Archive for May, 2008

Seattle Road Trip

Posted by jonesey on Wednesday, 28 May 2008, 23:53

On Monday, I road tripped up to Seattle to see the Red Sox play the Mariners. I try to make this trip once each summer. Last summer, I had a ticket to a game, but at the last minute, the Amtrak trains weren’t running, and I knew that driving both ways by myself was just plain stupid.

I must have gotten stupider in the last twelve months. The road trip, by the numbers:

281: miles driven each way

4: Size of family I met in a Washington McDonalds on the way to the game. They were from Eugene too, were doing exactly the same trip I was, and commiserated with me about the train being sold out.

1.5: minutes I had been out of my car, wearing my Sox hat and my “2004 American League Champions” t-shirt (thanks, Patrick!), when I was verbally assaulted by a complete stranger.

“Are you a real fan?” she asked. “Who’s your favorite Red Sox player?” “Carney Lansford,” I told her. (If you’re gonna hit ’er, make sure she ain’t gonna get up.) She was appropriately stunned and took a moment to recover.

She was a bandwagon fan and wouldn’t know Carney Lansford (image stolen from the excellent Sons of Sam Horn)

carney salutes the crowd at fenway

from Justin Timberlake (image stolen from some blog).

oh. dear. god.

But if you say Wade Boggs, you stand a chance of getting spat on. More on that in a moment.

134: Number of hits Carney Lansford had in the strike-shortened 1981 season, good for second place in the AL. Rickey Henderson edged him out with 135. Lansford later played with Henderson on the World Series-winning 1989 Oakland A’s (you youngsters and super-geezers know them as the Athletics, formerly of Kansas City and, before that, Philadelphia). But we don’t talk about 1980s World Series, do we? Back to that mustache…

.336: Lansford’s batting average in 1981, good enough to lead the league that year. I’m sure it was the batting average that I remembered him for. I loved batting average. It was a calculated statistic, as opposed to a counting statistic, one of the only calculated stats used in the sports pages in those pre-internet, pre-SABR, pre-OPS, and pre-WHIP days. I loved little more than sitting at the breakfast table with the sports pages, calculating batting averages based on that day’s box scores.

smokin’ hot carney lansford baseball card, 1983 fleer

2: Number of years Carney Lansford played for the Red Sox. Here’s his Fleer baseball card from his second year, 1982 (image stolen from the very cool but where the heck does he get the time 83F project)

June 23, 1982: The day Carney Lansford sprained his left ankle while sliding into home. He was trying to stretch a triple into an inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the third with the score tied 3-3. I remember watching this game with my dad on my grandparents’ TV at Dewey Beach.

Wade Boggs, who had been an occasional player for the first third of the 1982 season, came in as a pinch hitter and third baseman on that fateful day.

.391: Wade Boggs’s batting average during Lansford’s time on the disabled list. Lansford was traded to the Oakland A’s after the season. Boggs went on to win the batting title in five of the next six years. He also led the league in a zillion other categories, including walks, singles, doubles, OPS (in the pre-OPS days), hits, on-base percentage, and intentional walks (one of the great measures of how scary a batter is when it counts).

Wade Boggs, not Carney Lansford, is my favorite Red Sox player ever, never to be surpassed because I’ll never be twelve years old again. But you can’t tell a casual, unvetted Sox fan that Wade Boggs was your favorite Red Sox player, because he played five solid seasons for the Hated Yankees (currently in last place, but it’s May), including the 1996 season in which the Yankees won the World Series. Doesn’t matter. Water under the bridge. Boston was a below-.500 team when he left them for dead. He gave the Sox 11 good years and came out with no rings. When he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, he chose to wear his Boston hat on his plaque. This discussion is over.

But I digress.

5:45: Time I got to Safeco Field, just in time to catch Red Sox batting practice, except that I chose to spend…

45: minutes trying to hawk my single left-field bleacher ticket. Lesson learned: nobody comes to baseball games alone, at least nobody who needs a cheap bleacher seat. Loser. And I missed batting practice. Again.

5: dollars the professional scalpers offered me for my $15 face value bleacher seat. The left-field bleachers, the cheapest seats in the house (and good seats for the price), were sold out, but they didn’t care.

10: dollars I got for my ticket from a guy who was “hiding from my wife. She thinks I’m down in the basement hooking up the washing machine.” He sat next to me, naturally (who was not playing first base tonight), way up in the bleachers, and proceeded to call everyone he knew, drop the F-bomb about 150 times, and complain about his wife to anyone who didn’t have Caller ID. It was like sitting next to a half-drunk, 45-year-old, graying-at-the-temples high school girl with a really foul mouth. But hey, I got an extra 5 bucks for my 45 minutes of trouble and got to miss batting practice. She He disappeared after the first inning, leaving me alone in a happy place with two seats’ worth of bleacher bench all to myself.

1: number of friends I saw at the game. I ran into Laurie Matthews and her mom. The last time I had seen Laurie was at Fenway Park on April 15, 2005.

laurie and chris at safeco

3: Minutes before the start of the game that I called Patrick. I left a message on his phone consisting of most of the national anthem. He knows when to yell “O!

2: Number of perfect innings pitched by Bartolo “I’m really quite large” Colon to start the game.

3: Number of perfect innings pitched by Felix Hernandez to start the game.

5: Members of the ground crew who did a dance number to a Michael Jackson song between the third and fourth innings. What is this, the Toledo Mud Hens? I thought this was baseball.

420: Approximate number of feet David Ortiz hit a baseball in the fourth inning to break up Hernandez’s no-hitter. A monster.

55: minutes it took for both teams to play through the middle of the fifth inning, halfway through the game. That’s unheard of in the 21st century. Most games take well over three hours these days.

11: Number of Ichiro’s body parts, including three parts of his face, that hit the center-field wall simultaneously when he caught a rocket off of Jason Varitek’s bat in the 5th inning.

Ichiro made a running-flat-out, over-the-shoulder catch of Varitek’s fly ball while jumping up and crashing into the wall. This wasn’t your everyday well-timed leap to grab a ball at the top of the wall, either. The hit was a line drive, so Ichiro was running straight at the wall, jumping toward it, not parallel to it. He crashed into the wall with his hands, feet, knees, and face, caught the ball at waist level while facing the wall, fell on his back, rolled over backwards, and then threw the ball to his relay man (there was a base runner on first base) before collapsing face-down on the dirt. It was like Willie Mays out there; if you had seen it, you would have agreed. Ichiro got a standing ovation when he managed to stand up, and he got another one at the end of the inning.

3:1: Ratio of Red Sox fans to Mariner fans in the crowd. This bandwagon is full, folks, but hop on anyway. The one with the long hair is Manny. He always has that look on his face.

manny, the game’s behind you!

Go ahead and start your “Let’s Go Red Sox” chant. The Mariners fans might just barely be able to drown you out. Just don’t go trying that in the Bronx. You have been warned.

80: minutes it took to get through six innings. Still on track for a two-hour game. Amazing.

2: Ugly jams that Bartolo “If I were any larger, there would be two of me” Colon pitched out of in the 3rd and the 7th. The one in the 7th was partially self-induced: he was either unwilling or unable (I don’t know which is worse) to bend over to pick up a slow roller that came past the mound. By the time the shortstop got to it, the batter was well past first base. Dude, ease up on the buffet.

4,600: Speaking of the buffet, the approximate number of calories I consumed during the road trip. The damage: one hard-boiled egg, two slices of pizza, three 12-ounce Cokes (must. stay. awake.), one chocolate milkshake, one Filet-o-Fish with dollar fries, eight strawberries, one basket of garlic fries (with one tiny apple slice), four ounces of mozzarella cheese, sixteen ounces of chocolate milk. One unhappy tummy all day Tuesday.

1: Clutch double by Dustin Pedroia in the eighth to break the 1-1 tie. It landed right under where I was sitting as it bounced over the wall. Hernandez followed this crushing blow with an intentional walk to David Ortiz — to get to Manny. This has always been a dubious tactic, and I don’t know why teams keep trying it. It just makes Manny pay attention. Manny singled, followed by Lowell and Drew, and then Hernandez walked in a run.

the wheels are about to officially come off

4: runs, just like that, and Hernandez was done, an inning too late.

7: innings after which Bartolo “Don’t make me walk all the way out to that mound again, please Tito” Colon hit the showers, a smart move by Francona. Colon was getting tired.

5-3: The final score, but more importantly, the scoring on a remarkable double play.

With runners on first and second and no outs, Dustin Pedroia hit a roaring grounder to Beltre at third base. Beltre dove to his right, caught the ball across his body with his left hand, and fell on his knees.

He speed-crawled two steps and tagged the bag with his glove hand for the first out, then stood up, still moving to his right into foul territory, and threw across the diamond to first base to cut down Pedroia at first.

This and Ichiro’s catch were, hands down, the best defensive plays of the game.

111: miles I drove in Washington before I had to pull over and sleep at a desolate but welcome rest area in southern Washington (next rest area: 42 miles)

2.5: hours of sleep I got in the back of our VW Golf. Also the length, in hours, of the game. Pretty short by today’s standards, but it did not live up to its early promise.

50.1: Miles per gallon the Golf got for the trip. 100% biodiesel at $4.99, which sounds expensive, except that it’s just ten cents per mile. Good car.

Stupid? Yes. Worth it? Yes.

A Slight Correction

Posted by julie on Friday, 23 May 2008, 15:33

Mom, in response to my blog entry of a couple days ago, writes:

“It was BURNT matches, that is why you are such hot stuff.”

Ah, I can always count on Mom!

A Feast for the Nose and Ears

Posted by julie on Tuesday, 20 May 2008, 15:56

Mom ate matchsticks when she was pregnant with me. I’ve had a serious urge to chew piece after piece of Xylichew spearmint gum; it’s so fresh-tasting it’s like picking mint leaves from the backyard up on the farm where I grew up. Brushing my teeth with Tom’s of Maine spearmint toothpaste is also a treat these days. And I want to smell asphalt. I’ve actually detoured onto Ferry Street so I can walk past the utility construction and smell the fresh asphalt. Before I scare any of the grandparents with thoughts of a brain-damaged baby, I don’t actually kneel down and inhale the fumes — I just appreciate them on my way through.

Yesterday, my employer chipped up some toppled trees and branches from his patch of Oregon forest. He likes the pattern of the lowest understory, the 5-12 inch non-woody plants, so he clears out some woody debris each year to make room for those small plants. I wanted to eat the resulting heady mixture of wood chips, hemlock and fir needles, lichen, and other forest detritus. I picked up a handful and slid it into my sandwich container so it could come home with me.

And even before my surreptitious wood chip-sniffing, I experienced another spring pleasure — a Swainson’s thrush (I think) calling in the treetops. Thrush songs stop me in my tracks; they’re so beautiful and clear and flutelike.

Finally, there’s a family of western screech owls living in a birch tree between our “broken house” (that which is being renovated) and our serviceable rental which is delightfully close to Prince Puckler’s Ice Cream (Sylvan and I were home and even awake when Barack got a cone there last Saturday, yet we still missed him. My politician-dar must have been down.). The owls, of which there are at least three — and possibly four — peek out of the holes in a tree between Harris and Potter on West 21st Avenue. The tree is, for you locals, the westernmost birch of the three mature ones on the south side of the street. The owls are remarkably well-camouflaged on the gray, aging birch. I bet the folks in that neighborhood don’t have any mouse problems.

Wood sorrel in the morning

Posted by julie on Wednesday, 14 May 2008, 22:37

This morning, I walked down the path to my office in the woods, admiring the new carpet of green wood sorrel and duckfoot that’s emerged in the last month. Then, with the morning sun behind me, the sorrel at my feet glinted. I crouched down to peer more closely. Wood sorrel’s leaves are shaped like perfect hearts bent down the middle, just like the heart that a four-year-old cuts from construction paper, its fold line still intact. The leaves attach at the hearts’ points in clusters of three. For a few square feet this morning, last night’s dew had collected at the end of each fold line, tucked right in the cranny between the curves of each heart. Each wood sorrel plant held three perfect spheres of moisture, holding the morning’s light for a few moments.

Happy Birthday: 32 Months

Posted by julie on Tuesday, 13 May 2008, 15:15

Dear Sylvan,Because your dear Mum didn’t write you a letter last month doesn’t mean she hasn’t been thinking about the wonder you are — and the screaming bag of rubber bones you can be when your world goes awry, in your humble opinion. Your past twoSylvan gets to sit on something with wheels months have taken you into the realm of little boy rather than toddler. You’re getting too tall for your trousers, you have very real whims and expectations, and you’ve become a pint-sized Pete Seeger with a fascination for musical instruments that exceeds even the appeal of construction vehicles.

The three big events of the last month were: Gramma Mia’s visit, your first stage performance, and moving to another house (which we’re still doing, but which has thus far impacted you by making all of your bedroom furniture disappear and giving you the opportunity to dance in the back of a moving truck).

I’ll come back to these, but just so you don’t think I totally shirked my responsibilities, I did start a letter last month:

Last week, we visited your Grandma Diana and Grandpa Tom in Virginia. Also in attendance at Camp Diana were: Aunt Stephanie and Uncle Chris, along with your cousins Hanna and Sebastian; and Grandma Diana’s brother, Uncle Brian, with his wife and son, Aunt Tammy and cousin Nicholas. That’s two cousins just over 2 1/2, one a few months shy of 2, and one born last August. While the madness lodged itself right between my shoulder blades and my eyes, your Grandma Diana dug it. She encouraged greeting card-making, T-shirt painting, and exploratory hikes in the woods.

Hanna expresses her positive attitude

It was a treat to observe your interactions with Hanna. You, Hanna, Uncle Christian, and I went over to Ivy Creek mere minutes after we flew into Charlottesville. After attending toddler storytime, complete with touchable turtle shells, a book about creatures that lay eggs (“Spiders,” you said, when the storyteller asked who had laid the cottony mass of eggs in the illustration. It didn’t seem that obvious to me.), and a nature walk, you and Hanna found the lawn, studded with pungent onion grass. You danced, sang, ran after each other, had conversations with each other about benches, and fell to the ground, sometimes on top of each other. Uncle Chris and I didn’t feel compelled to “manage” you at all. You easily worked through problems, especially if we laughed when one of you took the other out.

I told you last Sunday morning that, the next time you saw me, Wednesday night, I’d bring Gramma Mia with me. At lunchtime, though, I managed to escape and see you, and you said, looking behind me, “Where’s Gramma Mia?” I called today from the Dallas airport, and your Daddy tried to get you to talk to me. You said, “NO! I want Gramma Mia.” Ah, well, second fiddle. It’s okay; I know you’ll shun me for all of your teenage years, too.

You now recognize most letters of the alphabet in upper-case, plus some punctuation, the exclamation point.

That’s it for last month’s letter.

As for this past month’s excitement:

Gramma Mia and you were inseparable for a couple of weeks. Despite the fact that, when you were under a year old, she encouraged me to put you in a playpen so I could get things done, she rarely left your side during this visit. You appreciated the attention. You’d climb into bed with her in the morning to talk about your dreams, sing some songs, and eat the trail mix “hidden” in her carry-on. Throughout the day, you and she sang songs, snacked on usually forbidden fruits (Twizzler pieces in the trail mix?), and generally missed each other when you were apart. Thank you, Gramma Mia!

Sylvan and Gramma Mia, singing songs with puppets

Gramma Mia was very sad to miss your first performance on stage. While she was here, you and I received an invitation to dance with five other Moms and their children, aged 2 weeks to 6 years, in Lane Community College’s annual faculty show. I asked you if you wanted to participate, and you said, “Yeah, I’m gonna dance like an armadillo. And a lion.” Gramma saw your rehearsals, all two of them: you cried “I wanna go home,” with snot and tears running down your face, for one of them; you danced like a lion, complete with roaring, during the other. But she missed your finest performances, unfortunately.

The piece had actual choreography in it, with all of the Moms dancing their own movement phrases along with the choreographer’s phrase with little ones either in arms, partnering (6-year-olds can partner), or doing their own thing (you). Two microphones were set up, one where each Mom answered a few questions about our dance lives and the other where we talked about our kids. The first night, you said, into the mic, “I wanna get down now.” You danced with me, after a fashion, that night, by staying close and bowing under my legs if they ventured off the floor. The second night, you were doing your own thing, rolling around and running. I went to the mic and told everyone that you liked drums tonight; you had really appreciated watching the drummer and electic guitarist jam backstage before the show. You ran over to me because you had something else you wanted to say. “What else do you like, Sylvan?” “Guitars and bananas!” The audience laughed.

While you’ve never been a “joiner,” now you really shy away from any organized activity. You don’t want an adult with some lengths of foamy pool noodles to tell you how you can balance them; you’d rather take those tubes and bang them against the wall to experiment with the sounds they make. Good little inquiring engineer.

Sylvan worships Hal, who’s driving the tractor

At your last parent-teacher conference, your teacher confirmed that your two-year-old classroom has few scheduled, altogether activities or curriculum. What?! Where’s the algebra? You 2-year-olds have the freedom to explore your world independently, making up games and manipulating objects on your own terms. Aside from suggestions, comforting, and some discipline, your teachers don’t interfere. In fact, your father even told me about a kindergarten study that confirmed that 5-year-olds who were pushed into learning to read, rather than engaging in the structured play that was the intention of the first kindergartens, didn’t learn how to control their impulses. There’s VALUE in playing — and in making up and following your own rules and figuring out how to compromise.

I’ll work on encouraging your independence and curiosity rather than fitting you into the classes for which we’re undoubtedly overscheduled.



Restless legs

Posted by julie on Tuesday, 6 May 2008, 21:44

Sure, I am experiencing that odd restless leg syndrome that sometimes accompanies pregnancy, but that’s not what I mean.

I just read Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us, and Weisman’s various travels ignited my old travelin’ yearnin’. I hadn’t even heard of the two places that garnered my most serious vacation envy: Cappadocia, Turkey and the Bialowieza Puszcza Preserve straddling Poland and Belarus. Cappadocia’s geology alone could arouse wanderlust in a geology major like me. Volcanic ash cemented into tuff, a relatively soft rock, which was overlaid with basalt, which is really durable. The result, after millions of years of erosion, was a landscape of deeply-cut valleys and “fairy towers,” narrow pillars of tuff capped with basalt. The tuff was also stable enough but soft enough that, at least 1700 years ago, people started to carve rooms, hallways, and entire cities many stories down into the earth. Weisman’s description of Cappadocia’s underground world enchanted me, and, while I wouldn’t be able to live underground for most of the year like some of those folks apparently did, I do want to get a room in a cave hotel for a few nights.

And how could I have not heard of the Bialowieza Puszcza forest before? Old growth in Europe. With wisents. Sound like creatures of Tolkien’s.

Regarding Weisman’s book, The World Without Us: I’d originally heard about it last August in a public radio interview, and Weisman’s conceptual undertaking interested me. Weisman suggests that humans might be spirited away in some manner, and he ruminates on how the Earth will both bounce back and continue to be affected by our presence — even in our absence.

Like an overzealous graduate student, Weisman may have done a bit too much research. The book doesn’t flow very naturally, since it simply includes so much information gleaned from so many sources. But the thing is, most of the information is just fascinating, and each individual section is written well. I didn’t notice the writing, which is one of the ways I recognize good writing. I wanted to read every word, even though I knew I couldn’t retain it. I learned about places I’d never heard of before, and Weisman’s first few chapters, about how our buildings and cities will fare without us, were imaginative feats.

Time to lace up my new Keens and hit the highway — well, maybe I’ll wait until this baby has popped him/herself out.