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"There is no distinctly American criminal class - except Congress." Mark Twain (1835-1910)

“Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for.” -Will Rogers (1879-1935)

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"Liberty must at all hazards be supported." -John Adams (1735-1826)

Friday, September 23, 2011

6 reasons why Austin’s Stage 2 water restrictions will not work

Otis (my baby puppy—8 days short of 1 year) woke me up this morning to go outside at 0423 hrs. He usually gets Patsy up at that time, but she’s outta town doing Strategic Planning for her position at the credit union, so it was my turn to take the early shift.

Gus (the older of the two—he’s 2 years & 8 months) came with us to supervise I guess.

At any rate, there I sat on the deck steps while the two of them ran around the yard hither and yon as dogs do. There was some noise that shouldn’t have been there at that time of the morning—there shouldn’t be any noise at 0423 hrs in the morning in the pitch black out-of-doors. The pups gave the racket some notice but eventually let it go as not any of their concern.

I recognized the noise right away. There was no doubt what it was and where it came from. Yep, the neighbors were watering their yard. They have a sprinkler system which makes it easy to do so at 0423 hrs in the morning. There might have been more than one of them doing so but at 0423 hrs, I wasn’t gonna go check to see.

Let me describe my cul-de-sac to you.: most of the houses have an underground sprinkler system. Of the seven houses, only two don’t: mine and one other. They all got them on the cheap—a friend of a friend kind of deal. Of the seven houses in the cul-de-sac and the two facing the entrance only two no longer have any grass in the front yards. Both of these two, as far as I can tell, have rigidly complied with the City’s watering restrictions: only watering two days a week originally and now only one day a week. These two yards are now almost completely grassless. The other yards are lush and green.

The lush and green yards have nothing to do with the sprinkler systems however—it’s all about following the rules. If ya follow—ya got no grass; if ya don’t follow—ya got grass. The house without the system that has grass tends to water three or four days a week; even outside the restricted times: before 10 AM and after 7 PM.

The current rules (under stage 2 restrictions) allow odd number residences to water on Saturday and even numbered residences to water on Sundays. Of course hand watering is allowed any day of the week—but why hand water if ya got a sprinkler system?

Oh, I almost forgot! What are the 6 reasons why Austin’s Stage 2 water restrictions will not work?

1 – Monday

2 – Tuesday

3 – Wednesday

4 – Thursday

5 – Friday

6 – Saturday or Sunday (depending on your assigned watering day)

I guess come spring I will fork over the money to have the yard xeriscaped or concreted. Maybe I should clandestinely cut there source of moisture every night and stop this foolishness at the source.

You got any ideas on how to go about this?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why the Nice morning in Austin, TX and where did these hummingbirds come from?

The temperature in Austin is 66ºF. Perfect for a stroll around the neighborhood with the pups (actually we do it everyday, but today was special). Thinking we may never see this temp again within our lifetimes, we spent a little longer in the park watching the birds and the kids getting off to school. Got back home and moved our whole operation to the back deck. The hummingbirds are here already and a load of blue jays making racket in the area.

Billy Joe is back again this year

Still a little early in morning light for their best colors.

Some time he sits and guzzles instead of hovering.

Long cool (??) drinks.

He will go to both feeders and try to protect them from all the other hummers.

Friday, September 16, 2011

4 Useless devices in the backyard

I know I am getting older; heck it’s obvious. It hurts to do just about anything, especially if it requires the movement of my appendages—any or all of them.

As I was coming back inside yesterday afternoon upon completion of a game of retrieve the bird with my pups, Little Gus & Otis, I noticed a device laying by the back door that I could not for the life of me remember why I had it or why it was where it was.

But there it lay. Right in front of the back screen door. It seemed to be a leaf specimen collector. What do I do with the leaves once I get them collected. I’m not about to catalog a bunch of leaves and anyway; once I had them cataloged, then what do I do? I’ve just been stepping over it or walking around it for so long now, I can’t remember why.

Off to the left were some objects that resembled the chairs that we use inside the house. These objects seemed to be collecting leaves also—I remind you here of my argument above. They could be chairs for lounging outside but we haven’t done that in some time. I guess we stopped about the same time that the weather started hitting 100+ºF or more—ya just can’t sit out there in that heat. Maybe I should put them away for the winter; you know we have some pretty tough winters around here. But wait! What if we have a fall this year? Might I need them that week? I guess I will leave them out for the time being.

Oh! There’s that swing over there. I faintly remember what that does. We used to sit in it with the grand kids when they visit. The heat has kept them away from Austin this year. It seems to be cooler up in North Texas—boy they’re some lucky son-of-a-guns up there.

I walked back out in the yard to see what was setting on the fence my neighbor and I share—it keeps us from doing battle over the little rat dog they have. That rat keeps my two pups stirred up all the time. They have never seen the rat, but they instinctively know that they shouldn’t like it. The device that is attached to the fence looks to be the most useless device of all the devices that I probably own. It seems to be a spider trap. Now, like in the case of the leaves—you remember those leaves I mentioned earlier—I have absolutely no use for spiders or know anywhere I could sell (or donate) a gaggle of spiders should I be able to trap them in that gal-darned trap.

I stood scratching my head for a moment until it became way to hot to be standing out in the middle of the yard in the 100+ºF heat so I decided to go inside and come back out about 2 AM—it’s a lot cooler at 2 AM—and try to make heads or tails of these contraptions. They must have some use, but danged if I can remember what it might be.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ever hear a song that conks ya on your head full of memories?

Driving to the grocery store just now I heard an old tune on my Sirius XM satellite radio that made me almost pull over to the side of the road and think for just the slightest bit of time.

“Primrose lane, life’s a holiday on Primrose Lane, just a holiday on Primrose Lane with yo-u-u-u!

Can’t explain, when were walking down the Primrose lane, even roses bloomin’ in the rain, with yo-u-u-u!”

Go to You Tube and give a listen while you read the rest:

I sat there and thought back to the time that this song had significant meaning to me. Did you ever do that?

At the time I was a 6th grader and on top of the world—at least at Crockett Elementary. That may not be the case anymore—a lot of 6th grades are now in middle schools. I guess that makes the 6th graders just little fish in big ponds—a shame don’t you think (unless you are the 5th grader and king//queen of all you survey.

Mr. Peter Newman's 6th grade classroom

At any rate, there I was on my way to dance class. I had no idea what was waiting on me. I couldn’t dance. My mom hadn’t taught me. I didn’t know my left foot from my right—al right, that my be an exaggeration and a complete stretch of the truth. I wasn’t dumb; but in a lot of ways I was as dumb as a rock.

We unloaded and were ushered inside. Then the meanest man on the face of the earth took over, Manning Smith. He was about to push the limit of my courage, my mind and my existence or so I thought at the time. You remember Manning Smith. He was the center of all our worlds for a year or two at that time in our lives.

Somehow once we were inside all the boys seemed to congregate on the west side of the room and the girls were stationed on the east side. Remember that huge dance floor at the KC Hall? I guess we just naturally gravitated to our positions in life.

We all knew each other but somehow this was a different situation; sorta like a battlefield, don’t ya think? Well, there we stood fearin’ the worst.

I do not recall the exact words, but soon they were uttered and the time had come: “Gentlemen, cross the hall and ask one of the girls to dance, taking her hand and leading her to the center of the floor.”

Now what? Fear struck at my very heart. What would I do? Could I do it? What if I trip? Who would I pick? Who could I pick? What if I ask one and she says NO?

There was a cute redhead that I sorta had a crush on, but I couldn’t ask her; could I? The lump in my throat got to be about the size of a football, maybe worse.

I had to go; all the other guys were headed that direction. Was any of them as afraid as I was? I looked around and couldn’t tell. Every male in the room was shuffling there feet in the same direction as I was; some faster than the others but all headed that direction.

I remember scanning the entire bevy of beauties across the hall and still had not a clue where I should end up. I bet I started six or eight directions, probably all at the same time—how I stayed on my feet I will never know.

Somewhere about 13 and a ¼ inches from the edge of the earth I finally made my decision. I didn’t pick the girl I had the crush on. I instead chose a friend that I had know for the entire time I had been at the knowledgeable institution that we both attended. She also was a redhead; but this one I could talk to and not be afraid. She was just about the easiest person in the world to be with at that point in time in our lives (I know you will agree). She was almost six inches taller than me at the time and I know that must have looked a little odd on the dance floor, but all the girls were taller than me at the time—it was the 6th grade after all. It wasn’t that she was the safe choice. It was all because I knew it was just the right thing to do at the time; even as a 6th grader. I bet I felt like I was Chuck Taylor and had just broke the sound barrier for the first time—I had asked a girl to dance.

I’m not positive that Mr. Smith played “Primrose Lane” as the first song that we would start our two semester trek of learning to dance so as to not embarrass ourselves at our 6th grade graduation dance. But to the best of my memory that song has stuck with me all these years as the one I remember best that was perfect for the exact place and time—we were all walking down a primrose lane. Eventually I would dance with many members of that 6th grade class. After awhile, it wasn’t that hard a task.

I do know that I couldn’t have made a better choice in my 1st partner that warm September evening; thanks Jane Nabors. I never would have made it without you.

“Primrose lane, life’s a holiday on Primrose Lane, just a holiday on Primrose Lane with yo-u-u-u!

Can’t explain, when were walking down the Primrose lane, even roses bloomin’ in the rain, with yo-u-u-u!”

What do you do when you hear a song like this that brings back memories like a 2X4?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Grammar & Spelling

This morning I was editing an posting and was appalled to see so many grammar and spelling mistakes. See, there’s one right up there at the first of the preceding sentence. I don’t know if I am making them or Mr. Gates’ programs have it in for me. There just might be a conspiracy.

Just thought I would take this opportunity to apologize for the faux pas that you might come across in my postings. I try not to make them, BUT through the power of astute cogitation, I think I have figured out how they happen.

Ya see, I type with two fingers; the middle one on each hand of course. When I get in a hurry and my brain has sent out messages to both hands simultaneously on the word(s) to come (the correct spelling being know to the brain) I believe that the one hand//finger being sometimes previously positioned on the keyboard closer to its next letter than that of the appropriate hand//finger; the closer hand//finger has a undo distance disadvantage over the proposed next hand//finger that should be obviously preceding first. This being so, it is my strongly held belief that the closer hand//finger goes ahead and takes the opportunity to strike its key even though it fully knows it is doing so completely out of sequence. It’s that damn left hand; I just know it. Ya can’t trust a left hand as far as ya can throw ti. See what I mean, there’s another one?

So ya see, it’s not entirely my fault—I do think Bill Gates has just a little to do with it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tickets in the Nose-Bleed Section – Part 3


Up early and on to our last breakfast at Granny’s, we soon had loaded our destination into Lady and were on our way to East St Louis, IL.

After making a pit stop—my two compatriots need many—Dilin, no longer riding the shotgun seat was required to serve up the pimento cheese sandwiches and peppers. Eating on the roll saves a lot of time—ya gotta make up for those to-numerous-to-count pit stops. I gonna get me a big Coke bottle to carry with me when I go with these two again.

Half way to St Louis, I convinced the guys that we could make a quick side trip to Taylorville, IL. I was living in Taylorville as a small child the last time I had seen the Cardinals play. That was in the old Sportsman Park in 1951—Sportsman came prior to the now torn down Busch Stadium I, a long time ago.

Within no more than thirty minutes we had reached Taylorville, had taken a picture of the welcome sign, searched for the likely location of the trailer park next to the rail road where I resided in ’51 and were back on the road—all with no luck whatsoever. I can remember running to the rear of the trailer to watch out the big window as the trains would roll by. At times it felt like they passed forever.

I’ll probably never return to Taylorville also; there isn’t much going on there. I did see some oil wells pumping on the way into town but had no way of knowing if they were the results of my Dad’s exploration efforts in ’51—one can only surmise.

Taylorville, IL - my old, old home town (1951)!

Besides the trains of Taylorville and a trip to the capitol and statehouse in Springfield, the other main memory I have is the trip that August that my family and another family of close friends on my dad’s crew that we all took to St Louis to see the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Cards play baseball. My dad and I discussed that trip over and over right up to the time that he passed away—it always felt just like it was yesterday. That day we only saw the Cardinals on the field—they won by the way—but while making our way to our seats in old Sportsman Park, the Dodgers came out of their dressing room and passed right in front of us—we coulda reached out and touched them. One by one as they made their way to the dugout tunnel my dad would point and name each one as they made their way by: Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Don Newcombe, Ralph Branca (threw the shot heard ‘round the world), Preacher Roe, Gil Hodges, Carl Furillo, Dick Williams (rookie in ’51, but the A’s manager in ’72 & ’73 World Series) and the rest. I can still close my eyes, lean back and see them as they walked right there in front of me. You probably have a memory of the like that all you have to do is close your eyes and it’s right there—fantastic, huh?

We found the motel and decided to use our included-in-the-price drink tickets almost right away. We had a beer apiece (Dilin had a Mountain Dew wantabe) and talked with the guys at the bar for some time prior to heading back to the room to decide on the next day’s activities—lots of choices


Down to the breakfast buffet (also included in the room price), we load up and finalize our day’s activity schedule. Deciding last night that the St Louis Metro system is a pretty good alternative, we get directions and head that way. No parking fine today; we’re gonna take the Metro ($7.50 each) and park free at the terminal.

A cool ride across the Mississippi and we detrain at the arch metro station. A short shady walk and we can see the arch from the side—really impressive. We are missing the cooler temperatures of Chicago and Michigan already; it is a bit warmer in St Louis than we were expecting.

We do the tourist thing and get a lot of pictures of us and the Arch of the Americas. You’re there, ya gotta take pictures.

The Arch of the Americas - Gateway to the West.

That's my grandson, Dilin, leaning on the Arch.

We walk up the hill and circle the Old Court House; another impressive building right on the mall with the arch. Past the court house we find a bus stop and start our wait—the busses run every thirty minutes and we had seen the previous bus pull away just prior to us arriving. We just happen to be waiting on the corner that is the centerfield gate for Busch Stadium right behind our stop—just where we need to be in six or so hours.

A short wait and bus ride later we exit at the northwest corner of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery plant—this is a big place and we later learn that our tour will encompass seven blocks. We have three more blocks to trudge up hill to get to the welcome center, tour start and hospitality room (the tour end). Inside we find we have only ten minutes before the next tour.

Joseph & Dilin getting ready to tour the Anheuser - Busch Brewery

Our guides gather us and we’re off to see the Clydesdales; wouldn’t ya know they’d start there?

Beechwood aging vats.

Next comes the Beechwood aging room, a room kept at a cool 50ºF—this was really a relief as the further south we had come, the warmer the days. I think the guide said there were sixty vats in the room with each holding some 3600 barrels of beer. They asked the question if there was anybody in the group that thought they could drink that much beer. As you might expect there were some takers—maybe they thought they were gonna give one to them. Then the guide clarified the length of time required: each vat held the equivalent of 220,000 cases of beer and a body would have to drink one bottle of beer every hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 (6) days a year for 137 years to drink up the 3600 barrels in just one vat. Of course everyone gasp on queue. From the aging vats we moved on to the mash tanks, another impressive showing. As you walked through the yards you noticed that every thing had the Anheuser-Busch symbol on it—everything.

Bottle Line #34 - there's some beer being bottled here!

Eventually we made our way to the bottling building. This is where we saw the speed at which the finishing machinery could move. This was very impressive. From bottling and casing the product went into an underground 10 acre warehouse which by-the-way held only an eighteen hour capacity of inventory. This place never shuts down and the lead time through the factory of a bottle of Budweiser is between thirty and thirty-one days. They said: “Not to worry. There’ not gonna stop.”

Loaded onto busses, we were transported back to the start where we were invited to sample two glasses of any of the product produced at the facility—and try it we did (Dilin had a Pepsi). Next we hit the gift shop—ya gotta get stuff for those that didn’t come along—do that we did.

On the street again, we walked around the massive facility and found our bus stop to wait out the heat that continued to develop. It took a full forty minutes for one of those busses that run every thirty minutes to show.

Waiting on our ride!

We found seats together but couldn’t hold on to them long as they were designated for removal should a wheelchair rider need access—five minutes into the ride, there was one. We had a map showing the route and thought we were in great shape. About twenty minutes into the ride—stopping at almost every corner—I saw the edge of Busch Stadium out the window about two blocks away. Joseph said we were gonna circle around and drop off right beside it. That’s the way the route map looked also.

Well, that was just the most wishful thinking of our day. The ride continued on and on; continually getting farther from our destination the longer we were aboard. We saw some parts of town that the St Louis Mayor has never seen nor the sanitation department or the police department I am sure. We stayed right in our seats until we had a chance to gather closer together. At that point I am not sure where we were but we still had some thirty more minutes until what I figured was the turn around. We’d just ride it all the way back if we had to do so. On and on we rode—Mr. Toad would have been envious; he surely hadn’t had such an adventure.

Mr. Toads wild ride.

Just about the time we thought we were at the end, suddenly we were. The driver pulled into a Metro stop where we could board the train back downtown. We were just about worn out and completely at the mercy of the St Louis Metro System—I think they knew they had us by the short hairs all along. In any event, we beat feet to the train platform and stood in line to board. Back in the air conditioning, we were again happy and cool campers.

No more than fifteen minutes later we were standing across the street from the Stan Musial statue waiting on the light to turn so we could cross the street and go inside. First I had to have a picture of me and the statue of my favorite ball player of all time—actually a tie between Stan and Willie Mays.

Howard in front of the Stan the Man statue

As soon as the gates opened, we were in and looking for the best stand to buy a stadium bought ball cap. We decided on the fan store and spent much more in there than we should have, but what the hell, it’s only money? Decked out in our new finery, we head for the other side of the stadium where our seats are located.

Climbing the escalators we go up. Second deck and another escalator. Third deck and there’s another one. Finally we arrive at our fourth deck destination and now we have to climb to the next to last row of seats. I looked over the row behind us and nearly had my head taken off by a jet that had recently left the St Louis airport. If you squinted your eyes just right, you could just barely make out the trains and cars below us on the street.

One row from Heaven.

But our view of the playing field was fantastic. It was gonna be a great night for baseball.

The view of St Louis skyline from our seats. Notice that we're above the scoreboard line!

We watched batting practice and didn’t miss anything. Not a sole showed up to sit on our row, making it all the better. The guys went down to get some eats and brought me back a couple of dogs and a souvenir cup. It’s sitting on the counter behind me as I peck this out.

Just before game time the Farmers Blimp flew by just below us. There was a good breeze blowing but we ended up being blocked from it when several ticket holders showed up with seats in the row behind us—just this side of Heaven.

Farmers Blimp was at the game

Here we are to see the Los Angeles Dodgers play the St Louis Cardinals. I hadn’t been to a Dodger-Cardinal game since that time back in 1951. But I’m here now and ready to see it.

The Dodgers started off like they were on fire, scoring three runs in the top of the 1st inning. The Cardinals put up a goose egg.

Another hit for Pujols - see the ball off the bat.

The Dodgers came out in the 2nd and scored another four runs. Again, the Cardinals put up a goose egg. I began to really look forward th the 3rd inning—things just had to get better; the Cards were still in striking distance. In the top of the 3rd, the Dodgers only got one run and now lead 8 to 0; but things looked just a bit better—they only scored one run.

7 to ZERO going into the bottom of the 3rd inning!

In the bottom of the 3rd, the Cardinals put up another goose egg. The 4th was still better; the Dodgers failed to score but so did the Cardinals. In the Dodger 5th, they managed to get back into form and scored three runs. The Cardinals managed another goose egg.

Through the 5th inning I had not been feeling well at all and thought just maybe I was suffering from altitude sickness—we were sitting just one row below Heaven. The longer I thought about it, I realized that it wasn’t anything to do with altitude; the Cards were trailing 11 to Zero; it was the Cardinal pitching staff that was making me sick—tonight they stunk! From that point on, it was just any old ball game—an important one to me, but still just a ball game. Nobody scored for the next three innings and the both teams put up two apiece in the ninth—the Cardinals even using one of their shortstops, Schumaker, to throw the last inning. The game ended 13 to 2 and had an attendance of 37,062. Come to think of it, the wishful thinking of our earlier bus ride pretty much matched the wishful thinking of the Cardinal pitching staff!

With the last out, we were down those escalators, across the street to the Metro stop and on the very next train to leave. We did draw a couple of strange cohorts to travel with. One guy was positive that the illuminati was in control of all the money and was out to get all us poor people. He was a real trick to have a conversation with and talked to us through the windows of the train even after we got off at our stop. No more than thirty-five minutes later we were loading into our vehicle for the short ride to the motel and a good night’s rest.

Wrap-up & parting comments

During the trip to the motel a thought struck my mind. Think of the differences of that Cardinal-Dodger game of sixty years ago and the games we had seen during our Grand Stadium Tour. It was a far, far away galaxy off from the games we saw in the previous couple of days. The times, they were different. In 1951, the President was from Missouri (Truman) and in 2011, the President is from Illinois (Obama); can you imagine that? In 1951, the game was played in old Sportsman Park and this year in the new Busch II as they refer to it. The scorecard I bought the first time cost a dime; this year it was $2.50 and still just a scorecard. I did buy a Cardinal yearbook the first time—only $0.50; this time, should I have wanted one, it would have cost me $15.00—that’s right, fifteen dollars and I hardly know anybody in the darn thing. In 1951, there was no 4th deck or luxury boxes; in 2011, both are present. In 1951, the scoreboard was completely manual with real people on the back side hefting numbers into the spaces; in 2011, it’s all electronic was visuals (What would Enos Slaughter say about that?). Oh and yes the ballplayers of today make a quadrillion times more today than back then and most of them aren’t worthy to carry the shoes of those playing in 1951—most of whom had taken off time to go on that WWII field trip.

Significant differences, maybe; but the bases are still ninety feet apart. Even with all the conditioning and speed in the game today an infield out is still by about a step and a half—tell me that Abner Doubleday didn’t know what he was doing? The pitchers may throw in the 90MPH range and over 100MPH at times, but I will bet you that if any of the old timers were here to comment they would still fear Bob Feller or Sal Magile just as much as anybody throwing today.

But, in my judgment, the major difference is the number of quality ballplayers on any one team or in the majors totally. The additional teams has had a lot to do with the watering down of the available talent. In 1951, there were eight teams in either league; in 2011, the National League alone has that many and the American League has fourteen more—then 16 and now 30.

Consider this fact—I could be wrong but I bet ya I’m not far wrong if I am at all—I would venture to guess that in the five games we saw in the last few days, on the teams involved (New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers and St Louis Cardinals—all quality teams and organizations) I would bet you that we saw only two future Hall of Famers—Derek Jeter (NY-Y & 3000+ hits) and Albert Pujols (StL – currently 442 home runs, 2000+hits, a real talent that is not questionable and just 31 years old). There might be a budding start that was not yet recognizable—just maybe I missed him. Maybe Josh Hamilton (TX Rangers) can continue to put up stats and move into this realm.

Hall of Fame inductees on left field fenced.

But in that August game of 1951, I saw for the Cardinals: Stan Musial (6), Enos Slaughter (9) and Red Schoendienst (2). A few other names you might recognize that was there that day was the backup catcher Joe Garaoligo (17), Harry Walker (38) and Peanuts Lowery (37)—recognize any?. On the field for the Dodgers that day was: Roy Campanella (39), Pee Wee Reese (1), Jackie Robinson (42), Duke Snider (4) and Dick Williams (38) (eventual inductee as the manager of the great Oakland A Teams of the 1970s). A few other names that might be recognizable from the Brooklyn team that played that day are: Gil Hodges (14), Carl Furillo (6), Wayne Terwillger (34), Don Newcombe (36), Ralph Branca (13), Carl Erskine (17), and Preacher Row (28)—all some great ballplayers.

All in all, I enjoyed every minute of the time I was able to spend with both my son and grandson on our little adventure. It was very special to have seen the Cards and Dodgers play in St Louis again after sixty years to the month.

I had such a good time that I have decided to make it a tradition and go see the Cards and Dodgers play every sixty years in August. I’m looking forward to the next time already; so much so that I have also decided that the next time the entire deal is on me.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tickets in the Nose-Bleed Section – Part 2


Before leaving this morning we consumed our third ½ price breakfast buffet and checked out Joe’s company website for lodging in Chicago. Thinking we had a good handle on the situation we hit the road again.

We didn’t push ourselves the next morning getting a late start on our next leg to Chicago. Just a small fraction of Missouri left, all of Iowa and a scoot across the top of Illinois was the plan. If you don’t know much about Iowa, all there is to the entire state is one corn field after another separated by very non-distinct small towns and extremely nondescript cities. Man, it’s just Corn – Corn – and Corn! Check out this link to get a clear picture of what I’m talking about:

Once inside the Illinois line—their welcome center was closed due to budget cutbacks—we plugged the hotel destination into Lady and drove straight to it. What a deal?

Asking at registration on a recommendation for a good place to eat, they handed us a small 10 page pamphlet listing 43 establishments in 12 categories: Breakfast, American, Chinese, German, Irish-American, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Pizza, Stake houses and Seafood. We soon discovered that nothing was to come easy in Chicago—well almost nothin’. Taking the safe route, we chose from the American category a place called Jimmy’s Grill, plugged it into Lady and headed out to Naperville some 4.3 miles away. Being the start of the weekend, the small neighborhood streets were crowded with revelers out for a night on the town and let me tell you, they were celebrating. Finally at Jimmy’s and selecting to sit inside, we were seated immediately. We all went for sandwiches and were pleasingly surprised with the outcome.


Up early, we chose Granny’s Restaurant off the breakfast list and again were well satisfied so much so that we ate there every morning in Chicago. Full, we started for downtown with the weather threatening Lady sent us on an avoid route to bypass a traffic problem. This worked out very well. Did I mention to always trust Lady? Having decided on visiting the Field Museum of Natural History first this morning: in no time at all, we were there and parking; another $12 parking fine. This turned out to be a great choice. Their dinosaur collection is fantastic. We walked our a**es off in there—so much to see on the $87 entrance fine.

Dilin, Joseph and Sue (named for the lady that found her) at the Field Museum.

Upon exiting the museum, we headed straight for the street vendor for a Chicago style hotdog. You realize that you can never get too many hotdogs into your system? We had spotted this guy prior to going inside and again, it was just the right choice—the dog had a large pickle quarter inside, lots of mustard and relish, and some hot peppers but not more than it would take to put one under. Go-o-o-o-d!

Back into the truck we plugged the Comisky Park (US Cellular Field) into Lady and were on our way. Straight to the park with no problems, we parked after paying the $23 parking fine and had a walk of no more than a hundred yards to our gate. The third ballgame in four days—ain’t it great?

Once inside the park, we took our time purchasing our game hat and decided to wait a while before getting our ballgame hotdogs. I got a good Sox hat, applied it to my head and headed to my seat. Wearing my bright red Texas Ranger shirt and my navy blue Sox hat, I received more than a few stares—one guy even stopped me and ask what was up. I simply told him that “I was conflicted.” He just stared at me as I walked away.

New Comisky Park (or U S Cellular Field if you like).

One odd quirk that I noticed about Chicagoans at both that night’s game and the next night also: they don’t seem to pay any attention whatsoever to the seat number on their ticket—as long as they are close, everything is OK. It’s OK up until the ticketed seat holder shows up and wants his seat—this guy must be an outtatowner— because even then the original sitter still doesn’t necessarily go to his//her assigned seat; they just take the next seats that suits their fancy. Consequently there seemed to be constant movement—just maybe some of them never sat in their ticked seat the entire evening.

Now we've seen it; the Rangers playing an away game.

As far as the game went; the Rangers seemed to have taken the night off. There were lots of subs in the lineup and very, very few hits. I guess they didn’t get the word that we had taken all this time outta our busy schedule and the great expense we had incurred just to see them on the road—it was like they really didn’t care that we were there at all. The Rangers lost to the Sox by a score of 3 to 2; both teams having 8 hits and Chicago with one error. Brent Lillibridge scored from 1st on a double to the left field corner by Alex Rios in the bottom of the 8th. The Rangers’ Ian Kinsler did have 2 homeruns in the game providing the only runs scored by the Rangers all night including the leadoff homer of the game—it all looked good at that point. Even through the 3rd (2nd HR in consecutive at bats) it just seemed if they could get Kinsler up to bat enough times, they had a chance, but it wasn’t to be. There was just a hair over 30,00 at the ballpark that night; up a good 8 - 10K from KC.

Howard & Joseph - see the new stadium bought ball caps?

Howard & Dilin - new stadium bought caps all around.


A big day ahead of us, up early and on the road we headed east and north just to see what we could see. Oh, there was method in our madness; we had plotted the day as far as we could take it. Very soon we had left Illinois and were pulling into the state welcome center for Indiana. You couldn’t have touched me with a ten foot pole. I had just finished a journey I had started some 63+ years ago. With setting my feet of Indiana turf I had now lived in or visited all 50 states. Man, I was elated and I told the guy behind the counter as I took my free state map just how delighted I was to see him today. He laughed and got right into the spirit of the day.

Finally, I had lived in or visited all 50 states!

From the state line we drove north into Michigan on our way to Benton Harbor where we planned to get a bite before turning south again down the shoreline of Lake Michigan.

Well, let me tell you this: there is nothin’ in Benton Harbor, Michigan I need to go back and see or get. The place is a shambles—rickety buildings, most boarded up and empty and all in a rundown state of repair. I’m not going back there.

Just south of Benton Harbor lies the great little town of St Joseph, Michigan. It was like coming outta the dark into the daylight from one to the other. Everything that Benton Harbor didn’t have St Joseph did. We parked downtown (free, no fine) and walked down the hill beside the water park across the street from their indoor carousel to the beach—a real nice beach (Silver Beach) operated by the county. We just sat there on the beach in the breeze and took in the day, temp @ 72ºF versus the Texas temp that day of 108ºF. After the beach, we walked back up the hill and had a bite at the Schu’s Grill & Bar—I had the salmon BLT and it was delicious with big chunks of salmon on it especially when washed down with Schu’s lager.

Lake Michigan's Silver Beach in St Joseph, MI.

On our way back to Chicago, Joe researched the parking for the night’s game—there is no parking at Wrigley Field; it’s in a neighborhood surrounded by homes and apartments. He discovered that we could park at De Vry University and take a shuttle to the ballpark for only a $6 parking fine and it covered both the trip to and back—what a deal? We loaded the destination into Lady and were on our way.

Lady discovered some obstructions along the route crossing the south side of Chicago but this time we ignored her and stayed on the original course—it ain’t a good thing to cross Lady. I think she made us pay for it. I would bet there was upward of 100,000 people caught up in that traffic jam. Finally we arrived at De Vry, paid our fine, got our chits and loaded the shuttle.

Some thirty minutes later the shuttle dropped us right beside the Ernie Banks statue just outside the main gate to the ballpark. We were there, but still had little idea as to what we were in for.

Dilin & Joseph in front of the Ernie Banks statue - "Let's play two!"

Wrigley Field - 1914 - ????

Wrigley Field, built in 1914 (Fenway in Boston was built in 1912) is quiet a sight; a real experience. We milled around with the crowd outside just taking in the sights and sounds of Wrigleyville then bought our hats and found our seats. We supposedly had unobstructed seats; that’s unobstructed unless you wanted to see the area in vicinity of 2nd base—we couldn’t. On top of that, there were people constantly moving to get drinks and eats. Of course there was the always occurring, seat changing problem I previously mentioned. Like the Southside, the Northside inhabitants do the same. The ticketed seat holders at Wrigley got just a bit riled at the encroachers—read here, some hollering and shouting matches took place.

The welcome confines of Wrigley Field!

The guys retrieved me a couple of dogs and a tall Coke—my habit is to never leave my seat after I take it except to participate in the 7th inning stretch. We hadn’t taken time on our way up to do anything but look.

Our unobstructed view, unless you just wanted to see what was happening at 2nd!

Rooftop seating on the apartments and homes across the street from Wrigley Field.

Our seats were the fourth through the sixth seats in on our row in the 4th deck just two rows from the top. I casually mentioned to those sitting to our left as they crossed in front of me that that trip should be their last. Everybody complied with my wishes. Those immediately to our left never left their seats. Those just past them climbed over the back of their seats and crossed in front of the guys sitting in the row behind of us; some even climbing over 2 rows of seats to find their way out. Those just further down crossed in front of the people sitting further to our left and took the long way out to get grub. Sometimes ya just gotta take a stand.

Howard & Joseph (new Stadium bought ball caps) sitting 2 rows this side of Heaven.

The Red Birds hit back-to-back homers in the second inning (Jay & Molina) to go on top. The Cubs scored a run in the 3rd; then the Cards got another run in the 5th, a solo shot from Albert Pujlos; you could see the intensity he had from where we were sitting, even in the 4th deck. The Cubs put up another run in the 5th but still trailed 3 to 2. Then the Cards' catcher, Molina hit his 2nd homer of the night, a two run shot moving the Cards up 5 to 2. They added one more run in that inning and that ended the evening’s scoring. Pitchin’ did the rest with the final score being 6 to 2 and the Cards out hitting the Cubs 14 to 7. Forty-five minutes after reloading the shuttle, we were on our way to the hotel.

Caught the ball of the bat of the Card's David Freese (3rd base) - But just wait!

Cardinals' Jon Jay scoring on his solo Home Run in the 2nd.

Yadier Molina (Cards' catcher) coming around 3rd on his back-to-back Home Run following Jay.

Ball coming off the bat of Albert Pujlos' Home Run in the 5th inning.

Before I forget, the attendance at Wrigley was 39,420 out of a capacity of 41,160. I don’t think the capacity includes the rooftop seating across the street from the ballpark. Good crowd!

The games in KC were completely reminders of AAA games and the game in Comisky was closer to big league but still had the little park feeling. Wrigley was all Big League; an experience I will never forget—ya have to be there to feel it.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Tickets in the Nose-Bleed Section – Part 1

My son (Joseph) is a fan of the Texas Rangers—the ball club, not the law enforcement unit. While he might publicly support the baseball team fielded by the later, for social protection if nothin’ else; he’s all about the baseball team from Arlington, TX.
Now he isn’t a season ticket holder but he tries to see as many games as possible. My grandson (Dilin), the former DIT—he turned twenty as this was being written and is no longer worthy of the disinterested teenager title—doesn’t share as much enthusiasm as my son, he is up for a good time wherever it takes him.
Originally my son had the notion of following the Rangers on a road trip. That turned out to be prohibitively expensive so he decided to just see them play at least one road game and take in a couple of other parks along the way. The grandson was really up for this idea as he missed out on the horseback and fly fishing trip to Wyoming a year or so back—straddling his birthday I might add—primarily because school was starting at the same time. This time he wasn’t taking no for an answer.
Joe studied the schedule and devised a trip that allowed us to take in four MLB games in three cities with only three other travel days involved—pretty good work. We laid out a course, set the dates in stone and he started getting tickets; a fairly major trick at some of the parks he had picked. He went after the lowest priced tickets available—that’s where the nose bleed reference becomes effective. Ordering on-line, soon he had the tickets and now all we had to do was wait on the departure date to arrive.
Living in Austin, this added another travel day on each end but just for me—neither Joe nor Dilin considered this much of a drawback of course. So on the 16th of August at 2:15 PM, I said goodbye to the pups, called the wife to leave a message (she didn’t answer) and I departed for the Grand Stadium Tour (GST).
I had a little over twelve hundred miles to Chicago, a full tank of gas, no cigarettes whatsoever, it was extremely bright outside and I had my dark glasses on, a full canister of pimento cheese and a jar of peperoncinis on ice, tickets in hand (Joe actually had ‘em): Hit it! The one drawback to the entire adventure as I saw Austin in my rear view mirror was that there would be no more Tex-Mex for the next week—Tex-Mex above the Red River just isn’t right.
After spending the night at my son’s house in Forney, we were ready to Hit it! By 8 AM we were making our way through the Dallas traffic and on our way to Oklahoma—not because we wanted to, but it was in our way and too far to go around. Close to 1 PM and in downtown Pryor, OK, we dug into that pimento cheese stash—the first of many times.
Right at 5 PM and moving against rush hour traffic we negotiated our way through Kansas City, MO, our first stop on the GST and 742 miles into the trip. We had made good time and were earlier than we had planned—largely because I was voted down as we drove through McAllister, OK and didn’t stop to see the Will Rogers museum.
This put us in line to make our first major decision—a no-brainer; we would just add another game to the list. The Yankees were still in town and we had time to get to the ball park (Kauffman Stadium) in time for the first pitch. In no time, we were on our way.
Ready to head in to the ballpark.
After paying our $10 parking fine (one lot from the gate) we got a couple of dogs each and found our seats. The last time I had seen the Yankees and the Royals play was in the American League Championship Series in New York (Yankee Stadium bleachers) in 1980. That game was over when George Brett hit one into the right field third deck stands.
I was hoping for some restitution this evening but even with Derek Jeter going 4 for 5, it didn’t happen—the Royals won.
Derek Jeter at bat.
Another hit for Jeter!
KC took the game by a score of 5 to 4, although being out hit by the Yanks 10 to 8. The KC winner was some guy named Chen—I had never heard of him, but he did a pretty good job. Actually I didn’t recognize many of the players on either side. Being away from a major league city has that effect on you—Austin being gobbled up with longhorn coverage and little else.

I did get me a stadium bought Royals hat and wore it to the game and again the next night. Having not counted on this opportunity, I had left my Yankee Stadium bought Yankee hat at home.
The attendance this evening was 22,435 and I felt the entire time that we were in a AAA ballpark—it just had that feel. The between inning activities: the ball under the hat game, the kiss-cam and the like was just as though we were at the Round Rock Express Dell stadium to see one of their games. It’s all in the way the management engages the fans.
Stadium hats are a big thing in our family. I believe Joe has more than I do but he can no longer find his Yankee hat so I consider myself (qty no matter) in the lead still.
We did start to get fairly use to the navigation tool in my new Ford Explorer—we called the voice Lady and let me tell you one thing: you pay attention when Lady talks or you’re gonna get into trouble—Lady seems to always be right.
Up early and down to the ½ price breakfast buffet—convinced they were gonna loose money on my plate—we were still contemplating what activity we would take on for the day until game time came around. Discussed over the meal, we decided on the Harley-Davidson factory tour to start and then see what else we might find available. Grabbing a stash of brochures as we passed out the door we trotted.
The Harley Power Train & Assembly plant was very interesting and everything was made to order. I was amazed that there was not one machine in the plant that I had not had experience with during my days managing manufacturing operations—not one. There was boring & honing, metal stamps, a paint line with power coat ability, robots welding (all over the place), a powered assembly line and managers walking the floor. I guess the only operation we saw that I haven’t managed was the laser cutting area ( I have seen them before, but not directed their operations). I felt like I fit right in.
Ready to check out the Harley-Davidson Power Train & Assembly Plant.
Photos weren't allowed inside the plant area, I did manage to get one with my button camera.
Dilin had become fascinated with taking in the $40,000,000 display at the Kansas City Region Federal Reserve so that’s where we ended up next. It wasn’t that impressive to his dad nor I as we deal with stacks of shoes in our closets or accumulated junque in our garages that are routinely worth that much.
After the Fed we headed to the nearest Kansas City BBQ restaurant, Jack Stack Barbeque in downtown Kansas City. Good eats but I can’t say much for their sauce. They had two varieties to offer: one tasted like nothing more than ketchup and the other, the spicy blend, just wasn’t that spicy. I offered to come back later and show them how to make good BBQ sauce—after the trip was finished. They didn’t seem impressed with the offer and we didn’t have time to argue the point—their loss.
KC BBQ at Jack Stack's.
Having our fill of KC BBQ, we departed on a search for crazy little women and a bottle of Kansas City wine and finally found the corner of 12th Street and Vine. Everybody lined up to have their picture taken but I am sad to report there was not one crazy little woman in the area nor any bottles of wine—probably a good thing at least for me anyway.
Composite of the three of us at !2th Street & Vine - Just lookin' ya know!
Quickly back to our hotel to rest and clean up some then off to the ballpark.
Another $10 parking fine, a couple of dogs and we were in our seats. I forgot to mention earlier we were twelve rows up in the top (4th) deck yesterday and today we were on the front row of the top deck—both sets were good seats with good views.
The attendance this evening was down from the previous night—even with the game closer to the weekend—20,547—you could tell that the Yankees had left town. I’m not sure but I don’t think they can get in many more than 45,000—maybe by selling SRO tickets in the outfield but not many more than that.
The game this evening was a bit different from last night as the Red Sox sent Josh Becket to the mound. He completed seven innings, got the win, gave up seven hits, three earned runs and had four strike outs. The Red Sox on top of a 4 to 3 score and Becket’s 10th win.
Josh Becket for the Red Sox.
I always wanted to try to catch the ball in flight and finally got one.
We did have some otherwise fun watching the Red Sox new designated hitter, Ryan Lavarnway (#60), make his first four appearances at the plate. He finished the night with the same batting average that he started it with—0.000—he eventually got a hit the next evening. Actually to their website, he is no longer on the active roster—too bad he didn’t make it. He had a chance to have hit 1.000 the first time up and see the scoreboard with a perfect batting average when he came up for his second time. He also missed out on a .500 average and a .333 average—if he could have just gotten a hit—just one.
Scoreboard announcing Lavarnway's 1st ever at bat.
It just wasn't to be - a tall fly out to right.
There’s more to come—please stand by.
Disclaimer – I don’t own a button camera.