We’re reaching the end of the growing season in Ohio — at least, I think we are. You wouldn’t know it by the bright green growth spilling out of one of our planters. This spectacular botanical specimen has long since exceeded the natural boundaries set by its terra cotta home, and now is growing like crazy in every direction: up and across the steps, along the side of the house, on the bannister, and around all of the other planters. You wouldn’t know that the plant is in a pot that is perched on a bench, which is now completely covered by the rapidly growing green leaves.
I’m getting to the point where I wonder what the house will look like when I get home at night — or even whether any house will be visible at all.
Yesterday I had oatmeal for breakfast, and the waitress at the hotel restaurant brought me a small carton of milk along with some raisins, brown sugar, and blueberries.
Looking at the small milk carton immediately reminded me of my earliest days in the cafeteria in grade school. Sometimes Mom would pack my lunch, and sometimes if she was too busy I would eat a hot lunch at the school cafeteria. Either way, a staple of the lunch hour was paying two cents for a small carton of ice-cold whole milk. It tasted good with either a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and Twinkie from a paper bag or a hot plate of Johnny Marzetti on a plastic school cafeteria tray.
The two-cent milk was an important rite of passage in two ways. It was my first real use of money and — equally important — my first real experience with being entrusted with money. Mom would give me two pennies and I would walk to school with that cold, hard cash burning a hole in my pocket, knowing that I couldn’t lose it or I wouldn’t be able to get my milk with lunch. In those first-grade days I didn’t have much of a conception of how the world worked, or how much things cost, but I knew that my milk at lunch cost two cents.
And, of course, the carton itself was a key test of young kid small motor skills. You had to manipulate the carton just right to achieve the optimal milk-drinking experience. The first step, of gently separating the container opening, was easy. It was the second step, which involved applying just the right amount of pressure so that the carton would pop open in one clean motion, that was the challenge. If you did’t get it on the first try, with each new effort the container would lose structural integrity and stay frustratingly closed, and you might have to use your fingernails to claw it open, leaving the milk drinking hole looking embarrassingly mushy and torn.
When I was presented with the small container of milk with my oatmeal yesterday, I felt my inner first-grader deep inside, focused on the task of opening the milk as cleanly and proficiently as the big kids did. Alas, I still don’t have the knack.
Last night the Cleveland Indians beat the Detroit Tugers to clinch the American League Central Division and a spot in the playoffs. Russell went to the game up in Comerica Field in Detroit and snapped these pictures after the last Tiger was retired and the Tribe’s celebration began.
We’ll have to see how the Indians fare in the playoffs — their most reliable starter, Corey Kluber, left last night’s game with an injury, making him the third key starter to fall prey to jury in recent weeks — but for now we can enjoy a win by a team that has been fun to watch. The team’s success is attributable to young players who have really blossomed, vets who have come in and played well, good team chemistry, fine starting pitching, and a bullpen that just keeps putting zeros on the scoreboard. Behind it all is manager Terry Francona, who has done a masterful job.
Go Tribe! Bring on the playoffs!
Network executives are predicting as many as 100 million people will watch tonight’s presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. That kind of audience is normally reserved for something really important, like a Super Bowl or the last episode of MASH. The previous record for a presidential debate was 80 million viewers of the Reagan-Carter debate in 1980.
I wish I could believe that so many people will be tuning in tonight because they are interested in a sober, careful discussion of the many issues America is confronting and how to address them. Unfortunately, we all suspect that’s not the case. For many people, the debate is must-watch TV because of the spectacle factor — they’re watching to see whether Trump says or does something outrageous, or Clinton faints, or some particularly choice insults are hurled back and forth. It’s like rubberneckers slowing down to check out the car wreck by the side of the highway.
I’m hoping that whatever portion of those 100 million viewers who are tuning in for a gladiator contest are disappointed. I’m hoping that the candidates hold off on the obviously canned wisecracks, that the moderator lets the debaters actually debate the issues, and that an actual policy-oriented discussion breaks out.
But I’m not holding my breath for that result.
At the Marriott Town Center in Boca Raton, guests can get stoked up for the Big Debate by choosing a Hillary Burger or a Trump Burger.
Interestingly, one is beef and one is bull. I wonder which is which?
Yesterday we went out to the Texas “hill country,” the home territory of President Lyndon Johnson. We visited the LBJ Ranch and the western White House, where John twisted arms under live oak trees and has a phone in every room.
In Johnson’s childhood, the hill country was a place of great poverty, and one of his first legislative accomplishments was bringing electricity to the region. Now the beautiful area is home to wineries, ranches, and bed and breakfasts. A few traces of the region’s hardscrabble roots still remain, however.
We toured the Alamo yesterday. As we walked the grounds, we happened across three volunteers who demonstrated the multiple steps of loading, tamping down, and firing the arms used by the defenders of the Mission against the overwhelming forces of Santa Anna. The process was cumbersome and posed a special risk for the humble pinky. The leader of the trio explained that the men of that era were trained to use the pinky to tamp down the charge, so that if the firearm discharged prematurely only the pinky would be lost.
Remember the Alamo, but remember the pinky, too! Its sacrifice helped secure the American West.