The Boys of Summer Are Done

I just finished watching the Tampa Bay Rays lose their last game of the 2014 season.

Rays 2014 season total: 77 wins85 losses

It’s been a bad one. Rays fans have seen worse, though. Back in the Devil Rays era, a losing season like this was a sadly common occurrence. No one expected it for this year and this group of Rays. As a matter of fact, I’m holding in my formerly nicotine-stained fingers* a Tampa Bay Times Sports section insert from 20 March of this year. In big bold font on the front it says, “Trophy Case – The Rays have done all they can to make their title argument.” It’s accompanied by a big mock World Series trophy with the Rays players on the little flags and “World Champions – 2014 – The Tampa Bay Rays” on the base plate.

Hmm… some really wishful thinking on the part of the Times sports writers, evidently. The Rays did NOT have what it takes to make it even to the playoffs this season. They do have some valid excuses, though. They lost their ace pitcher in a trade. They lost numerous key players to injury. Some key players did not perform at the levels expected of them. Et cetera. Excuses don’t win championships. Whatever went awry, whatever plans didn’t pan out, whatever players had issues of one type or another; I’m confident that, under the continued leadership of Joe Maddon, all will be analyzed and solutions will be discovered and implemented.

Maybe that pretty trophy will end up in the Rays’ trophy case in 2015.

We’ll see…

The cold and dark winter is nearly upon us now, but the spring will come… and with it a renewed, refreshed, and ready Rays organization. Can’t hardly wait to hear that “Play ball!”

Later…

~Eric

*This phrase about the formerly nicotine-stained fingers was a trademark phrase used by a favorite talk radio host of mine from many years ago toward the end of his career. His on-air name was Bob Lassiter. I pretty much stopped listening to talk radio after he retired. There will never be another like him.

Congratulations to Chris and Diana Pirillo

In what seems like forever ago, I started blogging on Chris Pirillo‘s old LockerGnome Blog site.

So, I suppose that means that Chris was probably the one who got me started on this addictive, time-consuming, but FUN avocation. Thanks for that, Chris.

Anyway, the real reason for me posting here today is just to say CONGRATULATIONS to the new mommy and daddy, Diana and Chris P., who very recently had a visit from the stork.

Said stork delivered this bundle of joy to the Pirillos. Here’s wishing this young lady a long and very happy life. All the best to mom and dad, too. They’ll have their hands full now.

Later…

~Eric

Image credits: stork from http://www.clipartbest.com

Baseball Loses Another Legend…

Tony Gwynn, San Diego Padres Hall Of Famer, Dies

Hall of famer Tony Gwynn, who spent 20 years playing for the San Diego Padres, has died.

The team , saying it was “terribly sad to say goodbye to our teammate, our friend and a legend.”

Read more about this sad event HERE.

R.I.P., Mr. Gwynn.

 

 

 

 

Major League Baseball Loses a Legend – Don Zimmer

A legendary icon of America’s once-favorite pastime, Donald William “Zim” Zimmer leaves us at age 83; elevated to whatever is beyond Major League.

Zim was loved and respected by all. He was as much baseball as anyone who was ever associated with the game. He’ll be missed by many.

Mostly, Donald William Zimmer was a delightful sort who defied comparison and became too renowned in later life to remain what he had been as a player, an everyman. He produced a long, memorable resume in the game he loved, though he was neither an accomplished player nor a manager of great success. He was merely Zim.*

*from this MLB article posted this evening.

Zim is probably getting ready for his next game somewhere right now. The smell of the fresh cut grass is in the air. He can hear the vendors yelling about their peanuts and red hots. It’s a bright sunny summer day on a diamond somewhere and Don is there with a big smile on his face and a twinkle in his eyes.

R.I.P Donald William Zimmer b.1931, d.2014

 

Metal Weekend – Play It Loud!

I’ve been in a head banging mood recently, so I’ve been listening to some seriously kick ass metal music this weekend.

We started out Friday evening by listening to Black Label Society‘s new release Catacombs of the Black Vatican. Zakk and the boys do not disappoint.

Later, just for some balance, I mixed in a some classic Black Sabbath, the ultimate metal.

On Saturday morning, I advanced to something a bit heavier… Pantera. Dime Bag and the boys really gave my Logitech X-540 a workout, lemme tell you!

Long Live Darrell “Dime Bag” Lance Abbott!

Pantera ROCKS!

Again for a bit of balance and variety, we also fed some high amplitude audio pulses through the speakers with a little number from Lemmy and the boys of Motörhead.

So, here it is Sunday evening and I’m wrapping up Day 3 of Eric’s Memorial Day Weekend Head Banger’s Ball with…

… aw, what the hell? Some more Pantera!

Hell yeah, Anselmo’s broken. Look that the way he’s jumping around in that video. The man literally broke his own back for the music. No shit.

Serious jam, huh? I might wrap up tomorrow with some Slayer and SlipKnot. How’s that sound, metal heads?

Let me close this with Zakk Wylde‘s tribute to his friend Dime Bag Darrell.

Oh, and just so you know… all my listening this weekend took place on my favorite online music site, GrooveShark. You can check out my personal Favorites and Playlists by clicking on my Profile page there.

And one last thing…

Tomorrow is Memorial Day. Go out and hug a vet. You owe your ass to them for that freedom you enjoy so much every moment of your life here in the U.S.

Peace!

~Eric

Image credits: Dime Bag borrowed from http://greatest-rockers.blogspot.com

Some Days, You Just Wanna’ Cry

When you’re down, the world just seems to poop on you even more.

I’ve been maintaining my health and sanity over the last 3+ years by riding my bicycle every day. Back in November, my trick knee decided to blow out for no apparent reason other than the world wanted to poop on me because I’m down. I couldn’t walk for exercise or ride my bike. So, what happens to a fat ass who doesn’t get much exercise? His ass gets fatter, which is exactly what happened to me.

I have a friend who recently went through a health emergency very similar to one I experienced myself back in 2010. I wrote about my experience here, if you care to read about it. Anyway, in the process of nagging (advising) my pal who is dealing with nearly the same afflictions at the moment, I pepped myself up to get back in shape and quit screwing off.

With this in mind, I decided to renew my daily bike riding regimen. My knee hasn’t been giving me hell too much lately. I think it’s gone dormant again. Unfortunately, I had been having some repeat issues with a front tire on my bike that keeps going flat. I changed out the inner tube twice and still developed the same issue (flat tire) within a few days. It was causing me to lose faith in the bike, which had me avoiding longer rides.

I needed to get this fixed. I normally like to ride 10-15 miles a day. I can’t do that with a bike I can’t trust. So, this past Saturday, I went to an old-time bike shop that’s been owned and operated by the same fellow for 40 years or so here in Tampa. It’s Joe Haskins’ Bike Shop on N. Florida Avenue. It’s not far from my house. When we were kids, we’d ride our bikes to Joe’s for parts and other goodies.

My bike is a Specialized Crossroads Sport. It looks like this one here…

The tires for this thing from the local dealer cost $65 each. That’s just the tire… no tube, no rim band, etc. At Joe’s I was able to get two brand new Giant (Kenda Kwest) 700x38c tires, two inner tubes, and two rim bands for $46 bucks and change (tax included). I brought my goodies home Saturday morning and installed them right away. I changed clothes and took my new tires for a nice little spin of about 8 miles or so. Wonderful! Sunday morning I went for an even longer ride of about 12 miles or so. All was fine and dandy.

Then today happened. I woke up itchin’ to take the bike out again for an even longer ride today. I managed to finally get on the road about 1:30PM. It was overcast and hot, but nice… as long as you’re moving. I rode for nearly 15 miles today. It was a really nice ride. I did notice something, though. My chain was skipping every once in a while when I would accelerate. It’s been doing this more and more lately. I know it’s wear/tear on the chain and sprockets. I just haven’t had the money to replace them.

The way my luck is with my automobiles, motorcycles, and bikes is that they nearly always break down at home or very near to home, at least. I’m very lucky that way. My friends hate me for this. ;) Well, as I crossed over the last street before the one I live on, accelerating to get across the intersection, the rear dérailleur assembly just blew apart and got jammed in the rim, tearing off two or three spokes and stopping me pretty efficiently; better than brakes, actually.

The dérailleur above is the way it’s supposed to look. Mine now looks like some mutant metal pretzel. The cause of all this is just wear. The derailleur gears were worn down to sharp points, as were the cassette (rear sprocket set), and the crank (pedal sprocket set). I’ve tallied up all the parts I’m going to need to rebuild this bike and it looks like I’m going to need about $150 or so. I don’t have the means to purchase these parts at this time, so I guess I’m going to have to start my walking regimen instead of biking. Hope my knee cooperates.

I do have a really nice set of tires and tubes now, though. They only have about 35 miles on ‘em.

That’s all for now, folks.

Later…

~Eric

Wet Day, Wet Paper – Customer Venting

What you’ll be reading here is an actual email that I sent to my local newspaper as a result of a soggy, single-bagged morning paper that I found in my driveway this morning.


Dear <name redacted by author to avoid legal issues>,

I am a long time subscriber/reader of your fine publication. I’m also an advocate who has converted numerous family and friends who live in Tampa to the <name redacted> over the years, saving them the frustration and disappointment of reading that fish-wrapping rag known as the <name redacted>.

Unfortunately, I am writing this email to you today for two reasons:

  • your automated customer service line is extremely annoying, time-wasting (for the caller), and aggravating… people want to speak to people when they call a “customer service” number; there’s no joy in screaming maniacally to a recording

and

  • my morning paper will be dry enough to read sometime later this weekend, unless I dry it with a blow dryer before then… yes, I could check out the website for the latest news, but if I liked doing that, I would never have subscribed to the <name redacted> home delivery in the first place.

OK, so to elaborate a bit…

Yes, I know that no one likes automated phone answering systems. Even friends and family who call my home hate my answering machine. It is what it is, I suppose. If this were 1965, you’d have a full time staff of folks getting a decent wage to answer phone calls and resolve issues like wet newspapers. Sadly, those days are gone forever. Enough melancholy reminiscing, though.

Now to the main issue of today’s venting…

Is it too much to ask that these normally hard-working and competent newspaper carriers take two minutes of their valuable time when they first get to their distribution spot to check the weather forecast IN THE ACTUAL PAPER that they’re preparing to deliver that morning? Maybe then, they would know that rain was expected and double bagging of the papers would be a fine thing to do.

Or has the exorbitant cost of that extra bag become such a drag on your bottom line that they’ve given specific instructions to their independent carriers to not use them under any circumstances. If this is the case, I would be willing to save all my bags (and the ones the inconsiderate neighbors toss in their yards that eventually blow into mine) and donate them back to the carrier early one morning so that he/she would then have the means to protect my paper from becoming a pile of disintegrating pulp before I awake and have a chance to retrieve it from the 3″ deep puddle in my driveway.

A highlight of my day is the ability to sit down in my comfortable chair, put on the ol’ specs, sit back and sip my coffee while reading my morning paper. How 1960s, huh? Well, maybe so. I don’t care for eBooks or online news sites either. I prefer my reading materials to be made using old fashioned materials. No, not papyrus. I’m not that damned old. Coffee in the morning at my desk staring at the <name redacted> website just isn’t the same as rustling that nice DRY paper in the comfort of my easy chair.

I love the <name redacted>. Please take this venting in the spirit it was intended; a slightly tongue-in-cheek rant that should have maybe given you a laugh or two, but still got the point across.

Regards,

~Eric


And there you have it, folks. I felt ever-so-much better after clicking that Send button. I have to go blow dry my paper now. :(

Later…

~Eric

Note: Any inferences you as a reader may make as to the actual identities of the publications whose names have been redacted by me in this article are yours alone to infer. My implications in the article are vanilla enough that I should be able to avoid any multi-million dollar defamation lawsuits, which is a good thing.

A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin – a Commentary

Dazzling, Powerful, Breathtaking, Giant, Monumental, Magnificent, Extraordinary, Ambitious, Brilliant, Vivid, Gripping, Poignant, Intense, Superb, Rousing…

 

 

  • Publisher: Avon Books (May 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380715899
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380715893

 

Above are just a few of the superlatives used to describe this book by those obsequious gnomes who live in those small cubicles in newsrooms and magazine publishing houses the world over. They’re paid to make pronouncements such as these in response to their supposed personal experience with the author’s work sitting on the desk in front of them.

 

I’ll not be so bold as to say that I can sit and read a book of this magnitude and then find words sufficient to actually describe the emotions I felt while reading it and as the back cover closed for the last time. My poor command of the language is such that I could not even approach Mark Helprin’s artistry with words, light, shadows, music, and colors in order to describe his art here in this place. I would feel like I were drawing distorted stick men in an attempt to describe the colors and vibrancy of Leonardo’s Last Supper.

 

It will ever be beyond my artistry to describe such art.

 

Using my meager skills, though, I would like to, in some meaningful fashion, try to show you, dear reader, even a small glimpse of the beauty of this story and how it affected me as I read it and possibly forever afterward. Yes, it’s one of those books; one of the rare ones that is ever so much more than just an entertaining distraction from the pressing issues of every day life.

 

I’ve read a lot of books since becoming literate at a very young age; thanks to my mother, who spent time and effort in teaching me how to read and instilling in me her own love for books. After reading a book such as Helprin’s A Soldier of the Great War, I actually feel very sorry and sad for those who don’t read books. They will never know what they’re missing. Never.

 

In all my years of reading, there have only been a very few books that really, really touch that deep, secret place in my soul; that place where fears, loves, regrets, past joys reside and are occasionally re-experienced in poorly preserved and fading memories. This book took me to that place. I’ll bare my soul here and admit that I actually cried after closing that back cover. The tears had been working their way to the surface during the last 20 pages or so.

 

I haven’t cried in 15 years; the last time being two or three days after my mother died. I have not cried often since I was a child. It isn’t manly to cry, supposedly. Plays hell with the big burly biker image, too. ;)

 

About this book, though…

 

Helprin has used a fine brush on a vast canvas to paint a portrait of life, death, love, hate, fear, joy, and any other emotion you could possibly experience in a lifetime. He managed in just over 700 pages what it took an old man sitting and dying on a hillside in Italy nearly 75 years to accomplish. Using words that border, and often cross over into, the realm of artistry he fashions a tale so deep and vast as to literally suck the reader into the life it’s describing.

 

The life is that of Alessandro Giuliani, an Italian fellow, a professor of aesthetics from Rome who one day begins a bus ride that will become a journey of personal reminiscences, a mentoring of a young traveling companion, and a profound understanding of life and death which culminates on a sunny hillside in peaceful rapturous splendor.

 

Alessandro tells the boy Nicolo of his life and loves; of his horrors and losses; and of his understanding and feelings on beauty and art, particularly his appreciation of Giorgione’s La Tempesta. All this takes place as the two companions walk along roads and across fields and hills on the way to their destination. The bus ride didn’t work for Alessandro and Nicolo as they had initially planned. Isn’t that just like life?

 

I read many reviews of this book to try to get a feeling for how others would describe it. I did not find any review that even came close to what reading the book made me feel; neither do my own poor choice of words, as predicted, even begin to elicit from you the feeling I felt while reading this book. It’s just going to be something you’ll have to experieince for yourself.

 

Books are subjective things ultimately. You may not get past the first 20 pages before you decide the book is not for you. That’s the way it goes sometimes. No reviewer can ever fully transfer his own feeling on reading a book to his readers. It’s an exercise in futility. It’s like me trying to explain to you how delicious the salad I had for lunch was or how much it hurt when I hit my thumb with the hammer the other day. No. Words are poor substitutes for experience.

 

Get this book. Experience it for yourself. That’s all I can say.

 

Later…

 

~Eric

 

Image credits: generic book cover – Avon Books paperback version

 

This article is being published simultaneously on My Passion Is Books blog – all rights reserved by the original author. Copyright authority is that of Nocturnal Slacker v2.0 – V. T. Eric Layton.

My New Friend

Up until recently, there was a big old oak tree out in my front yard. It was very old.

I literally grew up and old with this tree watching over me for the past 52 years. I have so many wonderful memories tied to that tree. I wrote a little reminiscence about the tree a few years ago. I was attached to the old fellow. Unfortunately, he’s gone now.

 photo old-oak_missing-03_031114_zps14e7cb11.jpgThis is all the city tree crew left of him recently. The tree had been dropping some rather large branches over the last couple years during some of our normal summertime afternoon thundershowers. The tree is on city easement, which means it’s their responsibility and liability should something happen to injure someone or damage something. Back in September, the city forester came by and inspected the tree. He condemned it at that time. I tried my best to appeal, but they weren’t going to budge.

I lost my old friend on my father’s birthday (11 March), just a couple weeks ago.

Sure. “It’s just a tree,” some of you are saying. Well, that’s true. It was a tree, but it was one that was practically a member of my family. I was born and raised in this house. I spent my childhood in the shade of that tree, as did my older brother, and many, many of our neighborhood friends. When I was little, the neighbors and my parents would bring over lawn chairs and sit out under that tree till late in the evenings talking and laughing while the children played around them. It was a different world back then. Sadly, that world is as gone as my old oak is.

When the forester was here on that day back in September, he told me about something the city had going called “The Tree-mendous Community Tree Program.” The city will, at no cost to the homeowner, plant one tree per lot on the city easement at the request of the homeowner. It’s a program with the aim of beautifying and enhancing neighborhoods by planting new shade trees. He gave me a link to their website where I could check out the choice of trees they offer and set up a appointment to have someone come out and talk with me about it. So, that’s what I did.

Initially, I wanted a nice fast-growing red maple, but the fellow who came out to talk to me talked me out of it for two reasons: they weren’t happy with the quality of the red maples they were getting from their current contractor and because they removed a laurel oak, they would prefer that I choose a live oak to replace it. The idea is to keep the neighborhood’s tree personality intact, so to speak. Laurel oaks are pretty, but they’re not as sturdy or as long-lived as live oaks. Unfortunately, live oaks don’t grow that fast.

I figured, if I wasn’t around long enough to enjoy the live oak, maybe some other folks after me will appreciate its shade and beauty after I’m gone from this place. With that in mind, I went ahead and ordered the live oak from the city program. Daniel, the fellow who came out to talk with me placed a little white flag in the yard so the crew would know where to plant the tree. He told me they’d be back in a week or two. photo oak_flag-031414_zps29e910b7.jpg

Well, today was the day. I woke up this morning and the tree crew had come and gone already. They left me a new little guy out there in the front yard. They mulched him and propped him up. They even gave him his first tasty drink of water from my hose after planting him. He’s about 8′ tall with a trunk of 2.5″. Heh! Not quite a “grand oak” yet, but one day… one day. Here are a some pics of my new friend and the little reminder message they left on him:

  photo new_oak-032714-2_zps247e81e6.jpg  photo new_oak-032714-1_zps426e1efc.jpg  photo new_oak-032714-3_zps449ea0ad.jpg

In that center picture, you can see the stump of my old oak in the background. It’s kinda’ sad, but life doesn’t give up easily. When I walked over to look at the stump while out there snapping these shots, I noticed a tiny little baby oak growing out of the old stump. The city is supposed to come back and grind the stump down for me. I might just tell them to leave it alone.

 photo newold_oak-032714-4_zps4888f789.jpg

Maybe one day, that wee little thing growing out of the stump will look like the might oak that once stood there and watched over me as I played under its storied boughs.

 photo old_oak-090713-05_zps600a5846.png

Later…

~Eric

Major League Baseball 2014 Season

I’m a bit overdue, but it’s that time of year, folks. The time that I start writing about baseball! Woo-hoo!

Wait! Wait! Don’t run off. Come back! Ah, shoot. OK, so baseball is a bit of a passion for me. Hey! What the hell? Could be worse. I could be writing about Mahjong tournaments or crossword puzzle addictions, right? Or would you prefer that? ;)

I live in Tampa, Florida, as many of you may know. You probably also know that I’m a fan of the Tampa Bay Rays American League East baseball team, which currently resides in their home at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida; right across the Bay from me.

The Rays weren’t always an impressive team. During their initial seasons here in the Tampa Bay area as the “Devil Rays,” they struggled quite a bit and usually ended at the bottom of the AL East by the season’s end. It was a learning, growing experience, I suppose. Then one day, a fellow named Joe Maddon showed up here to manage a newly renamed “Rays” baseball organization. Some ownership and control changes also had recently occurred.

And POOF! The Magic began. From cellar dwellers to hunter killers in the AL East, the Rays are now, and have been for the past few season, a power to be reckoned with in the American League East; one of the most difficult leagues to play in. The AL East is populated by some of the most terrifyingly talented and ridiculously funded teams in all of the MLB: the legendary Bronx Bombers – the New York Yankees, the Monsters of Fenway – the Boston Red Sox, the Masters of Camden Yards – the Baltimore Orioles, and our Canuck Cousins – the Toronto Blue Jays. Talk about competition!

It’s a feat just to get past these guys to get a chance at the other American League teams vying for that World Series trophy in October. The Rays are going to give ‘em all hell this year, though. They have a lot of new faces in the clubhouse, but fortunately, also a bunch of old familiar faces, too. The Gold Glove caliber infield is intact, I’m happy to say, with the return of Evan Longoria (3b), Yunel Escobar (ss), Ben Zobrist (2b), and James Loney (1b).

The bats are back, too. Wil Myers, David DeJesus, Matt Joyce (hopefully showing some power this year), etc. Oh, and let’s not forget some serious Major League experience behind the plate with our dynamic duo of Jose Molina and Ryan Hanigan, who ain’t too shabby with a bat in his hand, by the way.

Oh, and did I mention pitching? Well, David Price is back. I don’t know how the hell that happened, but our Cy Young pitcher will be back on the mound for opening day on Monday the 31st of March. Can David and the Rays pitching staff lead the team to the World Series this year? It sure looks like a possibility in my odds book.

The Rays have it all this season: front office support, management, coaching, experience, youth, speed, skill, talent, power, etc. Do they also have that passionate drive needed to survive 160+ games and give it their all each time the walk out on the field? We’ll see. I think they do.

LET’S GO RAYS!!!

Later…

~Eric