Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Presidential Elections - Part 6

Bill Clinton couldn’t run for a third term, so there would be a new president in 2000. Al Gore was chosen as the Democratic candidate. Interestingly enough it’s rare for a vice president to be elected president. George Bush did it in 1988, he was the first to have done so since Martin Van Buren in 1836. There were a wide range of candidates initially for the Republican nomination but George W Bush (son of the aforementioned George Bush) who was governor of Texas won out.

The campaign was hard fought. Republicans brought up the Clinton scandals and impeachment. Democrats questioned Bush’s fitness for office and that he simply wasn’t smart enough to be president. Gore caught grief for a quote that he “invented the Internet” which actually was a quote taken out of context. As the election grew near, a drunk driving record of George Bush’s surfaced from 1976 (in Maine). All the polls pointed to a very close election.

As I watched the returns, all the networks almost immediately declared Gore the winner in Florida. Losing Florida would severely hurt Bush’s chance to win. As the night rolled on, Bush took a big lead in Florida and finally the networks flipped Florida back to undecided. As the night wore on, it became very apparent that the electoral votes of Florida would decide the election. I went to bed not knowing what would happen. The networks later declared Bush had won Florida and then retracted that. Bush was ahead by a few thousand votes. Gore had called Bush to concede then retracted and demanded a recount. This reduced the margin to about 900 votes. He then demanded a manual recount in several counties. This really got the controversy rolling.

Several counties used paper ballots and there were several claims that ballots were marked incorrectly. There were ballots rejected because they were not marked correctly. There was an argument as to if a “chad” was hanging or dimpled should it count. Florida’s Secretary of State put a limit on how long the hand count could go on. This ultimately went to the Florida Supreme Court which allowed the count to continue. The Supreme Court returned the matter to Florida’s Supreme Court vacating their decision saying they had violated the Florida and US Constitutions. The Florida Supreme Court again started the manual recount. The case went back to the Supreme Court finally halted the recount. So finally on December 12th, George Bush was declared the winner of Florida and the Presidency. If the above sounds confusing, it is. I lived through it and I still don’t understand it.

There was much complaining of course. There were two things that ultimately cost Gore. One was Ralph Nader running as a third party candidate. But the biggest thing was Gore didn’t even win his own state of Tennessee. Had he done that, he would have won despite losing Florida.

I personally think (and you may disagree) that George Bush did a great job especially during the 9/11 crisis. In the 2004 election, he ran against Massachusetts senator John Kerry. Bush maintained a lead on the polls based mainly on his leadership during his term – which he emphasized. Kerry was portrayed as a “flip-flopper” who couldn’t stick by a decision. The race tightened as the Election Day drew near. The electoral votes for each state almost mirrored 2000. Iowa and New Mexico flipped to Republican and New Hampshire to Democrat. A key in this though was that the 2000 US Census changed the number of Electoral votes per state. “Red” states picked up 11 votes and “Blue” only 1 (California) resulting in 10 more Electoral votes in 2004 than 2000 for Bush. There was some controversy over the state of Ohio, but Kerry conceded the election to Bush and he was elected.

So, that’s the end of my blog articles on this topic. It’s interesting to see how things have changed in the forty something years. Who knows what is going to happen this year on November 8th. I have to think it’s going to be interesting and most likely controversial.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Presidential Elections - Part 5

George Bush was a very popular president for the first part of his term. The successful Gulf War (with Iraq) helped significantly with that. However, a promise he had made during the 1988 campaign came back to bite him. He had made the statement (in response to a question about raising taxes), “Read my lips, no new taxes!”. The economy took a downturn in the later part of his term. He approved a tax increase in support of trying to control the budget deficit.

When the Presidential Conventions started, his only opposition for the Republican nomination was Pat Buchanan. He brought up Bush’s breaking of his campaign promise. Bush still easily won the Republican nomination. The Democratic Party had a difficult time getting a nominee. Many felt the President was too popular to lose. Finally, a relatively unknown man who was the governor of Arkansas emerged as the nominee. His name was Bill Clinton. Clinton hammered Bush on his broken promise about taxes trying to show he was not a man of his word.

Another key element of the 1992 election was the emergence of a third party candidate. Billionaire businessman Ross Perot threw his hat in the ring. At one point, he was actually ahead in the polls. Then for some reason he pulled out of the race only to get back in about a month before the election. This hurt him and he was well behind Bush and Clinton entering the election.

I remember watching the results as they came in. When I saw Clinton carry Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio, I knew he’d win and I didn’t have to watch any more. I was proven right as Bill Clinton won relatively easily. Perot ended up getting almost 18% of the vote but no electoral votes. It was a surprise to me that Bush lost but his broken promise plus Clinton touting himself as a “Washington outsider” turned the race in his favor. I am convinced also that Perot took votes from Bush (which some argue with me) that helped Clinton.

Clinton took office with accusations of affairs with several women. Republicans took control of the both the House and Senate in the midterm elections of 1994 (for the first time in sixty years). This raised some concern that Clinton could not be re-elected. However, the economy began to recover toward the end of his term. Republicans tried to court former US Army General Colin Powell as their nominee. He said that he would not accept the nomination. Several Republicans vied for the nomination which finally fell to the 1976 failed VP candidate – Bob Dole. Clinton defeated Dole easily to be re-elected. Despite other women steppping forward with accusations against him (including intern Monica Lewinsky) and him being the only the 2nd President of the US to be impeached (but acquitted by the Senate), he remained (and remains) popular. However, he couldn’t run for a third term, so there would be a new president in 2000.

The 2000 Presidential Election would prove to be the most interesting and controversial of my lifetime. I would end up getting tired of hearing of “chads”. I’ll discuss that in my next post.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

I Left My Heart in Ballard County (32 years ago)

In honor of the day, I am reposting this (updated a bit)

Thursday September 15th is the 32nd anniversary of a day that set my life (happily) on a drastic change.

I was a fledgling programmer at what was called Martin Marietta then (now Centrus Energy) and living in an apartment in Forest Hills. I had gone over to my buddy Jeff Lawrence's trailer (known to this area as Dr. Jeff on WKYQ). He asked if I had plans for the next evening. I said no thinking we were going to have one of our regular marathon Trivial Pursuit matches. He says "Well, you've got a date". I was aghast. "I've set you up with someone I work with at Trader's Mart" (Trader's Mart is a long defunct want-ad kind of paper). He told me I had to go because I wouldn't be allowed to hang out at his place the next night so I reluctantly agreed.

The next day, I went with my friends Keith "Corky" Johnson and Jim Hill to Massac State Park. I sat on the bank of the Ohio River looking and thinking "What kind of idiot goes out with a girl he's never seen before?".

The hour approached and I headed out to meet her at Trader's Mart in my 1983 Trans-Am. All I knew is her name was Donna Woods and she'd be in a black Olds Cutlass.

I got there and the car was there. I watched the door open with apprehension. Out stepped the most beautiful brown haired brown-eyed girl I'd ever seen. I almost couldn't speak. I finally said "I'm Stuart, do you want to see my driver's license to prove it?". She actually laughed at my bad joke.

She wanted to go to McDonalds and eat so we did. She had a quarter pounder with cheese and I had a Big Mac. I saw some guys I knew and I think they were in shock when they saw me out with this beautiful girl.

She wanted to see Grandview USA at the Paducah Drive-In. I was glad to go there since I worked there for years each summer until I started working full-time at Martin Marietta. My boss Richard Phillips was at the ticket booth. I guess he was so shocked to see with such a pretty date that he let us in free. He also told me to go to the concession stand and get free drinks and popcorn. Donna told me later how impressed she was when I brought out drinks and a large brown bag full of buttered popcorn.

The whole date cost 5.00 (including gasoline). She even shared my frugality beliefs! I was enthralled...

The night went great and she even agreed to see me again.

The next morning as I was getting ready to go to church, my phone rang. The caller introduced himself as the "Ballard County Sheriff" and he needed to talk to me about an incident last night. The girl I had gone out with was from Ballard County. My main experiences with Ballard County were to go to the "Game Preserve" (as my Uncle James called it) to camp with my family and a visit to the "Green Palace" (which was really really Green) to watch Lone Oak play in a district basketball tournament. I remember all the kids there blew duck calls the whole game. Anyway, I thought "Oh man, she didn't make it home and now I am the last one to see her and the main suspect". It turned out that they had picked up a couple of guys I know as they came off the Wickliffe bridge and they wanted me to vouch for their identities.

For reasons I'll never understand, she kept going out with me. We've been married 30 years. She still laughs at my bad jokes. I worked at "Martin Marietta" for over 31 years before retiring. We drove that black Olds Cutlass til it wouldn't run any more. I've lived in Ballard County for 28 years now. I still order a Big Mac when I go to McDonalds. And I couldn't be happier....

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Presidential Elections - Part 4

In 1980 when Ronald Reagan won the Republican nomination, there was a lot of speculation of who would be his vice presidential choice. A name that was floated was former President Gerald Ford. There was discussion of something like a co-presidency. This didn't work out and almost as an afterthought Reagan chose former CIA director George Bush as his running mate. After Reagan become president, things began to turn around. The Cold War pretty much vanished when he stood up to the USSR which ultimately ceased to exist as a country. The economy turned around. I honestly think Ronald Reagan ended up being the best president of my lifetime. I also remember how John Hinckley tried to assassinate him in 1981 (to supposedly impress Jodie Foster). Reagan was hit in the chest but survived. His Press Secretary James Brady was left paralyzed by a gunshot to the head. Reagan survived and recovered quickly to resume his duties as President (and ultimately dodge the pattern of all presidents elected twenty years apart dying in office).

Reagan ran for reelection in 1984. The Democratic party nominated Walter Mondale (Jimmy Carter's vice president) for president and Geraldine Ferraro (the first woman vice presidential nominee by a major party). Mondale really had no chance. He tried to make an issue of Reagan being the oldest man ever to be president. In one of the presidential debates, Reagan joked "I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience". Even Mondale laughed and later admitted he knew then he was going to lose. He not only lost, he was stomped. He only carried his home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia. This was the last "landslide" presidential victory (up til now).

Since Reagan could not run for a third term, there would be a new Republican nominee in 1988. Vice President George Bush threw his hat into the ring and with Reagan's endorsement (and the promise to continue Reagan's policies) won the Republican nomination. The Democratic nomination was up in the air among numerous candidates. The early front runner was Colorado senator Gary Hart. However, word got out of his involvement with a young lady named Donna Rice and he dropped out of the race. Finally, Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis ended up getting the nomination. The Republicans sought to portray Dukakis as a liberal - which Dukakis embraced. Bush's choice of vice president (Dan Quayle) seemed to be an unwise choice. Much was made of his youth and inexperience. In the Vice Presidential debate, Qualye compared his experience with that of John F Kennedy which prompted the Democratic VP candidate Lloyd Bentsen to quip "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." What I remember really hurting Dukakis was a guy named Willie Horton. Horton was a convicted murderer. Under a furlough program in place at that time in Massachusetts, Horton was released as part of a weekend furlough program. He didn't return and committed a violent crime and was ultimately captured in Maryland. Republican ads blamed Dukakis for this (since he was governor, supported the program and had vetoed a change to the bill that have not allowed first-degree murders to be a part of the program). Bush ended up defeating Dukakis relatively easily. However, a promise he made during that campaign (that he ultimately broke) would cost him dearly in 1992 (which I'll talk about in my next post).

Monday, August 1, 2016

Presidential Elections - Part 3

As Jimmy Carter’s term progressed, things just got worse. There was an energy crisis in 1979. Not only did gas prices shoot up (over 1.00 a gallon) but gas just wasn’t available (because of issues in oil production in the Middle East). I remember gas stations closing down during the day because they were either out or trying to conserve their supplies. Also, gas was sold either by the half gallon or liter until gas pumps could be converted to handle three digit gas prices. The USSR continued to flex its muscles and invaded Afghanistan. Because of this, the President had the US Olympic Team boycott the 1980 Olympics in Moscow (the only time we’ve done that I think). I remember Sam Bowie of UK had made the basketball team and wouldn’t be able to play. The biggest thing I remember was in Iran. The Shah of Iran was ousted and the Ayatollah Khomeini took over rule of the country. Then, a group took over the US embassy there and held 52 Americans hostage. At first President Carter tried to negotiate for their release. Then, he sent in an attempt for rescue which failed horribly – they never got even close to the embassy. At this point, public sentiment really turned against him.

All of this led to President Carter doing something I’d never dreamed he’d do. He signed an act that reinstated registration for Selective Service (the draft). Every male born in 1960 and 1961 had to register within a few weeks of his signing. Being born in 1961, I dutifully went to the Avondale Post Office and filled out a card to do this. As the months progressed, I grew more and more concerned. I could tell Ronald Reagan was a no nonsense kind of guy. I feared he would immediately start up the draft if he were elected and send soldiers to Iran and Afghanistan. To be honest, I didn’t want to go overseas and fight. In retrospect, that seems really cowardly. My Papaw fought in France in World War I. My dad was in the Army. I had uncles who served as well as other relatives. My only defense is I was an immature somewhat self-centered 18 year old.

The Presidential election approached. I wasn’t voting for Jimmy Carter because I thought he’d done a poor job as president. As I said above, I was convinced Reagan would have me fighting in a foreign war in the very near future so I didn’t want to vote for him. I ended up voting for a third party candidate. John Anderson had run against Ronald Reagan in the 1980 Republican primary and decided to run as an independent. I decided he would get my vote. As I look back, I didn’t really understand his platform, I just knew he didn’t seem to be the “hawk” Ronald Reagan was. From what I read much later, he was a moderate and I tend to be a conservative. I also remember getting a flyer under my windshield at Paducah Community College promoting Libertarian Ed Clark. A friend of mine happened to see the flyer while riding with me one day and liked him enough to vote for him (I won’t name him, I feel like if he wants to admit it, he can). My ironic answer to him on why I couldn’t vote for Ed Clark was “He doesn’t have a chance to win”.

Pollsters predicted the election would be close. The only poll that didn’t show the election as close was the “Weekly Reader” poll done at schools. It had Reagan winning easily. Guess who was right? They were. Reagan won in a landslide. John Anderson did get 6% of the vote but no Electoral votes. I steeled myself for what would happen when Reagan took office. As he was in the process of being inaugurated, Iran released the hostages to Algeria. Reagan took the approach of supporting Afghanistan troops with military advice, money and weapons. So, all my worry was for nothing (as it often is).

That’s plenty for now. In my next post, I’ll discuss the Reagan years and how that choice of Vice President in 1980 shaped things after he left office.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Presidential Elections - Part 2

Almost immediately after Gerald Ford took office, he gave Richard Nixon a full pardon. My understanding is it was to put the incident to rest so the US could move forward. Many did not like this at all. The media portrayed President Ford as a bumbling oaf even though he’d been a star football player at Michigan who could have played in the NFL. Chevy Chase portrayed him to comedic effect on a new show called Saturday Night Live. I remember also the Swine Flu debacle. Several people ended up with a strain of the flu called the Swine Flu. The government hurriedly rushed out a vaccine (I remember a picture of a smiling President Ford being vaccinated). Multiple people died after receiving it and it was just as quickly pulled back. I remember going to my pediatrician to get one and being told it had been pulled back.

As the year of our bicentennial arrived in 1976, the presidential primaries came along. President Ford withstood a stiff challenge from the former governor of California – Ronald Reagan. Several candidates jockeyed for the Democratic nomination. An unknown guy who’d been a peanut farmer and the governor of Georgia emerged as the candidate – Jimmy Carter. He campaigned as being a Washington outsider and beat out a host of other more well-known Democrats such as Jerry Brown, Henry “Scoop” Jackson and Mo Udall. He took a huge lead in the polls as the start over Ford. The race began to tighten as the months went on. Carter made a major gaffe when he admitted in a Playboy interview that he had “looked on a lot of women with lust” admitting he’d “committed adultery in his heart many times” (Matthew 5:28). By the time the election arrived, the election polls showed a very close race.

I remember my mom taking us to the Republican campaign headquarters to pick up bumper stickers, signs and brochures for President Ford. I also remember this ad he started running. Election day came and I remember staying glued to the TV as the results came in. Jimmy Carter carried just about every southern state (including Kentucky and the last time to date a Democratic would win it - Texas). Ford began to pick up other states including states like Illinois and Michigan. Ford took California to tighten the Electoral Vote count. When I finally went to bed, the race still wasn’t decided. Finally, early that morning, Carter went over the required number of Electoral votes to win. Ford actually won more states, but Carter won the Popular Vote and Electoral Vote. As you’d expect, I was pretty disappointed.

How did Ford lose? One, many people did not approve of the pardon he’d given Richard Nixon. Two, his choice of vice president was Bob Dole (who we’ll hear from again later) who wasn’t the best in my mind. My thought was if he’d chosen a VP candidate from the south, he’d have broken up the “Solid South” that helped propel Carter to victory.

President Carter started his term with an executive order declaring amnesty for Vietnam War draft evaders. As his term went on, more and more problems arose. I’ve talked for a while now, so I’ll talk about that and my previously promised discussion of the 1980 Presidential Election, who I voted for and why in my next post.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Presidential Elections - Part 1

Now that we pretty much officially have our candidates for president and we’re set for several months of rhetoric on all sides, I ‘ve started thinking about the presidential elections and campaigns I’ve lived though. This will be the fourteenth. I thought it might be interesting (or it might not) to share my memories and how they line up with what history actually says about what went on.

The first one was in 1964. I was a little shy of my third birthday, so I remember nothing of LBJ blowing out Barry Goldwater. The first campaign I remember anything about at all is 1968. I was in the 2nd grade at Freemont Elementary. What I can remember is kids talking about who their parents voted for. I remember a lot of kids saying their parents voted for somebody named George Wallace. He was a third party candidate (and governor of Alabama) that year who had broken ranks with Democrats He was the last third party candidate to win a state’s electoral votes – he actually won five states (Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana). Richard Nixon still ended up winning enough electoral votes to beat out Vice President Hubert Humphrey and beaome president. I have read since about President Johnson deciding not to run (he could have since he served less than two years of John Kennedy’s term after his assassination). I have no remembrance of Robert Kennedy’s assassination during the 1968 Democratic primaries. Had he been the nominee, things could have turned out totally differently. What I initially remember about Richard Nixon after his election is his going to China and re-initiating foreign relations with them.

What little I remember about the 1972 presidential election was that George Wallace campaigned again and was shot. He lived but was in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. George McGovern won the Democratic primary and Richard Nixon won over him in a landslide. This is what made the uncovering of the Watergate scandal soon after so bizarre. I still don’t understand why there was a need to spy on the Democrats. I remember the Watergate hearings running seemingly forever and interrupting all the game shows I liked to watch during the day. Nixon’s VP Spiro Agnew resigned over things he’d done while governor of Maryland and Gerald Ford was the first replacement VP ever chosen (which would become important later). It turned out Nixon had taped a lot of his meetings and there was a huge battle to get a hold of those tapes. I actually read the transcripts of those tapes in a book later. They were pretty boring - the thing I remember most was how many times "Expletive Deleted" was in there. The Supreme Court finally ruled the tapes had to be turned over. Soon after, Richard Nixon did what many thought a US President would never do. He resigned the presidency. I remember that day. A bunch of us were playing outside and Troy Wurth’s (Troy Bean as we called him) mom made him come in to watch Nixon resign and leave the White House because it was so historic. Gerald Ford ended up giving Nixon a full pardon – a move which would play out in the upcoming presidential election.

That’s enough for now. If I haven’t totally lost your interest, my next post will be about the 1976 election – the first one I took a real interest in. I’ll also discuss the 1980 election. It was the first one I ever voted in and you’ll find who I voted for and why.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Pokemon Go...

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past two weeks, you’ve no doubt heard of Pokemon Go. It’s an app for a smartphone which (from what I’ve read) is the most downloaded game ever. Opinions range from “one of the greatest things ever” to “one of the stupidest things ever”. Pokemon reminds me of when my sons were young. They enthusiastically collected Pokemon cards, watched the TV show and even went to several movies. I remember them waiting anxiously for Tuesday when Wal-Mart got their latest shipment of cards and us going there to spend their allowance on packs of cards. I remember how excited they were to get a powerful Pokemon (Pocket Monster) and especially a “holo” (card with holographic background). Like most everything else though, they faded away and something more popular replaced them. Now with the introduction of this app, Pokemon are popular again.

We had gone for a visit to Wisconsin to see Josh. He had downloaded the app. It sounded intriguing so I downloaded the app and started playing it myself. I’ll give you my thoughts on the app. This isn’t any sort of all-inclusive description at all nor do I have much more knowledge than I had back then of how this all works.

There are several parts to the game. First, the game supports augmented reality. You can have the app use your camera to make the Pokemon appear to be actually located in the area you are viewing. I will tell you I turned that off pretty quickly and I see more of a generic background – it still uses your phone’s GPS and shows streets and such. As you move around, you are alerted to the presence of a Pokemon. You then click on it and you are then able to throw Pokeballs at it to try and catch the Pokemon. You can gain experience points doing this (along with other things) to raise the level of your character. There also places called PokeStops. They are generally located around landmarks of various types. You can visit these to gather up items you need – such as Pokeballs. There are also PokeGyms. These seem to be located at large public gathering areas. The most common place I’ve seen these are at religious gathering places. Once you reach level five, you can go to a gym to either fight other Pokemon or defend the gym. This depends on what color team you join. A big part of the game is you have to spend a lot of time walking around to get to/do these things. You cannot just drive past them to do them. You also collect eggs which you can hatch in an incubator. Hatching is done by walking a certain number of kilometers (2,5 or 10). Driving will not do this, it must be walking.

We had a lot of fun just walking around trying to do all these things. On the way from Josh’s apartment to where I get my morning donuts, I managed to catch several Pokemon plus there were multiple PokeStops to replenish my supplies. The company where Josh works was rich in Pokemon, PokeStops and gyms since it’s a large spread out campus. We went to downtown Madison one night to look around and had our phones out doing this (along with a ton of other people). I’m not super good at the game, but I’ve gotten better and caught all sorts of Pokemon. Josh and I even took over a gym for a bit (by the Verona Library) and I had to text Jonathan and Cheyenne and show them what we’d done.

I’ve heard a lot of disparaging things about the game. No doubt some people are thinking “what on earth is an old guy like you wasting time on this”. It’s fun to play. While Josh and I were walking around on a “PokeWalk”, we spent a lot of time talking about all sorts of things. We did extra walking playing the game (Several extra miles a day) so the game can help you get additional exercise. You end up seeing things you didn’t even realize were in an area when you go to a Pokestop, It’s social, which is a big thing among young people. When we stopped for cookies in downtown Madison, a young man saw me playing the game and started excitedly talking to me (he was shocked to see an old guy playing the game I’d guess). The big thing is something I discovered after listening to a radio story about it and talking to Josh (and which I alluded to earlier). It reminds young people of when they were kids and the only thing they really worried about was trying to "Catch ‘em all!”. I think most of us can identify with the feeling of looking back with nostalgia to our youth and remembering simpler times.

My final thoughts are these. It’s a fun game. It’s like most any earthly pursuit though. In moderation, it’s fine (presuming of course it’s legal, moral, and not against the teachings of the Bible) . If you spend too much time playing it to the exclusion of important things in your life (God, Christianity, family, friends), that’s a problem.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

New York, New York - The Finale

I caught the train on Tuesday evening to Yankee Stadium. The trip was OK except for a group of boys that looked to be about ten years old that were totally out of control in the train car. Their dads appeared oblivious except for the occasional “Don’t do that!” which of course did nothing. I got off the train car at the Yankee Stadium stop and was at the stadium within a few minutes. I wound my way through the metal detector and handed my ticket over to be scanned. The ticket guy said it was rejected and let me know (quite rudely) it was for Wednesday night. So, I had to force my way against the line to walk back to the Stubhub office. I got there and managed to swap my ticket out for the correct one. I wasn’t offered any reasonable explanation just a “Sorry”. It was partially my fault for not looking more closely at the ticket but this was still the first negative experience I’ve had with Stubhub.

I ran back to the Stadium (literally) and the correct ticket worked fine. I had missed the first couple of outs, but that was it. The seat was really good. I wished Jonathan could be there because I know how much he would have loved it. The Yankees scored in the first on a triple and ground-out. In the fourth, former Cardinal Carlos Beltran hit a solo shot to right to make it 2-0. The Yankee pitcher Nathan Eovaldi pitched well. The Yankees picked up two runs in the 7th and two in the 8th and won 6-0. They have a neat tradition where they play the Frank Sinatra rendition of “New York, New York” when the game ends. I walked back to the train station and caught the train back to Greystone and Ubered back to the hotel. Josh had managed to wrap up his work and would be able to go back early (Wednesday instead of Thursday). His flight out of LaGuardia was at 6am though, so he had to get up super early to leave for that. He left and I hung out at the hotel til checkout time (my flight wasn’t til 3pm). I had a nice time discussing the ins and outs of Uber with my driver.

I got to LaGuardia and for some reason was marked as “Expedited Security” which allowed me to skip the whole body scanner and taking my shoes off. I never figured out why. Just FYI, Laguardia’s security is at each gate section of each terminal. This limits where you can go eat (there are only a few restaurants in each gate section and you’d have to back out of security to go to another section). Plus, the gate areas are cramped and seating is limited. I finally just grabbed a cup of chicken noodle soup at Au Bon Pain and watched the episode of Gotham I’d missed on Monday night while sitting at one of the few empty gates. The flight was on time and we had no issues getting back to Nashville. I did fall asleep and jumped up a bit startled when the flight attendant asked the person next to me what they wanted to drink (prompting laughter from both of us). My luggage showed up within a few minutes and I set a record for catching a parking lot shuttle bus. I got to my car and headed out. I managed to get out of Nashville with little trouble – well when I managed to finally go the right way on the Briley.

My plan was to attend at Needmore church of Christ on the way home. It was quite a bit off the Interstate, but I had been there once. Plus, my friend David Carmichael and his family attend there and I looked forward to seeing them. It had started to rain quite a bit but it appeared I would make it. I had gotten off I-24 and was about halfway there when suddenly my passenger side windshield wiper completely broke loose. This made driving quite the adventure. So sadly my new plan was now to get back to the Interstate. I was a good distance from it and my GPS took me quite the back route. The rain started to dissipate but I had a new issue – I was low on gas. I was worried I might run out but seemingly out of the blue, I came upon a gas station which was open! I filled up and managed to finally get back to the Interstate. When I got off at my exit, I started hearing a thumping noise in the rear of the minivan, but I didn’t have any trouble getting home so I tabled that til next morning. When I got up the next morning, the passenger side rear tire was totally flat! I swapped it out for the spare. That was painful since it was stored under the car and you have to lower it by a screw and cable system to pull it out. Looking back I thankful that a) the driver’s side wiper didn’t come off and b) I didn’t have to put the spare on while on the side of the road. I took it to Plaza Tire and they replaced the wipers and tire – turned out there was a puncture in the sidewall.

I’d had a great time, but I was glad to be home. Would I go back? Probably. I’d really like to take Jonathan at some point so hopefully at some point in the future the Yancy men can make a trip there.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

New York, New York - Part 5

On Monday, Josh had to leave to work with the group he’d come there to help. So, I was on my own. I ended up spending most of Monday just resting. My legs were shot from all the walking we’d done. I watched TV and relaxed for most of the day. When Josh got back, we ate the food that the hotel provided that night (chicken enchiladas). We took the train to Grand Central again and headed for Times Square. It was a short walk to get there.

There were a lot of people there, more than anywhere else we’d gone before. It was bright and was a total assault on your senses. There were several people dressed up as various cartoon figures (think Mario and the Cookie Monster) that wanted to take pictures with you (for tips). We were jostled up and down the streets and went into a couple of souvenir type shops. I found one that had multiple stories and all sorts of Yankee stuff. I ended up getting a Yankee onesie and t-shirt for Lucy. We found the M&M World store. It was four stories of everything M&M you could hope to see – except for a Peanut M&M mug with Donna on it. We also visited the Hershey store which honestly looked neater on the outside than inside. We grabbed a snack and just people watched for a bit (they have outside tables you can sit at). Finally, we walked back to the train station and headed back for the night.

I foraged out myself the next day. Josh was going to have to work late, so I bought a single ticket for the Yankee game that night. Turns out the Yankees deal exclusively with Ticketmaster for resale of print-at-home tickets. This however locks the seller into not being able to sell them for less than face value. I went ahead and bought from Stubhub. Turns out they have a location to pick up tickets a few blocks from the Stadium. I had also made a reservation for a tour of the UN at 1pm, so my plan was to take the train to pick up my tickets, then get back on and head to UN. I got to the Stubhub location with no problem but it took the young lady quite a long time to find my ticket. By the time I got out, I’d just missed the train into Grand Central. In order to try and save time (the next train wasn’t due for 45 minutes), I tried Lyft for the first time. I’ve always used Uber and since Lyft didn’t reach out to where we stayed, I’d not used it yet. The trip was fine. However, because of a huge jam coming into the city, I didn’t get there much sooner than if I’d taken the train.

I got in the considerable line for the UN Security office. One member of the party you are in has to get a printed out security badge. They even take your picture for it. You then walk across the street and go through security to get into the UN compound. I got in with no problem and found the area to check in (they give you a sticker to designate your tour) and settled in to wait. Our guide arrived and we headed out. She gave a really good description of what the UN does plus we got to see several displays about various UN initiatives. We also got to go into several of the UN chambers including the main General Assembly. Most of our tour group of twenty was not from the US. One lady spent most of the tour complaining about the US. Her chief complaint was “they imprison children”. I didn’t want to start an international incident, so I kept my mouth closed. I always want to say in these situations (thinking of my Papaw especially) – “If it were not for the US, Europe would be one large country of Germany not once but twice”. Our guide did point out that almost 25% of the costs of the UN are borne by the US (by far the most). Once the tour was over, I walked back to Grand Central and took the train back to Greystone station and walked back to the hotel.

In my next post, I’ll talk about my trip to Yankee Stadium and my trip home. Neither was uneventful.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

New York, New York - Part 4

We got up Sunday and took an Uber to the Westchester church of Christ. They were a very friendly group of Christians. We enjoyed worshiping with them. They were in the process of expanding their building to handle their growth which is great for them. It’s always wonderful to meet fellow Christians wherever we go in the world. We took an Uber back to the hotel to change and head for the city.

Our plan for the day was to visit Central Park. We took the train to the Marble Hill Station (as recommended by Google Maps) and walked one block to catch a subway to the station closest to Central Park. Imagine our dismay to find out the station was closed for the weekend. We then decided to walk to the nearest subway station. Each one we reached was closed. We finally found one that at least was attended and he pointed us to the nearest open station. I knew absolutely nothing about the neighborhood we were in and felt a bit apprehensive. Josh told me not to worry and to try not to act like a tourist. We finally got to an open subway station and got to the Central Park area.

We were starving by now. I had scoped out a place called Gray’s Papaya that was close by. It was a no frills hot dog shop that had good ratings. They had a recession special that would give you two hot dogs and a cup of papaya juice for 4.99. On the way there, we passed an apartment building that had several people gathered around it taking pictures. I didn’t think much of it til Josh said “The doormen had ‘The Dakota' on their jackets”. I realized then what it was. It was where John Lennon lived and was murdered in front of in 1980. I made sure we got a picture of it on our way back to Central Park. The hot dogs were great as well as the papaya juice.

We entered Central Park and first got to Strawberry Fields – the memorial to John Lennon. We then walked around seeing various sights including Cleopatra’s Needle (a big obelisk originally from Egypt), statues of Han Christian Andersen and the tea party for Alice in Wonderland. We went inside Belvedere Castle as well. We just wandered about after that then decided to look for the carousel. I haven’t mentioned that the park is huge. It’s funny to see something like this in the middle of huge bustling metropolis. It’s 843 acres in size. We had to wander around a bit to finally find the carousel. I actually even talked Josh into riding it with me.

We knew what time the next train left Grand Central for our station, so we decided we wanted to see two more landmarks before we got there. We ran and got to Rockefeller Center to see the Atlas Statue in front. We also managed to get to Trump Tower and see the front of that. We made it to Grand Central with time to spare (running most of the way). After getting to our hotel (from our uphill walk), we just stayed at the hotel and ordered in.

You’d think we’d seen enough of New York City? Not by a long shot. In my next post, I’ll let you know what famous place we went next and then what I got to see when I foraged out on my own to the city.

Monday, June 13, 2016

New York, New York - Part 3

Saturday morning came early for us but we got up and ate breakfast and headed for the train. We walked from Grand Central Terminal to the Ferry Landing at World Financial Center. I had bought tickets for an Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty Tour. You could depart from either New York or New Jersey. I could only get tickets from New Jersey. There was a ferry that would take us over there though plus it would add another state to our “states visited list”. We got on the ferry and got some great views of the city skyline. We landed in New Jersey and walked over to catch the ferry to Ellis Island.

Ellis Island as you probably know was the immigration center for the US in the late 19th and early 20th centuries for the US. They have an extensive museum. We got to check out the great hall where the immigrants arrived. It was very interesting to see the preserved items plus read the stories of what people went through to come to our country. After we finished touring that, we caught the ferry to Lady Liberty. We made sure and got on the top outdoor deck of the ferry. We had amazing views of the statue. You don’t realize how truly big it is until you get up close. We landed and walked around the statue. I’d never seen anything but the front. Once we went around the back, I realized the statue is actually wearing sandals. We then entered the pedestal. You can buy tickets to either just tour the island, go up in the pedestal or go all the way up to the crown (you can’t go up to the torch any more). You have to get Crown tickets months in advance so we did the pedestal. There were several stairs to climb just to reach the top of pedestal. I cannot imagine climbing to the crown! The views were nice and there was another museum – much to my pleasure and Josh’s dismay. It was interesting to see how the statue was built and to be able to look up and see the structure inside. We took the ferry and landed on the New York side this time – at Battery Park.

There were a few more things we wanted to see. The first we’d come to (after Josh wanted to stop at Starbucks) was the large bronze bull a few blocks away. The “Charging Bull” was literally dropped in the Wall Street area years ago by its sculptor. I wanted a picture with it but I was shocked at the crowd around it. You’d have a though a UK basketball player was there :-) . I finally managed to squeeze in for Josh to take a picture of me with it. We strolled by the New York Stock Exchange and the Trump Building and headed for the Brooklyn Bridge. We walked across that – it’s about a mile each way. There were a lot of people (which was the case at most everything we went to) and there was the additional issue of people stopping right in front of you to take pictures instead of moving to the side. We made it back across and then got on the subway to go back to Grand Central.

By the time we got there, we were starving. I wanted to visit one of the Original Soupman restaurants. His original location in downtown was no longer open. It’s considered to be the inspiration for the “Soup Nazi” on Seinfield and the owner didn’t appreciate the comparison. There was one near the station though, so we went there. There was no Soup Nazi (although they sold T-Shirts with his phrase “No Soup for You!!). The soup was excellent along with the bread and banana (of all things) that was included. By this time, I was pretty well worn out so we took the train back to our station and I struggled up the hill to the hotel.

In my next post, I’ll tell you about the friendliest part of the trip plus the part that gave me the most concern. I’ll also tell you about the famous site I almost missed – which would have upset me had I done so.

Friday, June 10, 2016

New York, New York - Part 2

After Josh got in from work, we headed on to New York City. I had already bought tickets for us to go to the observation deck on the 86th floor. We walked to the Greystone train station and caught a train into the city. The trains on the line we were on all terminate at Grand Central Terminal (formerly known as Grand Central Station). The place is huge and busy with all sorts of train lines and subway lines terminating there. There are also multiple places to eat there. I had already scouted out a place to eat and found Shake Shack. I’d heard from numerable sources how great it was, so we tried it out. The burger was really good. Honestly though, I didn’t feel it was any better than a burger I get at Five Guys or Culvers.

After we ate, we headed out of the station onto the streets of New York. My first impression was how the city is intense on your senses. From the large buildings, to the number of people, to the traffic - it feels really intense. We walked to the Empire State Building. When we got inside, there was a huge line. I’d been to the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) years before. There was little or no wait there. We waited well over an hour in line to finally get on an elevator to go up. There was a big crowd at the indoor observation deck. We were able to see out and see to whole area of New York including many of the iconic buildings of the city.

We took an elevator up a few floors to the outside observation deck. The view was amazing. I had Josh film a video of me there so Donna could see how high up we were. We took an elevator back down to the ground. Even though it was late at night, there were still a lot of people on the streets. We got back to Grand Central and took a train back. We had a mile walk back. It almost all uphill and we were already tired but we got back to the hotel and went to sleep.

In my next post, I’ll relate how our Saturday went when we visited several iconic locations in New York City.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

New York, New York - Part 1

A couple of months ago, Josh let me know that he was going to be able to take a work trip to New York. He asked if I wanted to go and of course I was game and said yes. I found a flight from Nashville to LaGuardia and booked it and was ready to go. I got there a few hours before he did. Fortunately, there was a Five Guys at the airport so I ate there, then hung out until he got there. We took a taxi to the hotel and as it was late, we just went to sleep.

We were actually staying in Yonkers which was about 20 miles north of New York City. His company didn’t get him a rental car, so we would be using trains, the subway, taxi/Uber/Lyft and walking to get around. Where Josh would be working was right across the street from the hotel. He went off to work and I prepared for my first day of sightseeing.

While I poured over the New York MTA web site, I found that the rail line (Metro North) that we were closest to would take us not only to New York City but also to Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown. I had just seen this on Jeopardy and it reawakened my interest in going there. I walked to the Greystone train station (roughly a mile away). The station is located right on the Hudson River. One thing I discovered is that the road slopes quite abruptly to the river. I headed downhill to get there and realized it was going to be quite the upward trek when I came back. I had studied how to use the train ticket machines so I bought a train ticket to Irvington (my first stop) and sat back to wait for the train. I had no trouble, a conductor came back and took my ticket and put a numbered card in front of my seat which I presume let them know I was legally riding the train.

I got off at Irvington and headed for Sunnyside. This was Washington Irving’s home on the Hudson that had been preserved. He’s one of my favorite authors and is considered the first true American author. It was about a half a mile walk and mostly all uphill. The last quarter of a mile was actually a path through a woods to get to the park entrance. I had signed up for a tour and was greeted by the tour guide. She did a very good job telling us about Mr. Irving and showing us his home. I found out that he never married, but several of his nieces and his brother (and many other guests) stayed at the home. One of his suitors was Mary Shelley (of Frankenstein fame). He also came up with Gotham as a name for New York (near and dear to any Batman fan) and Knickerbocker (which became the New York NBA team name). I had someone tell me I should see the Lyndhurst Castle which was only about a half a mile away. I trekked back out to the trail and went and saw that. It’s a pretty neat looking place, but I don’t know that it was worth the walk.

After this, I was starving. I stopped at a little pizza place I’d passed by on the way there and got a slice and a drink and rested. I then took the downhill walk to the station to catch the train to Tarrytown to see the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. I saw the grave of Andrew Carnegie and the family plot of Washington Irving (where he is buried). I also saw the replica of the bridge which the Headless Horseman would have chased Ichabod Crane and then followed the path to the old Dutch church that he tried to reach to make him disappear.

After all that walking, I was worn out. I took a train back to Greystone station. There was no way I could walk back up those hills, so I got an Uber back to the hotel and waited for Josh.

In my next post, I’ll relate Josh and my first experience in visiting New York City.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Opening Day

One of the things I’ve never done with my favorite baseball team (the Cardinals) is go to opening day. I’d heard it was quite the spectacle and almost a local holiday in St Louis. I’d gotten an email from the Cardinals offering the opportunity to go Opening Day if you bought tickets to two other games that year. I didn’t need any more encouragement (to go see a couple more games) than that, so I bought tickets. I ended up with two diamond boxes down the third base line about 10 rows up from the field. I talked with Josh and he was willing to come down and meet me in St Louis so we could go. So, it was all set! I was all in a lather though the days before we left. The weather prediction was for rain all day that Monday. If that happened, Josh wouldn’t be able to stay for the makeup game Tuesday. I hoped that the weather prediction would be wrong.

Josh and Shelby came down early on the weekend to St Louis before opening day which was on a Monday. Donna and I drove up on Sunday after church. We met then at our hotel in Fairview Heights. Donna was of course thrilled to see her baby. We went to Collinsville church of Christ for evening worship. One of our preachers had been there for two years and of course they had many good things to say about him. Afterwards, we met up with one of Josh’s old college friends who lives there – Jesse Yannelli for dinner. We had a really good time. I ordered a brat burger which wasn’t as good as I’d hoped it be though.

Monday morning, we headed for the Children’s Hospital at Barnes. When Donna had her three year checkup with Dr Bridwell in March, she was asked to participate in a study to see if scoliosis (which she had) was able to bespotted via a DNA marker. She had trouble giving the blood sample that day so she said she’d come back and try to hydrate better. We went to the Metro station at Fairview Heights and rode into St. Louis. There is a station within walking distance of the hospital so it worked out well. Josh went with Donna and I headed to Einstein Bagels to pick up the Monday Bakers Dozen Special. By the time I got back, Donna was done. We hopped back on the Metro and headed back to Fairview Heights. The only issue was it drizzled on us the whole time. The prediction now was the weather would clear in time for the game though.

We went to the St Clair Mall and walked around. As we walked around, I was thrilled to see the sun shining through a skylight. Josh and I got on the Redbird Express. It took a lot longer than usual to get to the Stadium with the traffic. When we got off and got to the first gate, the line was monstrously long. We kept walking and finally found a line that was a little more reasonable. We got in just a few minutes before the festivities started. Our seats were perfect for viewing the parade around the park. The skies had completely cleared!

First, the Clydesdales come out. They are always an impressive sight. Then, all of the living Cardinal Hall of Famers drive up each in a Ford Mustang. I was pleasantly surprised to see Tony LaRussa there (he works for the Diamondbacks now). Even 93 year Red Schoendienst was there. Then, each current Cardinal is driven around the warning track in their own Ford F-150. Finally, Lou Brock went out to throw out the first pitch. That was very special because Lou was my first favorite Cardinal player. Second, he’d recently had part of one of his legs amputated because of a diabetes related incident. To catch him was another of my favorite Cardinals, Ted Simmons (recently elected to the Cardinals Hall of Fame). Lou didn’t go out to the mound but stood about 35 feet from Ted and fired a perfect strike to him. The crowd went crazy.

There was a ballgame with the Brewers to play now. Michael Wacha started and gave up two one out hits but then induced Jonathan Lucroy to hit into a double play. In the bottom of the first (with one out), Jeremy Hazelbaker tripled. Holliday doubled him in. Grichuk doubled Holliday in, then Molina drove in Grichuk and the Cardinals had a 3-0 lead. They tacked on two more in the 2nd and then erupted for four more in the third to knock out the Brewer’s starter. Josh and I loved this of course. The Cardinals ended up winning 10-1 capping a great day.

We took the Redbird Express back to Fairview Heights. Donna and Shelby picked us up. We ate from the hotel provided dinner and then Josh and Shelby headed back for Wisconsin. I made a Krispy Kreme run and the Hot Light was on! I didn’t think the day could have gotten any better! Donna and I stayed the night and headed for home the next morning.

If you are a Cardinal fan, you have to at least once in your life go to Opening Day. Josh and I loved it and I am sure you would too.

Friday, March 25, 2016

A Controversial Topic...

Since this is the time of year that we seem to have a lot of controversy, I thought I would throw out a controversial topic myself.

Anyone who knows me knows that one of my favorite things in the world is doughnuts. My go to doughnut is chocolate covered with a cream filling. I do like others such as the standard glazed, a glazed with chocolate icing and doughnut holes. When I got out of town, I’ll visit whatever doughnut shop is ranked the highest for a particular area. For the purpose of this post, I am going to center on what I feel are the two controversies in the doughnut world that I am directly involved in.

Krispy Kreme vs. Dunkin’ Donuts – I feel like this comes down to whether you are a cake donut or yeast donut person. I’ve found that people from the north seem to prefer cake and people from the south prefer yeast. If you’ve ever had a fresh glazed donut from Krispy Kreme when “the hot light” is on, I think it’s no contest. I’ve been known to cut across multiple lanes of traffic putting my passengers in danger to pull in to a Krispy Kreme when the hot light is in. I have an app on my phone that tells me when the hot light is on at a particular location. When we go to Nashville, I will stop at the one in Clarksville and when I am heading north on I-57, I’ll stop at the one in Marion Illinois. The only things a Dunkin’ Donuts have over KKD is there are more of them (including one actually in Paducah – the closest KKD to me is in Marion) and they have breakfast sandwiches. I’ve gone to a Dunkin’ Donuts in desperation when I need a donut and I’m always disappointed.

Red’s vs Munals – These are the two big donut shops in the Paducah area. I’ve gone to Reds for over thirty years. One of favorite things to do in my youth was play a couple of rounds of mini golf at the South Side course (behind Hardees) and then go grab some soft tacos at the South Side Taco Johns and chocolate covered cream filled donuts from the original Red’s location on Bridge Street. I knew of Munals and I think I stopped there in desperation once when the Red’s Bridge Street location was closed but I wasn’t impressed. Donna’s family are big Munals fans and she couldn’t believe I went to Red’s. Then, Red’s moved to Jackson Street and I had to pass by it all the time so I had to pop in there quite a bit. However, over the past year, I’ve started what is an unbelievable change. I now prefer the chocolate covered cream filled at Munals. They are what I want in a cream filled donut – the cream is supposed to burst out of the donut so that you have to watch out for getting it all over you. The Red’s version while still really good, simply doesn’t hold up to that standard. Munals also has enormous cinnamon rolls and fritters. Red’s has their famous fried pies. Munals tends to run out of my go to doughnut sooner than Red’s though, I went after I ran the Iron Mom half marathon and they were out at 10am on a Saturday.

I have no doubt some will agree with me and some will think “that guy has no idea what he’s talking about”. Feel free to comment ;-)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Spring Training - the FInale

We had finally reached our day to return home. We’d had a lot of fun, but we had to head home. We did have one more game to see. Our trip home would take us past Port St Lucie which is the Spring Training home of the New York Mets. I had gotten us tickets with our travel package to see that game. We checked out of our hotel and headed for Port St Lucie.

I was prepared for a lot of traffic once we got close to Port St. Lucie. I had read several discussions online about how terrible the traffic and parking was at Tradition Field (home of the Mets). I had called up directions on my phone to know what exit to get off at, but it wasn’t any problem finding it. The traffic was backed up on it all the way onto I-95 North. Turns out that after you exit, there is a left turn on the road leading to the stadium which causes the issue. Fortunately, we’d left early in anticipation. We traveled on the road to the stadium and we glanced about for places to park that were not right at the stadium with no luck. Turns out Tradition Field has a huge grass parking lot in front of the stadium. It was no problem parking but I could see potential issues at departure.

I honestly feel Tradition Field is a nicer ballpark than Roger Dean. They have nicer seating areas including a large grass berm past the right field fence where families could spread out a blanket or lawn chairs to watch the game. They have a better scoreboard as well. We had great seats but they were right in the middle of a bunch of Mets fans. I heard a lot of the “New York accent” for most of the day. The Cardinals jumped out to a 2-0 lead on an opposite field home run by Matt Adams. Jamie Garcia threw 3 2/3 shutout innings before being replaced by Mitch Harris (the young man who was at our dinner Saturday afternoon). He gave up a two run homer to tie the game. The Cardinals relievers coughed up five runs ending with a 7-2 loss. Then, the real fun began. If you can envision several thousand cars trying to leave at once with no marked lanes for exit and no one directing traffic until you reach the exit from the lot to the street, you can see it would be chaos (it was). It took us over 40 minutes just to get out of the lot. I wound us out the back way to I-95. We spent the night in Ocala and watched several conference basketball tournaments.

The next day we got up and headed out and I really banked on missing rush hour traffic. Unfortunately, there was some sort of issue about an hour or so before we got to Atlanta that backed up traffic well before it should have. We got to Atlanta at about the worst possible time. It took TWO hours to get through the city and points north. It made us lament (like Donna and I always do) as to how people that live in a big city can handle traffic like that day in and day out. We grabbed some Krystal and then checked into our hotel. I scanned the cable TV selections to try and find the SEC Network (to watch the UK –Alabama game) with no luck. One disturbing thing is that not a single hotel of the five we stayed in had SEC Network. Fortunately, I was able to stream the game on my laptop. Kentucky won easily over Alabama again.

We got up the next morning and headed home. I was tempted to at least look at going to see Kentucky at the SEC tournament on Saturday, but decided we needed to get home at a decent hour.

We’d had a fabulous time on our trip. We are at least considering making it an annual trip. If you are a die-hard Cardinal fan, I would recommend you try it at least once. Around the first of the year, there are Spring Training vacation packages offered on, so I’d recommend looking for those.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Spring Training - Part 3

We got up Sunday morning and went to services at Palm Beach Lakes church of Christ. We had found out Sam Jones would be doing a Gospel Meeting there so were happy to see him preach. He did his usual good job. When we got out, we grabbed something to eat and then headed to Roger Dean Stadium again. The Cardinals played the Nationals. They looked a tad bit lethargic to me and they ended up losing. The Cardinals did not support their pitching well, making several errors that led to a couple of runs. We got back to the hotel and changed and headed to visit at the Suncoast church of Christ. We found another group of wonderful Christians there and really enjoyed that as well.

Monday, I got up and ran. We went to our fourth game at Roger Dean Stadium. The Cardinals would be playing the Mets. They didn’t bring any of their starters. The highlight though was the appearance of Adam Wainwright as the Cardinals starter. He had not started a game since the game (which we were at) in Milwaukee where he tore his achilles tendon. He pitched two shutout innings and then exited the game. The teams each scored a run in the third and then the Cardinals scored five runs in the fifth to break the game open. We came back to the hotel and had the hotel dinner. If you’ve noticed, we’ve been able to save a good amount of money on our meals on this trip.

Tuesday was a welcomed day off. The Cardinals had a game in Fort Myers but that was over two hours away so we didn’t go. I ran and then headed over to the practice field. I was fortunate to get to see Carlos Martinez throw a few innings of a simulated game. His catcher was Yadier Molina. There were several others watching him including Adam Wainwright and Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt. Adam Wainwright came over and signed autographs and posed for photos. He was a very nice personable guy for all the fans. For lunch, we ended up going to Palm Beach Lakes again. Sam Jones did a lunch session each day on “Managing Life After a Faith-Shaking Experience”. He did his usual fabulous job. On the way back, we popped into the Cheesecake Factory to grab a couple of pieces of cheesecake to eat later. We had the hotel dinner again and then went to see Sam Jones speak again that evening.

We got up Wednesday and I went for my morning run. Running was so nice in Jupiter, the weather was beautiful. Donna had seen an ad for a fish and fries basket from Checkers, so she decided to give that a try. I had a double bacon burger. They also have funnel cakes there so I had to get a small one. We got the food but honestly were not really impressed by it. We headed to the game (the final one we’d see at Roger Dean). The weather was so nice that we just walked the mile or so. The Cardinals played the Marlins and new acquired Mike Leake took the mound. The big thing though was Yadier Molina got the start at catcher! It was good to see him in an actual game. In the 2nd, the leadoff man for the Marlins reached on an error and was singled to second. Then, a batter or so later, there was a single up the middle. Randall Grichuk grabbed the ball and fired to the plate. I was a bit concerned about Yadi’s first tag play after his injury (that’s how he tore his thumb ligament last year). Yadi made the tag perfectly to get the runner out and was unscathed. The Cardinals scored in the fifth on a home run by Patrick Wisdom (the first Cardinal home run we’d seen there) but lost 5-3. We walked back to the hotel and changed and headed to see the last night of the Gospel Meeting. It was a special bonus to the trip to be able to attend that and see Brother Jones speak.

I’ll finish this series up by letting you know how the trip home went in my next post.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Spring Training - Part 2

On Friday, the Cardinals had an away game against the Astros in Kissimmee. We didn't want to drive all the way there so we spent the day just resting. I did take a run in the morning. I ended up running by the Cardinals practice fields. They were about a mile from our hotel. The setup resembles a little league complex. There are a bunch of fields strewn about for the Cardinals to practice on. They open the gates in the morning to let fans in. There are bleachers around the fields that they allow the fans to watch from. I sat down to watch for bit. Mike Leake (the newly acquired free agent pitcher) was throwing batting practice. It took me a few minutes to realize that Yadi was catching him. Given that he'd had two hand ligament surgeries over the winter, that was good news. Several players such as Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha were watching. I stayed around until they were done.

We had the usual issue of where we wanted to get lunch from. We discussed it for a while and finally decided to get food from a place called Pollo Tropical. It's Caribbean type place with grilled chicken and sides like black beans and rice. It was excellent. I ended up later going to Publix and grabbing some sodas and cookies to snack on.

I got up on Saturday and ran. With our Saturday tickets, we were able to go in and watch the teams have batting practice. The gates for that opened at 10:30. I went over by myself to watch them. I got to watch the Marlins take batting practice. Giancarlo Stanton smacked several long home runs. Unfortunately, the Cardinals didn't take batting practice on the field. Donna took the hotel shuttle and got there about thirty minutes before the game started. The Cardinals ended up pulling out a win 3-2.

We had passes to a post game meal where several Cardinal players would come over and answer questions. We got over there and were treated to a really good buffet meal. Tommy Pham and Mitch Harris along with announcer Mike Claiborne were there. Mike Matheny came over a few minutes later. They took questions from the crowd and Donna got to ask a question. She asked Mitch Harris (a pitcher) what it was like to work with Yadi (she had to of course get in a question about her favorite player). Mitch of course talked about how wonderful he was. We were then allowed to get autographs. I fortunately had bought a couple of baseballs for us to get signatures on. Mike Matheny signed Donna's hat (which will of course go to Josh). We told him how he was our son Josh's favorite player when he was young and had even bought a Mike Matheny shirt. Mike seemed genuinely happy to hear that and told us to thank Josh for that. It was a very enjoyable time. We went back to the hotel and rested and went to bed.

In my next post, I'll let you know about our busy Sunday and how the rest of the games went.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Spring Training - Part 1

For several years, one of the things I’ve really wanted to do is go to see the St Louis Cardinals at Spring Training. I’ve never been able to arrange it. The Cardinals offer spring training vacation packages and I’ve always dreamed of going. Our 30th wedding anniversary would be in March. I talked with Donna and I said we’d go anywhere she wanted for our anniversary. She said “You’ve always wanted to go to Spring Training so I want to go to Jupiter Florida”. I of course thought that was a wonderful idea. I have the best wife in the world. I went ahead and bought a Spring Training package for the first week of March so we’d be going to SIX Cardinal games.

We left out on our anniversary (March 1st). We drove to McDonough Georgia. It’s a little south of Atlanta and we hit quite a bit of traffic but made it through unscathed. The next day we drove to Kissimmee to stop for the night. We went to Wednesday night Bible study at Kissimmee church of Christ. I used to go there regularly when I went to email conferences in Orlando. Several people actually said they remembered me. We heard a good lesson from Acts 19 about Paul and Ephesus. We stopped at Dairy Queen for ice cream afterwards.

We got up and headed for Jupiter the next morning. We got to Jupiter in plenty of time for the game. The Cardinals play at Roger Dean Stadium there. It is right next to Florida Atlantic University. They have parking for the games at a pretty reasonable price (6.00) that is only a short stroll through their campus from the stadium. We got there no problem.

Roger Dean Stadium is a nice stadium. It seats about 6800 people. There really isn’t a bad seat in the house. Our seats were in the 2nd level right behind home plate. We had a great view of the game. We also experienced something we hadn’t in quite some time. We got hot. The temperature was in the 80s. I loved it. I ended up getting Donna a cherry Italian ice to help her cool off. The Cardinals share the stadium with the Florida Marlins, so they would be playing. Tyler Lyons started for the Cardinals. He gave up a home run to the second batter. That ended up being the only run he gave up over three innings. The Cardinals tied the game in the bottom of the first on a triple by Tommy Pham and an error. They took the lead with two runs in the 2nd. The Marlins tied the game in the 6th on another home run and an error. The Cardinals scored the winning run on a wild pitch in the 7th. They brought in a young pitcher whose name I couldn’t pronounce named Dean Kiekhefer. He mowed them down in the ninth to get the save. We walked back to our car and headed to our hotel.

I had gotten us rooms at the Homewood Suites which was about a mile away. They had a pretty decent dinner for free that evening so we were able to just stay at the hotel for the evening and relax.

In my next post, I’ll let you know how the next few days of our trip went.

Friday, February 26, 2016


While looking at my daily financial news, I came to this...

Sears chairman blames Tesla, Uber, and Amazon for sending the retailer to the grave

You can read this article here if you want.

I honestly don't think it's these companies (or similar practices) that cause Sears issues. Sears brought this on themselves. I worked in a field (IT) for over thirty years where if you stand still, you get trampled into the dirt. Sears to me is the prime department store example of that. I remember a day...

When I was a kid, Sears was the king of the area. For those of you too young to remember, they were located where the Paducah Power building is now. I loved to go to Sears. I even loved to go when it was time to go school clothes shopping. Everybody went to Sears to buy their school clothes. My mom would usually let me buy some sports type shirt - I distinctly remember buying a Jim Hart (number 17) shirt. They also had a huge candy and nut counter. I developed my love for chocolate stars at that counter. My mom would let me buy a bag when we were there. I loved to watch someone scoop them into a bag and have them hand them over to me.

Any kid of that era would eagerly check the mailbox in November. We all waited for the Sears catalog to show up. We would pour over it looking at all the neat toys for that year. We all circled what we wanted so that Santa would know we wanted for Christmas. Sears would clean out their lawn and garden section to increase their toy selection at Christmas time. I don't think I would have been more excited to visit Santa's workshop then when we went to Sears and got to see that each year.

The people that worked there seemed to work there forever. They could answer any question you asked. I remember when Craftsman tools were the tools you wanted not only because of their quality but a salesman who could answer any question about them. When I was a senior in high school, the Mattel Handheld Football Game was all the rage. I wanted to buy one with some of my hard earned Drive In paycheck, so I headed straight for Sears. As I headed for the toy and game area, a salesman greeted me immediately. I told him what I wanted and he went right to it and I paid for the game and was out in no time.

I always associate the downfall of Sears with their move to Kentucky Oaks Mall. I am not exactly sure when that candy counter disappeared, but it was never at that location. They didn't seem to have as big a selection and they stopped sending that Christmas catalog. Their toy selection isn't even hardly worth discussing. The only time I go to Sears now is to walk though it to get to another store in the mall.

A lot of times, we want to blame others for problems we have. Often though, they are our own fault. The main thing is how we react to them. We can made adjustments, try harder, or all sorts of other things. Sears was in trouble well before Amazon got here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

By The Time I Get To Phoenix - Part 3

NOTE: Unfortunately, I didn’t publish this before the debacle of the NFC championship. I will try to write this from the standpoint of the day of the event, but I apologize in advance if post championship cynicism comes through.

I tried to sleep late Saturday but just couldn’t manage to go past 7:30am. I ate free breakfast at the hotel (sausage and biscuits) and headed to Wal-Mart to get 2 liter sodas for Jonathan and I. I then headed for the Fractured Prune. This was a doughnut shop that was recommended online located in the Westgate shopping area close to the stadium. They have all sorts of doughnuts and you can get all sort of combinations. When you come in, you fill out a form of what combination of ingredients you want on your doughnut. They have recommended combinations as well. I got triple chocolate, cookies and cream, strawberry shortcake and orange. They fry up your doughnuts in front of you and then dip them in the flavors you want. They are really good especially when fresh. They are a bit pricey (1.89 a doughnut) and they are more like a cake doughnut (I’m a yeast doughnut guy myself). In case you are wondering, the doughnuts don’t contain prunes. The shop is named after a lady called Prunella who kept hurting herself entering men’s sporting events.

After we ate, Jonathan and I walked past the stadium to head to a park to run. There is a park called Grand Canal Linear Park that runs next to a canal (makes sense). It has a six mile round trip that was perfect for us to run. After we were done, Jonathan walked to a nearby Nike Outlet Store. We met up at the Westgate center to get lunch. I got a sampler from Shane’s Rib Shack and Jonathan got his standard wing order from B-Dubs. We settled in to our hotel room to watch UK play Auburn. They looked totally flat but I felt better when they got a twelve point second half lead. Lo and behold, they managed to blow all of that and lose by five. When the game ended, it was time to walk over to the stadium for the game.

I was really pumped. I’d never been to Arizona’s home stadium plus it was a playoff game. We got in with no trouble. Their stadium is very nice and with a dome, the conditions were perfect. We found that between ¼ to 1/3 of the fans were for Green Bay. The game finally started. After a bit of back and forth, the Cardinals punched in a touchdown to take the lead. Green Bay drove down the field. Then, Patrick Peterson intercepted Aaron Rogers and took it back 100 yards for an apparent touchdown. However, there was a convenient penalty on the Cardinals that negated it. The Cardinals held the Packers to a field goal. Even though the Cardinal offense was totally pathetic in the first half, they were 7-6 at halftime. The teams traded interceptions to start the 2nd half and then Green Bay scored to take the lead 13-7. The Cardinals got a field goal to make it 13-10. They then drove down the field looking to tie or take the lead. Carson Palmer then threw a totally hideous interception in the end zone to stop the drive. The Cardinals drove down the field again. Palmer again made a bad throw that hit off of Larry Fitzgerald’s hands but very luckily bounced into the hands of Michael Floyd to give the Cardinals the lead. The Cardinals held the Packers on 4th down deep in their territory. Packer fans were streaming for the exits. The Cardinals looked to run out the clock. For some reason, they threw a pass on 2nd down which was incomplete. They didn’t get a first down but kicked a field goal to go up 7 with only 1:55 left. The Cardinals had the Packers at a 4th and 20 from their own five and then incredibly let them complete a long pass for a first down. With five seconds and 41 yards from the end zone, Aaron Rodgers fired a pass into the end zone. As we saw right in front of us, the receiver incredibly came down with the ball for a touchdown and with the extra point, the game headed to overtime. I honestly thought the Cardinals would never recover.

The referee went to flip the coin to start overtime and there was confusion and he had to reflip. Turned out the coin never flipped on the first attempt. Fortunately, the Cardinals won the toss each time. On the Cardinals first play, Carson Palmer was flushed from the pocket. He threw all the way across the field to a totally wide open Larry Fitzgerald. Larry ran the ball all the way down to the five yard line. A couple of plays later, Larry caught a shovel pass for a TD to win the game! It was so incredibly exciting, the stadium was shaking. We walked back to the hotel and it took me a bit to wind down to go to sleep.

Our trip wasn’t over yet. We did some things on Sunday – which I’ll talk about in my next post.

Friday, January 22, 2016

By The Time I Get To Phoenix - Part 2

Friday arrived and I went to pick up Jonathan for our trip. We left so that we’d have plenty of time to get to Lambert Airport in St Louis. We made great time on the trip. We made such good time that we had time to stop at Krispy Kreme in Fairview Heights for some doughnuts! We got to the airport with plenty of time to spare. We got to the D Lot (the cheapest one). One of the shuttle bus drivers flagged us down as we went in and pointed out a parking spot in the crowded lot. We shuttled to the Terminal we were to fly out on. We got through security just fine. I was reminded that each terminal at Lambert has its own security. In other words, you cannot freely move from terminal to terminal like you can at some airports. The big effect of this is it really limits your food choices. I also discovered that there is now an entire terminal devoted almost exclusively to Southwest. This is a big change from the old days at Lambert when it was primarily a TWA hub. An issue with the Southwest terminal there is while there are plenty of charging stations, they don’t have many that take just a pure USB connection – you have to have some sort of AC connector.

The time of our flight finally arrived. We lined up in our assigned position. We both got our desired aisle seats. The original plan was for the plane to take off from St Louis after 7:00pm, stop at Love Field in Dallas and then take back off for Phoenix. Once we landed at Dallas, we were informed that we would actually exit the plane and get on another plane for Phoenix. Jonathan made the statement “Boy, I hope our luggage doesn’t end up lost now”. I hoped he wasn’t prophetic. We got off the plane in Dallas. I was somewhat disappointed to see all the great eating establishments there at Love Field. There was a Whattaburger! If I had only known, I would have waited to eat. I knew better though not to eat any more with another flight ahead of me. Southwest did let the fifteen or so of us that had come from St Louis board first so we got good upfront aisle seats. This flight went well but our whole trip was about the change for the worse.

We got off the plane and headed to baggage check. After all the bags had come out, there was no sign of either one of ours. I headed to the Southwest Baggage office while Jonathan continued to scour baggage claim for our luggage. I was not impressed by the Baggage office. There was a young lady who was told “There is nothing we can do for you tonight”. She tried to impress on them that she had to have her luggage for work several hours later – it was after midnight at this point – and they seemed very unsympathetic. However, after she walked off, both of the employees seemed obsessed with getting luggage delivered to someone. I kept hearing “she’s from Anthem” over and over again. They totally ignored me. I finally saw Jonathan waving at me. It turned out our luggage had come in on an earlier STL to PHX flight and had been stashed in the area for unclaimed bags. It was very fortunate he even bothered to look in that area. I found out later that per the “Contract of Carriage” they are allowed to do this (send luggage on a different flight). I still don’t understand why though. I know that flight was totally full (I checked on changing to that earlier flight).

So, we now have our luggage and we now have to catch a shuttle to the “Rental Car Center”. It took about ten minutes to get there. We arrive at the Enterprise Counter to only find a sign telling us to head downstairs to the Enterprise car area to get our car. We get to the bottom of the stairs and find a huge line. There was one woman working that counter and it was moving super slow. She left and a young man arrived. He took care of one customer and then left for another woman to arrive. What I didn’t understand is why it wasn’t “all hands on deck” to try and process people as fast as they could. After 45 MINUTES, we finally got our (a nice Chevy Impala) rental car and headed for Glendale.

It was 1:15am by now. I hadn’t been up this late in I don’t know how long. Fortunately, we made it to our hotel with no issues. On the way to the hotel (Hampton Inn Glendale), our route took us right by University of Phoenix Stadium. That made me totally happy again to see that and anticipate the game later that day. We got to our hotel and after waiting a few minutes for the guy at the front desk to return and open the front door, we got checked in and crashed out.

Would things get better? You’ll find out in my next blog post.