Take me out to the ballgame

I’m not what anyone would mistake for a sports fan. Except when my kids were playing sports in grade school and high school—I wouldn’t miss a game. Otherwise, not so much, unless we’re talking about gymnastics, competitive dancing and maybe diving.

Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati, Ohio

I’m not sure why Mark takes me with him to the Reds’ games when he goes once or twice a year, but I go along to keep him company and for the food. This time, though, I brought my own little sandwich baggie full of pretzels. Then someone sat down across the aisle from us with a large bag of aromatic freshly popped popcorn. I don’t know how I managed to get out of that park without buying some.

We are sitting in this mezzanine level, beside the stairs, on the right, at the bottom, where you can see  Mark wearing a gray jacket. I have a better view of the river from up here.

The ball park sits right on the Ohio River, across from where the Licking River that runs through Kentucky joins the Ohio. If, I mean when,  the Red’s get a home run, fireworks shoot out of the tall stacks you can see across the field. It’s an overcast day today, which is fine with me. Nothing worse than sitting through a three to four hour baseball game with the sun beating down on you.

As I’m documenting the ball park with my photographs, I notice a barge full of coal silently sliding past the stadium on the river.

I’m always amazed at the physics of these heavily laden barges being pushed by a small tug boat. And how in the world would you ever steer that thing? Tricky job. Although, there is something appealing to me about captaining a boat along a river every day. Gliding along. Listening to the water lap the sides. Watching the birds swoop and land on a rail. Seeing the sun sparkle off the water. Alone with your thoughts. I can see why some are attracted to this job.

I notice we are sitting beside the press box (and also beside a woman with very bright hair). Right past the “Cincinnati Reds” sign you can just make out the “Reds on Radio” sign above the glassed-in press box. I don’t know what Mark would do without the Reds on Radio. I also don’t really understand how anyone can listen to a baseball game on radio. Maybe it’s my short attention span. Or maybe I don’t have the childhood memory of sitting outside on a back patio with my family and grandparents, listening to the Reds on warm summer evenings, like Mark does. Maybe I would feel differently about it then.

If I zoom in with my little point and shoot Nikon Coolpix, I can see sportscaster, Marty Brennaman in the white shirt in the press box. If you’re a baseball fan, you’ve probably heard of Marty Brennaman. If not, you might not care.

Upbeat music clips play on the impressive sound system when the teams change fields or between innings. When they built this new stadium a few years ago, I think they made the seats narrower, like they’ve done on airplanes, to pack more people in and make more money. At the same time, I’m getting wider. Not a good combination.

I haven’t made it through the first inning yet and I am already looking for diversions. I can’t decide if this photographer’s job is a good one or a bad one.

Here comes another barge. This one carries something in blue containers. I have no idea what.

But it’s also being pushed by a small tug boat.

Thankfully there is a gigantic scoreboard to my left, so I can at least pretend like I know what is going on.

Oh look, another barge. This one also has closed containers. The closed containers are starting to make me nervous. Just exactly what is inside those? I feel a little bit like a spy. I can take a photograph from a great distance and then crop in and magnify it on my computer and see all kinds of detail not visible to the naked eye from where I sit.

It reminds me of the time we went to Kennebunkport right on the same weekend as a Bush family wedding. Traffic came to a dead halt and helicopter propellers beat the air overhead when the caravan with George W. Bush, who was president at the time, rode in. The quaint little town was crawling with secret service who, in their all-black multi-pocketed suits, looked like something out of a sci-fi movie. We went on a schooner ride and had to pass by the wedding reception venue. The water was dotted with secret service inflatable rafts. It was kind of scary.

I am going to have to find out more about just how these barges and tug boats navigate down the river. This goes on day after day and I’ve never thought about it before. My father-in-law used to sit in his condominium on a hill overlooking the river and watch the barges go up and down the river all day.

I find this fascinating. I don’t know why. Probably has something to do with my OCD. It kind of reminds me of watching teachers erase chalk boards. I used to hate it if they were careless and missed a bit of chalk—the top of a t or the end of a sentence.

More coal. This barge, like all the others is heading east. If it follows the Ohio River, it could go to Pittsburgh or beyond. But maybe it’s taking the coal to fuel a small little town along the river. And where is all this coal coming from anyway? I sure hope it is not the result of mountaintop removal mining. What a travesty.

I caught the wake behind this tug boat. Maybe they’re not actually called tug boats. I need to find out. So many things I just don’t know.

This is the only boat I saw that wasn’t pushing a barge. It is a little entertainment boat that you can ride up and down the river on.

I bought a small soft drink and got gouged for five bucks. Like the smaller seats, I see this as another sign of corporate greed. I refuse to believe it costs Skyline Chili, a Cincinnati food establishment that has booths at the ball park, four times the amount of money to provide paying customers a beverage in the ballpark than it does at their restaurants. Why the upcharge? We are a captive audience. They’re gouging us because they can.

Another thing that bothers me, if I’m being honest, is just how much money and time is spent by men and women watching primarily men play sports. Now you might argue that women’s sports are gaining fans. I’d like to look at the time and money stats. That’s all I’m saying.

I took a little stroll towards the end of the game. The Reds were losing 4 – 1 according to the scoreboard. I shot this photo of the Great American Financial building from a walkway in the stadium. It looks pretty powerful and intimidating, doesn’t it?

I’m pretty sure the Reds lost. If you want more details about the game, you’ll have to check the sports pages.

How quickly things can change—2

I’m getting my daily post in with two hours to spare.

Some days veer off course.

Waking to a phone call, a car wreck, a hospital, followed by throwing a few things into an overnight bag, jumping in a car and seven hours later arriving in  Buffalo.

That’s what families are for.

A day of gratitude that no one is hurt, or that things that could have been oh-so-much worse, aren’t.The bad news morning turns into a good day.

We all dodged a bullet. We are all safe.

And grateful.

Spock and Alanis Morissette

I was going to finish my photos from Italy today because you’re tired of them, I’m tired of them, and I want to move on to Ireland by St. Patrick’s Day, but I woke up thinking about Japan.

So I’m posting today about two mostly unrelated things, but not really, Japan and Figments of a Dutchess, a blog I’m following.

What a nightmare the people in Japan are living through, and possibly not living through. Having been educated as a chemical engineer in the late 70s, although I don’t have a lot of knowledge about nuclear reactions, I do understand chemical ones and how these things can spiral out of control taking on a life of their own. I’ve listened to the nuclear physicists on CNN explain rod exposure to air, melt-down, by-product fires, and container breach—it’s scary indeed.

The fifty brave and loyal Japanese nuclear plant workers who have stayed behind when it was no longer safe to be there are truly heroes. Their living nightmare must be one of little sleep or food, and great physical effort. They are in a battle zone in a toxic environment. They are the only living human beings at the center of a circle with a 30-kilometer radius. They are like warriors in a sci-fi movie fighting something living and growing that is bigger than themselves. They are like Spock in Star Trek II — The Wrath of Khan when he dies from radiation exposure while living his motto, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

God bless them and God bless their loved ones.

The reason I mention Alanis Morissette is that I regularly follow a blog called Figments of a Dutchess by Marion Driessen who lives in the south of Holland. She’s an avid reader of fantasy, mysteries & thrillers, plays RPGames and is roleplayer in Dungeons & Dragons campaigns, which all brings back warm memories of my son Michael when he lived at home and was interested in the same.  She is a talented writer and writes about all kinds of things, including the culture in Holland which I find fascinating.  Today she posted a link to a song by Alanis Morissette about finding the strength within, that I listened to and was inspired by. I hope you will be too.   Figments of a Dutchess—Alanis Morissette.

Windows of white—the last snowfall

I woke early feeling a restless, unsettledness, queasiness in my stomach like I did when I was young on the day of an oral book report. I hated oral book reports. I was always the first to volunteer because I couldn’t tolerate the anxiety of anticipation and I knew that once I gave my report this bad feeling would go away.

I think my classmates probably thought I was trying to be a teacher’s pet or a show-off. That’s how much they knew. It wasn’t about them and it wasn’t about the teacher—it was all about me. So many things are misunderstood.

I don’t know why I’m unsettled this morning. I feel as if something bad is going to happen. The rational part of me knows it is probably a small anxiety attack of sorts like the ones I started having on the day Mark came home from work and said he was going to take an early retirement; or the ones I woke up with every morning when Annie was sick before she died, and for a while after, my body being slow to respond to what my mind already knew.

Or it could just be hormones. I blame a lot of things on hormones, or lack of.

Or maybe I’m partially psychic. I do have a few Irish ancestors. Perhaps I’ve got the awareness part of something about to go down, but not the knowledge part of what exactly it is. I hope that’s not the case. Maybe I’ve been watching too many movies.

I got up shortly after dawn and walked through the great room where the windows were filled with a bright white light.  The multitude of windows in the kitchen, including the bay stunned me with their display. Snow had fallen in the surrounding woods. What a glorious, beautiful sight.

I know it is March. And no one wants spring to arrive more than I. But I know spring will be here soon. I have faith that it will come as it has every year before.

Because of that faith, I can enjoy this moment of beauty, and I will.

This day will not come again

Daily I’m reading from “Hearing God’s Voice,” by Fr. Mark Burger. Today’s short essay was titled, “Savor the Time You Have.” Fr. Mark included a Chinese poem that in his view sums it up:

Not twice this day,

Inch of time, foot of time

Each a gem.

This day will not come again.

Each minute is worth a priceless gem.

I was sitting in my comfortable rocker-recliner in the study looking out the window at the birdfeeder hanging outside. A small gray bird swooped from a nearby tree and landed on the feeder.

As a human being I have a sense of purpose and responsibility. I believe my life should count for something; I should be a productive member of society in whatever form that takes. I should make my time here on earth count. When I die, what will have been the point of my being here? As a human, I think about these things.

I’m pretty sure the little gray bird was not encumbered by such contemplations this morning as she sought seed to fill her belly and nurture her body. I’m pretty sure that little beautiful creature was not worrying about solving the problems of the bird-world. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t concerned about how much time she had on this earth. I suspect she doesn’t have a clue that her days are even numbered.

There is a big difference between most of the creatures of this planet and the human creatures.

As a human society we create governing structures, seek knowledge, strive to improve the quality of life. But then as a human, thinking society, we have individuals who seek riches and power at the expense of others. A lot of our human effort is spent countering these negative tendencies of our human nature.

I don’t think the little gray bird has to deal with that. Although from time to time it has to guard against the big hawk that sometimes perches on a limb high in the tree.

Sometimes the expectation that I have to make something of my life feels weighty. Sometimes I want to feel unemcumbered like the little gray bird darting, swooping and dancing through the air, the sunlight warm on its back, in search only of another seed.


Masters of denial

Here’s another example of achieving mind over matter by controlling your perspective.

When I was in college in the 70s, and my mind was in the very initial stages of becoming cluttered, but still remained relatively imaginative, I’d sometimes take a book and a blanket to a nearby park and settle myself under a tree.

It was on one of these occasions that I heard and then noticed a plane far up in the sky and I imagined the people on board sitting in their tiny allocated spaces reading or sleeping or sitting silently occupied with their own thoughts, (this was before personal computers, I-pads or pods, and portable DVD-playing devices).

I couldn’t see them, but I knew they were there. And it was unsettling for me to see them moving through the sky like that so far up in the air.

The last time I boarded a plane to travel was like all the previous ones. I occupied myself with the minutiae of the moment. Where’s my boarding pass? Is my cell phone turned off? What do I need out of my carry-on before I stash it in the overhead bin?

Like robotrons, we all boarded the plane and settled ourselves in our tiny allocated spaces.

Do you think I could have sat on a plane thousands of feet above Mother earth being propelled through the sky at amazing speeds without breaking a sweat, not to mention having a nervous breakdown, if my mind was fully in the moment and intensely conscious of where I really was and what I was doing? Doubt it. Maybe you could, but I’m just not that trusting.

I don’t think about it.

I know a woman who refuses to fly.

I understand.

It’s the rest of us who are either crazy or masters of denial.

Flight to Kaua'i