Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunday August 24th

People keep asking me if I'm over the trip yet. That's a big question. If it means am I over the time lag, well it's three oclock in the morning and I'm typing. If it means am I back on a normal daily routine, yes depending on how you define normal. If it means am I over going to China, for the Olympics, where my son was competing, and he did well, brace yourself for a shocking answer, no.
It's been a week since I last wrote anything and the same stuff is still happening. We still have Five Ring Fever although it is different now. Marsha is still MOO. We still don't hear any news from Benn, but our Secret Source still keeps up updated periodically. I guess, in a way, all of that is normal. In fact it's sort of mundane if having a globetrotting kid who sometimes reports in and sometimes doesn't can ever get mundane.
That is what surprises me about people continuing to ask when I'm going to post another blog. In fact a few have suggested that I should continue a blog just about stuff in general even beyond this Olympic experience we've had. Well I'm thinking about it. In the mean time this Olympic thing is almost done.
Benn comes home Monday night, tomorrow. No I don't know what he will do next. No I can't say whether or not he will keep paddling for another Olympics. No I don't know if he will go back to school or get a job. No I don't know how long he will stay home. No I don't know if he will stay in the Atlanta area or go back to Charlotte or even somewhere else. No I don't know if he will keep painting his nails.
I know what's happened over the past 19 years and the past 19 weeks and the past 19 days. I know that all of those periods were, as MOO says, action packed. I know I plan to try and keep up for another 19 years. I know that I will work hard on the "I" words between us; influence at times, intensity now and then, integrity in our relationship, and involvement always always always. I know he got the nail polish form MOO. I know that a certain Senior Vice President at Delta Air Lines used a marker to color his nails black (for a few minutes) when I returned to work. I know that Benn and I weren't the only ones who had fun with all of this. And last I know that I am finally getting sleepy again. Wonder what time it is now.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday August 17

My post Olympic POO-ness has started to set in. That statement has nothing to do with returning to a diet more normal to me. It has to do with a variety of things that have happened in the very few waking hours since I returned home.
We returned to great friends who insisted that they spend some time with us before we crashed; in fact before we even went home. We were then escorted to our house to find a welcome home banner that covers half the front of the house. It is outrageously large but so well done and so cool that even if the neighbors don't like it we have to leave it till Benn comes home. Along with the banner they hung an American flag on the top porch. Also adorning the front lawn are five rings that we probably won't have to worry about leaving. They are painted and will likely fade slowly.
We've been hearing that lots of people we know were into the event. Lots of people stayed up or woke up early or tried to. McIntosh High School hung a banner on the front of the school that is even larger than the one on our house. It seems like lots of our friends and family had a lot of fun with this Olympic thing that Benn just did for us all. That I think is how Benn will like thinking of it. I've already admitted to not understanding all of his thoughts and actions, but this one I think I can call. When he comes out of the security of the village and the outrageousness of the Olympics in general; when he gets home, and he sees that it wasn't all about Michael Phelps; when he sees that Benn's friends and family enjoyed Benn and the excitement of his performance, that will undoubtedly make him smile.
A little while earlier I watched the video of the C1 semifinal and final runs recorded on I loved watching it all again, in fact I saw some things I couldn't see from where I sat among the fruit salad of nations. I saw for the first time that Benn dropped his upstream edge in the semifinal run in the hole near the top of the course. That was why he struggled in that section. I also didn't know till today that he lost his T-grip briefly during one run. It was cool to be able to finally see those details.
There was something else cool about that video. You know how they always have a color commentator who has been a high level competitor in the sport? Well that guy was Joe Jacobi. Joe is not just a Gold Medalist. He is a very good friend. I think just about everybody in the sport would in fact count Joe as a friend. He's a great guy and that made the video even better. Joe if you read this, you did a great job; technical comments and personal comments both.
Back to work in the morning. Somebody wake me up now and then.

Saturday Aug 16

While Benn and Davis and I enjoyed some track and field Marsha and Addie saw Venus and Serena play a doubles match. Addie said she saw tennis on Jupitor. Where does she get her sense of humor?
There is, as always, a little more to that story. Having become more savvy in a weeks time, we chose to use the bus and subway system to get to the Olympic Green. It's pretty much like New York except with characters; number 60 bus to the Pearl Market, number 10 train to the one that starts with a fishing lure, change to number 5 and go to the tassled pitch fork one, change to number eight and expect the Olympic Green stop to be clearly marked. On the way home reverse that but accidently exit the subway as far as possible from the bus stop, watch the last number 60 drive away in the distance and walk back to the hotel from the Pearl Market. Good plan.It worked out just that way.
Davis had the added bonus of helping carry a lady in a wheelchair down a long flight of stairs in the subway. Why? If you were a lady in a wheel chair sitting at the tope of a long imposing flight of stairs surrounded by 140 pound helpful chinese guys, and Davis walked by, what would you do? She yelled in Chinese, "Hey BOO! Grab these handles!" Those might not have been her exact words but Davis understood.
I offerred an Olympic Canoe and Kayak pin to a little Chinese girl who turned out to be a little Chinese girl from San Jose, Cal. Her mother turned out to speak English much like a Chinese woman from San Jose. I'm not saying we needed her help to change trains at fishing lure but I should say it was an Olympic pin well given.
When we finally met Benn at the Green he told us his George Bush story. It's merely coincidence that I've mentioned GW in two consecutive blogs. He is honestly not an insider like Cathy, Nathan, Scotty P, or the Laurens. And unless there is some national secret unknown to me, he is not MOO. He is the president of the US though and used that loop hole to visit with Olympians. If you know Benn it will come as no surprise that when the photo of W and the Canoe Kayak Team was taken Benn "somehow" was front and center. As the President started moving into position Benn put an arm around his W-ness, pulled him in close and said something like jump right in here big guy. Sotty P, being of like mind, sharing Benn's non-republican political views, and siezing the opportunity for a moment of great irony, put an arm around from the other side. I can't wait to see the actual photo with bleached and black haired Scotty and black nailed Benn providing the V and X for George's W. I am typimg this with my thumbs at 30 some thousand feet. The Frakers are on our way home from the Olympics, our biggest adventure so far. So far.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Friday August 15

The same weather that stranded us in the bunker at the top of the Great Wall mountain caused the C2 and Women's race to be postponed till today.  
I got up early this morning and spent a few minutes alone walking through the park next door to our hotel.  I couldn't help but take the time to browse my personal thoughts about what has happened in our lives and especially Benn's.  I also wondered what happens next for him.  I'm not going to share all of that with you.  I've gotten personal in this blog, but there is a limit.
Instead I will tell you about the walk from a level closer to the surface.  The infinitely curious Chinese people continue to watch me as if they are trying to decide which American I am.  I can feel it going around in their heads.  Is he George Bush, Brad Pitt or Peyton Manning?  Of course that is pretty funny since, to an American, I don't look anything like George Bush.
As I entered the park there was a group of 30 or so older people exercising to music.  They each looked like Jackie Gleason trying to do Jackie Chan in slow motion.  It became more dangerous as I went further.  The Jackies were wielding swords and spears.  I wondered if I had strolled into the wrong section of the park.  After a while though I found a group that was only holding fans and though noisier than the swords they seemed safer.  Next to the fan group was another group in unison doing what appeared to be the yoga position where you stick you left foot in your right hip pocket.   It sort of all seemed fairly non-threatening and I did survive to go eat some more rice for breakfast.
After having purchased nothing more than a pair of shoes, a wallet and a shirt, Davis has somehow developed the reputation of being the Doc Holiday of the local Pearl Market.  Mimi, to the true blogophile that would be GOO (Grandmother), has hired him out for the morning to go with her on a shopping spree.  MOO went along as well.  And although having earned full rights as MOO, in the Pearl Market Moo has been instructed to be quiet and stand back out of the bargain master's way.
When they return we will take the number 60 bus to the subway and figure out how to take the subway to the Olympic Green for a meeting with Benn.  After some kick back time, although not much, MOO and SOO (She prefers STOO but we don't get it) will go to a tennis match.  Davis and Benn and I will hang out and later go to Track and Field.  We will come back to the hotel very late, get up very early in the morning and head for the airport.  This will most likely be my last Beijing blog.  I do plan to keep writing it some although now it is really more for me than anybody else.  The drama is done except for the part where we struggle to get back into day to day life.  Hope it's been fun.  Now I'm wondering if I should change the name to benn2chinaandback or benn2normalcy or something along those lines.  This part might actually be more of an adjustment for me.  I have already admitted that I anticipated that one day Benn would go to the Olympics.  I never anticipated what it might be like to be FOO, DOO or POO after the Olympics.

Thursday August 14

Benn spent the day at the course today hoping to support Heather in her semifinal run and maybe beyond.  Rick and Casey didn't advance to the semifinal.  After the C2 semifinal it started to rain.  And when I say rain I don't mean the kind of rain that just gets you wet, that would be fine.  They would race.  I mean the hammer of Thor and the bolts from Zues and so much rain you could barely see anything.  The rest of the race was postponed till tomorrow I think.  That might hurt our plans to spend the day with Benn, but I hope not.  I think we deserve a day with him.
The rain didn't catch us at the course.  We took the day as our only chance to go to the great wall.  We got to the top, hiked along the wall for a while, and discovered Rocky is a universal language.  We were hiking roughly along with a group of French when a guy in a Mexico shirt ran up a few step on the wall, threw up both hands and we all understood one word, "Rocky."  It doesn't sound so funny now.  
Addie said for me to write that she hiked a lot further than Davis.
We also discovered that shivering is a universal language.  The rain hit just as we stood in line to sled/luge/whatever it's called back down the mountain.  We waited an hour in an international huddle inside the terminal housing of the chair lift.  When the skydal wave turned to just a deluge we were encouraged.  When it finally subsided to just rain we hiked back down.
You won't guess what we did then; McDonalds.  After four and a half days of deep fried chicken bones, rice, unrecognized vegetables, rice, hunan pepper after hunan pepper, steamed bread things, and rice, guess how many double cheese burgers Davis can eat; five, along with fries and a large coke.    
Davis and Marsha went shopping again.  They think they have mastered the poker face at the bargaining stall; especially Davis.  Addie and I returned to the hotel on the number 60 bus.  I know I mentioned already that the Chinese people are amazingly nice, but I have to say it again.  I have never been anywhere that people just want to smile and say hello and go out of there way for you as a rule rather than an exception.  Everybody loves Addie.  Everybody thinks Davis is worth a notice, but it's hard to tell what they are thinking about the huge young man.  We left them sitting on a curb for five minutes once and returned to find people lined up to have their picture made with the large dude and the cute little girl as if they were movie stars, not kidding.  Cross your fingers that we can arrange a day with Benn tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The day after

Wednesday August 13
Today the adrenaline fairy went away and the tired fairy dropped his dust on us.  It might not have been fairy dust.  It might have just been a heavy smog day.  It's hard to tell here.  We tried to soldier on.  With the race behind us and no event tickets till Friday we had two days built into the schedule to do China stuff.
We did sleep a little later than we have been.  We also hung around the hotel long enough for me to read some emails and some blog comments.  It amazes me that I am hearing from so many people.  Two people from my college days addressed me by my old nickname.  If you don't know it there is no reason to mention it here.  I'm hearing from former students of my teaching days as well.  I'm hearing from family members like my cousin who noticed Benn painted his nails black for the race.  Don didn't even ask why Benn painted them, not that I know anyway.  I didn't even understand myself when I was 19.  Benn is a much deeper thinker than I was so I have no chance of keeping up with him.  I try and love trying, and he understands when I fail.  Don claimed though that he painted his own nails black as a show of solidarity for Benn for the race.  Then he had to figure out how to get it off before work in the morning.  I think he might have been kidding.  Where do you find black nail polish at midnight?  
I'm also inspired by how many people told me in emails that they stayed up to watch the race live.  I apologize for not answering those emails individually at this point.  There just isn't time.  Please take this blog as a personal note to each of you.
Benn spent the night with us at the hotel after the race.  Marsha talked to him very late.  They both also talked to Lauren.  I suspect Benn talked to her longer than Marsha.  We didn't get to keep him long.  He had to go back to the course to support the C2 and Women's Kayak who were competing for the US today.
We saw the Forbidden City today.  We also looked at Tianenmen Square.  I probably didn't spell that right, but it really only matters if I knew the characters anyway.  I saw a phrase today spelled with a doglike character with no tail and a headless three legged man.  I think I saw the same sign in New York.  it said, "curb your dog."  Here though there don't seem to be many dogs to curb.  What might that mean? 
By the time we got through the maze of the Forbidden City we were all exhausted.  We went to The Bank of America Hometown Hopefuls place.  It was very relaxing.  We even got massages.  The food and drink is nice there too.  Thanks again Bank of America.
What was my biggest accomplishment the day after my kid competed in the Olympics?  Marsha and I went in search of feminine hygiene products.  We first stopped in the Auspcious Health Drug Store.  They only carried drugs, well at least that's how it seemed, but we couldn't read any labels or understand the lady.  Marsha showed her an example of what we sought.  She pointed across the street and down and said, "Yang," or something like that.  Of course everything sounds like either that or, "Err."  It turned out that we needed to go to the Jiang Mart.  It was three floors of household abundance, from food to clothes.  Without even being able to read labels I, a distinctly male type person of the nonfemale persuasion, found the only four boxes of the sought product in the vastness of the Jiang Mart.  I did it tired and I did it handicapped by both language and gender.  Sixth place in the Olympics doesn't sound so special now does it?  

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The day

Tuesday August 12
So did you hear about that kid?  You know the kid.  His dog taught him to walk.  His first word was "outside" (sort of).  It was actually more like sigh, but it meant outside.  Now do you know who I'm talking about?  He was the kid who never did any high school sports but committed all his time to athletics.  
Did you hear what he did today?  He started the day in the Olympic semifinal in Water Canoe Slalom. there were twelve boats.   He finished 6th.  That's not on the surface as remarkable as medaling.  But let me tell you the story.  He made a mistake near the top of the course.  It wasn't a big mistake, but it was enough.  He wasn't perfect and expected to be out.  Only the top eight moved on to the final.  As we continued to watch one by one other guys made bigger mistakes until finally 4 of them were out, the most shocking of which was Tony who had won the gold at the previous two Olympics.  Benn advanced to the final in 8th position.   He advanced only because after his mistake he continued to hustle and salvaged the rest of the run.  On his second run he almost crushed the same move where he had errored previously, but this time he missed the other way.  Rather than quit he pushed harder.  He flipped one gate later, but rolled the boat back upright quickly and continued again.  The rest of his run was very good and well worth the continued effort.  Again we watched as the course took it's toll on others.  Simply because in Cathy's words, "He manned up." Benn moved up to sixth place,  It wasn't what he would have wished for.  
It might have been nearly as good.  It was a solid performance, a demonstration of character and mental training.  And guess what else.  It was sixth place in the freakin' Olympics for crying outloud.  HOW COOL IS THAT?
As Benn walked the course with Cathy between the semifinal and the final he looked up to the stands where he knew Davis and I were sitting.  Marsha wasn't sitting with us.  She was in a special section for Mom's who were so nervous as to be nearly drooling on themselves.  Addie was there to take care of her.  Benn saw that I was watching him walk and study the course.  Even though the distance was probably 100 yards, oh wait it was China, 100 meters, we made eye contact.  He stuck his hand up for a wave.  I waved back.  I thought to myself, "Benn if that moment was as emotional for you as it was for me, then put your doggone hand down and focus on the course.  We can get choked up later."  
I have always been impressed by Scotty P and by his Lauren.  That's not the same Lauren of previous mention who is Benn's Lauren.  Roommates on trips, teammates, skinny jean wearing hair dying, think somewhat alike Slalom racers seem to have Laurens in common among other things.  At any rate when I thought I could be no more impressed with Scotty P he showed up to today's race, just one day after a heart breaking day of his own, wearing a quickly made shirt that said, "I am onboard the Frake Train."  I didn't get to see it but I understand that Lauren wore, "Frake takes my cake."   
I have teased Marsha a lot through all this, and I fully intend to continue.  I have to say truthfully though that the difference between us is that I, though just as taken by this whole experience, hide it better.  Well that and I wasn't a deer in the headlights in the Pearl Market this morning, but that's another story about trying to bargain without a safety net and having to be rescued by the bargaining lfeguard.