Saturday, September 29, 2007

Twelve Years Coming-AL East Champs

They DID it!

And THANK GOD they'll play a West Coast team in the first round. I won't have to look on the last page of the sports section to get the scores!

Now to snag the 'best record in baseball' crown!


Update: HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE! It's Home Sweet Home in Oct for Boston.

Speaking of "For Boston", has anyone noticed that BC is now 5-0 for the first time since 1954 (um, I was 2!). I noticed, because I have a freshman there, and a big ca CHING goes to BC monthly. Somehow, it's easier to take...Sick. I know. Sick.

But then, I remember the Doug Flutie Hail Mary Pass...I was stuck at Logan waiting for a flight New Year's Day and saw it on a monitor there. We got to Dallas en route to Houston (the FIRST time I lived there), and were stuck in an ice storm. Dallas doesn't do ice well...

And Speaking of Houston...breaking news today...the Sox will play at Minute Maid Park next June! Just might be the only thing that drags my bones back to's a dandy pahk!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Chain Smoking

My sister from OR came up to play this weekend. We always have a good time, and this visit was no exception. We hiked, we touristed, we ate burgers and brats at Hooba's, we tasted wine, played National Park Monopoly (I had to work some tough deals to beat my 9 year old niece)...and as always, we talked politics. We haven't figured out how to save the world yet, but we're working on it. A few more bottles of Wind River Cellars Tempranillo, and we just might do it. That's me tasting some of their Cabernet Franc right out of the barrel, with my better half on the left, and winemaker Joel in the middle.

Now back to why I entitled this "Chain Smoking"...At one point my sister and I were talking about cigarette taxes. I shared my friend Susan's recent blog on the Congressional vote and the tobacco companies post card response to my former congressman's vote. My sister shared this delightful piece in return: Mr. Butt's Big Day
Check them out. Now I'm going to go learn how to link to my favorite blogs....

Friday, September 21, 2007

Hot Times in the Gorge

I'd like to say it's the level of fun, or the weather (which has been delightfully cool…eat your hearts out TX friends…I'm wearing jeans, long sleeves and a FLEECE VEST at NOON!). But it's not that.

No place is perfect. I'll skip the social imperfections of different places I've lived, like commutes, bad drivers, intolerance, politics, for just a few. I'll focus on natural imperfections. Houston has its heat and humidity, hurricanes, tornados, flooding and lightning. Ditto for Louisiana. New England has the occasional hurricane, blizzard, and ice storms. California has earthquakes and fires. The New England and California imperfections aren't deal breakers for me, so I was more than OK with a move to the Pacific Northwest. Well, our little neck of the woods made the night news last night, and front page of section B of the Oregonian today with a Gorge fire.

It started after the morning dog walk. Close to noon we heard fire sirens, and could smell smoke. One look from our deck across to Underwood Mt, and we could see why. Plumes of smoke were rising from a spot on the Columbia River side of the mountain. We were planning a trek across to Hood River. I was in dire need of canning jars and a run to a major grocery store. Instead of leaving the dog behind, we decided to take her, just in case. The view from the bridge was amazing. I imagined I was seeing orange flames. We got to our destination, which was directly across from the conflagration. I wasn't imagining the orange flames. People were standing in the parking lots staring across at the scene. Everyone knows it can happen any time, any where, up here. And depending on how strong the famous Gorge winds are, a fire can become a very big deal very quickly.

By the time we got home, around 3:30 pm, the helicopters were out, making big sweeping passes to drop water on the flames, then right by the deck and down to the river to scoop up more. It sounded like a MASH set. Fortunately the winds died down as the day went on, and by evening it was pretty still. When we went to bed, firefighters were working to contain the now 150 acre fire that had consumed 4 homes plus one vacant house. People in Cook and Underwood were being evacuated. But officials were hopeful that by today, things would be under control. No big winds forecast until Saturday. They'd dug fire breaks, and there was a river and a road for it to cross, if it managed to go over the side of the mountain, before it got to our hill.

This morning things looked a little better. They said it was 40% contained. The planes were out dumping fire retardant, since the lack of wind made this tactic effective today. There were some awesome photos in the online edition of the Oregonian, though the most spectacular was miscaptioned, claiming the fire was 'on White Salmon, WA'. It was NEAR White Salmon, WA, the closest town to the fire. I had to fire off an email to my sister who is coming to visit tonight from Yamhill County, letting her know she should still come.

Just a little reminder that we are not as in control of our lives as we think we are. One spark, dry brush, big winds and a mountainside goes up in flames. It consumes whatever is in its way. Our wireless relay is on top of that mountain, so we had no internet most of the day. NPR was knocked out because it's relayed from there as well. Our phone is VOIP, so it was out. Officials warned cell phone reception would be spotty. The power stayed on, fortunately. And we were able to watch the news (satellite). We were much luckier than the 60 families who had to pack and leave, just across the way. Sure helps put things in perspective. I barely gave the baseball scores a thought yesterday.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Need for Speed

Just for the record, I'm NOT talking pharmaceuticals here, OK?

We were out and about this weekend, checking out what folks do for fun in these parts. Heading west along The River, we passed up previously checked out spots like the petroglyphs at a State Park, numerous Lewis and Clark Historical markers, Maryhill Winery and the Stonehenge war memorial. We headed towards Goldendale. What a quaint sounding name. Not much to report about Goldendale. It was golden, all right. Just a big volcanic tableland with lots of ranches, not a lot of trees, a town bigger than we thought it would be, and The Festival of Wheels and Music going on downtown. There had been a classic car parade earlier, and the results were being announced as we passed through. Folks looked like they were having fun. We moved along, and checked 'See Goldendale' off of our to do list.

The BIG action was just a few miles outside of town, on Maryhill Loop Rd, where the Maryhill Festival of Speed was being held. The Maryhill Loop Rd, according to the festival website, was the first paved road in Washington, built in 1913 and used as a highway by those vintage Model T's we saw in Goldendale until 1947, when a bypass was built. Take a look at the road to see why a bypass was necessary. The Loop Rd fell into disrepair, until the Maryhill Museum funded a rebuilding of 2.2 miles of the road, reopening to pedestrian and bicycle traffic in 1998. Since then, it's become a favorite of 'gravity racers' worldwide. These 'gravity racers', including downhill skateboarders, street lugers, classic lugers, gravity bikers, and inline skaters roll down this course with 17 very sharp turns at speeds topping 55 mph. Who knew?

We pulled into a 'scenic overlook' packed with cars. A festive group of people, including families, bikers, and local cruisers looking for something fun to do, sat in anticipation of the next heat of skateboarders. They were way off schedule, we heard. The lugers were supposed to start at 2:30. The skateboarders weren't done until after 4. We watched a few heats, but could never see who won as they disappeared behind the 13th curve. So we drove down to the place where Maryhill Loop Rd comes into the highway, and found the spectator parking lot. We hiked in about a quarter mile to the finish line, haystacks on either side in case of crashes. There were tents, canopies, announcers, contestants who were out of the competition, families and friends of the racers, and the patient lugers waiting their turn to ride up the hill with their sleds in the back of a U Haul. We actually got to see the ultimate winner urge his board past the leader right at the finish line. You'd have thought he won the Olympics! He ripped off his helmet, unleashing a mop of curly green…VERY GREEN…hair. We watched him as he was interviewed by the media. Such enthusiasm for his sport. And to think, we didn't even know it existed until today!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Power of Uncle Dick

This is the time of year that tries the souls of Red Sox fans everywhere. You know the drill...get as many games up as possible early in the season because no matter what, it always comes down to those last Boston-NY series. Prepare to moan (like we all did on Friday night). I could feel the change in the wind that night after 34000 people in The Pahk and countless milllions of us expats watching their TV's all across the country all exhaled in one mighty sigh.

But Saturday would be different. Not the 'tomorrow's another day' kind of different. Saturday was Uncle Dick's birthday. He would have been 76, but he went to that big ballpark in the sky after a bout with pancreatic cancer 9 years ago, shortly after his birthday. I know that he watches over his beloved Red Sox and Patriots from the sky boxes. He never saw them win the World Series or Super Bowl, but he always had faith that they would. Someday. So I have to believe that he has passed into a zone where maybe, just maybe, he has a little more influence.

Uncle Dick was our 'fairy god uncle'. I know that sounds strange. But as a gang of seven kids growing up in a loving home where ends barely met, bachelor Uncle Dick was very special indeed. He took my brother and me to our first Red Sox game (and second, and third...), and the love affair with Fenway was ingrained early. He gave me my first transistor radio, which I snuck in to school, with the earphone wire in my sleeve so I could listen to the '67 Impossible Dream games that cruelly coincided with class.

For his last birthday I wrote the ditty below and emailed it up for my mom to read to him. He died less than 2 weeks later, and I almost didn't make it back for the funeral from New Orleans due to a little problem called Hurricane George (did I mention his middle name was George?). He wasn't perfect, I know as an adult, but as a kid, he was pretty much IT. So I love to remember him on his birthday. And I knew he would help out our guys if he possbly could. And he did. Ten zip. Take that Yankees. See ya on Sunday.

An Ode to Uncle Dick
On the Occasion of his 67th Birthday

At 5 AM I’m wide awake
With thoughts of you, before daybreak.
A little rhyme forms in my head
To say the things which should be said.
For it’s your birthday, so here’s your prize:
A glimpse of YOU from my nearsighted eyes.

Uncle Dick means family.
An important branch on the family tree.
Our “fairy god uncle” would whisk us away,
One or two at a time, to be “Queen for a Day”.
An Ice Show, a ball game, a special dinner,
You always made me feel like a winner.

“How ’bout them Red Sox?” Will they play this fall?
“Why didn’t you catch that foul ball?”
(Remember the jerk behind us yell
At his wife, whose knee surely hurt like hell?)
The Oyster House, the horseradish story,
Bernadette Devlin in all her glory.

Newton Street, baked bean suppers were a ‘gas’.
Mr. Parker in the cellar, Grandma’s teeth in a glass.
Charlie Brown, Plum Island, the Red Coach, Let’s Go!
Lots of fun watching MUNG BEANS grow!
Navassa, the place we all loved to let loose,
Nonie in her life jacket taking lots of abuse.

Uncle Dick is cool, he has lots of soul.
In HIS car we’d turn up the Rock ‘n Roll.
And who can forget his immortal James Brown?
“I feel good!” could be heard all over the town.
Other things always remind me of you.
Old Spice, Munchkins, Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce, too.

So on this your birthday, I’ll celebrate
All these things that make you great.
I wish I could tell you in person, so badly
That I will always Love You Madly!
Happy Birthday!

Email from sister Annie:

Hey Fran,
I love the blog!
Here's my favorite Uncle picture. From Layla's 2nd birthday (1978).
I love it because he looks so happy - just like he did with us! - and because Layla has his wallet and Liam is in handcuffs.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Berry Nice

What can I say about my first post to Far from the Pahk?
The Pahk is Fenway. Far is the Columbia River Gorge.
I'm on the other side of the country now, living in my 6th US State, and just getting used to the view from here. Which happens to be excellent, as you can see.

Today's thought is Berries and How They Impact My Life.

For the past, oh, 17 years of my life September has meant one thing. SCHOOL SCHEDULE. Sometimes that adjusted itself back to August, due to the insanity of International School, Louisiana Schools and Texas Schools, but by September, the school schedule was my schedule. And for the last 10 years, add to it SWIM SCHEDULE, augmented for the last 7 years by High School Swim Schedule.

This year, I've been on Berry Schedule. With all the moving, and traveling, and college orienting, I've totally missed blueberry season and to some extent strawberry season, though that season has gone year round with imports. So strawberries don't count. I generally stash away blueberries every summer. Not so this summer. BUT...

We have BLACKBERRIES. Oh, do we have blackberries. We live in a neighborhood that uses blackberry bushes like Houston neighborhoods use fences. Our mailman is our new best friend because we cut back the blackberries that held our and our next door neighbor's boxes hostage.

So my day now goes like this:
I wake up when I wake up. NO alarm. No kid needing a ride to the pool at 5 am. No teacher needing a sub by 7:10 am. I go up to the road and fetch my Oregonian. Can't start my day without my newspaper in my hands. Online news doesn't cut it. I need to feel the goods. Cup or two of good strong coffee. Trader Joe's is working really well for me right now. Those of you who don't have a Trader Joe's, think about investing in a store. I've gone way too long (16 years) without a TJ's near by. And near by for me now is an hour away. But I digress. Turn on Morning Edition from the Portland NPR Station.

Maybe I'll eat a blackberry muffin or scone or whatever I've made with yesterday's catch. Then we grab the leash and the dog, and the water jug formerly used to hydrate a competitive swimmer now a continent away, and hit the road for our morning constitutional. At the end of our trek, we stop at our favorite roadside blackberry unruly monstrosity that is now encroaching well onto the pavement. We don't go home until the jug is full, a task which is taking longer and longer as the days go by. Tomorrow I think we'll take the long handled pruners so we can reach some of the fine specimens that would be accessible only to someone like Michael Phelps, with a 6 foot wing span.

So blackberries are occupying my mind...what to do with them? Thank God for Google. So far, I've made muffins, pie, scones, lemonade and blackberry infused vodka, as well as customized a cocktail recipe that's kind of like a fizzy mojito. But you'll have to come over and try that one...from the Mt. Hood View Deck. Today I made jam. So far, I like this!
More later....