Once a friend of mine were watching some videos at his house. This way back in high school, and his parents were out of town, so we had the house to ourselves. Nearby his parents place they were building a new group of houses, and they were at the stage where they all had that wooden skeleton look to them. After we grew bored watching our videos, we decided to go exploring through the construction site.
He lived in these hills, and the construction site was for some houses that were going to be pretty expensive. They were on the top of this one particular hill that had a decent view of the ocean a few miles way. So they were big, and fairly spread out. It was dark, and very windy. We didn’t really have any specific plans, other than to just walk around someplace at night that we weren’t supposed to be.
It was fun at first, walking through the houses, climbing up to the second story, and standing in the areas where the doors would go. Then we saw this big dark thing that seemed to be moving. My friend suggested it was some kind of guard that was well trained to attack if anybody got too close. We hadn’t brought any flashlights, and there was no moon out, so it was pretty dark. We stood there frozen for a few minutes trying to figure out what to do. Should we slowly approach this black object, and see what would happen? Or was this some trick, was this some highly trained guard dog that had been taught to lay in wait for its victims to get close enough, and then jump for the jugular. Perhaps it was on a long chain, and was waiting for us to get within striking distance.
I remember once another friend of mine and I were on this hike through the Sierra Nevada mountain range. We were on the second day of a weeklong backpacking trip. There was this particularly tough pass that we had to go over. Mountain passes can be the most difficult part of a hike, as they sometimes require you to spend several hours on these switchbacks. The side of the mountains you are trying to hike over are so steep, the only way to get over the top is to traverse back and forth at an angle several times. Our guidebook mentioned that this particular pass was one of the toughest in the whole mountain range, and when we got close enough to see it, I understood why.
Usually when you come up within site of a pass, you can sort of guess where the trail will lead up and over the lowest point, judging by the terrain and such. But this particular pass looked impossible. There didn’t seem to be any possible way to get over the looming pass on foot. I remember remarking to my friend that had I been a retreating general in charge of several hundred troops, upon sight of the pass I would have told my men to turn around prepare for a fight to the death, as this pass was impassable.
I remember when I was a kid, and I had to get this shot for one reason or another. It wasn’t my first shot, I’m pretty sure I don’t remember my first shot, but for some reason I wasn’t looking forward to this one. Maybe because I knew it was coming, and I had few days to look forward to it. I suppose I had built I up in my mind to be a gigantic rusty needle that they would stick in my behind and twist around for a few minutes before ripping out hunks of flesh. I couldn’t sleep the night before, and was in near tears when we got the doctors office.
The doctor sensed I was nervous, and started telling me a story about basketball. At first I was confused, but he seemed to be really interested in his own story, so I couldn’t help but to become a little curious.
He started talking about shooting free throws, and how it really helps to imagine the ball going in the hoop in your mind before you take the shot. It also helps to have taken plenty of practice shots before, so you know what to visualize. The funny thing is that he said you only need to make one or two shots when you practice. Even if you take fifty shots, if you only make five, that’s plenty. So when you are playing for real, and you have to make a free throw, just concentrate on those five that you made, and remember them in as much detail as possible.
He said that many players focus on the wrong thing. They focus on the empty basket, and the ball in their hands, and how they will move their arms, and how they should stand, or how many times you should bounce the ball before you shoot. He said when you do that your brain isn’t really sure what you want, so you always have mixed results.
He said that by only thinking of those few times (or many times, it doesn’t really matter) in the past that you got what you wanted, the rest will fall into place. That way when you are practicing, you are really just collecting a few data points to help to point your brain in the right direction the future. Kind of like when you preprogram your GPS in your car before you drive someplace. Once you set it, you just listen to the voice tell you where to go, and you can sit back and enjoy the scenery (but not too much) or listen to the radio, or chat with your partner.
He was telling me how good he became at making free throws, when I vaguely felt this wet sensation on my behind. Then I felt some nurse (who I didn’t even remember walking in) put one of those round band-aids on, and pull my pants back up. I didn’t remember her pulling them down. Then she handed the empty shot to the doctor, who turned and threw it dead center into the trashcan across the room.
“Told you I was good,” he said, and winked at me.
Once we started hiking up the seemingly impassable pass, the trail became clear. And the further up we got, the entire trail became visible. What seemed like an impossible task suddenly became just another set of switchbacks, and before we knew it we were on top of Sheperd’s Pass, the hardest pass in the Sierras, according to the guidebook we had.
After finally debated for a while, we decided to pick up a rock and throw it at this dog/thing/monster that was waiting to rip out our jugulars and then feast on our brains. Nothing. We threw another rock, nothing. Another rock, nothing.
When we got closer, it turned out to be a roll of that black asphalt stuff that had come undone. No big deal. We explored some more houses, vowed to become rich enough one day to buy a big house like that, and went back to his parents house to finish our videos, and whatever microwaveable food we could find in his parents fridge.
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