Friday, August 5, 2016

Sometimes it all comes together.

I grew up in a little town in rural southwestern Ontario. And, I spent a lot of time at the baseball diamond in said town; I played for years, then in high school one of my summer jobs was cutting the grass at the park. My dad helped to build the 30-foot-high backstop in the late '80s with a bunch of other local guys; there's a picture in our family photo album, on one of those days they were building the backstop, of my brother and I helping to paint the wooden stands (which are still there).

Every August, the town's volunteer fire department holds a men's two-pitch softball tournament at that park. As a kid, I used to watch some of the games; when my brother and I were a little older, we kept score and did the announcing thing on a little microphone/PA thing (we said the score, who was up, and who was on deck). I even played in it briefly a few years ago, because a guy my dad knows who had a team needed a player, and I was free, so why not?

Tonight, my dad and I went over to the tournament, which is on this weekend. We went to the beer tent and had a beer, then went over and watched one of the games, leaning up against the fence along the first-base line. I can remember, playing there as a kid, some of the local older guys (perhaps a generation older than my dad's), standing along the same fence, watching us kids play. And there I was, with my dad, at the fence.

As we were watching the game and shooting the bull, the sun had just set in the west (the direction we were facing); a sliver of a crescent moon was partway up the western sky, tinted a faint orange. There's not a tall building in sight, of course, so the sky goes all the way down to the distant trees, ensuring maximum sunset enjoyment for all. A change in the breeze had signified the coming of the promised cold front, and it did feel quite a bit cooler.

The kids announcing the batter and on-deck guy tonight... well, that was me and my brother, twenty years ago. I was tempted to go over to them and say, "I did that when I was a teenager, too." But, reflecting on it now, I'm glad I held off. I hope they get the same silent satisfaction I had tonight, twenty years from now, when I'm one of the older generation, standing along the fence, taking in the action. Who knows, maybe I'll have my kid beside me.*

* Relax, I didn't knock anyone up.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Wow, just wow.

Part 1: The buildup.

Messages are exchanged. Plans are made to meet for the first time. Cell phone numbers are traded, to let the other know that you're there, and what table you're at, and what you're wearing so they can pick you out of the crowd.

Part 2: The encounter.

Drinks are ordered, and consumed. Conversation flows freely, progresses snappily, opinions are shared, ideas are coloured-in. "Hey, this is going pretty great. I think she's into me." Two hours pass, then three. "Whoa, it's getting late, it's a work night, we'd better get going, eh?"

Part 3: The parting.

"You're going this way? Well, I'm going that way."
"That was really fun, wasn't it?"
"Yeah, it was! Would you like to do this again?"
"Definitely! Hey, have yourself a good night."
"You too!"

"That was it, man. Couldn't have gone better. Ah, I feel good about that one."

Part 4: The fade.

A couple of messages are traded back and forth. Plans are perhaps even made for a second date. Eventually, reply times get longer, then... nothing. Just fade-to-black. No explanation given, no rationale outlined, not even the standard, "Sorry, I just wasn't feeling it" -- which, true or not, you can't argue with. Who is anyone to tell anyone else what they're feeling?

Humans are pattern-seekers. We try to connect dots -- sometimes when there isn't even any connection to be made -- to try to explain the mysteries of life, to make order out of apparent disorder. But when there's literally no information to go on, and disorder is everywhere, that drives me up the fucking wall.

We socialize girls to be demure and quiet and not to voice their opinions -- and, when they do, they're too assertive, they're bossy, they're a bitch. But, by avoiding confrontation (and, telling a guy you're actually not interested in him, that's a confrontation), well, this is the sort of shit you get in return, boys.


Monday, June 6, 2016

Romance is fucking gay.

I hope you know that I'm not the kind of person who would use that word as a put-down. But on the drive home tonight, this was the phrase that kept rolling around my head, and I think it fits, and who cares if it's not politically correct?

You see, there's this girl.

(Woman, not girl. Jeez. Let me make that very clear. Not into the 'girls.' I keep it legal.)

I've carried a torch for her for a long, long time, hoping that maybe she'd come to her senses and see that we'd be great together. In the meantime, we hang out, enjoy each other's company, have a lot in common, have a lot not-in-common (which I like; who wants a carbon-copy of themselves?), and have eaten, by our rough estimate, north of 200 meals together over the years.

Naturally, this absolutely kills a little piece of me. I can't help but picture what it'd be like, being with her, and let's just say it looks pretty damn good. We joke a lot about what our future kids would look like. And occasionally I bring it up that, jeez, y'know, wouldn't it work? She deflects, says she doesn't want to ruin the friendship.

But recently she added that she's of the opinion if, if romance doesn't fly immediately, then it probably never will, and she shouldn't pursue it. I mean, I guess I can see where that's coming from... but, well, how far has that gotten her to this point, if she's still single? Isn't it worth taking a chance, just to see?


Well, on said drive home, this whole scenario was bouncing around my brain -- which is weird, I thought I'd already essentially dealt with this -- and I just got really, really bummed. (It didn't help that Bob Dylan's "Tangled Up In Blue" was playing, too; how wondeful and insightful those lyrics are, in an apparently helpless situation.)

And so, here I am. Romance sucks. All I want is to be done with this fucking merry-go-round. Honestly, I can totally see why people settle. People have settled for thousands of years, and somehow society has managed to carry on just fine. How bad can it be?

Jesus fucking christ.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Summer is close. So close.

And yet, so far.

May is always a month where my patience, skills and, frankly, sanity is always tested. Things seem to all come to a climax at work in this month, and this year was no exception: I was out of the building four straight afternoons, coaching baseball, while my grade 9's did everything except set the classroom on fire.

But, alas, it's the long weekend. Baseball season is over. The field trip I tried for two years to get back on the rails is officially dead. Life is good again.

...or it would be, if I didn't have this fucking cold. I go all winter not getting one, and yet I get dick-punched in May with the sore throat, the coughing, the mucus, oh the mucus?! Hell.

It's really put a cramp in my dating life, this thing. (I'm not kidding; had to postpone two get-togethers because of it. Yeah, I'm pretty much the man.)

So, this weekend will be full of lounging-around, drinking lots of orange juice, tissues, and maybe even getting on top of some marking, who knows? Supposed to be nice outside, but I'm not sure I'll be going for any walks in the woods.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The mid-'90s had some kooky tunes, man.

My hypothesis:

Record companies had no idea that anyone like Nirvana was even out there, but there they were. Then they got Nirvana, and promoted the hell out of 'em, and made a lot of money, and then Kurt Cobain liked heroin a little too much.


By the time the mid-'90s rolled around, record companies really had no idea what was going to be the next big thing, so they supported a lot of mildly-out-there bands who might fall under the big tent of "alternative."


We had a lot of unusual bands in the era roughly from 1995 through 1998 that may have only had one hit, but it was a hell of a big hit, and that's more that most bands ever have in their careers.

I'll try to list as many as I can, in alphabetical order, along with their iconic, but mildly unusual, song that comes to mind. This list is by no means exhaustive.

Beck -- "Loser"
Bloodhound Gang -- "Fire Water Burn"
Blues Traveler -- "Runaround"
Tracy Bonham -- "Mother Mother"
Butthole Surfers -- "Pepper"
Cake -- "The Distance"
Cherry Poppin' Daddies -- "Zoot Suit Riot"
Chumbawumba -- "Tubthumping"
Daft Punk -- "Da Funk"
Eels -- "Novocaine For The Soul"
Folk Implosion -- "Natural One"
PJ Harvey -- "Down By The Water"
Harvey Danger -- "Flagpole Sitta"
Marcy Playground -- "Sex And Candy"
Mighty Mighty Bosstones -- "The Impression I Get"
Nada Surf -- "Popular"
The Presidents of the United States of America -- "Lump"
Primitive Radio Gods -- "Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand"
Rage Against the Machine -- "Bulls On Parade"
Spacehog -- "In The Meantime"
Sneaker Pimps -- "Six Underground"
White Town -- "Your Woman"

Again, not going to be a complete list. I know I forgot a lot. Some of these artists had just the one hit, others went on to big careers. But I've always meant to put together a list like this, and it looks like a decent start.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Florida recap.

This is the tenth consecutive year I've gone to Florida to take in some Spring Training baseball games. Mostly I go solo, but this year my brother, C, managed to get the week off work, so he came with me (he came with me a few years ago, too).

I've always flown down, because time has been tight; about every other year I've gone to our union's annual meeting which takes up the first weekend of March Break, through Monday afternoon. But I wasn't going to go to the meeting this year, and I'd always wanted to drive isntead of fly, so I asked C if he was up for it, and he was.

We stayed at our parents' place on Saturday night, which effectively gave us a headstart on the Sunday morning (doubly important on the day the clocks went ahead an hour). Made it to Knoxville, Tennessee on the first day, then rolled into central Florida around dinnertime the next evening. A generally uneventful drive; managed to get through Atlanta just before noon on Monday, which meant the traffic wasn't bad at all.

Three full days, three games (two at home in Lakeland, one just down the road in Kissimmee), three Tiger wins, and pretty tenacious heat every day. On the upside, it was mostly sunny; on the downside, 32C is pretty oppressive when you've spent a winter in Canada.

On the way back we needed to hit the road pretty early in the day so that we'd miss Friday afternoon Atlanta rush hour... which we largely did, save for a bit of I-75 on the north side of the city, but honestly, it wasn't any worse than, say, Mississauga on the 401. We did hit ridiculous traffic in Chattanooga, after running into a road closure in the south of Georgia (and a subsequent detour) but made it back to Knoxville and had dinner. The next morning we needed to take a detour around a rockslide which had the northbound lanes of the highway closed, and we drove some little twisty roads before coming back to the interstate.

Some observations:

Country music these days is just really, really awful. It all sounds pretty much the same: you've got a guy singing in a southern twang, a pasteurized band behind him essentially playing rock, lyrics about drinking and partying and pickup trucks and women, and even (incredibly) electronic beats which veer into hip-hop territory. And it's unavoidable down there.

There are places in the south where camouflage clothing isn't worn ironically, nor to actually camouflage oneself in a forest. It's just worn to lunch.

Quite a few people really, really hate Hillary Clinton. I was talking with a waitress in a barbecue restaurant who'd never heard of Bernie Sanders but would "give him a look," and would only refer to Clinton as "that woman who I won't name." Similarly, a guy at a game who identified as a Republican couldn't get over the whole Whitewater thing -- "all the witnesses either died or disappeared!" -- but at the same time felt generally uneasy about Trump.

I was called "sweetie," "slick" and "hun" by waitresses.

Yuengling is a decent cheap beer. I wish we had it here.

A woman at one of the games in Lakeland got hit in the nose by a foul ball. But it wasn't a screaming liner into the stands; it was a high pop-fly behind the plate. Why you wouldn't be trying to get out of the way -- especially since you have several seconds to do so -- is beyond me. I watched the ball come up and over the screen, and it landed in the section to our right and made quite the thump; I didn't know at the time that was the sound of the ball hitting a woman's face. Eventually the paramedics took her away; noses bleed a lot. The moral of the story: HOLY SHIT, PAY ATTENTION.

On the way back we stopped just south of the Georgia border to buy pecans. The guy standing by the front who was helping to run the place -- his role in the management of the establishment wasn't clearly defined, and neither was the number of teeth in his mouth -- was talking to C and I about music (I forget how it came up), and the guy said that a buddy of his has a sweet recording studio in his basement, and the drummer from Creed was once there, recording stuff! As we got in the car, C asked me, "Should we have told him that Creed sucks?" But hey, the way I figure it, that probably makes for a pretty good story for that guy, so let's let him keep it.

Before the St. Patrick's Day game in Lakeland, we bought peanuts from a vendor outside the stadium, assured we could take them in with us (which we did). She said the proceeds from the sales "were going to charity," and I asked what charities. She said there were two: one to help out disadvantaged kids, and the other "provides options for pregnant women." That second one... yiiiikes. I really wanted to ask her what "options" she was talking about, and given that this was in a church parking lot, I'm pretty damn sure those options didn't include abortions (Florida is rife with billboards with babies on them that say, "18 Days from Conception to Heartbeat!"). But hey, I wasn't about to get into a huge, deep discussion on the heaviest of topics; besides, there was baseball to go see.

After buying the peanuts, C and I went to watch the Tigers take batting practice on a back field. It's actually way better to go out there, if you're looking for souvenirs; instead of fighting 50 people for balls, there were 5 of us, chatting casually the whole time. C had one skip past him, and the guy who got it said he has three grandkids and already had three balls, so he gave it to C (whose daughter asked us to get one for her).

As we walked out there past the chain-link outfield fence, C sneezed and Tigers prospect Kyle Ryan, who was in the outfield shagging fly balls, said with a southern accent, "Bless you." C sneezed again; another "Bless you." How polite! I told him, "Hey, you looked good in Tuesday's game," which elicited a, "Well, thankya" in response. Nice kid. Looked him up, and he's from Auburndale, Florida, right close to Lakeland. Local kid does well.

While standing out beyond right-center and chatting with the fellow souvenir-hunters, one of them saw Tiger prospect Michael Fulmer grab a fly ball. He said, "Hey Michael, we're the guys your dad knows from the hotel!" Fullmer replied, "Oh, really? He's told me a lot about you." Laughter ensued, and the guy asked, "Is that so? What did he say?" Fulmer shot back, "Ah, y'know, I really shouldn't tell ya."

The Tigers are wearing these ridiculous navy jerseys this spring. They've never had a special Spring Training jersey before, but I imagine MLB put the squeeze on 'em to wear these so they could bump up their licenced-gear sales. I always enjoyed the fact that they wore their regular-season uniforms in ST; it seems way classier to me. Also, there were two straight games in which two teams in navy jerseys played each other; the only way to tell them apart were the colours of their caps and pants. Awful.

We sat in the shade for all three games. At the first game I thought, "Well, we're in the shade, hats make my head hot, so I'll just take mine off." I hadn't put sunscreen on my forehead... which got burnt. In the shade. From reflected light. Holy shit, I'm pale.

I'm pretty excited to not have to drive 12-ish hours today, that's for sure.