Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Week of Crazy Pt 3

I apologize for the uncharacteristic gap between this and the last post… I’ve been kinda busy.  Just got back yesterday from my weekend trip to Pittsburgh.  I’ve got plenty to write about that, but first I want to put a bow on the Ohio portion of my vacation.

What I want to do is to briefly go over the last days and then fill in some details that I forgot to put into omitted from the two prior posts, mostly via pictures.

We were really beat when we finally got home from the fishing trip, but at least we could claim success.  Not only did we each receive a big bag of fish filets, none of us got seasick.  The last time I was on a fishing charter, we were rolling pretty good and it made me pretty nauseous.  Luckily I hadn’t eaten, or there would have been more than ‘bait’ in the water.

This time, I didn’t get seasick at all.  I was pretty good at accounting for the boat movement by using my legs to keep my upper body steady.  While, I did take Dramamine this time, I prefer to credit my non-ralphing experience to my superior coping skills.

I mentioned that we set up for “trolling” in the last post.  I’d never done it before and it’s a pretty interesting setup.  First, they have something called the ‘planer boards,’ which are 2 x 8 beams set on edge and braced together about 2 feet apart.  It gets put in the water off the side of the boat, tied to a rope that’s attached to the top of the bridge.  There’s one for each side of the boat.  Once they’re out there, they glide alongside the boat as it moves forward, holding the line taut.

Then, you have a number of fishing poles with a lure attached.  Someone sends the line out about 50-60 feet behind the boat and then passes the end of the rod up to the Captain, who in turn clips the line onto the rope that’s holding the planer boards.  The line is released and the clip sends the line down toward the planer board until you snap the reel shut to lock it in place.

You repeat that step with several more rods and send it down the rope, stopping about 6 feet from the previous line.  By the time we were done, we had 4 rods on each side of the boat.  It looked like this:
You can see the planer board out in the distance.  All the fishing lines are clipped to that rope in the middle.

When one of the poles bent, the Captain would snap the line off the rope and hand it to one of us, who would go to the back of the boat and reel in the fish.  Sometimes, it got really crazy, when someone was trying to send out a line while someone else had a fish on the line.  The Captain basically functioned like an air traffic controller to keep us out of each other’s way and not get our lines tangled.  We did OK, for a bunch of greenhorns.

Also in the picture, off in the distance, you can see the Monroe (MI) power plant.  That’s how I was able to kind of keep track where we were.  There were three power plants around our corner of Lake Erie: the Monroe plant, the Fermi nuclear plant up to the right of Monroe, and Davis Bessie nuclear plant, off the other side of the boat.  For some reason, it gave me comfort to maintain a sense of where the hell we were.

By the way, this is the much-scorned “sheephead:”
The FISH, not me

And now, I give you…

Irritating My Mother, Part 3

(This is where I’d put the picture of me pouring Froot Loops, if I had only remembered to take it.  Also, you’ll have to imagine a picture of my pouring Apple Jacks, for Part 4.)

I spent the day Thursday at Rik’s house, writing the previous post.  That evening we were scheduled to go to Bowling Green, to see his son Jake’s little league game.

Remember in the first vacation post, when I said that my buddy is such a horndog that he gets his Viagra from a Pez dispenser shaped like Pinocchio?  Guess what he found on the ground, by the stands at the game?
Sometimes these things write themselves…

 It was fortunate that Jake’s game was in Bowling Green… that gave us the perfect opportunity to go to Myles Pizza, my old college haunt.
  Still the best pizza in the world.  This one is black olive/mushroom/ground beef.

This one is pepperoni and mushroom.  Both were massive.

This excursion is always my treat, and I paid big-time this time, because everybody came, even Rik’s granddaughter Ailey.
“When life gives you lemons, make a duck-face.”

We ended up at Myles earlier than we anticipated, because the last inning of Jake’s game was rained out.  It poured like crazy while we were eating but was clearing up by the time we left.  But it produced one amazing sky…
It looked like the aliens were about to land.  Where’s Will Smith when you need him?

Once we got back to John’s (garage), we were too full for beer, but some Crown Royal did nicely.  It’s funny, though, when you combine classy whiskey with casual, garage furniture…
This is what you get when worlds collide.

While we were out there nursing our booze, John broke out his I-Pad for us to play with.  I’d never used one before.  I’ll tell you, that is now on my list.  Very nifty… Once I get a new PC and a WiFi network set up, I’ll be all over it.  Of course by that time, I’m sure the rest of the world will be onto something else.

One thing I forgot to mention about our experience at the Toledo Mudhens game on Monday… their opponent!  The Mudhens were playing the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.  It was like the battle of ridiculous nicknames. 
Needless to say, I need to get myself an IronPigs hat, to go with my Blue Wahoos topper.  Minor Leagues are the best!

Oh, and this is a shot of Rik’s son Jake and John’s grandson Gavyn, feverishly wishing that the jabbering mudhen behind us would shut her giant pie-hole.
Even the sourpuss down the row wanted her to shut it.

On Friday, the only thing left for me to do was to go home, but first I had to re-pack.  You may be wondering how one goes about taking 16 fish filets home on an airplane.  Luckily, you came to the right place.

First, freezer bags!  Put the fish in a gallon-sized freezer bag, then fill it with water and put in the freezer.  (Yeah, be sure to seal it first.)  By the next day (or so) it should look like this:
Mrs. Paul, eat your heart out.

Just before it’s time to go to the airport, take out the bag, wrap it in newspaper, and then wrap it again in foil.  Then it’s ready to go in your suitcase, providing you have room.

My only concern was going through security.  The last time I tried this, it was prior to the added security involving liquids.  But I figured, it really wasn’t a liquid now, was it?  Drop it on your foot and see how liquid it feels…

They definitely gave it a good look when my bag went through the scanner.  They pulled my suitcase out for additional inspection.  Can’t blame them for wanting to know what the big, dark, bowling-ball-sized mass in my bag was.  It sure wasn’t undies.

Anyway, I told the guy that it was a frozen bag of walleye that I worked really hard to catch.  They let me go, with a laugh.  And by the time I got home, it was still frozen solid.

I’ll let you know how it tastes, once we break the seal.

Up next: the second leg of my vacation extravaganza… a trip to Pittsburgh to see a bunch of bloggers and a ballgame.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Week of Crazy Pt 2

On Father's Day, we assembled at John's dad's place for a large family brunch.  Always eating, we are, but damn, it was good.  Afterwards, I knocked around with Rik and his 12-year old son, Jake, pretty much for the rest of the day.

John spent the Monday smoking a turkey.  What resulted was the best, juiciest turkey I've ever had.  Dude is king of the grill...
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The turkey, which was stuffed with sausage (on the right) and apple slices.

While John was grilling Rik and I took Jake out to work on his batting.  Rik pitched and I shagged balls in the outfield.  You should have seen me... I made a couple of decent running catches.  Well, OK, technically, I wasn't exactly "running."  It was more like a brisk mosey.

The day's big event was going to the Toledo Mudhens baseball game that night.  Rik, John and I went with Jake and John's 9-year old grandson Gavyn.  The only eventful thing about it was the dysfunctional family in front of us and the jabbering magpies behind us, while we sat here:
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It seemed pretty obvious that the 6-year old boy in front of us had ADD or something because he was in constant motion and doing everything his grandfather told him not to do 3 seconds earlier.  It didn't help that he was being picked at by his hulk of an older brother.  Took 4 innings before Grandpa finally figured out that he should sit between them.  I was screaming it (in my head) since the bottom of the first.

Behind us sat a lady who yapped non-stop with the people beside and behind her about her job, the people she works with, her political views, the price of milk and everything else.  Because she was turned around in her seat talking to the people behind her, I was hoping for a wayward screaming foul ball to come her way.

I told my buddies that you never really appreciate your own kids until you see someone else's.  Jake and Gavyn were practically perfect.  (Oh man, you should have seen Gavyn eating his 15" hot dog.  Kid went through that thing like a buzz saw.)  But they sat there, kept still and watched the game.  It was a beautiful thing.

Finally, because there were seats to be had, we moved over here:
Aug 2012 037

From here, the only thing we had to worry about was the intermittent shrieking, coming from the 3-year old on the outfield wall.  I assumed she was friends with the ADD kid.

Yes, I know it's a ballgame and people get loud, but this wasn't ballgame-loud, it was pointless screaming and noise and thrashing around.  Maybe you think it's cute when your kid is screaming his head off, but rest assured, everyone around him is plotting revenge in horrible ways.  Just sayin... 

Meanwhile, the plot to seek revenge on my mom continues with:

Irritating my Mother, Part 2
Aug 2012 022
Thoughtsy, this one's for you.

The week's big event was our 2-day fishing charter out on Lake Erie.  On the trip were me, John, his Dad, John Sr, John's son Jay, Rik and his son Jake.  We were going out from 1:00 pm to 9:00 pm on Tuesday, and 6:00 am to 2:00 pm on Wednesday.  We had a 3-bedroom place to stay in overnight.  Our quarry: the walleye.

The last time I was out on the lake, the water was pretty choppy.  I ended up with the dry heaves, and I consider myself lucky.  If I'd eaten anything before the trip, it would have been the very wet heaves instead.  With this in mind, all I had to eat before the trip this time was a pack of peanut butter crackers and some Cheez-Its.

The weather was beautiful, in a hot and beating sun kind of way, but there was a breeze, which made it bearable.

Once we got about a half-hour out on the lake, we started casting with great expectations.  Like I said, we were seeking walleye, which are a nice, mild fish for eating.  But when we were catching anything, it always seemed to be a sheephead.  Sheephead are nasty, ugly, inedible garbage fish.  They put up a good fight, but are basically a waste of worm and oxygen.  When we weren't catching sheephead, it was white bass, which are OK but still not good to eat.

Pretty soon, it was we who were being preyed upon by biting flies.  How flies find us out 8-9 miles on the water is beyond me.  They weren't there when we left, then all of a sudden, they're everywhere, chomping on our ankles.  Gah!

The fishing was tough.  Every so often, someone would pull out a walleye, but most if the time, we'd cast around, get nothing, then the captain would take us somewhere else and we'd try again.  When the casting didn't work, we'd try trolling.  That's when you set up several rods in holders on each side of the boat and slowly trudge along.  (There's a lot more to it than that, but I'll spare you the hardcore fishing talk.)  We had absolutely no luck at all with that, so we went back to casting.

By the end of the day, we had 5 walleye and a small perch.  My personal count was one walleye and 2 sheephead.  Considering we spend about 7 hours actively fishing, it was beyond disappointing.
Aug 2012 076
Say 'hello' to Mr. Wallace, our day's prey.  (That's Captain John there with me.)

One of the funny things of the day was that the Captain was named John and his mate was named Jay.  So on one boat, we had 3 Johns, 2 Jays, 1 Jake and then a Rik and a Bluz.  The whole trip, no one knew who was talking to who.

The best thing we caught all day was the sunset.
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Coming in to shore after a long and very hard day.

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One of the few sailboats we saw on the water.

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The sun setting over a dock-side trailer says we're home for the night.

By the time we got in, I was completely beat up.  Remember, I have that hive condition, where I get red, painful, itchy hives after contact with hard surfaces.  On the boat, hard surfaces were the only kind.  Even with my bicycle gloves, my hands were wrecked from holding the fishing pole, my ass was hamburger from sitting on the edge of the boat, the tops of my thighs were swollen from leaning on them with my forearms, my back was tweaked from stooping all day and my heels were on fire from standing in one place, casting time after time.

John's dad had it rough as well.  He's 78, with severely failing vision and increasing frailty.  He said earlier that this would be his last time on a boat and he was going to enjoy every second of it.  But the trip was hard on him too. 

I had serious doubts as to whether I would be able to handle a 2nd day of this.  I felt like about 7 bags of fuck.  But I had a revelation as we were motoring in that night.

We just spent the day living on nothing but crackers and water.  We had little respite from the burning sun.  The walleye were scarce and the sheephead were plentiful.  I might as well have been sitting on a board of nails.  We were getting eaten alive by the biting flies.
 Amid all this suffering, I realized that we'd just had a cleansing.  We were sweating out all the poisons and toxins of everyday life and by doing so, we were strengthening and unifying the tribe.  We used to suffer like this at the old Steelers/Browns games in Cleveland, but it's been quite a while since we had such a collective miserable experience.

Granted, we came back to some righteous ham and turkey sandwiches (from Monday's smoked turkey) and cold beers, so it wasn't exactly the Trials of Job.  But tell it to my feet.

I made a mental note to never again sign up for 2 days of this "fun," but in the meantime, we had to give up the house on Wednesday, so I didn't have a realistic option to bail on the second day.  Otherwise, I think me and John Sr. might have sat it out.  But we had no real choice but to tough it out, so out we went again, at 6:00 the next morning.

It started out as dazzlingly as it ended the night before.
Aug 2012 097
Sunrise on Lake Erie.

The fishing started off as badly as it was on Wednesday.  We motored from place to place, and had diddly-squat for luck.  I pulled out a walleye, but no one else found anything but sheephead. 

So they set up the trolling system again, which was nice for us because we didn't have to deal with the worms and the hooks and casting and stuff. 

 Finally, about 11:30, John told the captain, "Let's go another half hour, then we'll call it a day."

The captain offered to cut us a break on the price.  But no one out there was catching anything either.  It was just one of those things.  The captain and his mate probably had about 100 years of Lake Erie fishing between them.  If they couldn't find the fish, I don't know who could.

John's son Jay didn't want anything to do with trolling... he said it was cheating.  The rest of us just wanted to catch some walleye, so the captain had Jay get up on the bridge and steer the boat.

Ten minutes later, I swear, we started hitting walleye.  Apparently we finally found a decent route to troll.  One after another, one of those rods would dip and one of us would get on it and reel on in.  There were a few white bass, but almost no sheephead.  We pulled out one big, green walleye after another.  It's like we happened upon the whole Wallace family.

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Jake and Captain John pose with Mr. Wallace Jr.

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John, with a biggun.

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Rik, aka Mr. Sheephead, finally gets off the schneid.

Suddenly, fishing was fun again.  It's funny how a little activity can lift everyone's spirits.  I think that we finally had to hit rock bottom, by asking to bail out early, before the fishing gods deigned to smile upon us.  And once we did, it was like a Chinese fire drill out there, with multiple fish hitting at one time, while we're trying to get the other rods ready to go back out.  

Jay just drove the boat back and forth over the same line, while the captain and his mate put us through all the paces.  Those last 2 hours made the whole trip worth while.  We ended up with 26 walleye and 4 perch.  My haul was 6 walleye (one of which was too small to keep) 4 white bass and 2 sheephead.  It was funny how my feet didn't hurt so much, once I could spend more time moving around than standing in one place.

After I got home, was able to take stock.  No seasickness, no sunburn, and the hives felt manageable.  The only problem was it still felt like I was on the boat.  I was up in the bathroom trying to shave before we went out for dinner, and it was like we were still rocking.  I wanted to yell downstairs and tell the kids to stop shaking the house.  Luckily, that subsided over the course of the night.

Tonight, we're heading to Jake's baseball game, followed by an appointment with the best pizza in the world at Myle's Pizza in Bowling Green.  I fear that I might have to be checked in as cargo, on tomorrow's flight home.  Then Saturday, it's on to Pittsburgh and dinner with my blogging pals.  The crazy continues... 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Week of Crazy - Pt 1

Hi, and welcome to rustic Whitehouse, Ohio, home of, well... nothing.  And as this is my vacation, I embrace the nothing.  Good food, beer and "nothing" make a superb vacation, if you ask me.

I got here easily enough; no hold-ups at all.  Boarded my Southwest flight with the first group and for some reason, and for the first time I can remember, I picked a window seat.  I almost always take the aisle.  But I was rewarded for my choice because shortly after I sat down, a  pretty young girl took the aisle seat, and even better than that, no one took the middle.

We chatted a bit during the short flight.  She came from New York, routing through Baltimore, to Detroit, then heading to upstate Michigan for a bridal shower.  Not that any of that really matters, but it made for a pleasant flight.  (Between her, and the latin flight attendant dude with a severe excess of personality, it was an entertaining hour and a half.)

No doubt that if he were there, my hound-dog buddy Rik would have came off the plane with her phone number.  (If he didn't nail her in the lavatory...)

As usual, my buddy John picked me up, then we headed to our usual haunt, Shawn's Irish Tavern.  We met Rik and John's dad there for lunch and beers.  This particular place has been through a number of ownership changes, but we always seem to wind up there.  Rik, in particular, has engaged in a number of adventures within those walls.  Like I told him Friday, "Dude, if these walls could talk, they'd be screaming your name."

I'm not saying that Rik is a playboy, but he gets his Viagra pills from a Pez dispenser.  (Which is shaped like Pinocchio.)

As we always do on my first night in town, we assembled in John's garage for beer and loud music.  Rik's son and daughter also came by to visit.  They're such great kids.  The boy, Jake, is only 12 and is already almost as tall as his dad.  The girl, Kyrie, is just dazzling.  (Remember, she was the inspiration for my "Letter to a 16-year old girl" post from last year.)

Jake and Kyrie.

I got up Saturday morning with the inspiration for a new segment for my vacation posts.  I now bring you:

Irritating My Mother - Part 1

You may recall that my mother and I had a running battle as I was growing up.  I wanted sugary cereal and Pop Tarts, but because she didn't love me, she made me eat eggs and waffles and pancakes.  Revenge is mine!

John and I had a day ahead that was packed with errands.  First, we stopped at a local engine shop, so he could check on a new motor for his father's wood chipper.

What, doesn't everyone have a wood chipper?  Anyway, out front of the place, (which was packed with all kinds of fancy riding lawn mowers), they had this:
You gotta love small town businesses... Pink flamingos, dressed as Baltimore "Hons", cutting the grass.

Also, while in local traffic, we saw this:

I don't know what it is, but it was pretty cool.

After our first errand, we had worked up a pretty good hunger, so we went back to Shawn's for a burger and a beer.  Once sated, we headed for Lowe's.  John had to pick up a couple of light fixtures.

You know you're out in the country when outside the Lowe's, they have about 30 or 40 lawn tractors all lined up in two rows.  It looked like the starting line for the Redneck 500.

While John searched for illumination, I checked out the plumbing.

So.  Tempted.

I was dying to try it out.  I swear, if I worked at a Lowe's, I'd set up a mannequin, preferably holding up a newspaper. 

Our last errand was to go get the car washed.  John's neighbor's daughter was working on a fundraising car wash for the high school.  And because we are such supporters of quality education, we went to have a bunch of high school girls wearing short-shorts rub warm soapy water all over the car.  

Two of the girls even had a quick water fight, which I'm sure was arranged for our enjoyment.  In fact, they probably have one every 15 minutes, knowing that all the suburban dads will be texting their suburban dad buddies, going "Dude, get down to the car wash, right now!"

All over town, suburban moms will be going, "Honey, where are you going?"

"I'm getting the car washed, dear."

"Why are you bringing chips and a 6-pack?"

No, I didn't take pictures, so don't ask.  I have more decorum than that.  Plus, I didn't want to get kicked out of the car wash.  But I tell you, when that flock of girls started swarming the car to dry it off after the wash, it was like getting a full car massage.  Call it an "auto" body experience.

After all the excitement of the motor store, Lowe's and the car wash, we called it a hard day's work and retired back to the garage.

Later that night, it turned out that they were having an All-Year high school reunion, down in front of the local bar.  So we turned out there, but it was kind of under-whelming.  I mean, the event was fine, but there didn't seem to be many other people there from our class.  (And NO, they haven't all died off!)

But I did get to meet up with an old neighbor of mine and Barn regular, my old friend Margaret.

Reunion accomplished, we went back to Shawn's (again) for a few, then called it a night.

Coming soon, Father's Day, a Mudhens game, and fishing on Lake Erie.

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hi, I'm Bluz; I'll be Your Tour Guide Tonight

Last night was the opening salvo to what is going to be a furious flurry of activity for me. I’ve got a whole fistful of summer events, all packed into the next two weeks.

First, the Pittsburgh Pirates are in town to play the Orioles this week. I went to one game last night (more on that in a bit) and will be at another on Thursday. Also, I’m going to see my nephew playing in his Little League championship game tonight. Otherwise, I would have used tonight to pack, because on Friday, I’m flying out to make my annual pilgrimage to NW Ohio, to hang out with my (now well-documented) buddies (The VP of Hell No and the Chairman of Fuck Off).

On Tuesday and Wednesday, we’ve booked a 2-day fishing trip on Lake Erie. Then I fly back to Baltimore on Friday, then turn around and drive to Pittsburgh on Saturday, to have dinner with that collection of ‘Burgh-blogging whack jobs who I call "my friends." I got a room at a Doubletree, downtown, for Saturday and Sunday.

On Sunday, we take in another Pirates game at PNC Park, which may be preceded by a trip to Rivers Casino. Then before driving home on Monday, I plan to stop by and see my Grandpa for a while, and maybe go out for a couple of monster fish sandwiches.

Normally, I would have spaced all this stuff out over the course of the summer, but there were too many details that couldn’t really be moved. I was already committed to a couple of the ballgames, and the dinner in Pittsburgh was cemented by the visit of our friend Jessica, of Leelafish, who is coming in all the way from Louisiana. Then my buddy booked the fishing trip in the middle of it all, resulting in this period of condensed merriment. 

I know I shouldn’t be complaining about his overabundance of fun. I just don’t know what I’m going to do with myself in July and August. But for now, let’s talk about last night. (Baseball fan or not, you need to read this story. Trust me.)

I was sure that the game on Tuesday was going to be a CF of epic proportions. All week I’d been eying the reports of rain for the entire day. All day at the office, I watched out my window to see it alternate between drizzling and pouring. I scoured the weather sites for up-to-the-minute information or changes. None came.

See, this was the one game where I “treated” myself. I was going alone and when I looked for seats online, I found an aisle seat in the front row of the Club Level section, along the 3rd base line. I figured, “Why not get a good ticket for a change? It’s your Pirates!” 

That’s how I came to drop $70 on a single baseball ticket. So naturally, it was going to rain all night.

Note: If you don’t know, Club Level is the small deck between the lower bowl and upper deck. It has its own entrance that is ticket-checked by an usher before they let you in. The concourse is an enclosed hallway like you might find in a hotel or something. As you walk the concourse, there are alternating doors, which let you into either a company suite, or the outdoor seats (where I was).
This was my seat, right here.

I prepared like I was going to a football game. I had my game jersey and hat packed, and brought my plastic poncho, so the Pirates jersey could still be seen. Plus, with club seating, you always have the option of ducking back into the private concourse and watching the game in a lounge, on TV. So I felt like I was covered.

It was still raining when I left my office and started walking down to Camden Yards. About halfway there, I spotted a group of five young guys, all wearing Pirates t-shirts. One of them saw me and yelled, “Let’s Go Bucs!

We met up at the corner and one of them asked me which way the ballpark was, so I said, “I’m heading there right now, just follow me.”

The guys had just driven in from Pittsburgh and were there to see a couple games. So as we walked along, I told them a bit about what to expect from Camden Yards and suggested some things to see.  They were going to buy their tickets at the box office, so I pointed that out as we approached. I also suggested that they have a couple beers on the outside, on the cheap. They were already planning on doing that.

Where’s ‘Pickles?” one of them asked me. “Pickles” is one of the places in the little strip of bars across from the Yard, where I go before each game. The guys had been told to go there.

I said, “Follow me!” as I led them toward their new destination. I was quickly becoming a kind of Pittsburgh Pied Piper of drunkards.

We all got some grub from the food stands out front, hung out in front of The Bullpen (my regular spot) and drank the “Cheap Ass Beer” that they advertise (2 for $5 cans). As the evening went on, we became a kind of magnet for other passing Pirates fans.

It’s so cool and so typically Pittsburgh. If you’re anywhere in the world and a ‘Burgher sees you wearing a Pittsburgh shirt, that’s all it takes to strike up a conversation and hang out. 

Eventually, after an hour or so of yakking about places to sit, things to see, and ways to smuggle beer inside, we went our separate ways. The guys went to get their tickets and I headed for the rarified air of the Club Level. 

All my worrying about the rain was for naught. It had stopped about 5:45 and never really started again, at least not at the ballpark. It proved to be a pleasant evening for baseball. Still, the daylong threat of rain really killed the crowd. Attendance was announced at about 15,600, but there must have been a ton of no-shows. There were only about 15 people in my whole section. Naturally, I was seated directly beside two of them, an older couple that had come down from New Jersey to see the series. It was the lady who was a baseball fan; her husband was bringing her to the game as a treat. 

It started out a little iffy. When I came in, the guy went, “Oh geez, we got a Pittsburgh fan here…”

I went to great pains to say that I root for the Orioles whole-heartedly, against every team in the league, except “this one,” [tapping the Pirates logo on my chest].

I try to be overly polite when I’m wearing Pittsburgh gear in a city that’s not Pittsburgh. I feel like I’m an ambassador for the ‘Burgh, so I try to be extra nice to my seatmates, ushers, vendors, and everyone else. In Baltimore, it kind of blows their mind because given the Steelers/Ravens rivalry; they expect us all to be jerks.

If I were to act surly or mean, they’d just go, “Yeah, typical Pittsburgh A-hole.” So I try to behave in ways that make them think, “I guess those guys aren’t so bad after all.”

Anyway, the view from my seat was brilliant and totally worth the cash.

One foul ball came our way… it landed about five seats to my right. One guy who was sitting there with his family got his hands on it but bobbled it. Meanwhile, some other guy had run down from about three rows back and scooped up the loose ball on the rebound. First dude totally should have thrown the guy over the rail. An usher came down to make sure his hands were OK. Maybe they have a manicure station or something on the Club Level. If you were in the bleachers, you could get clonked on the head and I don’t think anyone on staff would even notice unless you fell onto the field. (In which case, they’d tase you for good measure, then drag you off.)

This game was the first for Orioles 2nd baseman Brian Roberts, since May of 2011. He had been sidelined with concussions since then. He got a well-deserved standing O on his first at-bat, in which I fully participated. Again, I like to shake up the expectations. And he did OK, too… he went 3 for 4 plus an RBI sacrifice fly. (The Orioles won 8-6 but it wasn’t really that close. The O’s jumped out early and the Bucs chipped away, but couldn’t close the gap.)

Around the fifth inning, I had to go take a leak. I ran back into the concourse hallways and scoured for a restroom sign. Finally, I found one and plunged through the first door I got to.

Funny thing about these club-level men’s rooms: no urinals. Maybe these high-class sections are too high-brow for urinals. I had a good look around anyway, but all I could find were toilets in stalls. One in the middle was occupied, which bugged me, so I had to duck into an adjoining stall. Finally, I achieved the sweet release of a good pee.

Once I got going, I started taking a closer look around. I saw the TP dispenser on the left, but what was that metal box on the other side? Then it dawned on me.


Shit.  I’m in the fucking women’s room.

That provided a dilemma: how should I pee, to best remain undetected? At first I decided that I should make less noise, so I aimed at the porcelain over the water’s edge. But then I realized that women aren’t usually so directional, so I went back to going straight into the water. I further realized that moving the stream all around the bowl was another giveaway, but by then there was nothing left for me to do, other than hide in the stall until my neighbor got outta Dodge.

Luckily for me, I made it out unseen. No one even saw me come out the door. Good thing the crowd was so sparse last night. Otherwise, there would have been a whole slew of people there walking around going, “Damned Pittsburgh idiots, always using the wrong bathrooms…” 

Director’s DVD Commentary: With my upcoming hectic schedule, I haven’t fully worked out when I’m going to post over the coming weeks.  It shouldn’t be much of a problem because it seems to be “graveyard” season for blogs right now.

I’m usually able to drop a post or two from my buddy’s house so I expect I’ll do the same.  Maybe I’ll schedule a “rerun” post during my Pittsburgh weekend… something from deep in the archives.  Either way, stick around!  I’m sure these adventures are going to generate some killer material.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Graduation Day

Yesterday I went to the high school graduation of Pinky’s niece.  I haven’t been to a graduation in ages; probably not since my brother’s from Ohio State.

Boy, has a lot ever changed.

When did high school seniors get so freakin’ young?  These kids were babies!  Who decided to turn these children out into the world?  Surely we were never that young when we graduated, right?
These three babyfaces are L-R Billy G, yours truly, and Rik, aka Chairman of Fuck Off.

OK, so maybe that hasn’t changed, only my perspective has.

Sitting in that gymnasium brought back so many memories of the end of my senior year.  I’d say from that spring, through the start of college in the fall, was the best time of my life.  I’d discovered four solid friends, with whom I’d go through thick and thin.  We created this incredible bond together, while hanging out in our Barn, and it sucked in the whole neighborhood. 

I remember that feeling, starting around April, when as a senior, you realize that you are just about done with this part of your life.  It was as if I had just stepped on a giant paddlewheel ride, and once aboard, it was going to keep turning and like it or not, you were along for the ride.

I was already accepted into my first-choice college, (Yo Bowling Green Falcons, represent!); I had enough credits in the bag to graduate before the semester even started, so my last semester’s classes were pretty much irrelevant.  I could have bombed them out and still breezed straight through to college.  Of course, I had too much pride to do that.  I was a National Honor Society member, after all.  (Note the yellow cords in the first picture.)

All I really had to do was not do anything stupid or get kicked out of school.  Of course, my buddies Rik and John (aka VP of Hell No); were different stories.  I don’t remember what it was they did during the last week of school, (there were so many incidents to choose from), but I think it might have been getting caught sneaking onto school grounds, with mischief in mind.  Anyway, they got in serious trouble and had to sweat out whether the assistant principal would let them graduate with the rest of the class.

And the prick really made them sweat, too.  When we were going through graduation rehearsal and they were calling our names to assign our seats, he called my two buddies dead last.  They were sure they were going to be kept out.  But I wept for them, not a bit.  Much to my chagrin, John got seated between two knockout girls, one of whom was my physics lab partner, the other I’d worked with in Chemistry and had been completely smitten with since sophomore year.  Bastard.

So much goes on that last month.  You’re sending out invitations, ordering your robes, trading “graduation cards,” getting your yearbook signed, picking out what to wear, and Senior Skip Day, which for us, usually consisted of a trip to Cedar Point. 

It was during this time that I skipped my first and only high school class, and it was a freakin’ study hall.  (I was such a responsible student.)  But we had a plan to assemble over at John’s house to do an hour’s worth of drinking, before coming back to school.  John said he had the gin, Billy G said he’d bring the mixer.  And the damned fool brought Mello Yello.  God, it tasted like ass.  Needless to say, we didn’t cop much of a “B” that day.  Bleah.

In later years we weren’t so discriminating.  I remember one evening over at my buddy’s place and all we could come up with to drink was gin and lime Kool Aid.  That tasted like ass too, but it got the job done.  We called it, “Gang Green.”

Another ball we had in the air was Billy’s idea for us all to wear our suit jackets and shirts with shorts under our robes.  I wrote about that in detail before, as it was one domino in a long string of practical jokes.  Suffice to say here, my dad put the kibosh the whole idea, saying, “You will NOT embarrass this family at graduation.”  So I didn’t.

Either Billy didn’t get the memo, or he didn’t care, because he did it anyway and caused a great deal of murmuring and tittering among the crowd when his robe opened up on stage and his big hairy leg poked out as he walked across the stage. 

Anyway, we all got through it.  We reassembled at our house for post-graduation dinner.  Thinking of it now, I wonder why the guys didn’t have their own family plans.  It’s possible that having had my mom’s homemade spaghetti before, they let that saucy goodness sway their plans.
 From far left, clockwise: Billy G, me, Brill, John and Rik.  It’s not every day you see five dudes drinking both milk and wine, from matching glassware.

Geez, we looked like babies.  But we felt so grown up, like it was time to be an adult now.  Luckily, that feeling was temporary, because we spent the summer doing very un-adult-like things.  Like I said… best time of my life.

In sitting at the graduation yesterday, one thing I noticed was the tech, which was considerable.  This college gym had more tech in it than the fully functioning concert hall in which we held our graduation in 1979.  We didn’t have any video screens, that’s for sure.  This gym had 4 different screens and video cameras everywhere.  Someone was controlling the shots on the video screens like it was a U2 concert.  Very snappy.

And right when they came off stage, there was a photographer set up to take their picture, before they went back to their seats.  Plus, it was all being recorded, so you could buy a DVD of the whole affair.  Man, what I wouldn’t give to see Billy’s hairy old leg sticking out on stage again.

I also noticed that there was a specific time for all the grads to turn their tassels together.  When I graduated, we were supposed to turn the tassel individually, right after we were handed our diploma.

My seat mate was so sure she was going to forget to turn her tassel, she made me promise to remind her right before she went up on stage.  So I reminded her and she turned her tassel on time.

I, however, completely screwed the pooch and forgot to do it until I was back at my seat.


But not to worry.  I had all summer to recover from the setback.
Rocking wine in the hammock.  That’s pretty adult, right?  And no comments about the mesh shirt… it was the 70s, for cryin’ out loud.  Nobody had any taste.

Man, my only concern with a hammock now is whether I would be able to get back out of it without getting tossed on the ground.  I mean; I could break my hip…

Nothing like being young and fearless…

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Movie Night

I saw a couple of movies over the last week; nothing brand new or anything… just some things on On Demand or HBO.

The most intriguing was “My Week With Marilyn,” a story about a young Brit who after worming his way into a Third Assistant Director spot on a movie, ends up functioning as a secret aide and confidante to the film’s star, Marilyn Monroe.

Despite the fact that Marilyn died when I was but a toddler, I’ve had a long fascination with her.  You can blame by buddy Billy G and Elton John for that.

The summer after my senior year in high school, we were hanging out with Bill and he put on Elton John’s Goodbye Yellowbrick Road album.  I’d always liked Elton John, but I didn’t really know anything but his hits.  Bill started out with Funeral For a Friend, (which eventually became one of my favorite songs of all time,) and right after that was “Candle in the Wind.”

Now remember, in 1979, no one knew this song.  It was just one more album cut from a double-album.  But I was drawn in by the sweet, sad story, and the obvious relish a young man had for this tragic movie star.  In the following years, I saw a number of TV specials about her and began to learn the backstory.

In “My Week With Marilyn, the young AD slowly but surely falls in love with Marilyn, who so effortlessly led him to do so despite the fact that she was married to Arthur Miller at the time, and was on set at the beginning of the movie.   I know that had I been in his shoes, I would have done the same.  Marilyn had such an innocent vulnerability about her, (which Michelle Williams conveyed brilliantly, by the way), I know I would have plunged in as well, to try to save her from herself and everyone else.  And I know just as well that she would have driven me absolutely bugshit crazy too.

The movie is based on a true-story book, written by the young Brit, Colin Clark.  Based on how much I liked the movie, I’m going to have to check out the book. 

Horse Sense
Shortly after they ran the Preakness, I saw the movie “Secretariat.”  Two years ago around this time, I wrote a post about how I watched the 1973 Triple Crown races with my dad and fell in love with the big red horse with the white blaze.  So I’d been anxious to see the Disney adaptation for some time, although not so anxious that I went to the theater or bought the DVD.

Long story short, it was a good movie, not great.  Diane Lane was good as owner Penny Tweedy, but for me, Disney did to “Secretariat” what they did to “Miracle,” (about the 1980 US Olympic hockey team).  I think they puffed it up where the story was good enough that it didn’t need puffing.

There were scenes where “Penny” would be making these long, inspirational speeches about hard work and persevering against all odds, and I’d be thinking, “No way she said all that.  It’s just so cutsie.

Also, I don’t remember any harsh words or bad blood between the Secretariat crew and the crew of the rival horse, Sham.  I think Disney thought they needed a villain.  Same thing happened with that boxing movie about James Braddock (played by Russell Crowe).  They made the opponent, Max Baer, a big, mean-spirited oaf, when in fact he was quite the gentleman.

Also, in “Miracle,” they totally rewrote some of the game details, showing a Russian plow into the USA goalie, hurting him, while scoring a goal in the aftermath.  Movie execs forget that people like me have a copy of the game tape.  Yes, a Russian plowed the goalie, but the USA defenseman pushed him into him.  And the goal was scored during an unrelated power play.  But in the movie, it was like the goalie was on death’s door, all woozy from the impact.  On the game tape, he shook it off in a few seconds and got back in net.

I hate it when they toy with what actually happened, especially with a story that needs no cheap embellishment.

Still, it was a wholesome, entertaining movie, and I enjoyed seeing Big Red run again.

Comics Relief
This week I saw the “The Green Hornet,” featuring Seth Rogan.  The legendary Green Hornet, played as a rich, cheesy slacker… go figure.  But it was fun.  It didn’t take itself too seriously, which of course, is impossible in a Seth Rogan movie.

I used to watch the Green Hornet TV series as a kid, but even then, I considered it to be a pale imitation of my beloved Batman series.  I don’t remember my brother or I ever playing Green Hornet and Cato; we were always Batman and Robin.  Well, OK, we were Batman (lg) and Batman (sm).  Robin outfits were hard to find.  Who wants to play second fiddle?

But the movie was good fun.  Lots of laughs, fights and stuff getting blown up.  If you like that kind of thing… which I do.  And Cameron Diaz was in it, just being all smart, sexy and fun, so that was also cool, if you like that kind of thing.  Which I do too.

Coming Attractions
This weekend, or shortly thereafter, I’m hoping to go see “Prometheus” in the theater.  It’s a pre-quel of the movie “Alien,” which franchise I LOVE.  Ridley Scott, who directed the original “Alien,” is directing this one.  “Alien” was good, but my favorite was “Aliens,” which delivered the line for the ages:

Misc Crappola
Remember a couple posts ago when I said I went out to a nursery and picked up some flowering plants for my office window?  And how I said I’d post some pictures after I’d gotten them squared away?  That’s today.
 Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a “Clown Violet,” (or torenia, to be technical).

Right after I potted them, the three flowers they had fell off.  But that was OK, because I didn’t pick those particular plants for their flowers.  I picked them because they were packed with buds.  About a dozen opened in the first week.

If you’re going to spend 9 hours a day at work, why not make it look nice?

Director’s DVD Commentary: I had a perfect joke all lined up, about how Kenneth Branagh and Dame Judy Dench were in the movie because they couldn’t get parts in any Harry Potter movies.  But then I realize that Kenneth Branagh was indeed in a HP movie… the second one, where he played a visiting Professor Against the Dark Arts.

Stupid IMDB.com…

Another note: My original Secretariat post, linked above, was the first one on which Judie, Your Ever-Engaging Hot Arizona Auntie, (YEEHAA) ever commented.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Doubly Kreativ

Somehow, I’m managing to make some blog friends that aren’t in Pittsburgh, and one of them, Misty at Misty’s Laws, gave me an award this week.  Misty is a lawyer that works in downtown Baltimore, just like yours truly.  (Except I’m no lawyer… I’m not even a paralegal.  I’m more like a paratrooper.  OK, I’m not one of those either.  I’m more like a parawordwriter guy.)

Sometimes Misty posts pictures of the oddly dressed people she sees downtown.  I always read these carefully, not only to try to identify where she took each picture, but to also make sure I’m not in them.  But for whatever reason, she saw fit to bestow upon me the Kreativ Blogger Award.
You again?

As you may remember, The Pedestrian Writer laid this on me back in April, and I went through his drill of listing seven things about myself.  So now I’m Kreative squared.  K2, babee!

Misty’s version also comes with some instructions, but I’m ignoring half of them.  Yes, I thanked/linked her.  (Wait… did I actually say thank you?  Scanning… scanning… nope… Hey Misty!  Gee thanks!)  No I’m not listing 10 more things about myself.  No, I’m not passing it on because I just did that last month.  But yes, I’ll answer the 10 questions, because they were probing, insightful, and I already answered them in my head as she was giving her own answers.

1. What is your favorite song?  Easy: Meat Loaf’s “Bat Out of Hell.”  It has the perfect combination of screaming guitars, oddly creative lyrics and one incredible, wall-shaking voice.  I have other favorites for different occasions… sometimes it’s just not the right time for an 8-minute, wall-shaking rock opera.  But over the test of time, The Bat stands up.

Long time readers may remember a post I did about why Meat is my favorite singer.  (Great songs, best rock singer ever.)  I also got to actually meet Meat, back in 1993.  He was a real gem; the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet.  You could tell that meeting the fans was something he genuinely liked to do.  I wrote about that, here, as part of a 10-part series on my adventures in the music business.

2. What is your favorite dessert?  Pecan pie, followed closely by German Chocolate cake.  I would eat most anything if it had the German Chocolate icing on it.  Mom just wishes I would have said that long ago, so she wouldn’t have had to make those cakes with German Chocolate.  A shoebox would have done just fine.

3. What ticks you off?  Inconsiderate, self-absorbed, entitled people, who I so often find driving their cars in my vicinity.  “Hey dipshit!  Put the fucking phone down and use your goddamned turn signal!”  What I wouldn't give for dual hood-mounted water cannons.

4. When you’re upset, what do you do?  Drink heavily and swear profusely.  Then that is followed by long periods of deathly silence while I plot my revenge.

5. Which is/was your favorite pet?  Oh my.  There are two that I will love and remember fondly until the day I’m in the ground.  When I was 15 we got a Siamese kitten and Golden Retriever puppy around the same time.

The Siamese was Amos, and he lived with all of us at various times over his 17 years.  I wrote all about him in this post.  That cat had more personality in the kink of his seal-black tail than any other animal I’ve ever known.  I wrote all about him, here.

The Golden was my Jesse, a present for my 15th birthday.  I can’t even begin to write about her.  She was killed by a car when she was 4 and it absolutely tore me apart.  God, I loved that dog.  I’m sure I have an award-winning post rambling around in my head about her, but I guarantee my keyboard would short out before I could get it all down.  I still have dreams about her, 30 freakin’ years later, after which I always wake up happy to have seen her again. 

But that’s the problem with writing about old pets… it always ends the same way.

6. Which do you prefer, black or white?  Black goes much better with my Penguins and Steelers attire, so probably black.  But I do like to sport a white shirt in the summer, after I’m all tanned.

7. What is your biggest fear?  In practical terms?  Approaching and talking to people I don’t know.  (I’m not counting all the horrible ways one can die like getting eaten by sharks or falling out of a roller coaster… I mean, everyone is afraid of that stuff…) 

This also counts calling people I don’t know.  It makes me break out in a cold sweat.  I have to have squarely in mind exactly what I’m going to say, otherwise I’ll stutter, stammer and freeze up all over the place.

Case in point: Last Friday, we had a tornado warning downtown. My boss asked for my help, which I gladly offered.  But then she said she wanted me to go to a couple of surrounding floors and tell everyone to get to the bottom floor.

Um… no.  Can’t do that.  I can’t go running around like the office building’s Paul Revere… “A tornado is coming!  Everybody run for the fruit cellar! Auntie Em!  Auntie Em, it’s a twister!

And I didn’t.  But later, as we were waiting down below, I decided that we weren’t getting enough information.  Where’s the storm? What direction is it moving and how fast?  So I went back upstairs to my computer (which is right by a window) to consult weather.com and get a look at a radar screen.

That’s right.  I’d rather risk getting my head sliced off by a tornado-blown pane of glass than go talk to a bunch of strangers.  That’s messed up, right there.

8. What is your attitude, mostly?  Pre-planning seriousness marked by occasional fits of whimsy.  I can be very task-driven, but yet I always strive to keep the room light.  So call me “Sybil.”

9. What is perfection?  A weekend where the Ohio State Buckeyes, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Penguins all win.  Also, Tina Fey and Cat Deeley.

10. What is your guilty pleasure?  That’s hard to say.  I don’t find that pleasurable pursuits are something to feel guilty about.  We have to make the best of the time we have here.  So why not enjoy ourselves? 

But if I had to pick something, it would probably be reality TV.  (And I mean the good ones like Survivor and Amazing Race, not crap like Real Housewives of Upper Sandusky, or Next Top Ear Piercer.)

So, those are my 10 answers.  I hope that they were suitably Kreativ.  I'd hate to have to forfeit the award...