Friday, August 24, 2007

Vision Statement

I suspect some of you are wondering why my posts have been so infrequent lately. A lot has been happening, but nothing that was interesting enough for me to write about, really. I’ll give you a quick rundown so you can catch up, then I hope something will occur that’s worth your time.

I’ve been working like a rented mule in the yard most of July and August, trying to clean up some shamefully neglected planting beds. They require weeding and mulching, and it bothers me that those words don’t begin to convey the amount of hard labor involved, especially when you’re doing it in relentless Florida summer heat. More than once, I’ve been incapacitated by crushing heat-induced migraines, dizzy spells and heart palpitations. Thank goodness I had the sense to stop.

Meanwhile, my wife got the idea that we would switch my daughter’s room and the guest room. Ordinarily, I would consider this to be an unacceptable amount of work, but she’s decided both rooms need painting as well, which pushed it over the edge into the “absurd amount of work” category. We’ve had to play a continuous sweaty puzzle game moving furniture around the house. She agreed to handle the painting chores herself, except for the double bifold louvered closet doors, which require painting with a spray gun. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to paint bifold louvered doors, but if you haven’t, don’t even bother. It’s a thankless, drippy, lung-destroying job, and impossible to do right, even with an Art School degree, which I have.

But the worst part of the job came after it was finished. I went into the kitchen to wash the speckles of paint off my glasses, but I just couldn’t seem to get it to wash off. So grabbed the sponge from the sink, which has one of those Scrunge pads on the back. I thought, “If it doesn’t scratch Teflon, it won’t scratch glass, right?” Wrong. Here’s my expensive, lightweight polycarbonate, no-line bifocals with the scratch-resistant coating after I had ruined them trying to get the paint off.


I had made plans to go fishing with my brother at 6:00 am the following day. I couldn’t cancel, because he had already gone to bed. So the next day, I put on an old pair of prescription sunglasses that I’ve had for years (not bifocals), and got in the car. It was pitch dark, so I couldn’t see well at all. The sunglasses cut down what little light there was, and because they were so old, everything was blurry. Worse, I couldn’t even see the instrument panel, because I’m nearsighted. I drove to pick up my brother at 25 miles an hour, praying that a deer wouldn’t dash out of the woods in front of me.

By the time I picked him up, the sun had started to rise, and the driving became much easier. But I was straining to see things clearly, and fatigue was setting in before we ever got to the beach.

We went to a bait shop and were informed that they had run out of live shrimp. That’s the single most effective bait you can use when shore fishing, so it was a gigantic disappointment. My brother found that he could swipe the net around in the tank and pull out one or two stragglers, so he kept that up for a few minutes until he had caught a dozen. When I tried to pay for them, the bait shop guy said, “He caught them, he can keep them.”

Once we got to our fishing spot, we hauled all the crap over the dunes to the beach, and I set up a couple of chairs. When I sat down in mine, it collapsed. Not a promising omen. I set up my tackle, cast it off the beach and watched in amazement as my brother waded into the surf, where the water was up to his armpits. He was thrashing around in the water, fighting the waves crashing into his face, his rod waving around like the antenna on a ‘79 Lincoln Continental at a Demolition Derby.

When he came stumbling ashore to rebait his hook, I said to him, “Any fish you catch won’t replace the calories you spent trying to catch it. Just stand up here on the beach and relax.” He wouldn’t take my advice, though, because he believed he needed to get the bait as far out into the ocean as possible. By the time we left, he was soaked and exhausted.

We caught a total of two fish, nothing very interesting. A couple of guys down the beach from us kept catching little (18-inch) hammerhead sharks. They had lots of live shrimp.

We drove home and I raced over to LensCrafters. They gave me an eye exam, and I ordered two new pairs of glasses. I got titanium frames, because they’re so light, it’s like wearing nothing (of course, by the time I was finished, I had spent over $500). Bifocals require an adjustment period, so I’ve been woozy and nauseous for a few days. Here I am in my nice new pair of glasses. Hope you like them; they’re freaking titanium, dammit.


Friday, August 3, 2007

A Ticket To See the Game, A Ticket To Go Home

Last year was a big sports year for my daughter. We took her to a professional soccer match, an arena football game, and we drove over to St. Petersburg on her birthday weekend to see the Red Sox play the hapless Tampa Bay Devil Rays. In every case, the team we went to see was victorious, and my daughter takes full credit, claiming that she’s a lucky charm.

The Red Sox game was an eye-opener to me, since it was the first Red Sox “away” game I have ever attended. It was played in Tropicana Field, which made this the first baseball game I had ever seen played indoors. As it turns out, my expectations were way off.

The first thing I noticed was that Red Sox fans outnumbered Tampa Bay fans by about 1.5 to 1. This made the game an almost surreal experience, because there may have been more Red Sox fans at that game than at any game I’ve attended in Fenway Park, which has a smaller seating capacity. The least appealing aspect of the game was Tropicana Field itself, which is a big, ugly metal building that resembles a crushed beer can. The artificial surface looks nothing like real grass, and the inside of the building is covered with noisy, garish electronic displays that constantly broadcast advertisements and exhort the crowd to “make some noise.”


Anyway, my daughter loved the experience, so we decided many months ago to see another Red Sox game there, and the end of July, Tampa Bay was hosting a 3-game home stand against the Sox. As it so happens, friends of ours from Boston were visiting that weekend, so we wound up buying 8 tickets in a single row down the first base line.

My wife’s friend had an inspiration, so she went out and bought 8 red t-shirts in various sizes, and some stick-on vinyl letters, so that we could spell out some message and hopefully get ourselves broadcast to the Red Sox fans back in New England. We had to figure out the seating arrangements ahead of time, since we couldn’t change seats for fear of spelling something offensive. We decided on “GO RED SOX” for the front of the shirts, and “HI REMDOG” for the back. “Remdog” is the nickname of the Red Sox broadcast announcer, Jerry Remy, who played second base in the 1975 World Series.



Before we left, we were passing around Red Sox baseball caps, and discovered that our friend’s son has a head the size of a wrecking ball, except that it’s slightly denser. Due to the required seating, I had to sit next to him during the game. Every time he leaned forward, he blocked out the entire infield. I was continually pulling him back so that I could see the game.

When we arrived at the stadium, we found ourselves caught in a monstrous traffic jam. Even though we had a handicapped parking sticker left over from my wife’s injury in December, we couldn’t find parking anywhere near the field. I dropped off the passengers and parked the van a mile away in the middle of a muddy field, under a tree, near a pile of garbage that may have contained a dead wino.

I missed two innings getting to the stadium, including a bunt single by Coco Crisp. The Red Sox already had a 2 – 0 lead. Later in the game, I said to my daughter, “Let’s hope your luck is working tonight.” With that, Mike Lowell hit a routine single to right field and caught Tampa Bay sleeping, so he hustled around first to stretch the hit into a daring double. “How’s that for luck?” she asked me, with a smirk.


The Red Sox had command of the game until the ninth inning, when Tampa Bay tied it up 6 - 6, sending the game into extra innings. I got that old sinking feeling in my gut, a feeling very familiar to Red Sox fans. But in the twelfth inning, the Red Sox loaded the bases, and Tampa Bay walked in the go-ahead run. That was just the beginning. The Red Sox scored 6 runs in that inning, to win the game 12 – 6.

By this time it was very late. We made the long drive home, arriving in our neighborhood at 3:00 am. Less than a mile from the house, I got pulled over by a trooper for speeding and was handed a ticket for $185. So I guess my daughter’s luck only goes so far.