Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Random thoughts in the rain

It was 4 a.m. on Monday and a steady rain washed the streets. It was gloomy out. Eventually, dawn would appear in the east and chase the vampires. With my boots tied and my jacket zipped, I opened the door for my morning walk.

I searched for the slightest rationale to dissuade me from venturing into the cold, wet darkness. “Hurry,” I thought. “You’re almost out the door.” A million excuses came to mind as to why I should go back to bed, but it was too late, I was already stepping up Green Lane and into the back streets of La Cañada. I hate being so doggone hardcore; it’s almost been my demise.

I was moving briskly across El Vago. Somehow I believed if I walked quickly, I wouldn’t get as wet. That theory was disproved. The owls that usually hoot for me during my early morning excursions were nowhere to be seen or heard. I know where they perch, and I searched for them, but they were wiser than I and were hiding in a warm, dry place.

The air was sweet, and because it was laden with a gummy rain, the smells of the town were poignant. Predawn has a sharp clarity; the minutia of the day has not surfaced. The air was filled with only my thoughts; it seemed everyone else was sleeping in on this wet morning. The disarray of present-day America was dormant. It was my world, and it was clean and crisp. Regardless of yesterday’s reality, the morning has a short memory.

I powered up Alta Canyada Boulevard, worked my way west, and began the descent down Palm Drive. I was cruisin’ and movin’ between the drops of rain, trying to stay dry. I had surpassed my saturation point. My endorphins were exploding, and then it hit me like a Mack Truck. My column was due by 9 a.m., and I hadn’t yet written a word. That was just the tip of the iceberg; I had no clue what I’d write about. For crying out loud, I get no slack. It’s tough being me.

As I walked past Palm Crest Elementary, I thought of Friday night’s LCHS and Monrovia basketball game. However, the real story that evening was the reunion of the 1992 LCHS basketball team. In 1992, they had 27 victories and three defeats and were the CIF champions. Coach Tom Hofman, who is currently in his 31st year as the team mentor, guided the 1992 Spartans to their greatest winning percentage by any squad in the history of La Cañada basketball. That year the Spartans defeated San Dimas 62-53 to win the CIF-SS Division 3A crown at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

The 1992 champions were introduced at halftime. They wore letterman jackets, but time had of course changed them. They gazed about the court and stared at the ceiling. They appeared shy as they heard the accolades of their extraordinary season.

Then, what I thought to be most remarkable, Tom Hofman, their former coach, expressed his love for the boys. “This was a team that had great chemistry,” he said. “They had become great young men.”

Can we ever understand the extraordinary skill it takes to shape a bunch of run-and-gun schoolyard players into a synchronized team? I appreciate Hofman’s gruff demeanor as he transitions boys to men year after year. There’s a Zen to this guy, but no one will crack that code. Hofman is a La Cañada treasure.

Coaches and players posed for a picture; that’s all that remains. However, that band of brothers will always have each other and the memory of the year they were champs.

I turned onto Foothill, hung a left on La Cañada Boulevard and burned it home. The owls were still sleeping.

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JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a retired professor of education and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at doctorjoe@ymail.com. Visit his website at doctorjoe.us.

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