Saturday, June 30, 2001

Gas will be our biggest expense, so we'll want to keep an eye on this site.


Top five road trip books*:

1. "On the Road"
2. "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"
3. "Blue Highways"
4. "The Fool's Progress"
5. "Not Fade Away"

* that I have read and remember offhand


Friday, June 29, 2001

There is a clear hierarchy to souvenir baseballs:

1. Home runs
2. Foul balls
3. Batting practice home runs
4. Balls tossed into the stands
5. Balls wrestled from children, old women or the blind

In my umpteen years of watching professional baseball, I've caught three: one foul ball (off the bat of Cubs journeyman Jeff Huson) and two tossed by players (the Cubs' Todd Van Poppel and the Mets' Mark Johnson). I'm still working on 1, 3 and 5.

Can one overstate the thrill of one's first ball? No, but I came close in the e-mail I sent after mine:

You have to appreciate how important this was for me. Millions see the pope each year, but how many are blessed with a kiss? Wrigley Field is about as close as I get to regular church attendance, and as the ball entered my hands, I felt the Spirit enter my heart and wash my sins away. (The next night that spirit would be chased off by a medley of cigars, booze and inside straights, but that's neither here nor there.) I wasn't even in my assigned spot. I had bought a standing-room-only ticket, but snuck into an unoccupied seat. Truly, Jeff Huson was on this day God's agent, and this ball was His gift.

To my right, a couple of guys started murmuring, as I would have in their shoes, "Give it to the kid!" I looked back, and one row back was this boy with the most mournful look you ever did see. But sorry, kid. This ball's for me: It was God's will. However, if I ever catch another, the kid gets it, no doubt.

One can see that I tend to go overboard with the religious imagery when I'm talking baseball, but it was pretty exciting, as were the next two. As my old boss Bob would say, "Holy balls!"


Thursday, June 28, 2001

This week the Postal Service started selling stamps commemorating baseball's historic ballparks. I'll stock up this weekend. These will be perfect for the postcards we send to people who have helped pay for our gas.


Sandy probably noticed this, but the baseball at the top of this page was stolen from a classic "Peanuts" cartoon, in which Charlie Brown wakes from a restless slumber to find the sun has become a giant baseball.
Peanuts cartoon

As the story progresses, more and more of Charlie's world turns into baseballs: the moon, ice cream cones, finally his head.

I've never been a "Peanuts" fan, but these older strips are great. This particular sequence raises a delicious question: What do you do when you have something on your mind so much that your head transforms into that very thing? Charlie Brown has baseball on his mind, and he would put a sack over his head. Sandy and I have baseball on our minds, and we're taking a trip.


Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Luke's Codes of Baseball Etiquette, one in a series:

One should sing the national anthem.

Other than voting, this union of sport and country may be the only patriotic moment I take seriously. Sadly, "singing" has largely been replaced by "impatient rocking from foot to foot." Further, many fans think "land of the free" is their cue to whoop and holler through "home of the brave." This is not OK, cap doffed or not.

I pin some of the blame on the performers, who tend to saddle the song with awkward pauses or inappropriate flourishes. It is an anthem, for crying out loud, for crying out loud, not a dirge or jazz solo.

I didn't catch who sang Monday night, but he took 1 minute, 45 seconds. This was shorter than some -- I saw Michael McDermott on May 19; he seemed to go on into the third inning -- but still too slow to sing to. At yesterday's game, the Cubs called upon Wayne Messmer, who, as usual, was perfect: 1 minute, 25 seconds. No pauses, no embellishments.

Wrigley Field could help by flashing the lyrics on the scoreboard. Perhaps fans will one day take to this hymn with the same zeal with which they attack the seventh-inning stretch.


Tuesday, June 26, 2001

In the summer of 1812, Napoleon Bonaparte assembled 499,000 troops and 1,150 guns and pushed across Europe toward Russia. Things did not go well. By the time he reached Moscow in mid-September, only 87,500 of his grand armee remained. A month later, he began his retreat to Paris. Harsh weather would claim most of his men on the way, and only 10,000 would remain in the end.

In 1861, Joseph Minard drew the following chart to tell the story:
Chart of Paris to Moscow and back.

Design guru Edmund Tufte has called it one of the finest informational graphics ever produced because of its many layers of meta information: 1. The course of the lines show the latitude and longitude of the march. 2. The colors indicate advance (beige) and retreat (black). 3. The width of the lines indicate the army's strength, from 499,000 to 87,500 and down to 10,000. 4. The table at the bottom indicates time and temperature.

In the summer of 2001, Sandy and I will assemble our sleeping bags and some mix tapes and push across America toward Boston. We hope things go well. By the time we reach Boston in mid-September, we will have seen two baseball games and driven almost 1,200 miles. Two days later, we will begin our retreat to Chicago.

I've drawn the following chart to tell the story:
Chart of Chicago to Boston and back.

1. The course of the lines show the latitude and longitude of our trip. 2. The colors indicate advance (beige) and retreat (black). 3. The width of the lines indicate the number of travelers, from two to two and down to two. 4. The tables at top and bottom indicate time and daily mileage, which I'll update as we go along.


Monday, June 25, 2001

I added a calendar to our itinerary page. Soon I'll slap a map on there, too.



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