Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ball Game

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Sunday all the guys went to Safeco Field to watch the Mariners take on the Twins. The Twins had been giving the Mariners some problems over the previous few games so we went for the experience of a different stadium, not expecting much from the home team. It turned out to be a decent game. I remember we won and the pitching was tight , a few big hits, a tense moment when we were down and Ken Griffey Jr. was up to bat with the bases loaded, he struck out.

I have learned with Shane along for the ball game we have to expect his attention span to dictate our stay in the park. I had hoped with Grandpa along he would learn a new respect for the game and enjoy the outing as a spectacle.

Shane's usual trip to a ball game would have been broken down by the foods he was offered. A hot dog would start the game. He usually broke down in the second inning and a cotton candy would hold him until the fourth. He would whine through the fifth and sixth and a soda would distract him to the seventh inning stretch. After the seventh inning we had to just dig in until we could no longer tolerate his complaining and asking when the game would be over. I tried to get him interested in the game, explaining the pitch count, the positions on the field, the stats on the giant boards, but he never enjoyed any of it. Baseball was a tedious background to his snacks.

An interesting twist to the game was the popcorn start. Shane ordered a small popcorn and the server placed a small cardboard popcorn box in the center of a four hole drink carrier then she dumped popcorn over the entire contraption creating a mound of yellow snack. Shane was impressed. He felt he had gotten more than he deserved, more than he asked for. He was challenged to eat the entire mound. I learned the popcorn start could take us into the fourth inning. He worked the popcorn and watched the game for four entire innings.

The other new thing was backyard baseball. The only time a video game may have paid dividends. Shane and I had played backyard baseball on playstation. I quickly compared this game to the video game and a faint light lit in Shane's eyes. He began to recognize the plays, the positions, some of the stats. Shane enjoyed the play of the game, briefly, but it was there.

It was my turn to buy food and drinks. I went to the vendor to get Shane a cotton candy only the vendor didn't take debit. An ATM was a short walk down the concourse. There was a line in front of one ATM and the other ATM was free. I walked up closer to it thinking I wonder why all of these people in line for the other ATM are ignoring the ATM with no line. They must not see it. It's right here and I will get to use it without standing in this long line. I approached close enough to see the small paper sign attached to the card slot declaring the ATM was broken. I guessed all the stupid people in the line could read a small sign a little better than I could and sheepishly joined the end of line. It became an entertaining event when another person would walk up, see two ATM's, see the long line, pull out their card and approach the open ATM only to find the small sign. I laughed at them as I had just been there doing the same thing. They would usually shrug or curse then walk off or solemnly join the line.

The man in front of me in the line and I were watching the game in the small monitors. The Mariners hit a double then a home run. In the next half inning Ichiro threw a rocket from right field straight to the catcher's glove, it was a huge throw but the runner was safe. The man in front of me finally stepped to the ATM. It was interesting, every time the line moved up and someone approached the ATM everyone in line stopped and watched the person negotiate through the first part of their transaction. Everyone watched to see if the person would break the machine or take the last twenty from the machine. Once the transaction had been successfully initiated the line went back to watching the game or talking to each other. The man in front of me pulled out a card, looked at it closely and then frantically started patting himself down. The line stopped watching the game, stopped their conversations, waited to see what would happen to the man in front of me. I felt like we were watching a serious drama play out. We had each stood in that line for at least twenty minutes during a sporting event which usually lasts three hours, one ninth of the entire game spent standing in that line. We watched as this poor guy couldn't find his debit card, the agony spreading across his face, the line murmured a little. Then he found it and a collective sigh went through the line. The man announced something about grabbing the wrong card at the wrong time and the line chuckled then went back to watching the game.

I completed my transaction under close scrutiny from the line. The drama preceding me had created a new fascination with the whole transaction. I looked over my shoulder to see the line looking at me but my transaction was uneventful. I grabbed a cotton candy, a Mariner's hat and an Ichiro shirt for my brother in-law and went back to my seat. Shane and Grandpa informed me I had missed the Mariner Moose performance, a couple of good hits and some good fielding. I tried to counter with a good line at the ATM story but the moose dance and baseball plays were much cooler.

Shane started his campaign to get out of the ballpark a little early. He finished his cotton candy by the seventh inning and started asking how much longer the game was going to be. He would soon be asking so much about when we could leave that leaving would be easier than placating him. Then he and heard the announcement. After the game all children twelve and under could run the bases on the field. After the game. I looked at him and he had heard it.

'I want to run the bases' not 'When is this going to be over?'

He was set. He didn't ask again when the game would end he just sat there imagining what the dirt on the infield felt like under his shoes. What the stands and scoreboard looked like from second base. What the bases felt like when you stepped on them. He was hooked.

We waited in the throngs of adults and children meandering down to exercise their privilege as children to take on the bases at Safeco field. Shane ran the bases and crossing home he had stayed in the ballpark for an entire game.

Thanks Grandpa.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

We Would Like To Thank WSDOT

We had agonized over the closing of the Hood Canal Bridge, the bridge connecting the Kitsap Peninsula to the Olympic Peninsula across the Hood Canal. The scheduled maintenance was set to run through the middle of June with the opening just after our beloved guests would have left. We watched the reports closely on the internet, each day an revised date for the opening was coming sooner and sooner as crews completed various tasks ahead of schedule. The Washington State Department of Transportation had to complete 20 perfect openings and closings of the draw before they would be allowed to open. The 20 openings had to happen concurrently, each one after the next, perfect. The testing was set for the day before the Grandparents would be arriving. Once twenty draws in a row had been shown to work perfectly the bridge would be opened. I came home that evening to check the website finding all twenty tests had been completely perfect and the bridge was open for traffic.

One of the major plans we had developed was a trip to the Olympic Peninsula. This part of the visit was up in the air due to the bridge closing and now with its completion we could follow through with our plans to see the wonders of the Olympic mountains at Hurricane Ridge. Hurricane Ridge was an all access point to the views of the Olympic Mountains, sort of the drive through version of a mountain hike. The views have been described as breath-taking, amazing and unforgettable. These were all reasons we headed for the Olympic National Park that Saturday.

The trip started with the ferry ride to Kingston from Edmonds. We piled in the car, drove down the hill and waited for the ferry. We were all cozy in the car and fortunate enough to have everyone fit in one vehicle. We pulled onto the ferry and everyone climbed out to go up on deck. It was nice to have a fresh perspective on the area, a new person to share the experience. The kids were excited following Grandma and Grandpa around the boat pointing out their favorite sights while Grandma and Grandpa added their own observations.

We landed safely in Kingston and made our way toward the park. We were getting hungry and spotted a road side burger joint. Squeezing out of the back seat of the car was somewhat of a challenge at this point. We gathered around a table at Fat Smitty's admiring the photos of sailors and marines scattered between signed dollar bills pinned to the walls and ceiling. The main attraction at the restaurant was the Fat Smitty burger, two half pound patties piled on with a bun separating them, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, bacon, cheese and special sauce. This was the northwest's response to the Big Mac, bigger, much less healthy and made to order. Traci and Savannah split one. It was served sliced in half on two separate plates, each half of sandwich was a meal unto itself.
We left Fat Smitty's, bellies full, the minivan cursing us through whining transmission gears as we climbed through thick fog up the road to Hurricane Ridge. The Grandparents had been to Hurricane Ridge a few years ago and promised a view above the clouds where the air thinned and revealed glaciers, peaks and forests. The fog was thicker as we drove until the parking lot levelled out in front of us and breaks in the fog revealed brief views of the nearby mountains. We went to the visitors center where a man volunteering for the park tolerated our witty quips about the cloud cover. He then explained at ten a.m. that day the view had been clear but the clouds rolled in low and had been climbing up the mountain ever since. The view now extended to about ten feet. The Hood Canal Bridge had delivered us to a cloud covered hint of a spectacle.

The grounds surrounding the visitors center was populated with mule deer lolling on the hillsides. They wandered close to the building, through the parking lots and never gave much attention to the gawking tourists. We hiked some of the snow covered blacktop trail around the park. Shane was delighted with the snow, steamy fog rising from the white frozen surface. He dug it up and threw it at everyone, escalating our peaceful stroll through the woods into a full on snowball fight. We were careful to stay on the path or on the snow.

The vegetation at this level of elevation has a short growing season making the grasses and flowers fragile. A Park Ranger had instructed us to stay on the asphalt or the snow and we would not harm the tundra. As we were leaving the trail a man haphazardly walked across the tundra to avoid the snow. He was greeted by Grandpa calmly and directly explaining the reasoning for the proper course through the snow to the asphalt walkway. The man apologized and corrected his direction of travel across the snow.

We drove to Port Angeles and hung out there for a bit. The older girls wet shopping while grandpa and I went down near the water to examine the ships moored there. Most of them were cargo ships, large, floating masses of blue and white. There was little activity on the ships so we walked back to the car and picked up the shoppers.

We tried to eat at a restaurant in Port Angeles. It was a seafood version of Denny's attached to a hotel down near the waterfront. The views were haphazard, the menu was limited, the service was non existent and everyone at our table was hungry. We stayed for about fifteen minutes, ordered some coffee and bantered about the merits of staying and eating in such a place. We eventually agreed getting away from the place before the food had been ordered.

Three restaurants later we landed at a pizza joint, ordered beers for the adults, too much pizza for the kids and relaxed for moment waiting for our pizzas to be done. We all ate too much.

We drove home nearly sleepwalking to our bedrooms. We had to rest, another weekend day was ahead of us.