Every Monday at the military hospital in San Antonio there is a game of kayak polo.  For those of you who don’t know what kayak polo is, imagine rugby in a pool in a prison being played by the roughest toughest inmates, and you’ll get an idea of the excitement and fun involved.

The game is played as part of a therapy program for wounded warriors and when I got out of school early, I was delighted to have the opportunity to go there as a kayak instructor. I met up with my new friends Ben and David and began to teach.

I worked with a fellow who had three tours in Iraq.  I was teaching him how to roll.  We stopped to bail the water out of his boat, and when he got out I noticed he was missing one of his feet.  I like that kayaking is a way for some wounded people play as hard, if not harder, than the rest of us.

Then we played kayak polo.  I took a paddle to the face.  I also had a lot of trouble keeping track of who was on my team, a couple of times racing against my own teammates for the ball.  I scored, and at the end of the game I doubt anyone knew what the score was.

After the game, we all got out of our boats, and most of us put on prosthetic legs.  Ben invited me to go kayaking with him through downtown San Antonio on the San Antonio River.  I paddled a sprinting kayak for the first time.  Sprinting kayaks are less stable than most sea kayaks; you can’t use your thighs to control the boat and they don’t roll.  You have to control the boat with your butt muscles.

I did a small loop on the river, almost avoiding scraping the boat on the river’s concrete basin.  I was nervous about flipping over.  I did a couple more, thinking I would get the hang of it, and my butt got tired fast.  I decided I had had enough. I went up to put my boat back on the truck only to find that the truck had moved some unknown distance down river.

I would have to paddle there.  The stop would be just before the next waterfall.  I didn’t feel I had solid control over the boat.  I hoped I wouldn’t go over the waterfall.

I put my butt muscles back to work, paddling hard and trying to keep the boat stable.  I went through rather than around some hanging branches, under a bridge, past happy pedestrians exercising along river, and made it, a little desperately, to the take out.

I liked the challenge.  I liked working different muscles than I was used to.  Next week I’m going to try again.  I hope that by getting to be solid in a sprinting kayak I’ll improve my sea kayak skills.

The Loquat Thief

I was walking home from the synagogue in the evening.  

I was carrying a book, Born to Run.  I was enjoying it.  I was also taking care of it, since I had borrowed it from a friend who had it as a gift from his daughter and stressed the importance that I eventually give it back.

I was also carrying my beat up laptop, my tefillin bag, and a phone cord when I passed the loquat tree.  I passed the tree every day, and I usually stopped to help myself to a tasty treat.  For the last couple of weeks I enjoyed a bunch of ripe loquats every day, but today it looked as though I had finally exhausted the supply.

I could see, up in the higher reaches of the tree, an abundance of juicy fruit.  But they were well above jumping height. I put my things down next to the sidewalk and climbed the tree.  In its upper reaches, I was hidden from the world by a thick canopy and surrounded by bunches of fruity tastiness.  I hung there and gorged myself, each loquat bursting with goodness.  

Someone might have passed by underneath the tree, but I couldn’t see and I didn’t care.  “This is the life,”  I told myself, juices running down my chin.

And then I was full.  So I climbed back down, picked up my things, and went home.  Or at least, that’s what was supposed to happen.  I looked to the spot where I had though I left my things, and didn’t see them.  I began searching, maybe I had placed them farther away from the base of the tree than I thought.  

About 15 feet away I found my phone cord.  It was alone, strewn across the sidewalk.  My preciously borrowed book, ramshackle computer, and tefillin had been stolen!

But the thief had dropped the phone cord, and I knew what direction he had gone.  I pursued.  About 200 yards along, my things were lying a few feet off the sidewalk.  My tefillin were spread out on the grass.  I kissed them, wrapped them preciously, and put them back in their bag.

On the way home, I grabbed a loquat.