Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Great Baseball Extravaganza ... Day Two ... New York City

First of all you need to sing to me. It's my birthday. Today at 2:59PM in 1955 I was born in a little log cabin in Detroit Michigan. Ok, most of that sentence is true. There's one lie. See if you can catch it. Anyway, that makes me 52 years old. That's not a bad thing. When my age is the speed limit on I-55 I'll start to worry.

So today began in Baltimore and ended in Weehawkin, New Jersey. The drive was b-r-u-t-a-l. Scott can't drive the rental because he's 5 months short of being old enough. He can get married, go to war, drink ... but he can't drive a rental from Avis. And by the way, Avis is ticking me off. They have been 100% RUDE and I just thought I'd tell you that. Do with it as you will.

So the drive around Philly looked a lot like this ...

Ugh. Solid traffic with constant tail lights. That made us 8 minutes too late in our arrival in Jersey to turn in our rental. That means I have to get up at 8:30 in the morning to return it. Again ... Ugh. But our hotel is pretty cool. It's on the shore of the Hudson River on the New Jersey side. We have a view out the window of lower Manhattan. It looks a lot like this ...

I know that there is a lot of good things to see in NYC but, never having been here, I can't get away from the fact that the room we are in right now had an unimaginable view of the terror and tragedy at the World Trade Center in 2001. They were at the far right end of lower Manhatten in the picture very near to the Hudson. We took a water shuttle across to Mid-town Manhatten and then a bus to lower Manhatten where we walked all of the way around "ground zero. These days it looks like a construction zone. Actually, it looks pretty much like this ...

And every now and then you run across things like this ...

Or this ...

It makes you wonder. Who put those flowers there? Who did they lose? Are they healing? And who spray painted the note? What is there story? We will never know. We grabbed a piece of pizza at a little restaurant directly across the street from the former towers. You eat the pizza (which is very good) but you mind is wondering what that site felt like ... looked like ... at those moments? You actually have to force yourself to walk away from there or it will consume you. I found myself looking up at what used to be. Thinking. All of those people. All of the loss. For no reason other than hate. You have to walk away.

Then you find yourself in places like Times Square where I do believe there is probably more neon lighting per square foot than any other place in the nation. It is amazing. It boggles the mind like this ...

I actually looked for a nurse to kiss. You know, like in the famous picture on taken in Times Square on the day the US won World War II. The sailer grabbed a random female on the street and laid a big time smooch on her. She happened to be a nurse. I was determined to relive the scene (at great risk of getting punched out or tossed in the hoosegow) but there were no nurses in site. There was a cute policewoman on horse back but she had a really big night stick so I backed off. I'm not stupid, ya know.

So there you have it. We also managed to navigate the cities subway system. Now THAT is a journey.

New York is cool in a lot of ways. But ... it doesn't compare to my sweet home Chicago.

Tomorrow? Yankee Stadium and the Bronx Bombers. Stay tuned! (and check out for more NYC wierdness.)

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Great Baseball Extravaganza ... Day One ... Baltimore

Wow. 3:15 in the morning is E-A-R-L-Y. I do 3:15 better if I come at it from the other side. You know, staying up until 3:30 is easier than getting up at 3:30. But hey, it's for baseball and it's for Scott. Not in that order. So it's cool.

We walked outside of his condo at 4AM to meet his friend Matt. He was to drive us to the airport. But Scott had other plans. He slipped one in on me. He fired Matt and hired a guy to drive this ...

It was a cool way to start the day. And the guy drove really fast because the flight to Baltimore was leaving totally on time. The weather was a bit rough but Scott and I scored again. We were the only two on the plane to have a 3-seat-span to ourselves. Sweet! But it was bumpy enough that a kid a few rows in front of us went on a barfing spree. Fun.

We took the Baltimore light rail system from the airport to a drop-off about five miles from the hotel. A shuttle picked us up. (side note ... I have no idea what medications the shuttle driver was on. That's all I have to say about that.) We couldn't check in until about 1PM and it was only about 10:30AM so we grabbed our rental, a white Chevy Impala. Not exactly a Mustang but it will do. So we hit a mall where I found a cool Orioles mesh shirt for $9.00 and we grabbed a couple of ball caps so that we would be all prepared for the game tonight. By the time we got back to the hotel our room was ready and it was "nappy time." From there ... BASEBALL!

We drove to Orioles Park at Camden Yards, a very awesome place to watch a ball game. The first thing we came across was something I had promised myself to find. The Orioles old fist baseman from back in the 60's, Boog Powell, runs his own concession stand. And guess what? Boog was there! In person! He's a huge man with a tree trunk sized neck. And best of all ... he signed my new shirt right on the left bicep for me. (I'm sure he was impressed.) When he did he looked exactly like this ...

And then we had a little conversation where I told him that I thought I was older than he is but I enjoyed watching him play. He looked at me funny and said, "Man, I'm going to be 62 years old." I told him that I was going to be 52 tomorrow (which is now today, happy birthday to me.) He said, "When I was 52 I didn't even know how to barbeque yet!" Ahhhh ... that felt better. So it was a good day. Boog Powell signed my left bicep (ok, the shirt ON my left bicep ... still ...) and then we "chatted" and it looke totally like this ...

Then I ate the best turkey sandwich OF MY LIFE. No joke. Totally serious. That bird died for a very good cause!

Then it was time for baseball. We cheered for the home team which, of course, meant that they eventually lost. But it was a lot of fun and it rather looked like this from our way too expensive seats ...

Aubrey Huff actually hit "for the cycle." He is only the 3rd Oriole to do that in team history joining Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken in this tough feat. It was cool to see. But the good guys lost anyway. Bummer

So the game ended and I managed to get the worlds largest policeman who was standing on the field behind home plate to reach around the net, grab my camera, and take this ultra cool "reverse" picture ...

How awesome is that? I thanked him and promised not to speed on the way home. (Yes I really did. And no I really didn't.)

Then we drove back to the hotel and Scott is trying right now to go to sleep before I crank up the snoring machine and begin shaking the 10th floor. What a day. I want to do this one again.

If you want to see more pictures surf over to

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

One More Time

There is this kid I know that is not a kid anymore. I met him when he was zero seconds old. They pulled him out of the oddest place, took him to a sink, hosed him off, weighed him, measured him, stuck a yellow sock hat on his head, wrapped him in a blanket tight enough to make a mummy scream and handed him off to me.

Because this was my son. My first son. The first of two of my best male friends in the world. Scott and (Chris)Topher.

Now this kid is 24 years old and in just 10 days he will commit himself to his lovely fiancé and then my words will turn him into her husband. Yes, the kid who used to scream and fight to get on the bus or in the van with me as I left on yet another youth ministry trip is now a youth minister in his own right and is about to become a married man.

I don't have to ask where the time went. I know very well where it went. We spent it getting stitches installed in his head, watching him barf his guts up while enduring yet another migraine headache, observing from the stands as he "swung for the fences" in little league and later in high school. We sat in Wrigley Field more times that I ever dreamed we would. We actually became "bleacher bums" and I do believe that back in his hey day Sammy Sosa blew us a kiss. We've been to "old Comiskey Park" to see the White Sox in their last year there and we've been to "The Cell" to watch them play in their new park. We basked in the outfield sun at Tiger Stadium before they tore it down too. We invaded Milwaukee's County Stadium to watch the Brewers take out the A's in the ninth inning. Scott focused on the game but I was more enthralled with the glass encased "shower thongs" (the foot kind not the ... nevermind) worn by Hank Aaron. Of course there have been frequent trips to old and new Busch Stadium over the years but only because it's so close and never once did we wear the home teams colors. I remember once when he was in high school we had some pretty good seats that a friend had given me. You know, in the polite area down low near the field. No matter. I still had to get him up and move him in the 7th inning before he got us killed by the home crowd. I love me some Cubbies too but they didn't die for my sins and I don't plan on dying for theirs.

So now it comes down to this. One more "Great Baseball Extravaganza" before the old knot gets tied. Yes, I'm certain that we'll keep going to ball games after he brings his lovely "Mrs. Woods" home to live with him. (And he is marrying VERY well. His bride to be is one of the sweetest, smartest, and wonderful young women that I know.)

Here's the deal ...

On Thursday I drive up to Chicago. At 4AM on Friday one of his friends is picking us up and taking us to Midway airport where we have a 6:15AM flight into Baltimore. We catch a train across town and then a hotel shuttle takes us to our temporary home where we have a rented car awaiting us. We'll check in and spend the day "doing Baltimore." On Friday evening we'll be at the Orioles/Angels game. I plan on eating something cooked by Boog Powell himself out on his deck in the right field stands. After a good nights sleep we hit the road. The direction is north where we will pass through Philly, down a couple of cheese steak sandwiches, give the liberty bell a ring, and move on toward Wehawkeen, New Jersey. We'll check into a hotel on the Hudson River directly across from lower Manhattan. The rental will get turned in to a location in Jersey City and we'll cab it or something back to the hotel. After a partaking of local cuisine and another nights rest we catch "The Yankee Clipper" at 11AM. This is a "shuttle boat" that we've reserved spots on. For our $18 each we get all of the food and drinks we want and a scenic cruise that will drop us blocks from baseball's greatest shrine ... The House That Ruth Built ... Yankee Stadium. It's a 1:05PM start. The Yankees against Oakland. I'm betting we will spend as much time walking the park and taking in the history, as we will watching the game. After the last out we have 30 minutes to high tail it back to the Yankee Clipper, which sails back to our hotel. After that we have about 24 hours to sleep, eat, and take in as much of Manhattan as we can. Before we catch our jet back to Chicago on Monday evening we hope to knock around Times Square, Rockefeller Plaza, Ground Zero, Wall Street, and whatever else jumps out at us. Don't worry. We are going to put the hurt on Nathan's hot dogs and whatever the local's eat. Tuesday will see us driving back home where he will finish the day with his bachelor's party and tune up whatever needs tuning before taking his vows on Friday night.

What a way to go out, huh? The night before my wedding I spent with my brother at an indoor amusement park in Chicago. Then we went to Dunkin Donuts and ate a dozen with cold milk. At 2AM I still couldn't sleep so I went out and washed my car. In the rain. If I had known what the next 30 years held I would not have been one bit nervous. It would have been pure joy and anticipation. And yes, I would write that even if my wife didn't read my blog. I’d write it because it is true.

It's going to be a whirlwind trip kicking off a whirlwind week. We have limited ourselves to one backpack each for the "Great Baseball Extravaganza." If we are going to be hiking New York we don't want to be pulling luggage behind us. So somehow 3 days worth of clothes (can you say "t-shirts?") a laptop, a gps, all of the plane tickets, ball game tickets, rental car reservations, Yankee Clipper tickets, an i-pod, and hopefully a toothbrush have to fit into one solitary back pack. We travel light.

We don't care who wins the ball games. We don't care what kind of gas mileage the rental gets. We are not concerned with heat, humidity, sunshine or clouds. We just want to hangout one more time and enjoy the experience. No, no. Not the "national pastime" experience. The father and son experience. I wish Topher was home from 'Fuge and could go with us. That's the only thing that could make it better. But I have a hunch that maybe he is planning his own trip for the not-to-distant future. That's not good news.

I think he wants to go to Wimbledon.