Very Well Then

Contradicting myself, always contradicting myself

The Metrodome Rats

Posted by verywellthen on May 12, 2010

Ozzie loves talking about rats.

Ozzie and rats.  No, I’m not talking about Black Sabbath.  (Hold it, that was “bats”, wasn’t it?)

Ozzie Guillen – the White Sox manager – slighted the Metrodome the other day, suggesting it to be rat-infested.  The baseball doesn’t seem to be carrying well in Minneapolis outdoor spring baseball and when Justin Morneau’s deep center field shot died at the warning-track in Tuesday’s Twins loss to the Sox, Ozzie quipped, “In the old place, that would have hit some rats.”

Last year, Ozzie disparaged Wrigley Field as rat-infested.

This year, it’s the Metrodome.

Of course, we’re all in love with the new place (I’m flying in for a look over Memorial Day).  So let’s kick the old place while it’s down.  Of course, the Vikings still have to play there, but that’s football.

I shed no tears for the old Dome.  But, now that I know about them,  I am concerned about the Metrodome Rats.  They have some serious re-adjustment to do.    They’ve lost 81 days of fans leaving behind French Fries and sunflower seeds and scraps of Dome Dog buns.

There’s still Gopher baseball and truck and tractor pulls.    But there is a serious reduction in the sustainable concession-food environment at the Dome.  The rat population there is based upon an expectancy of fattening up in the summer baseball season and surviving off the fat and occasional Vikings game though the winter hibernation.    The Metrodome Rat eco-system has been severely altered.

Expect hard times for the Metrodome Rats.    The population level there will have to adjust, which is always a painful process for an animal colony.

But I’m not too worried for them.    Rats are what conservation biologists refer to as “weed species” – those species able to adapt and thrive in disturbed environments.  (Starlings, pigeons, mule deer and humans fit well into that description).    So, the rats have been challenged by the switch to the new ballpark.   But I can safely assure you that those pitter-patter sounds you hear beneath the bleachers when you attend your next Vikings games will be those of a in tact, if somewhat reduced, Metrodome Rat population.

And, as for things at the perfect new immaculate ballpark: Don’t worry.  All is well.   But did anyone else see those Metrodome Rats clinging to the Twins moving vans  when they set sail from the Dome?   Just like the velociraptors clinging to the supply ships departing Jurassic Park?

No, I didn’t either.

Posted in Minnesota Twins and Baseball | Leave a Comment »

Sweeping Isn’t Minnesota Nice

Posted by verywellthen on April 26, 2010

[ UPDATE:  6/17 — Twins are now 2-9 in “sweep” games — where winning the final game of a series would give them a sweep.  On one hand, it’s good that they’ve had so many sweep opportunities — but 2 outta 9?  Original Post of 4/26 follows:]

Oh, there you go there, Twins. Yer doing real good.  Got a two-and-a-half game lead in the Central.   Don’t cha know how proud I am of you, winning six straight series and never hurtin’ anybody’s feelings by sweeping them.

Oh, fer nice, ya guys.    Just downright Minnesota Nice.

I mean four times all you had to do is win one game and you could have humiliated your opponent with a series sweep.    But you had a good upbringing, I tell ya.   No need to rub the other team’s nose in it. Those Kansas City Royals, they got feelings too, you know.

Winning two out of three is above-average enough.    I’m just so pragmatically happy that yer going out there and doing what needs to be done to win a series and then stopping there.   Not getting too big for your britches.   Like they say, you just might see those on the way back down that you pass on your way up.  Wouldn’t you want the White Sox to let you win a series too sometime down the line, so that you can feel good on a plane trip home.

There’s more to life than a few more wins, you know. Don’tcha know that?  This season is supposed to be a no rough stuff deal.   The next thing you know,  there’ll be Jon Rauch standing there with Nick Punto in the wood chipper.  And for what?   A few more wins?

And there ya’ll be and it will be a beautiful day at Target Field.  And  Well, I just won’t understand it.

Posted in Minnesota Twins and Baseball | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

When the Dogwoods Bloom…

Posted by verywellthen on April 25, 2010


Dogwood

There is that video (and photo) effect – where everything is in black and white, except for one thing, which becomes the center of all attention because it has color.   I think the first time I saw the effect was in the 80’s in an Elton John MTV video (Sad Songs Say So Much, perhaps?).

That’s how I see the world in late April in my neighborhood (Blue Heron Land — a.k.a. the Pacific Northwest of North America).

The only thing in color in my late-April world are the dogwoods.  Everything, at least to me, might as well be black and white.

Walk down any block in town, you’ll see one or two in glorious bloom and it’s the only thing that visually matters.  I’m sure there are other beautiful things happening – just a few weeks ago the cherry and plum blossoms had caught my fancy.  Perhaps they’re still around, but I only have eyes for dogwoods.

I’ve heard a seasonal interconnection attributed to the regional Native American tribes: “the salmon run when the dogwoods bloom.”

(Using the advanced anthropology tool of “Google”  — I’m not able to attribute the saying with any certainty.  But I’ll bet in the old days, local indigenous types without MTV and Elton John wouldn’t miss noticing the dogwoods nor fail to link the timing to their most important food supply.]

I’ve moved around enough in my life to know that every relocation is both a door to soul-invigorating experiences and a painful uprooting.   When my eyes first focused on the scene-stealing dogwoods a few weeks ago, I knew that the spring runs of salmon would be in the river.    The next time I crossed a bridge, I looked down and saw the fleet of local fishermen in the aluminum boats — confirming the connection of tree to fish.    Even if I was only re-making an simple connection, I smiled with pride and momentarily felt that I might be finding a sense of place.  With a new tendril of a root sprouting into this earth.

Posted in Blue Heron Land | Leave a Comment »

The Waltz of Baseball

Posted by verywellthen on April 7, 2010

In honor of Target Field’s opening season.

This season, I want to create a movement in baseball.    One that twirls like a dance floor in Vienna – in perfect three-quarter time.    I want baseball to waltz.

I don’t want a craze.  I’m not talking about a mass-Macarena type of stunt – using baseball crowds to further a national fad.   I want a long-lasting rethinking of baseball’s long-established theme song,  Take Me Out to the Ball Game.  It’s already a sing-along.  Now I want it to be a dance-along.

For years, on the rare occasion of a baseball date, I have grabbed my partner (usually surprised) when the organ music starts and we have carefully danced in the peanut shells in front of our seats during the seventh inning stretch.  Take Me Out to the Ballgame is a waltz, a rare step that even I can figure out.  So it just seems natural that people would want to dance to it.   But like all things related to my dancing, no one has taken my lead.  I don’t see baseball fans gliding through the aisles.  My idea has yet to catch on.

Harry Carey in his drunken sloppiness made the song a crowd-swaying drinking song.  Replace the disposable plastic cups with steins and you could be at a Munich beer hall (with foul poles).  I love the idea that such a grand sing-a-long exists, at any baseball stadium, anywhere.  Now, let’s add the twist – or the twirl.

My reform will come about only by an organic movement, and an organist movement.  First, the organists.  Pick up the tempo a bit.  Or you’ll be replaced by a string section.  Come on, it’s baseball, not a funeral.

Next, the organic movement.  This is where you come in.  You, reading this. Dance.  Grab your partner and dance.     A baseball stadium at the stretch is a place full of joy.  Dancing should be on the agenda.  But hey, keep it a tame joy — it’s a tight spot you’ll be dancing in.  Safety first.

Finally, the third step for the three-step is to spread the word.  If you blog, consider a link.  If you Tweet, Tweet the news.   Use your social networking and your social graces.   See if you can get the baseball loving world to dance.    Create the critical mass, that beautiful dancing cheek-to cheek critical mass.

I’ll know it went viral when I look up from my dance partner’s eyes during the seventh inning stretch, and see my vision.   The whole stadium twirling.  Cubs fans and Cardinals fans all halting on the hesitation step in perfect unison.  Right after the “and cracker Jack” line, the whole place reversing spin together.  Couples falling in love again.  Strangers meeting.   Brothers comfortable enough with each other to dance, albeit at arms length.

Take me out to that ballgame.

Posted in Minnesota Twins and Baseball | 2 Comments »

Opening Day Music

Posted by verywellthen on April 4, 2010

For at least the last dozen years, I have made it my opening day tradition to pull out Steve Goodman’s version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”  from my CD collection.    I love Jethro Burn’s mandolin work.  In the joy of opening day, Jethro is as much plucking my heartstrings as he is plucking mandolin strings.

And every year, while I’ve got the Steve Goodman CD out, I inevitably play Steve’s more famous “A Dying Cubs Fan Last Request.”  More smiles.

This year, My opening day music selection continues with a CD I picked up since last opening day:  the Baseball Project.   There’s a line in “The Yankee Flipper” (About Jack Black McDowell) I like on so many levels:

Jack loved the Replacements and we drank enough that we became them.

And I’ve spent plenty of time in the last years channeling the spirit of the Hold Steady.   The first time I ever heard of the band, oddly, was when I heard their version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”   The only youtube version of the song I can find is a mashup with some good Metrodome nostalgia.

Happy Opening Day.

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You’re My Favorite Thing – The Canyon Lands

Posted by verywellthen on March 28, 2010

While waiting for baseball season to hurry up and start – I slipped away to the canyons of Southern Utah – a place I try to get to every couple of years.

Top of Barrier Canyon, Maze District, Canyonlands National Park

I just returned from explorations of a few canyons in Southern Utah.  In this trip:

  • a hike down Horsehoe Canyon, to see the glorious rock art of the Great Gallery;
  • the up-and-down funhouse of the slot canyons of Bell and Little Wild Horse Canyons in the San Rafeal Swell;
  • walking among the gobbledygook of Goblin Valley;
  • up to the heaven-eye view toward the Navajo Knobs on the cliffs above Capitol Reef National Park.

I am in awe of the canyons of Southern Utah and all the sandstone layers of the Colorado Plateau.    So much that I’ve dropped hints around my family that I want (at least some of my) ashes carried to Southern Utah to be scattered in the canyon lands.

Do you recall in the Larry McMurtry novel where Captain Call is burdened with fulfilling the wish of Captain McCrae to be buried back at Lonesome Dove, Texas?    Captain McCrae inconveniently dies in Montana (by poison-tip arrow), but Captain Call is determined to see the task through.

I kind of think my youngest brother (and maybe others) has enough of Captain Call’s belligerent  (i.e. blind, stupid) loyalty to trek my ashes out to some remote almost-unreachable place just because I happened to mention it in a blog entry way back in 2010.

So listen up, you Captain Calls.

The place I choose for my ashes is the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.   When I first descended into the district so many years ago, I felt the contrary feelings of being more alive than I had ever known and feeling more insignificant than even the fullest night of star-gazing could ever bring.   When I looked up one of the uncountable canyons of the vast plateaus that lined the many horizons, I could see a dozen side-canyons, maybe more.  And I imagined each side-canyon to hold to a dozen more offspring canyons of their own, and on into infinity.   In a few trips back I’ve explored just a few of the Needle’s canyons, each possessing variations on impossible wonder borne of the permutations of sedimentation, compression, uplift and erosion.

My current election for the specific place within the Needles for my ashes is a place I have yet to make it to myself, Angel Arch.    The name is perfect, of course – it might even help to get this plan past my Very Catholic Mother who a) is armed with dogmatic knowledge that frowns upon the scattering of ashes and b) has so much life-enthusiasm that she will likely outlive me, and therefore be able to monkeywrench this plan.

Angel Arch is also extremely remote – which largely explains why I have not yet been there.   Most of the year there is no water and the hike is a distance greater than you can comfortably carry enough of your own water.    (There may be 4WD tours that can bring you closer – but that’s cheating, Captain Call.)

Or just get them to an easier hike nearby, maybe Chesler Park.  (Mom, I won’t even suggest Druid Arch.)  Or seal them in a marble urn and bury them in a road-side field for all I care – after all I will be gone.   The living’s wish of burial place is more a statement to self-identity than it is an unbreakable covenant.    Just nod your head, Captain Call, next time I ramble about where I want my ashes.

“Yes, Captain McCrae.   I’ll be sure to do that.”

Posted in The Heart on My Sleeve, You're My Favorite Thing | 3 Comments »

Dear Joe Nathan,

Posted by verywellthen on March 12, 2010

Dear Joe Nathan,

Sorry to hear about your elbow.    Man, that must suck.   It sucks for me, and I’m just a fan.  You’re the one with the bum elbow and the tough decisions.

You are, like, all that any of us bloggers are talking about here on the Twins-based internet (the Twins-ernet?).  Howard over at the Strib – you know, that Section 219/220 (whatever it takes) guy – he even linked to a medical video that showed how Tommy John Surgery is performed.

Wow.   That Tommy John thing is really something.   I’m sure Dr. Andrews already told you all this, but I was amazed to learn they take a tendon from another part of your body and loop it into your damaged elbow to stabilize everything.

But I also learned something else.  Sometimes they don’t use your tendon.  Sometimes they insert the tendon from another donor.  Well, that got me to thinking… and I got this idea.

You see, it’s not like I’m ever going to have a baseball career or anything.  I mean, let’s face it, my shot at glory has faded.  But then I just get ideas like the one I just mentioned and there seems to be some glimmer of hope.

So I’ll just say it.

Joe.  It would be so incredibly awesomely cool if … if you’d use my tendon for your Tommy John Surgery.  I mean, if that’s the route you’re going to go.

I mean, I’m just imagining you coming in and blowing away Pujols on a nasty slider to lock down the 2011 World Series, and I’d be high-fiving my friends at the bar and screaming… SCREAMING!!!… at the top of my lungs, “That’s my tendon!  That’s my Palmaris Longus Tendon!”  Oh gawd, that’d be awesome.

I’ve always said I’d give a testicle to be a major league baseball player.  And here I’d only have to give up a little ole arm tendon I rarely use [Note to self: check on limitations of missing P/L tendon.  Can I still type?  Click a mouse?].   I mean, it still wouldn’t be me out there mowing ‘em down – you’d be doing all the real work.  But just knowing that there’s this little part of me helping out … that’s all I’ve ever wanted.    Don’t worry, they’d still be cheering for you, Joe.  But I’d hear Target Field a’rockin and though they’d be chanting “Joe! Joe! Joe!”   I’d hear them chanting my name instead.  It would be like one of those fantasy baseball camps times a million.

I’d even pay you to take my tendon.  No, really!   I (as in ME) pay YOU for MY body part.    [That way, I don’t even think it would trigger any of those anti-organ-selling laws.]    I’d be willing to go as much as $500.   I’d offer more, but I still need, like, my MLB Extra Innings package and everything.

I’d have to ask that the Twins pick up the cost of my surgery too.  Do you think they’d spring for that?  It’s medically related to your surgery, after all.  And one more thing… after my tendon is harvested (yes, that’s the medical term) I’d like that the surgeon work with a tattoo artist to have my arm-stitches look like stitches on a baseball.  [Do’ya like that?  Maybe you could do the same thing with your stitches.]   As for my stitches, when I’m at the bar, with my friends, and us cheering you and the World Champion Minnesota Twins (yow!),  I would show everyone my baseball stitches to emphasize my point.   You gotta admit, Joe.  That’d be so eff’ing cool.

Let’s say that we keep this a secret, Joe.   If word got out there, I know there’d be others who’d pay dearly to do the same thing — I probably shouldn’t have told you that : )   But, as I’m sure you’re aware, there are a lot of obsessed fans out there.   I mean, how many guys have had there ashes scattered at old Yankee stadium?  You can buy a coffin with a licensed Red Sox logo on it, for christsake.

I’ll be honest, it’s not like I’m going to get far in a bidding war.  But since it was my idea Joe, if you pick me, I’ll be sure you get the credit for all this.  I mean, why hasn’t anybody else thought of this?!   This is the next big thing in athlete and celebrity endorsements.

You could be the pioneer of this, Joe.   Tommy John was first with the surgery and his surgery fame has outperformed even the fame of his very fine pitching career.    You, too, could live on immortally.    Every pitcher with a torn UCL will face the same reporter question:   “So, Tommy John Surgery, huh?  Who’re you going to grant your Joe Nathan Rights to?“

You should probably check with Dr. Andrews to be sure this would work.  Maybe he wants a better “specimen” than me – I’m not in too bad of shape or anything, I got this treadmill in my office and all.  But maybe there’s like a blood-type compatibility thing.    Wouldn’t that be awful, Joe, if your body rejected my tendon after the transplant?  And what if that happened in the bottom of the ninth in the ALCS against the Yankees?    I’d be to Twins’ fans what Bartman is to Cubs’ fans.

So maybe I should think this through a bit.

You know what, Joe?  I don’t need to think about it.

I can’t worry about what might go wrong.   I’m willing to take that chance.  I got to go seize the moment.  And if A-Rod knocks one out of the park, so be it.   The grumpy columnists might be unkind, but I have to be fearless and not let the fear of failure control my life.

But you know that.  That’s the heart of a being a closer.  And maybe, the tiny little woven elbow-bracing tendon of a closer too.

With or without me, Joe, good luck with the decision.

Sincerely,

Your Brother In Arms (ya’ think?)

[UPDATE: The post above was originally posted on March 12, 2010 while Joe Nathan was facing the decision on whether or not to have Tommy John surgery.   The next day Howard Sinker of the Minneapolis Star Tribune gave my post a prominent (and kind) excerpt and link on the Strib’s Twins website.     Joe elected to have the surgery using his own ligament.  The surgery was performed on March 26.    The Star Tribune quoted Joe, just before the surgery, as saying “I told him to put Usain Bolt’s ligament in there if they have to.”  I like to think that Joe Nathan was inspired to make the joke of using another person’s ligament after reading or hearing about my post.]

Posted in Minnesota Twins and Baseball | 2 Comments »

That’s My Boy

Posted by verywellthen on February 26, 2010


The following essay was sketched out recently  on an airplane on the way to my father’s funeral.

When a father is appraised, he is often given great credit for the time he spent showing up for his children’s sporting events.    My father, being given his due this week, has been lauded for his greatness in this regard, and rightfully so.    He was at almost every sport event that I or any of my five brothers ever suited up for.  That’s a lot of boys.  That’s a lot of cutting out early from the office.

I know it was a gesture of love, but there was nothing he ever did that embarrassed me more.  He wasn’t a belligerent father shouting from the stands at refs or demanding from coaches more playing time for his son.  No, he just sat silently in the stands.  What embarrassed me was that he was there — and that I was on the bench.
In the earlier grades, there was more of a let-em-all-play spirit, and it wasn’t so bad.  He saw my collective 20 or 30 points of grade school basketball (over 4 years, mind you).  But as I got older, the playing time got more sparse.   I would cringe when I heard my father was going to be at the game.

Now, in football there’s a buffer.   The parents are way out there in the stands; the players, covered up in helmets.  My mother once showed me a photo she snapped at a junior high school football game she attended.   She climbed down to the sidelines to get a shot of me in my football uniform on a clear fall afternoon.   When the photos game back from the developer a week after the game, she handed the photo, to me.  “There you are,” she said pointing to a guy wearing the red school jersey and a white helmet with a red stripe.  I looked at the photo, deep into the cavern of the helmet, and then down at the jersey number.   It wasn’t me.  It was my teammate – Dan Campbell, who was about my size and had a number one more than mine.  Who could tell with those pads and helmet on?  I hope my parents watched that whole game thinking I was Dan Campbell.  Dan Campbell was the well-toned athlete that we all called “the Specimen”.  He started every game and made all the tackles and sacked the quarterback and caught slant passes from the tight end position.  I hopefully imagine that my father had the joy sitting up in the stands, just that one game, and nudging another parent and saying “You see number 81 down there?  That’s my son. Unreal. ”
In basketball there is no hiding.  The gymnasium is much more intimate and the players are wearing nothing but shorts, knee-high socks, and tank-top jerseys.  There’s no mistaking who’s me and who’s the Specimen.

But he was there.  He never commented on my lack of playing time and said supportive things about the things I did in the limited time I played.
But where I want to give him his due is that he also knew to find other things to support — things that I was better at.    There was one thing I remember he commended me on.  It was encyclopedia reading.    This was decades before the internet and that’s what I had, kids, for insights into the facts of the world.  I would drag 3 or 4 volumes of the World Book Encyclopedia to my bedroom many an evening and digest the information contained within.   The seven wonders of the ancient world, check.  The flags of every nation, check.  When there was playground banter about this thing called sex, it was to the World Book that I went for explanations – it is amazingly silent on the subject, much less so than the internet.
But my father, he was supportive of such things.  He told me on more than one occasion that he bragged to his friends about his son who read the encyclopedias.  Now that was something where he could nudge his friends and say, “hey, look at my boy”.

I imagine that there’s an alternate universe where there is a thing called the National Encyclopedia Reading League.   And I’m there, on the field, after the Championship match.  There is a reporter there from ERPN (Encyclopedia Reader Programming Network) with a microphone in my face.  In the background, the fans are still cheering.  There is a man in a suit nearby holding one of those really large checks with a number written on it with lots of zeros.  And the reporter claps me on the back and says to me, “Wow, that was incredible.  How did you ever know that North Dakota was the number one flax producing state?  What do you have to say?”
And after pausing to throw my jersey to a kid with a Coke bottle, I’d turn to the reporter and say, “I’d like to thank my father.”

Posted in The Heart on My Sleeve | 1 Comment »

Running Under the Radar

Posted by verywellthen on October 26, 2009

Below is a piece I wrote just before I ran my only Marathon — four years ago this month.

Running Under the Radar

On Sunday, October 9th I am running the Portland Marathon.   It will be my first and only marathon.  All the training leaves plenty of time to contemplate deep questions, none more reoccurring than “why am I doing this?”   In the pain of a double-digit run last weekend, I dredged up a suppressed memory which offered some explanation.

I remembered back to second grade, when a kid named Jeffrey challenged me to a race across the playground.  Jeffrey was the cruelest kid in the class and I was the slowest.  Hence, the terms of the race were that I was to run it forward and Jeffrey was to run it backwards.

As I stared at Jeffrey’s cool tennis shoes and then at my geeky Buster Browns, I contemplated for the first time in my life what a no-win situation looked like.  If I won the race everyone would say – well, jeez, Jeffrey had to run it backwards.  And if Jeffrey won the race, well, even no-win situations have worse-case scenarios.

Technically, I finished “in front” of Jeffrey —  which wouldn’t have been so bad except, remember, that he was running backwards.   So being “in front” of Jeffrey meant that he was crossing the finish line stepping backwards and pointing his finger at me in ridicule.   As I suffered the jeers and taunts of my classmates, I accepted right then that fitness, for me, would never be about competition.

The childhood notion that “running is playing” ended that day.  Running – as well as jumping, catching, throwing and even playing itself – was no longer playing.  It all became something to be judged.  For graceless boys like myself, it became a school-day fear to be picked deep in the gym-class draft.   I continued to join team sports all the way through high school, which I don’t regret.  But I have no delusions that I was ever more than practice fodder.  My father should be granted sainthood for all the games he sat in the stands to watch me sit on the bench.

The desire to play or stay fit never went completely out, but I would only do it below the radar screen of others.  My fitness choices as an adult have only been things I can do alone.  The community of me ran, hiked and pedaled long, slow and lonely routes in solitude.

If I dared shared the road or trail with anyone, it was under spy-like rules of engagement.

Rule #1 – Never invite anyone more judgmental than my dog.

Rule #2 – Make those that extend invitations to me feel uncomfortable by insisting that they wouldn’t want to exercise with anyone as sluggish as me.

Rule #3 – Even if someone made it past rules 1 and 2, the deal was off if the other person looked athletic.

If I were Rudolph, I would have withdrawn myself from any reindeer games.  I know the bumper sticker says that no one can make me feel inferior without my consent, but, when it came to fitness, I had pre-signed consent forms stashed in my wallet.  My running garment of choice would be an invisibility cloak, in moisture-wicking polyester, of course.

There has been no one to push me in my adult conditioning, and that has been by design.  There has been no taunting classmates or hot-collared coaches, nor the expectations of a father’s voice.  Instead, my miles of spinning wheels and shuffling shoes have been accompanied with more self-exploration than Gandhi.

Not only have I not competed against others, I also don’t compete against myself.  I have vowed to treat all personal bests, personal worsts and personal in-betweens the same.   The bathroom scale and the stop-watch are just other forms of judgment I don’t need.

Maybe I’ve taken the concept of “personal fitness” a little bit too personal, but I don’t think I am alone in my self-consciousness about exercise.  The jogging paths are filled with lonely runners.  There is a whole niche of “women’s only” gyms, in part to get away from leering eyes, but also to deemphasize competitiveness and tap into the supportive spirit of sisterhood.   There are always video workouts if even personal support is too much scrutiny.

As I worked my way through a low blood-sugar crisis deep into last weekend’s run, I considered that there was a third possible outcome to that second-grade playground challenge long ago.  I could have chosen not to have run at all.  It wasn’t really an option, even a grade school nerd knew enough not to turn down a playground dare.  I am proud that I grew up into someone who has continued to choose to run, with the only condition on my conditioning being that there be no expectations by anyone, including myself.

Why then, a three-mile-at-a-time runner suddenly electing to run 26.2 miles, and not even at gunpoint?  Well, several months back my niece emailed to tell me she was registered for the Portland Marathon.  I decided to throw my hat into the ring too, and convinced my brother to do the same.  If there is any family competition going on, I’m not channeling it.  I just decided that my running résumé needed to include one run, and only one, at running’s signature distance.

And maybe I’m recovering from the trauma of childhood ridicule.  I’m starting the race with family, though we’ll each settle into our own pace.  I might even go so far as to say that I’m challenging myself in this race and have even thought about my finishing goal (though I’ll be damned if I’m going to tell anyone).

So if the crowds come out to taunt me, I’m only going to hear it as cheers.  If a runner passes me running backwards, I’ll only smile straight to his face.  It’s not going to be pretty, but I’m not too concerned with the beauty of it all.  Running is only playing, after all.

Posted in Blue Heron Land, The Heart on My Sleeve | Leave a Comment »

Wilco (the baseball lineup)

Posted by verywellthen on August 3, 2009

thealbum-lg

I always play song 3 first whenever I buy a new album.    I’m trying to find the sweet spot first.   I am guided by the baseball protocol to place a team’s best pure hitter in the third spot in the lineup.

Usually, my approach does not bear any special fruit.   Albums from the vinyl days seemed more structured to save the gems for the beginning or end of one of the sides – often leaving the 3 spot with filler.    Nowadays,it seems like most albums are front-loaded, more like the general intent of a baseball lineup, though it doesn’t seem to me that there is any trend to place great importance on the number 3 spot in an album.

But every now and then I find that perfect song – rich and pure – right there at number 3.    When I do, I look further to see if the album lineup could succeed as a baseball lineup.

The current CD hogging my car stereo works pretty well as a batting order.   Wilco (the album), the latest effort from my favorite active band is worthy of a baseball lineup analysis.

So here is Wilco (the lineup).

1.   Wilco (the song).  The leadoff hitter should set the tone for the team.   Here, with a droll characterization of all that is Wilco, is Wilco (the tablesetter).

2.  Deeper Down.  The second slot is typically given to a control bat ,  a song that can move the runner over.   Wilco does what many teams do – put a light-hitting middle infielder as a placeholder.   If it’s possible to capture in a song the essence of fouling off a lot of pitches – this song does that.

3.  One Wing – Third – the best pure hitter, the best pure song.  Tweedy through beautiful metaphor (on base percentage) and Nils Kline through virtuoso guitar (slugging percentage) have created an OPS gem.

4.  Bull Black Nova  — Here is the power spot.  Wilco has a ‘roid rage paranoia trip taking power rips for your speakers fences.  Maybe not Ruth and Gehrig, but Wilco has put a great 3-4 combo on this album.

5.  You and I — It’s good to mix  in righties and lefties – or in rock parlance : rockers and ballads.  Wilco adds a left-handed ballad (and duet with Feist).

6.  You Never Know — Still room in the lineup for another big RBI song – the closest thing that Wilco has to a radio hit (if radio did rock anymore).

7.  Country Disappeared — The bottom of the lineup is the place for the specialty roles, the aging good-ole-crowd-pleaser, experimenting with a rookie sound.    There are familiar Wilco strains all over this one.

8.  Solitaire —  I love the simple hard-learned lesson of this one.   This song is my shortstop – a sweet and sublime fielder batting eighth.

9.  I’ll Fight – Here’s the brush back pitch.   A brash flamethower of a pitcher slotted number 9 (I’ll go National League rules — from place of origin or place of residency – I suspect Tweedy to be either a Cubs or Cardinals fan).

10.  Sonny Feeling – Okay, the batting lineup metaphor breaks down – few albums (non art-rock variety) limit themselves to 9 songs.   But this song sounds like a middle reliever – so I’ll just keep filling out my lineup card.

11.  Everlasting Everything – And here is the closer.  Kind of a veteran, ground-ball inducing type, not a high strikeout-rate type of song.   It can still pile up the saves.

There it is.  Wilco (the Scorecard).   I challenge you to take a favorite album and see how it stacks up as a baseball lineup.

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