Odds and ends OR how I kill 3 hours at CVG 

After hearing the horror stories about wait times at TSA checkpoints, I made sure to give myself plenty of time to get to airport in case I needed to spend 2 hours going through security. It wound up being closer to 2 minutes, and while I am not complaining about that, it means I have quite a bit of free time and little to do, so I might as well tie up some odds and ends with the travelogue and put a ribbon on this trip. Continue reading

A day in the Queen City 

I frequently write about how a good deal of the time I spend when I’m alone in a new city is just spent “wandering,” that I walk around, see what grabs my attention, maybe look for striking compositions of buildings 

like this here


and just keep moving until I find something that draws me in or my feet start to feel like they’re about to fall off. I didn’t have any trouble finding something to draw me in this time around, coming into my hotel, it was impossible not to notice the building poking over some trees that looked like an old-time radio, except this one is about 7-10 stories high: 


Turns out that used to be the Union Station (and Amtrak still uses a tiny corner of it for passenger rail), but the building is currently the home of three separate museums. And—sadly—they are all halfway into the process of clearing out in preparation for a two-year remodeling project, and for whatever reason, rather than moving one gallery out at a time, it seemed like individual pieces had been removed from all the galleries. 

The most striking exhibit (and one which was surprisingly hard to find) was a recreation of the public landing on the banks of the Ohio River in the 1840s or so. I mean, you turn a corner and there’s a paddle wheel steamship docked at the pier with half it’s cargo unloaded, and there’s the streets with storefronts for a printer’s shop, a dry goods store and an apothecary’s shop. And if I hadn’t been paying good attention to find the spot where the guide told me to “make a left turn before you go through that door,” I would have missed it completely.

[I did take some photos of the steamer, but the lighting was not good.]

I also discovered that there is a contemporary art museum downtown with free admission. They had several small but varied exhibits, not much to my personal taste, but at least the price was right.

That’s part of an exhibit of entire rooms, including furniture, power sockets and trinkets rendered in colorful gauzy textiles.


At the top floor was what they call the “Unmuseum” which I don’t know how to describe briefly. So rather than trying, I’m just going to show you this: 

Now, if my arms were longer or I had a selfie stick, you’d be able to see that’s a woman with the head of a shark sitting at a bus stop. I was trying to get a face to match those dark clouds over my head, but I don’t know how well I did.

Seeing Red…

Sunday, May 22, 2016–Reds 4, Mariners 5

As I cross the last ballpark off my list, I am glad to report that I chose the right ballpark to end my tour with. Cincinnati offers fans the opportunity to have a certificate printed—free of charge, no less—for a number of special events, such as a birthday or anniversary or attending your first Reds game. The list of events doesn’t include visiting every Major League team at home, but as I pointed out, this was my first Reds game, and the lady at the printer was happy to customize this little keepsake for me:


But I suppose you want to hear about the game. I know I shouldn’t be surprised to see something new, even after several dozen games. So, rather than simply rehashing all the action, I thought it would be fun to share all the things that happened today that I had never seen before in person.

Sea-Cin I saw an American League pitcher (in this case Mariners starter Wade Miley) get a hit, and that after two pitches spent looking like he was lost. I saw more than one occasion where the catcher threw the ball over the 3rd baseman’s head throwing it around the horn after a strikeout. Another thing I haven’t seen at the big league level is both starting pitchers getting base hits, because Cincinnati starter Alfredo Simon got one too. Or the ephus thrown for a strike (don’t know what that means? You could look it up). I also haven’t seen this much sun in any of the day games I’ve been to, so I fear my arms will be quite the appropriate color for the home team before too long.

Other game action to note, the Reds built up a 3 run lead in the 1st keyed by Brandon Phillips’s bases-loaded double, then padded the lead when Adam Duvall came just short of the second deck with his mammoth home run. But Seattle’s three-run rally in the fifth built on bunting, sacrifices and some clutch singles made the difference, as the bullpen kept Cincy quiet the rest of the way.

Adrift in Detroit 

I write from my hotel room in Cincinnati after a long and not particularly comfortable bus ride. I didn’t get to say half the things I wanted to say about my day and Detroit yesterday, and I still won’t get to half of them, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try. I guess I caught a one-day window in an otherwise dreary weather week, here’s what it looked like:


As frequently happens when I am left to my own devices, I found myself walking along some body of water. Back home it’s usually an irrigation ditch, but yesterday it was the Detroit River, where I found a very nicely maintained riverwalk trail complete with public art, parks and even one of these things:


I even wandered into a unique bit of street theatre by Renascence Center: 


The story here is that apparently the LAPD challenged Detroit Police to do a video of their officers to do a “running man” dance… for reasons that were not made particularly clear. So, there were several equestrian units, a SWAT team and two classes of new recruits all participating.

From there, I went to the Detroit Institue of Arts, which was a refreshing change from many art museums I’ve been to. I guess the best way to put it would be to say that usually I run out of patience with an exhibit, where I either am presented with absolutely no context for the artwork or else am drowned in information. At DIA, I didn’t run out of patience, I simply ran out of time. 

Close to the action 

Friday, May 20, 2016–Tigers 5, Rays 7

Is it possible to be too close to the field? I would say that you definitely can. I’m not used to tickets 10 rows from shallow left field being within my price range, but it happened this time, so I figured, why not? Well, I had a good view of the singing hawker’s rear end on the second-inning balk that have the Tigers their first run, I was letting some of my neighbors back to their seats when Kevin Kiermaier hit a bases-clearing triple to put the Rays back up by 3 in the sixth. And then on top of that, the angle I’ve got doesn’t really let me see things like how the infielders are positioned and other details like that.

TB-DetThat’s not to say that there hasn’t been plenty to see, though. To begin with, it’s Polish-American day at the ballpark, which is really a big deal here. They had about 300 dancers in traditional costumes performing. The kids right in front of me were about four or five so they weren’t dancing as much as you might call it choreographed falling. And the stream of passersby abated so I was able to see some baseball, including Miguel Cabrera’s two monumental home runs.

In all, this turned out to be a very entertaining game, in which the outcome was in doubt until the final pitch, but you wouldn’t have thought so from the way Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez was struggling in the first. Steven Souza hit the second pitch of the game about 375 feet and two more runs came in before the Tigers came to bat for the first time.

As I mentioned, Detroit clawed back to tie it, but the three runs Tampa Bay picked up in the sixth did wind up being the decisive factor. Still, when two batters reached in the bottom of the ninth, the fans began standing in hopes their team would come roaring back. That hope ended with Victor Martinez’s grounder to short.

Layover Blues…

I write from Houston, where I am midway on my way to the trip to cross the last two ballparks off my list: Detroit and Cincinnati. I’m sure once I’m actually on my way or on the ground, I’ll be more excited than I am now. I will have been to every Major League ballpark. It’s something I have been wanting to do and working towards for the better part of fourteen years now. 

But right now, what I find myself thinking right now is that flying itself is a lot like work. Or, at least I come away from a flight (or a long layover, or the line to the check-in counter or the line to security or the line to board the bloody plane) leaves me as drained as work does but without any of the feeling that I actually accomplished something. So, today I had to be up and at the airport earlier than when I ordinary have to be at work, and I wouldn’t have touched down in Detroit until very nearly the time I would be leaving the office. 

And that’s on a good travel day. Between mechanical problems on the plane from Albuquerque and a slew of delays caused by bad weather in Houston, I’ll be lucky if I get into my room before midnight. So, hopefully there will be exciting discoveries, good baseball and happy blogging on this trip, but it looks like that’s going to have to wait for the morrow.

In the cards 

I’m blogging from a Lobo baseball game. As usual, I’ve got my scorecard. But I am finding my attitude towards them are changing. I used to get real involved in wanting to make sure my cards accurately reflected what happened in the game, to the point of wanting to go online after a game was over and looking up the play- by- play and all the roster moves and everything. But I’ve decided because all that stuff is already being stored a hundred fifty million places online. So I still enjoy the exercise of completing a scorecard, the way it makes you more aware of patterns during the game and then how it enhances memory of remarkable plays after the game is over.

But what if I miss a play? I won’t know if a run is earned or not. I won’t know how many at-bats a player has. In short, I won’t be able to fill out all the player stats on the edges of the card. And this year, I don’t care. I just want to watch a baseball game.

Learning to spell

I’ve been having a hell of a time getting the knack of how to spell the name of the city of Cincinnati. I’m trying to get it down so that I can type it without the dreaded red squiggly lines popping up. I got the first part down, it would be like a Can-Can but with “i” instead of “a,” but the second part is giving me more difficulty. I keep wanting to put one “n” and two “t”s.  I’m sure the folks who grew up there have absolutely no problem with it. In fact, they’d probably need some spell-check assistance if they needed to write out my home town of Albuquerque.

Perhaps you’re wondering why this has become such a pressing concern of mine, to want to be able to spell the word “Cincinnati” correctly. As though I expected to be writing it a lot in the coming months. Almost as though I felt like I was going to be going there soon, in fact…

Back home—a little late

Yes, I know I’m a little late getting to this post. As I was preparing to leave, I was told by some of my co-workers that I might just decide to stay in Toronto and never come back. If you’ve been following my process solely through this blog, I certainly can’t blame you if you’re beginning to speculate that this is what happened. Well, I did, in fact, go home the day following the Blue Jays game and returned to the grind of the work-a-day life the day after that. There are a number of reasons I have not written to put a finishing touch on this trip. The most mundane and obvious being that I’ve been busy having returned to a job that is not physically taxing but emotionally and creatively draining.

But it’s something more than that. After returning from a foreign country, it seems to be expected that I say something really insightful about the differences; either in the people, the landscapes, the food, the culture, whatever. That’s what’s been eluding me. I don’t want to say that there’s nothing different between Canadians and Americans—it’s just been very hard to find any sort of broad-brush generalizations, and while I was certainly perceiving that there were subtle differences, it’s been very hard to find the words to articulate exactly what it was I was noticing. Yes, I did meet a few people who ended practically every sentence with “eh?” but quite a few more who didn’t. Canada has big cities separated by vast swatches of big, empty country. There’s a lot going on in Toronto, and a lot to do, but I don’t feel rushed the way I would in a comparably sized city in America. These are the things I tell people when they ask about my trip, and they work perfectly fine to occupy the time in the elevator to get to the 6th floor, but they hardly make compelling writing, and that’s why this post is—most apologetically—tardy.

Maybe I need more time to reflect on it. Or maybe I just need to go back, eh?

For the Birds…

Friday, September 4, 2015–Blue Jays 2, Orioles 10

So, you probably wouldn’t think this would be a very good game from the score, but scores can be misleading. This was a very tight and entertaining game until things unravled late for the Jays. The Orioles had an early 2-0 lead and Toronto had pecked away on some well-executed small ball to tie it in the bottom of the fifth. When Chris Davis hit a mammoth 2-run homer in the 6th, the game still seemed in hand. But then Matt Wieters hit a ball deep to the warning track in left. It seemed Ben Revere had a good bead on it, but the ball bounced off his glove and over the wall for another homer to make the score 5-2, and things just got more out of hand after that.

28_TorontoBut the real story for me is that I don’t think Blue Jays fans get enough credit. I mean, you never hear Toronto mentioned when American sportscasters talk about the places that have the loudest or most knowledgeable fans. The Jays put up a little bit of a fight with two out in the ninth inning. Two outs and down by two grand slams, the odds of winning are still very low. At a similar game in Boston—one where the home team let a close game get away from them late—Fenway was empty by the time the final out was recorded. When Troy Tulowitzki struck out to end tonight’s game, about two thirds of the fans were still there, still urging their team on, and still involved in all the action on the field (there was even an amused reaction when somebody threw a paper airplane from the second deck which somehow managed to make it almost to the pitcher’s mound).

Meanwhile, I had the great pleasure of speaking with (or, more precisely, shouting over the loudspeaker at) my neighbor Laura who is visiting from Pittsburgh and would like to do an every-ballpark-in-the-majors trip of her own in a couple years. We got to talking about keeping score—a pastime we both enjoy—as well as comparing notes on ballparks we’ve both been to. It was a lot of fun to be able to have the kinds of discussions I just can’t have with people who don’t keep score, such as whether a run should be earned or unearned, or “have you noticed that every one of Jimenez’s strikeouts was looking?” However, there was one moment of irony about that… Wieters grounded out to end the top of the eighth, but because I was showing Laura my custom-designed scorecards, we both missed the play and don’t know how to score it. Oh well.

Here is that scorecard we were making such a fuss over…