Thursday, April 16, 2015

SoCal Sojourn

Onomatopoeia ALERT!
Yer ol' perfesser's freshly returned from a rail journey (to Los Angeles), the first one in perhaps as many as 30 years, with a sad report: "Clickety-clack" is DEAD!"
No more "Dodes-Kaden."
No, really.
Trains now pass almost silently over the rails with no more hullaballoo than the drumming of fingers on a desk, from within,
It's because in former days rails were laid in 16-20' sections, hammered into place with spikes. THose days, like so much else, have passed; rails now are carried in lengths up to several hundred yards on linked rail-cars which pay out the rails in long, continuous sections onto concrete ties. The section are then welded, in place, by thermite reactions.
I travelled west on a standard coach seat which I am not well-enough padded in the nether regions to again endure; returned in a compartment, which is FAR the preferable alternative, albeit at about three times the price: $70 (coach) v. $230 (sleeper--though the meals are covered).
However, there in one's lonely splendor, one is spared the idiotic drivel and moronic byplay of the proles, drones, and yokels maintaining contact with their primary identity groups on their "smart phones," and their noisy, banal, interpersonal prattle.
BTW: I have no idea how often the Bill of Fare in the dining car is changed, but it's not often enough. Selections are few, are not particularly appetizing, and are not inexpensive, either. I had the chicken going out. On the way back I had the steak. There was also a pasta dish. Not an inspiring selection.
(Aside: Once, when coming to New Mexico for Christmas with my Dad's parents on the Super Chief from Chicago, on the way UP Raton Pass, we were side-tracked for a train a train coming down, and several of the kitchen staff detrained long enough to scramble down to a stream below, to catch a few fresh trout for dinner. That was no later than 1955.)
But I would travel by train again, long before I'd subject myself to the tender mercies of the TSA at airports.
(Another--and final--Aside, Silk Purse/Sow's Ear Dept:  I may have inadvertently stumbled on a way to defeat drug dogs--spill scotch inside your luggage where you're toting your (small amounts) of contraband. The residual aroma apparently camouflages the faint odors of weed which might escape yer little stash.
How I know?
It "worked" for me.
I had brought a (sterling silver) flask with me into which I had decanted the last remnants of a bottle of Glen Morangie (18 yrs--thanks again, David Williams), with the eye to having a drink or two en route. However, on my way to Union Station (LA), foor my return trip, I was compelled to come to an abrupt stop, which tipped over the bag in which I was carrying the flask. The stopper wasn't tight enough--the cork was worn--and much of the remaining contents leaked onto the two Harper's Magazines between which I had squeezed the flask to forestall just such a disaster--for naught, because the contents of the flask had soaked into the magazines.
I bemoaned this briefly until, as I was awaiting the train in the AMTRAK lounge in LA, a detachment of cops came through the lounge with a drug-dog. I held my breath as unobtrusively as possible, while the dog passed by my dunnage without a pause. The same casual attitude attended the further three passes the crew made on the platform and through the train between LA and Fullerton--whereafter I never saw them again.)
The purpose of the trip I shall address in my next post.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Play BALL! Closing and Opening Day

Take me out to a ball-park!
There is a sort of poetic cyclicity to the NCAA Div 1, hoops season ending this year on Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season. Only 161 games to go til the Play-Offs!Baseball is my first love, the first sport I "played" on a real team: The first at which I fancied I might be good.
"Little League."
I shall never forget the smell of the "uniform" t-shirts with the sponsor's name spelled across the front. I guess it was not much unlike the smell of the wood alcohol from the ditto pages they fed us in school, but outside, on the field, it was different. I didn't take the thing off for the first week I had it. And the team cap! Worn just so, with the brim boxed and bent just so...sooo cool.
I was an outfielder. I have a canine gene and love to chase fly balls. I was quick of foot. and had a good eye for judging 'em, and I didn't usually drop any, and I had a strong (though erratic) arm.
I got a mitt when I was about seven, I guess. There was nothing but sandlot ball, before LL (chronologically) in my youth, in the early 50s.
Played a LOT of "catch" in the street. There was a park (Empett's Field!) with a primitive diamond not far from home, near the elementary school I attended. There, all the kids of a certain age--mebbe 8 to 10 or 11--in the neighborhood would gather, choose up sides, and play, weekends all day, and every day after school until it snowed; and in spring as soon as the snow melted and the ground firmed up, we were back.
This was in Cleveland, but I was born in Chicago--both baseball towns. I, however, was an ostentatious WhiteSox fan when we lived in Cleve-town, But my Dad did get us tickets to Game 3 of the '54 Series. Vic Wertz homered. The Giants swept.
My own baseball dreams were abruptly ended in the summer I was 12. That was when kids started firing curveballs around. This was the 50s, before batting helmets. I got beaned by a nasty kid a year older named Tommy Fleming that summer, and my competitive diamond days were done.
I played a little slow-pitch soft-ball over the years...on a bar-team in Renton with my housemate, who was 'the eternal gamer.' I can't move well enough these days to serve as a base.
But I love to watch it, both live and on the screen.
I go to one or two "Topes" games a year. They're the Triple A franchise club, nowadays for the Rockies, I think; usta be a Dodger club. I saw all the great Dodgers of the 70s when they played in Albuquerque for the "Dukes." That incredible infield: Garvey, Sachs, Russell, and Cey. Lasorda managed a couple of years, too. There was a drive-in, parking  lot on the bluff above the right-field wall where you could park and watch the game.
I usta collect ballparks in my conference attending days, (including Olympique Park in Montreal when there was still a team there). Got up to around 20, all told--not Camden Yard or the new park in Cleveland, either. I sold beer during Mariners games at the old Kingdome.
It's the springtime air, I can hear the smack of the ball on leather, the 'pock' of the bat, the cheers of the crowd...
That is to say, it's springtime, and I am ready to "Play Ball!"