Monday, August 31, 2009

Digesting Some Reading

I received an email today from the folks at Reader's Digest. Now, I'm not sure whether anyone reads Reader's Digest aside from me and those over 60, but I always have to take a quick peek at the mass emails they send. Today's was touting a piece titled "13 Things a Burglar Won't Tell You." Unfortunately, I didn't follow the link to see what the 13 things actually are. They could be crime secrets, they could be all-out lies, or they could be details about their pet ferrets. (Burglars are extremely protective of their pet ferrets... It's well documented.)

Anyway, here's my crack at the 10 things a burglar won't tell you (that probably didn't make the real list)...

1. Hi, I'm a burglar.

2. I'm planning on robbing your house when you leave for vacation. Any chance you can leave the doors unlocked to make things easier?

3. You know that time someone broke in and took your TV? Yeah, that was me. I've always wanted picture-in-picture.

4. Your security alarm scared the hell out of me when I was trying to pry open your door the other night.

5. Hey, does this watch look familiar? Yeah, it should.

6. I prefer robbing homes in your neighborhood between 10:45 and 11:45 p.m.

7. Dogs? I love dogs. Especially the really noisy ones. 

8. I think I left my good crowbar in your living room.

9. If you liked your GPS unit that much, you can buy it again down at the pawn shop on the corner.

10. You haven't lived until you've worn panty hose on your head.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

10 Quick Lessons Learned From a 13-Month-Old Niece

1. Socks are for suckers.

2.  If you hear applause on television, naturally you should start clapping, as well.

3.  Grapes are best served in halves.

4. Everything else is best served two handfuls at a time

5. Although your baby doll cannot actually eat, it's polite to offer her a bit of anything you consume anyway.

6. It's also good form to toss food on the floor for your dog, even if the dog isn't with you at the time.

7. Anything semi-round is referred to as a ball. Anything. Even pine cones and rocks.

8. If a gingerbread house has been sitting out for eight months, the trees made of peppermint are definitely fair game.

9. Nothing is funnier than a good game of peek-a-boo.

10. Grandparents and uncles serving as babysitters are putty in your hands.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

One more thing...

Am I the only one who has a problem with the title "America's Got Talent"?

Sure, I think America has talent, but it never seems to show up in this show. I'd like to suggest that the network rename the show, "America's Got Talent, It's Just Nowhere Near this Show."

A Return to Pointlessness

Popular opinion* says that it's been far too long since a Writing has been composed of nothing but random thoughts of a bulleted nature. It's time to rectify this lack of typed drivel.

*"Popular opinion" belongs to the author. He supports his opinions, in most cases.

- I picked up a new cellphone awhile back. When texting, it often attempts to guess the next work i'm going to type. If I type, "I'm going" it might suggest "home" as the next word. I can see how it might be a convenient feature. Unfortunately, my particular phone seems a bit paranoid about our nation's safety. On several occasions, it has attempted to finish my sentence with the word "terrorists." My phone wants me to send messages like "I saw the terrorists," "let's go watch terrorists," or "I ate terrorists." Believe it or not, I don't take my phone's advice very often.

- My toaster is the one that knows what it is talking about.

- The opening to "Shaq vs." refers to Shaquille O'Neal as an athlete "formed out of Greek mythology." That seems like an odd nickname for his mother.

- I'm also glad that the announcers decided to clarify for the audience that "Shaq vs." is "the only show where four-time NBA Champion Shaquille O'Neal takes on world class athletes in their own sports." I thought for sure I'd seen it happen on "Nash Bridges," but thanks to the informative announcer, I know I was mistaken.

- I had never watched "Shaq vs." prior to tonight... Now that I have, it seems there is good reason that I've never programmed it into my DVR.

- Zack Greinke currently has 12 strikeouts through six innings pitched. He's been the best pitcher in the American League this year, but he's on the worst team in the league. If you are writing a story about things that are not fair, consider this for your lead.

- Yes, I admit that the Royals are the worst time in the American League... But they aren't the worst in the Majors. Thank you, Washington Nationals, for taking charge in the department of futility.

- Need to figure out if you're an adult yet? Head to the dentist. If paying for the dental work hurts more than sitting through it, congratulations, you're all grown up.

- Did I say 12 strikeouts through six innings? I meant 14 through seven, which ties the Royals' single-game record. With the way things have gone lately, I'm just glad we're talking about records that don't involve "most losses," "most consecutive at bats without actually making contact with a pitch," or "most fans that leave directly following the hot dog race."

- My new neighbor (in my apartment with thin walls) apparently enjoys calling her mother and yelling at her over the phone. I'm sure her mom appreciates it as much as I do. Luckily for the mom, she at least has the option of hanging up. I have yet to locate that button on my Dunder-Mifflin brand wall. 

- 15 strikeouts in a game marks a new Royals record for Donald Zackary Greinke. Congratulations to the young man, and congratulations to KC beat writers for having something to write about other than the Royals failing to capitalize with runners in scoring position.

- I'll close with a video most of you have probably seen, but if you have not, have a look. K-State guard Denis Clemente hits a shot that looks like it belongs in the old Jordan/Bird McDonalds commercial. I have not received any confirmation as to whether coach Frank Martin is petitioning the NCAA to make this sort of shot legal.

Denis Clemente (K-State) Crazy Shot, Can you beat this Lebron?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Favrings

Since their inception, The Writings have been about two things:

1. Providing insightful tales of early Latvian settlers in southern Connecticut; and,

2. Providing in-depth analysis of everything Favre.

Naturally, this is an exciting week at The Writings, and not just because LatFest 09 is taking place in Guilford, Conn.* This week marks Brett Favre's triumphant return to the NFL. After leaving the Vikings, the NFL, the nation, and even the world in a state of mourning after saying he would remain retired a week ago, Favre's recent decision to join the Vikings was met with widespread joy.

*Editor's note: Unfortunately, research does not support this claim.

In Minnesota, Governor Tim Pawlenty proclaimed this week "Brett Favre Week" and declared that any state employee who purchased a #4 Vikings jersey could enjoy a paid month off, and that they would earn bonuses for correctly answering Favre trivia.

Across the Midwest, schools delayed opening so that kids could mimic their hero in sandlot football games. This meant children everywhere walked outside of their homes carrying footballs, only to decide they were no longer interested in playing. They walked back indoors, but reemerged seconds later, wearing different clothing, and expressing a new desire for the sport. After tossing the ball once*, the children said they wanted to spend more time with their families and ran back into their homes. Before one could bat an eye (or ask about family), the children then returned outdoors (again wearing different clothing), and said they were ready to play. It's clear that children idolize Mr. Favre.

*The toss was intercepted.

In Washington, inspired by Favre, democrats and republicans chose to put aside partisan politics, and listen to both sides of pressing issues. With a new sense of camaraderie, it was decided that Favre's face would be added to Mount Rushmore.

Favre's return has been a truly epic event, and we at The Writings could not be happier. Longtime readers know how much we love the idea of an aging quarterback holding different franchises in limbo while attempting to decide if he's willing to play another season. They know we love the second-by-second coverage that major media outlets give Favre*. With the contract official, readers now have to know that we think those in the Vikings front office are uber-geniuses for signing an aging QB who threw as many interceptions as touchdowns last season to a two-year, $25 million contract. Brilliant!

*Who wouldn't want to know if a 39-year-old quarterback flossed this morning?

 We at The Writings certainly aren't ROOTING FOR THE VIKINGS TO LOSE EVERY GAME THEY PLAY THIS SEASON. We also certainly don't WANT TO SEE FAVRE CHALLENGE GEORGE BLANDA'S RECORD FOR INTERCEPTIONS THROWN IN A SEASON (42). No, we here at The Writings are thrilled that every NFL recap show this season will ignore quality recaps of every game played in favor of dissecting Favre's choice of ways to stay regular.

The Writings: We're thrilled... THRILLED... that Favre is coming back. As thrilled as we are about attending LatFest 09.

Friday, August 14, 2009

It's time to seek help.

When a person has self-destructive tendencies, it is always best for that person to seek help. Many have done it, and now it's my turn. You see, I have an addiction. One that leads to little more than frustration, heartache, and the urge to stick one's hand into a garbage disposal. I know how feeding this addiction leaves me feeling. I've known for years.

I used to be able to fool myself into thinking that my actions were rational; that what I was doing might somehow pay off in the end. Now, as I get older, I may be seeing the error of my ways. I know I have a problem, and I know it's one I've brought upon myself. The only thing left to do is address it head on.

Hi. My name is Derek, and I am a Royals fan.

It's good to have that out there.

Back in April, the Royals became a trendy pick to be the winner of the American League Central. Some off-season transactions combined with a stellar month of play last September instilled many - including the author - with the idea that the Royals could put things together and win a relatively weak division. At first, it seemed that such hopes might have firm backing, as KC opened the season by winning 18 of its first 29 games.

My, how things have changed. After falling to the Tigers tonight, the Royals are 45-70, at the bottom of their division, and they have won more games than just one other team in all of Major League Baseball.

It's true, being a fan of a team during one disappointing season doesn't call for an intervention, but the Royals have only had one winning season since the 1994 strike year. Each of the 15 seasons since, I have conjured up optimism, fooling myself into thinking, "This could be a good year." At the end of most of those seasons, I felt like I did at the end of the third movie in the Matrix trilogy. I was searching for answers and occasionally muttering, "What just happened?"

The big victim of this disappointing 2009 has to be Zack Greinke, a pitcher considered by some to be the best in the American League. Earlier tonight, Greinke tossed seven shutout innings against the Detroit Tigers, the top team in the AL Central. He struck out seven Detroit batters and gave up just 3 hits. It was a stellar outing; one you might expect from a Cy Young Award-caliber pitcher. It was a performance that results in victory 13 times out of 14.* The Royals lost 1-0 when relief pitcher Roman Colon gave up a walk-off home run to Brandon Inge.

*I have not actually done the math on this.

Greinke entered tonight's game leading the American League in earned run average and was second in strikeouts. Despite his dominating numbers, the Royals have won just 11 of the 24 games he has pitched in.

Collectively, the Royals have the lowest team on-base percentage and have scored the second-fewest runs in the American League. Their lineup tonight featured a journeyman catcher batting cleanup and the third-string catcher as designated hitter. Their offense this season has been slightly more intimidating than a puppy that just learned to chase its tail.

Despite the disappointing year, the Royals front office made no moves at the recent trading deadline. There was no attempt to drop dead weight, no pursuit of young, promising prospects. Nothing.

A well person would probably have learned his lesson by now. A well person would have been subjected to three or four years of disappointment and then moved on to something else, like sewer fishing, razor wire climbing, or buffalo tipping. A well person would not be crafting this writing. Some might suggest giving personal wellness a try.

I've addressed the issue. Now, I have to figure out the next step. Some might suggest just buying a Cardinals cap. Others would say I need to move closer to another Major League team. Others would suggest giving up baseball altogether and maybe switching my fandom to soccer, cricket, or jai alai. Alas, I'm the one in control here, so it's my decision to make.



... Hey, the Royals play at 12:05 p.m. tomorrow. Maybe a Luke Hochevar start is just what they need.

Forget wellness.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tales from the Road - Days 3-5

To continue the common theme here at The Writings of posting things after they are no longer timely, this summation of days 3-5 of the Road Trip of Derek Larson comes two days after I returned home. This lack of punctuality was the plan all along.*


In our last post - which may be commonly referred to as The Epic of Derek, thanks to it's absurd length* - Derek traveled to Arkansas, caught a Double-A baseball game, was awaken by some sort of terrorist infiltration alarm, and traveled across Missouri into Illinois. As we pick things up in part 2 of The Epic, our protagonist is departing from his stay in Galesburg, Ill., and headed toward Clinton, Iowa.

*The Cliffs Notes will be available in bookstores soon.

News flash - I can be easily distracted. While I do not officially have Attention Deficit Disorder, at times I like to consider myself as an honorary member of the ADD society. With one task on my mind, the simple sight of something out of the ordinary ("Ooh, an Arby's!") can throw me off completely. This journey marks one such occasion, as it seems some sort of distraction led me to divert from my intended route. I pulled into a gas station, grabbed my road atlas, and attempted to gain my bearings. It was at this time that I found an alternate route guaranteed to be more scenic, as it would travel right along the Mississippi River. After a quick discussion with my navigator*, this new route was accepted, and I was back on track.

*I do my best to make talking to myself sound reasonable.

 While the alternate route brought a bit of frustration, courtesy massive road construction efforts, it also brought provided the opportunity to assuage my inner gambler.

At the sight of a casino, I slammed on my brakes, swerved to the right, hopped a curb, parked illegally, jumped from my car and ran inside, shouting "ching, ching" all the way. Sprinting up to the nearest roulette table, I put $500 on red, only to see that little ball settle on 26 black. Discouraged, but not defeated, I continued to feed the gambling demon inside me, only to leave when I had lost all my cash and I discovered they wouldn't accept my scorecard from the Northwest Arkansas Naturals game as a bet. As a result, I currently live in the streets of Davenport, Iowa, and I'm typing this Writing from the laptop of a Starbucks customer who is currently in the restroom.

Remember when I said I can be easily distracted? Consider the previous paragraph as proof. In truth, as I drove through Davenport, I found that this area of town along the river seemed to be a pretty nice location. Thanks in part to the Holiday Inn's "You'll Wake Up and You'll Like It" alarm from the morning before, I was well ahead of schedule, so I decided to stop and check things out. I did go and check out the casino, however my gambling exploits were not as bold as those detailed above. Embracing my "wuss bets" nature, I played nothing but penny and nickel slots. I left with $6 less than I arrived with, and the knowledge that this particular casino was basically a retirement home with smoking, drinks, and slot machines. I'm pretty confident I was the youngest person there by about 40 years.

After departing the casino, I took a stroll along the river. It was there that I encountered a rather large (read: obese), shirtless man, who wore shorts that appeared to be a bit too small; a wanna-be singer who was having a friend snap pictures of her on the stage of an ampitheater, and another large man who was putting his shirt on as he walked toward the casino. None of this is really relevant at all, but I am glad the last guy was going to follow the "no shoes, no shirt" policy at the casino.

A scenic trip on Highway 67 brought took me to Clinton, where I found the need to adjust my initial plans for lodging. Such changes were deemed necessary when I discovered that the hotel I orginally planned to stay at was located next to three rough looking bars and a gentleman's club. I decided this lodging option did not meet my strict standards for overnight stay options*, and found an alternate option.

*Rule No. 1 - Don't stay someplace where the odds of you getting stabbed are 1:1.

After settling in, I was off to Alliant Energy Field to see the Burlington Bees attempt to sting the Clinton Lumberkings.

 Hitting the highlights...

- The folks in Clinton seem to take the "park" in "ballpark" very seriously, as there seemed to be as many seats available at picnic tables around the field as there were in the stands. It gave the game the feel of a little league contest. Unfortunately, I did not witness any angry parents shouting from the stands or players sitting down in the outfield.

- The drop from Double-A ball to Single-A was noticeable. The stadium featured no video board, and names did not appear on jerseys, again contributing to a little league feel. Unfortunately, I'm unsure whether the teams went out for pizza after the game.

- During the eighth inning, the folks in the stadium PA box played the chicken dance. After watching those that participated, I determined this is the method used to determine who in the stadium is no longer sober enough to drive home.

- Instead of traditional ballpark vendors, this park featured waitresses walking around with serving trays and taking drink orders. I'm unsure whether LumberKings* management conducted studies to determine that drink sales increase when those in the stands feel like they're at a bar. If so, it seems that the next step is having a jukebox in the dugout and a pool table in the outfield.

*For those curious, it seems that a LumberKing is simply a lumberjack wearing a crown. I'm not sure how many lumberjacks in the world are actually of royal bloodlines, but it may be worth looking into.

- In regard to the actual baseball game that took place, Burlington picther Ivor Hodgson showed some pitches that moved as if they had minds of their own. He struck out 12 batters in just 5 2/3 innings. Burlington topped Clinton 6-4, putting Royals-affiliated squads at 1-1 on my trip.

Friday morning, I departed the wondrous city of Clinton on my way to Omaha, Neb. This trip called for driving the entire length of Iowa, from east to west. Luckily, I wasn't traveling alone. You see, a friend called rain decided to accompany me for a few hours that morning.

While the company provided by such precipitation was appreciated*, the rain and I decided to part ways before arriving in Des Moines. Because I had plenty of driving at hand and little time for detours, I drove Interstate 80 for the length of this trip. As a result, the scenery I witness on this journey could be summed up in one word: corn. By the time I reached Omaha, I was having a hard time distinguishing what was real and what was the result of cornfield overload hallucination. The Kellogg's Corn Flakes rooster on my shoulder telling me stop at every grocery store for Corn Flake goodness certainly wasn't helping, either.

*In the same way one appreciates a flesh-eating virus.

In Omaha, I found myself cursing the person who first came up with the idea of a one-way street. Driving through the downtown area, it seemed every turn I wanted to make involved going the wrong way on a one-way. With rebellion not being part of my nature, I fought such notions and drove through the city as if I was obeying a short-circuiting GPS unit. I don't consider it a good sign when you make it from one end of a city of 390,000 people to the other and still have no idea where you are going to be lodging. I'd say my meandering trip went unnoticed, but there are probably a few folks on street corners that noticed a car with Kansas plates drive by multiple times who would disagree.

After finally finding a place to lay my head that did not involve sneaking into the zoo, I was off to Rosenblatt Stadium.

I gathered from the souvenir program that the theme for the 2009 Omaha Royals is "Fun Rules!" Sadly, the Royals entered the contest sitting at the bottom of the Pacific Coast League. Fun may rule, but it apparently doesn't involve success.

One thing fun must involve is screaming, as the kids in attendance treated the game as if it were a Jonas Brothers concert. I'm not sure why a t-shirt toss calls for ear-crippling cries, but apparently it must be listed in the Fun Rulebook.

The Royals lost to the Las Vegas 51s, 6-4. Despite the losing effort, I enjoyed the chance to see the Triple-A Royals in action. For those unaware, Triple-A is the highest level of the minor leagues, meaning many players on this squad are one sprained ankle away from playing in Kansas City. The fact that the Triple-A version of the Royals is in last place, though, does not seem to say much for the immediate future for the major league club.

The big event following the game was a fireworks display, which I decided would serve as a replacement for the colorful explosions I missed seeing while away on business for Independence Day. This particular display proved noteworthy due to the soundtrack that accompanied the show. I'm not sure what exactly Ace of Base's "All That She Wants (is another baby)" or Inner Circle's "Bad Boys" (the theme from Cops) have to do with fireworks, but I'm sure there's an explanation out there somewhere. (Even if it involves a disgruntled employee.)

With my time in Omaha coming to a close, I discovered the following morning that the Days Inn in the city is apparently the preferred lodging for hobbits in the area. The showerhead was situated no higher than the top of my chest. I could handle such an issue, but I soon discovered another problem. It seemed that the hobbits that normally inhabit this room had an issue with hot water. The basic liquid intended to wash me reached a temperature no higher than that of soup that has been sitting out for a day. Before this trip, I knew I was not a morning person, but now I am wondering if mornings are taking offense to this fact. If I ever am run down by a steamroller that has been hijacked by an escaped gorilla, I am sure it will happen in the morning.

A Saturday trip to Kansas City gave me the chance to meet up with my brother and some close friends for the final baseball game of the trip - a battle between the Kansas City Royals and the Oakland A's at "The New" Kauffman Stadium.

While I can be considered a bit of a loner, (or a hermit,) I definitely enjoyed the chance for a little human interaction after days of talking to few ballparkgoers that would pass a sobriety test. I also relished the opportunity to take in the sights at the renovated stadium. It definitely impressed, and I'm looking forward to going there again for the chance to check out new Royals Hall of Fame.

During the game, I discovered one detail about Royals fans that cannot be argued: they're literate. Everytime the stadium video board urged fans to get "louder" or "make some noise" such instructions were followed as if they were military commands. A study of cause-and-effect relationships leads to the conclusion that fans must read the words on the board in order to comprehend them. Therefore, we have literate fans. I think there's a marketing slogan in there somewhere.

Royals ace pitcher Zack Greinke took the mound for the Royals, and while he gave up more runs than he does normally (three... which speaks to how dominant he's been this season), the offense offered a performance very out-of-the-ordinary, scoring 12 runs. An excellent capper to the Road Trip of Derek Larson. The Royals topped the A's 12-6, pushing the Royals organization to a 2-2 record in games viewed by the author. Not too shabby.

With the trip now in the rear view mirror (figuratively and literally, in a figurative sort of way), I am not sure I could have picked a better agenda for this vacation. I got to see plenty of baseball, watch some upcoming prospects, view a lot of scenery along the open road, encounter a variety of people, and absorb plenty of material for The Writings. There's just one thing to do now... Figure out where the Second-Annual Road Trip of Derek Larson will take me.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Tales from the Road - Days 1 and 2

Ahh, vacation. If only it could come along more often. It gives one the chance to escape the incessant drone of everyday normalcy. It gives one the chance to hit the road and see new things. It gives one the chance to be unexpectedly awoken at 5 a.m. and be instilled with a momentary fear that their life will end in Arkansas... but, I'm getting ahead of myself.

The inaugural Road Trip of Derek Larson kicked off Tuesday morning. Unforeseen circumstances (e.g., the need for a pair of new tires. Nothing like shelling out cash before you even approach any road the trip involves.), pushed departure time back a couple of hours, but I soon found myself heading southeast, like a migratory bird whose inner compass is slightly askew.

After venturing through thriving metropolises (metropoli?) like Gas, Kan.*, and (insert indistinct town name here), Mo., I arrived in Springdale, Ark.

*Pun not originally intended, but the author chuckled upon realization.

As one who enjoys the finer things in life.. such as television and flim, I have noticed that Arkansas is oft characterized as a state full of southern yokels who might be as likely to marry a pig as they would be to bathe. I fully expected this erroneous depiction to be rendered moot right away. Unfortunately, the man at the hotel counter chose to fuel the fire.

How so?

Let's just say the moon was bright in the Holiday Inn.

That's right, when I strolled into the hotel, the first thing I was greeted by was the sight of a large man bent at the waist so he could lean on the check-in counter, with his pants drooping a quarter of the way down his backside... Welcome to Arkansas, Derek.*

*While this story is true, most folks I encountered in Arkansas were very nice folks. I'd also like to stress that I saw no one married to a pig. 

After Arkansas' Grand Canyon made his exit, I booked a room and that was that... Well sort of. This would normally be a rather mundane portion of the trip, but the guy working the check-in counter sounded identical to Jonah Hill, of Superbad (and other movies) fame. He also looked a bit like him, which made the situation even more eerie. I nearly asked him to say a line from one of his movies, but my better judgment won out. (Lousy brain.)

After some unwinding at the hotel, it was off to Arvest Field, to witness my first minor league baseball game. In post-game wrap fashion, we'll hit the highlights...

As I approached the stadium, I was greeted by the Arkansas branch of the Scottish National Guard. While I may have misidentified these gentlemen, their music was, well, bagpipey. Unfortunately, because I grew up watching professional wrestling, I paused for a bit waiting for Rowdy Roddy Piper to make an entrance. He never showed up.

Once inside, I strolled around the concourse to check things out. There was an autograph booth set up, with no line whatsoever. Like an eight-year-old at his first ballgame, I soon found myself asking two guys (both younger than me) for their autographs, even though I did not recognize their names. Afterward, I grabbed a hotdog and a soda (total price - waaaay more than they were worth. It seems that major league food prices still apply in minor league parks.), and found a picnic table in the shade to eat a bit. During this time, the folks controlling the pregame music decided it would be a good idea to play Eiffel 65's "I'm Blue." At this point I found myself trying to decide whether it was done on a bet, or if the "DJ" had enjoyed a few pregame drinks. I'm still not sure what was going on.

After eating, I reluctantly left the comfort of the shade to find my seat. I discovered one big positive about minor league baseball - excellent seats for low cost. The above picture was taken from the comfort of seat 16 in row D. Unfortunately, that line of shade was still 30 minutes away at this point.

For those interested in the actual baseball aspect of this experience, the game featured the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (the Kansas City Royals' AA affiliate) and the Tulsa Drillers (the Colorado Rockies' AA affiliate). Sitting four rows back from the field with my Royals cap on, I figured I might encounter others sporting something similar. I figured wrong. I spotted no other fans wearing any sort of gear promoting the big league club. In fact, I only spotted two other people in the stadium wearing anything relating to Major League Baseball at all. One was wearing a Ryne Sandberg Cubs jersey, the other donned a Vernon Wells Blue Jays t-shirt. I hope to one day figure out how fan gear of a Hall of Famer who retired 12 years ago and a guy who plays in Canada relates to that particular contest in Springdale... Some day.

As the game progressed, I was reminded that some baseball terminology is easier to decipher than others. This reminder was generously provided by the absolutely clueless woman sitting directly behind me. Perhaps the baseball geek that often fuels my thinking is the only one that would notice this, but she incorrectly used the phrase "1-2-3 inning" twice in a three-inning span. For those that might be unaware, a "1-2-3 inning" is a half-inning in which all three outs are recorded in consecutive fashion. No hits. No walks. No catcher interference. Nothing but outs. This vocal fan, who seemed to always make sure all around were listening to her, deemed one inning that of the 1-2-3 variety, despite the fact that only two outs had been recorded. A couple innings later, she pulled the phrase out again, even though a hitter had singled earlier and had been standing on first base - just 20 yards away from her, for a few minutes. The situation served as a strong reminder that one should only speak knowledgeably of a subject if they actually are knowledgeable of said subject.*

*Editor's note: The author has been reminded that he often uses this very space to write about subjects he knows virtually nothing about. Forgive him. He's a little slow.

As the game carried on, I noticed that I was the only - ONLY - individual seated in my entire row. Granted, the ballpark certainly wasn't full, but this seemed excessive. There were 18 seats, but just one seat filler. That situation dissolved when a quartet of guys arrived a few minutes. These four, who all appeared to be around 30 and were downing beers like the keg was almost empty, seemed to have their pick of seats in my section. They chose my row, which was fine. They chose my end of the row, which was fine. They chose the four seats directly to my right. This was a bit odd. I seached the depths of my mind in attempt to think of a situation where I might have invited four heavy drinkers to come to the ballgame with me. The search drew no results.

For the next few innings, I was "treated" to their "side-splitting jokes" and "hilarious mockery" of the opposing first base coach... Okay, enough of the sarcasm, these guys were basically the baseball fan versions of any obnoxious drunk you may have ever encountered. Their "jokes" consisted of little more than talking about how the first base coach was not in the coach's box (although they laughed like the Full House laugh track every time it was mentioned), and their taunting of the coach did not turn out so well. You see, Tulsa's first base coach was also the hitting coach, and the Drillers scored 11 runs on 16 hits. Advantage: coach.

The sudsy crew left before the end of the game, as did most other fans. Before they left I caught a t-shirt thrown by Strike the Naturals' mascot, despite the fact that Norm (made up name for inebriated individual next to me) was draped over me like an NFL defensive back. At this point I did a touchdown dance, shoved the shirt in his face, and told him to bring his 'A' game next time... In reality, I listened to his slurred ramblings, showed him the shirt he almost had, and sat back down to continue keeping score. Sorry, readers who enjoy personal conflict, I'm mild-mannered.

The picture above tells the story. One game on The Road Trip of Derek Larson down, one Royals-affiliated loss witnessed. Nevertheless, there were a few players I was impressed with. If I had to pick four names of players to keep an eye out for in years to come, I'd say David Lough (centerfielder), Jarrod Dyson (leftfielder), Jeff Bianchi (shortstop), and Juan Abreau (relief pitcher, hit 96 on the radar gun).

Back at the hotel, I soon felt like I was losing another battle. I discovered that my lodging place of choice did not feature free Internet access or a free breakfast for the following morning, and the pillows on my bed were thicker than most couch cushions. When lying in bed, I felt as if my neck was being contorted in impossible ways.

Luckily*, I didn't have to deal with these substandard conditions for long. At 5:08 a.m. the next morning, I awoke to the sound of an alarm the likes of which one hears on television when some sort of secure goverment facility has been infiltrated by evil-doers. Thanks to a working knowledge of the television show '24', I realized that nothing good comes about when CTU security is breached, so I had little chance to survive at a Holiday Inn. I listened to the voice accompanying the alarm instructing all to head downstairs via the stairway, got dressed in rattled fashion, grabbed a couple belongings, and took off for the lobby. 

*Is luckily the right word?

In the lobby, I encountered a bevy of other hotel occupants looking as disheveled as I was. What was the emergency? Who had broken in? Where was the fire? The questions were tossed about. The answer was that it all was well. While it was a relief to hear, it was also a bit disturbing to hear the hotel employee refer to the false alarm situation as something that happens "periodically."

Pardon? Full moons happen periodically. False alarms in a hotel that instill all staying there with a sense of unrest at an early hour should not. 

Now awake a full three hours earlier than I had originally planned, I chose to embrace opportunity and hit the road.

Planned as a rather uneventful travel day, after the morning's surprise, this day reverted to the uneventful route as I rolled out of Arkansas, all the way across Missouri and into Illinois. The highlights:

- When ordering a CroisSonic sandwich and a cherry Sprite for breakfast at Sonic, the communications specialist on the other end of my order decided it would be a good idea to ask if I would like mozzerella sticks, as well. Hmmm... deep fried cheese first thing in the morning. Tempting, but I had to pass.

-Prior to this trip, I had no idea that there was a city called Mexico in Missouri. Having never been to Mexico (aside from the "New" version of it), I had stop in. Erring on the side of caution, I chose not to drink the water.

- I discovered that western Illinois has some of the worst highways I have ever encountered. The state of their roadways is downright shabby. You know the feeling when you are clinking along as you climb the initial slope of a roller coaster? That's similar to the bumpy sensation I encountered on several highways in the western part of the state.

Two days, and nearly 2,000 words later, it's time for bed. Here's hoping morning arrives a bit later tomorrow.

Monday, August 03, 2009

So Long, Suspense

If you, as a reader of The Writings, know one thing about me, as the author, it is that I love suspense.*

*Please note: This isn't really true at all, but it sets things up nicely for the rest of this Writing. It seems I am willingly to make things up in order to have a fitting lead. That's a quality people look for in a writer, right?... Right?

The fact is, updates here at The Writings have been few this summer because I have embracing suspense.*

*It also seems that I am willing to openly lie in this Writing. After all, the lack of blog updates this summer has had far less to do with suspense than with a busy schedule mixed with a dose of laziness. Oh well, let's see where lies and deceit get us.

You see, on June 29, the author used this very blog to announce an upcoming roadtrip and to seek advice for possible destinations. Over a month later, that post has drawn a ridiculous amount of feedback*, and people everywhere have impatiently waited to find out just where this roadtrip would take me*.

*Lies. A few people gave suggestions, either in print or in person, but they may very well be trying to get me to leave and never return.

**More lies. On the big list of things people are concerned with, "Derek's Roadtrip Plans" fall just after "establishing a book club for homeless snails."

Well, faithful readers, wait no more. The roadtrip has been determined, and it is one with a theme. I'll be seeing four baseball games in five days, witnessing four levels of the Kansas City Royals' organization (A, AA, AAA, and the big league club) along the way. That's right, four ballgames in five days, and every one of them related to the Royals. It seems the theme of this trip is rather self explanatory.

I'm a glutton for punishment.

I kid. The great thing about baseball is that there's always hope.*

*Disclaimer: This does not apply if your starting rotation features Mark Redman, Scott Elarton, and Odalis Perez.

Road trip plans involve a lot of baseball, a lot more driving, and some opportunities to note all the wonder one might encounter when traveling through Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Nebraska.*

*Hello, excitement.