We Were Perfect That Way

When I was still pretty small, I had irritated my mom for something lousy I had done and, in her frustration, she snapped, “Don’t get me anything for Mother’s Day.”

A smarter kid might have recognized that what a mom sometimes says is not exactly what she means.

A smarter kid.

I was not that smarter kid. I took the money I was saving up for her gift, went to Woolworth’s, and bought myself a record. I can’t remember which one, but it’s entirely possible that it was this …

 

I was cold shouldered for days. I’m sure she was disappointed in me. It wouldn’t be the last time.

But, to my credit, I never missed another Mother’s Day – including this one, the ninth since she passed away.

I wish I could tell you that my mom and I were ever-warm and loving, like sisters really, and gardened together and cooked together and sewed together and did those things that moms and daughters often do.

We weren’t. We didn’t.

Mom and Me

Sure, we got along. Sometimes.

We fought a lot and rolled our eyes at each other and slammed doors in frustration and disagreed on more things than we agreed on.

But, at the end of the day, we were satisfied that she was probably the only mother, and I was probably the only daughter, who could put up with the other.

We were perfect that way.

Continue reading

One Magazine.

At the start of every holiday I make a “to-do” list. Don’t get the wrong idea – thinking that I am a habitually organized person who makes to-do lists for everything. I don’t.

I really just make to-do lists to make sure my holidays are well used.

I don’t want to waste a minute of a day off, let alone an entire week of days off, since they don’t come around that often.

My list was three pages long. The “work stuff” page was longer than the “fun stuff” page, and one of the things on the “fun” page was “Do something fun” which shows how uninspiring my lists can be.

Mookie On Squirrel Patrol

Mookie’s To-Do List: 1) Look for Squirrels. 

Now, with the end of this holiday approaching much faster than it should, I have one last load of massage laundry left to do, which will give me one more satisfying check-off on my list.

Lest you get another wrong-headed idea – that I actually accomplish all those things that need doing – let me assure you, my list’s check-off rate, even with that last load of linens, was barely 46 percent. (Forty-six percent, however, puts me well ahead of Donald Trump in the polls!)

One of the things I did do … I worked my way through a year’s worth of magazines that had piled up by my bedside.

I love magazines. I love them so much that I don’t even mind the perfume samples, ads, and blow cards that fill them.

There was a time when I had as many magazine subscriptions as a small-town library.

Time was not enough. I had to have Newsweek, too, to catch the things that Time missed. (I had a fling with U.S. News, but it didn’t last.)

New Yorkers would sit, sometimes for years, because they were too precious to discard even though there was more inside a single issue than I could ever read. Old New Yorker covers and cartoons are still tacked up on my office walls … even though the subscription expired long ago.

write what you know

My dad would, without fail, renew my Reader’s Digest each Christmas, and when he passed away, I let it go. But, when my mom died, I absorbed her beloved People subscription, and, although it is pricey and generally news-less, I still keep it, because it seems like something she would want me to do.

I’ve subscribed to Rolling Stone since high school and it hasn’t changed much in all that time, except to become much smaller, and Bob Dylan is still a comforting presence on at least one cover each year. I let Spin go years back. I long for the days of Trouser Press, which you have probably never even heard of.

dylan in rolling stone

Still to-do — Read all these Dylan articles.

Sport. Baseball Weekly. Elysian Fields Quarterly. I got ‘em all.

I’m told that Sport is still around.

And, Sports Illustrated.

At first, my dad would just mail me his old copies, and they would come stuffed three or four to an envelope, often months out of order. Except the swimsuit issue. He always kept that one.

Eventually, he got me my own subscription, but sadly, there were no dad comments written in the margins or big circles drawn in Sharpie around the stories my dad felt were most important. I let SI go for awhile. But, I came back, because it is, I swear, one of the best-written magazines ever.

Editor/Husband estimates that I read 25 pounds of magazines over the holiday.

“Read” is relative here.

One “reads” War & Peace. One “skimmalafies” a year-old Rolling Stone (oh, look, Bob Dylan!).  In the case of People, “reading” may mean simply seeing how fast you can do the crossword or marveling that this week’s cover story on Adele contains not one single piece of original reporting, but is just a jumble of Adele’s previous quotes to Rolling Stone and the Today Show.  (Which means that People did what any blogger could do.)

adele and zuzu

Zuzu is not one for celebrity gossip or, in the case of the new Adele cover story, lazy reporting.

Editor/Husband gets one magazine – Vanity Fair. He has three years of them stacked up on his side of the bed.

“I read them as frequently as there is a Common Redpoll irruption.”

Which means, almost never. Editor/Husband was very excited to see a Common Redpoll at our birdfeeder this morning. (If they’re so rare, why are they called “common”?)

I planned to share three of the best articles I read with you.

But, as the days wore on and the pile by the bed got smaller, I thought maybe two articles would be enough.

Now, the pile’s gone and I have one magazine set aside. Just one article.

It’s from a 2014 Sports Illustrated and it’s about Roger Angell, who has written for the New Yorker since 1944, the last 53 years as its baseball writer.

angell and stevie

Why should you read it? Because it is beautiful.

Because it includes the line, “Angell is the curator of our baseball souls.”

Because, as Angell points out, reading about baseball is somehow even more exciting, vibrant, and memorable than just watching a highlight replayed on video. Maybe because a play is just a play on film. But, when someone who loves the game writes about it, it takes on extra layers, extra meanings … maybe joy, maybe amazement, or maybe despair. It becomes personal, something a video is not.

You can find the Sports Illustrated profile here: The Passion of Roger Angell.

And, you can find Angell’s New Yorker piece This Old Man about aging and getting by in your 90s, which won a National Magazine Award and has one of the world’s best jokes about death, here.

It has been four weeks since baseball.

 

Know Your Ground Rules

When I was about 10, I challenged my dad to a footrace around the block.

I’m not sure why I wanted to race, but my dad and I were always thinking up competitions with each other. I must have figured it was a no-lose race.

My dad said his longer legs would beat me, but I knew that I was fast. Even faster with my P.F. Flyers. I knew I could out-sprint an oldie like him.

dad in modesto ca

The Favorite.

the underdog

The Underdog.

We set the ground rules. From the tree in our front yard, we would run counterclockwise around the block. First one back to tag the tree wins.

the racetrack

Google Maps confirmed that my childhood home — and the round-the-block track — in California still exists. But, the finish line tree-of-legend is gone.

With the rules set, we took off into the street. A neighborhood block is much longer around than you think it is, especially when you’re 10 and your legs are much shorter than your dad’s. But, I picked up steam just as he was losing his, and I drew even with him somewhere around the houses that lined the block behind us. When we came to the final turn for home, my dad was pooped. I was hitting my stride.

It was at that moment that my dad veered off the street. He cut through our next-door neighbor’s yard, hopped over the waist-high fence that separated our houses, and tagged the tree. He had cut several seconds – and several feet – off of the race by short-cutting across Mr. and Mrs. Faustini’s lawn.

I was still running in the street. Soundly beaten.

Faustini Loophole

I had yet to learn any of the wonderful, bleepful words that grown-ups use but children don’t.  So, I probably just called him a “big cheater.” I was pretty mad.

He was jubilant. “Hey, Kid, you never said we had to follow the street.”

It would be my first time getting screwed by a loophole. There would be no rematch.

me and dad

Happier Times.

I’m not sure my dad saw any great lesson in our race. He was just the kind of guy who liked to prank his kid from time to time.

But, his non-lesson left a big impression on me, and I’ve been pretty careful about making ground rules clear ever since.

Which brings me to this.

Ground rules are a baseball thing. They are the special rules governing play that are unique to a park, usually identifying a park’s lines, corners, poles, and edges as fair or foul.

At Wrigley Field in Chicago, if a ball gets stuck in the ivy it’s a double, but if the ball pops back out, it’s in play.

At Tampa’s Tropicana Field, the four catwalks are governed by different ground rules. Hit the lower ones, it’s a double; hit the higher ones, a homer. Indoor parks have all sorts of ground rules for balls that hit the roof, trusses, cables, or other stuff hanging down.

Some individual games have had their own ground rules. In 1903, during the first World Series, the games were so packed that fans overflowed into the outfield. The Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Americans agreed that if a ball was hit into the fans it would be a “ground-rule triple.”

The Americans went on to hit 18 triples over the course of the eight-game series, a World Series record that still stands.

The key thing is this – ground rules are unique to a single park or event.

Here’s what’s not unique in baseball.

Rule 5.05 (a) (6)

A fair ball, after touching the ground, bounds into the stands, or passes through, over or under a fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery, or vines on the fence, in which case the batter and the runners shall be entitled to advance two bases;

There you have it. A ball that bounces from fair territory into the stands is a double.

Nothing unique. Happens all the time. The rule is the same no matter where you are.

It is not a ground rule double. It’s just a double.

What do doubles have to do with my dad? Nothing really.

But, my dad was a stickler for getting things like this right.

San Francisco Giants broadcaster Jon Miller is a stickler, too. While most everyone else calls a fair ball bouncing out of play a “ground rule double,” Miller will call it what it actually is – an “automatic” double or a “rule book” double.

Like this:

 

Jon gets it right, but if you listen through, you’ll hear Mike Krukow get it wrong. And, look! That’s former Oriole’s closer Jim Johnson on the mound giving up the automatic!

(Even legendary Dodger’s broadcaster Vin Scully gets it wrong. Listen.)

Though he liked the Dodgers, my dad wasn’t much of a baseball fan, but I think he would appreciate my using this Father’s Day post as an opportunity to set the record straight about ground rule doubles.

And, he’d probably ask me to remind you: Always set clear ground rules, lest you get beaten by someone who discovers the “Faustini Loophole.”

 

“Love You, Too.”

My mom’s last words to me were “Love you.”

That was seven years ago and she died – somewhat expected-unexpectedly – soon after.

I was her only child and we talked by phone every day. Those final words are especially comforting because we didn’t know that call would be our last.

She wasn’t very happy with me that day. But, no matter how angry we were with each other, or frustrated, or resigned to the other’s insolence, stupidity, or stubbornness, we always ended every phone call with “Love you.” “Love you, too.”

No matter what.

Here are four people and things my mom would love today if she were here …

1) Jose Altuve. My mom was nearly 5’11”. She enjoyed being taller than most everyone in her world. (“I don’t know how you ended up so short,” she would say to me since I’m just 5’6”. “Your weak gene pool,” was my answer. This would get me the silent treatment for a few hours.)

But, my mom would have loved Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, because, although just 5’5”, he excels in a sport meant for taller, bigger, beefier players. She loved it when an underdog made good.

She would love to see Altuve do this …

altuve double play

Altuve starts an amazing double play on Thursday.

And, this on May 2 …

altuve dinger2

“How about this for the little guy!”

2) Adam Jones.  Baltimore Orioles All-Star centerfielder Adam Jones doesn’t mince words – winning or losing – and plays hard every day.

When he slammed into an uncushioned wall at Yankee Stadium on Friday night, banging himself up badly, his words to his manager were only, “I should have caught that ball.”

adam jones

My mom had a rare medical condition that kills most people it affects, but she lived with it for nearly 40 years. She lived in a lot of pain, but she rarely let on and never let it limit her. (She’s probably a little pissed that I’m even telling you this. But, now that I have, she would insist I also tell you that it wasn’t what killed her.)

She would love a gamer like Jones who could shake off a collision, not complain, and just keep playing.

3) Girls Playing Baseball. My mom was pretty clear on this – girls should have the same opportunities as boys. Period.  My mom was all for women Presidents, women priests, and women playing sports at the same level as men.

Had she thought much about it, she would have been insulted to learn that girls are encouraged to play softball because it’s believed they aren’t up to the rigors of baseball. She would be all for girls playing baseball just to stick it to the idiots who think they can’t.

(I’m pretty sure she would enjoy the fact that blogging about baseball is mostly a guy thing, but I’m doing it anyway.)

NPR’s Only A Game shared a story this week about “Baseball For All”, a girls baseball academy.

baseball for all

4) This Blog Post. When I was in, I think, seventh grade, my mom was in a snippy mood one day early in May and said to me, “I don’t want anything from you for Mother’s Day.” I made the mistake, born of innocence and youth, to believe her. I took my allowance, went to Woolworth’s, and bought myself a record with the money I had set aside for her gift. This, as I’m sure you have guessed, was a mistake. I eventually realized that “I don’t want anything from you” was mom code for, “Don’t you dare forget this holiday.”

I haven’t missed one since. This is for mom. Love you, too.

mom me

 Me and mom. (I’m the short one.)

 

Babe Ruth. Ballplayer. Brownie. Mom.

babe ruth makes good headlineOn July 11, 1914, George Herman Ruth played his first major league game. He had recently joined the Boston Red Sox and was already known as “Babe”.

He pitched seven innings, gave up three runs (two earned), and got a no decision in a 4-3 win over the Cleveland Naps (later the Indians).

He went 0-for-2 at the plate. His first major league at bat? A strike out.

Babe Ruth, Pitcher

SDN-061193, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum. (1917)

He became the greatest ballplayer ever. (This is not even worth arguing over.)

If you want the stats, you can find plenty online.

But, how about some other Ruthian notes on this auspicious day?

He Was Born In Baltimore (And Lived In Centerfield)

According to the plaque at Baltimore’s Camden Yards: “During the early 1900’s, Babe Ruth and his family lived at 406 Conway Street in what is now centerfield of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Babe’s father operated Ruth’s Café on the ground floor of the residence.”

The Café? A polite way of saying saloon.

Adam

Adam Jones, Orioles Centerfielder. Camden Yards.

Ruth Was A Catcher (Before He Was A Pitcher, Before He Was The Sultan of Swat)

While at St. Mary’s – a reform school/orphanage for wayward boys where Ruth was sent by his family for being “incorrigible” – he began to play as part of a formal school baseball league. He was a star of the league and played catcher – a lefty catcher (a rarity then and now).

Babe_Ruth_-_St._Mary's_Industrial_School

Public Domain image. (1913)

Babe Ruth, Catcher. St. Mary’s. Back Row, Center.

He later moved to pitcher and in 1913, his last year at St. Mary’s, according to historian Robert Creamer, he homered in nearly every game he played and was undefeated in every game he pitched.

The Baltimore Orioles Signed Ruth To His First Professional Contract (But, Not Those Orioles)

Yes, the Baltimore Orioles did sign Babe Ruth to his first professional baseball contract in 1914. (His salary: $100 a month.)

But, no, it was not the historic 1890s-era Baltimore Orioles that eventually moved to New York and evolved into the Yankees. (They were long gone by 1914.)

And, no, it wasn’t the current Baltimore Orioles. They have only been in Baltimore since 1954, and were previously the St. Louis Browns.

The Baltimore Orioles that signed Ruth were a minor league team in the International League – a team that was originally based in Montreal.

The Orioles weren’t even the most popular baseball team in Baltimore that year. They played a woeful second fiddle to the Baltimore Terrapins, a Federal League team.

They couldn’t compete with the popular Terps and Ruth was quickly sold to the Boston Red Sox. The next season, those Orioles packed up and headed to Richmond, Virginia.

babe ruth red sox

SDN-061536, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum. (1918)

Babe Ruth and two other Orioles were sold to the Red Sox in July 1914 for a reported $25,000.

Baby Ruth Candy Bars Were Not Named For Babe Ruth (Except That They Were)

baby ruth bars

The Curtiss Candy Company always claimed they named the Baby Ruth bar for Ruth Cleveland, President Grover Cleveland’s daughter who died at age 12 in 1904, which was nearly 20 years before the candy bar even appeared.

More likely is that the Curtiss Candy Company jumped on the Babe Ruth bandwagon, but Ruth Cleveland was a convenient back story that would allow them to avoid paying Babe for his image, likeness, name, and endorsement.

Should you wish to argue that Babe Ruth and Baby Ruth are two completely different names: Reporters of the day would, on occasion, refer to the Babe as “Baby Ruth” and here’s some proof of that.

baby ruth headline

In the 1990s, Nestlé, which now owns the brand, contracted with the Ruth family to use the Babe’s image in their marketing.

Although, Nestlé seems to have put Baby in the corner these days – Baby Ruths aren’t even listed on their chocolate page. (Aero Bars? They’re horrible.)

But, if you dig around, you can uncover this Gooey Baby Ruth Brownie recipe!

brownies

A candy bar melted into a brownie? With cream cheese? The Babe would definitely put his name on that!

Ruth Played Where The Sun Don’t Shine

In 1922, Ruth lost a fly ball in the sun while playing left field at New York’s Polo Grounds.

After that, Ruth determined what position he would play from game to game, based on where the sun would shine in the outfield in every stadium – always avoiding the “sun field.”

At the Polo Grounds and in Yankee Stadium, for instance, he would always be in right field.  At Boston’s Fenway Park, however, he would forever after play in left.

I wonder where he would have played at the Trop?

Yankee Stadium — The House That Ruth Built

He didn’t literally build it. He did, however, have basic tailoring skills and while at St. Mary’s briefly worked at a shirt factory. His job was to attach collars and he was paid six cents a collar.

I’m Related To Babe

Seriously. But, not Babe Ruth.

My mom was named Julie at birth, but everyone in the family and most everyone in town knew her as Babe. Her high school yearbook lists her as Babe, too. She was called Babe, she said, because she was the youngest in her family and the youngest in her class.

Sadly, her daughter’s witty jokes about her being named for Babe Ruth or Babe the Blue Ox were wholly unappreciated.

But get this …

In the 1930s, Babe Ruth discovered that he was a year older than he had been told he was, when he had to produce a certified birth certificate in order to get his passport.

In the 1990s, Babe, my mom, discovered that she was a year older than she had been told she was, when she had to produce a certified birth certificate in order to get Social Security.

Coincidence?

_____________________________

Picture This, Dad

gnome

I’ve lived in Virginia for decades now.  (If you add up the decades I’ve lived in Virginia you will discover that I am somehow much older than I think I am.)

My dad came to visit once. (Which, to be fair, is one time more than my mom, but she had her reasons.)

They lived in North Dakota and I was very excited when my dad decided to fly out.

I had just bought my first place – a condo on the Virginia side of Washington, DC.  He came to paint the walls and do the fix-ity things that dads do with their amazing certainty and rightness of purpose that is unique to dads everywhere. Every dad project was a teachable moment, but, really, all I wanted was to make sure the pink walls in the bedroom were painted over.

And, I wanted to show him around and show off my world.

Which didn’t really turn out all that well.

He wasn’t impressed by Washington, its Capitol or White House. He was annoyed by the traffic and all the people. He wasn’t impressed by any of the historic buildings all along our day drives. Blue Ridge Mountains? Sure, OK. He was moderately impressed that the Cuban restaurant offered Philippine beer.

He was truly impressed by only one thing. The trees.

trees

“Damn, kid, I’ve never seen so many trees,” he said as I drove him around.

He said it as if I was somehow responsible for covering up a lot of otherwise good farmland with all these unproductive trees. He wasn’t disappointed. He simply thought it was funny, in the same way he thought a lot of my life choices were “funny”, as in “Well, I would never do that, kid, but it’s your life.”

When he got back to North Dakota, the only thing he told my mom and his friends was that we sure had a lot of trees in Virginia.

He never saw the farm where we ended up.

trees yard

And, damn, he’s right. We do have a lot of trees.

front yard

We have so many trees that I wonder how the sun even reaches the ground some days.

pecan tree

We have three pecan trees. (Yes, they DO grow in Virginia, people, so stop telling me they don’t.)

japanese maple

This Japanese Maple that came as a sapling from Montpelier, James Madison’s home.

rose of sharon

And, a Rose of Sharon. (More bush than tree, I guess. I thought it was only a girl’s name in Grapes of Wrath until I moved here.)

The winter did this to one of our magnolias …

dead magnolia

I know, I know, they’re not supposed to grow here either.

Is it dead? I don’t know, but look what I found on one of its branches this morning …

new mag

Editor/Husband plants trees like many people plant marigolds. This is his “Tree Garden”:

tree garden

I think I’m much more like my mom than my dad.  But, there are a couple things about my dad that carried into me.

My dad loved basketball and football with the same passion that I love baseball.  (“You didn’t get baseball from me, kid.”)

He gave me a love of politics and beer. Bad puns, bawdy jokes, and Bugs Bunny and Road Runner cartoons above all others.

And, he loved taking pictures.

He had a couple cameras that were good enough. He would take and develop so many photos that he was probably the reason the little camera store in Devils Lake, North Dakota lasted as long as it did. When my father died a few years ago, I went by the store to tell the owner and he seemed truly sorry. The shop closed not long after and I think the loss of my dad’s business was part of the reason why.

My dad wasn’t a very good photographer, but it made him happy.

He liked to take pictures of tractors …

tractor

farmyards …

hail

squirrels …

squirrel

and, his kid …

me

Now, come to find out, I carry that gene, too. I’m not a very good photographer, but it makes me happy.

And, it reminds me of my dad.

dad2

An Incredibly Perfect Pie

My mom made an incredibly perfect pie.

Nearly every single one ever … perfect.

(If there was an imperfect pie from time to time, my mother was no frugal cook. She had no respect for cooks who would serve something that was a little off. When an imperfection did come up in her kitchen, no matter how small, she would dump the offending item down the garbage disposal with the efficiency of a cold, calculating hit man. Dump. Gone. She was scary that way.)

So, I thought for Mother’s Day, I would celebrate my mom’s pies.

And, as I was writing this, it struck me. My mom didn’t even like pie.

She’s not around to ask, but I’m suddenly very sure of this.

I think she found pies old fashioned and uninteresting.

I, on the other hand, loved pie.

Fruit pies, and especially rhubarb and juneberry pies, were kitschy and old fashioned and I wanted to be the interesting girl who liked the quirky pies.

My dad liked chocolate pie. No fancy chocolate pie, just the pudding-mix sort.

This must have been incredibly insulting to my mom who would have happily melted exotic chocolates in a double boiler to create a delicious pie.

So, she made me quirky pies and she made him chocolate pudding-mix pies.

But, now that I think about it, I never recall her ever eating a piece of pie, unless she was just being sociable, or to take a quick taste of what she had baked (and to ensure that she shouldn’t throw it out and start over). She was a nose-crinkler when something wasn’t quite right. And, I think I saw her take a small bite of pie from time to time and crinkle her nose the same way I do when the milk in the fridge doesn’t smell quite right.

My mom may have disliked pie, but she made some of the best.

(You may say that your mom made the best pie in the world, but this is my post and you are wrong.)

So, in honor of Mother’s Day, here’s a quick celebration of pie, with a little baseball on the side …

1) Pie-ing the hero of a baseball game is classy.

(Gatorade dumping, in contrast, is stupid and rarely hits the intended target.)

The Baltimore Orioles have made the pie game an art.

Last season, the Orioles even gave away tee-shirts honoring their pie-in-the-face fun.

shaving cream pie tee shirt

Traditionally, face-smash pies were made of shaving cream, presumably because ballplayers don’t have time to whip up a light and eggy custard pie. (And, as many players go shave-free during the season, I suppose there is plenty of excess shaving cream just sitting around.)

Eyes were burned with shaving cream pies.

This year, Dangerously Delicious Pies in Baltimore is supplying two real pies for every home game – just for pie-ing the hero of the game. (Spoiler Alert: No pie-ing today, the Orioles lost.)

Here’s what a proper pie-ing looks like …

clevenger pie

“It tastes pretty good.”

Catcher Steve Clevenger’s walk-off RBI double wins the game for the Orioles in the 10th against the Houston Astros on Saturday night.

But, there are some players who, through their tenure and superstar status, are exempt from pie-ing.

Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis is one of them.

Here’s how you appropriately pie a superstar veteran when his hit wins the game …

Markakis 2

April 26 vs the KC Royals.

(Please note at the :50 mark when someone from the bullpen – I don’t know who – leans over and tastes the pie off of the ground. This is why I love bullpen pitchers. Because they are weird.)

When the Orioles win the World Series this year (and they will), we will look back at this magical Markakis (and J.J. Hardy) moment and think, “But, of course.”

2) My mom taught me a lot, including how to make a pie crust.

pie postcard

I’m not a particularly fast learner and it took her a few years before I got it right. My mother was not a patient teacher and I think she was, deep down, embarrassed that it took me so long to figure it out.

The trick is cold vegetable shortening and ice cold water.

My mother would tell you this about that …

Yes, vegetable shortening. (Butter has its place in this world, but not in a pie crust. Unless you make your living slinging pies, just swallow your pride and stick to shortening.)

My mother would dismissively nose-crinkle you if you miss the important nuance of the water. Tap water is not “ice cold.” Ice cold tells you right there in its name that you need ice in your water, got it?

Here’s pretty much the pie crust recipe she taught me.

You may now roll out your perfect dough and commence to making the pie of your choice.

3) This is Felix Pie.

Felix Pie

Photo Courtesy of Keith Allison CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

It is correctly pronounced “Pee-AY”, but I always called him Mr. Pie.

Felix Pie played for the Orioles, mainly in a utility role, from 2009 to 2011. He played for the Pirates last year, and seems to be playing for a South Korean team now.

I can’t think of any other reason to mention him here, except that he will always be Mr. Pie to me.

___________________

I can’t believe I just realized that my mom hated pie.

But, she made them anyway because I liked them.

I miss those pies. Thanks, mom.

Mom & me, sometime in the post-Mets years.  She could rock those sunglasses indoors & out!

 

 

Always Cheer The Underdog & Other Good Advice From Mom

My mom would be delighted that this Mother’s Day post is early.

For her, being on time was as bad as being late. If you couldn’t be early, why bother?

I’m usually on time with things. Occasionally late. Never early. This drove her crazy.

If my mother were here she would never have seen this blog. She wouldn’t really have cared about it, except for one thing.

My dad has already been mentioned a time or two. But, she hasn’t.

And, that, to my mother, is as bad as being late for an appointment. I can turn from the beloved only child to utter failure with just a single unintentional slight.

So, today, I’m making things right. I’m early.

Here’s one for mom.

My dad didn’t care much for baseball. My mom didn’t either.

But, there are these two things …

FIRST, when I was about 10, it was her idea to make a birthday cake for me with a San Francisco Giant player made of sugar sitting on top of a Los Angeles Dodger “sugar man” that she had pushed into top of the cake.

“My” team squished my dad’s team right there in the frosting.

It was pretty funny.

The next year she did the same thing with a San Francisco 49er football “sugar player” sitting on top of a Los Angeles Ram. The joke was a little old by then, but since “my team” had defeated “dad’s team” yet again, it was still funny.

SECOND, and probably most important, she always, always, always rooted for the underdog.

Underdogs were golden and her reasoning was indisputable. If the underdog lost, well, it was pretty much expected. What can you do? But, if they won, then she had something she could lord over dad and the rest of the world for days.

This led to an out-of-the-blue decision one year that she would root for the New York Mets in the 1969 World Series. I was still pretty small. (However young you think I was at the time, I’m sure I was even younger.)

Mom decided that she and I would watch the Series, although, aside from “hit the ball, catch the ball, throw the ball,” neither of us really knew what we were watching. But, by golly, we were going to cheer the underdoggy Mets to victory.

Mom’s attention span for things like baseball turned out to be pretty slim.

Not only did my mother not watch an entire game, I’m pretty sure she never made it out of the first inning. As she would get up to have a smoke and move to other tasks, she would say, “You watch and let me know what happens.”  So, I guess, I became her personal Curt Gowdy. My memory of this is pretty dim.

When the Mets won the Series, they lost their underdog glamour. They lost my mom. She never rooted for them again.

But, I wonder if at that moment, the Baltimore Orioles – who fell to the Miracle Mets in that Series – creeped into my bloodstream.

Perhaps it was that decision by my mom that led to my own decision 19 years later. When the Orioles themselves couldn’t have been a sorrier team of underdogs, they became “my team”.

Like mom, I clearly have a soft spot for underdogs.

Mom & me, sometime in the post-Mets years.  She could rock those sunglasses indoors & out!

Mom & me, sometime in the post-Mets years. She could rock those sunglasses inside & out!

But, while baseball wasn’t her thing, good advice was. So, to make things right on this blog and to give my mom a well-deserved online “I love you”, here’s some sweet guidance she gave me:

  • When making pie crusts always use vegetable shortening and ice cold water. Use a metal tablespoon to measure the water.
  • When making pancakes always use an electric skillet.
  • When your hands and/or feet are cold, heat your belly with a hot pack. The heat will radiate to your fingers and toes from the inside.
  • When using your grandmother’s recipes, remember that she often left out “secret” – and essential – ingredients when she shared them. On purpose.
  • I named you for Jackie Kennedy, there’s no need to have holes in your jeans.
  • It’s never too early to start coloring your hair. You won’t look so obvious when you’re covering up the grey later on.
  • Don’t scrimp on nice clothes, nice shoes, and anything you put on your face.
  • Pets are the best friends you’ll ever have.
  • Don’t ever get a pet, they’ll break your heart when they die.  (She gave good advice, but that’s not to say she didn’t contradict herself from time to time.)
  • If you leave for church 40 minutes early you’ll have time to say your prayers before Mass. “Can’t I say them from here?”  “Come on, let’s go.”  Corollary: If you arrive early for Mass, you are entitled to leave early – directly after Communion.  Just keep walking and don’t make eye contact.
  • If you arrive for your doctor’s appointment 30 minutes early they might be able to take you early. They never did and this was one of the few pieces of extraordinarily rotten advice she ever gave.

Flash to April 14, 2013.

Editor/Husband: “Why are you working on this now? It’s three weeks until Mother’s Day.”

“Because, I don’t want to be sitting up at midnight on the Saturday before Mother’s Day trying to get this finished.”

“Oh, you will.”

No, I won’t. And, I didn’t. And, here it is.

Early.

Happy Mother’s Day to my mom up in heaven … and to all moms everywhere!

Remembering Earl Weaver … & Thinking About My Dad

Many years ago, long before I came along, my dad ran a string of gas stations in Los Angeles. He was very good at his job. He ran a tight ship.

That laser-like attention to detail and exacting perfection didn’t change over the years. He demanded a lot of himself, and, by turn, everyone else.

One day during those gas station years, late ’50s or so, Mickey Rooney – yes, that Mickey Rooney – came to my dad’s station. And, apparently, Mickey Rooney didn’t adhere to the “good customer” rules that my dad expected.

A “Do you know who I am?” led to a “I don’t care who you are.” Rooney, the story goes, expected free service on his car, simply because he was famous.

A scrap of some kind ensued. (I’m biased, but I’m gonna go with my dad on this one. Because really … a Hollywood star kicks up a stink with a gas station guy? I’m just going to assume the Average Joe was the good guy.)

From then on, Mickey Rooney was not spoken of in our home.

So, it was with a bit of sadness – no, sadness isn’t right; let’s call it You MUST be kidding eye-rolling – when I read a tribute to the legendary Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver, who passed away on January 19 at age 82, that described him as “Mickey Rooney in a uniform.”

You’re comparing a baseball legend to this guy who picked a fight with my dad because he was expected to pay for service like everyone else?

The Earl of Baltimore was a baseball genius.

But, he was also a scrappy, crabby, cranky, irascible, chain-smoking, argumentative firecracker, who might be best known for all the times he tangled with umpires, kicking dirt and getting ejected from 98 games.

He was a tough-as-nails perfectionist who demanded a lot of himself, and, by turn, everyone else. Kinda like my dad.

Earl Weaver is, on the one hand, a big ball of everything I usually find unpleasant about the game.

Crabby, loud, vulgar. Extremely vulgar. Did I mention the chain-smoking? (He was ejected at least once for smoking in the dugout.)

But, he is also a lot of what I find wonderful about baseball.

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I’m Thankful The Thanking Is Nearly Over

I am thankful that Thanksgiving is nearly over. Only a few more daily “I am thankful for …” posts on Facebook and Twitter.

I love my friends. I don’t mindlessly “friend” every person who bumps their grocery cart into me. I’m a selective Facebooker.

But, even so … the string of daily posted thankful messages can wear. When you’re thankful your manicurist convinced you to try “Berry Naughty”, well, really? Really? 

Deep down, I guess I am thankful for these thankful posts, even the seemingly frivolous ones — as they’re much better than the mean-spirited and loud political ones of the past few months.

First, there are the thankful people who have lived amazing lives … recounting their adventures, day by day. “I’m thankful for my time in the Peace Corps when I built a road for an isolated village in Paraguay.” “I’m thankful for my mother who marched with Martin Luther King, Jr.”

But, even amazing lives peter out as the month goes on. What began as “I’m thankful for the people I met when I worked in an orphanage in Nepal”, by now has become, “I’m thankful the grocery store had Panko crumbs this afternoon. Dinner is saved!”

I love the spirit of these messages. But, there’s also an underlying sense of failure for the rest of us. I haven’t lived an exciting life. I haven’t done amazing things. Now, I just feel bad. Put on the spot, I’m really just thankful that my husband cleaned up Smokey Jo’s hairball this morning, allowing me a few extra minutes of sleep.

There’s another kind of serial thanker out there: The person who has decided to thank family and friends, by name, every day. This is a brilliant marketing strategy. We all tune in daily – hoping, expecting – that we will be named next.

I’m beginning to lose hope with one longtime friend, who has mowed through three, four people a day, and has now taken to thanking the birds who stopped by the feeder outside her kitchen window.

I’m thinking that perhaps I could draft up a nice little something about me that she could post. I could remind her of all the reasons why she ought to be thanking me, including that I have now saved her the trouble of writing up something about why she is thankful for me. I guarantee, your house finches will not be so thoughtful.

I am thankful. Honest, I am. I am thankful for every moment, at least I try to be. So what if I don’t feel the need to share every detail with the world? Because, when you’re so vocal in your thanks for the things in your life, you may be hurting someone else because they do not share your good fortune.

Grateful that your home survived Superstorm Sandy? Of course you are. But, remember that someone near you was not so lucky. Don’t revel. Don’t gloat by saying you’re thankful that your candidate won, saving the world from certain destruction. Conversely, don’t pout by saying you’re thankful that, while your candidate lost, God will save the world from certain destruction.

See? It’s hard to be thankful and humble at the same time. At least on the Internet.

This Mutts cartoon was published in 2002. It’s one of my favorites. See more wonderful Mutts cartoons at http://www.muttscomics.com

But, I’m thankful for you.

Even if I don’t know you. If I DO know you, you have enriched my life in the flesh. But, even if I’ve never laid eyes on you, you’ve been kind enough to read these words from time to time. And, that is a very generous thing to do.

Really, I’m thankful for you.

My dad was a North Dakota farmer. But, he remembered most fondly his time in L.A. in the 1950s where he ran a string of successful gas stations. When he died, I found this photo and a letter from the corporate head recognizing him for having the cleanest, most efficient stations. His love of Los Angeles and L.A. sports never left him.

Six years ago, my dad died. On Thanksgiving Day. 

A friend said, “Your Thanksgivings will never be the same.” But I disagreed. My dad knew that I loved Thanksgiving (and the Macy’s Parade and the Rockettes. Oh, the Rockettes!).

He wouldn’t want to take that joy away from me.

My dad gave me my love of sports. Although he preferred the Rams (L.A. and St. Louis) and the Lakers (L.A., but not Minneapolis).

He would root for the Dodgers, if pressed, but he never quite understood my love of baseball. “You didn’t get that from me, kid.” But, he was all about sports, so I probably did.

For years, he would, in the name of economy, save his copies of Sports Illustrated and mail them to me – often with little snarky comments written in the margins, and pictures of his favorite NBA players circled in Sharpie. Sure, just getting me my own subscription would have been cheaper. But, not nearly has special.

So, I’m thankful for my dad.  And, for baseball.  And, for the off-season, which is a nice time to catch up with life, and start that beautiful longing for the next game.

And, you.  Don’t forget that I’m thankful for you.

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” ~ The Buddha