I walked into the living room tonight and darling husband said, “Are you ready for Phelps/Lochte?”
“I don’t know what that is,” I replied. We already ate dinner and as far as I knew we didn’t have anything special on tap for dessert.
“Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps?” darling husband asked. “You know? The kid from Rochester?”
“I didn’t know Michael Phelps was from Rochester,” I replied.
I get the open mouthed, dead “Do you live under a rock” stare.
For the record, Ryan Lochte was born in Rochester, NY and lived in Canandaigua, NY. I rarely watch the news and I don’t read the newspaper, and I’ve been on an “as needed” status with Facebook. In other words, unless you came to my house and told me about the Olympics I wasn’t going to hear about any of it.
What can I say? I’m a little out of touch. I didn’t even know until yesterday that the Olympics were happening right now. But when I did find out, my first thought wasn’t about Michael Phelps or Ryan Lochte. My first thought was about a bunch of guys from Arkansas.
In 2004, during the Summer Olympics, a rock band called Tinman Jones was scheduled to play an event at our church. I’d met them in Nashville during one of my many media trips for Gospel Music Week. We connected, and when they were planning a tour of the Northeast, made sure to make a stop in Rochester.
The day before they were supposed to arrive, the bus broke down at a show in Pennsylvania and the band decided they needed to head home to the deep south rather than head north. Spirits were low. Funds were low. The band was discouraged.
But we weren’t having any part of it. I drove to Pennsylvania to meet them and followed the limping bus to Rochester. Our church came together to house the guys and get the bus fixed.
And for several days, we played host to our new friends. We hung around and watched the Games. We went to Toronto, and watched the Games while we ate lunch at Gretsky’s. We played with our dog; some of the guys went to the movies; other families from church pitched in to host ice cream socials and dinners. For almost a week, we played and relaxed and had fun. It wasn’t as if we did anything really spectacular. But as I like to say, we were making memories.
I often think about what would have happened if the band had simply gone home when the bus broke down. Soon after that trip, the guys went their separate ways. Life on the road is no picnic and the bus scenario was the final straw. But had they skipped Rochester, we would all have missed the opportunity to forge lifelong friendships. These are friends I keep in touch with regularly, friends who are intimately connected with some of the best times in my life. (And also some of the saddest; the young man in red in the photo below – John – was like a son to me. For years, he was instrumental in a lot of work I did locally with music, and not long after this trip to Toronto, he was killed in a freak accident at work.)
That’s what the Olympics are to me. Yes, I love the gymnastics and swimming and other events. Yes, I love the inspiring stories. But even more, I love the way that the Games bring us together. They help us cross years.
They also help us cross time zones; as I sit here in the States I’m bonded to my friend Karen in England. At points throughout the day, during live events, I know we’re watching the exact same thing happening at the exact same time. In fact, one of the guys from the band is in London right now for the games; I love seeing the pictures he posts of himself and his wife from across the pond.
Here in my house, after the Phelps/Lochte match up tonight, when Ryan Lochte took the gold and Phelps didn’t medal, I said to darling husband, “So I’m guessing that was kind of a big deal, right?”
“That was the whole Olympics,” he replied. “Everyone has been talking about this for months. That was what they were waiting for.”
I’m glad I got to see it. Like I said, for me, the Olympics is about making memories. But just for the record, it’s a lot more fun when you make them with friends.