Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Caring guys

I’m sure you’ve heard a story or two about somebody you know who was on a boat and got deathly seasick.  The adage I find memorable is the one that goes, ‘At first you’re afraid you’ll die.  Then after a time, you’re afraid you won’t!’
Well, trust me, I entered that hall of shame this past weekend on Lake Erie with four other guys out for the proverbial recreational three hour tour.  As you can see from the picture above, ‘seas’ weren’t too bad.  Pretty light, really.  Rolling and frankly, darned lovely.  Wind was good and we were able to make good headway as we tacked out of Toledo Beach Marina on our way out to and around the Toledo light.  We were laughing and having a good time, as friends do when they get together after having not seen each other for a while. 
On the way back in, though, I started to feel a bit clammy, and when the lunch sandwiches came out, I had a bad feeling about trying to eat mine.  Ten minutes later I excused myself to the lower cabin and proceeded to have a very intimate relationship with a bucket stowed on board for just this eventuality.  
Sure enough, things got worse before they got better.  I was totally amazed at how incapacitated I became.  After about 30 minutes of being below deck, I could hardly move.  I could barely raise my head, and had even a harder time opening my eyes.  Plus, I was sweating like a football player in full pads during two-a-days in August.  I was drenched in sweat and moaning like a dying man, offering up the name of a deity in vain from time to time. 
But I really don’t want to focus on that part of the experience in today’s blog.  That memory will be just fine tucked away in my head.  Trust me, you didn’t want to be there.  
What truly moved me, though, was how my friends onboard did everything they could to both get the sailboat back into the slip ASAP, and try their level best to get me taken care of.  It was clear my stomach and head were out of control and there was nothing they could do about them.  They regularly checked on me, though, and offered to do whatever they could.   
As far as I can figure last Saturday afternoon on Lake Erie was the most vulnerable I have ever felt in my life.  And that’s where these special guys came in.  Mike wanted to get me up on deck where I could see a non-moving horizon and could take in some fresh air.  Problem?  I couldn’t move.  He began to calculate how they could carry me up on deck.  
Axel found a little electric fan and directed it on my dripping-with-sweat body.  That felt better.  Both Mike and Axel were concerned about how hot it was below deck and that I was dehydrating right before their eyes.  Still, I begged them to let me be for a few more minutes, hoping I could get myself together.  
After another ten minutes or so, I forced myself up the ladder to collapse, again, on the deck bench on the shady side of the boat.  Inside my head, my voice sounded odd.  I realized my brain wasn’t working right.  That’s when the guys became even more concerned about dehydration.  I took a couple of sips of water, but even that didn’t seem to work.  I experienced dry heaves again on deck, now almost an hour after the boat was tied up. 
After another thirty minutes or so I got to feeling a little better and felt ready enough to try to step up and out of the boat.  Before I tried that, though, a couple of the guys thought it best if they put a life jacket on me, so in case I lost balance and fell, I’d be floating on the water instead of sinking to the bottom.  Dave held my hand as I came safely down the narrow gangway. Then Steve put his arm around me and lead me off the dock to the waiting car where Dave had the air conditioner running.  
Before too long I heard myself laugh, which sounded odd in my head.  I knew by then I was coming around.  I did skip dinner that night, though, spending most of the rest of the evening in bed in front of a fan.  By early Sunday morning, Mike was knocking on our bedroom door with a just-purchased supply of Gatorade, which he thought about at 4 AM, remembering it wasn’t the water I needed so much to regain equilibrium, but the electrolytes
All’s well that ends well, I suppose.  Trust me, we’ll laugh about my afternoon with the boat bucket for years to come.  But for me, it will be the care and concern of amazing friends that got me through one of the toughest days I can remember.  
I offer a heartfelt thank you to Mike, Steve, Dave, and Axel for taking care of me at a time when I flat-out couldn’t.  You exhibited care and concern for a brother that I won’t easily forget.  You’re good guys.   
Today’s Elder Idea:  I never drink water because of the disgusting things that fish do in it. 
W. C. Fields
image:  Rounding the Toledo light and heading for home with Axel and Dave.

Monday, July 23, 2012

That hometown feeling

I’m not one to deify sports figures and elevate them into social ‘model’ positions that transforms them into demi-gods whose behavior I want my grandkids to emulate.  Especially an Ohio guy who picked Michigan as his college of choice. 
Still, Barry Larkin just might be the exception to that rule. 
Like a few of you out there, I am southwest Ohio born and have known myself to be a Cincinnati Reds fan ever since I was aware of baseball.  I remember listening to Waite Hoyt do Reds play-by-play when I was a real youngster,  followed in the radio booth by Jim McIntire, Claude Sullivan, and Al Michaels before Marty Brenneman and Joe Nuxhall took over and created a Reds tradition that has led Marty, himself, to the Hall of Fame as a broadcaster. 
I remember, too, offering special bedtime prayers when the Reds were losing to Pittsburgh, or the Dodgers, on more than one night while on my knees.   Back in the 50s, the Reds were perennial also-rans.  I loved Gus Bell, Johnny Temple, Vada Pinson, Jim O’Toole, Bobby Tolan, Jim Maloney, Wally Post, and so many others, both as a kid just becoming aware of baseball and as a real baseball fan growing into an awareness of Cincinnati baseball history.  I can still remember how lousy my high school buddies and I felt when the Reds thought it a good idea to trade Frank Robinson to Baltimore for Milt Pappas.  Heavens. 
Barry Larkin is a few years younger than I am, but he grew up pretty much like me:  a native Ohio kid born into knowing the Reds as our local boys of summer.  The Reds may have lost more than we wanted, and failed to win championships when we knew they just had to, but they were our guys.  New York and LA may have had the top market teams, but when the Reds played ‘em, we gave ‘em a run for their money.  Well, maybe not the 1961 World Series, but you get my drift.  
Ken Griffey Jr. and Buddy Bell grew up in Cincinnati, too, but their dads were in the Reds’ employ.  Not so Barry Larkin.  Just like the rest of us fans, Larkin grew up playing ball on local diamonds and celebrated the Big Red Machine and the 1975-76 back-to-back World Series championships as reward for all the years of waiting for something good to happen to our guys.  Cincinnati Reds fans waited a damned long time for those championship seasons, and Barry Larkin was one us who savored that success. 
And then Barry became a Red, setting the stage for the next round of Reds World Series success in 1990, going wire-to-wire with sweet Lou Pinella as manager and the infamous Marge Shott as principal owner.  Such a time it was!
Yesterday was Barry’s day in Cooperstown.  Too bad Ron Santo couldn’t have been there to share it personally with Larkin, but Cubs fans present held Santo up and it was very much his day, too.  Makes a guy think seriously about diabetes, I’ll say that.  
I’ve been to Cooperstown once, the same summer Tony Perez was inducted, though Cindy Lou and I got there a few weeks later.  It’s my hope to get grandson Noah to that hallowed ground next month on our way back from a week in Maine.  It would be great to share that wonderful bucolic town -- and America’s love of baseball -- with that young man.  
The Reds have had their successes over time.  I hope they have some magic left in upcoming years that will light us all up like Friday night fireworks at Great American Ballpark.  
We have the Big Red Machine’s Tony Perez, Johnny Bench, and Joe Morgan in the Hall of Fame.  Pete should be there, too, but that’s another story.  Now we have Cincinnati’s own Barry Larkin to be commemorated as one of the best shortstops ever to play the game.  
Thanks for being there for us, Barry.  You make us proud! 
Today’s Elder Idea:  Makes me wonder if Joey Votto will become the first Dayton Dragon to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.  But that’s a long, successful career off. 
How about a few World Series championships first?    
Play ball!    ;-)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Summer extremes

It was just a couple of weeks ago when we in southwestern Ohio boasted high temps in the upper 70s and nights cooling into the 50s with glorious high blue skies all day.  Oh, the joy of cool summer high pressure systems!  
And then -- it seemed overnight -- we morphed into the June from hell with triple digit highs and muggy and warm nighttime lows.  So much for leaving the windows open. 
I am indeed one of those tree hugging types who thinks the planet is warming up too fast due to our industrial lifestyles.  Yes, Earth has been this hot before; and yes, planet temperatures fluctuate in very long cycles that take  millennia to complete.  From my understanding, though, our home planet has not seen such a change in conditions in such a short period of time ever before.  Why should we not be held responsible?  
To complete this thought, let me say, too, that one would be remiss to blame our warmer than normal winter and extreme summer temps strictly on global warming.  I believe the Earth is one heck of a complex system with a myriad shifting parts.  Were this past weekends two summer windstorms a product of global warming, or just the roll of the planet’s dice?  Don’t know.  Still, it seems goofy to me for us to ignore all the carbon we release into the atmosphere, knowing the alterations it can make, and assume we’re doing just fine and there’s no need to adjust how we live.  Just sayin’...
With all of this in mind, though, I made an effort to sit outside in the extreme warmth the last couple of afternoons to just let the heat soak into my body.  Kind of like my enjoying going out to walk in the snow, I suspect.  It’s sensible to stay indoors when weather gets extreme, but for me, I like to get out and feel it a bit.  
Don’t get me wrong.  I’m no brute.  I sat in the shade as much as I could, and after an hour or so, I retreated back into air conditioned comfort.  The thought did come to mind, though, how hard it would have been to have no fans, no air conditioner, no ice in the refrigerator -- no electricity -- like so many of my neighbors are dealing with.  Right now a neighbor’s small freezer has been relocated into our garage for the plug-in power to save all therein from spoiling. 
Originally I thought I’d title this blog ‘An hour on the back porch @ 102 degrees.’  I did, in fact, sit on the back porch in said heat for more than an hour actually.  Some of that time was tending the burgers on the grill, but I was there mostly to do what I like to do most afternoons: sit in the presence of Nature and observe the many beings who venture in to take some sustenance from both what Cindy Lou and I offer and what Wild Grace gives on its own.  For us in summer, it’s mostly fresh water at the birdbaths -- an upper stone dish with a water dripper, and lower basin to catch overflow and aid the folks who can’t get to the upper dish.  We feed a bit, but only sweetwater for the humming birds.  We keep the sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet for winter feeding.  I trust there’s enough natural food out there for everybody.
So how does Nature survive in such heat?  We do our best to water the rooted people in our little patch of Wild Grace.  The tomatoes, I have to say, are going great, but then they have a reputation for liking lots of sun.  Cone flowers, black-eyed susans, and day lilies are doing okay, too, getting deep watering every couple of days.  
But what of the mobile members of Nature?   Here’s a list of what I witnessed in my hour in the heat on the porch: 
  • White breasted nuthatch working the bark on a maple tree
  • A couple chipping sparrows grazing the patio
  • Ubiquitous Carolina chickadees flying in to the water
  • Ruby throated hummingbirds up to the sweetwater about every 5 minutes  (And yes, they fought over it, as you might expect.)
  • Tufted titmouse family at the birdbath  (I have been watching these parents and kids work the yard for food and instruction over the last week.) 
  • Gray catbird (A rather nice find.  We don’t see these guys all that often.  Must be the water feature.) 
  • A half dozen or so American goldfinches
  • A few American robins  (Man, do these guys splash a lot!) 
  • A pair of Northern cardinals
  • A three-some of house finches.  (Two females, one male.  Makes a guy wonder....) 
  • A chipmunk coming into the lower basin 
  • A few bees and insects coming to the water, but I couldn’t tell you who they were.
  • Two red squirrels
  • Four gray squirrels
So as bad as we think it might be at 100+ degrees, the critters seem to take it all in stride.  And as always, it is very entertaining to sit still and watch ‘em work at making their living.  Bless their little hearts. 
Today’s Elder Idea:  When I touch that flower, I am touching infinity.  I learn what I know by watching and loving everything. 

George Washington Carver
image:  Neighborhood damage from the Friday, 29 June, storm.