Sunday, October 31, 2010

Take me out to the ball game

I have watched most of the first three games of the World Series (which should surely be called the National presumptuous of us!), and am looking forward to the fourth game this evening (although the competition is a new version of Sherlock Holmes on Masterpiece Theatre. The game may lose me for an hour.)

This kind of sports enthusiasm is unprecedented for me. Although I've always liked baseball, I've never been much for watching games on television. However, this summer I found myself watching at least part of the occasional game on Fox, and was reminded of what a terrific game it really is. For one thing, you can see what's happening, as opposed to American football games. You are able to clearly see both individual skill, and beautifully-executed teamwork. Indeed, with today's long-range cameras and instant replays you can see amazing detail, can see exactly what makes a particular play impressive. Surely there are few things more satisfying than a flawless double play. As someone who has always "thrown like a girl," I can't help but be impressed by an outfielder who scoops up a ground ball, sends it like an arrow clear across the field to the second baseman who tags the runner and then zings the ball to first base. And of course it's exciting when you're not sure, you're not sure, but...yes! It's a home run!

And the game is not just a matter of big lugs plowing into one another, trying to put one another out of commission (a la American football), or of purposely starting free-for-alls (ice hockey). It's a matter of skill and teamwork, rather than brute force.

But I have to say that, as I watch, I can't help but think of it as a kid's game that grownup kids are playing. I mean, think about it. When you hit the ball you have to run as fast as you can around in a circle, being sure to touch a "bag" at three points in the circle. The other side is trying to tag you with the ball before you can do that. Sometimes there's actually a skittish little dance as a runner tries to avoid being tagged. Grown men doing that for a living!

They make it "grownup" by having things like errors ("Come on, you're a pro, you shouldn't have fumbled that ball."), and by having pitchers who throw such fast, sneaky, misleading balls that it's no mean trick to successfully hit them.

I decided I'm rooting for the Giants. Yes, I know, I'm a bad Texan. But I watched the Giants play the Philadelphia Phillies this summer, and so enjoyed this "bunch of misfits," as they are frequently described, that when I learned they were playing in the Series, I decided they were "my" team. (Since the Red Sox aren't playing.) I'm especially impressed by pitcher Tim Lincecum, who looks about 16 -- it doesn't look like he shaves yet! -- who is skinny, and yet delivers his pitches with amazing power.

I'm happy the Rangers have made it to their first "National" Series, and I won't be heartbroken if they win -- after all, this is "only a game" -- but...go Giants.

Am wondering if my friends Bob and Mary, big Giants fans, attended either of the games that were held in San Francisco. Rather amazing location for the ball park, right next to the water...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Paying our respects

Well, here I've actually gone and done something. I flew to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area to visit various friends and relatives, living and dead. The main reason for my trip was to see my friend Clifford, who has known me since the day I was born. One of my father's oldest friends (they knew each other from the seventh grade on), Clifford and two other of my father's friends brought a big, soft, pale blue teddy bear to the hospital in honor of my birth. I still have that bear (Joe), though the pale blue has long since faded to grey, he's lost his stuffing and been restuffed more than once, with negligible results, and the big black eyes were at some point replaced with pale pink pearl buttons, that somehow make him look cross-eyed. Nonetheless, I love this bear.

Clifford is now the only one of "the gang" left, and has reached the impressive, but somewhat unsettling, age of 90. I thought I should check in on him. I also did some grave-hopping while in Ft. Worth. At my father's and stepmother's grave, which is located on a hill over-looking the Trinity River, it was so windy that I realized I was not going to be able to leave the flowering plant I'd brought, as it was quite likely to get blown away. I later picked up a heavy ceramic planter at Walmart's garden center, tucked the basket with the plant inside that, and made a second trip out to Oakwood to put it in place. It looked like it would now be able to withstand that Texas wind, and, if no one steals it, should be available for future "plantings."

I was accompanied by my sister-in-law, Karen, on this trip (on the first it was Cliff). Karen is the widow of my stepbrother who died in 1999, while I was spending three months in France. I didn't even know he had died until I returned home, and had never yet been to visit his grave. I had also never been to visit my stepbrother Dean's grave, though I had attended his funeral, in southern Louisiana. Both of these brothers died at sadly young ages (54 & 53), and I was reminded of how sad that was, standing at their graves. But it was great watching Karen in action. Not only had she brought artificial flowers which she tucked in amongst the ones still there from her last visit ("Very unusual that they're still here," she said. "When they mow they usually take them away."), but she had bought little plastic pumpkins full of candy for each grave (she tended a total of six, all her husband's relatives, not hers, which shows you what kind of person Karen is), as well as a package of Twizzlers for Mike's grave, as that had been his favorite. I loved the efficiency combined with affection with which she freshened and tidied the graves.

And I also visited my own husband's grave, in Terrell, the morning of the day I flew back to Maine. Here, I cried. I always do. Micheal also died too young (58). All these men who don't take proper care of themselves, dying early.

But I didn't just grave-hop. I also spent some time with one of my high school classmates, whom I try to see whenever I go to Ft. Worth. On my first evening there he and his mother took me to dinner at Pappadeaux, which doesn't get very good reviews on Trip Adviser, and which was too noisy, but which served me up a delicious almond-crusted talapia. (The next night, when Karen and her partner took me to dinner, I had crab-stuffed talapia. I said it was pretty ironic, coming from a coastal state to this land-locked city and having fish twice in a row.)

Our second evening together Robert and I drove to Dallas to visit yet another high school classmate, where I admired his beautiful town house, with a view from the bedroom balcony of the Flying Red Horse, Pegasus, atop what was once the Magnolia Petrolium Building, and is now the Magnolia Hotel. This building, at 29 stories, used to be the tallest in Dallas -- I can remember driving from Ft. Worth to Dallas as a kid, and spotting the building's winged red horse soaring above the city -- but now this iconic sign can barely be discerned amongst all the city's much taller buildings. But from Steve's balcony you have a very nice view of it. At Steve's we consumed lots of champagne, the hottest Thai food I've ever had, and did lots of reminiscing, which is one of the things old friends are for. Thanks to the champagne we were all extremely amusing.

My final evening was spent with my Dallas cousins, in the first house I had been in in four days that was always cool enough for me. Temperatures were in the 80s while I was down there, which as we all know is too hot for my tastes. Jim and I are both heavy into tracing the family tree, and had a bang-up time pouring over a bunch of old photos he'd inherited from his mother, who'd inherited them from her mother. I hadn't seen either of my cousins, or their families, in over six years, so it was good to see them all again.

All in all, a satisfying visit, during which I did everything I intended to do, saw everyone I intended to see, and didn't hyperventilate too much, driving in all that mad traffic.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Going with the flow

O.K., I've now joined the rest of the human race in two areas. I've purchased a cell phone, and a rolling suitcase.

Yes, I know, I was probably the last person in the United States of America who was still lugging by hand a heavy suitcase everywhere she went. I think it was my agonizing experience at the Portland, Maine airport in January, when I was preparing to take a flight to San Antonio to attend my mother's funeral, that cinched it for me. When I got up to the automatic check-in machine, I discovered I did not have my billfold. Had taken it out of my purse to pay a highway toll; must have left it on the seat of the car. Shit. Since you can't leave your luggage unattended, I had to lug my suitcase with me, back across the street to the parking garage, and down quite a way to where I'd parked my car.

Sure enough, there was my billfold on the seat. So then I trudge back to the terminal, go up to the counter, and discover...I don't have my billfold! I absolutely went to pieces, kept crying, "This isn't possible, I just went to get it, I can't believe this is happening!" The only thing I could think of was that I had knocked it out of my purse, which meant it must be lying on the concrete out there, just waiting for someone to pick it up. And what made it all too perfect was that I was again going to have to carry that damn suitcase with me, while I retraced my steps.

I begged the woman at the counter to let me leave my suitcase with her. She kept saying she couldn't do that, but she did finally take pity on me, given that I was having a mini-breakdown right there in front of God and everybody, and said she'd walk with me over to the X-ray machine, and if they o.k.ed it, then she could keep it, while I went to look for my "wallet." So that's what we did. And the billfold/wallet (you say tomatoes, I say tomahtoes) was not lying on the pavement anywhere; it was still on the seat of my car. I had picked it up off the passenger seat, paused to do something or other, and set it down on the driver's seat while I was doing that something or other. And left it. Those near and dear who do not think my Alzheimer's is taking over, just aren't paying attention.

Well, as I said, it was probably this painful experience that convinced me I really did need a rolling suitcase. Mind you, I love my old suitcase, which is an excellent suitcase, still in perfect shape though it's got to be thirty years old. Though it's an undistinguished black, it has a very distinctive, almost military, stripe of red, kaki and olive, running across the top from the back seam to the combination lock...which of course I can no longer use. (Not being able to lock ones suitcases is damnable, as far as I'm concerned -- why can't they x-ray them when you're at the counter, then let you lock them?) This strip makes it easy to spot my case among all the other black bags coming around on the baggage carousel, as do my initials engraved on a small patch of leather at the top of the stripe.

I am very conservative in many ways, not wanting to discard or stop using something just because it's old being one of those ways. But I have had to acknowledge that, as I am not strong, and no longer young, lugging a suitcase around by hand on my travels is just proving too much for me. So there you go.

As to the cell phone, I was probably the last person in the world who didn't have one of those. They are as ubiquitous in Third World countries as they are in the U.S., but I kept saying, for years, that I didn't need one, and why get something you didn't need? Just something else to spend money on and have to stay on top of. But on my last few trips there has always been at least one instance when it would have been really helpful to have a cell phone, so that I could call and let people know I was going to be late in arriving.

So what the hell, I broke down and signed up for the cheapest plan I could find, from Consumer Cellular. A mere $10 a month, with free phone. No minutes included with this plan, but it was recommended if I expected to use 20 minutes or fewer in a month, which I do, since this phone really is intended for emergency purposes only. Twenty-five cents a minutes for all calls, including long distance. No contract, can cancel anytime. Does that sounds like a reasonable deal? It did to me.

So we shall see how this being like everybody else goes.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


O.K., now that I've got the ice cream addiction pretty much under control (very occasional now, instead of practically every night) I've turned to the caffeine addiction. Way more difficult. Actually, I've been drinking caffeine-laden sodas all of my life, without giving it a thought. But only in the last few months have I resorted to that favorite supplier of caffeine for most of the world, coffee. I've never been a coffee drinker because I don't like the taste. Love the smell, dislike the taste.

But a few months ago I discovered what everybody else discovers when they're about 18: coffee is the best waker-upper there is. At work I have an ongoing problem with staying...not exactly awake, but alert, on my toes, up to all the multitasking I have to do. I was accustomed to downing a candy bar and quite a few slugs of Diet Dr Pepper at some point, every single day, as my energy level and mental acuity began to flag. But the candy bars would inevitably begin to wreak havoc with my inner workings, after a few days; besides which there was the inevitable low after the sugar high had dissipated.

So one day I bought a cup of Pumpkin Pie coffee (or some such name) at the local bakery, Slates, intrigued by the name as much as anything. Adulterated with plenty of fake sugar and light cream, it wasn't half bad. In fact, the flavoring that entitled it to be called Pumpkin Pie made it almost tasty.

And...this was the biggie...I found that a few sips of it perked me up even better than the Coke/candy combo. So I began buying a cup about every other day -- yes, a cup would last me two days, since I never drank much at a time.

But then, as with any addiction, I began drinking more each day, so that in no time at all it was a cup a day. And I realized not long ago that I was having to consume coffee in order to get going in the morning. Big news, huh? But this did not please me. The fact that I ran down and had to have this particular pick-me-up throughout the day shouted dependence. And the idea of being dependent on anything, at the mercy of anything, has always appalled me. It was one reason I had such a hard time understanding my husband's alcoholism -- how could he bear to be so not in control of himself and his life, so at the mercy of this substance?

I also realized that while the coffee did "wake me up," it also made me very nervous, and I'm nervous enough, thank you very much. And there was the fact that I was spending $1.31 a day -- almost $7 a week -- on something that probably wasn't good for me, and adding all that light cream to my waistline in the bargain.

So I stopped drinking coffee last Saturday. And, what was probably a mistake, decided to try to drop caffeine altogether, while I was at it. For I know that caffeine tends to make me feel hungry, which means I probably eat more than I otherwise would, as I freqently have some kind of cola, or iced tea, with my meals, or between meals (the latter for the needed pick-me-up). That is, I can never have just a glass of soda, I have to have something to eat with it. And that's certainly adding to the waistline.

Until this afternoon, when I had a few sips of Dr Pepper, I had had no caffeine in a week. And I felt tired, tired, tired all week. Practically all I did when I was at home was sleep, because I felt too tired to do anything without giving myself a caffeine fix. And at work it was pretty much a matter of there in body but not in spirit. It was just a good thing there were no crises or meetings to deal with. (There was a program on Thursday evening, that I had to drag myself back to the library for.) This afternoon, when I really had serious doubts about being able to do anything at work, I decided to look online, to see what the timeline for caffeine withdrawal was. Because I felt I really could not go on like this for much longer. At one site, where "the public" was answering the question, 'how long does it take for caffeine withdrawal symptoms to disappear?' the most common answer was 'about two weeks.' Although, some people said, it can take up to three months (a couple of people said six months!) for your body to recover completely from being deprived of caffeine. Good grief.

It was after reading that that I concluded I may have been hasty in trying to eliminate all caffeine from my diet at once. So, no coffee -- I do think I can stick with that -- but there may be a sip of Dr Pepper from time to time. The girl has to be able to write, if nothing else.