Thursday, April 24, 2008


The fact that Luke always wants to root for the winning team made me think about sports allegiances. But first, a quick kid story. This morning, Luke and Max were putting on their coats. They were getting ready to do a zipper race. After Max got his zipper started, Luke asked him to wait. When Luke took too long to get his coat zipper started, Max just zipped up his coat and gave Luke a "that's right" stare. Luke collapsed on the floor, crying and babbling. It took a few minutes to sort that out.

Because I moved around from state to state, never living more than three years in the same city, the local team wasn't as important to me as it would be to someone who lives his whole life in, say, Seattle. Mariners, Sonics, Seahawks, end of discussion. I picked my teams for different reasons, usually when a team I was rooting for lost a heartbreaker.

The Baltimore Orioles - 1971

I was sitting in a Riverside movie theater when there were technical difficulties. While technicians in white hats repaired the feature film, they showed a 30-minute recap of the 1971 World Series between the Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates. During that time, I established a bond with the Orioles, who lost the 7th game. For the next ten years, I waited up late at night during baseball season to see the news score of the Baltimore game flash. I learned to hate news anchors, especially weathermen. If the Orioles won, I went to bed happy. If they lost, I went to bed sad. If the game was undecided, I thrilled myself or tortured myself with come-from-behind scenarios. In the morning, I analyzed the box score to figure out how the game went down. I should write a whole blog entry on the art of reading a box score.

The Green Bay Packers - 1968?

At some point, back when the Packers were winning NFL championships and the first two Super Bowls, I fell in love with them, though I have no memory of watching Bart Starr play in any games. I jumped on the bandwagon. I had Packers pennants and a John Brockington poster on my wall, and I had a Green Bay Packers trash can that looked way better than Mark's Los Angeles Rams trash can. There is a family photo in which my parents, brothers, and sisters are all dressed up, while I was wearing a Green Bay Packers jersey. Number 42.

To this day, some family members still ask me if I'm sad about Favre's retirement. No, I don't root for the Packers anymore.

Trojans, No Gophers, Trojans! - 1973

I was living in an Omaha suburb at the time. A bunch of friends and I went to Rosenblatt stadium to watch the College World Series, which is still held every summer in the same place. Back then, it was easy to get tickets. My friend Paul and I went with Paul's older brother and his friend, a frumpy guy's guy named Bob. Bob took an immediate liking to me when I told him I was rooting for USC (my grandfather went to dental school there). He was a loud fan of the Trojans.

Then I watched Dave Winfield take over the game. He was so dominant that I abandoned my grandfather and started cheering him on, almost against my will. When someone masters a sport like that -- whether it's Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan or Dave Winfield on that day -- a sense of hero worship compels you to root for someone almost against your will. Winfield smacked a homer and a double and was throwing a one-hit shutout through eight innings, with 15 strikeouts. Ahead 7-0 in the ninth, Winfield finally wore out. When the reliever came in, he ran out to left field to a huge ovation. USC scored 8 runs in the bottom of the 9th to win the game and move on to the championship game. (For any of you older sports fans out there, the only USC batter to make an out that inning was Anthony Davis, USC's great tailback.)

After the game, Bob came up to me all excited! "We won! We won!" I acted excited too. "What a comeback!" Then Paul ratted me out. He announced that I had been rooting for the Gophers. Despite my best attempts to explain the hero worship theory, Bob was still disgusted.

"You've got to stand by your team, kid."

The Boston Red Sox - 1976

I watched every inning of every game of this famous World Series between the Red Sox and the Reds. Even though I was still an avid Baltimore fan, I hated the Big Red Machine. There was old Luis Tiant doing his crazy windup, a Reds batter interfering with Pudge, Carbo tying up the game with a three-run homer, and Pudge waving the ball fair. And then the Reds came back in game 7, continuing the Red Sox nightmare. Years later, after having given up on the sport for more than a decade, I became interested again when the snakebitten Red Sox battled the hated Yankees. When I heard their mocking chants of "1918," I became a member of Red Sox Nation.

The San Francisco 49ers - 1987

My affection for the Packers had waned by this time. I was into college sports. BYU, to be specific. I rooted for any team with an ex-BYU quarterback. I even like the Raiders for the only time in my life when Marc Wilson was their quarterback. But the 49ers with Steve Young were my favorite sports team ever. Young choked under pressure in big games. Playoff losses made me so sad I would go in a funk for days. When the Niners beat the hated Cowboys and then the Chargers in the 95 Super Bowl, God was in heaven and all was right with the world.

The Colts - January 16, 2005

I liked the Colts just fine at the time. In fact, I liked them about as much as I liked the New England Patriots. I was living in Indiana and I enjoyed watching Peyton Manning. I wasn't a huge fan. Something happened at the end of the AFC championship game that just set me off. I don't remember exactly what happened, but there were a couple of cheap shots and some grandstanding mockery. No, it wasn't all good. I don't know whether I hated the Patriots more than I liked the Colts.

So there you have it. I like to keep my allegiances to sports teams flexible.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Cute Kids Story!!! Part IV

The perils of television...

Story 1

Just before putting the boys down, I turned on the Angels-Mariners game. It was the top of the ninth inning, and the Mariners trailed by one with a man on first. Luke asked who our team was.

"The blue team is from Seattle. They're the Mariners, and I'm rooting for them. The red team is from Los Angeles or Anaheim -- it's kind of confusing -- and Uncle Mark roots for them."

Max agreed to root for the Seattle team. Luke was rooting for the team that was going to win. The batter, who had already hit two homers that day, smacked a long ball to deep center. The Angels' centerfielder jumped high and made a great catch, robbing the Mariners of the go-ahead home run and ending the game.

When I explained that the Angels won, Luke declared his affection for the Angels. I explained to him the moral perils of jumping on the bandwagon, but he would have none of it. For tonight, he's an Angels fan.

That night, we went through our usual ritual of saying good night.

Sleep tight. Sleep tight. Don't let the bed bugs bite. Don't let the bedda bugs bite. Sleep with angels. Sleep with angels.

"No, sleep with Mariners!" said Max.

Story 2

Wendy was folding laundry and watching a strange cooking show in which a chef went to Hong Kong and re-enacted a martial arts scene in which he fought bad guys. He was doing all that Hidden Tiger stuff like floating through the air. One of the bad guys brought out a sword and was whipping it around.

"I'm the guy with the sword," said Max.

"I'm the guy with the gun who dies everybody," said Luke.

"Me too," said Max.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Status Report on My Bicycle Fleet

Everywhere I go, people are asking me the same question: "How are the bicycles?" I don't want to get into it, so I just reply, "OK, thanks." Unfortunately, that's not exactly true. My bicycles are not OK. In fact, they're pretty fucking far from OK.

The Road Bike - It rattles. It's heavy. It's in constant need of repairs. Right now the LeMond (which I purchased while Greg LeMond was still racing) has yet another flat because the sidewall of the brand new tire wore too thin, so I actually need to drive it into a bike shop for repairs. I could take it to the bike shop near where I live, but the guy lectures me about taking better care of my bike. If I wanted to be scolded, I'd go to the dentist. Or the florist.

The Touring Bike - I've been riding this beaut the last couple of days because my road bike has a flat tire, which I just mentioned in case you're skimming. Unlike the road bike, the touring bike needs no repairs. It is exactly the same bike with the same parts that I took to Spain in 1995. Actually, that's not quite true. After I got a couple of flat tires in Spain, I realized that the rim strip was off-center, put a band-aid over it, and haven't had to replace a tube since.

The touring bike could probably use a tune-up. All of the cables are brown from rust, and one set of brake pads fails to react when I depress the brake lever. The lack of braking ability does not concern me because the bike is so heavy. If I were to collide with an average-sized car that pulled out in front of me, here's what passers-by would see -- a long-haired guy (yes, I'm growing my hair out again) spinning the front wheel of his bike to see if it's out of true while several emergency vehicles are using the Jaws of Life to extract possible survivors from the crumpled sedan.

The Electric Bike - This is technically Wendy's bike. It's still doing fine, there in the garage.

The Ibis Mountain Bike - This is also known as my Leadville bike. It's fine unless you try to shift into the two lowest gears, which are useful only if you're climbing hills.

The Stumpjumper Mountain Bike - Not doing well. Two flat tires and one-half of a seat, very inactive.

The System - This is sitting somewhere in Utah. It's a heavy bike that caused me to fail at Leadville last year. In truth, I shouldn't lay all the blame on this bicycle. Dug was also very much at fault.

The Singlespeed Mountain Bike - I believe this is still in Fatty's garage. I miss it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The State of My Golf Swing, Part IV

To be perfectly honest, I haven't been practicing my golf swing lately. Although it's been more than a year since I last played golf, what's really hurting me is my lack of imaginative practice. I lack drive. The Masters was on television yesterday. That would have been a perfect time to get up off the couch and take a couple of swings with a rolled up newspaper. Did I do that? No. Not even once.

In fact, instead of writing this message, I could be practicing my golf swing. I wouldn't even need to be that aggressive. I could just pretend to hit a little 9-iron. Short backswing, easy stab in tempo, and fwapp! The imaginary ball would fly about 120 yards and land in the new construction site on the other side of the road. I can imagine the ball ricocheting off the scaffolding. That would be easy. It's not nearly as difficult as hitting a driver, which is unwieldy even in one's imagination.

If I were a more active person, I'd do something about my indolence.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Convergence of Stars

Q: What happens when you favorite contemporary band covers your favorite song by the greatest band of all time?

A: You link to it.

For any of you Band fans out there, first of all congratulations. Second, you may want to check out the tribute album, "Endless Highway." This song is on it. And for you fans of Pearl Jam, My Morning Jacket, and The Band, be aware that Eddie Vedder covered this song with My Morning Jacket. It's only a partial video, but I'm comforted knowing thing kind of thing happens. And here's The Band's Laste Waltz version. It's the song that made me fall in love with all things The Band.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Whine Tasting

For Wendy's birthday, I took her to a fancy pants place in wine country about 30 miles north of where we live. We stayed at Willow's Lodge, which is one of those upscale resort inns with massage spas and wooden beams and terry cloth robes.1

It turns out that this place is just off the Burke-Gilman Trail, so I've ridden by it dozens of times over the years. It's on the same grounds as two upscale restaurants (Herb Farm and the Barking Frog) and Red Hook brewery2, which is now my favorite brewery in the whole wide world3. Within a half mile of the lodge are at least ten wineries.

Wendy and I went to two of the wineries on Saturday afternoon. One was an unpretentious yellow house off the side of the road. I would like to complain about the whole wine tasting experience for two reasons. First, this entry is called "Whine Tasting," so readers will be disappointed without at least one rant. Second, I'm not terribly fond of wine. It doesn't go well with donuts.4

Here's the thing. I have no complaints. The wine tasted good, happy people were spending time in bucolic settings, and for people who really appreciate good wine, well, I'm going to change gears here5 and say that Seattle has decent wines, but there are way too many blends. I like to try to tell the difference between a cab and a pinot and a merlot, and when these guys put a blend in front of me, I have nothing to speculate about. Sure, I can tip my glass and say, "I think this is a red wine," but that almost seems too obvious.

My theory is that Seattle has lousy grapes but a nice setting, so the wineries use chemicals and peppers and "blends" to create mongrel wines. It's base and demeaning for someone with a refined palette.

After a massage and a hotel room experience for which I should have won an award, Wendy and I met Andy and Minette at the Barking Frog for dinner. Here's the thing. I don't know why it always works out this way, but I always somehow manage to order the best food. Trust me. If you're ever in a restaurant with me, even if you're sitting at another table, just tell the server that you want whatever that guy is having, and point a finger at me.

The next day Wendy and I went on a bike ride along the river. Wendy and I have now ridden along four rivers, the Provo River, the Rhine, the Danube, and Sammamish River. That is very interesting!6


1 In the interest of full disclosure, Wendy made all the arrangements, so really I just went along for the ride. She loves to be pampered like this once a year.

2 Is beer stronger in headquarter breweries? Few people can hold liquor better than I can, yet I was beyond tipsy and downright drunk after one beer.

3 You know you're writing boring stuff when you resort to needless hyperbole. If this blog were pay-per-view, I'd make this entry free.

4 OK, that was a decent joke. If this keeps going, I'd charge imaginary money in my imaginary pay-per-view scenario.

5 That fell apart quickly. At this rate, I'll be paying people to read this entry.

6 I'm taking a page out of George Bush's book here. Whenever he travels abroad, he tells people what to think. "My message is that the United States cares about the fine Latin Mexicans who live this far south of civilization." I hope it works.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

When Children Are Not in the House

My sister-in-law Kim took Luke and Max down to Portland for a couple of days. Their absence has given me a moment to reflect on the difference between having children in the house and not having children in the house. Here are my observations:

* When children are not in the house, we can eat dinner and play poker with friends without dealing with a babysitter.

* When children are not in the house, I have an animal's sense of freedom. Nothing is stopping me from sleeping on a window sill.

* When children are not in the house, I am more likely to caress, fondle, and mount my wife, Wendy.

* When children are not in the house, there is no bickering with 4-year-old children who have the rhetorical skills of right-wing radio callers. I am not reprimanded for helping a boy put his belt through a loop. Nor am I reprimanded for not helping a boy put his belt through a loop.

* When children are not in the house, it's quiet. Too quiet.

* When children are not in the house, I miss them. Come back, monkey boys!