Paying Tribute by Doing Nothing

Today I got an email from a friend in Philadelphia asking how I commemorated the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks since I “knew a lot of people who died that day.”  Most people who know me have seen my right shoulder which is permanently inked with a tribute to that day.  But I’m sure he meant did I do anything special to recognize those who died that day and the answer is…sort of.

On Sunday September 4th I participate in the 9/11 Run to Remember, a 5K on Governor’s Island that benefits various charities that were founded as a result of the attacks.  When signing up I noticed that I could have the name of someone who died that day placed on my number bib under the words, “I’m running in memory of.”  I immediately emailed my aunt and asked her to check with my uncle, a retired FDNY firefighter who was there that day, whose name he would like.  The reply was, “either Billy or Bobby.”  I had to choose.  Hmm…how do you do that?  Billy had always wanted to be a firefighter and a mere 31 years old when he died.  Bobby was my uncle’s partner and a Lieutenant in the FDNY and his remains were never recovered.  How to choose?

Then I saw it.  “Add second bib for $5.00.”  I could do 2 bibs.  So I did.  Then I saw, “Add third bib for $5.00.”  I had a vision of myself running a 5K covered in bibs and thought I might look a little silly so I compromised.  On one bib I also had the phrase, “All 9/11 Victims” and on the other I had “All 9/11 Heros.”  Yes, they spelled heroes without the E.  But that’s okay.  You get the point.  It was also the first 5k I ran in its entirety since I quit smoking nearly 2 years ago.  I wouldn’t allow myself to walk at all no matter how much my legs hurt and how out of breath I was.  I paid tribute by pushing myself as hard as I could and proudly wore the names of heroes as I did it.

On Saturday 9/10/11 I competed in the Town of Hempstead triathlon in Point Lookout.  I figured I had my American flag and tribute already on my shoulder so on this day I would pay tribute to the Russian hockey team who lost their lives in a plane crash on 9/7/11.  I even wrote the team name using Cyrillic which took a while.  I got no shortage of people asking me what it meant.  That day wasn’t for the 9/11 victims.  It was for the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team and their loved ones.

As for 9/11/11?  I volunteered at a Half Ironman triathlon in beautiful upstate New York and worked at an aid station.  This is where the athletes who were on the running portion criss-crossed each other, the lead runners at the 9th mile marker and the ones farther back at the 4th mile.  We handed out PowerAde, water, soda and gel.  Some ran with American flags as their way of paying tribute.  It was a wonderful and beautiful day in Croton on Hudson seeing some spectacular athletes compete in one of the most difficult events there is.  I did not watch anything online or on TV.

Paying tribute comes in many different forms and sometimes it’s nothing outward.  Did I bow my head for a moment and remember the events of that day and wish everyone’s physical and emotional scars would heal?  Of course.  But I figure living my life as I normally would is a tribute.  Go to an event that reinforces life.  Carry on the legacy of those who died by living free and not behaving like a target for radicals and terrorists.  We were not defeated.  We came together and rose up.  I commemorated the 10th anniversary of 9/11/01 by enjoying the life that is afforded to me by those willing to die so I can have it.  As long as we live our lives on our terms we will continue to pay tribute to those who died that day every single day we’re alive.

May they all rest in peace.

Sounding Off (The Bobby Martinez saga)

“I hope you become a famous pool player one day. I can’t wait to quote you.” This was said to me by a billiards reporter for a very popular magazine when giving him a lift home from my first professional event. I never became a famous pool player but he did end up writing an article on a topic that was a very sore spot for me. However I did recognize that when playing a game or sport professionally there is a need to be able to censor one’s self in the interest of the betterment of the sport. I use the word “censor” in the loosest possible way, of course. I was very critical of the way the various tours were run. I resented the obvious favoritism shown to certain players, the fact that seeded professionals were allowed to play in qualifiers for pro events and felt their dress code was archaic. I always managed to get my point across with diplomacy and actually had a tournament director thank me for presenting my grievance in a constructive way. I didn’t get my way but I ended up with an army behind me singing the same song.

This leads me to the disqualification of Bobby Martinez from this year’s Quiksilver Pro event and banishment from the remaining tour stops. His fans seem way more torn up about this happening than he does. He said this would be his last event anyway so he shouldn’t be feeling any real sense of loss but a lot of his fans are beside themselves with anger. How dare they! The fix is in! It’s a conspiracy so that (insert name here) can win! Really it was a guy who publicly spewed vulgarities and outright bashed everyone involved in this event. I don’t know much about the various surfing organizations but this just sounded bad from go.

From another perspective, I also cover the NHL and am fortunate to occasionally interview players and coaches. The majority of them give pretty typical answers and us reporters love when a Jeremy Roenick, Brett Hull or Zenon Konopka comes along. We just know some wonderful gem will trickle out of his mouth and will give us fodder for days. It’s glorious! “Freedom of Speech man. I can say whatever I want.” – Bobby Martinez. True. But the rules change a bit when the word “professional” comes ahead of “athlete.” In any game/sport there is a sense of decorum required from its most famous representatives. Part of the job is being an ambassador to ensure the prize money keeps growing and people stay interested. Sometimes when criticizing lines are crossed and that’s okay as long as it’s not a long distance jump to outright defamation.

Does he make valid points? Entirely possible. He certainly feels strongly about it and I don’t know enough about the sport to have an opinion either way. I do know that no matter how legitimate his issues may be they’re completely lost in the delivery. Most don’t hear what he’s actually saying. They hear a ticked off guy cursing his head off.

Should he apologize? Maybe for the language but not the message. Never apologize for a belief. And honestly I’m over the whole “oops, sorry ‘bout that, now it’s all fine” society we’ve created anyway.

Did he deserve to be disqualified and suspended? Without question. If you think otherwise, go to work and tell your boss, “this company is a joke and you’re running it into the ground and I hate it here.” Let me know how that works out for ya.

I got into my first professional pool tournament because a dear friend who had a spot said she would give it up and campaigned for me to be there instead. She felt I was the better player and deserved it more and I’m forever grateful for that opportunity. Bobby Martinez would be well served to remember that for every one professional surfer out on those waves there are thousands who wish they were there. It’s my sincerest hope that with this new open slot in the tour that someone who appreciates being able to be out there can showcase his/her skills with the big guns. And perhaps knows a little bit about PR.

“I’m just downright irritated with the lack of information.” Re: Quiksilver Pro

I’m just downright irritated with the lack of information being provided to residents for the upcoming Quiksilver tournament. The FAQ’s on the city’s website are pretty useless when you get right down to it. This is how it reads to me:

What is it? A surfing tournament. Yeah, we get that.

Were is it? In the water right by all of that disruptive construction.

When? The first 2 weeks of September, which residents can see all over town in the form of fliers, banners, etc.

What happens at the festival? Bands and overpriced t-shirts.

Food and beverage? Um, yeah. Have ID and bring lots and lots of cash.

Who will be there? Kelly Slater. And some other surfers too.

Are there beach fees? Does a bear poo in the woods?

How do we get there? If you live in Long Beach you’re screwed. Don’t move your car for the duration of the event unless you have a driveway.

What about parking? If you live in Long Beach you’re screwed. Don’t move your car for the duration of the event unless you have a driveway.

What about traffic congestion? If you live in Long Beach you’re screwed. Don’t move your car for the duration of the event unless you have a driveway.

Where can I stay? This is a website for residents so I guess I can skip looking for a hotel room.

Any other guidelines? Yes, here are the rules of the beach you see all the time.

So on and so forth. It’s just a lot of non-information for people who live here. The only questions I frequently ask are what are we doing about parking and how will we handle traffic congestion, to which there are no solid answers. “Parking information will be posted on this website when it becomes available.” To me this reads, “The city might be doing something for resident parking but we don’t know what yet.” They’ll tell us soon yet the tournament begins in 2 weeks. These issues should have been resolved months ago.

If the LIRR were an option for me I would take it every day and never drive, however, it doesn’t really go anywhere except Penn Station. It would take me 2 transfers and 3 hours to get to work every day so I have no choice but to take my car. I usually don’t have much trouble in my part of town finding a spot but I’m absolutely cringing at the thought of how it’s going to be for those 2 weeks. I did look at renting a driveway for those days but the ones I’ve found are asking no less than $50 a day. A parking ticket is only $25 so guess which one I would choose?

The rest of the questions are pretty irrelevant to anyone who lives here. It’s just a lot more marketing nonsense that’s already plastered all over town. I work in marketing. I get it. Just answer my questions as a resident and you can scream the information from my rooftop.

The initial excitement over having this tournament come to Long Beach has quickly soured into imagining the worst. It’s entirely possible everything will work out perfectly fine but we have no precedent for an event of this size. City employees giving us nothing more than shoulder shrugs for issues that are important to us it doesn’t exactly lend itself to confidence in the ability to handle an event of this magnitude. I want to be able to relax and enjoy the event same as everyone else but all I need is an answer to one question: where the hell can I park?