Working Out & Knocking Oneself Up

Amid the locker chamber’s anthology of body odors, Greg Oden addressed me: “Spaniard, let’s go hoist dumbbells and yank pulleys in the weight room.”

“Knock yourself up,” I demurred. (In this fashion, I have managed to fend off many of his persuasive attempts this season!)

But this time, the ebon geriatric was not so easily put off. The expression is ‘knock yourself OUT’,” Greg answered. “To ‘knock myself up’ has an entirely different, biologically impossible expression.”

“I never let biological impossibilities stand in my way, whether on the parquet...or in the boudoir!” I proclaimed, while slyly exiting the chamber. When will it be known that weightlifting is not part of the Spanish paradigm?

Making my escape, this puts me in mind of other linguistic oddities. Per ejemplo, do you know why the French are reluctant to embrace American business models? It is because they don't have a word for “entrepreneur”!

And have I ever related news of the two Uzbek mates on my Badalona team in España? Their conversational gambits were most interesting. You see, it is customary for Uzbeks greeting each other to shout off a rapid series of questions. Meanwhile, his companion will do the same, all the while gesticulating wildly.

The bombardment might go thusly:

“Are you tired?”
“Is your work good?”
“How is your mother?”
“How do your free throws progress?”
“Do you like hot weather?”

These questions will serve as rhetorical devices…and as soon as one party actually ANSWERS a question, the conversation either commences or the two promptly bid adios.

Ah, a reminder to the self: I must try this gambit the next time Greg or a physicality trainer tries to lure me to the weights room!


Hand-Eye Coordination on the Glassy Seas

Engaging in basketball is like navigating a skiff on the blue waters of Mediterranean: One moment you use your oars, and then the sail…before you ran before the wind, but now you tack into it…once you caught the tide, and now you drain a three-pointer into some hapless soul’s grill!

But one aspect of my sailing skills that could utilize improvement is the ball handling. And I have just the program to commence!


Suavity. Debonairnessness. Polenta.

Being back on my sun-kissed isle of Palma de Mallorca, I have waxed philosophical on the seasoning past. My conclusion: Adversity is an unavoidable part of life…though not one I recommend!

I am now afforded opportunities to view Pau Gasol and his Laker-mates march to the Finals. Seeing Pau’s smooth operator-finesse on the parquet, it is perhaps no shock for my readers to know of his suavity in other realms of endeavor. For the centaur-like Barcelonan is both musically inclined...and epicurean in his tastes!

This puts me in mind of the fine composer, Gioachino Rossini. The Italian supposedly wept only three times in his life: First, when Rossini heard a singer strangling one of his arias. Second, after the premier of his then-new project, Il barbiere di Siviglia, or "The Barber of Seville." (This opera was a bigger flop than one of Manu Ginobili and Anderson Varejao masterpieces.)

The third time Rossini wept was when he saw a truffled chicken accidentally fall into a river. Truly, he was a man committed to the gustatory. As to this, Pau may be a dedicated gourmand, but I believe he has simpler tastes!

Gasol foto from the Blowtorch.


"Tener Duende": The Passion of Flamenco and Profanity!

Upon cleaning out my effects from the locker chamber in Portland’s pavilion, I saw something that Jerryd Bayless had scrawled on the white board. In a fit of angry passion over our final loss, he had written, “Sh**! Piss! F***!!!

“My friend,” I exclaimed, “you must be exhausted!”

But rest assured that I spoke in the admiration. For Jerryd had epitomized what we Spaniards call tener duende. It is a notion that has to do with the emotions and authenticity. For an American, tener duende might have the meaning as having soul. It is what gives your body a chilling reaction to the expressiveness of an artistic, athletic, or even profane expression!

When a three-point shooter has fires hot enough to burn, he has tener duende.  When a flamenco dancer closes her eyes and her twirling litheness gives way to a deeper concentration,  then does the elusive force of tener duende take possession of her form even as she captivates us all!

Not that I am paying particularly close attention.

How can tener duende be found? There is no map, there are no exercises, there is no one you can ask. Tener duende works on a basketball court the way that the hot winds blowing from Africa shape the sand dunes of the Spanish coast…and I thought that I saw tener duende at work here, in the unlikely form of these literary T-shirts. Behold, a delectable lady models a garment honoring Don Quixote himself!

“But is there a literary figure who models my número de cinco?” I wondered.

Sadly, there was…this sack of sadness modeling the number five for author Kurt Vonnegut! 

I am not here to pass literary fashion judgment…but at first glance, it does not seem likely that either the model OR the writer possesses tener duende!
Jerryd Bayless from Basketbawful,
T-shirts from Novel-T.


On Ostracism

The question is floated: Shall I make return to the Portland Trail Blazers next annum? There are many views among the learned scribes, but for the best analysis of sport, we must visit the democracy of ancient Athens! For it was there that the system of ostracism had beginnings.

Imagine the Athenians had to decide between two politicians for an office. If the citizens wished it so, the election could be an “ostracism” —that is, after the vote, one politician was chosen for office, while the other was exiled from the city!

To be accomplishing this, the Athenians scratched the name of the politician they wanted to be rid of on a piece of pottery called an “ostrakon.” If more than 6000 citizens cast ostrakons for a candidate, he went into “honorable exile” from Athens for a decade. (Of course, given what is happening in Athens today, an ostracism might be a welcome fate!)

It is no secret that Brandon Roy plays in front of me. And it is known that I am not Brandon Roy. If there were a vote for ostracism, I have no doubt I would be sent packaging. But there is also a third party at shooting guard, Martell Webster…so is our water hopelessly muddied?

The answer can be found in Grecian pasts! In 415 BCE, an excellent Athenian politician named Hyperbolus entered an ostracism match with TWO candidates, namely Alcibiades and Nicias. But though Hyperbolus was in a superior position, Alcibiades and Nicias pooled their political fortunes. In doing so, they managed to exile Hyperbolus! 

I mention this as a veiled offer to Martell Webster: Together, there is MUCH we can accomplish, mi amigo!
Fotos from the Oregonian.


Of Faux Hidalgos & Sergio's Power Ranking

A flash of the news— Amare Stoudemire is a scholar of the classics! Behold his support of those who speak Latin:
Upon thoughts of a second nature, there seems to be some confusion. Stoudemire’s conflation of Jews, Latins, and Latinos made me sorely aware of some lack of my own education. Thus, I have searched the Internet’s most unimpeachable source on such matters, namely ESPN’s Latino Power Rankings. (Incidentally, I am ranked woefully low thereon!)
Yet the Latino Power Rankings reveal no word on these matters! Neither is there a power ranking for Jewish players (e.g. Omri Casspi) nor Latin ones (Andrea Bargnani). Thus, Stoudamire is engaged in a political statement of some kind here, one in which the Sun hopes we can divine his meaning. Such a statesman!

Thus, I began analyzing the subtext of the cryptic tweet. My theory is that Stoudemire may be expressing solidarity with Mexicans in Arizona, who feel oppressed by the area’s new immigration laws. So if you will indulge me, here is an illustrative (and true!) parable on the matter:


Kobe of Arabia

As I rest for international play, rest assured I still keep Pau’s team in my purview. And seeing my friend’s Lakers mate dressed in these alabaster travesties, my orbs bugged!

Clearly, Bryant needed to consult the fashion expertise of a more cosmopolitan player.

So I penned a quick note: “My dearest Kobe,” it read, “please consider Pau's advice when creating ensembles.”

I soon received a reply from the muslin-clad one:
“Spaniard, let me correct either your grammar or your morals. You address me, ‘My dearest Kobe.’ Am I to believe you have OTHER dear Kobes? I thought not. And now I must excuse myself to adjust my burnoose.” 
Touché! And please to enjoy your adventures in the sands of Arabia.


As Hopes Are Fulfilled, the Jester Smiles

Last week near Madrid, the poet José Emilio Pacheco received the Cervantes Prize for literature from Spain’s own King Juan Carlos. The ceremony was both well-deserved and ill-fitting, as just before its start, the esteemed poet’s trousers fell down!

Ah, how Cervantes would have laughed! As for Pacheco, he took his pratfall in shortened stride, saying, “Not having suspenders is a very good argument against vanity.”

With the perspective born of the end of our Trail Blazers’ seasonings, I can see that infinite jest awaits ALL of us who climb into the public’s eye. My dream of playing in the NBA has come true, yet my ambition is baulked! But a finer matter bears consideration: Do the same pitfalls await both the poet AND the point guard? 

Sport cannot be conducted without guts, sweat, and toil, so it follows that athletes must labor harder than men of letters who —in tranquil peace— compose their poems. Where the poet cuts-and-pastes, the athlete must cut-and-thrust. Further, we basketball players are publicly buffeted by fortune and flagrantly fouled by scoundrels. Why, there are times when we are wretched, ragged, and louse-ridden!

Well, we do get tired at practice, anyway.

And if some of us, by the strength of our arms and spring in our steppings, become millionaires, rest assured it costs us dearly in blood, sweat, and the ratio of our incomes siphoned by agents!

And as for the public exposure of our shortcomings, por favor! Our every mistake is pored over and amplified...to the point that there have been occasions when I yearned for suspenders on MY gym shorts!

(More thoughts on the year’s end follow.)
Fotos from Reuters 
and from an extraordinary 
series of shots at the Oregonian.