Monday, April 26, 2010

Hey Slugger

Saturday, 24 April, 2010

Hey Slugger

While it's true that Arthur Doubleday didn't invent the town of Louisville, he probably was it's reason  for such a wonderful spirit. As every young lad that has held a Louisville Slugger in his hands, and every young lass that has swung that bat to discover a supremely satisfying kerthwack of energy in the ball leaping from a stick of wood, to arc high in the air, Baseball and Softball will always ignite something beautiful in the soul of those who love the game.

And when in Louisville, there is no better place to discover, or rediscover, that same spirit in yourself, while  remembering those long ago dreams, than in the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum. This shrine is a testament to the American Pastime, and all the truly amazing people that have piqued our attention, and amazed us with their prowess. Baseball, and yes Softball too, is a game like no other. Oh sure, our Brit cousins have Cricket, which is reputedly a fine game, but simply not even close. They also have Rounders, which is closer to our Baseball, but still not in the same league. Baseball has become a world Class game, with Major Leagues in just about every developed, and some not so developed, countries.

Each and every player will happily tell you that there is only one true bat to be used, a genuine Louisville Slugger! They've been crafting the bats of our Professional teams for well over a century, and there is no other bat that comes close to the proper feel, and swing of the real deal!

So, Slugger, when in Louisville, a trip to the home of the best bats in the world is no strike out. In fact, you really don't need to be an avid fan of the game to enjoy the tour. My dearest beloved Barb, who really can take or leave sports in general, had a wonderful time, and enjoyed herself quite a bit. The tour is a real treat. You get to walk thru an honest to gawd, working factory, and learn some fun factoids along the way. The factory has an air conditioning, venting, humidity controlled system that allows both workers, and tourists alike to walk thru without having to breathe massive amounts of wood dust. No small feat in a plant that produces as many wooden bats in a day as they do!

As you amble thru the production process, you notice just how clean the environment is, and also learn about the various steps in making the bat to a tolerance of 1/1000th of an inch! Wood species, weight, configuration, grading, and also each particular`player's unique specifications, all play an important part. For you Baseball aficionados, Ted Williams (a major hitter back in the day, for you non aficionados) once turned a bat back in, because it didn't feel right in the neck area. The bat in question was taken back to the factory and measured. It was, in fact, 5/1000th of an inch out! This just demonstrates the relationship a hitter has with the bat. At various points along the way, you get to see short videos describing a particular step in the process, and some well known players giving a quick anecdote about "his" bat. To a player, they all used the same  phrase about how the bat feels in your hands. Seems they all very much enjoyed "having some good wood in your hands". Of course we giggled!

After the tour, you get a free (never mind the cost of the tour) souvenir, mini bat. If you wish to pay for it, you can even get it engraved with your own signature. Nothing says success like your very own John Hancock on a little stick of wood after all!

The Museum part is also a celebration of both the company that makes the bats, and the players that use them. I actually held a 1918 Babe Ruth bat, and also a Mickey Mantle! I turned down the David Ortiz for the Mickey Mantle as the sweet young thing that was ogling after David Ortiz had no idea. Then outside for some pictures at the largest bat in the world (120 ft tall, 68,000 lbs) and time for us to take a 7th Inning Stretch.

We collect Ace the DufusDog from our car, along with the GPS'r and PDA, to do a bit of Geocaching downtown. Barb had picked out a particularly fun cache, one that afforded us a great panoramic view from the 9th story of a parking garage, and led us to another parking garage. Happily, we didn't hafta huff and puff up 9 storeys this time! She cleverly finds the cache that was quite well hidden, and then it's off to find food for us.

We happen along the main street of town, which was quite busy with the 13,000 High School students (and their attendant Adults in tow) of the DECCA conference. These students are all involved in a business oriented competition, and the girls outnumber the boys by at least three to one. Lucky lads. So Barb, Ace, and I find a Pizza by the Slice eatery, with outdoor tables. Barb bravely volunteers to go inside and get us food, while Ace and I sit and defend our table from any would be intruders. Of course, while my intrepid wife is standing inside, and making those all important luncheon decisions, Ace is the star of the sidewalk! Elvis himself would have been demoted to a mere background item as each and every girl that sauntered by would have to stop and pet the puppy! and I gotta tell ya, they build em differently than when I was in High School!? Not that we didn't have our own beauties, mind ya, but each and every one of these girls was stunning in her own right! Not easy being me, really.

After a fun lunch, and much loving for Ace, and more giggles for Barb and I, we finally leave town for the next part of the journey. I drive thru some very hard rain, thunder and lightening. As we approach Nashville, we stop at a Welcome Center to relieve our
Bladder-O-Meters, and call ahead on our cabin. But what is this? Our reservation doesn't start until the next day?! What! Oh frack! Breathe... ok, so maybe they can get us in a day early, despite the owners having something of a family get together. With all the thunderstorms going thru, they had postponed their event, and already had our cabin set up, yea! Somewhere between my uber busy, but well intentioned (and still the bestest wife in the world) and the sorta ditzy, scatter brained wife owner, the dates had got jumbled up. but once again, fortune was on our side, and God smiled on us. We were happily greeted, and warmly received into our little Southern Chalet.

The rest of the afternoon, and evening we dined on frozen pizza, chips and salsa, and enjoyed a majestic thunderstorm! Yup, Life is good, and we're quite happy to enjoy our blessings! A very comfortable bed, with a very real down mattress awaited our tired bodies, and the peacocks serenaded us as we smiled at each other, and knew that love, once again, had provided.

Indiana Wants Me...

Friday, 23 April, 2010

Indiana Wants Me...

Today starts just way too early for my usual sensibilities, somewhere around Still Too Damn Dark, and There Be A Cup Of Coffee, we roll out of bed, and I struggle to regain what passes for consciousness. As the coffee does it magic thing, and the sky starts to lighten, my mostest wonderous wife manages to put up with my grumblings and sputtering to life with her usual, loving sense of humor.

This fine morning, however unusual at it's arrival to my stream of consciousness we are getting up oh so achingly early to get on the road for our personal Spring Break! The aforementioned mostest wonderous wife in the world had chosen Nashville as our destination, with an overnight layover in Louisville.

So we trundle ourselves to the already mostly packed car, (thank gawd), make sure that Ace the DufusDog is in the back seat, and congratulate ourselves on our super human ability to commence the drive at 7:30 in the fracking morning! WOW! For me this is quite an achievement, no less than finding the Titanic, or winning the Lotto.

The drive down the coast of Michigan was easy, and quite beautiful in it's early Spring wardrobe. The further South we drove, the temperature would gently warm a bit, the sun would shine, and we decided that those items would be good omens of things to come.

A few potty breaks later, (one of the reasons we first new we were so right for each other is, that we seem to operate with the same calibration on our Bladder-O-Meters), and we're being welcomed to Hoosierland, hurray! But soon enough, hunger is approaching, and Ace thinks that he needs to stretch his fuurry feet as well. Hmmm... ok, well, we seem to specialize in wonderful, out of the way, Mom & Pop eateries. Nothing against the Applebee's and Cracker Barrels, but we just prefer honest, local fare. and the Food Gawdz usually smile on us in our eternal quest to avoid the chains. In this instance, that most certainly was true! If, for whatever odd reason, you manage to get to Argos, Indiana, then you simply must stop at The Log House Restaraunt.

Home made food, like you would find at GranMa's, friendly service, and a rustic decor all conspire to fill your tummy, without emptying your wallet. I dived, headfirst, into a piled-on Pulled Pork BBQ sanny, with perfectly greasy Onion rings (yes, Onion Rings do need a certain amount of grease to enhance the experience, but not so much as to be dripping, or soggy), while Barb fell in lust with her Grilled Turkey & Cheese on Walnut Cranberry bread. But the true discovery was the Cranberry Apple Chutney! Oh My Gawd... It was such heaven that we bought a bit extra for the road...

So, push on we did, and down the road we go. Our next break to stretch crampy leg muscles would involve our favorite pastime, Geocaching. We've been active in this little hobby cum addiction cum sport cum social network for somewhere around nine years now. We've done Geocaches that were ridiculously easy, to insanely difficult. We've managed to find, and even place caches in 4 countries, and almost every State that surrounds Lake Michigan, as well as many other lands. Yet, somehow, despite all our expertise and travels across that particular piece of land, finding a cache has always eluded us! We've tried "Park & Grabs" that refused to be grabbed, we've attempted mildly difficult caches that became imposserous, and even had thought to break our Susan Lucci style of always being nominated and never getting the prize with some downright absurd caches. Each time we came up as empty handed as the OJ Alibi Club. Ahhh... but this time, this was finally the charmer! At long last Susan Lucci wins the Emmy, and we find the cache! The song birds chirped merrily to each other, and the villagers all came out to the town square to dance in a spontaneous, yet precisely choreographed, Waltz. Yes, Indiana finally wanted us!

Back to car, with treats for Ace, and back "On The Road Again", a smooth sail the very long rest of the way thru Indiana, and at long las we pull into our hotel in Louisville. Unlike eateries, we do prefer the chains when it comes to having a clean and comfprtable room to crash for the night. Happily, at the Comfort Suites there, Dufusdog was welcomed, I got points, and we all enjoyed a great room. My wallet also enjoyed the price, so all was good.

There was a DECCA convention in town (13,000+ High Schoolers, with chaperones, who were there to compete in some Business competition). This means that Ace had a LOT of loving from all the girls, and made many new life long friends. We found dinner at another local establishment, authentic Mexican, yum! El Caperal served us some wonderful tummy stretchers, and Barb enjoyed a genuine Margarita, while sipped down a Modelo Especial.

Back to the hotel, have Ace take us for a walk, and then to soon bed, perchance to dream. first however, was the not inconsequential matter of removing a tic, that had successfully buried it's tiny, and yet quite disgusting head into Ace's shoulder. Apparently said tic didn't get the memo from two days prior, when Barb (being the good Mommy) has deposited Anti Flea & Tic on the dog. Well, ok, it must be a foreigner from Hoosierland, and thus didn't subscribe to our Michigander ways of life. After a fruitless search thru our room for tweezers (how can such a simple tool be missing from our always-be-prepared TDY Kit?) and upon inspection of the pliers in my Leatherman Multi Tool, I decide to Man Up, and do it like a primate. So I get our poor, furry hero in a one armed headlock, with beloved Barb wrestling to keep the rest of his body still, I fold a paper towel into an Orgami style envelope and proceed to treat the tic as a misbegotten pimple from an angst ridden teenager. In a remarkably short amount of time, I actually extracted Msr Tic-Tac-Toe, and give him a fitting burial at sea, a la commode.

We spent about 12 hours in the car, but it was a lovely start to our Spring Break Adventures!

Monday, April 5, 2010

GrandBaby Bunny Blog...

Another beautiful day here in the Hundred Acre Woods By The Inland Sea! Spring has sprung, Easter is just past, and I'm sitting in my jammies, coffee and keyboard in hand. (No, not the same hand, silly)  Yup, life is good, no question about that  at all.

And just to make my life even better, we recently had a wonderful visit with our GranBaby, oh and her parents too! *chuckle*  Son DJ, his wonderful wife Katie, and the star of the show: GranBaby Jane, came traipsing up here the weekend before Easter. The newest member of the Bunny Clan is 10 months old, about 20 pounds, and very bright and engaged with her environment. Her parents are wonderfully loving, attentive, and manage to say "No" (and mean it) at just the right times. DJ and Katie have a very natural style of parenting, and they work well together as a team. The result is a happy, intelligent, and beautiful girl.

Of course, to Barb and I, the little miss is a treasure, and a joy, like no other.  I was never a parent, so all the Baby Ohhhs and Ahhhs are new for me. But Barb says I have good instincts with people, children and babies. Plus she gives me tips on what to do, and how to do it.  Good thing as otherwise I fear I'd do the Wrong Thing, and make whatever into a really Bad Situation! But so far, no Rookie GranPa mistakes that weren't solved by some loving or that venerated sport of new parentage: Baby Bouncing!

Happily, GranBaby Jane is (mostly) a delight, and quite happy to be in your arms. Bouncing is sometimes required, but that's a rather small price to pay for having a minute or two of total, unbridled joy. When the family went to church we were late (as per usual), so we got to sit in front, where the "Late Lutherans" have to pay penance, and can't slip into obscurity for the Service. Early in the Service, Jane was quite gleefully burbling along, and contented herself with Daddy's lap. So, being the beaming, proud GranPa that I am, during a relatively lesser important moment of the service (no, not the Sermon) I sneak a glance at her, two seats away. Busted! Ho boy... she alerts on me like a Redneck at a Monster Truck in a Mud Bog! She smiles right at me, and giggles as she gets handed over a couple of people to finally nestle in my arms, and on my chest. During which procedure, our rookie GranPa has (finally) learned to also remove the eyeglasses and put out of sight. Which means that the *only* thing he can see clearly is her beautiful face. Just the way she wants it!

Back at home, one fine morning as Mom and Dad took advantage of the Family Baby Sitting Service and slept in, (pure bliss for them both!) GranPa and Munchkin played Table Hockey. She would stand up at the edge of the coffee table, and we would shoot a red, plastic drinking glass across. It was a tight game, and I hung in, but she simply was too much for me, and won hands down! GranMa Barb also had many turns with the Mighty Mite, and loved every second. Sure Baby Jane was fussy and cranky sometimes, but she figures that she's earned that right as a growing, questioning, pushing the boundaries, 10 month old.

GranMa and GranPa had a wonderful extended weekend with our family. We got to get caught up with DJ and Katie, and I got to grill steaks one night. In Northern Michigan, our family are Meatatarians, and Katie also thinks this is good thing! DJ even showed me how to grill Asparagus, yummee :)  So love can take many forms, can't it? Sometimes it simply is a nice dinner with your family, and enjoying their company. And even if I was never a Father, I now get to have a much more time honored title: GranPa!