College smell

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If I had to pick a smell to describe my first week of college, it would probably be bleach. Not straight-up chlorine though – that crystallized blue powder stuff that’s in a blue box and you pour into the machine, regardless of color. The cheap cardboard box split apart when I pushed my thumb into the spout thingee, and I had to pour the remaining powder into a bag. For weeks, the only thing I could smell was the pleasant chemical odor of a laundry room, and that’s the smell that always transports me back.

18 years ago, I loaded my crap into my dad’s truck and we drove south to my new home. The whole back-to-school thing always held a certain allure to me: brand new bluer than blue Wrangler jeans, the new Trapper Keeper, a collection of pens, pencils, erasers, and whatever else I could con my mom into getting me at G.L. Perry. Later, after years of the same classroom, the same teacher, and the same 30 like-aged kids, I got to pick classes, and see new people as the periods progressed in the day. Later, I looked forward to the new crop of freshmen, and more specifically the new crop of freshwomen, hoping maybe one of them wouldn’t think I was a doofus. (No dice. And this was before being a doofus was cool. Dressing like Beck back then would certainly get your ass kicked.)

But college was an entirely different beast. First, my parents generally didn’t give a shit about what I did or didn’t have for school after about the fifth or sixth grade. But suddenly, it was like they were sending me off to war. They read checklists and compared notes with other parents, and actually studied those stupid lists that dorms sent containing what you might or might not need. I got a microwave and a little fridge. All types of foodstuffs and laundry supplies and showering equipment and personal care products got socked away, like I was planning a voyage to the New World in a leaky boat.

So I had all of these gadgets and supplies. And don’t get me wrong, these were not all-out kits designed to last me forever. When I say personal care products, I mean a three-pack of Dial, a bottle of Prell, and a tube of Crest, not the complete Bliss for Men catalog. And a lot of it was cool, but I also found that I didn’t need a lot of it, and could have used other stuff more. For example, I didn’t need food, because I lived in the dorms, and we had a meal plan. I probably should have brought a TV. I guess a computer cost more than a semester of tuition back then, so that would be too much. Also asking mom to pack the 100-count thing of Trojans would not have been a great idea. (Actually, buying the 100-pack would have guaranteed that I never got laid, ever, and that everyone else on my floor would scamper over when the third base coach was waving them in so they could “borrow” one. Not that you’d want the borrowed condom back. I mean, unless you’re into that sort of thing, and there’s nothing wrong with that I guess.)

The big thing that made those first few weeks magic was that everything was completely new. Not only had I always lived under the reins of a parent, but that also sets a precedent for the general paradigm of your life. You wake up in your parents’ house; you go to school; you come home for a minute; you go to a part-time job; you sleep at your parents house; repeat for four years. When I got to college, there was no structure, no predefined pattern. You stayed up all night, you got up super early, you had cereal for dinner, you went to a girl’s place to “study”, whatever. It seems trivial to think about it, but it was like throwing a bunch of Amish into a battle in Vietnam.

It’s no secret that I completely fucked up on this structure shift. (Probably the only thing beneficial that came out of this was that I hunted down a copy of _Slaughterhouse 5_ from the main library, because someone told me I would dig it, and I read the whole thing in a night and planted a little seed in my brain to come back later and write.) But the first few weeks of it were pure magic: going for walks at midnight after studying, hanging out in other peoples’ dorms, sitting in the grass outside of the union reading. And everyone was new, different. It was commonplace to get in an elevator and ask someone else their major or their hometown. I can’t imagine doing that in real life, but in the first month I met people from hundreds of cities. There were lots of people from Indianapolis, but I’d meet freshmen from North Manchester and South Bend and New Albany and Shelbyville and Paioli and Terre Haute. I eventually learned enough geography that I could usually figure out where a town was without thinking. (“Munster? That’s next to Hammond, right? A guy in my Spanish class is from there.”)

Back to gear: when we moved into the dorm, there was a “welcome pack” for each person in your room. It consisted of a bunch of trial sizes, like shampoo, razors, and Advil. It also contained both a NyQuil and a Scope, and allegedly if you drank both real fast, you’d cop a mighty buzz. But this was the beginning of the era when companies found it really profitable to prey on college students, and this collection of stuff was the first step in that direction. We also got a lot of desks in the union with people from Bank One and the credit union and of course all of the credit card people, and they lured in freshmen for that first dip into the world of plastic. I know that know this sector is huge, and every possible company is out there ready to tattoo their logo on your forehead when you come in as a freshman. But in my four years of high school, the most we ever got were DARE book covers and maybe pencils from the National Guard, so that freshman blitz was like a goldmine to me.

I forget where I was going with this, other than to think a little about 1989. Oh shit, I remember! The bleach was actually detergent – Cheer. Blue box, I think they only sell the boxes in laundromats these days, and the liquid in the store. But if you find a box in the store, rip it open and take a deep whiff, and that’s September, 1989 for me.

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Back from the Midwest

After two weeks on the road, my bed feels like magic. I wanted to spend all day in my shower, using non-trial size shampoo and non-hotel bars of soap. It’s good to have my stereo, my keyboard, my view of the parking lot (which looks like it’s finished, construction-wise), and mostly, it’s good to be back in today, after spending so much time talking about yesterday.

My big SUV got a slow flat while I was in Indiana, and I talked to 17 different people at Alamo, who gave me 17 different answers, ranging from “bring it back to O’Hare” to “drive on the baby spare for 10 days” to “buy a $650 tire and spend $100 and a day getting it mounted, and save the receipt and fill out a TPS report and send it in and wait 4-62 weeks and we might or might not pay you back some or all or none of it”. I drove to the South Bend Municipal cow pasture and barnstormer air strip and the Alamo there had like three cars and they were allegedly all gone, and there was some inter-location transfer bullshit that made them really iffy about giving me a car anyway.

So I topped up the tire, added just enough fuel to make it west, and hit the toll road. When I got to O’Hare, I expected a huge clusterfuck of trouble, and the inside of the rental building looked like Saigon 1975. A woman in front of me was trying to rent a car with no ID and no credit card other than a Target card, and went round and round with the clerk, to the point where I wanted to grab her and start shaking her while yelling “WHAT BIZARRO UNIVERSE LETS YOU RENT A CAR WITH NO DRIVER’S LICENSE OR CREDIT CARD?” Finally, after being asked “picking up or returning?” and answering “well both, and neither”, a guy told me to go pick any car off the lot, re-printed my contract, and gave me a free tank of fuel out of the deal. I got a new Rav-4 and hit the road.

I had something like 5 hours to kill until Sarah’s flight arrived that night, so I gave John Sheppard a surprise call and drove up to see his new place. 294 was a parking lot, so I took surface roads, and got a nice little tour of the northern Chicagoland burbs. It’s always good to see John and Helen, even in such a hurried visit, and I got to see the new homestead and four-legged members of the household. We went out for pizza at a place with plenty of dead animal on the wall and a tradition of eating peanuts and throwing shells on the floor. There were many talks of gloom and the remainder of the Cubs season, and then I had a freakout when I thought I had 20 minutes to get back to O’Hare, when really I had an hour and twenty, and a watch that was on Indiana time.

It’s almost impossible to pick someone up at O’Hare, even if you know their airline. Maybe if I was there more than once every 20 years, I would remember, but there are hordes of identical-looking parking lots sprouting from each terminal, and even with two cell phones and lots of “I’m looking at a sign that says Elevator bank 4 and has a picture of a wolverine on it” conversation, it took us a while to figure that out. Then, another trip back to Indiana.

Driving with Illinois plates at 7 MPH over the limit, you can guess what happened next. I got pulled over by an Indiana cop for the first time since, what, 1994? 1995? I handed over the Colorado license and the Illinois registration, and they came back with a warning. I’m guessing it’s too hard for them to write a ticket for out-of-staters. Or maybe they were just looking for drunks, suspended licenses, or whatever else. And get this, a night or two later, I got pulled over AGAIN, on old US-33, just before it gets to 19. This was a little more suspect, because it was a Goshen city cop, patrolling out on the area between Elkhart and Osceola. After he gave me the warning, I almost asked him “what the fuck are you doing out here?” He probably thought I’d never set foot in the Midwest before, when truthfully, I got my Indiana license around the time this dipshit was born. Anyway, don’t drive in Indiana with out-of-town plates and no Jesus sticker on the back window.

The rest of the Indiana stay was meeting after meeting. Different relatives, the same questions, reciting the same answers. It’s good to see people, it’s just tiring to answer the same questions over and over, until your conversations turn into morphing tape loops, and you can’t remember who you told what. It was refreshing to spend time with my nephews and diverge into Guitar Hero or Spongebob conversations, just for a change of pace. Two parents, two sisters, three uncles, two aunts, a bunch of spouses and step-kids and whatever else, and we managed to pull together about three free minutes to drive to my old house and see that the new people have a very fucked-up yard. There was also supposed to be a minor-league baseball game in there, but it rained so much, it didn’t happen.

Another drive, to Wisconsin this time. We spent a lot of time with Sarah’s family, and it poured rain most of the time. I got a couple of good home-cooked meals (no more chain food) and an excellent meal at Pandl’s Whitefish Bay Inn, which is this little restaurant that time forgot. And we got some not-so-fast food from Culver’s, which is an amazing little chain of hamburger joints gone wild.

We also made the pilgrimage to Lambeau Field in Green Bay to see the Packers play a pre-season game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, my first NFL game ever. Me and Sarah went with her dad and Dan, her sister’s boyfriend. I spent the trip up talking MLB and all things Brewers with Dan, who is a walking encyclopedia about that stuff. When we got there, we parked in the back of some restaurant strip mall for $20 and hiked in. This gave us a good survey of the tailgate situation, huge dudes with big mullets cooking brats and downing MGD and Jager while blasting unrecognizable Pantera-like metal from the backs of their trucks. Whory bleach-blond chicks in shorter than short cutoffs yelling WHOOOOO at every passing car. There was green and gold everywhere. EVERYWHERE. There were more Favre #4 jerseys than there are jerseys period at any Rockies game. And I loved it. The NPR totebag, Free Tibet bumpersticker crowd would denounce this as a lack of culture, but it IS culture. It’s the most perfectly cut slice of Wisconsin you could find. And that’s why I dug it.

Okay, so you go into this huge, newly-remodeled stadium, with a giant atrium, and more Miller Beer signs than a Miller brewery. When we went into the tunnel and out to our seats, it was weird. The field looked small to me, compared to TV games. 100 yards on a high school field or a college stadium is the same 100 yards in the NFL, although everything surrounding that rectangle of green was bigger and better and brighter. But when I looked down at that, I thought “shit, I could throw a 30 yard pass down there!” I had the same reaction at my first MLB game, where you’re so close, and the view of the whole thing makes it look small. On TV, it’s a giant video game, but when you’re yards from the dudes on the field, you see they are people.

We got the national anthem, and two F-18s flew over. It was some Catholic charity game, and there was a bishop on the field blessing the Packers or something. Dan wanted to know why he wasn’t damning the other team, too. As the game started, I saw the overwhelming number of commercials versus baseball; they show video and audio commercials on the big board whenever possible between plays. They played “Hell’s Bells” and I wondered if the bishop enjoyed that.

I followed the game, but I didn’t. I guess baseball is much easier to watch in that respect – less people out there, more contained game action, whatever. The one thing I noticed was that we had good seats – 50 yard line, 21st row – but they had metal bleachers, and had like 12″ of ass-space per seat, and you know the average ass width in rural Wisconsin is nowhere near 12″. Sitting shoulder-to-shoulder and trying to eat was a challenge. They did have excellent bratwurst, though.

A huge storm front rolled in, and it started to rain. We bought ponchos and jackets just for this weather, so I put on the poncho, and the rain stopped. I took it off, it started. I put it on, it stopped. This cycle repeated, and then it didn’t rain again for the rest of the evening.

The Packers lost, although the newspaper the next day praised only the good stuff that happened, and you’d think they had won. We drove back and Sarah hit an owl, which sounded like Randy Johnson throwing a fastball into the windshield, but amazingly, the glass did not break.

We finally got out on Saturday morning, me with a giant suitcase filled with 48 pounds of dirty laundry. On the way down to the airport, in Kenosha, we stopped at a real A&W with the drive-in and everything. The girl was trying to put the tray on my oddly-shaped, not-rectangular window, and as I messed with the controls (which are backwards from our Subaru) I managed to auto-quickie-open the window and dump the whole fucking tray onto the pavement. But the food was good. We got to O’Hare, ditched the car, flew back home, got the Subaru, and here I am.

I managed to not go to a mall the whole time I was in Indiana, and I managed to not eat any cheese curds the whole time I was in Wisconsin. (But we have a whole big box of stuff on the way from Mar’s Cheese castle that gets shippped out today.)

Anyway, pictures here, although if you’re not interested in relatives or football, that’s about all I managed to take. I’m trying out google picasa for the first time, so that might or might not work out well.

OK, now I need to start some work on this damn book.

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In Elkhart

I’m in a Perkins in Elkhart, and I’ve barely seen anything here, but it’s all very weird. Let me see how much I can explain before my food arrives.

I left Elkhart, or at least stopped calling it my home, when? 1989, when I graduated and went to college? 1991-ish, when I returned the second time and vowed to never come back? 1995, when I moved to Seattle? I don’t know. But I guess the 1991 date is when I stopped spending any regular amount of time here. And I haven’t set foot in Indiana since 2004, partly by coincidence, and partly by design. So it’s been long enough to make it seem like an alien experience when I return.

I got into O’Hare and got my rental car by about midnight last night, then pointed it east and headed toward the toll road, hoping I could still figure out my way around Chicago and to Indiana with no major incident. The toll road was eerie, driving with nobody around, counting the exits and wishing I could go to bed.

Right after the University Park Mall zipped past, I exited on 331, and took the route home I’d normally take from the UP mall, on Cleveland road. The second I pulled up to a railroad crossing, the gates went down and a 200-car train inched by. I joked about this in Summer Rain, but it really happens to me every time I get here.

I drove down this stretch of road with only farmland on either side, and remarkably it was still farm. I used to max out my car here late at night, because there are no intersections for miles. Then my friend Peter got killed there in 1991, so I stopped. The old drive-in movie theater – a gas station, and what looks like a Super Target or a Wal-Mart going in. The Pleasureland Museum – still there, but I couldn’t tell if it was closed or not.

Nothing really changes in Elkhart. A lot of the same businesses had the same signs that they did in 1985, the same displays, the same paintjobs. They build new subdivisions of prefab houses in the outlying areas: Goshen, Napanee, Granger, Simoton Lake. But they’re the same subdivisions they built in Dunlap in the 70s, just different trim and formica and sunroom options. And when they build a newer and more expensive and further out subdivision, it means the old ones won’t get updated and won’t get redone and essentially get trapped in time, to wear their 1970s aluminum siding forever.

Some stores go under. The old Templin’s music, where I bought many a pair of guitar strings in the day, is now a Mexican furniture store. The Taco Bell where I worked is now a crack Chinese place. I used to spend a lot of time at this Perkins, but back in 1989, it was a few blocks south, and the last-gen design of Perkins buildings. The new one is nice, but it isn’t the old one. (This one is currently filled with a gaggle of high school girls basketball players, which might be enticing to jailbait enthusiasts. As for myself, it sort of freaks me out that they were born after the last time I was in that other Perkins.)

I thought Denver was a bit conservative, but this place makes it look like a hippy ashram chanting in a drum circle. Two out of three cars have this Jesus license plate that you can tell was designed in spite when the JFreaks here lost that ACLU case about the ten commandments. There are are churches everywhere. The Concord Mall now has a sign that says “Great Deals, Family Values.” (Does that mean you can’t sodomize the girls working at Pretzel Time anymore?) This is the one place in the country where I feel Nicole Ritchie thin. When I walked out of the hotel, there were about two dozen people chain-smoking like you’d suck on a bottle of oxygen if your spacesuit exploded and you hadn’t breathed in five minutes. Lots of magnetic ribbons, and I haven’t seen a single Kerry/Edwards or anti-Bush sticker yet.

I saw both “de-malled” malls, Pierre Moran and Scottsdale. Back in the old days, they turned strip malls into malls by enclosing them. For whatever random reason (*cough*Wal-Mart) malls have gone into the toilet, so someone got the wise idea to break apart the interior spaces, and turn them into a huge parking lot with a bunch of freestanding big-box stores. This makes it much easier to shop, because you have to either move your car six times, or carry a lot of stuff in the rain and snow. Both malls look even more deserted, but it’s obviously some liberal conspiracy and we all need to pray to Jesus to make sure the local Panera and Dress Barn keep in the black. (Wait, I mean they are making money, not that we want african-americans shopping there.)

The biggest change I see is that all of the trees have doubled and tripled in size. When I drive by an old dentist or insurance agent and see a giant oak stretching way into the sky, I remember when it used to be as tall as me. Driving past houses and streets, it seems like I have the angles and distances and setbacks burned into my brain. When I cross Prarie on Mishawaka, I know in my head exactly how far it is to the u-pick strawberry place, even if it was plowed under and turned into a medical clinic. The occasional bodega where a video store used to be throws me off but it’s usually in the same building, just a different sign.

I spent the day with my sister, nephew, and niece. It was the first time I’ve ever seen Belle, and she is already mobile and stealing her brother’s toys at any possible chance. I always think the kids are cute, until a few hours later when Wesley runs down a row of toy trucks in Target and presses the sound button on every single one two dozen times, producing this cacophony of sirens and explosions and jackhammers, and I realize there’s no way I could do it for five days, let alone 18 years.

Not making much progress on this food – I better shut down and go back to my little Holiday Inn Express and see if the TV channels are just as bad as they were 30 years ago.

P.S. The waitress handed me my check and it said, in giant, curvy, girly cursive, “God Bless!” at the bottom. I still gave her a tip.

P.P.S. Re my previous entry about thunderstorms – I am back at my hotel, and just saw the most monumenta t-storm I’ve seen in a while. Very close strikes, loud as hell booms, and the kind of bolts that arc from sky to ground (okay, vice-versa) in such a way that make them look like scratches etched into a tinted window. There was even a five-second power outage that really reminded me I was in Indiana.

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Cubsalosea

So we saw two of the four Cubs-Rockies games this weekend: on Thursday, the Cubs won, and on Sunday, the Rockies. We had tickets to go to Saturday’s game. but after Thursday, we didn’t think we could stomach being in a section with 100 Cubs fans at a thing called “Cubsapalooza”. It turned out, however, to be “Cubsalosea”, with a wildly lopsided victory, and Jamie Carroll’s first grand slam. Anyway, I have nothing against Cubs fans, except that I really wanted to like the Cubs as a kid, and they repeatedly broke my heart. They play much better now, but it’s always hard to go back.

Speaking of going back, I am scheduled to make a trip to Indiana tomorrow. I say scheduled because I have no idea if we’re going to make it or not due to Sarah’s client at work completely flaking out. There are various scenarios that might play out: the trip goes as scheduled; I go tomorrow, Sarah meets me on Friday; we both come out on Friday; we reschedule a few weeks later; we move to Pakistan and leave no forwarding address. And I haven’t mentioned this trip here for various political reasons, one being that I will be in Elkhart for three or four days and I already have like 17 days of meetings requested and/or scheduled, and none of that includes seeing friends or doing something that’s actually vacation-like. (Not that there’s anything vacation-like in Elkhart. There is the Elkhart drinking game, where you drive around town, and every time you see a business you remember from childhood that has gone bankrupt and turned into a Mexican grocery store, you take a shot, and in about 15 minutes you die of alcohol poisoning.)

Believe it or not though, I do have some kind of sick fascination with Elkhart, because it’s really a fly trapped in amber. Every time I go back, I find I can still drive everywhere without even thinking of it. And there’s never anyone there when I drive around during the day. It’s like visiting the ruins of a city that was knocked out by a Neutron bomb. And I guess some of the fascination is that I have not been there for three years, and after an hour of driving around, I will be bored out of my fucking mind. But I also realize that I have almost no pictures of Elkhart, and I’d really like to drive around with my new (as of 2005) camera and get some good shots of the desolation. I always liked elkhartsucks.com, but it is dead and gone, so maybe I need to create my own version. (And I will turn on comments on pages so Larry has something to do at work.)

And I guess I think a lot of the summer between high school and college, and how it was 18 years ago, which is half of my lifetime now. Having a car now, and having an iPod that has all of my old music on it sometimes reminds me of that period. And almost all of it was in Elkhart, and it brings back thoughts of that time. And to be truthful, I did a lot of stupid shit back then, and probably the stupidest thing was getting involved with the girl that I dated right before I left for school, and the ensuing breakup. But with some distance, those thoughts are interesting. I always thought about writing a fictionalized book of that era of my life, and I made a couple of false starts, but I now realize I can’t write stuff like that anymore. The second you finish writing a book about someone that fucked you over in life, their lawyer contacts you. (See also Augustin Burroughs, although maybe you need to make a hundred million dollars for this rule to come into play.)

Christ, it’s almost eleven and I haven’t even started writing yet.

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Beaches of Normandy, Wisconsin

The Rockies-Brewers game yesterday wasn’t even funny in its cruelty. This one doesn’t even deserve the bulleted list. Basically, the Rockies drove in 8 runs by the bottom of the 2nd, including a 2nd inning of 7 runs that seemed like it would never end. The bases got loaded, and then it was doubles and triples and homers, and all of these people kept running in, and it was like the beaches of Normandy for the Brewers. The third inning: three more. The fourth inning: five more. Tony Graffanino, the Brewers’ star second baseman, jumped for a catch and tore out his knee. And the Brewers went through every single pitcher they had there. Yost seriously almost had to get a position player to pitch the 8th and 9th inning, which would be interesting from the freak anomaly standpoint. The game ended at 19-4. It was funny, one of the announcers on the radio said “the Brewers are down two touchdowns now” and the other said “it’s like the score to a Broncos-Packers game”.

In other weirdness, that pitch that hit Jason Hirsch in the leg in the first inning yesterday, it turns out it BROKE his leg. And he pitched six innings. That’s pretty hardcore.

Pictures, soon, whenever I get around to captioning them. Brooms galore. I also found a new place to eat at the ballpark, there is this cluster of shops hidden behind a tavern that have a lot of non-ballpark food like deli sandwiches and gourmet pizzas that aren’t rubbery Papa John’s personal pan things. Yesterday I cheated though, and bought a bunch of sodas and water from the vending machine in my building at $1.25 each instead of $5.75 each, and then put an icepack in my bag. Worked fine, even in the 95 degree heat.

Three Cubs games this weekend, and I can’t even remember what’s going on besides baseball. I am trying to write on this book, and it is going somewhat. And the zine, it’s in stasis until I get a couple of bios and releases from people. The layout is pretty close though. And the artwork is on its way. I hope to get it to the printer in another week or two. Or three. We’ll see.

OK, on to that writing.

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Rockies-Brewers, game 2

I didn’t plan it, but we went to the Rockies-Brewers game last night. Sarah got tickets from work, and she had to miss Monday’s game, so we went last night. Here’s the details:

  • We were in section 133, row 27,seats 1+2. That’s on the floor, behind home plate, about two sections in from where the screen starts on the left, and about halfway back. Pretty damn close, and the first time I’ve sat in the infield box in a night game.
  • The screen messed up my use of binoculars for the most part. And my battery charger fucked up, so my camera was non-operational.
  • Remember yesterday how I said I never wanted to get a hot dog again? It was dollar hot dog night. I passed this up and got a bratwurst, but that didn’t go so well.
  • Jason Hirsh was back on the mound after a very bad sprain of his left leg. So the second Brewers batter line drives it right into the same leg. Every medical professional in the state of Colorado is suddenly on the field, and I seriously thought they were going to take him off on a stretcher. But he walked it off, took a couple of test pitches, and was fine.
  • Ed Bellorin is a catcher that spent nine years in the minors, and got moved up from AAA to the Rockies to play his first major-league game that night. (Ianetta got sent down, because he can’t bat for shit these days.) In the second inning, he jammed his leg and ended his ML start with a blown hamstring. That sucks.
  • Slow game, but by the middle of the sixth, it was 3-0 Brewers, and it looked like they’d lock it up.
  • I go to take a piss. The Rockies hit a homer and two singles before I’m able to finish. I go to buy some nachos. The stupid bitch at the register takes 45 minutes examining someone’s ID, and the guy behind the counter doesn’t understand English and I’m screaming “NACHOS NACHOS NACHOS YOU STUPID FUCK WHAT DO YOU THINK I’M TRYING TO GET MY PASSPORT RENEWED JUST GIVE ME THE FUCKING NACHOS NOW!” By the time I get back to my seat, Garret Atkins singles and it’s now 3-2.
  • Pitching change. Double. Intentional walk of Brad Hawpe. Single. Everyone is total apeshit. Couple of outs. Five runs in one inning, three while I’m at the urinal, and it’s 5-3.
  • Todd Helton homers in the 7th. Hate the goatee, love the home runs.
  • In the bottom of the 8th, the Rockies get in two runs because the ball went right through Prince Fielder’s hands; this was his second bone-headed error. To be fair, Holliday dropped the ball in a very obvious way twice that night. And as a side note, one of those resulted in a Prince Fielder triple. That dude is shorter than me and weighs about 50 pounds more, so it’s pretty amazing to see that he can walk, let alone run. It was hilarious.
  • Todd Helton then hit another home run, driving in two other players, and making the score 11-3.
  • Someone hit a foul back over the mesh and into the second deck, and a guy in the front row just quickly raised his bare hand and whap, caught it. It was the best fan catch I’ve ever seen, and it looked like he did it without thinking. Also, at some point, Jamie Carroll hit a foul ball very high in the third deck – it looked almost like it was going to go out. That was pretty cool.
  • I believe the Brewers went through four or five pitchers, and their bullpen is already pretty fucked. Also, Jorje Julio pitched for the Rockies for the 8th, and that guy’s a demon – I think his slowest pitch was like 96 MPH.
  • Before the 9th, they announced that Barry ‘Juice’ Bonds hit #756, and they showed the video on the screen. Every single person in the park was booing. I’m thinking of bringing a sign to the park today that says BARRY BONDS – 756*.
  • In the top of the ninth, two doubles got the Brewers another run, but that was that. Final score: 11-4.

I have tickets a few sections over but in the same row for today’s 1:05 against the Brewers. Then tickets up in the 330s for the Cubs on Thu, Sat, and Sun. Lots of baseball. I need to invest in some better food to bring in with me, though.

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Rockies-Brewers, game 1

Last night was the first home game in a series against the Brewers. Lazy as always, so here’s the bullet list:

  • I felt slightly conflicted about the game when I bought tickets, because aside from the Rockies, I think the Brewers are my second-favorite team. And I now have a certain connection to Milwaukee, they have a great park, they are also somewhat of an underdog, and they have been doing well this year.
  • The Brewers came off a brutal loss to the Phillies that burned through their entire bullpen, so their pitching was hurt. But, they have a hard-hitting offense, and at 5280 feet, that means home runs.
  • No sausage race. No Bernie Brewer. No bratwurst, other than the crappy ones they sell at Coors Field. So that removes about 80% of the Brewers experience, unfortunately.
  • It rained before the game, and looked pretty dreary outside, so I was fearful of even going. It was also much cooler than when I got rained on at the Phillies game, which would make it even worse. But it kept dry for the most part, aside from a sprinkle or two.
  • There were only about 30,000 people there, which is probably the lowest attendance I’ve seen for a night game. Part of that was probably the rain, though.
  • Every once in a while, I will smell a hot dog that someone else has, and think “damn, I need to get one too”, and when I do, it totally sucks. This happens pretty much every time I buy a hot dog at a baseball game. I will never learn.
  • I was in section 332, the first row of the second part of the section. So I had a railing right in front of me, and I had to sit up to see over it. Otherwise, not bad seats.
  • I bought a set of 10×50 binoculars, and those made things interesting. I didn’t mess with them during the game a lot, except to see who was warming up in the bullpen. But before the game, it was a good way to look into the dugout and how it was set up, and to see the players warming up. Like I saw Matsui’s translator with him on the field before he got started.
  • Josh Fogg was the starting pitcher, and wasn’t throwing down major strikeouts, but he really had a way to keep the hits on the ground and very fieldable, which pretty much shut down the Brewers.
  • Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun each had single homers, and both were pretty impressive. Fielder’s went into one of the exit ramps in right field, and this horde of people ran down the ramp, as it bounced and bounced away, which was funny to watch.
  • In the first inning, Matsui almost hit a homer (hit right below the rail, then bounced out), and then Brad Hawpe hit a three-run homer. At this point, half the people there thought the game was over.
  • In the second, Matt Holliday hit a two-run homer, and most of the people there thought the game was over.
  • Nobody scored after Braun’s homer for the rest of the game, and it became one of those “who’s going to fuck up defensively and let the other team score nine runs” games, but it kept pretty tight.
  • This Harley dealership does this stupid big-screen computer animated game with three pigs on bikes and you have to guess which one is going to win, and I swear at least half of the Brewers players were intently watching it to see which one would win.
  • The “guess who said the quote” thing between innings was a Bob Eucker quote, and after they showed the answer, they showed a shot of Bob in the box, and that got more applause than anything else that night.
  • The Rockies announcer always announces Matt Holliday’s name “Matt Hall-iday!” for some reason, and it always confused the fuck out of me because of Bill Hall of the Brewers, and I wondered what happened if they were both in one game. But it turns out the Brewers were keeping Hall out to give him some rest. He almost came in to pinch hit for Vargas, and was on deck, but it never happened.
  • Fogg continued to pitch well all night, and had a very low pitch count. Vargas, not so much – I think he had one of the highest pitch counts of his career. He also had a fielding fuckup where someone hit a ball right at him, and he tried to catch it with his pitching hand, and it hit and went on to the shortstop. So he fucked the play, and his hand probably smarted a bit.
  • In the 9th, it got really edgy. Then Troy Tulowitski had two majorly stupid errors. One, he pitched to first, but like twenty feet too high. The other, he tried to get to first instead of second on a double play and fucked it up. I am becoming more of a fan of his, because usually his fielding is excellent, but man he fucked up that inning.
  • Final score: 6-2. Cubs fans rejoice, we cut down their lead for you.

Pictures, eh, eventually. Check the photo page.

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The joy of overwhelming rainstorms

One thing neat to me about Denver is we get these absolutely killer thunderstorms. I am not sure if it’s the altitude, the lack of humidity, or the rapid temp changes, but sometimes you get these wicked bursts where you swear someone is standing outside your window with a strobe gun. And to watch it at night is absolutely amazing, the way the bolts of lightning jump from the horizon and arc up to the dark clouds. We never had weather like this in Seattle, because the mountain ranges broke it up. New York sometimes had some dramatic storms, but when you’re in a brick shithouse apartment and your only view is your neighbor’s brick shithouse, it’s not as dramatic as having a full horizon view. I guess if you lucked out and were high up in a tall building, it would look cool with the lightning and the city below you, though. Probably the last place I had really good t-storms was in Bloomington.

And that reminds me of… Summer Rain. And it’s 15 years since that summer happened, which is a huge mindfuck for me, because so much of it feels like yesterday. And so much of it seems three universes ago, too. Of the many things that I recall from then, one of the strongest memories is watching these absolutely overwhelming rainstorms. There’s a scene in the book, which I probably don’t do justice to the environment, but I’m stuck at the north entrance of the IMU, and it’s pouring inches and inches of rain, to the point where the sound is overwhelming, like hearing a frying pan full of hot oil gurgle and explode at full tilt. And when a lightning strike hit, the darkness outside would suddenly get this brighter-than-day flashbulb for a split-second, and you’d see everything outside again like it was high noon. And every night I had a show at WQAX, it poured rain. If I did two shows a week, it would rain Tuesday and Thursday. If I subbed for someone on a Saturday, it poured. If I couldn’t make a show, no rain. That’s where the book title comes from.

And it’s also weird that it’s been 20 years since the summer when I got my driver’s license. I’ve gone on about this too much, the job at Taco Bell, my first CD player, my first car. It’s always weird to have a nice even number slapped on it. I mean, saying “I’ve been driving for 17 months and 12 days” is nothing like “I’ve been driving for 20 years”. And that’s a million worlds away – I’m 20 years and 1100 miles from there, and every old yuppie neighborhood is now a Mexican neighborhood, and one mall is dead and the other is dying, and my old Taco Bell is now a Mexican insurance agancy. But if I go to the Taco Bell on Colfax and order a Mexican pizza and a nachos with a Mountain Dew, it’s like a time machine back.

Anyway.

Vs. Brewers tonight at 7:05, if it doesn’t rain. And again Weds. at 1:05. Cubs on Thu, Sat, and Sun. I am not a huge fan of the Lou or anything; it just randomly ended up that way. BTW I got the 2K7 baseball game for Playstation 3, and man I have no hand-eye coordination whatsoever. It uses every button on the controller in 7 different ways, plus joystick motion. I was damn surprised when I was able to actually pull off the simplest of single plays, and I think I got a batter to make ball contact maybe three times. The neat thing about this is it has a manager mode, where you pick your franchise, draft or boot players according to budget, set ticket prices, move people up/down from minors, all of this. Then you go through the entire schedule and play a season (or a season with less games) and for each game, you pick starting pitcher, lineup, etc. Then you can either sim the game (have the computer zap through and tell you who won/lost/etc) or you can manually play it, where you’re the pitcher or batters. Or you can just manage the game, where you go through pitch-for-pitch and say what you want the batter or pitcher to do. It’s fairly fast, and you can get through a nine-inning game in like five minutes.

Anyway, like an idiot, I picked the Rockies as my franchise, and I finished a season at like .228 or something horrific. A couple of things worked OK – I traded Todd Helton for like 65 other players, and got Kenny Rogers to pitch, which is a good fit for the starter-deficient Rockies. Since everything is pegged at the pre-2007 stats though, none of the real shining stars of the team are there. Matsui is in the minors, and if you bring him up, he’s not a great hitter. You have Kim pitching, and he has like a three-digit ERA, and absolutely nobody will take him in a trade. I tried to give him away and I couldn’t. So yeah. I only have two complaints about the game. One is, I wish after you simmed or managed a game, there was a way to watch highlights ESPN-style or something, or even sit through and watch all 9 innings in the real, 3-d stadium view mode. The other complaint is I don’t have the time to fuck with this shit. I should put the game away until after the Rockies don’t make the playoffs and it’s snowing outside, then I will manage like the next ten seasons.

Man I’ve wasted too much of my abbreviated day on this – I need to start writing.

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