The Series In The Family

Our family has a bit of history with the World Series.

leaguepark-panoramaIn 1920, the Cleveland Indians squared off against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series.  My grandfather, Gilbert Neal, then a mere lad of 22, told me decades later about taking the train from Akron to Cleveland to catch one of the Series games at old League Park.  The Tribe won the Series — which in those days was a best of nine affair — to give Cleveland its first professional baseball championship.  Grandpa’s favorite player, Stan Coveleski, won three of the games to help put the Indians over the top.

In 1976, Dad and I went down to Cincinnati to watch one of the World Series games between the Cincinnati Reds and the New York Yankees in old Riverfront Stadium.  We weren’t really Reds fans, but when you get a chance to see a Series game, how can you say no?  That was the right call, because it was an electric atmosphere and a game I’ll always remember.  It was the apex of the Big Red Machine years, with Rose and Morgan, Bench and Perez, Foster and Geronimo.  The Reds won that game, and they swept the Yankees to complete a year that causes some people to argue that the ’76 Reds were right there with the 1927 Yankees in the debate about which was the greatest baseball team of all time.

During the first half of my life, the Tribe was frequently terrible and at best mediocre, and never came close to the playoffs.  But then their fortunes turned.  The Tribe finally made it to the World Series again, in 1995 and 1997, but I didn’t go to any of the games.  I was busy at work, the kids were little, and of course the ticket prices were exorbitant.  And I guess I thought that, with the Indians turning the corner in the ’90s, we were likely to see another World Series in Cleveland in short order.

bn-qj049_1019in_gr_20161019190617Of course, that didn’t happen — until this year.  And when the Indians improbably beat the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays to make the Series, I told UJ and Russell that we had to go to a Series game up in Cleveland.  How often do you have the chance to go to the World Series and support your team, watch a game with your son and brother, and experience that unique thrill of being at a championship event?  This year, I was determined not to have the opportunity pass us by.  So Friday I went on line, groaned at the outlandish scalpers’ prices being demanded for seats at the initial games in Cleveland, and then sucked it up and bought three seats together in one of the nosebleed sections of Progressive Field for game one of the World Series.  I printed out the tickets yesterday.

So tomorrow night UJ, Russell and I will be in our seats at the ballpark in Cleveland — assuming that the tickets I paid through the nose for aren’t fraudulent, of course — to cheer like crazy for the Tribe.  We’ll all get the chance to feel that World Series hoopla that Grandpa Neal enjoyed almost 100 years ago, and that Dad and I tasted 40 years ago.  We’ll have an experience we’ll always remember, we’ll feel a stronger sense of connection to those long-departed family members, and we’ll add a bit to the family tradition with the World Series.  I’d say that’s worth the money.

Go Tribe!

Orange Season

The leaves that have already fallen crunch underfoot.  The walker kicks through the leaf piles, sending acorns skittering across the pavement.  There’s a faint tang of wood smoke in the crisp, clear air, and the leaves give off their own spicy scent.  And everywhere the trees are bursting with color when they are struck by the morning sunshine.

It’s orange season!

The Nut Zone

The Nut Zone is not a place that relates in any way to the current presidential campaign.  No, it’s found in our backyard during the autumn months.

An enormous black walnut tree hovers over our backyard.  During the summer, it provides welcome shade.  When fall comes, however, the tree drops tangerine-sized nuts, ready to bean any unsuspecting visitor. You’re sitting, casually trying to enjoy the last few rays of sunshine before the cold fronts move in — then suddenly the wind ruffles the tree branches, and the bombardment begins. Nuts drop to the ground, clanging off lawn furniture and bouncing off flagstones, startling the unwary, and you realize that but for good fortune they might dent your noggin and leave you dazed and spreadeagled on the cooling ground.

Well, maybe it is a bit like the presidential campaign, now that you mention it.

Hand Signal

I was walking down Parsons Avenue this morning, heading toward the Ace Hardware store, when I noticed this sign. It is a memorable one, with a seriously creepy element to it, too.  No one wants to look at a disembodied hand, really — but It harkens back to the ’60s, when many  signs featured folk art elements that sought to make the business memorable.  In those days it wasn’t unusual to see fiberglass cowboys, spinning globes, and neon martini glasses as you drove down Main Street.

Of course, the sign reminded me of Thing from The Addams Family.  As I took the picture I half expected Lurch to show up and intone, in that impossibly deep bass voice:  “You rang?”

Tooth Technology

Last Tuesday night I was watching TV when I suddenly felt a pebble in my mouth.  “What the,?” I thought.  “Where did that come from?”  Except it wasn’t a pebble.  When I fished it out of my mouth, and then went and looked in the mirror, I saw that part of a tooth had somehow broken off.  Fortunately, the nerve wasn’t exposed, and it wasn’t painful, but it sure looked and felt weird.

broken-teeth-repairI don’t know what caused a part of the tooth to break off like that.  I hadn’t been slugged in the chops or hit in the face by a hockey puck.  My understanding is that, even long after we reach adulthood, our teeth keep moving slightly along the gums, like the tectonic plates shifting under the San Andreas fault line.  The tooth in question had been increasingly pressing against its neighbor, and it may have been that the stress finally caused a fracture.  (Or, it may have been that I like eating almonds, and also like crunching on ice cubes, but I’m going with the “moving tooth” theory because it leaves me blameless.)

I groaned when I saw the broken tooth, because I thought the lack of structural integrity in the tooth might require some major dental repair work, like a crown or maybe even an implant.  But when I went to see my dentist yesterday morning he took a look at the breakage, expressed his sympathy, said he’d have me fixed up in no time at all, and went right to work.  First he slathered on some goop, then he did some sculpting to give it the appropriate tooth shape, then he stuck a plastic sheet between the tooth and its neighbor to create the appropriate dental floss gap, then he used some kind of heat ray/laser light gizmo that looked like some throwback to a Flash Gordon movie.  The process ended with him grinding and polishing the reconstructed tooth so that it felt like a natural tooth, and then handing me a mirror so I could check it out for myself.  To my amazement, the rebuilt tooth looks (and feels) exactly like the old tooth — and the whole process took less than a half hour, without any need for novocaine or gas.  Within an hour or so, I was eating a pot roast sandwich for lunch without missing a beat.

Everybody makes fun of their trips to the dentist, me included.  We’re all anti-dentites, I guess.  But I’ve got to give credit where credit is due — when the chips were down (pun intended) and my tooth and I needed some serious help, my dentist came through and did a great job.  And it’s interesting that we’ve got the technology that allows a busted tooth to be reconstructed in the time it takes to watch your average TV sitcom.

Red River

Recently I ran across this article about a spill from a nickel mining facility in Russia that turned the Daldykan River an ugly, blood red color.  The spill was admitted by Norilsk Nickel, the world’s largest producer of nickel and other industrial metals, although the company said that, despite the discoloration in the water, the incident posed no risk to people or fauna in the river.  The article reports that the region where the spill occurred is one of the most polluted areas in the world.

160907215643-russia-river-red-exlarge-169The story got me to thinking about an incident that occurred when I was a kid.  One time UJ and I were exploring around a nearby stream on a warm summer’s day in the suburban Akron area near our house.  We noticed that the water had a weird smell to it, and that there were clumps of dirty brown foam drifting by on the top of the water.  It’s the first time I can remember encountering pollution, and thereafter I really paid attention to it.  I noticed the litter on highways, and the news stories about air pollution, but the pollution problem always seemed to be most obvious with rivers, streams, and lakes — like the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie.

Shortly after UJ and I saw the dirty, foaming river, the United States started to pass major environmental regulations, and states did, too.  And while there is no doubt that the federal and state environmental regulators have had their moments of overreaching and bureaucratic inertia, there is equally no doubt that the environmental protection laws, and clean-up requirements, have had a tremendous, positive impact on air and water quality.  Anyone who compares the Lake Erie of 1970 to the Lake Erie of today will acknowledge that fact.

I’d like to think that an incident like the red river of Russia couldn’t happen in the United States — but if it did, I also have confidence that we would get it cleaned up.  I tend to be suspicious of government promises to fix problems, because they often turn out to be empty words, but environmental regulation is one area where the government has had a major impact.  The red river is a good reminder of that.

Zeke Of The Rescue Dogs

I rooted for former OSU running back Ezekiel Elliott as he tore through the Big Ten, I cheered as he gashed Wisconsin and Alabama with long, soul-crushing runs, and I chanted “Zeke, Zeke” as he ran for multiple scores to secure Ohio State’s national championship win against Oregon.

1476732655-ns_17zekespca05spBut now I like him even more.

Elliott, who was the first-round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys this year, has been tearing it up in the NFL, too.  But the story that really caught my eye was this one, about Elliott making a big donation to help Texans adopt rescue dogs from the SPCA of Texas shelter.  It turns out that Zeke is a big-time dog lover — big enough to contribute $10,000 to the SCPA, propose an event that would encourage families to take a dog that wants a home, and then personally show up to escort the dogs to their adopted families and give them a special treat.

Zeke’s got the right idea.  I wish more people would look at adopting rescue dogs.  My brother-in-law is a dog lover who always gets his dogs from the animal shelter, and he’s right about that.  Our current dog Kasey was a rescue dog, and she’s been a terrific addition to our family.

Rescue dogs don’t deserve to be penned up in a kennel and run the risk of being put down because of space issues.  They deserve a home, and people who adopt them might end up getting a really great dog, as we did.  As Russell points out, many purebred dogs have health problems — that’s often a by-product of the inbreeding — whereas mutts usually don’t.  But the mutts are dogs just the same, and happy to hang with people and share their hearths and homes.

As I said, Zeke’s got the right idea.  If you’re looking for a dog, won’t you look first at the local animal shelter or SPCA facility?