Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Football Legend is Born

Now I grew up in a small town. As of the 2000 census a mere 3,688 people lived in quaint little Argyle, NY. Given that it was settled in the late 1700s the population has been surprisingly consistent. The 1790 census puts the population at 390 people. That means the population has doubled a little more than three times in 210 years.

Now Argyle has two very quaint facts about it. One is that Prohibition is still in affect in Argyle. It is, and has been since the early 20th century, illegal to sell liquor in all its varieties within the town lines. The net effect of this is to create an industry of liquor stores on every "major" road just out of town. This is similar to the casinos that one finds on the main thoroughfares right before you leave Nevada.

The second quaint fact about Argyle is that it had more catheter manufacturers per capita than any other town in the world. That's right there were three plants to service our tiny population when I was a wee lad (get it wee, catheters?). Catheter's were so prevalent in our community culture we'd learn how to catheterize as part of our school curriculum. That way we could mug one another by saying things like "I've got a catheter and I know how to use it." I mean honestly who would want to be catheterized if it wasn't necessary?

Sadly we lacked some basic services and experiences that bigger towns can provide their populations. For example we didn't have a stop light to train young drivers on the correct way to negotiate a left hand turn on a four way stoplight. We also lacked cable television, which meant that my first exposure to Beavis and Butt-head had to wait until college (although their movie was the first I saw after getting back from a two year church mission in France (my father insisted I watch it)).

Such a small town also meant that I could graduate in the top ten in my class but only be in the top 16% (6/38). We lacked normal classes like psychology, Spanish, and computer science. Kids eating sandwiches with animals like "coon" and "possum" as the meat weren't unheard of. Inbreeding only counted if you were brother-sister not if you were cousins. And of course we lacked the manpower to field a high school football (the one played with hands) team.

Now you might think with my current girth that this would be a real tragedy. Nowadays I'd fit right in with the morbidly obese men that protect the quarterback (the thrower guy for our non-US readers) from the other morbidly obese, but slightly more agile, defensive players trying to knock him out. Yet I was not always such a glutton. Indeed there was a time where one might have described me charitably as lithe. If you were feeling less charitable you'd wonder how I'd survived the Ethiopian famine. That said I still loved football. Our lack of a team led us to playing in my friend's field (payment was haying it whenever necessary (not a pleasant experience for my allergies, I sneezed black afterwards)). We played a brutal version of the game that was more like rugby than football but with forward passing. In all honesty I'm surprised that we didn't seriously hurt each other.

Fast forward a gazillion years to today (or six weeks ago) and you'll understand my great joy when my father-in-law invited me to attend a pre-season game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Washington Redskins (Steelers named after the noble union men of the steel working industry in Pennsylvania, the Redskins the pejorative term given to the aboriginal peoples of the Americas by their white Anglo-European oppressors.). Wife was conveniently out of town visiting her sister's dog (oh and I guess someone had a baby too?).

You can imagine, given my love of the game, my great joy in seeing the stadium at FedEx Field open up before my eyes.

More to the point though is the manner in which we watched the game. You'll notice from the vantage point of the above photo that we're not in the lower bowl. As much as one might think I was disappointed by this because obviously the lower bowl seats are the best seats, right? Wrong. Well there may be an appeal to sitting on the 50 yard line, those seats pail in comparison to the joy of the corporate box, which is where my wonderful father-in-law had us seated.

Why would a higher seat be better you ask? Well remember my gluttony? That's right we had a fully catered luxury corporate box. The view of the field was wonderful...well at least those times I could pull myself away from the Italian sausage! Oh and I think Pittsburgh won the game.....maybe.

Also just wanted to welcome the Collins family into the world of blogging. Check out their blog.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ode to 30

Autumn and I ache,
In my bones, muscles, and mind;
Oh Damnable thirty!
Haikus never made much sense to me. Unlike most western poetry forms there's no rhyme or storytelling ability. Perhaps the haiku loses something when employed in a language other than Japanese. Still it seems more like a literary form designed to teach abstract moral lessons, kind of like the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.

Still the reason I start with a haiku tonight is to announce a tragedy. Time, that unstoppable force, the great riddle that almost cost Bilbo his life (No I'm not going to reference it, you should know it on your own! Shame on you for not reading the Hobbit religiously!), that great equalizer of men, has rendered my youth like a candle-maker renders tallow. He's left me a weak, dessicated, shell of a man, hobbling my way to dotage, senility, and impotence. Yes that's right, I just turned 30 and I'm bitter.

Okay I'm not really bitter about turning 30, it happens to everyone. Why take our regular commenter Roy@CM, he's ancient at the ripe old age of 31. At least I'm not that old. I am bitter however because of how we celebrated my birthday. I decided to do what my brother did when he turned 30. I got tickets to see the Boston Red Sox play at Fenway (baseball again our foreign readers). To make it better I got tickets to see my Sox play Wife's beloved Orioles. This was a risk free proposition because Wife would be happy to see both teams and I'd be guaranteed to see the Sox win because the O's suck as bad as one can suck (but worse because they're a team and suckiness grows exponentially when in a team structure). But sadly it was not to be.

Wife booked us a wonderful hotel in Cambridge. We had a gluttonous birthday dinner with our friends John and Mia at the Cheesecake Factory. No better way to celebrate your birth than by gorging yourself, especially with cheesecake.

Which brings us to a good point. There are seminal moments in world history. There is the harnessing of fire, the taming of the horse, the invention of the printing press, the time when some brilliant mind decided to use gunpowder to make fireworks. Among these is the moment when some brilliant man thought a whole restaurant chain could be designed around that most excellent of desserts, Cheesecake. To you good sir, I pay hommage.

In any case the next day we spent a lovely morning at the Museum of Science in Cambridge. Very nice though I thought the T-Rex would eat me.

It's a hands on museum so I'm sure I would have appreciated it more if we had kids. They did have an electrical show that was fun, though without the Young Frankenstein effects I was hoping for.

Then it was into town for a quick pop to the IMax to see if 3-D movies really are like giant magic eye movies (they are). And then we were off to the stadium. I have to say for a stadium built in 1912, it is in surprisingly good shape. In fact there's not a bad seat in the whole park. Not only that but it's holy ground. Seeing that 2004 banner...well I can say my wedding was better but not by much! Sorry honey but it was super cool.

The only bad parts of the whole day were not seeing my name on the score board wishing me a happy b-day and the final score. Otherwise I can say that my aged mind/body/soul are at peace for having made my hajj. They'd all just be more at peace if I could have gone Saturday and seen the Sox nohit the O's.

Here's a video someone put together from the game. Please note that the entire stadium sings Sweet Caroline during the 8th inning, so thus the song. I thought it fitting song for wife, even though she keeps mocking the fact that my team lost.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Cal, Cooperstown, and Camping


Or at least that's what I'm accusing Wife of. Here's the situation, I wrote a wonderful blog post about baseball. My basic premise was that baseball could be most easily explained by Freudian psychoanalysis of all sports. Just think about it, the batter defends "home" from the pitcher who's symbolically attacking it? But for some reason Wife thought that because her parents read the blog I for some reason had to constrain myself to subjects of proper decorum? But at least Cami and Dave will now have each baseball game they watch ruined from my above suggestion, bwahahaha. That's what you get for studying English!

Well the whole point of this is to state that this has been the Summer of Baseball. Yes that great American pastime which has the rest of the world thinking "and you call soccer boring?" While they are right, baseball is a lot more boring than soccer, it is the quintessential American game. Besides the Freudian implications listed above, baseball is about community.

From the outset a community of fans, regardless of which team they support, converge upon a stadium and break bread and bratwurst together. Entering the park as one they lay aside the divisiveness of politics and religion in place of a conversation about hitting streaks and ERA. The games themselves move at a glacial pace, thus allowing fans attending the game in the park an opportunity to converse with one another amicably. The traditions tied to the game of singing, eating, rejoicing, and mourning together are mere reflections of the best parts of the American pathos. While our political tradition and history may define us as a nation-state in the world, to see into the soul of an American you have to attend a baseball game.

With that in mind we had a summer of baseball this year. Kicking it off with a glorious weekend (except when it rained) in Cooperstown, NY. The birthplace of baseball and thus of the American soul. We ended the summer in some of the most hallowed (not deathly) grounds in America....Fenway Park.

Now I must also point out that our summer of baseball included what is obviously a sign of the end of the world or at least the end of Wife's sanity or physical health. It is that terrible! In search of the perfect baseball weekend, Wife went camping! Daring both the outside and the things that are outside, the love of my life slept in a tent for two nights. Now granted the site we were at had a full flushable bathroom and shower facility. And granted we didn't do typical camping "things" like canoing, hiking, or digging latrines; still I was certain that camping was one of those things my dear sweet soul mate would never do again (the last time I tried to get her camping ended poorly for me).

The last weekend in July we spent the weekend with my in-laws in the lovely little town of Cooperstown, NY (pop. 2,032) with the other Orioles and Padres fans (est. 75,000) for the induction of Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn into the baseball hall of fame. The weekend was largely spent soaking up the smell of grilled kielbasa and dogs and jostling people out of the way.

Besides the baseball specific shops and museums, we were also able to enjoy a free minor league game at Doubleday field, which was quite fun until the rain started. I think it was better for all the fans in town because the Ripken family threw out the first pitch.

The day of the induction we arrived early 8am for the 1pm ceremony. We figured that would give us plenty of time to pick a spot where we could see the podium and enjoy the ceremony. We were wrong. We ended up way in the back of the field. Still we were better off than the thousands of people who showed up after us. Perhaps the most amusing part of the whole thing was watching my brother-in-law sleep in the middle of a heavily trafficked foot path. I kept encouraging the passers by to kick him as they awkwardly stepped around him but none would so instead I kicked him while he slept. Maybe that's why he looks so grumpy.

I don't have much to say about the ceremony itself except for the fact that I don't think anyone was left in Baltimore during it. I've never seen so many people wearing ugly orange and brown uniforms. Still they're less obnoxious than Yankees fans, well unless you happen to go to a Sox vs. O's games with one of those self-same fans. More on that in my next post though.

Cooperstown 0727-0729

Now playing: Kurt Vonnegut - A Man Without a Country (Unabridged)
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, September 01, 2007

A City Named Sugar

A few weeks ago I took a weekend trip to Idaho. Why Idaho? you may ask. Only a few things could get me to go to Idaho, namely a Napoleon Dynamite festival, those Idaho spud candy bar things that most people hate, and a sister who is about to have a baby. The third one won out and I left work early on a Friday afternoon and flew into Salt Lake on August 17. I got in around 10:30 where I was picked up my sister Michelle and her dog, Whimper #2, pictured in the previous post. She had already picked up a couple Cafe Rio dishes and off we drove, headed to Idaho. I'm always a big fan of car trips with the family (I'm itching for another cross country trip in a van. Dad, are you reading this?!) but we were both so tired, it was already past midnight in NY and we Turners like our sleep.
We stopped at a gas station and Michelle picked up a liter Mt Dew and one of those little bottles that advertises 5 hours of energy from a 1.5 oz bottle of something. Michelle opened it and commented on the vileness of the smell and then chugged away. Talk about determination to get to Idaho. Twenty minutes later we were both falling asleep though. Even an energy drink has no effect on a Turner who is sleepy. Being someone who talks gibberish in my sleep very loudly, I woke myself up a few times from saying some incomprehensible garbage. The fact that Michelle didn't even notice is a sign of her tiredness as well. The puppy had long ago fallen asleep on my lap (because she likes me best) and Michelle and I were not doing any better so around Pocatello we decided to get a room and sleep a couple hours. The 17 year old kid working the front desk of the Best Western was very helpful in calling ALL the hotels in town since they were sold out. When I asked him why there were no rooms his simple reply was that Pocatello gets a lot of tours. And all my life I have been going to places like Ogalalla, Nebraska and Salina, Kansas on vacation. So we went on to Sugar City.
We spent the next day buying baby stuff for Cheryl's still in utero kid and then playing with said baby things. I am convinced that the best thing to have when you are expecting your first child is two older sisters. So I will not be having any until I have two older sisters (Mom? Dad?)
Mom and Nate came up for Saturday and Sunday and I spent Sunday night in Evanston, stopping by to visit my grandmother. Mom and I spent some time at Temple Square Monday before she took me to the airport. People have told me that I'm crazy for going so far for just a weekend and some for going to Idaho at all but I wouldn't have missed it for anything in the world and I would go again if my dad is ever willing to watch Stewart for me again. He'll have to blog about his weekend while I was away some other time.
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