31 October 2011

Christmas - Stage 1

The outdoor lights are up. Most of them at least. A weekend project the day before Halloween. Seems weird if you don't live this far north. I'll finish the project this coming weekend. After that it could be too cold to do it right and give it the time the work deserves. The basement is scattered with bins of Christmas decorations as we gather the few that need to go outside. For some reason they werent all packed together last year. I'm falling down on my re-packing duties. Here in Minnesota the leaves are brown and mostly on the ground.

You can smell Christmas in the cold morning air.

Cards win the World Series

As much as I love baseball, I watched more of this series than any other.

Baseball can be boring to watch, both in person and on TV. If the Cardinals aren't in, I dont watch that much, perhaps jumping in when it gets near one team clinching. I was traveling on business for much of this one. However, I still managed to catch most it, either at home or on the road. At least twice I listened to Mike Shannon call the game on KMOX. During the playoffs while driving through Virginia and during game 6 of the series while driving from Waco to Dallas. That night I got to my hotel room near the end of the 8th. I imagine I was one of the few people in the hotel rooting for the Cards.

In the end they won and I am not even going to attempt to write much about that. I can't add to what my daughters have written in their blogs. It's a great feeling when your team wins. It's even better when you can share it with family. We skyped Caroline through the 9th inning of game 7, and traded numerous phone calls and text messages among loved ones as they sealed their 11th WS victory.

I watched game 6 again last night online. what a series. what a game. LaRussa has now retired. Thanks Tony for all those great times.

23 October 2011

One Night in Baseball Heaven - St. Louis, Missouri

I went to the World Series this week, for the first time. The St. Louis Cardinals are back.

Some years they come storming in like they own the National League and all other teams are mere pretenders. This was not that type of year. This year it was almost embarrassing how the Braves collapsed in September and the Cards finally got hot. When the the dust of summer finally settled at the end of 162 games, the Cardinals were the wild card team. The fans were thrilled, but surprised.

Even more surprising was the way they took care of the Phillies. Less so, how they put the Brewers away.

What all this meant to me was that last Thursday night I found myself in the middle of a long-time dream. When I was a kid the dream was of me playing in the World Series, with Mickey Mantle and Pee Wee Reese. As an adult it was simply one of being there. So pinch me, I'm in Busch Stadium with my son, my brother, my daughter-in-law, and its the World Series.

Our evening included the Budweiser Clydesdales, dogs, brats, peanuts, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Stan Musial and Albert Pujols. The greatest coach in the game, Tony La Russa. The redeemed hitting coach, Mark McGwire. A beautiful ballpark with fans passionate about the game. Some of them, like me, had been following the Cards for decades. Others grew up with them, like Rob and Laura, and being at a game is ingrained in hundred of memories and some of their earliest ones.

Like any big sporting event it included a fair number of people who knew nothing about the game, but were simply there to lay claim to being at the event. Unfortunately I felt obligated to explain to them, particularly the brunette in the middle of our row, that you don't get out of your seat when the ball is in play. After all, this was the World Series and baseball protocol must be followed. I was wrong of course, this game was too big to limit to purists. My suggestions to neighboring fans was obviously more annoying to my family than the traffic flow in our aisle. Somewhere around the 5th inning I realized it and shut up.

I began following the Cardinals in college. I grew up in Florida miles away from a pro baseball team. But I went to college in Missouri, where baseball matters, and spent many night when I should have been studying listening to the Cardinals or the Royals. The last night of our honeymoon was spent in St. Louis, at a Cardinals game. Weird, I know, but it helped start this bond with the team. My second visit was about ten years later when we drove up from Arkansas on a family vacation and took Rachel and Rob to a game. She was eight and he was three. Two years later career opportunities moved us to St. Louis and our love affair with the game and this team went into full swing.

Over the years, usually in October, I often thought how wonderful it would be to attend a World Series, especially with my family and especially if the Cardinals were involved. The Rangers were never in those dreams but perhaps should have been. The first baseball game we took any of our children to was with Rachel and to see the Rangers around 1987. Rob was a baby. We left him behind and spent a weekend in Dallas that I'm sure included a lot of family events, zoos and the like. But the only one I remember is going to see the Rangers. Rachel got a free glove and we saw the "wild thing", Mitch Williams, pitch.

This week, when I sat down for the first pitch at Busch stadium, this flood of baseball memories just overwhelmed me. All of them good ones. Not a single one involved an argument, tears, or hurt feelings, like some family gatherings. They are all perfect. Rachel keeping score while adorned with peanut earrings, Rob with his cap turned backwards, Robin digging into a backpack for one more thing to keep a toddler occupied, Caroline with a lap full of nachos. All the kids at some point giving Fred Bird a high five. Waiting in line in the blazing heat for some giveaway trinket of the day. Our kids and their little league teams parading around the field. My dad waving his fist into the air as Todd Zeile hit a game winning homer against the Expos. Watching Ted Simmons hit two home runs against the Mets on June 22, 1979 with my new bride. 

On this night of the World Series, the Cardinals lost. The good thing is that the loss will soon be forgotten. Time will pass and the cold of that night will turn warmer. What will be remembered is being there, with family, and it will all be good. Specifically with my brother, my son, my daughter-in-law. But in my memories I was joined by the whole family, especially my children, and it's mid-July, hot as blazes, we're somewhere lost in the cheap seats, and the Cardinals are leading by three runs in the 9th. 

08 October 2011

I am throwing away all my 8 track tapes

I have been hauling around some 8 track tapes since the 70's and 80's. It's what's left of a larger collection that has just vanished over the years. As I looked at them, stacked here by the pc, it's an odd group of leftovers. Some of them old favorites, others simply something I pulled from the discount bins at a music store. I have no means of playing them. Although I hate to see them go, I know that they will only sit in the basement, accumulating dust until the day when I am hauled off to the nursing home and my kids come to clean out the house. Whether it is today or years from now, the next destination for these is the landfill. So Goodbye....

Abraham Martin and John - Dion
Isle of Wight - Atlanta Pop Festival - Vol II
Road Food - The Guess Who
A Song or Two - Cashman and West
Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd
Tapestry - Don Mc Lean
Rite of Spring - Stravinsky
Stars and Stripes Forever - Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
The Best of the Newport Folk Festival
Liberty - Gene Cotton
Machine Head - Deep Purple
Untitled - Don McLean

Funny how my tastes in music today are still so similar to back then. I still listen to Pink Floyd and occasionally Deep Purple. I like story songs from people like Don McLean and American roots music from groups like the Dirt Band. I like symphonies but find them hard to listen to more than once or twice. A couple of these were played only once or twice. But they all had the honor, I think, of being played in my 1969 Ford Fairlane in high school and college. Some of them went on long road trips home from college, on dates, to and from various jobs of the young unskilled laborer. I guess I need to stop reminiscing or I won't throw them out.