Take Me Out to the Ball Game, and Bring a Towel or Two

I've been meaning to get to a Seawolves game all summer, but either they've been out of town when I had the time to go, or I was busy with other things, or I just let time go by without thinking of going to a game. So, since this week was the last games of the season I made a concerted effort to get to a game.

When I checked their website to see what promotions were coming up, I discovered that Country Fair sponsored a ticket buy-out for Thursday games. Anyone going to Country Fair could ask for a coupon for free reserved seat tickets to be redeemed at the park. Now 'Wolves games aren't expensive to begin with, but you certainly can't argue with free. When I visited my local store, I asked for two coupons, figuring that one coupon = one ticket, and I was going to invite my dad along, for a guy's night out. I discovered, after getting the coupons, however that 1 coupon = 2 tickets, so I could invite my brother Andrew along as well. *happyclap* It turned out, though, that my mom wasn't feeling well enough to be left home alone for the approximitly 3 hours for the game, so Andrew volunteered to stay home, which worked out since he's not the biggest baseball fan, and appreciated my need for some father-son time.

Another wrinkle in my plan was the weather. I was watching the remnants of Hurricane(?) Fran(?) pass well to the east of Erie, with what appeared to be just clouds directly over the city this evening. It turned out, though, that a steady mist began to fall after the first inning, but it didn't do much to dampen our spirits. [Sorry about the pun Sky, if you read this :) ]

The Wolves gave up a few runs in the top of the second inning, but scored 7 of their own in the bottom of the frame; They loaded the bases with no outs and kept getting singles and doubles to drive runs home, 'twas very exciting. After the inning ended, I went to buy some peanuts and soda. I've been craving the "eating peaunts at the ballgame" experience ever since my braces came off. Since that time, I've had my share of peanuts, and mixed nuts, and popcorn at home, but watching a ballgame, with a fistful of peanuts, shelling them, and tossing the shells at my feet is something that cannot be replicated at home. As an unexpected bonus, the bags of nuts were kept in a warmer, which was a nice touch on the cool, drizzly evening. So, dad and I split the bag of peanuts, and settled in to watch the game unfold.

After the early explosion of scoring the teams settled down, with a few scoreless innings, and a few more with only 1 or 2 runs scoring. After the 5th inning, I was getting hungry, and walked over to the picnic area to order a sausage sandwich. Right after I placed my order, the light mist turned to drizzle, then quickly from drizzle to a steady rain shower. A delay was called, and the tarp came out. I ate my sausage in the concourse with my dad, then when the rain subsided, wathced the crew remove the tarp and prepare the field to resume play. We returned to our seats, and watched another inning, before the rain strengthened again. An executive decision was reached. The Wolves were winning, we were cold and damp, we had seen enough.

Even though we only saw six innings of the game, my dad and I had a fun time, enjoyed the game that we did see, as well as our time together. It's too bad that the season's over this weekend, but hockey season's less than a month away and then it'll be all Otters, all the time. I may even check out the new basketball team that the city got for this fall.


Pic-a-nic baskets

I've been thinking lately that I need to have more things to do during the week that are me-time, to give me a break from the seemingly always-on-call nature of taking care of mom during the day. My initial thoughts were toward doing things in the evening, after my shift, so to speak. But looking around the kitchen today, searching out some lunch, my prospects weren't that great, so I pondered where to go out for lunch. I could borrow Andrew's car and drive to KFC for their sauceless hot wings I've been meaning to try, or maybe try the Greek food shack at 6th and Peninsula. I also thought of walking to Avanti's to try them out, seeing as I've lived a block and a half away from them for 20 years and could probably count the number of times I've eaten there on less than one hand. As I pondered, I recalled a craving I've had the past couple days for chili dogs, and it dawned on me that I could walk to Country Fair, acquire said chili dogs, as well as a slushy and a bag of chips, then go eat across the street in Frontier Park, taking a little walk through the park afterward. This accomplished four things: 1) got me a little break from caretaker duty 2) got me walking, I could use the exercise, after all 3) got me a little treat for lunch, and 4) got me out of the house, breaking the rut I've been in lately, and into the world. I think of this was a step toward working again.

About quarter to one, I let mom know of my plans, and took care of what needs she had before I left.. Right as I stepped off the porch, a rain shower started, but it only lasted until I got a block or so away from the house. Shortly thereafter, the sun came back out again. As I walked along the south edge of the park and neared the line of parking spaces, I noticed a dark blue van with a familiar-looking person inside. As I came alongside, I saw that it was indeed my dad, who had a similar idea for lunch, and stopped at the CF and enjoyed the scenic park while eating. He and I chatted a little about his work, he's having computer issues, having difficulty getting some software licenses to work. After I said goodbye, crossing the street worked out really well; right as I pressed the walk button, the traffic light changed so that it was walkable in my direction. The store was active, not busy, but enough activity so that the employees were working diligently, and my food was ready quite quickly. I was able to get my lunch for under $5 which was a nice surprise.

Traffic was in my favor again, crossing back to the park, and I headed toward a little gazebo with benches near the creek to start eating. As I ate my first dog, I could see a bit of the creek, but lots of shoreline vegetation left me a little underwhelmed. I decided to head over to the sideways tree, and nearer the creek to look for a rocky spot to sit on, right on the shore. I found a really nice spot right across from where I came down. Balancing on the slick rocks with a tray of food in one hand and a slushy in the other was a fun challenge, and I perched on a nice rock in the sun to finish my meal. In the distance, I could hear kids playing in the water, and I spent several minutes watching the water pass over the gravelly creek bed and scattered rocks. It's hard to explain, but the enjoyment I got from watching a little canoe-shaped leaf drift along the water, around the rocks, and past my feet was a lot more that you'd probably expect. I really am an outdoorsy person, and having such a great park with woods, a marshy area, grassy fields and a creek running down the center isn't something to take for granted, not to mention the Peninsula just a couple miles away as well, but I fear that familiarity does breed contempt, and I haven't been taking full advantage of my surroundings the past few years.

As I finished up my lunch and walked home I realized that I could adapt this excursion into a regular lunch break, not necessarily every day, sometimes walking, others biking, and not always buying lunch, most times just bringing something from home out to the park Maybe Fridays I could eat out, from CF or Avanti's, and the other days “brown bag” it. Being outside, in the rain and the sun, getting to walk through the park, and having a tasty, if not especially healthy, lunch really made this a great experience, worth doing more often.


Adventures at Justin and Sally's Wedding

Saturday, July 19th was Justin and Sally's wedding. Since Andrew was his roommate at Behrend for so long, he got to be one of the groomsmen. Leading up to the wedding day, I wasn't specifically invited, so I wasn't sure if I would be able to attend the wedding and reception. I wanted to go since I'd gotten to know Justin a bit through seeing him when I'd visit Andrew, and also at church. After talking things over with the rest of the family, and believing that the dinner was a pre-ordered affair, I decided finally that it would be acceptable to attend the wedding ceremony, and pay my respects, then not crash the reception.

So I got all dressed up in my dark khakis, blue oxford shirt, with blue tie and suspenders, and drove to the church. I arrived about 15 minutes early, so I sat in the van and listened to the radio until it was time to head in. Walking through the parking lot, I met up with James and Andrew Law, which was a relief, since I could sit with them and didn't feel so odd to be by my lonesome. In the church foyer, Sky and Melanie were greeters, and in charge of the guest book, which people were signing as they entered. I forget now if I shared hugs with the girls then, but at least I recall that I was greeted warmly Sitting nearby on the groom's side were many other Behrend folks, including Meghan Gearhart, Nicki, James and Andrew Law, Brad and Ashley; Sky and Melanie sat behind me once everyone had arrived.

As the wedding party processed in, Andrew looked really sharp in his tuxedo, with amethyst/purple vest and bow tie. The groomsmen were Aaron Wood, Andrew, Brian Baldwin, Brandon, and one other relative/friend. The Bridesmaids were Liz, Amanda Placek, Meg Marong, and Sally's sister, and one other woman. John Wagner's daughter Hannah was the flower girl. Justin was quite handsome in his tux with white vest and bow tie, and Sally wore a beautiful, flowing gown with quite a long train. Pastor Lynn wore a dark suit to officiate. The mothers lit the tapers on either side of the unity candle, Justin's dad read a scripture. The newlyweds lit the unity candle after taking their vows.

At the receiving line after the ceremony, I had an awkward convo. with what turned out to be Sally's dad when I introduced myself, but Justin's parents remembered me from move-in days. As we waited outside for the tossing of birdseed, Meghan G punched me in the shoulder a couple of times, until James turned up. It was decided that several of the IVCF folks would go to Dairy Queen for a little ice cream while we waited for the reception to start. Without really being invited, I decided to tag along, to hang out with the folks I knew.

I had a peanut butter cup Blizzard, and sat with Nicki, Megan G, and James. Brad and Ashley sat at a table behind us. Nicki and Megan kept stealing James' fries and later his Blizzard. They egged me on to take a bite as well, starting a chant of “Do it!” which some teenagers at a nearby table picked up on, so I took a bite, to much laughter, and probably some surprise. Earlier, as we were giving our orders, then again as we were finishing our snack, I made mention that I wasn't planning to attend the reception, and asked if it would be okay if I came. When I first asked, there was a general affirmation of the acceptability of my attendance, the second time Nicki said that she wanted me to be there. Therefore, I decided to go, and see what happened, maybe I could get an extra meal if someone couldn't attend or some-such.

As we entered the reception hall, there was a table with name cards arrayed over it, with each individual's name and table number. All the IVCF folks were sitting at tables 13 and 14, and Brad found a card with my name on it as well, sitting at table 14; the size of our group worked out though, we could all sit at one table. Our table was in the last row from the table(s) of honor, but alongside the dance floor, so I got a front row seat for all the cool stuff like the procession of the wedding party into the hall, the fathers' speeches, the toasts, the first dances, and the cake-cutting.

Dinner, it turned out was buffet style, Andrew probably got confused about the rehearsal vs. the reception. The menu included sliced ham, meatloaf or fish; side salad or antipasto-like salad; cheesy potatoes; and dinner rolls. There was also a table with a variety of large and small cookies; and coolers of water, juice, pop, and coffee. For the toasts, each table got a wine-bottle of sparkling white grape juice. It would have been nice if that had been able to be served cold, but one takes what one can get. Speaking of warm things, the weather was quite warm that day, with only a slight chance of showers, but the hall was nearly stifling, even with all the windows and doors open and three large fans blowing. After dinner and the ceremonial activities, the tossing of the bouquet and garter took place. Melanie caught the bouquet, and Brad got the garter.

The extended families/friends of families/Grandview church people left pretty quickly into the dancing, so the college folks made a large circle where one of the viking helms from the bachelor party made double duty as a selector for dancing exhibition. Anyone wearing the helm entered the circle and did a little dance, then passed it off to another for their turn. I ended up doing a little John Travolta finger-pointing disco maneuver, which got some surprised compliments from a few folks afterward, and Andrew did a really great Robot, and Sky and he did a little gun-slinger number. Dan and Aaron were among the better guys, with someone I don't know doing a lawnmower that I got a kick out of. Meg Marong did some pretty good semi-pro dance moves among the better lady-dancers. Amanda dragged me out to do the Electric Slide, and the dance from the BK commercial, as well as something else similar. Later I joined the YMCA circle on my own. My slow dance card included Melanie, who asked me to dance, which was nice, and later I even got up the courage to ask Megan G. to dance, which was fun too, I think I danced with her at the Valentine's day dance earlier in the year as well.

Around 8 pm, I'd guess, things started winding down, tables and chairs were broken down, leftover food was packaged. I was putting away chairs when a jazzy tune came on, and I started head-bobbing, shuffle-stepping, and finger-snapping, to see if anyone noticed my fun-having-ness, plus it was just fun to do. Brian asked if I would be able to drop him and his leftovers off at the church, where his truck was, and I, being the helpful white knight, immediately accepted. Goodbye hugs took longer that I would have liked; I've got to be a bit more assertive, less afraid to interrupt, I think, without being too aggressive. Eventually we got the van loaded and took off. There were a few cases of pop, trays of food, and a bakery box with an extra cake. Brian asked if there was anything there that I'd like to take, and I selected the cake, since Mom requested I bring her home a piece, but hadn't. It turned out to be a large 8” round, with a pretty purple flower on the top-center. It took about a week to polish off the whole thing.

From a personal growth standpoint, this was kind of a coming out party for me. I'd been sort of familiar with these folks for a couple years, hanging out with Andrew at Behrend, and in the last year, becoming closer to them at church. It's been close to a year for me attending Grandview Alliance, and the social aspects of dancing at the reception let me show them a bit more of my personality. The snapping of my suspenders, and being on the receiving end of Megan's punches are physical signs of my being accepted into their social circle, and Nicki saying she wanted me to come to the reception was another highly evident sign of my being accepted and included into their group. Comments at the reception by Brian, and afterward by Amanda, alluding to my joining the dance circles and otherwise becoming more comfortable around those folks, are a sign to me that they notice a change in my mood and comfort level around them, so the counseling and medication are working.