Monday, July 29, 2013

Shipping Up To Boston

This is me:

I'm sitting in the back seats in Fenway Park last Saturday.  These wooden chairs are smaller (people were thinner) and do not have cup trays (people could hold their own drinks or place them on the floor) attached to the seat in the front of them.  They watched the baseball game on this field:

This is Futures at Fenway Day last Saturday.  The Red Sox were away playing in Baltimore and the field is turned over to the minor league Boys of Summer from Portland, Maine and the visiting team from Harrisburg, PA.  The field was bathed in sunshine and this was our view at the opening pitch:

Second row near what is known at Fenway as "Canvas Alley", where the ground crew stands to clean the bases and smooth the infield dirt, or, in case of deluge, get the tarp on the infield.  A great view of the game and we had our hot dogs and beverages, hanging around for seven innings before we retreated from the sun into the cool of Yawkey Way and the back area.  Wally the Green Monster even found his own prints in cement.

Near the end of the game we came back to the seats I wrote of earlier, out of the sun and watched the last few innings.  Normally I keep track of the plays, keeping a score book, but didn't feel the need. The day before we had had lunch at McGreevy's Tavern, the nation's first sports bar (or the version of it down the street from the actual sight).  Mike (Nuf Ced) McGreevy looks down from his sainted portrait atop the bar to Royal Rooters of all ages.

The bar is located "1200 Steps" from Fenway.   

Walking around Boston was limited to about anything in an eight block radius of our hotel, and I could handle that fairly well, with occassional stops for coffee. This being Boston there's a Dunkin Donuts or Stahbucks or an independent coffee house within reach, plus bookstores, and Commonwealth Avenue, filed with trees and benches.  We didn't go in 2012 as I was not sure I could handle the walking, but with the NYC strolls of a few weeks back and now Boston, I seem to know my limits and I can just enjoy things that I can do.

Like sitting and looking out at the field where Ted Williams and Yaz and the DiMaggio brothers and Pedro and Nomah and the Babe and Lou all played.  And all the players in between.  The nicest part is that at an "normal" game, you are hustled off out of the stadium so that the cleaning crew can do its part. This day we just sat and looked at the grass, the foul (Pesky and Fisk) poles, the Monstah.  People still made the trip out to the red seat to sit in the spot where Teddy Ballgame planted a homer, the longest in Fenway history, a mere 502 feet from home plate in 1946.

For about a half hour we could just walk around the Park.  Our place. Our home. and as long as I can walk it, or go in a scooter, or a wheelchair, I shall be there.  Fenway is not on the Bucket List, because we won't stop going. Evah.

Nuf Ced. Thanks for reading. More soon.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Come Find Me...

Saturday morning I headed south for my monthly meeting of the Sisters in Crime writer's group.  There being no Brothers in Crime to take me on, these nice ladies adopted my meager talents and I stand out like a pink light bulb in the corner chair at each gathering.  But we talk about the business of writing as much as characters and crime, marketing and knowing your market.

For example, dead people.  You can't do much in this mystery market if you don't have a corpse or 12 hanging around some city, mansion, distant planet, etc.

Especially when the dead talk back.  They've been sitting in the room of their demise for many years and just would like to be acknowledged. And there are people on THIS side who want to help.  Folks like the Albany Paranormal Research Society who are searching for, and perhaps finding, people who have moved on from this plane of existence to oh, your closet, say.

These good ladies do not have a TV show or a cable station to fall back on.  They are not part of the Scooby gang, and they have not yet found out that the town lawyer is dressing up as a poltergeist to frighten people from a house so he can...whatever...

Nope.  These folks, all volunteer, just ask questions.  People call them, thinking perhaps the Ghostbusters car will pull up in front of their home and Bill Murray and company will jump out, and vacuum up ectoplasm, and your troubles with it.  Sometimes your "haunt" is a TV set, or too many electric things running. Sometimes the ghost will fold  your laundry.  Frankly, I think that ghost should be left alone, and if he has time, I'd like him to mow my lawn.

But one spirit these intrepid ghost hunters have contacted has a name that history knows well. General Ulysses S. Grant.

In a house in Saratoga up my way, the hunters conversed with the good General and President.  Grant and family visited the area many times before settling in Mt. McGregor at (what is now) exit 16 of the Northway.  The General was dying, and he was racing time to complete his memoirs and secure his family's financial future after being swindled by the Bernie Madoff's of his age.  He moved from New York City to the small cottage on Mt. McGregor in the summer of 1885.  But Grant had been in the area before, and he stayed here:

That's the Batcheller Mansion Inn, and there are stories that Mr. Grant remains there, even asking our ghost busters to "Come Find Me".  While I am no expert in these things, I'm hoping the General liked it here at the Batcheller home enough that part of his spirit remains. Up on that mountain, despite the lovely cottage and weather and his family, Grant was in fairly constant pain and communication was tough as he worked with staff to check facts and relive certain battles.

The General finally succumbed to cancer on July 23, 1885.  The funeral was huge, and the general was laid to rest in his massive mausoleum in New York City, which was refurbished a few years back (the mausoleum, not NYC).  Here was the last great hero of the Civil War, the man who stopped Southern Secession, and kept Lincoln's policy of "let 'em up easy", though he was thwarted in Congress by more radical elements.  He was not perfect, but he attained such a stature that Confederate generals acted as pall bearers.

His memoirs are considered some of the best ever done, and his family was saved financially.  The cottage was closed for 5 years after the General's death, but has been open for tours since. In the main rooms it remains 1885.  

The General is sitting in his favorite chair in the above picture.  Here is the chair:

He met and conversed, as well as he could, from Union Privates to Mark Twain.  He would take a final ride out to the Overlook:

I think the white areas may have been more green back then.  And the Northway wasn't quite a going concern, but the place where the President stayed did have its own train.  Where you see the marker and the man having lunch is where a pavilion stood and the General was wheeled in there.  His helpers brought him back, and he went to bed, and died soon after.  

I try and get up there every year, and since the date is so close to the actual date of Grant's death (July 23) the funeral oration is given on the Sunday before.

More and more now I am drawn here, just to sit, and think of him in that chair writing his story for his family and history.  Actually, General, you are easy to find, I feel you when I'm at the cottage, and I feel your urgency to get the story done, tell the tales.

My doctors remained stunned that I work on this level. I insist upon it.  For he is me:

I too have tales to tell, and must hurry to get them done. Come find me.

More vacation stories soon.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Chicago 1, Martins 0

If you are not the lucky sort (and look, you’re reading a blog about MS and Bipolar Disorder, so chances are…) you will have someone in your life assign your vacations to you, assuming of course you:

  1. are allowed vacations and
  2. care where you go as long as it isn’t your job.

In our family, we have that person.  Now for a change of pace we’re not back in the 1970s but only three Presidential Administrations (the one you may remember as Peace and Prosperity or as “I did not have sexual relations with that woman…”) back. This is not the first of my extended married family vacations, but it will be considered the worst one, until I write about the second one.

This is Chicago 1, Martins 0.

The planning person indicated that her oldest would be graduating from school in June of that (late 1990s – see above- “I did not etc.) year and wouldn’t it be great if we all went to Chicago for the graduation ceremony.  We’ll take the train and see the country, or at least one thirtysecondth of it (Albany, NY to Chicago, Illinois). It’ll be great.

I had not been diagnosed by any doctor for any condition, except for Irritable Bowel Disorder which I am pleased to now note went away the day my mother died, but that’s a whole other blog and therapy session.  Nevertheless, I was concerned that this trip may be a stomach winder.  On the other hand, we were probably not going to do such a unique thing again, and other delusional thoughts went through our heads and we agreed to go.

We made reservations for a reasonable hotel outside Chicago.  The train would depart Albany on a late Thursday afternoon, moved west and arrive in Chicago Friday morning(ish). We’d have time to look around before the ceremony, and then maybe check out the Windy City before our languorous ride home.

And then there was the real version.  We got on the train, found seats and watched the scenery not move. And not move again.  The Albany Rennsselear train station is built on swampy land that was once part of the Hudson River floodwash. We looked at green weeds that barely moved in the lack of wind.  We heard an announcement over the speaker system that until this day sounded like “Fzzzzle bizzle delay wwep wooop fozzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz not moving chowwwwwwwwweeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Ted.” This was to be our main communication focus as “Ted” or “Fzzzzle” kept us informed on the politics of Amtrak in that if a train that made money (aka no people) had to move stuff down the line, the train that had people on it (aka no money) had to step aside or pullover. We finally exploded up to twenty mph and the evening of railroad enchantment began.

If you have not done a long trip on a train, here are a few tips.  First, there is one toilet in each passenger car.  There are maybe 20 or so passengers in each car.  We are in the train car for 16 straight hours.  You may be able to detect what I’m leading up to here. There is a definite odor.  Second, to get from one car to another, there are the secure doors. These doors open at the touch of a hand, a slight breeze, and any movement by the train. All night long.  Start to fade out, eyes glaze, dozing then, Schlicht Schlicht Whhhommmpp! Open Door - Close Door. People in and out. Or no one at all.  Just the ghost of a long dead passenger looking to find a working toilet before he explodes. Open Door – Close Door.  Schlicht Schlicht Whhhommmpp! Awake, I’m awake. Yep. I looked up at the one TV screen high up. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in a romcom.  Again. They have one movie, and keep showing it, until there’s a break in the electric feed, which happens, and then it starts again.  Third, if you like Tom Hanks or his films, don’t try to watch them on a train, unless you’re in the present decade where you can catch them on your tablet.  Fourth, try as they might, the food on a train was probably better during FDR’s first term, if you had any money to ride the train then.  Paper cups and picnic plates just do not reflect the great days of yore. Neither does the food made from paper cups and picnic plates.

And then of course, there is Notre Dame.  We slowed down at that picturesque town and passengers were offered the chance to walk around for pictures and shots of the gold done, for about 20 minutes, which gave you, considering the walk, about 17 seconds to look at the dome and run back because we were so far behind schedule there was no time to visit.

 I was actually concerned about time as, unknown to various family members; I had arranged an outing to Comiskey Park, home of the Chicago White Sox baseball team.  My nephew’s favorite player at that time was White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas.  I had arrange for seats directly behind first, plus a notice on the big screen in the outfield congratulating my nephew on his graduating and, known to no one but myself, a birthday greeting for my wife on the same screen.  The White Sox people said the announcement would be about the fifth inning. The game would start at 1 PM.  As we cruised past Note Dame, it was 12:25 PM.


As we pulled into Chicago, we had that vaguely odd look of a homeless family or a group of Croatian immigrants who would run to the car rental place and “get car drive to game thing.” In those pre-9/11 days, we were able to grab transportation, and as I pulled up to where the children had been dispatched to grab the luggage while the adults rousted a car. It was now 12:45. Seven people in a sedan, seven unclean people in a sedan, drove on highways I’d never been on and somehow pulled into the Comiskey parking lot a little after one. The trunk was opened as people dragged out game clothes (Sox uniforms, caps, etc) and then a dash to the seats just in time to see Frank Thomas walk away from our row and get ready to play.

Thomas homered, the requested congrats showed on the screen, we had Chicago sausage dogs.  We left the ballpark, stayed at the hotel, found ourselves the next morning in Schaumburg, Illinois, and a minor league basseball team and Caribou coffee.  The graduation was split into a religious ceremony in a room that once held the fires of hell, and then a graduation ceremony that included the names of everyone who had ever graduated from anyplace for any reason and all their family members.  One we got to the later Middle Ages, I excused myself to go outside and stand around with all the people smoking and chewin’ terbaccy.  Some of these guys would have been great to have on the train. “See Meg Ryan? Patooo! Got her where it counts, buddy!” Dinner followed, and we went back to the hotel in the blue funk of “Why are we here, oh, yeah, right, why are we here again?”

[I note here that I did attend a Schaumburg Flyers minor league Sunday morning. By myself.]

 So our nephew graduated and we embarked home on a retro ride, my sister in law’s family, graduate in tow, dropping off at Syracuse.  And then began the long ride through the weeds of the Mohawk and Hudson rivers, with plenty to stops to let the money trains go by and we needed to keep calling our ride again and again that we would not get to Albany until later as defined as we don’t know.  We kept my mother in law filled with yummies and windows to look out of.  “Nothing changes! It’s like we never left!”  Slowly across the Hudson and toward the station. Slower and slower, and there it is and there are our friends to pick us up. They wave and we wave as we on the train continue on past them for another half mile, grateful we stopped at all.  And then we take a 75 year old woman and get her off the train and delicately walk back toward our friends who have volunteered to drive us home when we should have arrived three hours before.

Mom dropped off at her Clifton Park mansion, we go home. The long distance train ride romanticism died when Tom Hanks began looking for Meg Ryan for the sixth time.

We will take the train down to New York, and home, now and then.  Other wise I keep a Lionel train under the Christmas tree. It sits on track. It is attached to some railroad cars. It does not move. It is not plugged in, shows no movies, and makes no promises it will ever move around the tree and hit the nicely wrapped presents, crash into the snowman on the curve, or stop at Notre Dame for anytime ever. No food. No crashing doors.

 And the saddest part of this Chicago trip? This was better than what was coming in three years when we did it again.  More on that soon.






Monday, July 8, 2013

Yellow Kryptonite

Faster than a speeding tortoise, more powerful than a locomotive (made of marshmallow fluff), able to leap small buildings at a single bound (as long as he in an airplane with a backwind and Denzel Washington is piloting it, drunk or sober)! Look! There on the couch! It's a guy! It's a bag of potatoes watching TV! It must be MS Man!

Yes, MS Man, strangely diseased visitor from North Troy, NY who has the ability to stare off into the corner for hours (see above picture) far beyond the powers of "Normal People"!  MS Man, who can change a car lane at any minute, bend Twizzlers with his bare hands (possible nap needed following demo), and who, disguised as Tom Martin, a mild mannered but clinically depressed retiree from a county government cubicle, fights a never ending, for truth, justice, and the way out of the room he just walked into trying to remember why he walked in there in the first place.

Those of you familiar with the Superman mythos know there is only one thing that can stop the Man of Steel and make him die a few times at least, and even do weird things - and this of course is Kryptonite...

which does look like the dilithium crystals from Star Trek, but Superman had it first, so OK with me.  Anyway, Kryptonite are parts of the planet Krypton (Superman's home planet) that exploded and, for some reason seemed to have followed the alien child in his ship to Earth, because he can not seem to get away from this stuff in TV or comics or movies.  The pieces come in various colors and sizes like this:

The effects on Superman/Boy/Girl/Dog change as needed for story lines.  Now MS Man (and Woman) fears only one type not noted in the above page.  Our nemesis is Yellow Kryptonite (no such stuff has gone after Superdude, yet).  This very large piece of space junk is known to Earth people as that ball in the sky,  called the Sun by native earthers or Slovenian: sonce, Croatian/serbian: sunce, German: sonne, Italian: sole, etc.  The burning piece of hydrogen gas is called Sol by the galaxy travelers, except for one small Empire in another quadrant of this galaxy that calls Sol and its environs "Legumia and the All Star Hot Buns!" Nobody really pays attention to them.

The yellow sun of this system may help life exist on this gatherings of rock, and give our buddy Superman his super powers, but one step into the light during the months of May to September in the Northern Hemisphere and our nemesis can suck the life out of us, forcing us to retreat inside and watch more TV.  Add in Sol's fiendish friend Mr. Humidity and we became dazed, confused, and in need of an espresso hit fast.  We find a Dunkin' Donuts a good replacement for the Fortress of Solitude, plus you can get munchkins there.

Truly, our Fortresses of Solitude is anyplace that the air conditioning is blasting in the low Kelvin range.  And there are other people sitting around you that have no idea that you are actually MS Man or MS Woman.  Just another person with the paper and a mocha cooler.  Sometimes we will even go to the cinema and sit through the Lone Ranger for two hours plus for the icy soda and popcorn.  Then we can walk at our own pace (assuming we sat in the "handicapped" chairs) and get to the air conditioned car so we go back to our air conditioned homes.  Summer's great, isn't it?

Even Superman can have an off day. And we don't need the Man of Steel to tell us MS Superheroes and Superheroines to know that autumn is a mere 76 days away.  Guess I should mow the lawn sometime before that.

Over 4000 visits.  Thanks. More to come.