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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Aspen Part 4: Adventures in the Hot Tub

Our last loss against the Clowns on Friday afternoon meant that our rugby in Aspen was finished.  What this meant was that we had the rest of the weekend to have fun and take in the beautiful scenery.

It also meant that me and my mates in room 302A needed to take some Ibuprofen and take advantage of the hot tub at the Durant Condos for our associated aches and pains inflicted on our middle-aged bodies. On Saturday night, we sauntered down to the hot tub, where we were joined by some members of the Omaha GOATS. One of the GOATS players, Doug was actually a member of the Des Moines, Iowa rugby club who brought his wife Colette down to join the relaxing atmosphere in the hot tub on a beautiful evening.

We were to find out, that not all of the action in Aspen that weekend was going to be taking place on the pitch.

When you have rugby players, beer and a hot tub, it can get loud. Well, we got loud enough for a resident of the condos to come down and ask to quiet down. We invited her to join us...she paused and looked at us, and when she realized that we were sincere with our invitation, she came down to join us at the hot tub.

Her name was Annie. I am going to guess that she was in her mid 70's. She had just finished a long drive from Lake Havasu, Arizona to Aspen that day. She brought some wine down with her as her beverage of choice.  We all had a nice chat. When Annie was ready to leave, my back was turned to her, and then I heard Colette-also a Registered Nurse-call out "Look out!" I turned my head just in time for Annie to fall backwards into the hot tub. Colette was on her in a flash. Doug and I helped Colette to get Annie out of the hot tub. She had swallowed some water, and had been disoriented and flat on her back in the water. She was not unlike a turtle that had flipped over on its back and not able to right itself.

Colette has a lot of geriatric experience and did a quick assessment of Annie. She had been having some other fainting/falling episodes. (Hopefully, Annie went back to her doctor to get checked out to see if this was a case of simple dehydration, or if she was having some TIA or 'mini-stroke' symptoms, or if she was having sinus issues) Colette did her utmost to prevail upon Annie to get in and see her Doctor on Monday. One thing for sure, if Annie had been all alone and had passed out in the Hot Tub, she might have drowned. A  fun night turned serious in a big hurry. One of the ruggers escorted Annie up to her place to make sure she got back to her place in one piece.

 One thing was for sure: Doug's wife Colette is a keeper. Good looking(The picture above does not do her justice), smart, great sense of humor and cool under fire. I think Annie and everybody else in the hot tub was glad Colette was there, too.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Aspen Part 3: Babes, Cows and John Eales

Aspen, Colorado is a place where there is a whole lot of money. If you follow the money, This usually leads to a healthy mix of good looking women. Add to this mix the wives, girlfriends and female fans of oval ball, well, the women watching in Aspen was almost as good as the rugby:

One of the other Metropolis RFC Aspen Ruggerfest traditions has been players dressing up as cows on the last day of the tournament. They parade from their hotel rooms and condos to make an appearance at Wagner Park, where all of Sunday's finals are held. The Cows make their appearance and "graze" on the pitch during half time of the open final. My roomies in Aspen all had their own cow outfits. As I did not have one, John Eichten was nice enough to at least lend me his cow hat for Sunday's fun. Mike even had a cow pattern blazer for the weekend. The over 45 team that had Metropolis, Virginia Cardinal and Old Laurentian Old Boys had cow pattern jersey's for the final(which they won-8-3 with a man-of-the-match performance from "Super Joe" Kiley)

One of my roomates, Dave, or "Double D", had an Elvis Cow costume made up. He had a great time getting his picture taken by tourists and spectators, like the really nice looking MILF in the above shot.

For a lot of the Metropolis Old Boys, the passing of Matt Comstock back in the spring gave an awful lot of us a great deal of resolve in coming to Aspen. He really relished playing, being a part of the cow parade and partying in Aspen. His sudden death made a lot of us realize that you get just one shot at this life, and you have to take advantage of it. I know for me, Aspen was a good goal to help keep me going to the gym to stay in some semblance of playing shape.

One extra benefit of going to Aspen was that I had a chance to meet and talk with a real legend of the game: former Australian Wallaby captain, John Eales-who still looks really, really fit:

I also had a chance to speak with former USA Eagles captain, Brian Vizard.  The only thing that is greater than meeting an athlete whom you admire, is that when you meet them, you find out that they are also really nice people. I don't know if he ever imagined having a bunch of American rugby fans wanting to speak with him and take his picture, but he could not have been nicer. My only regret is that I was so dumbfounded by being able to speak with and get my picture taken with John Eales is that I forgot to remove my sunglasses and my cow hat.

I would encourage any rugby player or fan to try to make it to the Aspen Ruggerfest at least once. You have great rugby, fantastic people-watching, and a fun atmosphere all played out in the most beautiful venue you will ever see:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Aspen Part 2: Send in The Clowns

After going 0-2 without scoring a try against Kansas City and the Harlequins, our combined team of OL's, Metropolis and Omaha GOATS Old Boys had to play it's third, and final game against a bunch of Clowns. That's not meant to be a mean-spirited comment, we REALLY did have to play the Clowns in our last game on Friday.

We started off well against the Clowns. We had decent pressure on them, and our forward play was better.  I was feeling like I was adapting better and actually making it to some rucks(me with the semi-shaved head rucking a clown). Against KC, my feet felt like I was running in quicksand. At least in the last couple of matches, I was able to at least get to the breakdown, and I felt stronger in the scrum.

We at least scored a try in this game. Kyle, one of the Metropolis Old Boys put the ball down to at least salvage some pride.

The game did have one incident that was maybe the grossest thing I have seen on a rugby  pitch. Towards the end of the game, there was a scrum where the Clown tight head prop and I banged heads, giving me a nice cut on my right ear. This left a large amount of blood on the side of the face of my fellow prop. The young referee wanted to blood bin the other prop, when the hooker said "Don't worry, sir...I'll take care of it!" At this point the hooker grabbed the prop and licked the blood off his face. There was a loud moan of disgust from players on the field, the benches and the spectators at the Rio Grande field. Play did continue until the ref blew his whistle, which meant that our combined side was 0-3 and that our rugby was done for the rest of Ruggerfest.

I had a chance to chat with the Clowns after the game(the other prop to the left of me, the blood-thirsty hooker is shirtless kneeling)-like most people in the sport, they were nice guys, and they told me that one of their mates was going to be getting married on the Wagner Field pitch at the end of all of the rugby on Friday night. A rugby/clown sounded so different, that I had to check this out.

After an afternoon of re-hydrating and taking some Ibuprofen for my aches and pains, I went down to the Wagner Field, and sure enough, there were several Clowns players, the kilt-clad preacher and the bride and groom. It was disturbing and romantic all at the same time...

It takes a special woman to be married to a rugger. I know my lovely red-headed bride has been very supportive of me over the last 5 years.  For a woman to sign on to be married to a rugger and a Clown, well, she has to be a good sport.

In my next posting, I will talk about the Running of the Cows at Aspen and my brush with rugby royalty.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Aspen Report Part I: Is it Oxygen Debt or Old Age?

I can finally write about my Aspen Ruggerfest experience. I just got back home to Minnesota after 4 mostly fun-filled days in the Rocky Mountains. I was lucky to have 4 Metropolis Old Boy room-mates who are really nice guys. When you room with people, you never know quite how it is going to go. In my case, sharing a condo with Bruce(to my left), Dave, Mike and John worked out very, very well with our Condo that had a million dollar view, as you can see from above.

On Thursday, I had shared a drive from the Denver Airport with Eric and Kyle to Aspen. In our quintet, I was the first person to make it to the Durant Condo and check in. I had to drag my bags and my prop-shaped physique up the 3 flights of stairs. I could not believe how winded I was doing that. There is a big difference in activity done at sea level and at over 8,000 feet. I don't mind saying that I was more than level nervous about Friday's games. We would have to finish in the top 2 of our pool to play rugby on Sunday.

After a good night sleep, it was off to play Kansas City in our first game on Friday.  I should explain that for the over 35 division, we were a mix of Omaha Goats, Metropolis, and a couple of Old Laurentians from Rugby, England. We knew Kansas City was going to be tough. The game ended up being harder than I even imagined. Their huge, strong, organized pack put a serious beat-down on us. There were a couple of scrums where I had the disquieting sensation of being literally off the ground. I cannot think of any game I have ever played where took such a physical beating at prop. It was the perfect combination of altitude, middle-age and playing very good opposition. We had a little over an hour from that beat-down to get ready for our game against Harlequins. We still did not score any tries, but I felt that at least I was having some success in the scrum(that's me on the left with the short hairdo)

We lost again against Harlequins, and were shut out again. In spite of the pain and fatigue, I have to say that I don't think I will ever play at a more beautiful venue than in Aspen...
After two losses on Friday, we had one more game to try to salvage some honor, or at least score a try. It was time to literally send in the Clowns-and that will be my subject for my next entry.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Less Than a Week to the Aspen Ruggerfest...

It's less than a week before I head out to Ruggerfest in Aspen. It was nice to get a run in two weeks ago in the Old Boys game with the East Side Banshees. The thing that has been sticking in my mind for the past couple of weeks is that with the huffing and puffing I was doing while playing at our low-altitude here in Minnesota, I am set to play less than 24 hours after getting into Colorado at an altitude of  8,200 feet in Aspen.,_Colorado

I have been thinking about the last time I actually tried running in Colorado. It was 25 years ago. My wife and I were both in the Air Force, and my wife was at her tech school to become an Air Force Camera woman in what was then Lowry Air Force Base.

I remember telling her that I was going to go for a job while she was at class. She had an odd smile on her face when I told her this, but I did not pay it any mind. I was 24 years old, in great shape, and nothing was going to prevent me from  getting a run in that morning. I remember taking off and after about a half mile feeling like a really fat person was sitting on my chest. That was my introduction to trying to be active at high altitude. It got me to thinking just how good a shape you have to be in to play a sport like basketball or Ice Hockey at that kind of altitude.

Well, next week I will be rediscovering the joys of exercise at altitude at Ruggerfest in the over-35 division. My fellow Metropolis RFC grey-beards and I will be teaming up with the Omaha Goats Old Boys, The Golden Goats. Mercifully, in the old boys divisions, they will be allowing rolling substitutes, kind of like what they do in ice hockey, which is a good thing, otherwise the Aspen newswires would writing about a bunch of old rugby players having the Big One out on the rugby pitch.

In speaking with some of my other Metropolis mates, the rugby actually seems to be secondary. Most of them marvel and speak with great affection about the parties, socials and scenary in Aspen.

I owe a huge thanks to my Daughter, Rachel, who gave me her air miles so that I could do this trip (Money has been tight in the Nursedude household)

Friday, September 3, 2010

After 17 Years: an Empty Bedroom

We have lived at our house in New Hope, Minnesota since July of 1993. When we bought this house, my son Ian was 6, and my daughter Rachel was 2 and a half. At that time, my wife and I had the largest bedroom, then Ian had the second biggest room. Rachel's bedroom was almost more of a personal office sized room compared to the others.

The room was painted a bright yellow and had all manner of "Girly-Girl" things that would befit a little girl's bedroom. Over the years, Rachel would share the roughly 12 foot by 9 foot bedroom(with the help of a bunk bed) with her AFS sister's Tiphaine, Akane and Orn.  Right before my son Ian went to Japan for his AFS year abroad, we finally decided that Rachel had lived in the cramped space long enough.  We built a room in the basement for Ian and then Rachel took over(and repainted) Ian's room, which went almost overnight from being an adolescent boy's room to a feminine cathedral to all things equine. At that time, we were hosting Diego from Chile, who decided to paint the room popsicle orange.

The small bedroom was now re-invented from being a children's room to a teenager's pad. It went from being Diego's room to Benidikte's room. Our snowboard-loving Norwegian kept the room's bright orange color. This would change when Paula from Finland moved into the room in August of 2004. The words "Flamboyant" and "Finnish" don't really go well together. Paula asked if the flaming orange room could be painted a more sedate powder blue(not unlike on the Finnish flag).  The room stayed powder blue when Rodrigo from Portugal moved in 3 years ago. While he was with us, Ian and Andrea found out they were pregnant, and they were due to have their baby in the summer of 2008. Rodrigo was put in the unfavorable spot of having his room being transitioned to a baby's nursery even before he flew back to Lisbon. He was a pretty good sport about it.

The plan was for Ian, Andrea and Duncan to live with us until they finished their university studies. Luckily, Ian has a good eye for design, and he repainted the room with a whimsical day scene on a couple of the walls, and a starry sky on the other walls. On Duncan's shelves were a myriad of toy monsters and children's books.

Since June of 2008, this room has been Duncan's room...until today. My son, his wife and Duncan have moved into a place of their own over in Saint Paul. I admit that I have been very ambivalent about their moving. They need to be their own family unit after living with us the last 2 years. That said, it's a unique thing for a grandparent to watch their their grandchild grow up on a day to day basis. Duncan has gone from being a very calm baby to being an impossibly good-tempered two year old(He does have his moments, but they have been few and far between) Today, after Ian and I emptied out his room, I grabbed two of his favorite soft dolls, his Earnie and his Curious George along with some soft play tiles that had covered his floor. The finality of taking those last couple of toys out of Duncan's room just hit me harder than I had even anticipated....I totally lost it and started to cry in the kitchen-while still hanging on to Earnie and George. (That had to be quite a sight)

I cannot help but to think of images from that room from the past 17 years: of tow-headed Rachel playing with her Barnie and her American Girl Dolls, of me reading Rachel her bed-time stories, of Rachel chattering away with her AFS sisters later at night in the room-when they all knew they should be asleep, of Tiphaine, Orn and Akane NEVER complaining about the tight quarters of the room,  of Diego playing guitar in the room, of Bennie crying over a boy who had broken her heart, of Paula having the cats asleep on her chest and head, of Rodrigo's soccer and rugby clothes scattered in the room...of changing my grandson's diapers countless times, of dressing him, of watching him play on the floor of his room....of laying him down to say goodnight, and how much "Papi"(that's me) loves him-and how Duncan never gave me an ounce of trouble in putting him to bed.

 There are so many images that come to mind of the occupants of this now empty tears start to well in my eyes, I ask myself what will be the next incarnation of this room that has seen so much in the past 17 years?

It has been said that a house is just the board, brick and drywall-it's the people in the house that make it a home.  That is very apparent as I walk through the now empty bedroom.