Whoever Knew There Were so Many Guys Named Gus?

For much of the past five years or so Thursday nights have been bowling night for me.

I have tried other sports through the years and despite the lasting sting of being cut from my high school bowling team as a freshmen bowling seems to be the one that stuck and was also the one I went back to after each of my stints attempting other sports.

The epic struggle of man and woman versus pins takes place daily at bowling alleys across the world. Photo R. Anderson

The epic struggle of man and woman versus pins takes place daily at bowling alleys across the world.
Photo R. Anderson

My first foray into team sports was a couple of seasons on the Gaithersburg, MD Recreation League soccer circuit. I enjoyed the strategy of the game and the cat and mouse dynamic between the goalie and the strikers trying to score.

Okay, to be honest I was like 4 or 5 when I played soccer and I basically just remember the half time orange wedges.

I also remember that in two years of playing the only time my team scored a victory was on Father’s Day when the other team forfeited.  Over three decades later that forfeit still reigns as my crowning achievement on the pitch.

Several years of playing Tee Ball, Pony baseball and Little League taught me two things. The first thing was how to order a suicide at the concession stand with a mouth full of Bubbalicious.  For those unfamiliar with a “suicide” it is basically all of the sodas at the concession stand mixed into a single cup. Depending on who is making them they can be either really tasty or really nasty.

The second thing that I learned from playing baseball was that I was a much better fan of the sport than an athlete. Don’t get me wrong I could get on base with the best of them but the lack of batters who could reach my position deep in the outfield led me to have a wandering mind and bouts of boredom out in the well maintained grass of left field.

My next jump into organized sports was a season in high school on the YMCA basketball league circuit.  My team finished in second place in the standings that season and was the closet I ever game to hoisting a champion’s trophy up to that point.

While my competitive basketball career only lasted a single season, I had a basketball goal in my parent’s driveway and was quite the street baller. I could also play a mean game of horse and was money from “downtown.”

I also enjoyed playing tennis and was quite good at it but as the summer heat wore on and my body grew wider it became clear that a life out in the sun playing a sport that could go on without end under the right circumstances was not for me.

I last put the rackets down in my senior year of college after other things competed for my attention. I do still miss playing tennis and hope to pick up my racket again at some point.

A few years back I even played a couple of seasons of kickball. Yes boys and girls adults have turned the recess classic kickball into a high stakes winner take all ultra-competitive battle royal.  After my second season of playing I realized that people were taking it far too seriously and I got tired of always popping up to the third baseman so my kickball career came to a close.

As is the case with many former athletes, I moved from the field of play to the press box and made quite the career covering sports that I had played as well as those that I had never played. I was even very good at working in sports information and feeding stats, and on game nights pizza, to the various reporters covering the colleges where I worked.

So a lack of herculean athletic ability certainly didn’t hold me back from reaching many of my goals in the field of sports.

So this brings us back to bowling, the sport that has been there through all of the others. Even chicken pox couldn’t stop me from heading to the lane on my youth day.  I once almost choked on a hot dog during a birthday party at the bowling alley and that didn’t dampen my spirits for the sport.

Some days the pins when and some days the bowler does.  Photo R. Anderson

Some days the pins win and some days the bowler does.
Photo R. Anderson

Bowling is a game of strategy and finesse for some people.

For me bowling is a game of throwing the ball as hard and fast as I can and watching the pins go boom.

Bowling is also a sport held in air conditioned comfort where it is okay to take a break and have a burger and a Dr. Pepper during the course of play.

Just don’t try to hold the burger in one hand and the ball in the other. While I have never tried that it just seems like that would get messy.

During a feud with our regular league my team decided to try bowling at one of those family funplex type centers that includes laser tag, video games and a couple of lanes for bowling. Make no mistake about it these facilities do not tend to maintain the lanes to the same competitive standards as a regular bowling only facility would.

One thing that they do have though is a radar gun on the lane that allows people to see how fast they throw the ball down the lane.  On average my speed was around 23 miles per hour while the rest of my team topped out at 14 mph.  Try as I might I could never crack my Holy Grail goal of 25 miles per hour though.

So while bowling in a league for 5 straight years doesn’t necessarily make me an athlete it does keep me active and allows me the stress relief that comes along with hurling a ball at some little pins as hard as possible. I could be wrong but I could swear that I see the pins shake a little when I step up to the line.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a sudden urge to watch The Big Lebowski for some reason.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Road Trip Ponderings from Bed Better Than Matlock Reruns

About this time last week, depending on when you are reading this, I was sick in bed.

Considering that I am fortunate to not get sick that often, and also that on those times when I am sick it really involves being bed bound, this indeed was quite a rare occurrence.

Don’t get me wrong I enjoy the personal wellness day as much as the next guy but when I am using “sick time” and am actually sick it is a totally different story and far from as fun.

Fueled by saltines and chicken stock I used my idle time well during a recent illness. Photo R. Anderson

Fueled by saltines and chicken stock I used my idle time well during a recent illness.
Photo R. Anderson

On my sickest day, I spent much of the day in bed sleeping, eating saltine crackers, drinking massive amounts of Gatorade  and sipping chicken broth. During my rare waking hours that did not involve eating and drinking the aforementioned items I tried to watch television.

Now, I have a very nice cable package that gives me far more channels than I could possibly watch in a lifetime let alone a day yet despite this fact I found the choices for things to watch very slim.

Of course the television in my bedroom does not have the same channel selections as the television in my living room but it was not worth trading my horizontal position in bed with one on a couch so that I could have a few more channels to choose from.

So with only so many episodes of In the Heat of the Night and Matlock that one could watch I found myself needing to find other ways to pass the time.  I of course could have found a book to read but I had just finished a book on the role Galveston, TX played in the Civil War and had not decided what my next book to read should be. And picking a book while sick is not the wisest of choices since what I feel like reading sick might not be the same thing that I want to read while well.

Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, TX is a place I can go again and again. Photo R. Anderson

Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, TX is a place I can go again and again.
Photo R. Anderson

So with television and books failing me my thoughts quite literally began to wander. And these were not fever induced mind wanderings they were more wanderings out of boredom.

While I am sure there are many people who could happily lay in bed all day I am just not wired that way. About halfway through the day I began to get antsy and wanting to not be trapped inside. Of course I did not really know what I would do if I were to go outside but the very fact that I could not go outside was enough to give me that cooped-in feeling.

So with only my mind to entertain me, and less than a week removed from a vacation I did what any normal person would do, I started thinking of ideas for additional vacations.

In particular I thought of baseball ballparks to add to my bucket list to go see and some of my favorite past ballparks that need one of my annual visits. In no particular order the following ballparks were considered with four ballparks that I have never seen and want to and four ballparks that I just can’t seem to see enough.

Let’s start with the four ballparks that are worth visiting again and again.

Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco TX is the home of the Frisco Roughriders, the Double-A affiliate for the Texas Rangers.  The Ballpark includes a swimming pool among other amenities and is the only ballpark to include seats on all sides of the bullpens to give fans a truly unique experience. At just over four hours away it is also one of the closest affiliated Minor League ballparks I can get to.  As it gets very warm in the Dallas area in the summer it is a Ballpark best visited prior to the end of July.

Bayfront Stadium in Pensacola, FL. is another one of the ballparks I just can't get enough of. Photo R. Anderson

Bayfront Stadium in Pensacola, FL. is another one of the ballparks I just can’t get enough of.
Photo R. Anderson

Bayfront Stadium in Pensacola, FL. is the home of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, the Double-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.  The Ballpark sits overlooking the water and combines great views and competitive Southern League action. Of course the proximity to the beaches of Pensacola does not hurt when it comes to making the eight hour drive east.

Lest I leave out the Major League ballparks, Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL, home of the Tampa Bay Rays is truly a fun Ballpark to visit. I know it continues to get a bad wrap due to perceived issues related to its age but when it is 97 degrees outside and 72 degrees inside where the game is being played it is hard to beat. Of course when not watching the game action one can visit the Stingray touch tank in center field as well as the Ted Williams Museum. And did I mention that all of this can be accomplished with it dry and cool?

It has a roof to keep out the rain. It has ice cold AC to set you free. It has a ray feeding tank and the Ted Williams Museum. What Tropicana Field lacks is respect from the wider baseball community who seem set on tearing it down. Photo R. Anderson

It has a roof to keep out the rain. It has ice cold A/C to set you free. It has a ray feeding tank and the Ted Williams Museum. What Tropicana Field lacks is respect from the wider baseball community who seem set on tearing it down.
Photo R. Anderson

And of course one needs to include the hometown ballpark Minute Maid Park. Home to the Astros and the place that I have seen the most regular season games it is also an oasis from the heat and rain like Tropicana Field. It also includes a train above the outfield and a flagpole within fair territory. It is years away from a consistently competitive home team but the Ballpark cannot be blamed for that.

So that concludes our look at four ballparks I enjoy seeing again and again. Now let’s look at four Ballparks that I just haven’t made it to yet but can’t wait to see.

As mentioned a week or two ago I love the movie Bull Durham so it makes sense that I would want to take a trip to see the Durham Bulls play at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Sadly the Bulls no longer play in the historic Ballpark featured in the movie but it would still be nice to see a game  there and drive by the old Ballpark as well.

The Washington Nationals’ Double-A affiliate the Harrisburg Senators play at Metro Bank Park in Harrisburg, PA. Metro Bank Park is located on an island. Not a large island like say Oahu but an island that is basically large enough for the Ballpark and some parking. Once I learned of this Ballpark a few years back it quickly rose to the top five that I wanted to see. I mean think about it, an island just big enough for a Ballpark. It doesn’t get much more unusual than that.

Minute Maid Park has a train that blows its whistle whenever the Astros hit a home run. The train has not made much noise the past few years but is still better to look at than the eyesore billboards in center field. Photo R. Anderson

Minute Maid Park has a train that blows its whistle whenever the Astros hit a home run. The train has not made much noise the past few years but is still better to look at than the eyesore billboards in center field.
Photo R. Anderson

Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, MD is the Ballpark most credited with ushering in a return to the era of baseball-only Ballparks. Even if it were not home to my beloved Baltimore Orioles I would still want to see a game there just for the fact of all that it inspired. The fact that it is home to the Baltimore Orioles certainly adds an extra degree of wanting to see it though.

Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Watching baseball in another country. Need I say more?

So those were some Ballparks that my weakened self thought of seeing during my recent illness. Now I just need to flesh out the plans to see them again and in some case for the first time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to replenish my supply of soup and other supplies in preparation for my next illness and also get some road trip supplies just in case the urge to catch a game strikes.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Speech is Protected, Reactions to Speech are Not

Recently it was announced that the Food Network was cutting ties with personality Paula Deen in response to a deposition she gave where she admitted to using a certain word in the past.

The word in question was uttered several decades ago, yet the fallout was swift in the part of the Food Network despite Deen stating that she no longer uses the word and has not since it was deemed offensive.

Lost in the debate is the fact that the word is still widely used without any penalties on one side of the tracks yet it is considered career suicide to use it on the other.

Vocabulary needs to be either for all or for none. There cannot be words that only certain members of society can freely use and others cannot.

Dictionaries like this one do not include sections limiting words to people who look a certain way and neither should society. Photo R. Anderson

Dictionaries like this one do not include sections limiting words to people who look a certain way and neither should society.
Photo R. Anderson

In terms of this particular word I personally think that it should not be used at all due to the offensive nature of it. To say that a word is only offensive when uttered by people who look a certain way does not work.

As a journalist I am a huge fan of the First Amendment and related freedom of speech clause contained therein. Without that freedom the job of the press would be greatly impacted. But of course that freedom does not encompass all language and does not mean a freedom from reaction to the words spoken. We have the freedom to say things but others have the freedom to react either favorably or negatively to what is said with that freedom.

Following the announcement of Deen losing her Food Network position, countless fans have rallied to her side and protested the decision.  This is in stark contrast to the reaction that the Dixie Chicks received when they criticized the president a few years back.

While not an apples to apples comparison one could argue that many of the fans of Paula Deen could in theory also be fans of the Dixie Chicks prior to their ill received comments.

So why the difference in reaction to the two statements?

It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that the Dixie Chicks were given the response they were based on a respect for the president and the believe that no one should criticize the man or the office.

In Deen’s case one could say that many of the people now supporting her use the word in question as well so it must be just Southerners sticking up for Southerners.  That would be a very dangerous assumption to make however.

Like Paula Deen the Dixie Chicks faced fallout for something they said. Photo R. Anderson

Like Paula Deen the Dixie Chicks faced fallout for something they said.
Photo R. Anderson

While it is true that the word that Deen used is still uttered by people of all races in southern towns, it is foolish to think that the reason for her support is because people who use that word are sticking up for their own kind.

By Deen’s own admission she says has not used the word for years and knows it is offensive. That to me does not sound like someone who has it as part of their daily vocabulary.

When I would travel to southern Georgia to visit my grandmother I would hear the word quite frequently so I know it is part of the culture of the south.

Some using it know that it is offensive yet continue to say it nonetheless. Others have used the word their whole lives and probably have no idea that it is determined to be offensive.

The bigger issue is what words that are used today will be deemed offensive in 40 years and will people still be held accountable for saying them.  For example let us for the sake of argument pick the word “flounder.”

Flounder is a very safe word today. It is a yummy fish. Who doesn’t love the tasty fish either fried or blackened?

But let’s say that someone years from now determines that flounder is offensive to the fish. So a new word is developed since flounder is deemed to be offensive and not to be used. Instead flounder is now called royal sea fish.

But let us also say in our absurd illustration here that fish mongers and others who work in the seafood industry are still allowed to say flounder while the rest of us are told to only call it royal sea fish.

Does that mean that 40 years from now if someone reads this column and sees that I like to eat flounder instead of royal sea fish that I will be run out of town?

Granted this is a very extreme illustration but the point is the speech trends in a culture shift and what is okay to say at one time can become offensive or vice versa.

For examples of this one need only watch television to hear words that would not have been on the air a few years back suddenly become commonplace on both network and cable television.  Words that years ago would have drawn huge fines from the Federal Communications Commission are now heard nightly without fear of fines.

So, should one really be held accountable for words spoken decades ago or should we instead look at what they have done since then and consider the actions of the whole person instead of who they once were?

In the same way I have always felt that criminals who complete their prison terms should automatically have all of their rights restored upon their release. If a term of prison is X amount of years and they serve that, then they have paid their debt to society as determined by the jury of their peers and related judge.

To continue to force them to register as felons only limits their ability to find adequate honest work and makes it more tempting for them to revert to a life of crime again.

Just like many other embattled public figures before her I have no doubt that Paula Deen will land on her feet and that people will still flock to her restaurant, buy her cookbooks, and use her cooking gear and related other merchandise. But the case does evoke disturbing divides regarding vocabulary that need to be addressed if we as a society are ever to truly move forward.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a craving for something made with two sticks of butter.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Fire Represents Life on Survivor and Food on the Beach

About this time last week I was able to do something that I had never done before.

It was not that I had never wanted to do this particular thing. In fact I had often thought about how fun it would be to try.

Still despite my best efforts and desires I had never found myself with the opportunity to grill my own dinner.

Of course I have cooked my own dinner numerous times and actually enjoy coming up with new creations but the pivotal manly event of cooking over either a propane or charcoal grill with visible flames had eluded me.

Early attempts at fire starting proved difficult to say the least. Photo R. Anderson

Early attempts at fire starting proved difficult to say the least.
Photo R. Anderson

I mean some people would say that guys are born to grill from the womb with generations of instincts rattling around through them dating back to the first fire discovering cave men.

Others might think that a man of my age who had never actually harnessed those generations of innate fire cooking skills is not really living up to their full manly potential.

It is hard to say how it is that I got so far in life without ever being head griller. There were just always others around who would do the cooking.

And of course apartment living did not always make for the best open flame situations so I did get to be quite good at George Foreman Grill cooking.

In the spirit of full disclosure I had cooked over an open flame before with Smores and campfire hot dogs but I am talking about never firing up the grill and having an honest to goodness All American barbecue where it is man versus grill.

Of course as is often the case one needs to be careful what they wish for.

While burgers, steaks and other red meat delights tend to be the go to carnivorous treats for cooking over open flame, my grilling debut experience included jumbo shrimp and fish fillets.

As they say about what to do when in Rome, it seemed more fitting for seafood grilling when overlooking a pool and hearing the sounds of the waves of the Gulf of Mexico.

Knowing that the shrimp were likely so fresh that they were still swimming and doing what shrimp do a day ago was also a bonus to the entree choice.

Through trial and errors, and the right charcoal, fire finally arrived. Photo R. Anderson

Through trial and errors, and the right charcoal, fire finally arrived.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course, fresh seafood can be way less forgiving on a grill than say a huge hunk of meat.

So I knew that my seafood would require constant supervision and a keen eye to avoid it getting too rubbery or over cooked.

What I did not know was how difficult it would be to get the all-important cooking flame going at the start of the process.

While I had witnessed many a time on the grill this was my first attempt at actually starting the fire making process.

So armed with charcoal and an Aim in Flame I went down to the grill to get the fire started.

Now in my mind I pictured a quick shot of the Aim in Flame followed by glorious full spreading fire that would be the start of the process.

I have never had much luck with using paper matches. Not sure why that is but they always seem to give me fits. So with the Aim in Flame I knew the spark to start the fire would likely not be an issue.

Unfortunately the charcoal I had to work with was the non-presoaked kind so it involved lighter fluid as well as spark.

After numerous attempts to get the full range of charcoal burning and applying copious amounts of lighter fluid I just could not get the full glorious flame that I had seen in my previous observations of grilling.

Fish on the grill waiting for the shrimp to join it. Photo R. Anderson

Fish on the grill waiting for the shrimp to join it.
Photo R. Anderson

After switching to presoaked charcoal though I was able to get the flame going and was one step closer to putting the food on the cooking surface.

Once the charcoal turned a lovely shade of gray it was time to foil up the cooking surface and place the Old Bay seasoned food upon it.

Just for the record Old Bay goes great on pretty much everything.

Of course I forgot another crucial step in the cooking delicate seafood on foil approach and that was the use of non-stick cooking spray.

Growing up I did not see a lot of non-stick cooking spray used so it did not really dawn on me that things could stick.

So, some of the seafood stuck to the foil and some of it did not.

Then when it came time to flip the items over for even cooking it became clear to me that I was missing the crucial grilling tongs and other utensils that are often found where grilling is taking place.

So instead of longer tongs with insulated handles I was forced to use regular all metal kitchen tongs which had me closer to the fire than I would have liked.  Also since the tongs were completely metal they tended to get really hot while I was trying free the stuck fish from the foil’s grasp to flip it.

Still, despite the various challenges I was able to cook the fish and seafood for just the right amount of time and had a lovely dinner that was grilled to perfection.

Once I finished the dinner I will admit to having a Tim Allen Tool Time moment where I may or may not have let out a vocal manly grunt to commemorate my success.

So I am sure that I will grill again and grill often now that I have discovered how easy it can be. Of course the right charcoal and non-stick surfaces don’t hurt in making it easier.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to find something else to cook over fire.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

 

Decades Later I Finally Explore Mote

Sarasota, Florida is home to many fine institutions.  It is home to among other things the Ringling Museum, The Baltimore Orioles Spring Training Facility and Mote Marine Laboratory Aquarium.

Mote Marine Laboratory Aquarium in Sarasota, FL. is well worth visiting. Photo R. Anderson

Mote Marine Laboratory Aquarium in Sarasota, FL. is well worth visiting.
Photo R. Anderson

After decades of trying I can now cross off the second of the items on my things to do whilst in Sarasota wish list as I finally took the plunge and explored Mote Aquarium. Perhaps next time I am there I will tackle the Ringling experience in addition to another trip to the Orioles Spring Training stadium.

As mentioned before my grandparents lived in the Bradenton/Sarasota area for about three decades so visits to that part of Florida were quite frequent when I was growing up.

Still, despite that frequency of visitation it wasn’t until last week, after the grandparents were no longer there, that I was able to see the great little aquarium that they were always talking about taking me to.

That is not to say that visits with the grandparents weren’t full of other fun activities, it is just that to build up the excitement of an aquarium year after year without delivering on the visit can be a little upsetting for a small child. Of course as mentioned before I maintained my own home aquarium with items my grandparents and I caught in the Gulf so I guess in a way I had my own mini Mote.

A sting ray makes the rounds at Mote Aquarium. Photo R. Anderson

A sting ray makes the rounds at Mote Aquarium.
Photo R. Anderson

But in terms of promising to take me to the real Mote the exchange usually went something along the lines of, “look Ryan there is Mote Aquarium. We will take you there sometime.”

Of course that statement was usually uttered as we were driving to Big Olaf’s in St. Armand’s Circle to get ice cream so my mind soon switched from seeing swimming fish to eating a homemade waffle cone and pistachio ice cream.

Still, on my recent trip back to the coast of my grandparents I was able to see the swimming fish and have my Big Olaf’s ice cream, too.

Mote Aquarium is relatively small by aquarium standards but it is just the right size for a quick day trip to see what lies beneath the surface of the waters of Florida.

Sea turtles like this one are one of several endangered and threatened species that can be seen at Mote Aquarium. Photo R. Anderson

Sea turtles like this one are one of several endangered and threatened species that can be seen at Mote Aquarium.
Photo R. Anderson

Mote is also an active research facility and has made great breakthroughs in marine biology and species preservation. And through the aquarium they raise awareness and funds to continue that work.

Sea World to the north also does things for marine animal rehabilitation but few can argue that Sea World is about entertaining guests first and research second. The roller coaster free Mote seems to have the priorities in the right order.

Both institutions, and many others like them, serve a great need in marine preservation and the men and women dedicated to marine biology are to be commended for their work in protecting the undersea world and helping to ensure that it can be enjoyed for generations to come..

Mote allows visitors to see several species of fish as well as sea turtles and manatees. There is even a shark tank to allow visitors to watch the feeding of the predator of the deep.

Mote is home to a pair of manatees named Hugh and Buffet. Photo R. Anderson

Mote is home to a pair of manatees named Hugh and Buffet.
Photo R. Anderson

The manatee exhibit was my favorite part of the day. I have been a fan of manatees for about as long as I can remember. I even had a “Save the Manatee” license plate for years when I lived in Florida.

I have seen manatees in the wild before and I have seen them swimming in captivity but this was the first time I was able to see them swim from below.

Watching the graceful rolling and playfulness of these gentle creatures reminded me once more of the need to protect them as much as possible from the damage done by boat propellers and other factors that are leading to a decline in their numbers.

Watching them swim also made me think that those early sailors who mistook them for mermaids must really have been out in the sun too long.

Mote manatee Buffet and sea turtle pal go for a swim at Mote Aquarium. Photo R. Anderson

Mote manatee Buffet and sea turtle pal go for a swim at Mote Aquarium.
Photo R. Anderson

The aquarium also taught me that the Mollies that I had in my own home aquariums for years were actually native to some Florida waters.

I am not sure how I never knew that. I really thought guppies were the only aquarium fish found in the wild waters near my old stomping grounds.

So I guess it is true that one really does learn something new every day.

After leaving the aquarium it was time for a seafood dinner. I do not believe that the aquarium inspired the need to eat fish as I do not recall looking into the various tanks and saying, “Hmm that will be tasty later with some butter and Old Bay Seasoning on it.” But there is definitely a lot of fresh seafood to be found along the coast of Florida.

Of course not everything you find under the sea is cute and cuddly like Nemo. Photo R. Anderson

Of course not everything you find under the sea is cute and cuddly like Nemo.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course time will tell if the seafood remains as abundant in the years to come as the affects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are probably decades away from being fully realized.

I am hopefully optimistic that the seafood will remain as fresh and abundant in the decades to come as it is today.

Although my visit to Mote was decades in the making it was certainly worth the trip. If you do ever find yourself in Sarasota I highly recommend stopping in to see the various creatures of the sea.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have a hankering for some homemade ice cream for some reason.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Sunrise, Sunset

Each day just like clockwork the sun rises and the sun sets.

Okay, technically the sun stays in the same spot and the earth just rotates around on its axis to give the appearance of setting and rising but it is nice to think of a rising and a setting sun as opposed to a spinning wildly earth whipping through the solar system.

Sunset off of Bradenton Beach, FL.  Photo R. Anderson

Sunset off of Bradenton Beach, FL.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course saying that the earth moved around the sun as opposed to the other way around was once cause for severe punishment as it went against the commonly held beliefs of the day.

But thanks to people like Copernicus it was finally determined that we earthlings are in fact moving through space across the solar system dragging our little buddy the moon around the sun.

There were of course the believers in a flat versus round earth as well but those theories were also debunked through science and exploration.

The sun standing still while the earth moves up to greet it. Photo R. Anderson

The sun standing still while the earth moves up to greet it.
Photo R. Anderson

Despite this lack of actual rising and setting of the sun, people tend to flock around to see the beginning and end of each day.

To help make that even easier to do the weather forecast each day includes a listing of a time for both sunrise and sunset.

Of course the listing of sunrise and sunset times tend to be geared more towards farmers and people who need to know how many hours of daylight they have to tend their field, but you don’t have to be a farmer to appreciate knowing when the sunrise and sunset will occur.

More setting sun. Photo R. Anderson

More setting sun as the tip appears to touch the water.
Photo R. Anderson

Truth be told I have seen way more sunsets than sunrises over the course of my life.

If memory serves I have actually seen sunsets on three continents and a few island nations here and there.

I have nothing against sunrises per se, it is just that I am usually either asleep or in the shower when the sun is doing its morning light show each day.

Of course, there are people who are the opposite and for them I do feel their pain for rising so early to be up before the sun.

On the days when I do see a sunrise it is certainly worth seeing but I certainly wouldn’t want to make a habit of it.

Sunsets on the other end are quite a different thing and during the spring and summer months I see the sunset daily on my way home as my commute has me pointed west each evening.

Getting lower still. Or is it the earth getting higher? Photo R. Anderson

Getting lower still. Or is it the earth getting higher?
Photo R. Anderson

Of course nothing quite compares to a sunset on the beach and during a recent week on the beaches of Manatee County, FL I was able to see many nice sunsets over the water.

And, take it from me sunsets are best observed over water if one has the option of where to view them.

I knew that there were people who enjoyed watching sunsets over water as I do and I have been on enough beaches through the years to see the people gathered, but my recent week on the water showed a sunset watching club like I had never seen before.

After spending the day battling the rays of the sun under the cover of sunscreen and umbrellas dozens upon dozens of people strolled to the waterline each night to watch the sun fall beneath the water.

The sun sinking further under the waves. Photo R. Anderson

The sun sinking further under the waves.
Photo R. Anderson

Some of these sunset worshipers bore the telltale pinkness of losing that day’s battle with the sun as they ventured to the shore for the evening viewing.

Perhaps it was sunscreen that wore off, or maybe it was from no sunscreen at all but the signs of what the sun can do to unprotected skin were everywhere along the shore.

The image of the beauty of the sunset paired up with the vicious burn and scent of aloe was quite the combination. It was almost a game of sun roulette with those not yet burned taunting the sun to try and get them another day.

Despite my best efforts of remaining free of the redness of the sun I bore two small marks on my arms from the sun’s rays pushing beyond the sunscreen barrier. The burns will heal and will likely not peel but they certainly do not take away from the beauty of the sunset.

The last bits of sun on a Florida day. Photo R. Anderson

The last bits of sun on a Florida day.
Photo R. Anderson

As the sun is setting the shore comes alive with various creatures of the deep coming to feed. It can also be a good time to look for seashells and also just to unwind from the day and get refreshed for the day to come.

So if you ever find yourself on a western facing beach around sunset by all means take in the show and watch the parade of people watching it along with you.

And of course if you are ever on an eastern facing beach and get the urge to watch a sunrise they are equally impressive.

And for all of those late sleepers and snooze button hitters out there who want to see a sunrise without actually getting up in the predawn hours you can always just take a video of a sunset and then play it backwards to get the full sunrise affect.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have a sunset to catch.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Hit the Bull, Win a Steak

Tomorrow marks the 25th anniversary of the release of a movie about the ins and outs of Minor League Baseball.

The movie that is causing all of the hoopla is of course Bull Durham, or as I like to call it the base of the Kevin Costner baseball movie triangle that also includes Field of Dreams and For Love of the Game. While Bull Durham enjoyed modest success during its theatrical run, it gained wider popularity in the years following to the point that celebrating the quarter century mark since it was released is kind of a big deal.

Tomorrow marks the 25th Anniversary of Bull Durham and people have been quoting lines from it ever since. Photo R. Anderson

Tomorrow marks the 25th Anniversary of Bull Durham and people have been quoting lines from it ever since.
Photo R. Anderson

While each of the sides of the Kevin Costner Baseball Triangle are good in their own ways I have always identified more with the comedy infused Durham.

I still watch both Bull Durham and Field of Dreams each year at the start of the baseball season and both still make me laugh and cry in various ways so many years later.

I suppose Bull Durham resonates with me so well because while I was never a Minor League Baseball player I was very much a Minor League Baseball fan and was attending games around the same time that the movie came out.

So the movie showed me the parts of Minor League life that I didn’t see from my view in the stands.

The movie also provided several concepts that I use even today as part of my daily life.

The concept of creating your own rain delay when the grind gets to tough and you just need a day to catch your breath is a theme that I have embraced from the movie.  While I have never turned on the sprinklers in the office I have certainly found ways to give everyone a rain day here and there.

The movie also provided many timeless quotes with some of them being appropriate for repeating and some best left to the professionals.

In that respect, the current members of the Durham Bulls, the real-life team that inspired the team in the movie, made a hilarious video reenacting some of the crazier lines from the film. What makes the video of the players recreating the lines so funny, and perhaps makes the rest of us feel a little old, is the fact that many of the players were not alive when the movie first came out.

There is something for everyone in the Kevin Costner Baseball Triangle.  Photo R. Anderson

There is something for everyone in the Kevin Costner Baseball Triangle.
Photo R. Anderson

Another interesting aspect of the real life Durham Bulls is that they serve as the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays who were 10 years away from existing at the time of the film’s release. As a bit of trivia the Bulls were a Single-A affiliate at the time the movie was made and were owned by one of the filmmakers.

But enough about things that weren’t around when the movie came out. It is time to focus on something highlighted in the movie that is no longer around.

In the movie and in real life, Max Patkin was the Clown Prince of Baseball.  For over 50 years Patkin went to Minor League ballparks across the country and Canada performing his baseball clown act.

I was fortunate enough to see Patkin perform during an Orlando Sun Rays game at Tinker Field.  Patkin’s act was shown in several scenes and Patkin himself got a dance to himself later in the movie.

While it was clear that Patkin was closer to the end of his performing career than the beginning by the time Bull Durham came out it, to this day when I watch his performance scenes it is like I am right there watching him in person and trying to avoid getting sprayed by his water trick.

Although he died in 1999 Patkin will forever live on in his scenes from Bull Durham.  That is both a testament to the man himself and to the filmmakers for recognizing the important role he played in conveying the essence of Minor League Baseball.

Another staple of both the movie and Minor League Baseball in general is road trips on a bus. Unlike the Major League players who travel in first class chartered planes, the Minor League players arrive by bus for all of their road trips.

Not much has changed with the Durham Bulls logo since Bull Durham came out. It is still one of the more iconic and recognized looks in the Minor Leagues. Photo R. Anderson

Not much has changed with the Durham Bulls logo since Bull Durham came out. It is still one of the more iconic and recognized looks in the Minor Leagues.
Photo R. Anderson

When Michael Jordan tried to make it as a baseball player in the late 80’s he bought a luxury bus for the Birmingham Barons to use. Still despite the “luxury” bus features it is hard to picture Air Jordan traveling through the cities of the Southern League in a bus.

As for the bus that was used in the movie, that was purchased by a man named Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt is someone who knows a thing or two about motorized vehicles.

While Bull Durham has stood the test of time for 25 years, every once in a while a rumor surfaces about a potential sequel being made. Sequels can certainly be tricky business as few ever really are as good as the first or meet the lofty expectations set for them.

But, even with all of that being said I would still watch a sequel to Bull Durham. Do I think it could ever be as good as the first movie? Probably not. But, it does not have to be as good as the first movie. It just needs to help show where the characters ended up some 25 years after we left them on the porch and field.

I have my own ideas about what happened to the characters so if a sequel is never made I will still carry on my version of the story in my head. But it would be nice to see the cast get back together for one more trip around the bases.

Now if you’ll excuse me I am off to swing for the fences and see if I can hit the bull to win a steak. And remember “This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.”

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

There and Back Again with Some Minor Modifications

Across much of the country school is out for the summer. Or if it is not already out it will be so in the next week or so.

The end of school also marks the start of summer vacation for many families who will head towards the beaches on the Nation’s borders in search of sun and surf.

For over 30 years my grandparents lived on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. This was their final beach address and the site of many memories.  Photo R. Anderson

For over 30 years my grandparents lived on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. This was their final beach address and the site of many memories.
Photo R. Anderson

For those like myself who grew up along the coast the drive to find summer sun and surf is a relatively short one.

Another benefit of being so close to the coast meant that summer vacation did not need to be a single week on the beach and could truly last all summer long.

As part of the summer long salute to summer, I would often spend time with my grandparents who lived on Anna Maria Island on the west coast of Florida which was about two hours away from where I lived.

Although the distance between Orlando and the island was short, there were worlds of differences as time seemed to slow down the closer to the coast I got.

My mom’s dad died when I was 5 so the only “grandfather” I had was my dad’s mom’s second husband, Ryland. So from the time I was five I did not have a biological grandfather per se but I did have a Ryland, and that was twice as good in many ways.

My grandfather Ryland Hall

My grandfather Ryland Hall.
Photo R. Anderson

Trips to see my grandparents would include fishing and shelling and if I was lucky a trip to Big Olaf’s to get homemade ice cream inside a waffle cone.

One summer I even created my own saltwater aquarium with hermit crabs, shrimp, mollusks and other creatures of the sea that I caught.

Whenever my grandparents would travel up to visit they would bring gallons of saltwater from the Gulf to keep my aquarium going.

It was years later in a pet store that I learned about making one’s own saltwater for aquariums. Still, I am glad that I had the gallons of real Gulf of Mexico water delivered to me.

The bottles always made me laugh since Ryland would write “non potable” on every spare side lest I think that the brownish water contained inside was good for drinking. I never had any desire to drink the water, and the markings were not necessary, but I never thought to tell him that and I am sure even if I did he would still have marked them anyway.

Ryland and Mom Mom lived on various parts of Anna Maria Island for around 30 years and while my visits to see them became harder and harder to accomplish after I moved to Texas I always tried to see them whenever I could.

When I would visit them after I moved to Texas I would wear the same UCF shirt. I don’t know if they ever caught on or thought that I didn’t have enough clothes but to me it was fun to have pictures of us together year after year and me wearing the same thing.

I last saw them and wore my photogenic UCF shirt in 2009. Ryland died about a year and a half after that visit and Mom Mom moved to an assisted living center near Orlando so they are no longer on the beach.

The dock where I learned the finer points of filleting a fish. Photo R. Anderson.

The dock where I learned the finer points of filleting a fish.
Photo R. Anderson.

Recently I had the opportunity to return to the beach of my youth for a week long vacation in a beach house.  I did not realize it at the time the house was booked but it is two blocks away from the last beach house that my grandparents had.

Driving in from the airport I was surprised at how little had changed since my last trip there. Of course with everything looking the same, my mind was tricked into thinking that I would see my grandparents as I always did when I came down there.

While the rationale part of me knew that they aren’t on the beach anymore, there was an emotional side that thought they were still around.

Years after they moved my grandparents' name still appears on the mailbox where they once lived. Photo R. Anderson

Years after they moved my grandparents’ name still appears on the mailbox where they once lived.
Photo R. Anderson

This mind playing tricks on me aspect came to the forefront one day when I was relaxing on the patio. A man walked up to tell me something about the trash being at the curb and for a moment I swore it was Ryland.

This is not to say that I am losing my mind but more to the fact that there are certain types of people that live on the beach and a metamorphosis occurs once that sun and water hit the retired folk. Whatever they were in their working days falls by the wayside and they become beach bums or fishers or numerous other things.

For Ryland the days were spent fishing and looking after beach rentals.  For all I know the house I rented may have even been one of the ones that he oversaw.

So my week at the beach included floods of memories of places we went and things that he showed me or told me. At the time he was saying the things it was usually chalked up to Ryland being Ryland but as I have gotten older I can see some of the wisdom in what he said. But of course some of the stuff really was just Ryland being Ryland.

Ryland did not want a funeral so none was held when he died. All he had asked was that people stop and think of him now and then.  I do think of him during my time back home as there are various memories that are triggered but the week at the beach opened the flood gates of memories.

And while I often wish that I had been granted the opportunity to know my other grandfather, Pop Pop, for as long as well, I am lucky to have had as much time as I did with Ryland. And for a week on the beach that he roamed for three decades I was once again close to him and seeing the sights that he saw and walking the docks where he taught a much younger version of me how to fish and how to fillet a fish while it was still squirming. And while I will most likely never have to fillet a still breathing fish, or properly dispose of the non edible portions of said fish, at least I know how to should the need ever arise. And remember if the water is brown it is probably a good rule of thumb that it is non potable.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have some new memories to make.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

A Tale of Two Cities in Four Days Following a Black and Orange Bird

I have been a baseball fan for a long time but last Thursday I did something that I hadn’t done in three decades of fandom and also did a few things that I had never done before.

As mentioned before the first Major League Baseball game I ever attended was a Baltimore Orioles home game at Memorial Stadium in 1983.

Since then I have seen numerous Orioles Spring Training games over the years in ballparks all across Florida.  But for 30 years I had not seen the Orioles play in a game that counted in the regular season standings. I had also never seen them play in a regular season game outside of Charm City.

The Baltimore Orioles came to Minute Maid Park and a 30-year drought was ended. Photo R. Anderson

The Baltimore Orioles came to Minute Maid Park and a 30-year drought was ended.
Photo R. Anderson

When this year’s MLB schedule was released and I saw that the Orioles were coming to Houston to play the Astros, it was a no brainer that I would circle one of those games on my must watch list for the season.

That lucky three decade drought ending game was Thursday afternoon at Minute Maid Park. Of course, I did not just end the 30 year drought with one game in one city.

No, no. I went one step further in true go big or go home fashion and saw the Orioles in St. Petersburg, FL as well when they wrapped up a series with the Tampa Bay Rays.

So in the course of four days I ended a 30-year drought with not one, but two, games in two different cities in two different states.

So let us compare and contrast the two ballpark experiences starting first with the Orioles and their visit to Minute Maid Park.

Four days after seeing the Orioles in Houston it was time to travel south and see them in Florida but unlike previous times watching the team in Florida this game counted. Photo R. Anderson

Four days after seeing the Orioles in Houston it was time to travel south and see them in Florida but unlike previous times watching the team in Florida this game counted.
Photo R. Anderson

Selecting a day game to see the Orioles was an easy choice to make as I try to attend one day game a season. Thursday was this year’s selection for that honor.

I enjoy day games for multiple reasons, but two in particular rise above the others. The first reason of course is that it just seems down right fun to be sitting at a ballpark watching a game while the majority of the world is working.

The second thing that makes day games so much fun is that they have smaller crowds on average (see reason one as a probable cause) which tends to mean better odds to catch a ball during batting practice.

For the past three years I have caught a ball at all of the day games I have attended. So it was that experience that had me feeling fairly confident that my luck would continue this year when I went to see the Orioles visit the Astros.

I arrived at the gate shortly after it opened and made it to my seat in front of the short right field porch. Sadly when I surveyed the field I noticed that batting practice was not going on.

At first I thought that it was just starting later than usual but then I realized that none of the tell tale signs of batting practice were on the field. I would not get to continue my streak of catching batting practice balls. I know I can always add another day game later in the season but I thought that it would have been nice to catch a ball from one of the Orioles.

The game itself was nice once the disappointment of no batting practice subsided. The Orioles ended up with the victory and although I did not go home with a ball I could be consoled by the fact that I saw a victory by the first team I ever rooted for.

The Ted Williams Museum inside Tropicana Field is well worth checking out. Photo R. Anderson.

The Ted Williams Museum inside Tropicana Field is well worth checking out.
Photo R. Anderson.

My Orioles karma continued Sunday at Tropicana Field, as did my string of missing out on batting practice.

As was the case earlier in the week the Orioles were victorious although the Rays definitely went down swinging.

In both instances I was conflicted somewhat regarding who to root for since all three teams are in my stable of teams that I follow.

But in most case during head to head match ups I will tend to pull for the Orioles. So in that sense I saw two Orioles victories in four days and was happy.

Tropicana Field is also home to a Ted Williams museum which is a must stop for any visitor to the ballpark. Admission to the museum is included as part of admission to the game and allows fans to see various artifacts from both Ted Williams as well as artifacts from the earliest Rays season.

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to think of some other long droughts to end while I am one such a roll.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Hurricane Week: In a World Where Trees Have Fallen and They Can’t Get Up

Editor’s Note: As the first week of hurricane season is upon us we at Triple B have decided to dedicate this week to the three phases of the storm, before it arrives, its arrival, and the aftermath following its departure. While this information is mostly geared to residents of coastal states in the path of storms we encourage all of our readers to learn about the three phases of the storm. Today let us turn our attention to what happens after the storm arrives.

Although it may seem to some that the worst is over once a hurricane makes landfall and moves away or rains itself out, that is not always the case.

In a best case scenario, one is left with some well watered grass and a few tree limbs down. In a worst case scenario however, one can be left with no power and in some case no home.

And as is the case with hurricanes and tornadoes alike, sometimes the line between the best case scenario and the worst case scenario is visible from each side.

Finding your boat after a hurricane is a good thing. Finding your boat on dry land however can be a bad thing.  Photo R. Anderson

Finding your boat after a hurricane is a good thing. Finding your boat on dry land however can be a bad thing.
Photo R. Anderson

There seems to be no rhyme or reason for why certain homes are flattened and others a few feet away in some cases are spared.

That is just the unpredictability of weather and shows why everyone needs to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.  Solely hoping for the best with no preparation could leave one far from high and dry.

As mentioned before, Hurricane Ike was the closest I ever came to realizing the worst case scenario of a direct hit from a major hurricane.

Thankfully once the storm had passed and I returned home I found no damage and also had power and air conditioning.

A few towns up the road however my parents were not as lucky. While their home was completely structurally sound it had a forest of fallen tree limbs in the front and no power inside.

The power was out for about a week at my parents’ house.  Despite my invitations for them to come where there was power, they soldiered on in a nomadic tent fashion along with their neighbors until the lights were once again restored.

In case you are ever faced with a similar situation let us focus on some tips for what to do in a post hurricane world with no power.

The first step for restoring order after a storm is securing the property. This could include removing tree limbs or simply mending fences or placing tarps over holes in the roof. As storms can arrive one after the other it is crucial that one is as prepared as possible to avoid further damage from additional rain.  Calls to insurance adjusters will of course also need to be made during this phase.

Tree limbs are a common casualty of hurricanes and can leave quite a mess when they fall. Photo R. Anderson

Tree limbs are a common casualty of hurricanes and can leave quite a mess when they fall.
Photo R. Anderson

The next phase of storm recovery of course is to ensure that one has enough water and food to ensure proper hydration and caloric intake to accomplish and recover from the post storm cleanup.

Following Hurricane Ike there were several areas set up where residents could pick up cases of water and Military grade Meals Ready-to-Eat (MRE).

Each day I would drive up from my comfortably air conditioned residence and drive a few towns over to visit my parents in their self-imposed tent city. Upon arrival I would check the progress of the cleanup efforts and then take my mom to the park down the road where the ice, water and food was being handed out by relief workers.

It really was quite the operation to drive thru, pop open your trunk and have supplies loaded and then be sent on your way.  While I do not wish a storm to come and put anyone in that position it was nice to see how calm the recovery can be.

Once back at my parents’ house it was usually time to crack open some MREs in the backyard tent.   Of course the first few days of meals consisted of neighbors grilling meat from their freezers as each level slowly defrosted. But once the meat was gone it was time for the MREs.

When faced with no power after a storm a supply of MRE rations can come in handy. Photo R. Anderson

When faced with no power after a storm a supply of MRE rations can come in handy.
Photo R. Anderson

Now for anyone unfamiliar with a MRE, it is set up to allow troops out in the field to have a hot meal despite being far away from their base. This is accomplished through a chemical reaction that heats up the food to near boiling point without the need for open flame or anything not included in the MRE bag.

Of course as a word of warning for anyone on a sodium restricted diet MREs contain about 200 percent of the recommended sodium intake. These meals are purposely sodium heavy to replenish the salt lost by troops marching throughout the day.

So as a rule if one is not doing massive amounts of physical exertion then a diet heavy in MREs would probably not be advised. It should also be noted that the chemical reaction that takes place in an MRE is banned on commercial airliners due to the potential explosive risk.

But during a post hurricane time of moving limbs MREs can be and very much are a lifesaver and one tries to not think of the fact that they are basically cooking with explosives; albeit low grade ones.

Beer companies also pitch in and send relief water after a storm. Photo R. Anderson

Beer companies also pitch in and send relief water after a storm.
Photo R. Anderson

Regarding the post storm cleanup it should be noted that there are out of state contractors who will enter an area hit by a storm and offer to help areas recover. While most of these outfits are well intended caution is certainly advised when dealing with out of state workers who do not have a brick and mortar office to bring any complaints to.

A good rule of thumb being if the price seems too good to be true and the bulk of it is required to be paid before any work is done, and the base of operations is the Motel 6, odds are it is not as good of a deal as it sounds like at first look.

Of course as I am writing this the first storm of the season, Andrea, has already made landfall in Florida as a tropical storm.

The arrival of Andrea during the first week of the Hurricane Season is a reminder to everyone along the coast to be vigilant in getting enough supplies and keeping an eye on the skies, or at least the local weather forecast.

Hurricane season is here and while the bulk of people will only have to deal with the before the storm phase, if at all, there will be a select few who experience all three phases of the storm this season.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a hankering for some MRE’s for some odd reason. I wonder how long they stay good for?

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson