a few minutes. Who knows… any of these junior gymnasts could go on to be in the 2016 Olympics, and then I can tell my daughter when she’s older that an Olympic gymnast once babysat for her!

[Update, July 25, 2013]

Despite all odds, I made it, daughter in tow, to the gymnastics finals, exactly one week after the above story took place. Seating space was limited, and I was fortunate to be able to sit at all. I was walking around, baby strapped to me, trying to figure out which seats were being saved for late-comers and which seats were actually available, when a kind elderly couple asked if I was looking for a seat and motioned to the seat next to them. I thanked them profusely and took my seat, front and center in the spectators’ box. The elderly couple asked me if I was related to any of the competitors. I told them no, that I was simply a big fan of the sport, having done it myself for many years as a kid, and I was excited to expose my next-generation to it. Well, it turns out that they were the grandparents of a competitor. Not just any competitor, but one of the young ladies from the USA junior delegation who babysat for my daughter in the bathroom! Her parents were seated on the other side of the grandparents, and her teammate’s families were seated in the row behind me. I shared the babysitting story with them. They thought it was cute. And then we talked gymnastics, “ooh”ed and “ahh”ed at the routines, and chatted amicably about little things. They took pictures of me and my baby, picked up her pacifier when she threw it down, and gave her fingers to hold onto and chew. Seems like gymnastic folk are nice folk all around… at least when a baby is involved.


Riding in Cars with Boys

There have been some terrifying stories in the news of late regarding children in cars. I thought I’d lighten the mood with a rather humorous story from my childhood involving a car…

Every now and then, my parents would drop me off with my grandparents for a day or two. Sometimes we’d do fun things together – go to the movies, go swimming – but more often than not we did mundane, every-day activities. Whatever we did, I always had a blast.

This story takes place on a cool autumn day when I must have been around 8 or 9 years old. My grandmother took me to the local supermarket for some light shopping and some bottle returns. Bottle returns were my favorite; popping bottles into the mouth of a gigantic machine, hearing them get crunched down, and watching your nickel count grow bigger and bigger with each bottle you put it. (Not to mention getting a slip of paper at the end that could be exchanged for cash!) On this particular day, my grandmother decided to leave me to do the bottle returns right next to the supermarket entrance while she ran inside and bought a handful of items. The plan was for me to wait for her to drive up with her car and I’d jump in.

I finished returning the bottles, and with my receipt in hand, I waited by the front of the supermarket for my grandmother to drive by. Sure enough, after a few minutes of waiting, my grandmother’s pale gold sedan pulled up right in front of me. I jumped in the back seat, bragging about the $1.30 I had just made from bottles. My grandmother, wearing her green coat and white bucket hat over her short, white hair, turned around to smile at me. Except she wasn’t smiling… and she wasn’t my grandmother either. In fact, she wasn’t a “she” at all. The driver was an elderly man wearing the same color coat and hat as my grandmother, and driving the same color car. I apologized awkwardly and dashed out of the car, convinced that my grandmother had been eaten by the big, bad wolf now impersonating her so that he could eat me as well.

A few minutes later my real grandmother drove up. Still scarred from my last experience, I waited for her to roll down the window so I could see her face before climbing into the back seat.