Friday, August 26, 2016

Flashback Friday

After college graduation, a few of us tried keeping the spirit alive by meeting once a year in a cental location.  This was usually somewhere in Iowa, but once we even met in Kansas City.  This picture is rather intriguing, and I've never posted it before.  Not sure why, but maybe becasue I thought I should know what is going on.  I will do my best with what I do know.  

1.  That young lady looking up at whoever was taking the picture is Margie, with a hard G.  Not sure why it was pronounced that way,  and if I did at one time, I have forgotten.  Margie ended up marrying her date, Mark N., and after his coaching gigs in Nebrask and Idaho, settled in Arizona where we remain in contact.  

2.  The girl in red is Pam, my date and occasional GF in college.  Pam was a New Jersey girl, Patterson, NJ actually, and had the East Coast/Jersey accent.  We liked walks, and walked all over Mt. P talking about life, love and everythign in between.  Poor girl was nuts about me and her folks had money.  Should have worked harder but I was the philosophy student who said a starving man could die happy.  What I have sinced learned from life is that a man with money can die happier.  Alas, she found a hulking brute named Rocky, no doubt with a similar accent, and I assume lived happily ever after.  

3.  The young man, of course, is your fathful blogger,  playing cards and looking like he needs to work on his poker face.  Since I see no money on the table perhaps we had different stakes in mind.  If you peer under the table you might see a white tennis shoe that has my sockless foot in it.  I did not wear socks until I started working at the Mary Davis Home.  In fact I was painting my ankles black for formal functions.  I got caught abusing the dress code at the Mary and the rest is history.  Socks ever since.  Shame.  

4.  I am guessing this to be our first post-college get-together.  Pam was a year younger so she would have been in school still.  What I don't get is the time of year - we all have winter clothes on, and I thought we met in the summer.  That is definitely a motel room.  And I started school in Denver in the Fall after graduation, so frankly I'm a bit confused. 

These get-togethers didn't last (does anything).  People got jobs, moved away and life finally forced all of us out into the real world.  Mark N. became a coach in Nebraska, Tom S. a realtor in Marengo, Iowa, RB back to England, Dave became the CEO of Boetjes Mustard in the Quad Cities, Mark became the Superintendant of Orion water department, and I continued on with school for another couple of years.  The cocoon of college is ephemeral - it is there as a constant reminder of early adulthood, and then it is gone - the real world of kids, bills, jobs and marriage soon popped the protective bubble.  

"When Life begins Anew, 
And Youth, from gathering flowers,
from vague delights, rapt musings, twilight hours,
Turns restless, Seeking some great deed to do..."

Laurence Binyon

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Ruination of Baseball


Baseball.  They were playing it when Lincoln was wandering the White House.  It used to be the center of activity in small town across America.  Girls, boys, old guys - everyone used to play.  Maybe they still do in some urban areas, big cities where you can find people to do anything.  

Even in little Seaton when the Blythe boys were running around, every kid had a glove and played some form of ball.   We three boys played a modified game:  one in the outfield, a pitcher and a catcher.  We had rules and the only problem was when the pitcher wouldn't throw strikes so the hitter had to play catcher, too.  

There were aspects to playing baseball that were inviolable.  One was the ritual of breaking in a new glove.  You had to wet the glove, put a ball in the heel and wrap it tight so it would make a kind of mold.  If you had a cap you had to squeeze the brim to a half moon to the hat would not only fit but would keep the sun out of your eyes on both sides.  Besides, it was just the way it was done.  A bent brim was gritty - it was a symbol of a ball player.   

Fast forward to present day.  Sure, you still have guys like Justin Morneau, above, who look like ball players.  The majority still do.  The majority still realize that a ballplayer starts to look like on from the head down.  However, in this hip-hop world, baseball has fallen prey to the fakers, the weird players who have forgotten how to work in a cap and who display their headware in a most decidedly non-baseball way.  These guys are the ruination of the sport.  

Take, for instance, this Cub above.  I think his name is Arrieta.  See his brim?  Its like he just grabbed it off the shelf of the local sports store at the mall.  Wonder if he still has the sticker on it?  He has turned his back on his childhood and baseball to form a new fashion statement - Destroyer of Lore.   They are called "flat-brimmers" and they are the vanguard of new school baseball.   They are attempting to be cool.  But, thing is, no one outside the local club scene, hip-hop dance halls, or wannabe gangsta like that look.  The true baseball fan disdains this kind of knife thrust in the back of America's sport.    

Also invading the sport is this look, started by Fernando Rodney, a loser has-been pitcher for a decade now.  Bouncing from team to team, still pouring gas on closer situations,  he has this brim-to-the-left look that several players are emulating.  Just goes to show you intelligence isn't necessary to play.  


Football has been America's favorite sport for a half century so one could make a case that baseball hasn't been relevant for a couple of generations.  African-American attendance and participation has fallen to dangerously low levels.  If these guys like wearing their caps a certain way, and the Commissioner and/or owners don't have a problem, then we fans shouldn't care either.  If kids are wearing flat brim baseball caps then they are at least interested in the sport, or at the very least team logos.  

Besides, baseball has always gone through fashion disasters, myriad crisis and always pulled out of them just fine.  

Baseball itself is slipping - steroids, the DH, a game perceived as slow and dull, and to focus on a hat is ludicrous.  The old-timers who rail against any new intrusion to their old-fashion world view should just keep quiet and let the game evolve naturally.  Look at all the empty, unused, weedy, ball diamonds all across America to see that the problem is more than just a cap, it's a game that isn't attracting kids or their parents.  Want to do something worthwhile? Then figure out how to get the future generations interested again, or a cantered brim will be the least remembered nail in the coffin of America's sport.  

I don't know if baseball will survive its present preeminence as the number 2 sport in the country.  How do you keep it going when generations of kids would rather sit in front of a computer, or play a video game, skate, or egads! play soccer?  One thing is certain, a cap won't kill it.     

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Like Two Ships Passing In the Night - Part 3

Every once in a while you accidentally take a picture that makes your jaw drop.  Some may know exactly how they did it, and those people are called professionals.  In my case, however, I am still an amateur in every sense of the word.  I'm still fuzzy on f-stops and aperture but occasionally I stumble on something really really fine.  Having sung my own praises, I suppose I should step out of the way and let you judge for yourselves.  

Today we continue with one of my favorite Northlandia pastimes - the river at night, camera in hand, or rather tripod.  There is something dark, moody, mysterious and threatening about the river at night.  Barges plying up and down, almost silently, their lights like dragon fire marking their path.  

These pictures are rather surreal.  These barges, these river ships, like ancient warriors - they meet their enemies by probing the shoreline, vanquish them by sheer avoidance and then move on.  Add a lightening bolt to the proceedings and you have a good picture worth singing praises.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tuesday Tidbits

Following a national trend toward more modern degrees Western Illinois University, like Iowa Wesleyan University before them, has removed Philosophy as a major.  First my high school merges with another district and destroys the Greendragon mascot, then my college becomes a university, then my major is stricken from the rolls.  I'm all for modernization, but replacing Philosophy with Digital Media and Design seems so...trendy.


A few weeks ago I mentioned, perhaps insensitively at the time,  that John McLaughlin of the PBS McLaughlin Group should retire since he seemed to be withering in his chair before our eyes.  This past week he not only retired due to death.  He was 89.  His show was the grandaddy of all the talking head shows that followed, usually less successfully.  I started my fondness for politics by reading Alan Drury novels in high school and latched onto The MacLaughlin Group at some point.  It was usually an entertaining hour and maybe I learned something from it.  With politics going on 24/7 today I won't miss it too much,  I can always find it somewhere, but its another tether from the past snapped.  


Norah picked purple this time and had a tough go at staying within the lines.  Might have to beg for a redo.  


Went to the beach a week ago.  As I was heading to the car I saw this.  I don't even know where to begin, so maybe I'll just leave it alone and let you make of it what you will.


Saw this display at Big Lots recently.  I would have thought that health concerns, child-rearing and plain common sense would have eliminated candy and bubble gum cigarettes a long time ago.  Kind of amazing if you think about it.   And it doesn't say much for Big Lots.  


Last Sunday Kenzie, Drew and the family came over for a dip and breakfast.  

This was a spontaneous hug for Daddy I was able to get on my cellphone.  Man, that's got to make you feel like a million dollars.


Now that the election is over, I can turn my thoughts to baseball and the Mets.  Hmmm, let me see.  11 1/2 games back!!  Four teams ahead of us in the wildcard!!  Well, in that case I guess I can start thinking about...having a Bloody Mary. 

While the Mets are definitely out of it, the focus will be on the Chicago Cubs to become the next National League champs.  While I am no means a Cubs fan - and only this year allowed a Cub to be on my fantasy team (Contreras), I will suspend my dislike long enough for them to make it to the post-season playoffs and maybe World Series.  And if I don't jump up with joy with every Bryant home run it doesn't mean I am not rooting for them.  I am, rather, rooting for every Cubs fan, those patient, wistful losers who seem to have finally earned a shot to enjoy a World Series.  There is nothing like it.  I wish you much success.  Now where's my Bloody Mary.     


Spotted by daughter Kenze yesterday on her way to work.  I'm not a big fan of bathroom colloquialism but as advertising I guess it works.  It did for her.


As I was walking Alfred in her carriage yesterday around the block and past Wal-Mart, a real bum found the penny in front of the pop machine before I did.  He then walked over to Burger King.  Sure hope he had enough to have a good breakfast.


Remember two years ago when this election was supposed to be between Jeb and Hillary?  Now that's an election that would have been worth having.


Went to Port Richey to get a free oil change for the present Mrs. Blythe's Murano last Saturday.  The dealership has in its employ the greatest Honduran car salesman and, get this, his name is Otto.    Enjoyed him when we bought her car and I have fantasized about something for myself.  He almost sold me on this 2011 Nissan Pathfinder, a three-row seater so the whole family could ride together instead of having to use 2 cars.  Sadly, my finances couldn't handle it, but, whew! was that ever close.   

Monday, August 22, 2016

You Can Go Home Again, Kind Of

Looking back it is still hard for me to place the relevance or importance of high school.  We just had our reunion last week, and I always have mixed emotions.  I did not attend, nor did I the time before, but I have gone at times and enjoyed my classmates.  

That is why I have been somewhat obsessed with seeing the high school again after all these years.  I had that opportunity while in Northlandia.  The Wombie and I walked in and while he had been in at some point fairly recently, I have not been back since the day I graduated.  

I was surprised by how very little it had changed.  In fact I was shocked.  I guess I had thought that there would have been major updates, but oddly, it remains a veritable time capsule.      

During school we would have the occasional assembly or cheerleader tryouts.  Naturally we would try to get as high up as possible.  Not sure how much I paid any attention to things, but remember having a great deal of fun up there.  One had to watch the withering eye of principal Pratt, but we were from Seaton, we had invisibility cloaks.  

The only difference I can see to the gym was the replacing the Green Dragon memorabilia with Golden Eagle banners.  Other wise it remains the same.  Along the far wall was the rope we were supposed to climb and touch the iron beam, a feat I loved doing.  To the left was the trampoline we had fun using one year and also the boxing area where I took on Richie Maynard and didn't embarrass myself.

This was where we would spend many Friday nights on the left bleachers clear up top to watch the basketball games.  Since I hated basketball I guess my participation was mainly of a social type.  

I swear, this is the original shower.  How can you not redo this area since the school was built?   

This is the auditorium where they used to roll out a TV set during the World Series so we could watch.  They don't do afternoon games anymore.  This is where we had a hypnotist do a show for us once and made Frank Harlan cluck like a chicken.  This was the place where we did singing shows for Christmas (my Lord, what was I doing in that?) in Mrs. Paul's chorus class.

This was a kind of Super Study Hall room.  You could end up here with kids from all other classes.  I also think it tended to be toward the end of the day so you could do your homework, gossip, or hatch bomb threats.  See those windows?  They used to be full length and all along the wall.    

This was where my locker was, about the third one down.  

You'll have to excuse my memory at this point but I think this was one of my favorite classrooms.  This was chemistry and was helmed by a most remarkable lady, Miss Maggie Miles.  She was so good she made it understandable to a decidedly right brain guy like me.*  For the first time I understood the math involved and, dare I say, enjoyed it.  Meanwhile, elsewhere in the building, I was taking Algebra I and II and was in a constant fog.  

Finally, Mr. Bucklew's biology class.  Home of this neat skeleton and fun dissections of frogs.  The skeleton had arms and legs back in my day, however.  This poor excuse of bones has learned what we all learn eventually:  old age isn't a battle, its a massacre.  I still have a tag by me and my dissection partner signed by Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  

Another bunch of kids will be learning the ins-and-outs of high school this week.  They will have the usual trials of youth - peer pressure, classes that amaze, classes that confound.  Most will succeed, some will not.  But through it all they will be bonded in some way, great or small, to those who stood beside us as we found our way.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Flashback Friday

Showing my 1966 Chrysler 300 in Monmouth.

A week from tomorrow I will be attending, weather permitting, a car show in Bushnell.  Its always been one of my favorites because it is an actual judged show and has narrow classes.  Let me explain.  usually if you take an old car to one of these, they will give you a ballot when you register.  At around noon you will be directed to wander from class to class (i.e. 1955-1964 Stock or Corvettes 1970-1980, and so forth) and mark the best car in each class.  You then take your ballot and drop in a box at the registration table and someone will count them, and thus, trophies given to top three cars in each class.  There are problems with this kind of voting:  buddies vote for buddies (I am guilty of this), club members vote for club members (I am guilty of this).  Also, people love chrome and the color red.  It is a well known fact that all red chromed cars win.  This is called the Rule of Red.   

At Bushnell a couple guys will look your car over and mark on a 100 point scale the condition of your car.  Categories are things like brightwork, interior, engine compartment, paint, undercarriage, and so forth.  Each category is 10 points.  

Showing my 1962 Plymouth in Bishop Hill 

As for those classes I mentioned.  Usually classes include a decade worth of cars, like Stock 1970-1980.  That takes in a lot of cars.  You could end up with 10-15 cars in a class.  Your chances of winning a trophy diminish with each car in your class.  In Bushnell, they have the tightest classes around, such as 1960-1963.  You may be competing with only three or four others cars. 

Showing my 1967 Chrysler in Monmouth.

The most recent trend in car judging is to eliminate classes altogether and go with a Top 30 approach.  Everyone parks wherever they want and you attempt to judge a stock 56 Studebaker next to a '78 Chevy Caprice modified.  My experience in these cases is that the Rule of Red will supersede any and all previous rules.  

Showing my 1963 Dodge 880 in G-Burg.

Next weekend is also the Aledo Antique Days car show.  I could drive a half mile and enjoy a day of kibitzing with acquaintances, or I can go to Bushnell.  There is another rule of car shows:  driving there and back is always more fun than hours in a lawn chair.  Showing cars is perfect for a fellow like me.  The car is the star and I'm just a supporting player.  I get to hide in the background whilst others wander slowly and take in the shape, style and history of old iron.  You know, the cars are a reflection of society at the point they are designed, usually three to four years in advance.  The sweeping fins of a '61 Imperial reflected the 50's excess and by the time it was produced, its styling was already becoming outdated.  But I digress.  

Oh, and all my wonderful old cars are gone now except for the Dodge.  I consider them my children that I cared for and then let them go.  It hurts when I think of them, but when I moved to Florida my life circumstances changed.  Such is the way of things.  

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Head Out On The Highway, Looking For Adventure

Head Out On the Highway, Looking For Adventure

G-Burg may have been the destination, but the trip there and back needn't be uneventful.  Just a couple twists and turns and you are in another world.  Am I exaggerating?  Maybe a bit, but new ground is always fun ground.  

Mr. and Mrs. Wombie and I cruised the back country roads that are travelled only by those who live back here and the mail person, and probably the occasional Fed Ex or UPS guy.  You can't generally ride these roads by bike because of the gravel, but a Jeep is fearless back here.  

Egads, buffalo?  Are we in the Dakotas?  Nope, just a few miles outside Monmouth.

This represents the perfect country road.  A lack of power lines, dark and mysterious roadside trees and shrubbery means civilization has receded.  This is how a lot of modern horror movies begin.

Truth be known - we were on a quest, of sorts.  When Mackenzie was in high school she excitedly talked once about Crybaby Bridge near Monmouth.  As legend goes an unwed mother, driven mad by abandonment, threw her week old baby over the side into the water below.  Or a bus load of children drove off and were killed, or a mother and her two children went over the side. Whichever legend you prefer, the story goes that putting you car in neutral on the bridge, the ghosts will push the car up the hill.  And, if you bring along some baby powder and sprinkle it on the bumper, you will be able to see little baby hand prints and perhaps even hear the cries of a baby.  

And if you go there on Halloween, well, you get the picture.  

One night as were were enjoying Tiki Friday with the Gerdes' and when the Blair Witch Project was terrorizing moviegoers, we decided to go check out this Crybaby Bridge for ourselves.  I can tell you that we did not hear any babies nor did we bring any baby powder, but when we parked and put the car in neutral it DID move slowly toward the hill.  I swear.  

I was anxious to revisit this place and Mr. and Mrs Wombie being good sports, we had to find this old spot of legend.   The bridge above is the bridge of Crybaby fame.  Nothing happened of course, but then why would it?  It was broad daylight, time for baby's nap.  

The broad expanse of Midwest farm country.  The only ingredients for an adventure is a tank of gas (my buddy Neighbor Tim says you are never lost if you have gas),  some time, and a lonely country road.  All the times I thought I had to be somewhere, and missed a chance at memories.