Month: April 2016 (Page 1 of 2)

(Near) Brush With Celebrity

I’ll run through a whole spring sports roundup next week. But one quick, funny story worth sharing now.

Wednesday L had soccer practice and C had a softball game at the same time, at the same complex. I dropped C off at her diamond, walked L over to her field, and then returned to the softball side and dropped my chair beyond the left field fence. The girls were still warming up and I heard a group from the other team talking, in excited, high-pitched voices, about something that had to do with the Indiana Pacers. I couldn’t quite get the details, though, so forgot about it.

The game began, C’s team batted first and scored a run. In the bottom of the first, she ran out to her spot in centerfield. She saw where I was sitting and kept going until she reached the fence in front of me. She had a huge smile on her face and her eyes were wide. Something had her wound up.

“Dad!” she said. “Monte Ellis is here watching his son play baseball! He signed the jerseys of the other team. YOU HAVE TO GO GET SOMETHING SIGNED FOR ME!”

And then she ran back to her spot.

I just shook my head. The kid has never watched a Pacers game. She has no idea who Monte Ellis is. But she heard other girls got his autograph and wanted one for herself. Which I had to laugh at.

Later I found out that Ellis indeed was a couple diamonds over. A dad I know from St. P’s said his son played Ellis’ son’s team and Ellis signed autographs for all the kids that came over between innings.

Which is pretty cool. Especially given what happened to the Pacers Tuesday night.

I’ve paid almost no attention to the Pacers this year. I bet I’ve watched a total of 60 minutes of their games. Seems like every time I turned on their games they were blowing a lead at the end. So I hadn’t developed any strong feelings about Ellis, who was their big free agent signing last summer. But based on how he handled a bunch of annoying kids the day after a crushing loss, he’s now one of my very favorite Pacers.

Favorite Frightened Rabbit Lyrics

I’m already getting pre-show nerves for the Frightened Rabbit show tomorrow night. I first heard the band on June 20, 2008[1] and pretty much since then they’ve held the title as my Favorite Current Band[2]. I’ve seen them on TV a few times, listened to a few streamed shows, but this will be the first time I get to stand in the same venue as them and hear them play. Can they deliver on nearly eight years of build-up?

I imagine only a few of my readers have sampled their music since I began evangelizing for them. A consistent element of my praise for the band is Scott Hutchison’s lyrics. With that in mind, here are my favorite FR lyrics from their five albums, offered in chronological order. All lyrics are pulled directly from the band’s site, thus the British spellings.

As lyrics that are perfect when listened to often fall flat when read without the music they were written with, I’ve linked to the best YouTube version of each song so you can follow along if you like.

The Modern Leper” – 2008
My favorite FR song doesn’t have one single lyric that sticks out. It’s more a sum of the various lines that makes it so great. But I do love this line where Hutchison wonders if it isn’t better to be dead than live through the pain he feels. Favorite song of 2008, favorite song of the ‘00s.

I am ill, but I’m not dead
I don’t know which of those I prefer

Good Arms Vs. Bad Arms” – 2008
The first FR song I ever heard is loaded with amazing lines. Two stand out. First, Hutchison aims his anger at his ex’s new lover.

I am armed with the past and the will and a brick
I might not want you back but I want to kill him

Hutchison often builds his songs to devastating closing lines. That’s true here, where he ends with a heartbreakingly honest, and pathetic, confession.

Leave the rest at arm’s length
I’m not ready to see you this happy
Leave the rest at arm’s length
I am still in love with you, can’t admit it yet

Head Rolls Off” – 2008.
By the fall of ’08, I was deep, deep, deep into this album. On different days, different lyrics would resonate with me. In the last week or so before L was born, one in particular from this song kept going through my head. If I do nothing else in my life, I’ve made three tiny changes to earth.

You can mark my words,
I’ll make changes to earth
While I’m alive, I’ll make tiny changes to earth

Backwards Walk” – 2008
The Midnight Organ Fight slowly moves through all the emotions that hit following a painful breakup. We’ve all reached that point where we say, “Today, I’m starting over. I’m forgetting about her/him and moving on!” Here, Hutchison points out that that is often easier said than done.

I’m working on erasing you
I just don’t have the proper tools
I’ll get hammered, forget that you exist
But there’s no way I’m forgetting this

His closing line is brilliant here, too.

You’re the shit and I’m knee deep in it

Keep Yourself Warm” – 2008
So many FR songs are about regretting your actions taken in the heat of the moment. On “Keep Yourself Warm,” Hutchison faces the truth that a one-night stand does not wash away the pain you were filled with the day before. It is also a fine example of his raw honesty.

It takes more than fucking someone to keep yourself warm

Floating In The Forth” – 2008
When Hutchison’s mother first heard this song, he had to assure her that, no, he was not really contemplating suicide. But there was a point where he wondered if he could live with the pain he was overwhelmed by. Another one of his techniques is to take a song filled with negative emotions and find a glimmer of hope by the end. That’s most apparent on this, the final song of Organ Fight. Following these lines, the music explodes into a bright, glorious, almost angelic coda that is the sound of sun peaking through the clouds, and a promise that things will get better.

Take your life, give it a shake
And gather up all your loose change
I think I’ll save suicide for another year.

Nothing Like You” – 2010
The Winter of Mixed Drinks treads many of the same areas as the previous album. Once again Hutchison wrote in the time following a breakup. Yet the album doesn’t sound like a rehash of Organ Fight. Here, he is admits that for all the good that comes from a new relationship, the new person doesn’t wipe out everything left from the last person.

She was not the cure for cancer
And all of my questions still ask for answers

Footshooter” – 2010
Perhaps FR’s best song, it is, again, about the consequences of your actions. This is my single favorite FR lyric. Favorite song of 2010.

Lock up your ears, my dear, I’m verbal when I am loaded

Holy” – 2013
Hutchison is no fan of organized religion. While this song most directly addresses people telling him that he needs to find God, I’ve always thought it is aimed at anyone who tries to tell you how to live your life. Favorite song of 2013.

I don’t mind being lonely
Leave me alone
You’re acting all holy
Me, I’m just full of holes

Dead Now” – 2013
A gem that does not get played live often, but is full of amazing, alliterative twists and turns. Another song that gets two entries.

I’ve gone devilled my kidneys
Now he’s living inside of me

How fantastic is that line? Then this is just an amazing way to end the song.

There’s something wrong with me
And it reads nothing like poetry
So will you love me spite of these
Tics and inconsistencies
There is something wrong with me

I Wish I Was Sober” – 2016
The second verse of this song might be the greatest combination of lyrics and music in the band’s history. It’s just phenomenal. This is the second half of that second verse.

My love, you should know
The best of me left hours ago so
Shove a rag into my mouth and let me smoulder
The fall out and the damage done
I can’t un-sink the things I’ve sunk
Still not giving up, though I wish that I was sober

An Otherwise Disappointing Life” – 2016
I love this little coda added on as the song hits its musical peak, which fits the mood of the entire album: the power of a relationship to lift you above your shortcomings and hangups.

In the hollow chapel suffering in silence you’re the choir
that sings this otherwise disappointing life back to life

Break” – 2016
My favorite song off the new album, which makes it a strong contender for song of the year.

Nothing’s worse
Than realising who you’ve hurt

  1. I remember this because it was my birthday. I first discovered them by the once wonderful, but no longer posting, I Am Fuel, You Are Friends site. I read Heather’s Post in which she interviewed Hutchison, listened to a couple songs, and used my birthday iTunes card to buy the FR album moments later.  ↩
  2. Ryan Adams and The War on Drugs have both challenged that title, but FR always reclaims it.  ↩

Purple Links

Man, were there some great Prince-related articles over the past week. Here are some of my favorites.

Joe Posnanski used Prince’s death as an excuse to look back on his epic Super Bowl halftime show. Although the Colts won that night, my biggest memories of the evening are Prince’s performance and how cold it was that night when I took the trash out after the game.[1] What a crappy game.

His Kingdom

Consequence of Sound looked back at, well, A Brief History of Prince Being Prince.

Jonah Keri wrote about the broader meaning of Prince, and entertainers like him, for our culture. He has some great videos embedded, including the legendary Rock ’n Roll Hall of Fame performance from 2004. I had never seen the performance of “Nothing Compares 2 U” with Mary J. Blige before.

Why icons like Prince dominate our attention and imagination

Two pieces from Questlove. First, his story from awhile back about roller skating with Prince.

Next, his proper eulogy for the man.

In This Life, You’re on Your Own

Another story about an evening with Prince.

Purple Tuesday

A couple years back I posted the video from the night that “Purple Rain” was performed for the first time, and from which much of the album version was pulled, during that 36 hours or so it was online. Anil Dash breaks the song down to its component parts. Thanks to John N. for sending this my way.

I Know Times Are Changing

This here is fine reporting. Go find someone that doesn’t, at first glance, seem to have a connection with Prince and learn that indeed there is one.

‘Defying description’: ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons on Prince the ‘sensational’ guitarist 

Finally, Rob Harvilla had fine advice for anyone who was a fan.

Mourn Prince However You Can, For As Long As You Want

  1. The windchill was something insane like –20.  ↩

Album Review: Painting Of A Panic Attack

We all thought that I might change as I got older

“Wish I Was Sober” – Frightened Rabbit

Every band that survives its lean, early days and captures some measure of public attention and success must grapple with the challenges of how to keep the magic going as they move into their musical middle age. Success opens new doors, and bands will quite often make different choices as they step into their 30s. Families are begun. Touring wears. Friendships that the band were built on may fray and fracture.

Frightened Rabbit was in exactly that spot as they approached their fifth album. Following a lengthy tour in support of 2013’s Pedestrian Verse, the band was burnt out and sick of each other. One member left, permanently. Lead singer and main artistic force Scott Hutchison fled his native Scotland for Los Angeles – and a new girlfriend – where he released a solo album and contemplated the future of the band. “Does the world need another Frightened Rabbit album?” was the question he says he continually asked himself.

Tentatively, he decided the answer was yes. He wrote in LA while the rest of the band worked on music in Scotland. Eventually they connected in Brooklyn with producer Aaron Dessner, of The National, and began putting the tracks together. The persistent early word was that the album was very different from previous FR efforts. When the track list was released earlier this year, it looked like something a Frightened Rabbit parody band would put out. Songs like “I Wish I Was Sober,” “Woke Up Hurting,” and “An Otherwise Disappointing Life” seemed like titles someone making fun of the band’s famously morose sensibilities would make up.[1] But lead single “Get Out” soothed fears that the band had gone off in some odd direction.

Then the album hit. It didn’t sound that different, yet it seemed to be lacking something. Where previous FR albums pushed to wring every last ounce of emotion from each song, so many tracks on Painting of a Panic Attack felt restrained and guarded. Where old songs soared majestically or exploded messily, these glided and simmered. After my first full week of listening to it, I was a little disappointed. Dessner said he wanted to give the songs room to breathe, and my first impression was he stole something essential from the band.

But in my second week of listening to the album, it began to come together. Frightened Rabbit have had beautiful moments in the music, but you would rarely call their albums beautiful. Painting of a Panic Attack is incredibly beautiful, and rewards the listener who sticks with it. Musically, it’s the best album they’ve ever done. And for that Dessner deserves immense credit.

Lyrically, well Hutchison can’t help but write wonderful lyrics. Perhaps this album isn’t as raw and bloody as he has been in the past, but it’s still painfully open and honest. In the past he’s generally been focused on romantic failure and its resulting traumas. This album was written when he was living in a relationship rather than trying to recover from one. But many of the songs remain about his admittedly manic approach to love. He points out the dangers of falling so hard, so quickly. He sings of how the relationship helps him mask his perceived flaws and insecurities. There are several “us against the world” moments, where he sings of he and his girlfriend being an oasis of normal (to them at least) in a strange and brutal world.

The best song, to me, is “Break”, a ripping track that is a partial apology by Hutchison to the rest of the band as a whole, and to his brother, drummer Grant, in particular. In his interviews for the album release, Scott admitted that he acted horribly toward his bandmates for a significant stretch of that inter-album period. On “Break” he acknowledges his behavior:

Nothing’s worse
Than realizing who you’ve hurt
I didn’t bend and now we eat the consequence

But I love how he couches his apology in the chorus:

If I bend then I might not break
I should thing about giving in
If I bend then I might be okay
I should think about how it ends

If he bends. He should consider changing his behavior. And the title is “Break” not “Didn’t Break” or “Don’t Break.” He admits that he’s acted like an ass, but he’s not quite sure if he’ll make the changes needed to repair that damage. Like so much of the album, he can never go quite all the way.

Painting of a Panic Attack is a fine album. Musically, it’s gorgeous, full of fantastic lyrics, and gets better with each listen. But that sense of holding back bothers me. This is a band that is so good when they cut loose and let the emotion pour out freely. That only happens a few times on the album, and even then those moments are cut short.

Still, while the magic has evolved a bit, it has not gone away. Hutchison might be in a different place, but as he’s gotten older, he’s not lost his ability to turn his demons into wonderful music.

A quick postscript. As I mentioned, I planned on posting this last Thursday. Then Prince died and that changed everything I was thinking about musically. This review becomes a little more significant by delaying it four days because this Friday is the night Frightened Rabbit make their first ever live appearance in Indianapolis. Yes, I will be there. Yes, I’m ridiculously excited. And, yes, I will share far too many words about the evening next week.

  1. Not only are these real FR song titles, they’re three of the best songs on the album.  ↩

I’ve always secretly made fun of those folks who get all emotional when a public figure dies. No matter what effect their work had on your life, I didn’t understand how an actor or singer or whoever dying would cause you to show public grief.

I think I understand those people a little more today.

Yesterday sadness for Prince’s death slowly grew within me. I spun his tunes, I listened to the two SiriusXM stations that had his songs on repeat and were taking calls from fans, I watched MTV – which had his videos in constant rotation – and VH1 – which was showing Purple Rain on repeat – and checked in on the news channels to catch parts of their pieces. I read tribute pieces online and watched the handful of videos of his live performances that he could not get removed from YouTube. All that slowly combined to make me pretty damn sad by the end of the night. At one point I was reading tributes that other celebrities had posted. While scrolling through those, “The Cross” came on my iPad and it was almost too much. Watching the performance of “Purple Rain” at about 12:10 AM with some bourbon in my system was not a dry-eyed moment.

I thought about how silly that was. Yes, I was sad that a man who meant so much to me had died suddenly. But why? I had not bought an album of his in nearly 20 years. The last album of his that I put in high rotation was *Diamonds and Pearls* in 1991. The majority of my best memories of Prince came from 30 years ago.[1] Those songs, videos, and movies are not disappearing with his death. I’ve been listening to them again all morning.

So why do we get sad when a person we never knew dies?

I guess a chunk of that sadness is actually our way of saying thanks. Regardless of your view of what happens to people when they die, I think being sad is a way of sending out signals that you appreciate what that person did when they were alive to contribute to your happiness.

There’s probably some kind of yearning for our youth wrapped up in it, too. But since I hate that kind of discussion, I’ll skip it.

Our own, personal grief certainly gets wrapped up in it as well. I never saw Prince live. I was supposed to back in early 1998, but came down with the worst case of the flu I’ve ever had and sold my ticket. I was so sick I went to my mom and step-dad’s house for two days and she brought me Advil and Sprite and chicken noodle soup while I laid on the couch moaning. I was thinking of that last night, and remembered that concert was about six weeks before my mom died. I’m sad my step-dad is gone, too.

You can’t help but pull these moments that are specific to your life into this larger, universal moment of sadness.

I was comforted that, through Facebook, texts, emails, and regular conversations yesterday, I saw that so many of my friends were having similar feelings. Well, I’m not happy so many of my friends were sad, but you know what I mean.

I’ve never felt that way I do now after someone I admired, but was not related to, died. In a weird way, I guess there’s no better tribute than that.

And now, “Sometimes It Snows In April” just came on and I think I need another minute to myself.

I used to cry for Tracy because I wanted to see him again

  1. The ones that stood out the strongest: seeing the “1999” video for the first time; hearing “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy” constantly in the summer of 1984; the first time I heard “Raspberry Beret” and, like so many people, not appreciating its genius immediately; watching the “Kiss” video with my classic rock loving uncle, who hated every second of it.  ↩

Damn It All

I was minutes away from posting an album review when the news about Prince dying hit.

What a terrible day.

I admired Bowie, but he was hardly vital to me growing up. When he died I wondered what aging rocker death would have the biggest impact on me. It would be sad when McCartney and Ringo died. Plant and Page, Daltry and Townsend would cause reflection. But those guys were all of my parents’ generation. And, honestly, based on what was played in my house when I was growing up, I will be much sadder when Stevie Wonder dies.

But for my generation, and the music of our youth, Prince is it. For me, he was above Michael, Bruce, and the other giants of the 80s. He was the synthesis of all the different kinds of music my parents played, put into a very modern context. He proved that white kids in the suburbs could like “black music” and rock at the same time, especially when it was all blended together.

I’m going to sit on that album review for awhile. And go listen to a lot of Prince.


The Force Is Strong With This One


L finally got to watch The Force Awakens Sunday. I believe that she thought it was worth the wait.

We had a pretty busy weekend, so I was worried we would have trouble squeezing it in. But we popped it into the player after breakfast yesterday and were able to knock it out before her first soccer game of the season.

I have been very guarded about spoilers ever since I saw the movie in December. If she, or any of the other girls, asked a question about whether this character was in it, or if that character died, I always refused to answer. I figured she picked up some insight at school, but for the most part, she seemed to be watching relatively spoiler free. Especially concerning the biggest moment of the film.

She loved all the new characters. She won’t say if she had a favorite yet, but she thought both Rey and Finn were pretty cool. BB–8 made her laugh. She thought it was cool that there were female storm troopers, too. And she giggled each time one of the old characters popped up. Especially Chewbacca, which is her favorite. She was very happy that the Wookie had a big part.

In fact, she was due for a new fish[1] and when we bought one on Saturday, she named it Chewbacca.

The whole time we were watching I was dreading the big scene. (Ok, it’s been almost five months so I figure it’s ok to drop spoilers.) How would she react to Kylo Ren killing Han Solo? At C’s softball practice Friday, I was talking to a dad about that exact scene. He’s been reluctant to let his first grade son watch only because of that scene. I honestly didn’t think it would have a huge impact on L. She tends to separate TV/movie myth from reality pretty well. And she doesn’t have the same connection with the original characters a lot of us grownups who were shaken by that scene had.

I think she did ok. She didn’t say anything, react negatively, or even get quiet after that scene. I, on the other hand, had kind of a tough time with it. It was a shock when I saw it the first time, and I felt more disbelief than anything. This time, knowing it was coming, man, it got a little dusty in our basement.

I say I think she did ok because after the movie she threw herself on the couch and started crying. She’s getting some molars and had been complaining of mouth pain for a few days. And that’s what she said was making her cry. But who knows, maybe she was a little overwhelmed by the movie as a whole or that scene in particular.

Last night I asked her what her favorite part was. She said, “Mmmmm, the whole thing.” And she asked how long until the next movie comes out. And she is waiting for our next free night to watch all the DVD extras.

  1. Grizzly, her Betta of over 2.5 years, finally went belly-up just before spring break. C’s fish Princess died last week; the cold house during our furnace-less stretch was too much for her old body. C wasn’t in the mood to get a replacement Saturday so she’s currently fish-less.  ↩

⦿ Friday Links

This story has gotten a lot of attention over the past couple days, so odds are many of you have already read it. But it’s worth sharing, if only because it proves what we learned in Finding Nemo: all drains lead to the sea.

Octopus slips out of aquarium tank, crawls across floor, escapes down pipe to ocean

Om Malik writes about how our relationship with photography, and the meaning of the photos we are taking more often than ever, is changing.

In the Future, We Will Photograph Everything and Look at Nothing

I read this article before spring break, and I couldn’t help but think about it as I stood on the Alabama shore last week. It’s a little math-y, but don’t let that deter you from reading. Cartographer Andy Woodruff shares his maps that show what is directly across the world from you when you look out from the shore. Some of these will blow your mind, as the results are not what you would expect.

Beyond the sea

Speaking of spring break, original MTV VJ Alan Hunter shares his memories of the channel’s first broadcast from spring break down south.

But those frat boys are chanting, and I couldn’t understand what the chant was. “Hunter is da-da-da-da! Hunter is something something!” I got up close to one of them, and I was kind of chanting with them, not knowing what I’m chanting—and I realize they’re saying, “Hunter’s got a woody!”

MTV’s First Spring Break VJ Remembers What Spring Break Was Like Before Camera Phones

Following the death of Gary Shandling, Ian Crouch broke down all the meanings hidden in a picture taken of Shandling, David Letterman, and Jay Leno on stage with Johnny Carson in 1988.

A Garry Shandling Photograph That Closes the Book on a Late-Night Era

I don’t know if it’s a milestone really worth commemorating, but we just passed the 30th anniversary of the first “Van Hagar” album, 5150. It was kind of a big deal at the time, and I think I listened to it about 8 million times over the following summer.

Sammy takes us back to those heady days.

Van Halen’s ‘5150’: Sammy Hagar Looks Back

A quick look back to college basketball, and something my alma mater can be proud of, in stark contrast to at least two of the schools that advanced to the Final Four.

How The Kansas Jayhawks Can Help Stop the Madness

Finally, pretty much everything about North Korea is fascinating. So devote some time to reading through and viewing this accounting of Erick Tseng’s visit to the most closed-off country in the world last fall.

8 Days In North Korea

March Books

I’m getting a little behind on my reading. I did knock out four books last night – that includes a photography book not listed below – but we’re halfway into April and I’m only halfway through my current book, with about 300 pages to go. Spring break, kid sports, watching baseball most evenings, and a huge book have ground things to a halt. I’ll get back on book-a-week track over the summer.

Anyway, since this is delayed, some quick reviews of my three March books.

The Magician’s Land – Lev Grossman. The final entry in Grossman’s Magician trilogy, it wrapped things up in a mostly pleasing manner. I thought the book drug along a bit in the first third-to-half, but like volume 2, the pace picked up dramatically toward the finish. Still thought the first book was the best of the three, though.

The Lost City of Z – David Grann. Once I read a ton of travel books. In fact, around the turn of the millennium, that was about all I read. These days, I rarely slip one into my selections. This was a pleasant reminder of why I enjoy the genre so much. It’s not a pure travel book: although the author does spend some of the book picking his way through the Amazon, it’s more about British explorer Perry Fawcett’s obsession with finding the city Z, a mythical, lost city that some believed had been the center of a large, ancient civilization in the Amazon.

Grann does a nice job balancing Fawcett’s biography and how he came to be an explorer, the various missions into the Amazon in the early decades of the 20th century, and the efforts to find Fawcett – or his remains – after he disappeared in the early 1920s, along with Grann’s own travels.

It’s pretty amazing to read this book and realize that not only is the Amazon still a rather mysterious and impenetrable part of the world – well, where it hasn’t been burned down – but within our lifetimes there have still been tribes discovered that were unknown to “civilized” culture.

Leaving Berlin – Joseph Kanon. Finally, continuing my work through books that landed on Best Of lists for 2015, this excellent spy thriller. It is built on a fascinating time and setting: Berlin in 1948, before the city was physically divided and during the airlift by the western powers to resupply their sectors that had been cut off by the Soviets.

The main character is Alex Meier, a German-Jewish writer who fled the Nazis in the early 1930s for America, but who has been deported back to Germany because of his Socialist/Communist leanings. However, Meier has secretly been offered a chance to get back to the US to see his young son if he spies for the American intelligence service. As a writer, Meier wonders how he can assist, but his handler insists that simply by keeping his ears open in the Soviet sector of Berlin, he will provide valuable information.

Upon his arrival, he is almost immediately contacted by an old acquaintance who is an ambitious member of the new East German intelligence service. He wants Meier to spy for him.

Meier’s ex-lover is the companion of the head of the Soviet command in Berlin, offering him access to kind of information both the Americans and East Germans are looking for.

And another pre-war connection is hiding a Nazi past that Meier puts to good use.

Things get messy quick, but Meier takes to his triple life almost as quickly. While this is a fine spy story on its own, the setting is what really makes the book shine. Between the rubble left from the war, the coldness of the winter, the presence of occupation forces everywhere, and the constant rumblings of the airlift transports overhead, there is a strong feeling of pressure and discomfort from all sides. It’s easy to see how people like Meier, who wouldn’t otherwise be involved in espionage, could get sucked in simply to find relief from the pressure and survive.

Silly Season Begins

Our spring sports season begins today. M and C both have their first kickball games, while L has a soccer practice. All at the same time. At three different locations. This is my life on Wednesdays for the next month. C is also playing softball, so there are a couple nights where she has both a kickball and softball game. Fortunately that happens just twice so she can miss one of each and we won’t offend either coach too much.

M is excited about her fifth season of kickball. No St. P’s sixth graders are playing, and they like to keep the teams big in the spring since so many girls are playing multiple sports. So she’s on the A team, and it is made up entirely of her grade-mates.

This is C’s first season of kickball. She wasn’t that excited about playing, but we talked her into playing this year since she’ll probably run track next spring.[1] I haven’t watched her practice but she says she’s doing well and enjoying it. They mix fourth and third graders in the spring so the third graders can play with girls who already know the rules and understand the game a little.

Her first softball game is this coming Monday. She moves up to kid pitch this year. She’s only been to two practices because of weather issues and our spring break, but in those practices she was still smacking the ball pretty well. She struggles a bit in the field. I really should work with her more on that. But she’s kind of like Ted Williams: she thinks about hitting all the time and would be perfectly fine if she never had to make a play in the field.

And L is on a soccer team that has eight first graders from St. P’s. Practices so far have been a big goofball fest as they all mess around the entire time. There’s one poor kid who goes to a different school stuck with this group. Fortunately, he looks like a pretty good player, so I’m sure they’ll adopt him without any issues. Her season begins on Sunday.

Next week is when we really get busy. Monday we have kickball and softball games at the same time. Tuesday is open. Wednesday we have kickball practice, a kickball game, and a soccer game. Thursday we have a kickball game. Friday we have a kickball game and softball practice. Saturday we have a softball game. And Sunday we have a soccer game. Then repeat through the first week of May when we hit the kickball tournaments and things should calm down a little. Fortunately I will have a lot of help from grandparents, aunts, and other parents so as long as I keep organized, every girl should get to every event on time.

As for baseball, I eased into this season. I was ready for it to begin, but there was also a part of me that didn’t want to give up on the winter of the Royals being World Series champs. Throw in us being out-of-town and the Royals odd scheduled the first week, and it was easy to put off jumping into the new year.

I watched the last 3–4 innings of opening night on ESPN, but didn’t renew my MLB.TV subscription until this Monday, so the next four games I only followed casually via Yahoo. But the last two nights I’ve listened to the game through the early innings, then turned the TV on once the girls are in bed. I feel those familiar summer rhythms rippling below the surface, ready to break through and carry me across the warm months.

As I told a few friends, I’ve had weird flashbacks to October as I’ve watched games the last two nights. Eric Hosmer hit a liner down the left field line Monday night. It hugged the ground and never threatened the wall, but when they showed the replays, all I could think of was his double in the ninth inning of game five of the World Series, the hit that turned the tide of the game.

A few of the faces are different – Johnny Cueto, Ben Zobrist, and Alex Rios are gone; Omar Infante is back after missing the postseason; Reymond Fuentes is new – but the team still has that vibe that they will always get things done. I’m glad they’re back.

And I have faith in them this year, which surely is a bad sign. Last year I didn’t think they would have the pitching to get back to the postseason, even with better offensive seasons from several players. Shows what I know.

I still think their starting rotation is very shaky. But if I’ve learned one thing the last two years, you never doubt this team. That Royals Devil Magic works all summer, not just in September and October.[2]

The Royals will win the AL Central, but with fewer wins this year. Let’s say 89–90. When the playoffs begin, Toronto or Texas or Houston will be the favorites. But the Royals will get hot at the right time and win their third-straight AL pennant.

It’s an even year, which means the San Francisco Giants have to win the World Series, right? They put off the Chicago Cubs dynasty one more year and get through to face the Royals for the second time in three years. Volquez beats Bumgarner in game one, the Royals crush Cueto in game two, and they finish up the sweep with a complete game, two-hitter by Chris Young.

Mark it down.

  1. CYO track begins in fourth grade.  ↩
  2. And November!  ↩
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