Monday, May 31, 2010

Freezing Ass River

(Pardon the title: it came from a co-worker who was talking about her need to jump in a Nevada or California river, never mind that it just stopped snowing.)

LC and I made our first visit to Nevada in 1993.  As part of our exploration of the Sierras and the Lake Tahoe region, we drove up to Donner Lake.  It was early September, and we decided to take a dip.

I think that's the coldest body of water I've ever been in, including the Potomac River in Williamsport for the annual New Year's Day Polar Bear Plunge in 2003.  LC said she shivered all night, and she could feel the cold in her bones!  By comparison, Lake Tahoe the next couple days felt almost like bath water.  (Well, not quite, but it was quite a bit warmer.)

We haven't gone swimming in Tahoe, Pyramid Lake, or the Truckee River since we've moved here, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time.  I guess as a result of getting older, I'm not as much an aficionado of ignoring the temperature unless it's for something like a brief Polar Bear Plunge.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Growing up in the inner city of Baltimore (mine was defined as an inner city neighborhood), we had to find different ways to keep ourselves occupied in the summertime.  Besides street football and bike riding, we would play stepball.

Stepball was generally a one-on-one game.  It was a derivative of baseball in which the "batter" would throw a baseball-sized rubber ball against the front or back steps to see how far it went before the fielder could get it.  Such balls were either bought at one of the corner stores for a quarter, or found floating in Herring Run after a rainstorm.

The best hits resulted from hitting the ball against the corner of a step, especially to get a nice line drive.  Here's how we scored it, depending on whether it was the front or back yard:

  • Single (Front or back): Ground ball that got past the fielder.
  • Double: Fly ball that (F) landed at least halfway across the street, or (B) in the front half of the alley.
  • Triple: Fly ball that (F) landed between the street and the far sidewalk, or (B) in the back half of the alley.
  • Home run: Fly ball that (F) reached the far sidewalk or further, or (B) the garage or yard across the alley.
  • Foul: Usually landing (F) outside the width of the yard where the steps were, or (B) in either of the adjacent yards.  Or, to the consternation of my mother, (F or B) any ball that hit the steps but bounced up onto the porch, often hitting the screen door.
Playing out front was more difficult because of the cars that would often be parked right in our field of play, not to mention the ones that dared interfere by driving through.  But we were less likely to hit the front door with a foul ball, thanks to the huge porch.  On occasion, we'd put a ball up atop the porch, but that takes skill.

A high school classmate of mine found stepball fascinating when he came to visit the summer between  freshman and sophomore years.  Of course, as the son of a bank executive, he'd never been in an inner city neighborhood.  He later showed me a version of baseball he'd invented on his tennis court.  (Other "rich kids" loved exploring my neighborhood.  One wanted to find rats along Herring Run and go walking through the sewers.)

Up at the nearby elementary school, kids often played "wallball", using similar principles for how far a ball would go for what kind of hit it was.  But the batter actually used a bat, standing in front of a rectangle painted on the building.  That way, the pitcher had his own strike zone, and the ball would come right back to him.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

We Really Used To Sing This, Exhibit 1

Written Perpetrated by Tom Parker, 1968  (In our critique of the St. Louis Jesuits, Haugen-Haas, Tom Conry, etc., we forget that Parker, Jack Miffleton, and Ray Repp -- with the complicity of WLP -- started this Spirit-of-Vatican-II descent into Liturgical Music Hades.)

Let All The Earth Sing His Praise

REFRAIN: Let all the earth sing his praise and joyful voices raise, for his mercy reaches out to ev'ry land.  (I used to think it was "BEFORE his mercy reaches out."  I wanted to make sure I raised my joyful voice in time!)

1. Sing, men, of distant China, tell of his worth
From Italy to the icy sea of the North.  (All those syllables were crammed in toward the end of the line.)
Men who ride on elephants and men who work in stores; (how sexist!)
Jesus is Lord of all the earth. (In other words, ignore those three previous lines.)

2. Come, dance, and run before him all you who can,
from Baltimore to the distant shore of Japan. (I think that's why our parish sung this so much; it mentioned good old Bawlamer.  But why?)
Men (again!) who plow the endless (?) plains your Savior is at hand: Jesus the hope of ev'ry land.  (Again, a mention of Jesus covers up everything else.)

3. Hear us men of France and Sweden, boys of Peru, (Did Parker influence Steely Dan to use a bunch of geographic references?)
all children of the sea, girls (finally) of Brittany, too. (Um, excuse me, but Brittany is in the aforementioned France.)
Babies who ride on camels trudging seas of sand: (Metrically, this line, and most of those in the verses, make no musical sense.)
Jesus, your brother's callin' you. ("Callin'" is how Parker wrote it.)

And this was called liturgical music.  I think I'd prefer "Headin' out to Eden, yea, brother . . ." from Star Trek.