26 April 2010

Fun and games

Last weekend was a sports fest extraordinaire. The Better Half swam in the Illinois state Masters meet, which is usually a pretty good event. The Chicago area has a lot of amateur swimmers (not surprising with a metro area population of about 6 million) so the competition is usually pretty good and there are plenty of swimmers in every age group. TBH took six firsts in age group in the six events she swam (1000 freestyle, 200 back, 50 back, 100 IM, 200 freestyle, and 400 IM). Sweep! She'd have set the state record in the 1000 but she's in Iowa Masters and state records can only be set by swimmers belonging to in-state swim squads. Crap!

I think she's going to switch to Illinois Masters next short course yards season. The competition is better and a local team is now up and running (Western Illinois Masters Program Swimmers-which forms the neat acronym WIMPS) to compete with the big state squads like Naperville Waves and Evanston Wild Cat-Fish. It would help her to get back to a club with regular workouts, interval training, and coaching.

My job? Cheer, count laps on the long freestyles, lug stuff (swimmers pack an amazing amount of gear for just needing a suit and a towel), and drive. If there's a meet in an area that has something I want to see or do, we'll try to work it in. Doesn't happen all that often.

The meet was held in DeKalb, home of Northern Illinois University and a Greek row that reminds one of the Deltas from 'Animal House'. But I have fond memories of DeKalb and NIU. I helped a girl I knew, NatalieC, move into her 'studio apartment' near campus, going on, oh, 14 years ago (!). 'Studio apartment' is probably a glowing description, since the place was nearly the size of the bathroom in a Winnebago RV. But, hey, it's student digs and university students ain't too discriminating. Natalie and I went out casually a few times but she was going places and I was in my own 'career', such as it was. It wouldn't have worked out, I think. But she was an elegant girl, from a more civilized age. Wherever she is, I hope life was everything she wanted.

But most things work out how they will, and back to the present. TBH and I were looking for a place to get some decent Indian food, only to find no curry houses anywhere in town. DeKalb may be the ONLY university town on the planet that has no Indian restaurants. We ended with Chinese instead, from a little hole-in-the-wall place on campus. Good value-we each got three meals from what we were served. I guess you can't go wrong in opening a restaurant that can serve a lot of relatively cheap grub to drunken college kids.

Sunday saw our first baseball outing of the 2010 campaign with the River Bandits. TBH was sort of leading our church's children's choir in singing the national anthem before the game so we had to be there. The group had tickets in the alcohol-free family section. I got us two seats behind home plate. There we're away from everyone and I can have a beer. Everyone wins.

We were worried because it was supposed to rain all weekend, and it poured here on Saturday. We caught a bit if a break in that the rain let up during the games. The sun even peeked out briefly a couple of times. The kids did pretty well singing the Banner and they behaved decently before and during the games. Actually, we caught a bonus-Saturday's game was rained out so the Bandits played a doubleheader on Sunday (the Midwest League will play two short seven-inning games when they have unscheduled doubleheaders). When I used to go to the old Clinton Giants games, I liked seeing doubleheaders-two games for the price of one. If you had a free pass, that was a hell of a deal. And the Bandits (the Cardinals' farm team) swept the day over the Peoria Chiefs (the Cubs' farm team), 3-1, and 1-0. Figures.

Most of you have seen pictures of Modern Woodmen Park so you know what the place looks like. This winter the club installed new drainage on the field which is supposed to handle seven inches of rain per hour. If we get that much rain in one swoop it'll be boat-riding time anyway. The field and turf looked good, though. Inside the stadium, they've improved the concessions by having fewer menu items and getting them out faster, which is fine by me. I don't expect gourmet cuisine at the ball park, and I don't care to wait two innings to get it. Had a decent hot dog with the works and a Bent River Stout to go along with it. A good day.

We'll probably catch a half-dozen or so Bandits games, and make the drive to Clinton to catch the Lumber Kings a couple of times. I cut my baseball teeth going to those games back in the early 80's. That field hasn't changed a lot since 1935 when they built it. It's a laid-back stadium and close to the action. A great place to spend a summer afternoon or evening!

This summer we're planning on one MLB tilt-a bus trip to Chicago to catch the Cubs play the Phillies in July. Yeah, a bus trip. Like an old couple. You try driving to and finding a parking spot within 2 miles of Wrigley Field in the summer! You'd sign up for a bus trip, too. I'd like to (time permitting) get up to Miller Park to catch the Brewers as well. I pull for the Cubs-but Miller Park is an infinitely better stadium to get into, out of, and around in. I hope in the next couple of years to get up to Minneapolis to the Twins' new park, Target Field. It's an open-air stadium, which should be interesting in April. Minnesota can be damn cold and snowy, even in late spring. We'll see how the Twins fare outside of the old Humpdome.

The powers-that-be were talking about getting Amtrak service from Chicago out here to the Quads and on to Iowa City (which would have tied us and the University of Iowa to Amtrak's hub at Union Station in Chicago). It doesn't look like it'll happen anytime soon, which is a shame. I'd gladly have gotten on a train and relaxed in a big comfy coach seat all the way to Chicago. A person could walk to a lot of places in the city or gotten on the El to the major sports venues. I'd go to more ball games and events in Chicago if I didn't have to sit on the parking lots expressways to get in and out of town. Not much fun doing that anymore.

Reckon that about catches up everyone with goings-on around these parts. I'm going to finish watching the Blackhawks game. We'll see if they can finish off the Predators tonight and get ready for Vancouver on the road to Lord Stanley's Cup.

Never mind. The Hawks beat the Preds 5-3. Bring on the Canucks.
yankeedog out.

11 April 2010

Weekend musings

First, thanks to those who commented on my last post. I kind of followed Bangar's first comment, and tried that. I reckon it was a success! The Blademaster of Melbourne has sage advice, often as not. Well done.

I've been blogging for going on five years now-an eternity in this day and age. It certainly seems like this is something of a dying art. I suppose in a couple of years this form of communication will go the way of the paper journals and diaries some of us might have kept as kids.

I really don't know how much more there is to write about here. I do know I've met a lot of good people on here from around this mudball, learned a lot, had some fun, shed a few tears, and argued until all hours of the morning when I should have been asleep. At times I don't think I've measured up to some of your standards, and at times I wonder why some of you who've travelled the world and seen and done all kinds of cool stuff are interested in the musings of a hick river rat from the deepest interior of the Land of the Free whose idea of a big night out is watching the local nine play baseball on a summer's evening.

The blog seems to have been replaced by social networking sites. And they're fine, but at times it's a lot of clatter. It can be like being at a party and trying to have a conversation with everyone in the room at the same time. To me, that's a bit wearing. And there isn't a lot of privacy unless direct messages are used.

Perhaps to our children, this type of communication will be the norm and us 'single-channel' types will be looked at like we're retarded. My generation is one of the last that grew up using a handwritten letter for communication. It seems-not right, in a way. There is something about a letter, or even e-mail (which I'm told is also going slowly obsolete), that is cool. Someone had to actually take time, sit down, and put thoughts on paper (or viewscreen). You were important enough, special enough, or pissed off someone enough for them to take time out of their lives to write to you. Sometimes 140 characters just doesn't cut it.

I honestly don't know how many posts are left in me. The well's kind of dry right at the moment. It depends a lot on how things go in the rest of my life. If I see some interesting things this summer, I'll do a write-up and pics-or maybe just throw a vid on YouTube and say 'To hell with it'. But blogging just doesn't feel like it did even two or three years ago. Reckon that's how life is, and the pace isn't going to slow down, barring a major catastrophe or everyone just saying 'Enough'.


The past few weeks have been rather exhausting on a lot of fronts. With a bit of luck, some things have been cleared up and the rest have been whittled down to manageable. Time for some new stuff to crop up! I still feel a bit raw, though, and am going to endeavor to clear my mind and soul a bit.

A lot of you have been a great comfort, inspiration, and/or advisors to me over the past year or so: MickH, Doc, Bangar, BigBadAl, Moko, Ausgaz, Havock, Steve, Murph, NatV, Mayhem (wish I'd have gone to Australia to meet women before I'd settled down-two fine ladies there), Barnesy, Drej, Mr-Stu, and Savo. If you got left off, oops. Sorry about that, Chief!

If I could be anywhere right now for some R&R, it'd be at a resort I know of in the middle of Chequamagon National Forest in Wisconsin, on Teal Lake, northeast of Hayward, smack in the center of our Northwoods.

It'd be mid-summer. It's always fairly cool up in that part of the world, so it wouldn't be terribly hot or humid. This cabin would be the one I'd stay in. I'll be in the chair, cold one in hand, fishing rod propped up to catch an unwary bluegill or perch. The only sounds are the shussh of a low breeze in the trees and the gentle lap of the water against the shoreline. Eventually, I'll go out in the canoe for a row around the lake. No motorboats or jetskis up there to drown out the sounds of nature.

When the evening rolls around and the sun sets on the far shore of the lake, I'll start a fire in the pit. Might be I'd cook up the day's catch-more possibly cooking up a batch of burgers (since while the fishing might be good, the catching might be lousy) over the fabled bed of glowing coals that most camp cooks and grillers  dream about when the cooking area is either an inferno or a pile of wet, rained-out ashes. After dinner, I'll get the fire cranked back up-the kind of fire that people sit around and tell bullshit stories to each other, or cuddle up with their sweetest, or simply gaze at and relax in the majesty that is the outdoors. I'd best grab a sweatshirt since it cools off at night in those parts, even in summer. Across the lake, as the sky turns darkest orange in the west and the myriad stars appear in the encroaching darkness, I'll hear the loons calling their song of the primeval forest.

If the mosquitoes get bad (even Heaven must have a rough spot or two), I'll retreat to the screened-in porch, park my carcass on the porch swing, and relax with the last Leinenkugel of the evening.

If this sounds good to you, hey, there's always an extra Leinie in the icechest. Pull up a log, sit down, and grab some chow. All it'll cost you is a story at the campfire. Or I could always pack a deck of cards for a bit of poker. Y'all would be welcome there. Cheers!

yankeedog out.

06 April 2010

What price honor?

These last few weeks have been a bit wearing. Been dealing with a lot of sick (physically ailing, that is) people. Last Friday one of the sick people had to get out of sickbay to deal with a sick elderly relative-things cascade on occasion. The silver lining is that I'm absorbing a lot of medical knowledge and am becoming something of a connoisseur of hospital emergency rooms, and one more trip should see me getting my medical degree by osmosis. Go ahead-ask me about using a butterfly needle for a phlebotomy or how to determine optimal blood oxygen or how to perform a laparascopic cholecystectomy.

Oy. I dunno. Hope things break a bit soon.

To be honest, I've got another issue weighing heavily on my tiny mind. Maybe some thoughts from the ladies and gentlemen of the jury would help. You've all got opinions-and we all know what opinions are like.

I've a person I know, who we shall call Subject L.

Before I go into detail about this, I'll readily admit that I'm better around things than people. And in many things I do try to walk in the other person's shoes a bit-it does help me to be calm, rational, and it does defuse most of the tensions that can crop up in any relationship. I also try to analyze all the possible results of any action before I do it. The Civil War general McClellan had nothing on me. However, it is possible to analyze any action to the point of not doing it.

I also have knowledge of my flaws and failings. Call them Legion, for they are many. I've never considered myself anyone special. I'm not Mr. Wonderful. On the other hand, I don't nail cats to trees or steal people's Social Security checks, either.

Well. Anyhow. Subject L, then.

I've known Subject L for a few years now. We've done a lot of communicating back and forth. I think in a moment of weakness I've grown to expect regular back-and-forth comms from Subject L, and it hasn't been there of late. It almost feels like the old familiar 'silent treatment'. I should hope not, because I feel like the only big crime I inflicted on Subject L is that of being a decent person.

One thing I do (and shouldn't, perhaps) is hold the people I know to a certain level of standards-the same standards I hold for myself when dealing with others. Those are in some ways high. For example, if someone I know asks me for something, I endeavor to do it as fast as possible. I expect others to do the same for me-and I suppose it's selfish to expect to be a priority to anyone.

Subject L has had a platter of life issues, and I suppose that enters the equation as well. How can I demand anything from someone with other priorities?

On the other hand, it feels like I have to 'crawl' when approaching Subject L. While as a rule I do try to be courteous of the precious time of other people, I don't want to 'crawl' any more-not when I did nothing wrong, or at least haven't been informed of any breaches of the armistice. No one should have to do that.

On the third hand, we can all cry about fairness or the lack of it. Put $1.60 with it and one can buy coffee. Or talk to the chaplain, who'll fill out a 'tough shit' slip.

Yes, I feel a lot of guilt as I deal with Subject L. Personal feelings and detritus from the past which I try to suppress. I always feel the need to be 'perfect' in my dealings with Subject L. It's just not possible to do.

I reckon the question to the class is this: What expectations should we have of people we know and/or hold dear to us?

After thinking this through, the options I'm coming up with are the following:

a) I have expected too much of Subject L and should back off. Lose.

b) Subject L has played a mind game with me. Possible, but to what effect? Another notch in the lipstick case? I have nothing personal, physical, or financial worth messing with. Lose.

c) I have offended Subject L in some way. But I don't know in what way, so it's hard to make amends. Lose.

d) My guilt and feelings, along with the stress of recent events, both for me and Subject L, are clouding my perception. Not necessarily a lose.

e) It's all in my head, I'm whinging like Englishmen are reported to do, and I need to harden the hell up. People come and people go. Deal with it. Probably the best endgame.

I don't enter into any kind of friendship or alliance lightly, nor do I break one lightly. I don't do casual acquaintances all that well.

Just not sure of things these days-much like many people across the land, I suppose. I do feel like the living embodiment to Leo Durocher's famous saying:

"Take a look at them. They're all nice guys, but they'll finish last. Nice guys. Finish last."

Dare I ask-your thoughts? Perhaps I'm Going Slightly Mad.

yankeedog out.