No-Metal Baseball

Take me out to the ball game,

frisk me and check me for knives and guns.

Buy me som … hey wait a minute!

“Frisk me and check me for knives and guns?” Yep, that’s what I said. Well actually, that’s what the Minnesota Twins said … sort of. The Twins, a Major League Baseball team in Minneapolis/St. Paul, announced that they will begin using metal detection scanners at entrance gates starting with the upcoming season opener. They did add the machines will be minimally invasive.

Yeah, but still … this is baseball. America’s game. That phrase, “Baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie,” is doomed.

Let’s face it, we are no longer an innocent nation. Well, we’ve really not been innocent since the 1960s, but golly sakes alive … metal detectors at baseball games? What’s next, banning kids from school for shooting spitwads … excuse me, I probably shouldn’t use the word lest I get banned from my blog.

Why can’t we all just get along?

Truth is, the history of mankind is filled with people asking that question, and then getting punched in the schnozola. Since mankind first walked on the earth, mankind has not gotten along. Since possession is nine-tenths of the law, somebody was always going around beating the crap out of someone else to gain nine-tenths of something.

Eventually, mankind evolved into organizing groups of mankind, and fighting wars. Eventually, those groups of mankind gathered themselves together and formed nations. And those nations began beating the snot out of other nations. And now we have factions splintering off from nations, or forming within religions, but the story is still the same — mankind beating mankind senseless. Or shooting them. Or knifing them. Or blowing them up.

Why can’t we get along? Because mankind is made up of all kinds of people, and as people are different, people tend to disagree, then people disagree verbally, and finally, people disagree with fists or weapons. And that … is why I will be passing through a metal detector this summer when I make my annual pilgrimage to Target Field.

Ah yes … summertime …. hotdogs … baseball … and metal detectors. As American as you can get.

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Beach Walk

IMG_0612No one knew who they were.

Wasn’t all that unusual for a walk along the beach. A surfside stroll isn’t about people you see or meet, but enjoying the beauty of the ocean and the calming repetition of the waves crashing toward land. Of course, neighbors sometimes run into each other as they walk off the final rust of a night’s deep sleep, or at day’s end as they try to shake loose the vestiges of a rough eight-hour shift. And with many Californians, a friendly “Hello” is far from uncommon as people, wandering in opposite directions, meet and then pass on by.

So no one took notice. And they were just fine with that. The early morning sun, still not yet having topped the hills, pushed the haze of morning aside, and warned of a day filled with bright sunshine. The forecast had said the thermometer would inch its way into the 80s, so as the sun edged closer to peeking over the ragged outline of the hills, it was already obvious the future held the trappings of a grand day at the beach.

From a distance, the two women wandering barefoot on the surf’s edge could have been a couple of neighbors out for their daily morning stroll; perhaps friends who’d arranged an early-morning walk. Much like everyone else wandering their way along the half-mile of ocean-drenched sand, there was nothing that made the pair stand out.

Barefoot with their jeans rolled up just below their knees, the two wandered a curvy path along the wet sand. Aimlessly moving seaward, daring the waves to spill onto their path, they slowly walked with heads down. On those rare occasions when the ocean took their dare, loosing a larger wave, shoved by unseen forces somewhere beyond the horizon, which rolled toward them, threatening to wash high above their ankles, the women would lazily move toward drier sand. The impending deluge would fall short of sweeping over their legs, collapsing as if falling into despair for not having been the victor.

At one point, they stopped and stared toward the horizon. And then one spoke.

“I guess I don’t quite understand, Pamela,” she said in a quiet voice, nearly drowned out by the crashing waves that reached to slide over their feet.

“I don’t really understand it either, Amber,” Pamela replied in an equally hushed tone. “Honestly, I didn’t forsee this happening.”

As though they realized talk would do little to change things, the pair looked toward the ocean for a few seconds, and the turned and continued along the beach.  Steps leaving an aimless path of footprints, they eventually reached a rocky outcropping and stopped.

With the waves now ceaselessly smashing into the rocks in an increased crescendo of noise, Amber silently looked around, found a small, flat raised area and sat down. Motioning Pamela to share her perch, Amber slowly slipped her arm around the shoulders of her friend. After a few seconds, she let her arm slip.

“What does this mean for us,” Amber whispered, a tear slowly slipping over her reddened cheek.

“I suppose it means that for the first time since we were 9, we won’t be together,” Pamela answered, her quivering voice faltering. “I suppose … I guess ….”

They leaned into each other. From a distance, a glimpse might have given a passerby the impression the women were chilled by the blustery breeze that was coming inland; seeking warmth. But with their now tear-drenched cheeks pressed firmly together, it was obvious it was an intimate moment the pair was sharing.

“Have you said anything to your family?” Pamela asked in a voice she was having difficulty finding.

“Not yet,” Amber choked. “I will. Probably tonight.”

“I can’t imagine they will be surprised,” Pamela continued. “After all, things have been different for quite some time. Surely they have recognized the signs. They can’t possibly have not seen this coming.”

“I wouldn’t think so … at least, I’m sure the children could see it, but I don’t know about Russell,” Amber said, pulling her head up and letting her eyes once again find the ocean. “Russell will be devastated.”

“Curtis was almost ambivalent,” Pamela mused, a smile pinching the ends of her mouth. “At least once he got passed the initial shock. I can’t help but think I saw a sense of relief in his eyes.”

The women sat, watching the spray from the waves reach toward them. The frothy, foaming water settled into pools on the rocks. After 10 minutes of silence, Amber stood, stretched her arms above her head, then gently wiped her hands across her eyes. “We better get going. I’ve got dinner rolls that need baking.”

Stepping carefully off the rocky outpost, the women were startled when a dolphin, swimming less than 10 feet off the shoreline, splashed its tail on the water’s surface. Clicking its own surprise at them, the dolphin suddenly dove out of sight.

Recovering from their initial shock, the women began to retrace their steps, or might have begun retracing if those steps hadn’t succumbed to the perpetual beating of the waves. Though sadness creased their faces, they walked with a lighter step.

After an hour, the friends stepped up onto the boardwalk, followed the windy pathway a short distance before ending up in front of a small building. Though the salmon-colored paint and seafoam green trim was weathered, the building still held an appeal that could easily be termed, “charming.” The pair stood silently, gazing at the building that once was termed, “As inviting as Grandma’s house,” in a newspaper review. Maybe it was the white hand-stitched gingham curtains, or the white picket fence that ran the length of the building providing a brilliant contrast to the colorful row of flowers that grew before it.

Pamela slipped her hand into Amber’s, and then with her other hand, pointed to the top of the building where a large sign reached across the roof. Her voice quivered, but eventually found strength as she said, “I can remember when that name meant everything to the residents and visitors of this community. And I remember thinking, one time a few years ago, ‘We’ve made it, and we are here to stay.'”

“I remember thinking that, too,” Amber said. “But I’m almost certain that thought was preceded by, ‘I can’t believe she talked me into that sign.'”

They broke into loud laughter, and then fell into a hug. And as soon as their embrace was complete, the tears began flowing again. After a few minutes, Pamela reached up and softly stroked her friend’s hair, and whispered, “We better stop this. What will the regulars over at Barnacle Bill’s Bar think.”

One last hug, and then they headed toward the front door. Just before entering, Pamela turned to Amber and chuckled, “That sign? What do you mean? Girlie, I can’t believe I let you talk me into that name!” Looking up, the pair stared at the sign, its bright orange lettering on an equally-bright yellow background spelling, “Ambela’s.”

“Come on!” spouted Amber. “I know it’s quirky. Maybe even corny. But you have to admit, it fit perfectly for where this place was located. Right along the boardwalk … where people ambled by, looking for a great place to eat.”

“It’s a lot corny, my friend.” Pamela answered, her smile gleaming. “Now let’s get inside and make Ambela’s last day one of its best.”

What About Other “Letter” Words In The NFL?

I didn’t mean to, it’s just that when my wife and I stopped at an Applebee’s for lunch, a number of their televisions were tuned to ESPN, and the program that happened to be on featured a trio of … ummmm … experts, discussing the proposed NFL rule that will prohibit the use of the “N word” by players during games.

The discussion on TV sparked a brief discussion about the proposed NFL rule by my wife and I. I assure you, it was not a real lively debate. We stated our very similar positions on the use of the “N word,” both expressing how creating a rule forbidding the use of the derogatory word was — well, should be — unnecessary. We both took the stance it is a word no one should use, and thus, to make a rule forbidding the word from being said only serves to call attention to the word.

My question is this: “How is it the NFL deems it necessary to ban the use of a word that is derogatory toward black people, but takes no stance on the use of another racially-derogatory word that is used as one of it’s team’s nickname?” The use of the “R word” is equally contemptible as the “N word.” But for whatever reason the NFL sees as logical, the league has apparently determined that being racist against Native Americans is just fine, but the league will fine the dickens out of players who use a racially-demeaning word when referring to black Americans.

The truth is, the use of words to negatively describe or label a race of people, heck, any type of people, any group of people — people in general — is wrong. We shouldn’t have to create rules prohibiting the use of any word that is used in a derogatory manner toward people. Everyone should simply know it is wrong.

I know, that is rather simplistic of me — to believe that every person in this country will not only know that the use of certain words is derogatory toward a group of people, or even one person, is wrong. And I suppose it is rather naive of me to think all people will choose to refrain from the use of those derogatory words, rather than face punishment because society felt it necessary to create rules prohibiting the use of those words.

I understand I am saying, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

But honestly, isn’t the creation of a rule prohibiting someone from using the “N word” saying the same thing … in a round about manner. The NFL is saying, “Fellas, why don’t we all just get along?” And then the league adds, “And to make sure we do that, here’s a rule to make sure we are all getting along.” But by ignoring the fact that one of its teams sports a nickname that is derogatory toward another race of Americans, it is making a mockery of its “N word” rule.

The NFL is being blatantly two-faced about the use of words that are derogatory to races of Americans. Man up, NFL. If you feel you need to ban the use of derogatory words on the field of play, be broad-based in your rule-making, or forget it altogether. There are a other “letter words” that need to be addressed. With the 2014 NFL draft only weeks away, and the prospect looming that an openly gay man could be drafted and seems to be good enough to earn a spot on an NFL team, I can guarantee, one of your players is going to drop the “F word.”

That’s “F word” — not to be confused with “F bomb,” although the potential is there the “word” could blow up in the NFL’s face.

Baby It’s Cold Outside … no, seriously … it really is cold!

I really like the song, “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” I’ve rarely heard a bad arrangement of the duet. It is probably one of my favorite Christmas season songs. I say “Christmas season” because in my way of thinking, it is not a Christmas song. No siree … it is a winter song. And the song has been running through my mind as the weather up here in Bemidji, Minnesota has been violating my body.

This weekend, I have been subjected to the true depths of winter.

Having grown up in South Dakota, and then, living the bulk of my adult life in Nebraska, I know what winter is. In my 60 years on this earth, I have witnessed all kinds of winter weather. If one lives in the Midwest, specifically the upper reaches of that territory, one understands there actually are four distinct seasons that take place every year. Midwesterners often joke about the weather they experience. We laugh at what the sky throws at us. One learns early on if your life on the Midwestern plains, the calendar and weather don’t always mesh.

I have seen it snow in July, felt the sun burn my skin in February, watched the day open with ice and end with a grillout, and experienced everything in between. There is diversity in our weather. There is also disappointment.

I like the variety of Midwestern weather. My favorite season is autumn. But in truth, I am happy with any one of the four seasons. Each offers uplifting qualities. Each also lashes out with a seemingly spite-filled personality — if weather can be given a personality. I have also noticed my window tolerance, when it comes to weather, has shrunk as my age has grown. And winter has been victimized the most.

So when I agreed to accompany my wife, Mary, on a work-related trip to Bemidji, on the final days of February and beginning of March, I readily admit I knew what the possibilities were. No wait … probabilities. I knew Bemidji is in the upper third of Minnesota. I knew it would still be winter there. I knew, but I agreed to go along anyway.

And baby … it IS cold outside.

Today (3/2/14) saw the morning light illuminate a -21 temperature. I looked at the weather app on my phone, and it couldn’t even tell me what it “Feels Like” (as in the wind chill). I am wondering if it “wouldn’t” tell me because it would have been so devastating to my psyche.

Because Mary is working overnight shifts at a Bemidji-area hospital, I am left to find my own entertainment during then day, while she sleeps. I really want to explore the Bemidji community, but much of what makes Bemidji a fun place to visit, is outdoors. And today, well, the outdoors is not a place to be.

I actually had been to Bemidji before. I was young, so I don’t remember a lot about the visit. I do recall it was not cold. Perhaps that’s because it was August. And just like I saw on that childhood visit, on this most recent visit I viewed the famed oversized Paul Bunyan statue. I just don’t remember him being in coveralls and a thick wool coat. Okay, maybe I am overstating … he isn’t wearing coveralls.

The thing is, I do not plan on holding this cold against the city of Bemidji. I would like to come back and spend some time here. But if that happens, it will be in June, July, or August. I am sure that underneath the mountains of snow I see in piled in every open space throughout the city, are beautiful parks, yards, or flowerbeds anxiously waiting to burst forth in vivid colors. I am certain Bemidji holds much for me, just not now.

And when I return to Bemidji, I want to be able to sing it’s praises. I do not want to sing, “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”

A frozen selfie. My breath is visible.

A frozen selfie. My breath is visible.