Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Just for the Record

Time for another confession here: I was a teenaged pole-vaulter. Vaulted for the Pingry Country Day School for Young Gentlemen back in the late New Jersey ‘60’s. And, may I add, broke the school record.

The pole vault runway was the same as the broad jump runway and usually, no one ever watched the pole vault, which was held early on in the meet while all the runners were circling the track. But on one particular day, myself and my opponent kept raising the bar and when it was time for the broad jump, the last event, we were still going. And so a crowd was gathered around. The bar was raised to 11’6”, 3 inches higher than the previous record. The crowd was gathered on either side of the runway and there was hushed silence to mark the moment as I stood with my pole eying the bar. (If this was a movie, this would be when the Chariots of Fire theme would play and it would run in slow motion.) Coming down the runway, I felt the energy of the crowd urging me on and up and over the bar— and over I went! The sweet ring of applause in my ear as I lay in the pillows and stood up to acknowledge the crowd.

I then had three tries to try to clear 12 feet. Hoping for the same moment of glory, down I ran and up I went— knocking the bar over decisively. Two more failed attempts— my moment of glory had passed. And yet still it was a teenaged glory moment— I now held the school record.

There was a tradition that the headmaster at lunchtime would announce the sports scores and give special recognition to any high scorer or record-breaker. All those years at that school, I was a bad boy in a good-old-boys club, but now awaited my one moment of recognition from the powers-that-be. I sat in the lunchroom while the headmaster announced each event and waited for my moment.

It never came. He simply skipped it, either innocently overlooking it or purposefully ignoring it. And so began my initiation into my future relationships with various institutions, my descent into bitterness, my ascent into crusading for justice in both small and big forms. (Years later, a friend gave me a belated pole vaulting medal at my 40th birthday party that he claimed Pingry had made. Finally, I felt healed— until he later he confessed he had it made himself!)

What brought all of this up? Last night I dreamt I pole vaulted again for the first time in 45 years. And sailed over the 12 foot mark. How mysterious is the mind! It could be because I have the Spring Concert tonight and I need to sail over that increasingly high bar our music department has set for that event. Or it could be that this weekend is my 45th reunion at that school in New Jersey.

I’m not going, but hey fellas, if any of you old classmates read this blog, could you announce my record at lunch? 

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