On To Baseball, And (Eventually) Summer

Today the 2018 Major League Baseball season starts.  On Opening Day, fans of every team can approach the new season with optimism that this might just be the year for their team to win it all.

1cfa76df7b9fae74e7898045efb9d360Fans of the Cleveland Indians, like Russell and UJ and me, are hoping that, on this 70th anniversary of the Tribe’s last World Series title, this might be the year that the team ends a very long drought.  With the winless streak now celebrating its 70th birthday, we think it’s time for its mandatory retirement.  And after last season, where Cleveland won more than 100 games but lost to the Damn Yankees in the playoffs, Tribe fans are hoping that the team has the pieces in place to make another legitimate run for the championship banner.

But Tribe fans are not alone, of course.  The start of baseball season is great, because every baseball fan everywhere feels inward optimism about their squad, even if they won’t admit it publicly.  Lightning can and does strike.  Sometimes teams just gel, and unlikely heroes emerge, and rookie phenoms actually pan out.  Every year, it seems, there is a Cinderella story, and at the start of the season every fan hopes that their team will end up donning the glass slipper.  The sense of hopefulness and possibility is intoxicating — but also can be brief and ruined by reality.

This year, though, at least for those of us in the Midwest and East who’ve been enduring the Winter that Won’t Go Away,  there’s another reason to celebrate the arrival of baseball’s Opening Day.  If the Summer Game is finally here, we can hope that summer itself isn’t far behind.

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Timing Labor Day

Every year, Labor Day seems to arrive at just the right time.  It’s been a long summer, you’ve worked hard, fatigue and ennui are weighing you down . . . and suddenly a glorious three-day weekend arrives that allows you to sleep in, spend some time with the family, and revel in a little bit more of summer before cooler autumn comes to town.

This year is no different.  It’s been a really busy summer, with lots of time on the road. From my perspective, at least, the timing of Labor Day could not have been better.

220px-grover_cleveland_-_nara_-_518139_28cropped29I’ve written before about the origins of Labor Day — which is one of the oldest federal holidays, next to Thanksgiving — but it almost wasn’t scheduled for the first Monday in September.  The alternative date was May 1, also known as International Workers’ Day.  President Grover Cleveland decided, however, that having a holiday on that date might encourage labor group protests and general anarchist and socialist rabble-rousing, so the September date was selected instead.

If President Cleveland consciously selected the September date because he wanted to discourage rioting and mass labor marches, he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. For decades, most Americans have marked Labor Day not with marches and protests, but with grilling out, getting in those last precious moments of pool time, and fortifying themselves against the coming colder weather with a few frosty adult beverages.

Since 1971, when Memorial Day became a federal holiday celebrated on the last Monday of May, Memorial Day and Labor Day have bookended the summer months, giving us those wonderful three-day weekends to really set the warm outdoor months apart from the rest of the year.  When you think about it, it was pretty good decision-making by our elected representatives.  This Labor Day, as I enjoy my frosty adult beverage, I’ll take a swig in honor of President Cleveland and his impeccable sense of holiday timing.

Summer Soup

It’s summer.  It’s hot — at least, it’s supposed to be, although lately Columbus has been unseasonably cool — so who wants to eat soup?  Who wants to spoon down piping hot liquid on a day when the temperature is up around 90?

All true . . . but there is one soup that is perfect for the summer.  I’m not talking about vegetable-intensive gazpacho, which always looks like a bad excuse to use up the odds and ends from the vegetable crisper drawer in the fridge.  No, I’m talking about the premier summer soup:  vichyssoise.  Vichyssoise, which rolls down your throat like a brisk stream of rich, creamy goodness and cools you to the very core.  G Michael’s has potato leak vichyssoise on its current summer menu, and it’s just what the doctor ordered on a hot summer’s day. 

Don’t you love it when you go to a favorite restaurant and see something that perfectly fits the circumstances and your taste buds?

In Linwood Park

On our one-day visit to Vermilion for the VHS Class of ’75 reunion, we spent the night in rooms in Linwood Park.  It’s the first time I’ve been to Linwood Park, or even heard of it, and I’ve been going to Vermilion for about 40 years.

Linwood Park describes itself as a “family park,” but it really reminds you of an old-fashioned American summer colony.  Located right on the shores of Lake Erie, it is a quiet enclave of white wooden cottages with lots of kids playing outside on the wide, shaded lawns, a nice beach, a small store, a candy store/grill/ice cream shop, and a tabernacle.  We stayed in rooms above the ice cream shop and treated ourselves to the beach before and after the reunion.

Visiting Linwood Park is like taking a throwback journey to an earlier, more relaxed, pre-cell phone and social media America, when riding bikes and playing on a playground and treating yourself to some penny candy was all a kid wanted on a fine summer’s day.  It’s hard to believe it’s still here — but it is, just like it’s been for more than 100 years.  It’s worth a visit.

High Summer Coneys

I’ve always thought of the period between the Fourth of July and Labor Day as “high summer” — when it’s bright and hot and time to consume all of the great summer foods.  Like corn on the cob, and root beer floats . . . and coneys.  So today, on our way to the library, Kish and I stopped off at Village Coney, on Whittier, for lunch.  I ordered two coneys with cheese, fries, and a Diet Pepsi and got a cookie as a bonus.  

Although I ordered two coneys, I consumed three of them when Kish decided one was enough for her.  I initially declined the extra coney, but with the lingering taste of the cheese and chili sauce of the first two coneys, which were excellent, the lure of the third coney proved to be irresistible.  The fries were really good, too.

Bring on the High Summer!