Friday, September 07, 2001

We're still looking for a couple of companions for the Sunday game at Wrigley. It's a we-scratch-each-other's-back kind of thing: we offer* you two tickets to see the first-place** Cubbies, and you promise to get there early to save us good seats in the bleachers. The tickets are being held in the hands of a relative who lives close to the stadium; if you end up coming with us, you'll have to swing by her house sometime between now and the game to pick them up.

If the allure of watching the Cubs from the bleachers (quintessential, like I said) on a beautiful Sunday afternoon isn't enough to whet your appetite, realize that you'll be sitting next to two guys who have just returned home to Chicago with a a couple duffel bags full of experiences they can't wait to talk about. Hmm, maybe that doesn't sound so appealing after all. How 'bout we just promise to put your picture online?

Please write us at [email protected] by end-of-day Friday if you're interested.

*It should be noted that by "offer," we don't mean "for free." While we'd love to be able to treat you to a game, it's just not in our budget. However, if you do come with us, consider yourself near the top of the list of people who'll get free tickets to opening day at Luke's minor league ballpark.

**In the wild card race. Hey, playoffs are playoffs. We'll take what we can get.


Thursday, September 06, 2001

Honestly, we didn't mean for this to happen, but tonight we found ourselves driving through Times Square. 42nd and 7th, precisely. Our directions were supposed to take us out of the Lincoln Tunnel and south a bit on our way across town to the Queens-Midtown tunnel, but we took a wrong turn somewhere -- Surprised? Neither are we. -- and ended up basking in the lights of Times Square. We quickly weaved our way out of there before we succumbed to sensory overload.

It's become clear we don't belong in this city. As Luke crept the truck down the traffic on 36th Street, he heard a man sneezing on the sidewalk. His good-natured midwestern instict kicked in, and he stuck his head out the window to say "Bless You!" I had to crawl in the back and hide. I mean, can you think of a better way to say, "I am a tourist, pease slash my tires and take all the possessions out of my vehicle," than to be polite to strangers in NYC?

(I kid, of course. Everyone knows that to really be polite, Luke should have said, "You're soooo good looking.")

I can easily see the appeal of living in this city. More than anywhere I've ever been, there's a vibe that permeates the whole town. But I can also see how you could get burned out in a second. How I could get burned out, at least. It's like the whole town runs in double time. I think I'll stick to my calmly paced Chicago, thank you very much, but I'll happily visit here anytime.


Our trip is a nine-inning game, making this afternoon the bottom of the sixth. We headed west from Boston to New York, for the first time going in the direction of home instead of from it. Sigh. This happens to me on every vacation, once I have reached the point where I have done more than I have left to do, even on vacations as whole and perfect as this has been. I become mournful for passing possibility. It's like seeing the first wool sweater of fall, as I did in the Fenway bleachers. It is the anxiety of the wane, the sorrow of the looming end.

In the road trip of life, we know not our destination. Head we west or head we east? And if we could know, would we speed up or slow down?


On our jaunt to Concord, I came up with a new motto for life: WWTD?

As in: What Would Thoreau Do? For example, If he found himself at the shore of Walden Pond with no trunks for swimming, would he sit back and watch everyone else commune with nature, or would he strip down to his skivvies and hop in? The latter, of course! Which is what both Luke and I did. We were only able to get about ten minutes of swimming in before Ma Nature dropped a thunderstorm on our transcendentral asses and drove us back into town. Still, ten minutes was enough to cleanse both the mind and body, but short enough to give us a reason to come back again sometime.

Next quandry: how many dogs do I eat at tomorrow's game? WWTD...?


Where we'll be sitting -- er, where we sat -- seventh in a series:

Game number two was at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. New York Mets v. Philadelphia Phillies. Monday, September 3, 1:05 p.m. If you'll recall, this was the only game for which we didn't buy tickets ahead of time. The Phillies, though tied for first in their division, were achieving paltry attendance. A nest of Philadelphia's homeless could be making their home in the Veterans outfield seats, and the clean-up crew wouldn't notice for weeks. We didn't think it'd be any problem to buy the seats the day of the game. And we were right, it wasn't. Thing is, we underestimated the number people of the same mind, and by the time we got to the front of the line, the local Baptist Choir had already started their rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. By the time we got to the ticket-tearer, they were watching o'er the ramparts. By the time we walked through the tunnel, they were done. Though technically not in violation of any codes of etiquette, we had already fallen behind on our bookkeeping.

We asked the ticket seller for the best available seats in level 600. She gave us section 617, row 1. That's about as best-available as you can get. It was a climb up to the 600 level, so it was nice to end up in the best possible row. Here's a diagram from the Phillies web site:

Veterans Stadium

Our seats had an expansive view of the whole field, though it was blocked somewhat by the railing of the section in front of us. (That, and the Phanatic.) We had little doubt that we'd have a good chance at upgrading, given the patches of empty seats in the box seats below. By the seventh, the ushers seemed to have loosened their possesive grip on their rows, enough to make it safe to move. Which is what we did. We could have done better from the start, I suppose, but the best seat in Veterans is about as good as the worst in Fenway. Why exert the effort? All in all, we took in Veterans as we should have. Overall grade: B.


Last night I wondered whether John Rocker knows any decency. Tonight he pitched an entire inning with his fly down. I'll take that as a "no."


Wednesday, September 05, 2001

If the Phillies miss the playoffs by a single game, they should reflect upon Monday's loss to the Mets. If they do, they will be reminded that, no, they are not players who deserve to play in October. Watching them collapse in the ninth -- allowing the winning run to score from second because the catcher can't return the ball to the pitcher on the fly? -- was like watching a Little League game, except without the sophistication and maturity of, say, Danny Almonte.

We were treated to many of the minor baseball pleasures one doesn't see at every game. Among them: Both starting pitchers getting hits. An inning-ending double play. A ninth-inning comeback. An RBI triple. A wedding proposal (accepted). Incredible catches in the outfield. A successful pickoff play. A runner getting to first on a wild third strike. Managerial protests.

But after the sloppy play at the Vet, it was a relief to see the Red Sox play the Indians tonight. Even though Boston lost its ninth in a row, quality baseball was what we saw, and we were grateful. Balls that should have been hit were hit. Balls that should have been caught were caught. Nothing was fancier than a few Jim Thome homers. Cleveland scored two runs off sacrifice flies. That, gentle reader, is solid, fundamental baseball.

The pitching may not have been excellent, but it was curious from start to finish. Bartolo Colon's 98 mph fastball contrasted nicely with the 80 mph junk of Hideo Nomo, whose windup has more stops and starts than Boston gridlock. Later, Boston brought in former Cub Rod Beck, who before every pitch swings his throwing arm like a pendulum, and Tim Wakefield, who would record his 1,000th strikeout behind a 60 mph knuckleball. And in the ninth, the Indians called upon John Rocker, who, I noticed to the chagrin of both Sandy and me, slams the ball into his cup twice before every pitch. Does the man have any decency?

When Wakefield came in, the catcher had to go to the dugout for a new glove, one the size of a garbage can lid, and it was easy to see why: These knuckleballs lose themselves on the way to the plate, stop midair to ask for directions, then resume home and cross it just as the batter has reached a state of R.E.M.

Speaking of which, I'm exhausted again. Good night.


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

Don't block my view during a play, phreak.


Thanks to everyone who voted in our Choose Their Own Adventure game. Concord won, so off we went to Walden Pond on Tuesday afternoon.

Here are the final results:

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Data junkie that I am, I do most of my runs on the treadmill rather than outside. I'm able to control my pace, monitor my distance and catch up on soaps.

A few weeks ago, "Rocky II" was on during my long run. Even though the film begins a steep decline in the franchise, one cannot resist getting the warm fuzzies when Rocky does his run through Philadelphia. As the training montage began, I was doing my usual 7.2 mph. By fight time I had cranked it up to 9, and at the climax, when both Apollo and Rocky have fallen to the mat, I was pushing 10.5 and hollering at my TV: "Get up, Rock! Get up!"

The experience redoubled my resolve to do a long run in Philadelphia and, like any tourist worth his running shoes, finish with a sprint up the steps of the Museum of Art. Rocky did his run through the streets and railyards. Aided by Gatorade and energy bars, I would do mine on a running path that starts at the musuem and goes 4 miles up the Delaware River, crosses the Falls Bridge and returns along the opposite shore. It's a gorgeous path, bathed in natural shade, much nicer, in fact, than the lakeshore path of Chicago.

Unfortunately, it is a path dangerously short on facilities. Mickey may have exhorted Rocky to "eat lightning and crap thunder," but thunder wasn't my problem Sunday morning. Suffice to say that when running in Philadelphia, one should always bring paper money.


Tuesday, September 04, 2001

I suppose this seems obvious, but it didn't occur to us until recently: Running around from city to city, baseball game to baseball game, does not afford one a lot of time to sit down in front of the computer to write messages. It's been a frantic few days -- especially this last one, in which we left Philly at 5:30 p.m. for a 7-hour trip to Boston -- and we've got a lot of things to talk about. We just haven't had time to compose them into coherent thoughts. But we're settling down for a couple of days in Boston, and after we catch up on our sleep, we promise to let you catch up on all that's happened.

In the meanwhile, please peruse the latest photos. I'm going off to bed.


We're getting a little tired of all these tolls and turnpikes. There are a lot of things for which I'd gladly pay $9 in order to do. See a good movie. Eat dinner. Hear a favorite band. I'm afraid driving across Ohio is nowhere on the list.


Sunday, September 02, 2001

Unless you choose to trek around with your own kitchen, finding a good meal on the road is a necessary skill, honed only by time and experience. Our first attempt at sit-down meal -- dinner on Saturday -- proved that we have much to learn.

As the rumbles of our stomachs began to drown out those of the engine, we started scanning the map for a place to stop. Our strategy: Look for towns near the expressway that seemed small enough to be devoid of the standard chain restaurant crap, but big enough to have a selection. We settled on Hancock, Maryland, just over the Pennsylvania border. After a minute of driving down the main drag, we saw only two restaurants. One looked quaint enough, but it broke a pretty obvious rule of good road food: If you need to display a sign that says "Authentic Home Cooking," you probably don't really serve it. The other one, The Lockport House, had no such proclamation, and as far as we could tell, was favored by the locals. So we parked outside and took a seat. Unfortuantely, The Lockport House turned out to be Hancock's version of upscale, where the plates cost more than they should but contain less food than they need to. Of course, we should have known what we were getting into from the moment we stepped into the place -- according to the Blue Highways rating system (the greater number of calendars on the wall, the more reliable the eatery), The Lockport scored worse than a Denny's.

We climbed back into the truck afterwards, a bit fuller and a smidgen smarter than we had been when we climbed out. On the way out of town, just feet from the highway on-ramp, we passed by a third restaurant, one we hadn't seen until just then. It was immediately clear that this is where we were should have eaten dinner. The gods of fate had steered us to the correct town, it seemed, they just hadn't given us enough patience to make it all the way down Main Street. The restaurant's name? Little Sandy's.


Melvin, Melvin, Melvin. Never run a stop sign, especially when you're down by a run, double especially when there's only one out, and triple especially when that single to shallow left was hit by Cal Ripken Jr. (Unless you are Mark Grace and it is the 11th inning. Then it is OK.) Was I a fool to expect more from a Melvin?

Unlike their center fielder, the Orioles' fans were very well-behaved and good-natured, except the two rubes who tried to blame Mora's boner on the third-base coach. In fact, to our right sat a fan I would characterize as the anti-boor, try as he did to lead a standing ovation every time Ripken did so much as break wind.


The thing about looking out for license plates is that it's almost an implicit part of driving. Thus, it swings the advantage dramatically to the driver. So it's no surprise that Luke's pulled ahead 18-14 in our little game, since he did more of the driving out here. For me, it was either get the photo interface done or stare at car's asses all day, and frankly, the former was a higher priority. But now that it's online, I can put in more time behind the wheel, and hopefully find some of those elusive western states. That's right, Utah, I'm talkin' to you.



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