Friday, September 15, 2006

Went to Fenway Park

Last Friday I finally got to see a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, the oldest major league baseball stadium in the United States. Unfortunately, the Sox lost and, while that was a heartbreaker, it was pretty cool to be at the stadium.

We got tickets through Craigslist is a cool website to go on for buying/selling and for a host of other reasons. During the week I had been checking in and trying to buy tickets that were up for sale. Now that the Sox are out of contention, people were willing to sell off their tickets - below face value. When the Sox were hot the tickets that were for sale were more often than not well above face value. People would literally put their tickets up for bid. Now, they were dumping them. Neverheless, lots of people want to go to a game and so the tickets go quickly. A couple times I lost out on buying tickets because I couldn't meet the seller until evening and someone else got there sooner. When we did get the tickets, I had Julie meet the seller at his job in the latter part of the morning. Transactions are COD.

We were able to get two loge box seats for less than face value. Our seats were just to the right of the edge of the netting behind home plate, about 40 rows back from the field. We were just under the upper deck roof. We enjoyed a beautiful, panoramic view of the field and could see the whole stadium.

I wanted to get to the ballpark early so I could soak up the atmosphere. We walked along Yawkey Way a little before going into the stadium, doing some people-watching. Then, once in, we walked around the lower deck from home plate to the right field foul pole. As we walked along, we noticed a bunch of people standing around in a circle, looking up into the rafters near the right field foul pole. Some folks were taking pictures, others were pointing up; people who had been sitting underneath were standing around looking up.

What we saw was a big, golden-brown hawk with white legs, maybe it was a small eagle, eating a rat. It was up in the rafters, oblivious to the fans watching below, eating strips of the rodent's flesh that it had torn off from the body firmly held between its talons. The hawk completely ignored the crowd. As it ate, small pieces and droplets fell below, which I then realized was why no one was sitting directly below it. I assumed that once the bird finished eating it probably flew away, or settled down to take a nap. At any rate, how often do you see something like that? Especially in a ball park in the middle of downtown.

After we settled down into our seats to watch the game, drinking $6.50 beer and eating $3.50 soft pretzels, I took some time to look around at the stadium, which is painted entirely in green. What impressed me was that the stadium seemed to be wavy. The area behind the outfield, between the foul poles, had been added onto at different times over the years. Out in right field it was standing room only so where the upper deck ended and the bleachers started the stadium's profile dipped.

Under the scoreboard, which is in dead center, seats had been added on from the ones behind where the pitchers sat to right up to the underside of the scoreboard. That created a wave-like effect of the stands. Then, moving along to the Green Monster in left and over to the upper deck, seats had been added, behind and above each other.

The entire effect, as you looked out from home plate across the entire outfield, was a waviness, almost like the outline of a roller coaster rising and dipping. Behind the Green Monster seats there were two huge advertising posters, one for Volvo. Behind them, and a few blocks away from the stadium, you could see the giant Citgo sign, slowly turning different colors in the evening sky.

Since the stadium is small anyway, the whole setting was pretty intimate. The seats were old and obviously designed for people who were much thinner. Everything about the ballpark was old, but endearing at the same time.

We watched the pre-game show, which featured a couple soul singers whose names I forgot but who were two of my favorites back in the day. The Standell's were also there playing their early 70's hit song Dirty Water, which is about the Charles River.

Toward the end of the game we watched a nearby fight between a drunken fan and the security guards. Earlier we saw a fan who had run onto the field out in right get dragged off. Both would have gotten at least a night in jail and a hefty fine. The guy who started the fight, I read in the paper the following day, had been jumping up and down on his seat and had literally destroyed it. He then had taken one of the broken slats and threw it at, and hit, a woman nearby.

We only noticed the last part of the fight, when the guy was being taken away, because the whole ballpark was caught up in David Ortiz' 8th inning heroics of hitting a 2 run single which brought the Sox back into the lead. In the 9th, with the Sox up 9 to 8, Mike Timlin came on and blew the lead, causing two runs to score. The Sox lost, 10 to 9.

During the exciting 8th inning, the PA system played "Sweet Caroline" which is the Sox fans' rallying cry. It was pretty funny hearing the fans sing along with parts of the song. It was reminiscent of the way the Orioles fans yell out "Oh" during the national anthem and also sing along when "Country Roads" by John Denver is sung at Camden Yards. I guess each ball park has its own fan-favorite quirks.

Anyway, the game ended with a collective sigh and everyone quietly exited the ballpark. It was pretty amazing how quiet, relatively speaking, the crowd got when the last out was recorded and folks started filing toward the exits. The people up here take their Red Sox pretty seriously and many, I think, take losses personally. Strangely, I could feel their sadness.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Next Massachusetts Governor

I watched the debate last night among the 3 democratic candidates for governor. Chris Gabrielli, Tom Reilly and Deval Patrick squared off, sort of, in a debate to give the voters an idea of who should be the democratic nominee to go up against Kerry Healy, the current lieutenant gvoernor and a staunch republican, for governor.

I hadn't seen the three democratic candidates all together before. I noticed that Chris was the tallest of the three and Deval the shortest. Deval impressed me as being the brightest, although Chris was extremely bright, as well. Reilly impressed me as being the most obnoxious.

I found the debate to be very enlightening. I hadn't known that Deval Patrick, while an attorney in the Clinton administration's civil rights division, led the investigation into the southern black churches that had been torched. It was also intriguing to learn that he was brought in by Coca-Cola and by Ameriquest to straighten out problems and be part of a solution. To hear Tom Reilly attack Deval's work with those two companies made me feel like Reilly was small-minded and vindictive.

I came away from the debate not liking Tom Reilly at all. Currently, Reilly is the attorney-general for Massachusetts. He irritated me about six months or so ago when he allowed the gay marriage legislation to be put back on the ballot. I figured right then that he was in the pocket of the catholic church, his being an Irish Catholic and would, as an elected official, go the way he's told to go. He further got to me when I learned that he interceded on behalf of a family of a friend of his to try to ease the penalty of one of their kids who'd gotten into trouble. He's really taken a lot of heat in the Big Dig issue, given that he was almost forced, it seemed, to go after the contractors. In the debate he came across, not as feisty, but as a little bantam rooster trying to impress the hen house. To me, he came across as someone out of his league who figured if he bullied and blustered, he might get his way.

Chris Gabrielli came across as a nice guy. A bit of a doofus, very cerebral and very wealthy. That he dropped out of medical school to help run the family business, his father was a software developer, was nice but I think he would have been just as rich had he gone on to become a doctor. I think he was/is focused on being very rich.

It impressed me that at the end of the debate the most sustained applause came for Deval Patrick. I think he deserved it.

My summation of the three is that Reilly represents the status quo. Voting for him is voting for the machine. He's a machine politician who would do what he's told to do by Boston's power brokers. I think Mass. big business would very much like to have Reilly in office.

Gabrielli is very bright but I don't think he has the political acumen, the background or the skills to be governor. He would be an excellent cabinet member and would do well for pushing for Mass.'s technology sector.

Deval Patrick represents change. He would come into office not beholden to anyone. He would have a clean slate. He is bright, has demonstrated leadership skills and is willing to listen. He impresses me as someone who has a clear vision but who is grounded in reality.

It will be interesting to see what happens on Sept. 19, when we vote for one of those three.

Movies, Red Sox & Vacation

Over the past several weeks I've had the good fortune to see several really good movies. We watched The Inside Man on DVD and, at the theater, saw The Devil Wears Prada and also The Illusionist. I thought The Devil Wears Prada was an insightful (at least that's what the reviews said) parody of the fashion world. If that's the way the industry runs, I'm glad I'm not a part of it. I likened the movie to other parodies, like the one on dog shows and My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which I found to be entertaining, funny and mostly true.

The other two movies, The Inside Man and The Illusionist, I thought, were really good. I loved the way they hooked me in, kept me wondering how they were going to pull it off and then reveled in their doing it. Definitely two movies to see. I'm only sorry I didn't get to see The Inside Man on the big screen. I think something gets lost when watching a movie on a TV screen. Anyway, I would recommend The Illusionist for several categories for an Oscar.

Julie and I have been trying to get tickets to see the Red Sox at Fenway. Ever since I moved up here people have been asking me if I've gone to see a Sox game yet. After the world series victory, Red Sox tickets have been virtually impossible to get. And, just like when the housing market was hot, people would bid on tickets and pay astronomical prices, just to say they'd been to a game.

Now that the Sox are in a big fade, people are dumping tickets. I've been on this week and am getting close to scoring a pair of tickets. People are willing to sell the tickets for face value or less now that the Sox are out of the post season. Maybe I'll now get a chance to see a game at Fenway. I answered one guys ad on Craigslist for 2 box seat tickets, $90 face value each, for $140. I'll find out before the end of today if it's a go. Apparently he's also dealing with someone else who wants them.

I'd like to see Fenway. If we get the tickets for Saturday night's game, we'll get there earlier in the afternoon to walk around and absorb the atmosphere, have a beer and some food at the local bars and then head on into the park. I'm pretty sure we'll bring coats with us. It's been getting down into the high 50's at night and so there's a need to dress warmly.

It was something this past week. On Labor Day weekend, traditionally the last weekend of the summer, and a big beach weekend, I was wearing long pants, a long sleeve T and a jacket. I'm thinking, in Baltimore it's close to 90 degrees and up here it's around 55.

A new small business opened up on the street level of my building. An alterations place. Mim is the owner, along with her husband, Ed. In preparation for the coming winter, which up here may be anytime soon, I had her repair the lining of my leather coat, of my full length rain coat and also (I'm almost ashamed to say) to let out the waist of two pairs of pants.

Due to Dr.'s orders, I've not been exercising and so have been continuing to expand at the waist line. I'm trying to keep my eating under control but.... I guess walking the dog twice a day and going dancing Friday nights is just not enough.

I did start taking Salsa lessons this past Tuesday. Julie and I went over to Union Station in Newton. On Tuesday evenings the upstairs bar of the bar/restaurant offers Salsa. Julie had gotten well into intermediate levels when she stopped,which was before she met me. Since we're going to be headed to Sarasota, FL for vacation, and will be going to salsa dance places while there, I thought I'd better get familiar with the dance.

I've never been to Sarasota before and have only been to Florida once before in my life, in 1973. My grandmother used to have a house in south Miami and so one summer I drove down there. I remember crossing the border from GA into FL and saying, okay, almost there. Then I read the sign that said Miami - 350 miles. I also remember getting sunburned pretty badly. And, it was hot, hot, hot. But, I did have a good time going to the beach, sightseeing and heading down to Key West for a day. So this time, with a lot of sun block, loose weave clothing and (a little) more maturity, I hope to fare better. It should be fun.

Sarasota is on the gulf side and, over the years, has been spared having hurricanes blow through. I'm hoping it gets spared while I'm there. The town is now undergoing somewhat of a boom,and there are lots of jobs down there. I read an article in their local paper that talked about how there's a lot of work but a lack of affordable housing. Businesses are locating there because there's a large retirement community in residence; unfortunately, the businesses can't find workers because the workers can't afford to live there. I read one story about how a business owner has bought several houses and is renting them out to workers in an effort to recruit and retain them. It's a dilemma and my guess is things aren't going to get better any time soon.

At any rate, I hope to have a 2 week vacation that can't be beat. We're going down in a few weeks. When I return I'll be nice and tanned. Of course, since we'll be returning to the oncoming winter, the tan'll fade soon enough. Hopefully the memories will last a lifetime.