19 September 2007

A Thousand Napkins a Day Keeps the Brewers Away

I went to the Cubs-Reds game Monday night, tickets I got after the Sunday night game between the Cubs and Cardinals were rained out in August.  Meaningful baseball in September-not something I am particularly used to around here.  It was probably my last trip to Wrigley Field this season.  If it was, I picked a great game to end with.

The Reds are the last team I want to see playing the Cubs towards the conclusion of the pennant race, because they seem to play well come September.  They killed the Cubs Wild Card hopes in 2004, and almost knocked them out in 1998 as well.  Monday was the start of six games in two weeks between the Reds and the Cubs, and going into Monday, the Cubs held a one game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Milwaukee, playing in Houston, were crushing the Astros early and by the second inning we knew that to stay in first, the Cubs would have to win.

We were sitting in the upper deck boxes, all the way down the right field line, fourth row.  There was a strong wind, blowing from the south/southeast; the breeze blew in from right beside us, through the opening between the bleachers and the right field line.  Every once in a while we'd see a load of smoke from the bbq's on the Sheffield rooftops wander into the park.

The crowd around us was pretty rowdy and by the third inning, when the Reds scored the first run of the game, the guys in front of us were looking for ways to turn the tide.  I'm not sure how it came about, but one of them decided that if he could drop a napkin off the upper deck and get it to blow onto the field, it would be a good omen.  He crouched down at the rail and dropped a napkin.  We watched it float down and up, being carried by the breeze, before it made it over the red brick wall and ended up a few feet in fair territory in right field, just as the Reds were making the last out of the third.

In the bottom of the third, the Cubs scored three runs to take the lead.  After the end of that inning, a security guard walked out onto the field and picked the napkin up.  The Reds re-took the lead.  More napkins were dropped, but none made it onto the field.

With the score 6-4 Reds in the bottom of the eighth, I left to go to the bathroom, and on my way out of the men's room, I noticed a hot dog stand off to the side of the pedestrian ramp, closed for the night, a dispenser of napkins visible in the corner.  I grabbed as many as I could and shoved them in my pocket.  And then I really got busy.

I walked over to the concession area underneath the press box, but all the napkin dispensers were empty.  I headed down to the patio that looks west with a lot of individual vending stands and found the same-no napkins.  Finally, I managed to spot two that still had napkins, all the way over to the right, where the park overlooks the players' parking lot.  I took as many as I could fit into my pockets.

When I got back to my seat, everyone roared as I took hundreds of napkins out and gave them to the designated dropper.  By this time it was the top of the ninth, Cubs still trailing by two.  He held all the napkins in his hands in front of me and said "Pick a napkin, any napkin."  I chose one from the middle of the pack.  He had all of us rub it, and then he dropped it over the side.  We watched as it fell, and about ten feet before it would have landed in the stands it turned up, caught by a breeze, and danced for about thirty seconds, before it slipped over the wall and landed in right field, about ten feet from the corner and only a foot or so in front of the warning track.

The Reds made the final out of the ninth at about the same time.  The bottom of the ninth went like this: Theriot leads off with a walk; Lee singles him to second; Ramirez hits a gapper to right-center that Reds center fielder Nick Hopper just missed making a great diving catch on (would have been a double play at least-earlier he had gone into the vines to take a hit away from Ramirez, going in so hard he left an impression of himself on the vines), the ball going to the wall and tying the game-he ended up with a triple; after an intentional walk to Ward, the Reds brought in Hopper from center to be a fifth infielder, but it didn't matter, DeRosa singled and the game was over.  Cubs win 7-6, and stay in first place for at least one more day.

We hung around for a few minutes and celebrated before all of us in 438 went our separate ways.  Just before we started down the ramp to leave the upper deck, I turned back.  The napkin was still on the field.

Fear the magic that is the napkin.  Do not taunt the napkin.

10 September 2007

How to be a nuisance

Walk in the middle of the street.  Talk to the actors while sitting in a crowded movie theater.  Smoke 'em if you got 'em.  Spit in a drinking fountain.  Sing along with your i-pod on the train.  Say "it is what it is." Answer your  cell phone in the library.   Tell a friend you'll give them a ride to the airport and forget to show up.  Leave the copy machine out of paper.  Sit on someone's eyeglasses.  Say "baby needs a new pair of shoes" at a craps table.  Yell "bingo" when you get blackjack.  Eat the last Twinkie and leave the box in the cabinet.  Root for the Cardinals.  Poke holes in bicycle tires.  Tell your nephews that there is no Santa Claus.  Wear baseball caps sideways.  Answer "What?" to every question asked you.  Swipe your neighbor's Sunday paper.  Talk about your bowels. Turn the bass way up.  Yodel.  Don't replace your divots.  Drink milk from the carton.  Buy the wrong flavor ice cream.  Pick your toenails.  Be that person in the group that never makes a decision.  Write in library books.   Leave your clothes in the washing machine.  Belch in church.  Take pennies out of fountains.  Burn the toast.  Hide the remote.  Carve obscenities into pumpkins.  Don't squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom.  Never use turn signals.  Be late for everything.  Lick envelopes right after finishing an Oreo.  Cite Oprah.  Scoff at the idea of global warming.  Sell products door-to-door.  Forget to pay the electric bill.  Talk down to waiters.   Call yourself a rebel.  Ask people how much they weigh.  Don't use coasters.  Interrupt.  Sneeze on the neck of the person in front of you.  Throw snowballs at moving cars.  Leave the windows open when it rains.  Vote Republican.

05 September 2007

Holy Toledo

In honor of our friends' new son, who I shall refer to as "Klinger," I present a random eleven:

1. "Follow Your Bliss"-The B-52s.  Sage advice, even for those less than two days old.  Unfortunately the Weather Channel used this for background music for its local updates one summer when I was in Iowa and I can't help but see radar images of huge thunderstorms whenever I hear it.

2. "Departure"-REM.  Certainly it would be better if this song were called "arrival" (which is what it's about, so go figure), but you'll be departing a hospital for home soon, so there you go.

3. "Bargain"-The Who.  It wouldn't be a shame if this were the first song you ever heard (though I'm guessing in reality it's going to be something by The Replacements, ZZ Top or Elvis-TCBY).  And as Mr. Townsend says: "In life, one and one don't make two.  One and one make one."

4. "Wake Up and Smell the Coffee"-The Cranberries.  Well, almost.  For the next few years I'm sure your folks will wake up and smell something...

5. "So Alive"-Love and Rockets.  I am not altering the playlist, I swear.  This is random.  Besides, whenever I hear this song I think about dropping someone on their face the night before they had a job interview.

6. "More Than This"-Roxy Music.  Hmm, if this is taken as a question then you've got a good fifteen years or so before this makes any sense.  I don't have"Teen Angst" by Cracker on my 'pod, but if I did, it would make a heck of a segue.  Go for a Bryan Ferry hairstyle someday.  The ladies love it.

7. "Out of My Head"-Fastball.  Forget the title and let's focus on the group name here.  You're destined to be encaptivated by a certain baseball team (though not for a second do I believe it will be forced upon you) and take it from me, go for it.  Don't pay attention to anything anyone says about it.  Deep, deep down, they are all just jealous.  Follow your destiny.  Just look for the ivy.

8. "Inside Out"-Phil Collins.  Hmm, I'm thinking of an event that occurred at a house on Hale a long time ago that could fit in here, but we'll just move past that.  As it turns out, I don't have a song in my collection called "Don't Be So Tight."  I certainly wish that I did.

9. "Arc of a Diver"-Steve Winwood.  He seems to come up in every one of these.  I am patiently listening to the lyrics trying to find something that fits here, but so far no good.

10. "When You Dream"-The Barenaked Ladies.  I've got 560 songs on my 'pod, and this is the one that fits best, since it's a song about a guy watching his newborn son sleep.  A little less than a 2% chance that it would come up.  This might bold well for future trips to Vegas.  I'm just saying.  Plus you've already won the Parent Lottery.

11. "Into the Mystic"-Van Morrison.  And we end perfectly.  I couldn't come up with a better list for when my own son comes along in December.  Maybe we'll call him "Hawkeye."

04 September 2007

Summer o' death, part 2

Back in June I christened this season to be the "summer of death."  Morbid, yes, but I think I had other things affecting my thought process at the time.  Looking back, I should have referred to it as "the summer which I feel like I am surrounded by death."

I wonder if it was this hard for Ecclesiastes?

There have been no further swarms of insects dying off or rotting rodent carcasses behind my air conditioning unit.  Still, I find myself wandering all over my mortal landscape.  I can't help it.  I spend just about every second of every day waiting for December, when our son will be born.  We're bringing this new life into the world, and it makes me question the point of mine.

(And yours.)

This has nothing to do with religion.  Rather, it's all about destiny.  Why am I here?  What am I supposed to be doing?  There's a song by Poi Dog Pondering called "God's Gallipoli" and one of the final lyrics goes like this:

"it's hard to think, that this is how it ends/stretched out on a bedsheet, sorting through a wreckage of regrets." 

I really don't want to be that guy.

Circumstances in my life have rendered me as someone who is highly aware of their mortality.  I assume there are many others like me, but no one likes to talk about these types of things.  I don't think that it is ever going to change.  There isn't going to be this moment where everything suddenly makes sense and the prospects of my extremely long-term future brighten.  Perhaps I am wrong.  I'd rather be surprised than disappointed.

And any time that I think I am deflecting this process, a few things happen that place me back in the focus.  Two weekends go, I was in Minneapolis on a short golfing trip with some friends.  One afternoon after we finished our round, we found ourselves on a highway heading right into downtown.  Eventually we drove past the site of the I-35W bridge collapse.  We didn't gawk; we never stopped, we just drove down the road that leads to it.  You couldn't see much but you could see enough.  I imagined it looked like what several bridges over the Thames River in London did after World War II.  The pieces of the bridge that collapsed but did not separate from the rest of the bridge are still in place, making the road looking like a frozen roller coaster.

Shortly after that, we found ourselves on a different bridge going over the Mississippi, and to our left were piles and heaps of twisted metal.  This is where they will eventually reconstruct the bridge as they attempt to figure out what caused it to collapse.  Together, these were awesome sights, not in a "wow that's cool" sense but in an "I had no idea it was this level of devastation" sense.  I knew it was prolific, but I had no idea the destruction was so complete.  I can't believe that only thirteen people died on that bridge. 

Shortly after that, I found out that my hometown was blitzed by a huge thunderstorm and that there was significant damage-trees mostly-but for a while it seemed like they had been hit by a tornado. 

It wasn't, but when I got a look at the neighborhood where I grew up in a few days later, I was stunned.  There were trees down all over the place, some older than me.  It's odd looking at a tree that you once wished you could climb thirty years ago, when it seemed like a seventy story building, and now you can step over it because it's been split down the middle by eighty mile an hour winds.

Just something more that always seemed to be "around" since the day that I was born that isn't anymore.  That, in a nutshell, is what this summer seems to be telling me, not to get too comfortable.  You never know what's around that next bend.

Perhaps this is all impending baby stuff, these thoughts of destiny, the idea of making the time that I have worth it.  I am pretty sure that it is.  This is a huge step, a life-changing event.  And I wouldn't trade it for anything.

This too shall pass.  Which is sort of the point I am making anyway.