Showing posts with label Friends and Family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Friends and Family. Show all posts

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Spring Training and the Boys of Summer



Spring. Renewal.  It seems that with every passing year, replenishment of the spirit becomes a higher priority: this year, perhaps even more so, given the chaotic destruction of government, and the deterioration of civility.

One remaining constant is baseball, spring training, and the boys of summer gathering once again: the crack of the bat and the pounding of gloves in the bullpen.

The game has changed from the days of my own boyhood.  Pitchers then generally went nine innings, maybe more.  There were no designated hitters, few bullpen stoppers, salary arbitration, automatic walks, game clocks, ML baseball drafts, protective helmets (inside pitches were integral to the game), anti-spitball rules, instant replay challenges, and preposterous salaries (and ticket prices).  “Hey, get your hot dog and cold beer, $10 each!”

Perhaps some of these adjustments are for the better.  But, essentially, the game changed to remain the same and with spring, the clock is wound once again.

Our friends Cathy and John are Boston Red Sox fans, the archenemy of us New York Yankee devotees. When they asked whether I wanted to join them to see the Sox play the St. Louis Cardinals at our nearby Roger Dean Jupiter stadium, I said, sure, why not, an opportunity to scout the opposition and engage in some good-natured ribbing.

And scouting it was, as the Sox were traveling from FL’s west coast and only brought a handful of regulars.  So, it was an opportunity to see some of their players of the future.  It’s the same reason we have regular tickets to Class A+ minor league ball after spring training – to see the future.

The day before Cathy and John saw the Red Sox lose to the Houston Astros 10-5 at the neighboring Ball Park of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach.  I jokingly predicted that the Red Sox might win against the Cards by the same score, and was almost right, winning 9-6.  Well, at least I guessed the total number of runs correctly.

It was a sell-out, standing room only crowd.  John and Cathy had obtained tickets several weeks before. When the Sox or the Yankees visit FL’s east coast from their west coast spring training facilities, which is rare, tickets are scarce.  We had seats with a good view between third base and left field in the second tier.  Best of all, these seats were in the shade. 

It was strange to watch the two teams go through their warm up and batting practice exercises as both teams had red jerseys on.  When play finally started it was hard to tell who was fielding behind a base or who was on base.  I had to keep looking at the scoreboard to tell which team was at bat.

Two pitchers from their normal rotation started, Bud Norris of the St. Louis Cards and Drew Pomeranz of the Red Sox.  Both left the games with injuries before they completed their allotted two or three innings, Norris because of a hamstring injury and Pomeranz because of a forearm tightness issue.

The righty Norris in action:












 



















The lefty Pomeranz in action:














 

















Norris got into trouble in the first inning giving up a well hit home run to one of the few Boston regulars who played, Andrew Benintendi.  I managed to get a shot of Benintendi’s follow through swing as he hit that ball: 


An inning later, Norris left the game after this conference on the mound:
 

So there were lots of hits, runs, errors in the game, making it interesting, even though it was only practice, but to see the boys of summer in the spring means some order and stability in the world.  Doesn’t it?

As it is that time of year, and having loved The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, Ann bought me another “baseball novel” to read, selecting Bucky F*cking Dent by the very well known screen actor, David Duchovny.  I first hesitated reading it, an actor writing a novel, perhaps just capitalizing on his fame.  But, no, Duchovny is a good writer as well and I’ll give him credit for what I would describe as a “late coming of age” novel, a son confronting his father after years of estrangement. 

Who knew, the dad and son are really very much alike.  Problem is the dad is dying and as he’s an ardent Bosox fan, the son (ironically subsisting as the ace Peanut thrower vendor at Yankee stadium) moves in with his father and conspires (with his father’s friends) to keep him away from the fact that the Sox are slipping in the standings as the 1978 season comes to an end.  They censor current newspapers and run VCR tapes of previous Red Sox wins over NY, Ted knowing his father, Marty, wouldn’t remember them. In the end there is the end, Bucky f*cking Dent winning the AL pennant for the NYY with his home run over the green wall in the final game of the season.  By then, father and son have become reconciled.

It’s light reading, poignant and funny at times and a page turner, not that there is a lot of baseball therein, but I was very curious about how the novel would resolve and Duchovny writes good dialogue, almost like a screenplay, which, I recall, this novel started out as such.  As a baseball novel and as a noteworthy piece of literature, it pales next to Harbach’s The Art of Fielding.  Duchovny’s work is baseball “lite.”

But still, it’s my era and I’ll never forget that moment in Paris -- Ann and I happened to be there when the Sox and the Yankees faced off each other at Fenway on Oct 2, 1978.  Back then, no Internet, and needless to say no coverage of American baseball anywhere and so we had to await the next day’s edition of the International Herald Tribune to learn the glorious news of the Dent’s unexpected heroism, and at Fenway no less.  I remember Ann and I dancing in the streets of Paris, a strange sight, but Parisians take those things in stride: “ces Américains fous.”



Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Ringing in the New Year with the Past



Five years ago we celebrated my 70th birthday on a ship. Needless to say, seems like yesterday.  I was not even thinking that we could do it again.  But the past became the future. Although, looking at the pictures, I see the change, in us, in our “kids.” 


So, for my 75th birthday we managed to enjoy another Caribbean cruise, this time on the Celebrity Silhouette (now considered a mid-sized ship, but, still, about the largest we’d go on – meticulously maintained though, and the meals were surprisingly good with excellent service). This was a destination onto itself, the ports, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and St. Kitts being ones we visited before and, now, the first two still bearing the devastation of Hurricane Maria.  But the point was to be together, our little family, which very happily now includes our daughter-in-law to be, Tracie.

It was an opportunity to get to know her.  Jonathan is a lucky man to be marrying such a lovely woman, intelligent and loving.  She is a pediatric gastroenterologist, with harrowing stories about kids doing what kids will do, like swallowing nails.  Thankfully, there are caring specialized physicians such as Tracie to cope with those events.  I’ve always regretted not having a daughter in addition to our two sons.  It is a dream soon to be realized.


My actual birthday itself was celebrated a couple of days before we left with friends pictured left to right, Harry, Susan, my wife Ann, Lois, John, and the birthday “boy” himself now working on his last quarter century, grateful for whatever of that time the fates allow.


Unfortunately, when we left for the cruise I had a sinus infection which morphed into a chest cold, loading up on a Z pack while on the ship and all the over the counter medications necessary to control my cough.  Never had a fever though so didn’t consider myself contagious and washed my hands scrupulously to spare fellow passengers.  Not exactly the way I envisioned an active cruise.  So it became a relaxed one, leaving the ship only once in St. Kitts.    But as I said, the point was for our family to be together.  Their work schedules had to be arranged almost a year in advance, so we were lucky to coordinate a birthday celebration redux.

We didn’t “do” shows or games or other activities on the ship but instead hung out at the spa where there are not teeming crowds. They served light lunches there, and it was a place where Ann, Jon, and Tracie could play Scrabble (in addition to playing on our Verandah).  Chris and I read mostly. 

Ann and I retired after dinner to our stateroom to read.  Or to view a late sunset.

My main read turned out to be my own “book” a PDF retrospective of my Dramaworks blog commentary over the years, which I published with a preface in my prior entry


But I also managed to fit in several one act plays by the late Sam Shepard, one of our most important and enigmatic playwrights and engaging actors.  I had bought this collection for my iPad for the trip only months before his recent death.  Many of these plays were written in his early years, some appearing first at Café La Mama where I occasionally went in the 1960s.  It’s possible I could have seen some of them there.  Who remembers?  Theatre of the Absurd was on the rise and the European influence on Shepard is clear.  But he was one of a kind, bringing in his Western sensibilities too.

The first play in the collection, though, is one of his more recent ones, “Ages of the Moon.”  It is about two old “friends” who at long last see each other on the porch of one of their homes in some unnamed countryside, two displaced characters who have the past to chew on and to view the eclipse of the moon.  Dark and funny, it captures the passage of time, the regrets, the hurts, and what time really means: decline.  Best of all is the cadence of Shepard’s dialogue. 

I’m not finished with the collection, about half way through, but that gives you an idea of what one might find in Fifteen One-Act Plays by Sam Shepard (2012)

The first stop on the cruise was the Port of San Juan and approaching the Port, one passes the massive Castillo San Cristóbal and from this prospective one would hardly be aware of Maria’s devastation.  This brief video may not play on all devices.

Chris took a bike tour of part of the island and said that the destruction was much evident, trash and remnants of homes, utility lines still down.  Heartbreaking.

The last stop on the cruise was St. Kitts, the island most spared by Hurricane Maria. While Ann enjoyed a hot stone massage at the ship’s Canyon Range Spa, Chris and I took a walk, past the touristy shops and then into Basseterre, the capital of Saint Kitts and Nevis, a place I’ve been before, and always an opportunity for some idiosyncratic photos.  Their Independence Square has a beautiful Italian-inspired fountain.

Unfortunately, two cruise ships in port put a damper on things, depriving us of the opportunity to really mingle with the Island’s people.  They were outnumbered. 

Finally, back to Ft. Lauderdale and the sunrise.

So, 2018 begins, after blowing out the candles of 2017.  Tempus Fugit.  A Happy and Healthy New Year to All. 


Friday, December 1, 2017

Goodbye SLR



I haven’t written about photography in a while and I think that’s because of the stage in my life and the encroachment (or more accurately, the replacement) of the SLR with the smart phone.  There was the time in my life that I’d pack my Nikon SLR, lenses as well, when I traveled or felt like going on a local photographic sojourn.  No doubt I used to take it more seriously, although I was never a professional like my father.  I had my own darkroom some 40 years ago and did a lot of black and white photography, gravitating to idiosyncratic subjects, but always one eye on the prosaic, scenes we just take for granted in everyday life. 

A New York Times article about a Stephen Shore exhibition at the MoMA reminds me of the kind of photography I liked as an amateur, never serious enough to fully give myself over to photography as an art.  As years went by I did more of what everyone did, photographing the kids as they grew up, family occasions, trips that we took, allowing what ever existed of an artistic eye to mostly atrophy. 

Now, I never go anywhere with my SLR and although I’ve invested in a digital camera that can practically replicate everything an SLR can do, even that rarely goes with me unless I want telephoto capability, usually only on trips.  The smart phone has changed everything and now I find myself taking more sunrise and sunset and landscape and nature photography with it, sometimes mindlessly posting them on Twitter.

But I read about Stephen Shore’s career and wonder what could have been (Stephen Shore’s MoMA Survey Shows a Restless Reformer as a Master of Photography). I was particularly intrigued by the NYT’s observation that “he produced suites of photographs, shaped by a single principle, which pictured anodyne Americana in impassive repetition.”  Yes, that could have been what I was aspiring to do but have long since abandoned.

In that article you can see his photograph “Beverly Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, California, June 21, 1975.”  It depicts a commonplace street scene in which Chevron and Texaco gas stations are conspicuous.  Although unremarkable, it’s remarkable.  The last time I toted my SLR was on a trip we took to the Southwest about ten years ago, and I took some photos of “anodyne Americana,” my favorite being a gas station along Route 66:

But there are others in the same region, and of other pieces of Americana captured on that trip such as a political rally advertised at a local diner…

The infinite stretch of Route 66 and freight trains running alongside….

Or the side of a garage in Arizona…

I wonder what could have been if photography was my vocation, but I had a publishing career and a family life to lead and now the rest is history.  So now my iPhone photographs are usually scenes outside my home or in my neighborhood. These still makes me feel connected to my photographic roots (my father’s commercial photography business established by my great grandfather in 1866). 

Here are some posted on Twitter or some just recently taken:



And here I’ll sneak in a personal shot, Thanksgiving buffet at our house showing the two cooks, our friend Sydelle and my wife Ann, taken, of course, with the iPhone. 


Plus, my favorite sunset shot, taken with one of the early digital cameras, a Sony Mavica, at a Block Island dock perhaps twenty + years ago, three men silhouetted in the foreground…


Adios SLR

Cameras I Have Known