Archive for March, 2008

#7: Opening Day at Wrigley Field

The big day arrived at last! That morning, the new statue of Ernie Banks was dedicated; we’d watched some of that on WGN before heading out. Of course it was still drizzling as we left the hotel and the forecast called for thunderstorms, so we stopped at Walgreen’s to pick up oh-so-fashionable cheapo rain ponchos before catching the bus to Wrigley. But a little rain wasn’t going to keep us away!

Nor did it damped the spirits of the other happy Cubs fans at Wrigley, waiting to take on those Milwaukee Brewers. We started with our traditional short pilgrimage to the Cubs Grotto at the house on Addison just west of the stadium. Then we went to the Cubs store across from Wrigley, where Cathy, Carol, and I bought floppy hats to help keep the rain at bay. Then it was time to go stand in line for entry to the bleachers, where we had right-field seats. More to follow!

#7 and #8: They’ll Be Here Soon…

… I just need to settle down and write them up! Let’s just say they involve my birthday celebration with my sisters in Burlington, Iowa, and Wrigley Field. Oh, and there’s something about HAIR.

My Vacation in Burlington, Day 4

Miss Cait chauffeured James and me around on the grand tour of Burlington in her cute new Verso (see photo of the cutie and her car). Among the highlights was the visit to the Our Lady of Grace Grotto at St. Mary’s, a rival to Kansas’ own Garden of Eden (well, maybe not exactly, but it was equally kitschy!). We poked around and heard the recording. Then it was back to the casa. While James napped away a headache, Cait and I went down to the restaurant, where she whipped up a tasty Italian salad and cannoli (come to think of it, this was after she made waffles for everyone that morning!).

We watched the first half of KU’s scary Elite Eight game against Davidson, and then had to leave for Galesburg where we were to meet Cathy and Carol and take the train on in to Chicago. Since KU had trouble putting Davidson away, it was tough going; we did catch it on the radio, but I had to keep turning it off. We listened to the tail end of the game in the parking lot at the station — anyone watching us must have thought we were nuts when Davidson missed that final three-pointer at the buzzer!

Our train ride was so easy and smooth. As always, it makes me wish Texas was so darn attached to the one-Texan, one-car mentality I love train travel — it goes back to when the five of us Hughes kids would ride the Zephyr from McCook, Nebraska, to Chicago to see Dad. So coming into Union Station always makes me think of Dad — well, Chicago in general does that!

When we arrived in Chicago, it was raining, so we hauled our gear through the drizzle to the El and then from the El to our hotel, the Days Inn at Clark and Diversy — only a few blocks from Dad’s old apartment (and mine, when I was attending Northwestern way back in 1976-1977!) at 2222 N. Clark! It was cool to be back in the old ‘hood, although there was slight problem with our reservations — our two rooms had only one queen bed per room, and apparently the hotel was sold out! We toughed it out for the first night.

My Vacation in Burlington, Days 1-3

When my sister Cathy announced that she wanted to celebrate my birthday with me and asked, it took me no time at all to come up with the perfect idea: Opening Day with the Cubs! Cathy, Carol, Caity, and Chris had gone to last year’s opening game; I was supposed to have gone, but couldn’t go. So this was a no-brainer. Plus, I decided to make a week of it and just hang with the family in Burlington and mangia mangia at La Tavola! To top that all off, Bradley University had a home stand in Peoria that weekend, which meant I could go see my nephew Chris play ball (See #6!). BONUS! Cathy took care of EVERYTHING, even finding a flight that took me directly to Burlington “International” (ha ha ha!) Airport on March 27.

We had a plethora of birthdays to party on: Caity turned 16 on March 11, Cheryl’s birthday was March 22, and Carol and her best friend James “Celebrity Slut” Woods share a natal day on April 10! So the Wichita contingent of Carol and James drove up on Saturday and joined in on the baseball festivities.

I worked the phones at the restaurant during the lunch hours on Friday and Wednesday. Several people commented, “You HAVE to be another sister!” That was a kick! What was really great was seeing how fond the regulars are of Cheryl and Carlo. Several of Cheryl’s birthday bouquets were still decorating the joint.

Not only was it great fun to hang with my family, but I also enjoyed exploring more of Burlington, which is actually quite charming. Cathy and Cait live over the restaurant in the historic downtown, just two blocks Continue reading ‘My Vacation in Burlington, Days 1-3’

#6: Gordon at the Bat

Everyone who’s ever heard me blab on and on about family knows I’m bonkers about my seven nieces and nephews. Chris Gordon, my oldest nephew at 22 (how is that possible?!), has always been a baseball fanatic. We always attributed some of that to genetics. Chris and my father were basically soulmates, and Dad had grown up worshiping Ted Williams and the Red Sox then added the Cubs to the family baseball altar when he took up residence in the Windy City in 1969. As Chris grew up, his drive and devotion to baseball never waned. He’s a superb athlete, perfectly suited to the sport with his speed, his bat, and his uncanny instincts –– the Natural of our family!

After playing ball for his hometown Colby Community College and the summer Canadian leagues, Chris landed at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, a convenient 96 miles from his mother (my sister Cathy), who lives in Burlington, Iowa. Alas, the transition to BU hasn’t quite panned out as we’d all hoped: Not only is Chris carrying a brutal courseload in cellular and molecular biology (the kid is on his way to his M.D.), but he’s also been relegated to the bench and pinch running/hitting for the Braves.

I hadn’t seen Chris play ball since he was nine or ten, when he came to Austin for UT baseball camp. He had begged his dad to send him to camp, promising, “I’ll pay you back when I make it to the majors”!
Anyway, I FINALLY got to see him in action on March 28, when the Braves took on the Indiana State Sycamores in a bitterly chilly yet sunny day at O’Brien Field, home to Ryne Sandberg’s Peoria Chiefs as well as the BU Braves. After falling behind 6-3, Chris came in to pinch run from second base in the bottom of the eighth inning! When a ball was hit to deep left field, Chris took off only to be thrown out at the plate –– wah! But he played left in the top of the ninth; I don’t think he saw any action. Then in the bottom of the ninth, still trailing, Chris came up to bat, only to receive an intentional walk! He did score (did he?) and BU ended up winning, 8-7, only to drop the next two games against the dreaded Sycamores by identical scores of 16-2! Aunt Cyd sez: A coach whose team isn’t exactly kicking you-know-what really oughta give the guy a chance.

After the game, we went out to dinner and cheered on KU as they dismantled UNLV in the Sweet 16. Chris is as big a KU basketball fan as I am, so that was great fun. But the best part? At 22, Chris knows something it took me nearly 45 years to figure out: He is fully aware that certain things are beyond his control, and all he can do is focus on what he does have control over. He is determined to do the best he can whenever he gets a chance to play. He made me laugh when he announced, “Hey, I’m going to be the king of batting practice. I’ll just keep hitting balls out of the park, and maybe they’ll notice!”

I love that guy!

March Madness: The First Round

March Madness is here, at last! I love the first four days of the tournament, especially when Kansas keeps winning (Sweet 16, here we come!) and when I don’t have to juggle basketball with South by Southwest. So here are some observations on Round 1:

Best Future NBA Name: Joevan Catron, Oregon

Out-There Uniforms: Oregon and Marquette (tie)

God Was on Their Side: Siena Saints

Missed It by That Much: Belmont

My Favorite Upset: San Diego vs. UConn

Best Dred Head: Raymond Sykes, Clemson

Ad That I’ll Be Sick of by Round 2: UPS Whiteboard (what’s up with that guy’s HAIR?!)

Worst Network: CBS (don’t get me started!)

All Cute Team Nominees (so far):

  • Brandon Rush, Kansas
  • Connor Atchley, Texas
  • Joe Alexander, West Virginia
  • Curtis Terry, UNLV
  • Bench: Connor Teahan, Kansas
  • Coach: Jay Wright, Villanova
  • #5: I Go Electric, at Last!

    guitar-friends-small.jpgIt’s been a long time since I received a present that had me bouncing with glee, but my Austin “family” (a.k.a. the Cheesecracker Gang) came through big time: Check out my Fender Squier Bullet Strat, complete with a Spider amp with “insane rock star settings”! I was so excited! Thanks to all who made this possible: Ray and Michelle, Bob and Janis, Brad, Robbie and Joe, Suz, Mervie, Helen and Charles, and of course Jim K. Double/quadruple/super-duper thanks go to Ray, who did the scouting and actual purchasing! Now, if I can just figure out how to rock out! So far, I’ve made Patsy bark only once! (Pictured above: Bob Daemmrich, moi with present, Lynn & David Kindler. Photos by Ray)


    Bragging on the Family Restaurant!

    La Tavola, my family’s restaurant in Burlington, Iowa, made the news again! Check out this article in The Hawkeye! My sister Cheryl reported that when my niece Sofia heard that, she announced, “I am so NOT seven!” (that would be because she’s nine!).

    Guest Blogging Again!

    A modified version of “A Voting Double Dip” is now posted at the Houston Chronicle‘s “Texas on the Potomac” blog as “Doing the Texas Two-Step”! And when you Google “Texas two step Hughes,” look what happens!

    #4: A Voting Double Dip

    Texas Primary Day should be a holiday. Even with record numbers for early voting all over the state, I waited, for I like to cast my vote on the actual day. I warmed up last night by going to the Hillary rally at Burger Center (she was great, by the way; I need to write that one up!). After much soul-searching, I had hit upon a brilliant plan for my own version of the Texas Electoral Two Step (and another Fab First!).

    Step One: Around 10 a.m., Patsy Clementine and I walked over to my precinct at nearby Lanier High School. All was calm, and we signed right in and cast our vote. I do like Hillary a lot; and I don’t care what the Obama folks say, Hillary probably does have stronger experience. Plus, this is my first time EVER to vote for a woman for president. So Patsy and I cast our vote for Hillary Clinton; I did get goosebumps when I reviewed my ballot before casting and saw “U.S. President: Hillary Clinton”! One for the ladies and the future! (And that was Patsy’s first vote, but I don’t think she even noticed!)

    Step Two: I managed to get some work done while waiting to return for the Precinct 161 Caucus. I arrived around 7 p.m. and joined 150 or so of my neighbors in the cafeteria. By 7:15 p.m., the numbers had swelled to close to 400, a heartening mix of races and ages, men and women. Even though everyone in Texas had known for two weeks that voting turnout was huge among Dems, the party had not planned for such huge numbers at the caucus (our usual turnout was more like 60!). It made me think of my sister Cathy, who had been immersed in the Iowa caucuses; I found myself wishing for an influx of Iowa volunteers to help us Texans figure out how to run our caucus! They’d get it done!

    Our beleaguered temporary precinct chair took the stage and admitted to being overwhelmed by the turnout. She tried her best to shout out instructions on how the caucus would work, but that was tough, since she didn’t have a microphone. A few groans ran through the crowd when she announced that the county organization hadn’t sent enough sign-in sheets, so they would have to go make copies. The groans escalated when someone popped up to say copies would have to made off site, because the school library was locked. Fortunately, a woman behind me stood up and said, “I have a key!” She saved the day, bless her! Once the copying crisis was resolved, the chair called for 10 volunteers to help with sign-in; about 30 people rushed up to the stage!

    By 7:37, our chair called the caucus to order and the sign-in mob started. Here’s where I launched the second prong of my cunning plan: I caucused for Barack! By 7:47 p.m., I was signed up. A few minutes later the sign-up volunteers are shouting out for more signees and it wrapped up neatly, considering the onslaught of numbers. By then, the crowd easily dropped by more than half.

    The counting started at 7:55 p.m. With this being a caucus, we had to total up the number of signees and then apply a formula to calculate how to allocate the 33 delegates from Precinct 161. Unfortunately, my hopes for another 2008 first –– seeing if I could be a delegate to the National Convention –– were dashed by my own timing: The Travis County convention is March 29, but I’ll be in Illinois enjoying an upcoming Fab First (details to follow as the date approaches — I’m sworn to secrecy!). So much for Denver Delegate idea! Even so, I thought I’d stick around and see what transpired. Within minutes, our “temporary” precinct chair and secretary were elected “permanent” officers. We were then divvied up into our respective groups and chose a representative to help count.

    8:10 p.m. While waiting on the final talley, I checked in on the caucus’s main competition, the UT-Nebraska basketball game at the Erwin Center. Score: UT 55 and Nebraska 52 with 7:09 left –– whoa! A few minutes later, Texas was up 58-52. Someone announced he had two Obama posters to give away and played “Hickory Dickory Dock” to get down from eight or nine to the two winners. By 8:18, oooh! The Huskers are still in it, down 2 with 2:54 left. Then it’s tied 61 all with 44 seconds to go!!! Some excitement!

    8:27 p.m.: The delegate counts are announced: 20 for Barack and 13 for Hillary. And Texas pulls it out 70-66 — dang it! From there, our group chose 20 delegates and 20 alternates. And that was that.

    Postscript at 9:45 p.m. Jeffrey Toobin just told Anderson Cooper on CNN, “This is a disgrace, what Texas is doing, making people who voted in the afternoon come back, wait in line … having a primary in a caucus in the same day. … Subjecting people to a system like that and allocating votes for president of the U.S. on such an insane system, I think Texas should be ashamed of itself.” I beg to differ! It allowed me to double dip and vote twice!

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