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Soup of This Day #343: Charlie Brown

October 16, 2013

Koji Uehara
Red Sox closer extraordinaire Koji Uehara showing the correct technique for a high 5 – You hold your hand well up and away from your body, making sure that you present your well-padded glove for the contact. Kids, don’t try this at home – This man is a trained professional – Photo: Keith Allison, 2013. Keith Allison is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

I can’t remember the exact moment that I learned to ride a bicycle. I do know that there was such a distinct line in my history – Before I wheeled over it I couldn’t ride a bike and afterwards I could. It was a sort of a Eureka moment and I can’t for the life of me recall it happening.

To be fair to myself, I also can’t remember when I worked out that the water level changing when I got into the bath indicated the displacement of volume and you can’t get more of a Eureka moment than that.

Possibly my lack of memory around my learning to ride a bike is because once you’ve cracked it, the act of riding a bike is as 2nd-nature as is displacing water when you get into a bath. It just happens.

And it happened for me without much in the way of assistance. Nobody taught me to ride a bike. For sure I could watch my brother and he offered occasional advice, but mostly he’d just laugh uproariously whenever I had a brutal fall.

In his defence, I used to laugh uproariously whenever he had a brutal fall too – There wasn’t any malice in it, more an early and shared understanding of dark humour. This continued after I learned to ride – Just because I could confidently keep the bike travelling right didn’t mean that I wasn’t about pushing the limits of what you could credibly do with a fixed gear, back-pedal brake beach bike. We used to crash often and usually it was Evil Knievel spectacular.

Most of those incidents are forever etched into my brain. Some of them are also got etched into my toes, ankles, shins, knees, elbows, hands, chin and forehead. What’s not recorded anywhere about my person is how it happened that I came to safely ride a bicycle the 1st time.

This will not be the case for my eldest, The Noah. For this Sunday just past he learned to ride his bicycle without his training wheels, and I was there to see it. In truth I did more than just witness the event – I was there to help out and provide encouragement too, along with his Mum and his little bro, The Angus.

And there was a clear and distinct moment too, when I let go of the bike and he pedaled off across the yard, to the accompaniment of supporting arms raised in triumph and exclamations of pride. He did have trouble stopping, preferring instead to try and get off the bike like a surfer escaping his board at the end of a wave. This did lead to a couple of bumps and bruises but we just told him to walk it off and so he did.

By walking in circles around the yard muttering ‘Walk it off, walk it off.’

When he was done with that there were high 5s all round, even from The Angus who probably didn’t understand why but still felt like getting his arms up high and laying some skin down in celebration.

Which is where we get to the theme of this post – The high 5. For as simple and natural as it is to ride a bike, with it’s pedalling, steering and braking, we all struggled to get the high 5 down pat. You’d expect that from The Angus, but honestly he was probably the top performer on the day. His Dad, not so much.

And I’m not an uncoordinated guy. I can not only ride a bike with ease (And no hands) but I can drive a car too. A stick shift even (Does require hands). I do ok at sport as well – I’ve made perfect tackles at full throttle, lunging in to edge a ball away via contact with the only postage stamp-sized area that I could legally hit. I’ve struck curling shots at goal with the force of 20 atom bombs and the accuracy of an Olympic curler.

Yet I can’t manage to celebrate any of those feats by simply touching my palm to somebody else’s.

Heck, I can even kiss my wife in complete darkness, routinely finding my way to her lips based on some sort of inner compass. Of course sometimes I miss and I end out making out with her left eyebrow.

Which is 1 sexy eyebrow.

Turn the lights up though and try to acknowledge my love with a quick slap of her hand and I’ll almost certainly end up injuring 1 of us. Probably both of us if the 1st 1 to get slapped is her.

And I’m not alone in my clumsiness – A lot of people can struggle with a high 5. Even the guy who made this:


At 0:25 that’s a regular match but a very irregular recreation of a Clay/Ali-Liston fight. I think it’s the contentious 2nd 1, from Lewiston, Maine, in 1965 – Mostly because that’s the fight where Liston wore black trunks.

Willard Wigan, the sculptor who made that match-head boxing ring, works via a microscope, utilising needles sharpened as blades and, after slowing down his nervous system, works between his own heartbeats to carve his sculptures out of grains of sand.

He also has to control his breathing because he has accidentally inhaled his work before.

Yet even with that extraordinary control and astonishing attention to detail I’d be willing to bet that Willard struggles with a high 5. Fortunately though he works alone, unlike most sports people and Australian cricketers in particular.

Australian cricketers like national team wicketkeeper Brad Haddin.

Brad plays as part of a team of 11 brothers in arms. They lose as 1, sharing the pain of defeat together, and they win as 1 too, celebrating their triumphs together. Like when a wicket falls and the bowler is pretty happy and feels like he should hug the keeper or maybe even give him a high 5.

In the eye.

Yeah, watch this:


A clear edge there.

The bowler in question there is James Faulkner. After having Indian opener Dhawan edge 1 behind he has gone to plant a high 5 onto Haddin’s glove and instead has poked him in the eye.

It’s all fun and games until something, something, something.

Brad Haddin had to leave the field and missed the remainder of the fixture as he got his vision back right. After all, with only 1 eye his depth perception was shaky and he’d have been vulnerable to even more high 5s.

At least he wasn’t swooped by a magpie. That is what happened to The Noah as he proudly rode to school yesterday morning – A magpie got zeroed in on his helmet and in its raid it forced The Noah to swerve and then crash to the ground.

The good news is that the young adventurer is ok – Just a scrape on his face and a cut on his thumb, and after some reassurance from his Mum he got back on his bike and bravely pedalled on. Not so much walking it off as wheeling it away. Which happens to be my advice to anyone celebrating success, either on the sporting field, in a darkened bedroom or after making a tiny sculpture.

Hold the high 5 and instead wheel away. Maybe then you can try a nice polite wave of acknowledgement from a safe distance.

Charlie Brown

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