Patched in....

I've been asked to blog for our local on-line newspaper in Maplewood, Patch.com. Patch.com is an AOL idea to bring news to a hyperlocal level. In a time when all news organizations are trying to figure out how to monetize the news business, it seems like local, local is a place where money could be made. Here is the first of my efforts as a community member to blog. Hope you enjoy.

Thanks to the folks at the Patch.com for giving voice to the members of the communities that they serve. The concept of hyperlocal news as a model for keeping an informed citizenry has always been an intriguing one for this journalism major turned teacher, learner, and educator. I'm hoping to use this space to slow down, smell the roses, and really notice the details of our community. I've been reading Tony Hiss' book on the concept of Deep Travel, and it has me realizing that I zoom past the beauty of our community each day without a second thought. Having to write each week about a place, a moment, or an experience in our local surroundings will hopefully bring me closer to the heart of our community, and maybe give the readers a few things to look at and think about.

I spend quite a bit of time at The Heights. It is an incredible facility that residents get to use for an unbelievably low rate. They have a great pool, gym, workout facilities, classes, and day care. On most days, I zoom in, work out, and head home. It isn't rare when I don't even talk to a single person in this highly social, community atmosphere. There is little to no experiencing the present. I'm focused on my bike ride or time on the treadmill letting my mind wander to my next race or the stress from the day, but the other day was different. I chose a different routine, and it changed my entire view of the place. Here's what I saw.

Instead of riding on one of three exercise bikes with views of the televisions, I took a seat on one of the two exercise bikes that are on the track. They are tucked into one of the corners of the oval squeezed into the square space for the track. They looked lonely. The view from here allowed me to watch the gym below. There was the normal basketball game taking place below; sometimes they are two-on-two, or three-on-three, but they are all the same, energy, shots, rebounds, and arguments about fouls. Today the game was the melody for the harmony throughout the rest of the gym. There was one woman shooting hoops on one of the side baskets. It seemed like memories of college games of the past filled her head, but she could shoot, handle the ball, and probably didn't hear the rest of the noise in the gym. Closer to the game, there was a tweener, a guy 6'4 or 6'5 that probably scored 15 ppg in high school, and he may have been the best kid on his team, but he stopped growing, and he wasn't mentally ready to go to a D-II school. He looked at the game. He kept looking at the game. It was clear that he wanted in, but there was no coach to put him in, and he wasn't ready to step up to the game on the big court. Finally, there were two guys working the heavy bag and the tug-of-war ropes attached to the wall. I forget that MMA has changed the workout landscape, but this was clear indication.

Beep, beep, beep...my 30 minutes on the bike were over, but my efforts at deep travel were a success. Everything looks different when we take time to look at it. Looking forward to next week.