Friday, September 22, 2017

My Official Apology to the Minnesota Twins

About six weeks ago I posted a short bit entitled "Minnesota Twins Report: A Season Ending Too Soon".  I felt I had the right of it.

They had just come off a horrible West Coast road trip.  The other teams in their division had gotten red hot.  There are actually graphs that plot the odds of making the post season.  In early August that percentage stood at 4%.  Meaning, sure, its theoretically possible but damned unlikely.

But baseball is a sport where the unlikely is always possible.  And sometimes happens.

The Twins went on a tear, winning 20 games in the month of August and staying strong into September.  Nothing slowed them down.  Their All Star closer traded away?  No problem, other guys stepped up.  Their massive slugger Miguel Sano going on the disabled list, perhaps done for the season?  No problem, other guys stepped up. In fact in one Sano-less game they did something never before seen in major league baseball. They hit a home run in each of the first seven innings of the game on the way to a lopsided pounding of a hapless opponent.

Over the weekend we went over for a family trip to the Twins game.  This is something that has not happened in years.  It was also the first game ever for the Youngest Generation.   

True, he is here more interested in hearing for the 12th time today a spirited reading of "The Big Red Barn".  But he clapped at all the right times and stuck it out for the full nine innings.

For a while there I was not sure that I would.  The Twins pitcher got off to a rocky start, giving up five runs in the first two innings.  One by the shameful route of walking a run in.  The chances of the Twins winning this game were low.  

So of course they went on to score 13 unanswered runs.  I mean...they scored 13 before the Toronto Blue Jays even got another hit.  In baseball there are things that are very unlikely...but I wonder if in fact there is anything that is actually impossible?

As a true fan I of course realize that my team no more expects me to apologize to them than I on so many fitting occasions expected to get an apology from them.

The odds at this time favor their making the post season.  Those who figure such things say it is about 70% likely at the moment (9/18).  But there are still a couple of weeks to play and in baseball, well, the unlikely is not the impossible and the likely never certain. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Selfie with Side Kick

Young children are always fascinated with things bigger than themselves.  Do they instinctively know that they are small but going to get bigger?  I think they do.

For many kids it is dinosaurs.

For some it is The Big Yellow School Bus.

When we saw one parked nearby it was necessary to visit it several times.  Peek in the windows.  Read the words on the side.  And to take a picture in the odd fish eye mirror that the driver uses to keep a safe eye on his or her young charges.

Monday, September 18, 2017

I get a "message" from The Striped Don...

It's been a while since I heard from Don Astrisce. Oh, I'd seen his boys around.  Lolling about on corners.  Sometimes brazenly making off with loot in broad daylight.  But I am an honest man, a property owner who stands up for what is his.  I thought that the Don and I had an understanding.

I was wrong.

The timing was hardly an accident.  The hoods know, oh yes, they know, when my wife is out of town and the watchful eyes are fewer.  They know as well that anything that happens on my exclusive watch reflects badly on me.  Costs me respect where it matters.

So pretty much the first thing she saw when she got home was that Don Astrice had sent a couple of his goons to mess up our fully enclosed back porch.  Plants dug up. Stuff tipped over.  Casual yet directed mayhem.

Oh, it was a message all right.  Just to make sure I understood it a single acorn was left out for me.  "We go where we want to.  We do what we please."

Needless to say I do not take kindly to this sort of thuggery.  I immediately went to the corner of the garage that they usually use to chew their way in.  Sure enough, daylight showing.  I went over to get the chicken wire and tools to seal this off.  And one of the little striped thugs streaked past me.  I don't know which one it was.  "Chip", "Dale" or "Alvin".  

Friday, September 15, 2017

Grandpa's Radio

When I was a young lad I spent a lot of time with my Grandpa.  He was a good guy. He'd been a department store manager and a grocer earlier in life.  By the time I was hanging out at their home for lazy summer weeks on end he was a Lutheran Brotherhood insurance agent.

His hours were flexible, it appears that his main task was just having pleasant conversations with people. There was plenty of time to spend with his little side kick.

Grandpa taught me how to fish, a skill I passed on to my own boys. He was never very strict in the matter of ice cream and other treats, a policy that I have also embraced now that I too am a grandfather.

He was a great fan of the Minnesota Twins.  We'd listen to games on a radio that was already an antique.  The static would snarl and crackle when thunderstorms were brewing somewhere over the long horizon that stretched out into the flat infinity of North Dakota.

Now I have the radio.  And a side kick.  Here we are tuning in the Twins game as I get ready to do a bit of painting and he gets ready for a nap.

- Necessary pronouncements.  

 It's Diet Pepsi, not beer.  We do have Grand Parenting Policies.

The game was very hard to hear.  Lots of static on a day with no thunderstorms. Probably old radio tubes don't last as long as old memories.

I did not finish the painting job that day.  We also have Grand Parenting Priorities.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Orvieto Underground

Orvieto.  It's a place I had wanted to visit on our last Italian trip.  It's up in Tuscany.  It has lots of underground things to see.

Well we included it in our trip this spring.  And I give it mixed reviews.

It is a spectacular location, an old town perched atop a big rock that rises up out of the Tuscan plains.  It looks to be, and was, nearly impossible to capture other than by prolonged siege.

But when we were there it was indeed besieged.  With tourists.

Look Marvin!  It's a CATHEDRAL!
I try to avoid being a "travel snob".  I know that absent visitors and their money many important parts of our cultural heritage would vanish. But still, seeing fancy shops selling high end crap to people strolling around speaking English loudly grated more than a little.

But the Underground stuff was cool.

There is an official tour in which you visit several complexes of caves that have been connected.  That's kind of key here...this is not a network of caves so much as a whole bunch of separate caves.  Chronologically it is a jumble.  This particular chamber was Etruscan - pre Roman - but was later expanded and in continuous use until the 19th century.  Center of the picture is an olive oil press.  Donkeys walked in circles all day to power it.

Here a later chamber has a very early Etruscan well going down into it.  That is illuminated, not daylight.  

And it goes down a very long way.  Drinking water was key to surviving a siege. When the Romans besieged the city it took them two years to capture it. They destroyed everything and nobody lived there again until the Middle Ages.

Another columbarium.  This one is not of the burial type but was for keeping pigeons. These were a pretty good protein supply for upper class households.  Every day they flew out and ate the crops of the local peasantry, then flew back home ready for the dinner table.

We also checked out a little place called "Pozzo della Cava", the Well of the Cave. This is a privately run establishment attached to a little wine shop.  A gnomish older fellow smiled and waved us through, no guide needed.

I actually found this place to be quite interesting.  It had assorted uses including as a medieval pottery.  Of course it has its own really deep Etruscan era well.  

On our way out the friendly little gnome waved my wife over.  He smiled, took her by both hands and backed up a step or two.  This put them onto a glass pane in the floor that looked down a long, long ways.  Grinning he hopped up and down a few times. He clearly did this with every visitor, or at least every female one.  A man enjoying his work.......

Overall I would give Orvieto a pass.  It has things of interest.  The Underground tour as above, a nice walk around the magnificent city walls, some Etruscan tombs. But the tourist hordes spoiled it for me.  Italy is full of marvels that can be enjoyed with less of this nonsense.

And so concludes the chronicle of Italy in Spring of 2017.  A revealing trip if stressful at points.

Monday, September 11, 2017

An impressive marketing effort

It's that time again.  Back to school means an abundance of Thrift Sales, or whatever you call them in your locale.  Garage Sales, Jumble Sales, Trunk Sales, etc.

I saw this sign the other day.  It will make sense to my local readers.  Everyone else can just wonder what might be for sale that would prompt me to saddle up for a two or three day drive to....hmmmm...somewhere near Yuma Arizona.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Santa Cecelia in Trastevere

In many ways Santa Cecelia in Trastevere is a similar site to San Cristogono which we visited on Monday.  For one thing both are "titular" churches of Rome.  This designation is a little slippery.  The term of course means "title" and strictly speaking just means that the church is assigned to one of the Cardinal Priests of Rome. Practically speaking most, but by no means all, of the titular churches were early Christian sites, usually originating in a private home during the years of persecution. They appear on various early lists of parish churches of Rome, most notably one collected in 499 AD.

Trastevere was once the most populous district of Imperial Rome.  Being across the Tiber River (hence the name Trastevere) it went into quite a decline in the Dark Ages. The churches however persisted, and it is the ecclesiastical records that shed much of the Light into that era.  In modern times Trastevere is abuzz with a milling herd of tourists, at least in the area north of Viale Trastevere.  Go a ways south, down where Santa Cecelia lies, and you will leave them behind.

It's a pretty spot.  Unlike San Christogono it still has its own garden like Piazza out front.  The columns are of course ancient, borrowed from an unknown site.  They are a matched set, two from quarries in Aswan Egypt, and two from Turkey.

The entrance to the archaeological excavations was easy to find, and an efficient looking nun was stationed there to accept our small entry fee.

Down below is the usual jumble of features and eras.  Here is a monochrome mosaic floor of Severan vintage.

Pretty much every Italian archaeological site has something like this.  A little barred off room for random things they found on their dig.  I figure all the official museums in Italy are already full up.  These remind me of Old West jail cells.

Here we see several odd holes in the floor.  At one point they were considered to be evidence of a tannery on site but the stonework does not show the corrosion associated with harsh chemicals.  So probably food storage silos.

They don't even look a little like baptismal fonts but people still toss down votive offerings in the form of coins.

Right in the middle of the dim ancient walls you walk into this brilliantly lit room.  It holds the relics of Saint Cecelia.  Maybe.

Sigh.  OK, lets talk about Saint Cecelia.  The Catholic church admits that her story is probably fiction.  You be the judge.

Supposedly she was a noble woman who secretly converted to Christianity and simultaneously took a vow of chastity.  That did not stop her parents from marrying her off to a pagan chap named Valerian.  With some (much needed?) help from her guardian angel the situation was squared with her new husband who agreed to also convert.  Valerian, his brother, and a soldier who converted while guarding them...all got put to death.  As did Cecelia.  Eventually.

First she was locked in the hot room of her own bath house for a few days.  That did not work.  Then they tried to cut off her head but somehow botched the job albeit while injuring her somewhat such that she died three days later.

After initial internment in one of the catacombs her remains - found of course to be incorruptible - were returned to the church that had been built at the site of her house.

Behind the screen are sarcophagi holding the remains of Cecelia and the other players in this bit of saintly drama.  Including her extremely understanding husband Valerian who in my book earned his sainthood at least as much as Cecelia.