Funny story in “Underbelly Hoops”

Reading “Underbelly Hoops,” following a season in the CBA (minor league basketball).  It’s an enjoyable book and a funny story I read in it overnight:  a player has too much to drink and passes out on a night off, and as a prank some of his teammates deposit him under the Christmas tree (like a gift) at the police department.  

The writer of the book played ball at Purdue before playing minor league basketball.  I read that he is now a professor at DePaul (which ironically was my favorite college basketball team in the early 1980s, when I was in junior high school and Ray Meyer was coach), which is impressive.

Funny story in “Underbelly Hoops”

Funny story in Underbelly Hoops

Reading “Underbelly Hoops,” following a season in the CBA (minor league basketball).  It’s an enjoyable book and a funny story I read in it overnight:  a player has too much to drink and passes out on a night off, and as a prank some of his teammates deposit him under the Christmas tree (like a gift) at the police department.  

The writer of the book played ball at Purdue before playing minor league basketball.  I read that he is now a professor at DePaul (which ironically was my favorite college basketball team in the early 1980s, when I was in junior high school and Ray Meyer was coach), which is impressive.

Funny story in Underbelly Hoops

David Brown was a 19th Century adventurer in California

Have been spending a little time here and there reading John Muir’s autobiography about his travels through the Sierra Mountains.  He spends a few pages talking about David Brown, who was a locally famous adventurer.  I was intrigued by this because there is something about the 19th century explorers who intrigue me; I can smell the pine, hear the men panning for gold in the creeks, and feel the sun on my face — all are wonderful thoughts, although in reality it must have been a hard, dirty life…  Anyway, Brown lived in his small cabin, but would hike to the highest peaks to admire the view, then climb down into the valleys to seek gold, and becamse famous for his hunting of the Brown Bear… PERSONAL COMMENTARY:  I just don’t get hunting in the modern age – all life has value, so killing a creature for “sport” then snapping a photo of the poor dead creature is something I will never get (of course, it easy for me to say this, not being raised in a hunting community or family).   What a crazy world we live in, with all these creatures killing each other all the time. 

David Brown was a 19th Century adventurer in California

My experience with scary lung disease helps me empathize (on a minor level) with EB Sledge’s post war experience

In China Marine, EB Sledge has a few episodes where he realizes that people cannot understand what he has been through. For months on end, he slept in mud, watched his good friends killed on a daily basis and lived in a constant (i.e. hourly) threat of instant death where 90% of the people he went into battle with were killed, some in hand-to-hand combat with the Japanese.  (As much as any book I’ve ever read, With the Old Breed made me feel like I was there). Now, here he is at home, the parades are over and life has moved on, and nobody knows the grind it took on a daily basis to fight the war.  So in essence he is left alone to deal with his feelings…  

My experience was nothing like EB Sledge in its intensity (I don’t know how the marines stayed sane, and many snapped after multiple campaigns).  But I can empathize, since in that first year after getting my scary lung disease under control, I felt so alone.  Here I was, a survivor, but there were no walks or ribbons (many people march for friends in support of breast cancer), no one knew what disease I had or that I was continuing to fight it (and Ankylosing Spondylitis), and everyone was able to continue their lives while I was still trying to get my life back.  It was shocking. Lonely.  Devestating.  (And I experienced only a fraction of a percent of what EB and other combat veterans experienced!).  It wasn’t that people didn’t care, but they had their own lives to lead and how could they possibly know what I was feeling?  Which is why I burst into tears in the doctor’s office that day when he told me how boyant/chipper I seemed despite being through so much, and thank god I did since he sent me to therapy that got my life back on track.  My life will neer be the same, and in some ways it is better while in other ways it is much worse, but at least it is back on track again (and, overall, I am *much* more content and less anxious now than I was pre-illness).  

Anyway, on a minor level I can understand what EB felt when he returned home.  And I continue to look foward to reading about his journey in China Marine.  And I feel soooo much for that man, and the other people who have returned from battle (including our Afghanistan/Iraq veterans).

My experience with scary lung disease helps me empathize (on a minor level) with EB Sledge’s post war experience

Final Thoughts on Michael Crichton’s Travels

Loved this book.  How he sprinkled tidbits about his life and philosophies within a series of chapters about medical school and his exotic treks.  I skimmed through the last final chapters (the final 20%), but that is not uncommon for me.  My impression of Michael Crichton from reading this is that he was incredibly intelligent and driven, and incredibly restless.  What an amazing life that led to, and I can’t imagine writing a best selling novel while in Harvard Med School then leaping into Hollywood, etc.

Some final notes from his journeys: My favorite part was the section about climbing Kilamanjaro.  I didn’t realize that it was so tall (19K) and was so challenging to climb.  I love how there are three stages to the climb, including the rainforest at the base, then the meadows. It reminded me (kinda) of The Green Lakes trail in Bend, Oregon…  I thought the section about New Guinea was interesting, where the island is the second largest after Greenland, and is dominated by high mountains at the center.  Crichton mentions a couple of times in his book that high mountains – like those in Nepal — creates diversity in areas separated by short distances as the crow flies.  I thought New Guinea was interesting in that every piece of land is owned by someone, and they had to obtain permission to hike to a waterfall.  His description of the battles was interesting too, where time and intensity have a different meaning there, to the point where German tourists standing in the middle of a battle between two clans didn’t see one warrior behead another right next to them (OmG!!)…  He had some close calls diving, yet continued to dive.  In one, he lost his mouthpiece and was worried he was going to pass out; in another, he dove too deep and ran out of oxygen just as he surfaced and had to bypass safety procedures for avoiding the bends but avoided the bends, and in another he was carried by a fast current through a cloud of sharks (terrifying for him)…  He did not get along with his father, calling him a Son of a Bitch…  I loved his takes on Sean Connery, who he respected and sounds like both a talented actor and a man who is both direct and comfortable in his own skin…  They had an experience in Jamaica where a convict slipped into their car in Spanish Town, claimed he was a guide, refused to leave them, and in the end escaped with their watch and extra money through intimidation. Crichton later learned two tourists had been killed in the same area, which reminded him how lucky he was to escaped for so little cost (cheap watch and 10 pounds, I think)…  He experienced some incredible psycnics at the Spiritualist Association of Great Britain… He saw Mountain Gorillas and was shocked by how *huge* they were (bigger than theones we see in the zoos, which are the smaller lowland variety), and it dawned on him that they (the group) were the guests in the gorilla’s home. THeir numbers are rapidly shrinking (just 100s left when he wrote the book) and was heartbroken by that.  He learned that if a gorilla charges, it is important to stay in one place – to flee is the classic inspiring it to chase you.  He was charged once (the gorilla didn’t like his camera — and it was terrifying…  He visited “Shangri-la” (Hunza) and was surprised by how unpleasant it actually was…  Stepping just a few feet off the path in the jungle, he was immediately lost.  Yet, there are tribes who are never lost in the jungles…I liked that he called the Malaysians the Danes of Asia (low key and easygoing) except when it comes to religion. And I liked that he pointed out that in the culture life is out of our control, so it is better to adapt to what comes our way then to try to control everything.  

Just some initial thoughts.  There is so much more in the book and about so many places.   

Final Thoughts on Michael Crichton’s Travels

Reading autobioraphies is sometimes like reading the mind of the dead — it is eerie and beautiful at the same time.

When I read autobiographies of people who have passed (e.g. Michael Crighton or EB Sledge), I am sometimes struck that it is like reading the thoughts of the dead.  This morning while reading Travels on the bus, I was reading a paragraph where MIchael Crichton talks about his fear of falling off a cliff while hiking in Pakistan — he died years ago, yet here i am reading his thoughts about that experience. It is errie, beautiful and magical all in one.  This is true of any autobiography, although it is challenging for me to read anything pre-20th century since the writing style is so much different (I like more of a crisp, journalistic style that came into vogue with Hemmingway — reading John Smith’s writings from the 16th century are tedious for me).  

Reading autobioraphies is sometimes like reading the mind of the dead — it is eerie and beautiful at the same time.

Continuing to read Michael Crichton’s Travels

I have a difficult time finishing books.  I always read, and I always read books, but after a few chapters I get bored and I find another book, or I put the book for a few weeks, start another book, then come back to the first book.  It is not uncommon for me to have 6 or 7 books going at a time, and to take months (or years) to finish one, if at all. But I am continuing to prod through Michael Crichton’s very very good autobiography.  Some highlights from memory of this week’s reading (I am a slow reader and am little more than half way through):

He visits an ancient Mayan ruin, dated back to the 10th century.  But this is not just a ruined pyramid, but a beautiful Mayan city that was carefully built and then all traces of its occupants lost.  He finds this perplexing and disturbing, that things can be lost in time like that. (The European conquerers destroyed countless historical records, so I find it not surprising at all — but very disturbing — that we know nothing about this city).  While reading this, I remember our day of visiting southern Mexico, how flat and jungle-like and peaceful it was.  THat portion had been created by the asteroid that destroyed the dinosuars, the impact had literally lifted this shelf from the ocean, and you literally could tell.

He climbs Kilamanjaro!!  His guides had a bet going that he would not make it, but after five days of hell he did.  I didn’t know this, but it is 19,000 feet tall and consists of multiple volcanos with a shelf (“the saddle”) between them.  It is the tallest volcano outside of South America (Everest is created by colliding continents). They had to be careful of altitude sickness, which kills several people a year (I learned that separately), and the main symptom is a dry cough.  The climb consists of climbing through rain forest (with lots of streams and waterfalls!), alpine meadow, then up into the mountain.  The top you are hiking through ash, which is like climbing vertical sand, and the hike was excruciating.  It was tempting to quit, but they made it, and it takes less than a week.  He doesn’t talk much about it, but it was something he was proud of himself for doing.

While making a movie, he visits  a psychic research center (or something like that).  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, was a member, and was prone to believing in wild claims related to the supernatural.  Crichton feels there are similarities with Doyle — both were doctors turned writers — and didn’t want to fall prey to that.  He finds that a number of psychics knew of things — specific things – they should not have known, that they seem to only see the past and not the future, and that they are translating what they see; it is like they have tapped into something that has happened, but not things that are going to happen.  I am not a believer in psychics, but did find this interesting/compelling (I am remembering The Changeling, where the professor tells George C. Scott that when they test psychis that 99% are “utter frauds, but the 1% — astounding””).  

Continuing to read Michael Crichton’s Travels