Hello, again, everyone, from home in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
After re-uniting in New York City with friends I'd studied with two years ago in Australia, I got back home three weeks ago. That New York thing would be my last travelling for a few months. I needed to find a job.
While looking to earn a Grand Rapids paycheck, I needed to ensure that my competative edge would stay intact. I had to avoid the losing streak I once suffered that lasted about eighteen years.
My life had started out all right. Being the older brother, I smiled away my young toddler years with nothing to worry about. And nothing brought greater pleasure to my sweet, angel little face than one thing: tricking my gullible, blond baby brother into teetering his way to the top of the stairs and then giving him a heaving push down them.
Ooh, that pasttime was excellent. I can just imagine my brother's blob-like body leaning over the steps, his butt-crack hanging out of his diaper, his green eyes opening wide in sudden terror, and his stubby arms flailing against the momentum. He flop-tumbled to the bottom. Finally, he called his mom with a "Waaah!" so abominably loud that it was like a drug for me to induce it.
I remember those days fondly. I was the undisputed king.
One day a while later, I was standing in my royal diaper at the top of the stairs and eyeing my domain. Most likely, I was trying to work out a way to ride my kingly steed, "Bucky" the toy horse-head on a stick, gracefully down the stairs.
Suddenly, two fatty hands pressed against my back. They belonged to Brandon, my brother. Revenge of the Blob! There was nowhere for me to go but down - quickly. With each step I fell on, the bruises deepened into my scrawny body. I sprawled out at the bottom and cried.
Brandon let out his happiness from the top.
I'd been bested by my little, baby brother. And if that wasn't enough embarrassment, take into account the fact that I was three years old and not even potty-trained yet.
My mom scooped me up. She wouldn't let us near the stairs unsupervised after that, and we later moved to our current one-story house. My brother had laughed last.
From the staircase incident, my momentum continued downward. I could only manage third place in a 6th-grade spelling bee. I lost much of my allowance to that fiend, Brandon, in driveway basketball games we bet on. The pathetic high school sports teams I sat the benches for lost about forty games more than they won. I helped my brother with his paper route, then lost most of the money he paid me back to him in basement ping pong matches. And I'm not even gonna bring up my efforts with the opposite sex.
But, I've got news. The losing streak is about to end ... now! ... that I'm in Michigan, I've decided to get serious. And so, I've instituted my latest program, "Competition of the Week." The goal of the program: a modest one; I hope - no! - I PLAN to go undefeated.
The first weekly competition was a Sand Dune Olympics. Representing two countries, the competitors of the first Sand Dune Olympics would be me, TJ, and Sergei. TJ is my tan-skinned, goateed friend from high school. Sergei is a seventeen-year old Spanish kids who's been staying at our house; he speaks english well, though he actually flew into Grand Rapids, Minnesota this summer before realizing he was in the wrong U.S. state.
Grand Rapids, Michigan is forty minutes from big Lake Michigan and the soft sand dunes that lie near.
Ignoring the Spaniard's attempt to steer us to Lake Ontario, the Olympians arrived. Their first challenge was to make it up a towering dune without fileting their feet on the sun-warmed sand. After a few "Ow!'s" and "Ooh!'s" and "Oh, God, that's hot!'s" and some unwritable Spanish curses, we got to the shady top.
On its slope opposite the lake, the dune was foresty and cool. A sand path slid to the bottom. It was time for Event # 1: the Triple Jump.
I gathered a running start, hopped way down, took a step, jumped further, and leapt one last time. I touched down at about the 25-foot marker and careened face-first into a cloud of sand.
TJ applied his technique. After two jumps, he paused, swung his arms behind his back, and leapt from both feet at once. He was a few feet behind me.
The black hair and white skin of Sergei flew next down the dune. He landed a foot behind TJ.
We each had two Triple Jump attempts left. On TJ's second effort, he lost control of his speed and tripped over his second jump, splashing in the sand. My final try set a new Triple Jump record (about 30 feet).
Triple Jump results:
GOLD: Justin - USA
SILVER: TJ - USA
BRONZE: Sergei - ESP
On the same hill, I led off Event # 2: the Talent Show with three dizzying, sandy somersaults. TJ improved upon this by doing five dizzying, sandy somersaults and by adding a flop-jump between each one to cover more ground. Sergei also did somersaults, but he placed his feet behind his head, stylishly pulling off what I'd call "The Spanish Pretzal."
For my second try, I did a belly-flop. MODERN ODDYSEUS' GUIDE TO ALWAYS WINNING # 1 - Go with what you know. You see, flying belly-first down a slope of this degree came naturally after the spill I'd taken eighteen years earlier at the hands of my evil brother baby. Thus, I managed an impressive jump.
"I can't think of anything," TJ said when asked to follow up my belly-flop.
I agreed. "When none of us can do flips, there are only so many things you can do on a sand dune."
TJ got an idea, and he leapt in horizontal position with arms extended outwards. He flew through the air, doing the "Superman," and landed goatee-first on the dune.
Sergei amazed us by quickly turning an actual flip.
I climbed seven feet up a tree for my final turn, suggesting I was going to do something cool, but I managed only to fall out of the tree for my jump. TJ came through at a suspenseful moment by pulling a seven-somersaulter, getting up groggily once he reached the bottom of the path. Sergei followed with a flop.
It was going to be tough to judge such a contest where each entry encompassed such inspirational beauty.
"Each of your last jumps killed you guys," TJ told us. In the end, we couldn't decide and called it a tie.
Talent Show results:
AU: Justin - USA
AU: TJ - USA
AU: Sergei - ESP
That brought us to the Final Event: Race-to-the-Sea. We turned to the dune's opposite side. Our race would take us quickly down the bare, eighty foot dune; past a dead, white tree; up a grassy, smaller dune and down the opposite side; past the teen-age girls laying out on the beach; and into the numbing, blue Lake Michigan.
And we were off!
We raced down the dune, picking up speed as we descended. With each step taken, we had to swing our back foot rapidly in front so there would be something there to land on besides a stomach-full of sand. TJ was quickly left behind. Sergei stayed with me for a bit, but he soon fell behind. I bounded up the smaller dune; grass whipped past my legs. I sped like a warthog being chased, kicked sand on some people's towels, and soaked myself in the endless lake.
Sergei was only a second behind. TJ came after.
NUGGET: Justin - USA
SPOON: Sergei - ESP
PENNY: TJ - USA
We wiped the layers of sand off. It was easy to see that ...
"Competition of the Week" 1's winner: me!
Woohoo! Still undefeated!
I love winning. It was pretty fulfilling. The only thing that could've made the day more fulfilling would've been if Brandon would've been around, if I would've seen him about to go down into the basement, and I would've walked up behind him and given him the biggest sho...
Ur, I mean, I wouldn't do that. I'm not competitive, just because that bratty little brother of mine beats me in everything. I don't need revenge.
Or do I?
Brandon's in town next week ... would "Competition of the Week" 2 be a top-of-the-stairs-diaper-duel-to-the-death?
Modern Oddyseus (1 win, 0 losses)
Additional Stats. Face-fuls of Sand: