Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bravo, Braves Beneficence

So, Denis With One N and I head to the Arizona Diamondbacks at Atlanta Braves game. In advance of this, I have sent handwritten notes to all the official Braves broadcasters (to my knowledge) telling them I'd be at the game and asking if I could give them an autographed copy of Baseball's Starry Night and maybe even chat about the book on the air, with the full and sympathetic understanding that the book recalls a painful night for Braves fans. Tuesday morning I had received a Twitter DM from radio guy Kevin McAlpin (who had not received a note, unfortunately), but we never did end up meeting. Denis With One N and I conferred with Ticketmasterman Big Mike, holding court like a regal Buddha outside the Ted, but even Big Mike said check the box office if you insist on being out of the (for me, dreaded) sun. After buying three $40 seats (for Denis and his brother Jimmy and me), section 204L, behind the plate, third-base-ish, under the overhang out of the sun, I saw a guy with a Giants hat and -- bingo! -- animated conversation...with Tike and Dawn and Patrick, season ticket holders at AT&T, I believe, attending their 35th and 32 and 31st ballparks, something like that. Giants fans! Giants fans in Atlanta on baseball pilgrimage! I look for The Faithful all over, especially at ballparks, and it is always cool to chat it up with them. (This is ballpark number 20 for me, best I can tell.) Incidentally, the ticket window gal saw my Giants shirt and said she saw someone with a Giants hat, but I think it was someone different.

The game was a fairly sloppy and dull affair, starting off with Hudson v. Hudson, Daniel and Tim, that is, and ending with D.H. leaving early (turns out we learn today he tore an elbow ligament) and ending with a T.H. and Braves' win, 8-1. Chipper Jones three hits! Homer for Michael Bourn (and Jason Kubel. Mini fireworks, from the Gas South sign in right, for a Braves pitcher's strikeout; bigger fireworks, coming from the Coke bottle on the Skydeck in left, for a Braves HR. No such theatrics from the visitors' feats. During Bourn's homer, I was buying 10 bucks worth of 50-50 charity tix from a cute Braves volunteer or worker.

The high points were meeting and chatting with Craig P. and his son Sam, star players from Baseball's Starry Night. Craig asked me to autograph a book for Katiebravesfan, also in my book, which I did, and also, a book for Sam, which I did. It was just a very endearing moment, and they later joined us in our seats. In fact, warm moment is an understatement. It left me with the heartfelt conviction that it was totally right to drive from Syracuse to Cooperstown to Charlotte to Atlanta for this very moment, meeting these lovely people, these ardent Braves fans, this father-son duo of love (for each other and the game).

(Small World Department: Jim R. knew of Craig's wife and others in their mutual recent or current positions in the world of commerce.)

Denis With One N and I also toured the clean and friendly confines of Turner Field, getting views from left field, by the Coke bottle and the giant red Adirondack chairs, and walking all the over to the opposite side, by the right-field foul pole.

A splendid time was had by all, to paraphrase the Beatles in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. 

Southern-ish Man

So, what was Sunday in the South? On the hot and hazy and lazy side. A trip to the Charlotte (North Carolina) Knights' ballpark (in South Carolina), in an attempt to give or leave a signed copy of Baseball's Starry Night to one of the heroes of that night, Dan Johnson, now with the Knights, who were out of town, or en route, to Rochester, of all places, back in my neck of the northern climes. The place was empty and silent. Denis and I tried a few door. One marked exit door was surprisingly open. We took a glance at the blanket of grass and the clay diamond before us. The field, which appeared to be sunken below the stands, gave the stadium a more alluring appearance than the concrete and boxy outer edifice promised. I decided to give Denis the book, in an envelope, charging him with the task of presenting the book to Mr. Johnson at some later date, or perhaps when he trekked to South Carolina one day for cheaper gas. He said he was willing to do that. Plus, he might be able to meet Dan Johnson, and honestly declare, "My friend wrote this book, and we are both in it."

The Giants lost the third game of the weekend series with Oakland, on a player's first homer, a walkoff. Ugh.

On Monday, we drove from Charlotte to Atlanta in Denis's Ford Fusion. Gas was as low as $2.86 a gallon in South Carolina. I don't think we've seen that price in Syracuse since Clinton was president, yes, the same Bill Clinton who gave us budget surpluses. Driving from Spartanburg to Greenville to near Anderson on 85 south one sees signs advertising food or gas on elevated poles that reach, what?, 100?, 300? feet. They are unseemly. What is the limit? 1,257 feet? In Atlanta, Denis and I went to the Starbucks in Buckhead, on Peachtree (that Peachtree). It was hot. Of course. We met Denis's brother Jimmy for dinner at the Grand China restaurant. The Giants won 8-0.

On Tuesday, I went to the Cathedral of Saint Philip (one L, like one N for Denis) and enjoyed its bookstore, its people at the store, and an oasis of silence in the stained-glass church, and then enjoyed Henri's Bakery's sandwich and coffee and chips and dessert for lunch, after a walk in the neighborhood, including a sop at Walgreen's for postcards, toothpaste, and other stuff.




Sunday, June 24, 2012

Running on Empty-ish

On Friday, I headed east on the New York State Thruway [with its faux, new-age spelling] to Cooperstown to meet Lenny Fraraccio, known in the persona of Gio, the Tampa Bay Rays fan featured in my Baseball's Starry Night chronicle of last year's Game 162s. Gio and his kids and a friend have been making the summer rounds of Major League Baseball games in D.C., Boston, Philadelphia, and God knows where else. This was my inaugural trip driving my 2007 VW Rabbit, purchased last Monday. I have been carless since November 2009, sharing my wife's vehicle as needed.

Even though it was a Friday, approaching lunchtime, Cooperstown's sidewalks and streets were buzzing with tourists, young and old, mostly white. I sought to get my book place in some stories. Not easy. No dice. But I did leave little promotional cards in the Cooperstown Diner and in a bakery featuring canolis, macaroons, and other homemade goodies (upon leaving Cooperstown I bought very good coffee there and two macaroon cookies -- not macarons, which are hip and trendy now).

Gio was as I'd pictured him: energetic, head shaved, stocky, grayish goatee. It was a pleasure to meet his kids, Nic and Isabella, and Gio's friend Almy. All were sporting Rays gear; Almy had a Nats cap with a big W. Nic kept sweetly thanking me for including him in my book. At a pizza joint [thanks for lunch, Gio] Izzy showed us her glove with autographs by maybe one or two dozen players -- and Joe Maddon.

No Giants hats spotted, so no stories along that line. I was wearing a very handsome Game 162 t-shirt featuring an image of Evan Longoria rounding the bases after his second homer. It had been a Rays giveaway and Gio sent me a copy. In fact, Gio gave me a second Game 162 shirt in Cooperstown [thanks].

Before leaving town, I stopped at the Cooperstown, New York, post office to mail a copy of Baseball's Starry Night to former Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee. I had called him the night before and asked him if he'd like a copy. Sure. He gave me his address. No street needed. Just his name and the town and state. He said everyone knows everyone in his little town and the gene pool is about the size of a thimble. I inscribed to book, thanking Bill Lee for helping me with conversation, ideas, and encouragement, adding that the Hall of Fame, across the street, should have a special wing for The Spaceman.

As I headed on Route 28 south, the brownish wooden fence -- the kind you see on horse farms -- to my left, for maybe a mile, bordering cornfields and other green expanses made me smile. This will be a lovely journey. Not finding much to listen to on the radio, I listened to the hum of the motor and the car's AC and the thwack of the tires for long stretches. In Milford, maybe it was New Milford, NY, one home featured a Confederate flag side by side with an American flag on the porch. I kept driving south, picking up 88 to Binghamton, then south on 81 down through Scranton, Wilkes-Barre,  and Harrisburg. By evening, around 8, the rolling hills and farms south of Harrisburg were Midwesternish, with tractor dealers and auctions and barns and miles of infinite shades of green -- Midwesternish but likely hillier and with more contours. My Jackson Browne CD made for a perfect sound track, even if I had enough gas in the car to keep matters safely distinct from "Running on Empty." Cranking up the music real loud kept me awake and animated and satisfied. Staying on 81, I briefly rolled through Maryland and then into ravine-filled and lush West Virginia, soon riddled with Wal-Marts and strip malls on the sides of 81, giving an almost claustrophobic feel, sliding into Virginia, picking up the Nats at Orioles game on a Nats station (Jason Hammel would go on to win, 2-1), with the announcers describing a steady rain and distant lightning. Not for me, though.

After 470 miles or so and darkness and having eaten only a slice of sausage pizza and a bag of chips, I figured it was time to search for a room. I tried to grind on to Strasburg, just for the name, but, no, was getting tired. My first try, in Winchester, Virginia, was futile. Sold out. Get back on 81 south. I found a room at a Courtyard by Marriott, in what I thought was Romney, Virginia. I did not especially want to be staying in a place called Romney, but the given address was Winchester, Virginia, in the Shenandoah area. Check scores. Tim Lincecum has one bad inning. Giants losing 3-1. Sleep.

Saturday I woke up to the delightful news that the San Francisco Giants had rallied for four runs in the ninth inning to overcome the Oakland A's, barely, after giving up a homer in the bottom half, to protect Lincecum from a loss. He has not won since April. Sweet!

At breakfast, off the hotel lobby, I knew I was in the South and that I was a Northerner. Can't explain why or how. Perhaps the volume or the camaraderie of conversation, the bonhomie, the discussions of golf. Maybe just my paranoia.

Back on the road. Down 81 south through Virginia, along the Shenandoah Mountains, down through Roanoke, Blacksburg, lunch in Christiansburg at a very pleasant coffee shop, down through route 77 south, which featured the best vistas: breathtaking panorama of the Blue Ridge Mountains for who knows 100 miles and emergency turnoff for trucks that lose their brakes and gas at $2.99 a gallon and into North Carolina and into Charlotte and after going on the Inner Outer Inner fecking Outer Inner Inner Outer Outer Inner Infinite 485 Loop and not finding my friend Denis's [one N, Irish spelling] house I told him to come and find me at the Food Lion in Huntersville, North Carolina, or I was going to die of insanity.

And then before retiring on a Saturday night in Charlotte, I discover my beloved Giants pull out another Sweet Torture win, reminding me of sweet 2010 and the Year of the World Series.

Sweet. Like southern iced tea.




Friday, June 22, 2012

Lit 101 Redux

Yesterday's random litter pickup while walking in the blazing 95-degree Syracuse heat:

Newport cigarette boxes (two or three), Burger King bag, Whopper cardboard box, Seneca cigs box, wadded-up paper, coffee cup, Goya pineapple juice can,  something-something, and some more something-something else.

Did I like dirtying my hands to do this? No.

Why did I do it?

Did you see me doing this?

When you were panhandling over near the Dinosaur Barbecue, did you know I almost walked over and told you to abandon your statuesque, catatonic beggar's stance and pitch in in my cleanup?

Would this have resulted in violence against my person?

What does all this litter add up to?

D-I-S-G-U-S-T-I-N-G.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bloomsday, post-bloom blossoming

I neglected to note June 16; shame on me for two reasons. It's the blogaversary of this space, begun in 2006, and also, quite aptly, the anniversary of Leopold Bloom's fictional wanderings around Dublin, in the early 1900s.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Girls in Their Summer Whatchamacallits

"The Girls in Their Summer Dresses" is a lovely title, and a lovely sight in real life, is it not? (Or, are they not?) It's a bittersweet (as I recall) short story by Irwin Shaw. Here's a link to it, the accuracy of which I can't vouch for. It is also a song by Airborne Toxic Event (never heard of them until about 4 minutes ago) and by Glenn Yarbrough as well (baby, the rain must fall.)

But to talk about "the girls in their summer dresses" is an anachronism -- on many counts. "Girls," as Shaw used the word, comes from the MadMen era, when the word referred to grown women, or at least those becoming grown up. It was the era of, "Have my girl call your girl," which the white-shirted exec (male) would declare.

It's also an anachronism, more or less, but not entirely, with respect to "dresses," correct? Today, Shaw would have had to have written "tank tops" or "shorts" or "tee shirts" or "capris" or "you're going out in public in that?!" or . . . something. I'm not sure of all this; my sartorial acumen is limited. My realm of interest is words and wordplay and musings thereof.

[Dear Reader: I'm done with this topic. Thought I had something worthy of a post, some semantic murmurings, some verbal ponderings.

Now I'm not so sure.

Where was I going with this?

And where would you meander to, syntactically and semantically?

Sigh.]