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Friday, May 15, 2015

Do They Sell Oars at Neiman Marcus?

This week, my rowing BFF and I got our hands on our new sculling oars.  Behold their beauty!  We paid a lot of money for them.  They were handcrafted (okay refurbished) by a skilled Italian artisan (Okay, Coach Maurice).  We waited and waited for them to arrive.  We couldn’t wait to try them on.  Then we made sure to wipe them down and clean them until the next time we used them.  This is reminiscent of the way I used to feel (gulp) about shoes.

OK, I admit it.  I have traded in my Louboutins for used sculling oars.  Don’t get me wrong, I still have a closet full of Louboutins, Manolos and Jimmy Choos.  I’m saving them in case we need to make a down payment on a condo in Florida someday.  I guess you could say my shoe obsession has become a crew obsession.

But there is still that part of me that misses the days when I would walk into Neiman Marcus and buy clothes whose primary material was something other than spandex.  And when I would shop for shoes not named after the fastest beings on earth (Puma, Nike).  
We decided to start out with refurbished oars, although they were reconditioned by none other than our own super-talented Coach Maurice, right here at the Boathouse. The older I get, the more I realize how lucky we are to have a big Boathouse at the Newburgh Rowing Club.  A significant part of what you need to know takes place inside the Boathouse.   Rigging, adjusting, spacing, tinkering with pitch, knowing how to use tools.  I’m talking about the kids.  I have no idea how to use anything other than a 7/16 wrench, but the coaches do, and they really blinged out our oars beautifully for us.  Frankie sanded down the blades and painted them black, then put on the blue Corsairs (pirate) logo on them.
But the last step will take place this weekend.  We will each get our name inscribed on our oars.  And we will get Hello Kitty logos.  In a pirate hat, of course.   Listen, I may not be buying the $1,500.00 shoes with the red soles anymore, but my Hello Kitty oars bring me so much more pleasure.  
There may come a day when I once again care deeply about shoes with heels.  When I start shopping at Neiman Marcus again, or at least somewhere other than Boathouse Sports.  Right now, I have more important things on my mind: running a low cost swim club and a free water confidence program, so underserved kids in Newburgh know how to swim.  Running the Student Ambassador program, to introduce and keep underserved youth in the sport of rowing.  Making sure I remember Michael’s monthly lunch order (just one more lunch order and I’m done!)  Making sure Christian has a healthy breakfast, lunch, Nutrabullet shake and enough stuff to add up to 75 grams of protein a day in the refrigerator by 5:00 am.  Making sure everybody times their Netflix viewing so that I don’t have to upgrade my account (there are four people in my house, do we really need to be watching 4 different shows at the same time?!)  Oh, and I want every rowing club on the Hudson River to go plastic free by the end of 2016.  I guess you could say my priorities have changed.
Every time I bought a pair of Manolo’s, I swore to myself I would never trade them in for frumpy shoes.  And I haven’t.  I have traded them in for Hello Kitty oars.  And as far as I’m concerned, that’s an upgrade.

Have a great day, everyone, and remember to Count Your Blessings!  <3  Mrs. Lo www.LoBiondo.org  (Photos by Emma Jendrejeski)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Mrs. Lo's State Championship Saga

I will cut to the chase:  this past weekend Christian’s DBP Novice 4x won 1st place at the Garden State Rowing Championship.  And, against all odds, I was able to see and photograph his boat on the water.  But it wasn’t easy.

The plan was simple and brilliant.  I was to follow the team bus down to the Cooper River in NJ on Friday morning, the day before the State championship rowing meet.  The team would get a chance to set up ahead of time, get a primo spot for the tent and trailer and practice on the race course ahead of time.  Then check into the hotel, carb up, get a good night’s sleep and be race ready the following day.  What could possibly go wrong?
Everything went according to plan beautifully.  The boys got a great practice in, a great pasta meal the night before, and a big breakfast the day of.  Next up:  the Team Mom mobile was scheduled to drive the Novice 4x from the team hotel to the race course 7 miles away.  We were way ahead of schedule when we got into the car.  Then it happened.  The “Tire Pressure” light went on for my rear tire.  Having driven around the streets of the city of Newburgh for a long time and having driven OVER a lot of nails, scrap metal and screws that light could only mean one thing:  a flat tire.  Where was my husband?  (Up north with Little Michael at Earth Day at the Newburgh Rowing Club).  Where was Coach Kennedy?  (Ditto)  What about Kelvin, he can change a tire (Varsity LAX game).  Bleep, bleep and double bleep!   “Think, Mother, think!”  (Yes, when I talk to myself, I call myself “Mother,” don’t ask me why but it somehow helps me think).  OK, I will get these athletes to the race course, then I will have my tire fixed, then I will go back and watch my son row in the State Championship.  “This is a good plan, Mother, a good plan,” I said to myself.  
Phase one:  take athletes to the race course.  Check!  Now to find an Acura dealer.  There is one less than 10 miles away and they can take me right now.  Check again!
By the time I got through all the police barricades and whatnot for the regatta, it took me a good hour to get to the Acura dealer.  I got there at 2:00 pm.  Christian’s race was scheduled for 3:00 pm.  Races generally run late but well organized races are known to run on time.  There was no time to waste.
I calmly walked into the service area.  OK, you got me, that’s a lie, I burst into the service station looking like a wild woman from OITNB but without the prison garb.  “You’ve got to help me! I have to get back to the race course, I don’t care how much money it costs, just fix my tire and get me out of here!”
“Bill” walked over (names have been changed to protect the innocent).  “Uh, hi there ma’am, yes we got your call, we will help you any way we can.”
“Can you get me back to the race course in the next 45 minutes?” I was half crying now, all this effort, all these years of athletics, and I was about to miss my son’s first State Championship race.
“Well, the next shuttle leaves in 45 minutes …” Bill started out half-heartedly, as even he knew this wasn’t going to end with me taking a shuttle.
“Bill, Bill, help me out, I cannot miss my son’s State Championship race!” I appealed wildly.  A small crowd was starting to gather.  After all, there’s not a whole heck of a lot to do when you’re waiting for your oil change.  
“DO YOU WANT ME TO CARJACK YOU?” is what I was thinking in the non-rational part of my brain.  But the rational part of my brain managed to articulate instead: “Loaner car, what about a loaner car, I’m running out of time here!”
“Well, we don’t normally give out loaner cars for a tire change …” Bill said, as he looked around the room.
“Gee, there’s got to be something you can do, she has to get to her kid’s baseball game,” said someone (close enough, I wasn’t going to correct him).
“What’s going on in here?” said an authoritative figure, presumably a manager.  Some discussion ensued.  We, the small crowd and I, waited breathlessly.  Well, I waited breathlessly, the others were slightly more interested in the outcome of Tire-Gate than the golf game playing in the waiting room.  The manager looked at me intently.  I could tell he was sizing me up.
Listen, I read people for a living.  It’s part of being a trial attorney.  When I have a witness on the stand, I have to make snap judgments in a matter of seconds: about whether this person is truthful, lying, a helpful witness, a hurtful witness or just plain neutral.  Most of this comes from reading body language.  The manager decided it was a good idea to get Psycho Mom out of there and on her way.  
“A loaner car it is!” he said, as I sped off.  I got to the race venue at 2:30 pm.  But I could not move forward because of the race traffic.
“Think Mother Think.  You have been mentored by the Senior Rowing Coach in the Hudson Valley for years.  Coach always says, stay calm and assess the situation.”  So I did.  I looked at the River then at the Heat Sheet.  Varsity Girls 2x Race coming down.  Holy Crud!  According to the Heat Sheet, this race is actually running 10 minutes early!  That means Christian’s boat is on the water rowing up to the start and he will launch in 20 minutes!  What to do, what to do.
What would Coach Kennedy do?  That’s easy, he would drive his big black (now teal) pickup truck onto the grass and park it wherever he wanted.  I’m not going to do that with my loaner car.  “Well, if there’s no parking at the finish, then go to the Start, Mrs. Lo, that’s an easy one.”  (Dear Lord, is that Coach Kennedy’s voice in my head?)  It was.  And he was right.  I went around all the traffic and measured 1500 meters due north. That was the start.  And guess what.  There was NOBODY there!  
Sure enough, the Freshman 4x rowed up.  That was the race before Christian’s -- I had made it!  I was cheering them on wildly until the starting line Ref told me to be quiet or I would be ejected.  Thus, I was simply quietly saying “Go Ironmen” when Christian’s boat rowed up to the start.  He looked up.  He looked right at me.  He knew that, against all odds, I had made it back.  He told me later he had no doubts I would make it back to watch him somehow.
I heard the starting horn go off and they took off like a shot!  Ahead by open water, then by several boat lengths.  I watched until the boat went out of sight.
Then I was gone, true to my word, as the Acura dealer closed at 4 pm.  I thanked them profusely and drove off in my Team Mom mobile with the brand new tire.  I returned to the race, found a great parking spot and ran to my friend.
“How did they do?” I asked her wildly.
Everybody’s got that Ride or Die Homie on their kid’s team. My Ride or Die is just like me except a lot quieter.  
“Your son’s boat got 1st place,” she said quietly.  Too quietly.  She wasn’t jumping up and down.  
“First place --  as in they WON?  As in they’re State Champions??!!”  
Yup.  
You can only imagine Mrs. Lo’s wild cheering, and my foolish attempt at a cartwheel, which ended up with me just lying on the ground kicking my legs in the air like a fool.  Great merriment, hugging, crying, and further foolish ensued.  Followed by photographing the rowers getting their medals.  
Like Coach Kennedy always says, you make deposits early on, sometimes for years, and then later you can withdrawn them. We had all been making deposits for a long time.  And we made some big withdrawals that day and it paid off.  
And we all drove home, safely, on 4 nice safe tires.  And this week, DBP crew, along with so many crew teams around the nation will be back at it again.  I’m headed to Philly this weekend.
Because to borrow a phrase “there ain’t no party like a crew season party and the crew season party don’t stop!”
Have a great day, everyone and, as always Remember to Count your Blessings! <3 Mrs. Lo www.LoBiondo.org