Saturday, May 31, 2008

Evenings With Benjamin

Not much happening this week but I did take Benjamin on some errands a couple evenings after his day care. We went to the gas station and I showed him how to fill the car up. Doors closed so we wouldn't breathe the fumes, I sat with him in the back while he was in his car seat and was talking with him as the tank was being filled. He was looking at the numbers on the pump and kept saying "It won't stop Daddy". Gritting my teeth I was laughing "I know, I know" $37.00 later it finally did. I remember when I bought my car it would cost $16.00 to fill it up.

We also went to the Post Office to drop off some mail and then we visited the library where we dropped off our books and got some more. He loves the library and in our quick trip we picked up a couple Calliou books, some Eric Carle and a Clifford book.

Other errands this week included a visit to the bank. I showed him what to do and he took care of business, dropping off a deposit after I lifted him up to greet the teller. He got a lollipop for his efforts after the deposit was processed.

It's fun showing him around the area. He's in day care all day while we're at work so it's nice to have this time to do a bunch of things together. He's also got a million questions so it's fun answering them. I want him to interact with people as he has tendency to be a little shy around adults. After dinner he likes to watch TV before bed. With the days being longer, we're trying to steer him away from that a little bit so we'll take him for a wagon ride around the neighborhood, a trip to the park, book time on the deck as the sun sets, things to keep his mind occupied. He's a smart kid and is becoming more independent each day.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Senators Baseball Memorabilia

Cleaning out some old storage bins in the garage I came across an envelope I had stashed in one of the bins during my three moves from 2001-2003. Opening the envelope, I see my 1971 Washington Senators team picture with Frank Howard's large autograph on it (Click to enlarge picture). I thought this was lost several years ago and what a surprise it was finding it.

I have a picture of the first pitch from when baseball returned to RFK Stadium in April 2005 and I plan to get a first pitch picture of Nationals Park as well. Maybe I can get these framed together.

Here is how I got my boyhood baseball hero's autograph. November 1991 I saw a sign outside The Barrister Restaurant and Bar across from the bank I worked at on Connecticut Avenue advertising Frank's appearance. So at almost 30 years of age at the time, I snuck out of work and headed over to the bar to get my photo signed. I was the first one there and Frank was seated at the bar. He was doing promotions for a liquor distributor at the time. I was nervous and excited when I approached him, calling him Mr. Howard and showing him the photo I had.

He was very nice and very happy to relive his baseball days. He said his happiest years in baseball were here and talked about his playing days in DC. Then he offered me a drink, which I declined because I was a little over two years sober at the time. I remember telling him I had to get back to work so I ordered a soda instead.

Other people started to arrive then, so I knew it was time for me to go so I shook his hand looked him in the eye and said something like I'll always be a little kid when it comes to baseball and you'll always be my baseball hero, something corny and he said it's always a pleasure meeting and talking baseball.

This year I turn 47 and Frank Howard turns 72. Can we turn the clock back 40 years? I want to see him homer into the upper deck at RFK Stadium one more time.

For more on Frank Howard, here are some links.


No Place Like Home

The Baseball Page

Monday, May 19, 2008

Benjamin's Swimming Class

We enrolled Benjamin in his first swimming class. I'll let Weena write today's entry as she had the sideline view of all ten lessons and snapped these pictures.

Benjamin had a blast with his swimming lessons which ended last Wednesday. He received a certificate (Swans Group) from his swimming instructor and he is ready for the next level (Solo Swans). However, since this is his first time to do swimming lessons and he’s still young for the next level, we plan to register him for the same class in a couple of weeks. This will allow him to get used to the pool and build some more confidence to be on his own in the water. The next level requires only him in the pool – no parents.

We plan to take him to the Rec. Center pool after work and we have pool passes for our HOA outdoor pool too. We also have our traditional week at the beach, so he'll get a lot of water exposure this Summer.

The skills covered in his Swans class were:
Water Adjustment
Blowing Bubbles
Water Entry/Exit
Front Float
Front Kick
Front Arm Paddling
Back Float
Back Kick
Face in Water
Rolling Front to Back
Rolling Back to Front
Safety Information

We couldn't have been more happier with our instructor Eric. He really worked well with all the children. Benjamin couldn't wait to see him every Monday and Wednesday. We would get there early to get used to the water and at the end of the lesson, we would go over to the slide area and Ben did not want to get out of the water when it was time to go home.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Benjamin at the Zoo

Picture perfect Saturday so we took Benjamin to the National Zoo. He enjoyed his first subway ride and his day at the zoo.

Here is a Giant Panda. They came out for a brief moment.

A visit to the Monkey House...

Hanging out with a gorilla statue...

One lizard coming by to say hey...

Benjamin loved seeing the turtles

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Loner: Nils Sings Neil

Long May You Run
Flying On The Ground
I Am A Child
Only Love Can Break Your Heart
Harvest Moon
Like A Hurricane
The Loner
Don't Be Denied
World On A String
Mr. Soul
On The Way Home
Don't Cry No Tears

Nils Lofgren and Neil Young have always had a special relationship. Nils joined Neil Young's band at age 17, playing piano on the album After the Gold Rush and appearing on his Tonight's the Night album. He's also toured several times with Neil. So when I saw on the Nils Lofgren e-mail digest that Nils was doing a solo acoustic CD of some of Neil's classic songs, I was overjoyed as I've been a fan of both Nils and Neil for a long, long time.

Nils sounds great, his voice is sharp. I love the piano and acoustic guitar and Nils excels at both here. Harvest Moon and Only Love Can Break Your Heart are perhaps my two favorites on the CD. Really mellow and relaxing. It's good to hear him preform these songs acoustic.

I've included a picture (click to enlarge it) of the inside cover of the CD as this tells you all about the recording. I received it in the mail Tuesday and this is all I've listened to this week. Just a beautifully done CD. I'm just bummed a bit that a couple of my favorite Neil Young songs After the Gold Rush and Already One wasn't included. I'm sure Nils has his reasons and it must have been agonizing for him to select only fifteen songs. Perhaps I'll ask this question on the e-mail digest. In the meantime, you can purchase the CD here.

Here's an interesting question about Neil I found from an interview with Nils by journalist Marshall Terrill

What is Neil Young’s particular brilliance?

Nils: It would have to be that he is as great a songwriter as there will ever be.

Everything else is a distant second. Neil’s a great musician, he’s very eccentric, eclectic and has a beautiful, haunting voice. But you know what? All of those things are a distant second to being an amazing, amazing songwriter. The same thing could be said about Bruce Springsteen. When you combine the words with the melody and the music, it’s a power that everything emanates from. They happen to be amazing singers and musicians, but if they weren’t, they couldn’t ruin those songs. They would be still be part of our emotional landscape and be just as powerful. You can’t hurt songs that good."

Monday, May 12, 2008

Nationals Park, Visit II

This past Saturday night my friend John and I went to Nationals Park to see the Nats play the Florida Marlins. We're both long time Orioles fans as a result of the Senators moving out of Washington in 1971 but John's a lot like me, meaning we'll always be Orioles fans first. As baseball fans, it's great we nave another venue to watch baseball. Since the Nationals are a National League team, our loyalties to the Orioles aren't jeopardized. Looking back, this is the first time I've had two teams in the same sport to root for.

For Saturday's game I got tickets from a co-worker and his seats were past first base into right field. Really nice box seats. Based on the two seat locations I've had and walking around, the park is a great place to catch a game. By all means, if you haven't been there yet, go!

The game we saw laid an egg (11-0 Marlins). For the record, this season the Nats are a horrible 1-8 vs Florida (15-23 overall). In the seventh inning we walked around the ball yard, checking things out and ended up in the center field at the Red Porch Restaurant. We grabbed some food there and alternated watching the baseball game and hockey and basketball playoffs. Best thing to do during a rout is walk around the new yard and experience new things the place has to offer. I was a little dismayed seeing groups of young kids in line waiting to play Guitar Hero and other video games at the arcade they have there. We never did that as kids at RFK Stadium watching the Senators or in Memorial Stadium checking out the Orioles. We just checked out the bull pen to see who was warming up or listened as our Dad's explained the game to us.

I promised a reader (and Benjamin fan!) I would promote a way to get some discounted Nats tickets to three games this Summer.

The Washington Nationals and the Partnership for Public Service are offering discounted tickets at the following games:

Saturday May 24, 2008 vs Milwaukee Brewers

Click the above link and receive $5.00 off the following locations:
Right Field Mezzanine $33.00 (Regularly $38.00)
Scoreboard Pavillion $24.00 (Regularly $29.00)
Upper Infield Gallery $15.00 (Regularly $20.00)

The other games according to their web site are:
Saturday July 12, 2008 vs Houston Astros (I plan to check this one out)
Saturday September 20, 2008 vs San Diego Padres

Great way to get to the ball yard to see the Nationals and save a little cash. Note: You don't need to work for the federal government to receive the discount but you need to purchase tickets from their web site (I provided the link above).

Some of my earlier posts about the Nats and the new park can be found here:

My Trip To Nats Park

Nationals Park

Nationals New Ball Yard

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Real Madrid-Barcelona "Pasillo"

Being a fan of Spain's La Liga and Real Madrid since 1990, I never knew this tradition existed. The game after a team clinches the league title, the opposing team they play lines up and offers its congratulations. It is called a pasillo, or corridor.

This past Sunday Real Madrid wrapped up their 31st league title on the road. Yesterday they hosted rival Barcelona at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu and the Barcelona starting eleven stood in line and welcomed the new champions. Since it involved La Liga's two giants, the Spanish media made a big deal out of this. I believe the last time a pasillo occurred between these two teams was twenty years ago.

Usually they take the trophy out but Raúl González, the Real Madrid captain had said no, it does not look good to flaunt it in front of their rivals. They will have a separate ceremony with the trophy on their last home game.

I'm looking back and remember in January 1983 the Washington Redskins beat the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC title game at RFK Stadium and then beat the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XVII. Fast forward to September 1983, the Redskins played their season opener vs the Cowboys at RFK Stadium. Imagine before the game kicks off the Cowboys lining up like Barcelona did and offering congratulations to the Super Bowl Champion Redskins. Sure.

Seeing this on GOL TV I remembered reading three years ago about the New York Yankees watching the Boston Red Sox raise the 2004 World Champions banner and seeing the Red Sox get their World Series rings.

In case you were wondering about the match result, Real Madrid went out and destroyed Barcelona 4-1.

More on the history of El Clasico

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

My Adventures As A Caddy

Over on the Terrapins Sports Message board, there was a discussion going on about summer jobs and which were the best. Several mentioned working internship’s, others mentioned working at their parent’s office. Some would lifeguard or work landscaping. Caddying was mentioned and there were a lot of replies and stories about people’s days caddying. So I’d thought look back and share some of my adventures.

I started caddying back in the late '70's at Chevy Chase Club while in high school. This, a few lawns I cut and a paper route for the Washington Post kept cash in my pocket. While in college, I needed a steady summer job so I worked on the Chevy Chase Club golf course maintenance crew. I also caddied there weekends (when I wasn't hung over). It was fun, I was outdoors, the pay was decent and I got to golf a lot, which was the best benefit out there. In addition to doing well out there financially, I can honestly say that the summer’s there at CCC helped me more than any internship or coffee fetching downtown office job would have.

I did two things that helped me succeed as a caddy. One, I asked one of the veteran caddies there (Dallas) to show me how to read greens and two; I did not ever play cards with the veteran caddies there. I saw so many kids lose their loop proceeds in a matter of minute’s playing cards with those guys. Brutal!

I was a little sad to graduate college as I ended up taking an entry level job at a bank that paid lower than my summer job did.

I also caddied there as a weekend gig in the '90's. Every couple of years I would make plans to travel overseas to see my friend Gema in Spain. From April thru September I would work weekends caddying, stash the cash and use it during the two weeks in October in Spain. It was hard work but I had fun earning it and spending it.

The club itself is a nice place and the members I dealt with were very friendly. Some notables I caddied for were U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Secretary of State James Baker, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and a few members of the Washington Redskins.

It helped I knew a lot of the in's and out's of the course thanks to my time on the maintenance staff. In the early '90's I was in my early days of sobriety and the course Starter Jim was also in recovery so he knew I was reliable and he could count on me. I knew when to speak and when to keep quiet and I did my best to treat each member with respect for the four plus hours we were together. In other words I did a lot of "yes siring" and "yes maaming".

It keeps you in shape, that's for sure as you’re carrying two golf bags over a four mile plus golf course in the DC summer heat and humidity. You do need constant water and a small damp towel to keep your neck and body wet as the heat can be rough.

Fast forward to August 2001, I left a job I could not stand at a downtown DC association and I went back to caddying at Chevy Chase and I also worked in the golf shop. The cash kept the bills paid. People were telling me to temp at offices while looking for a job but no way. I could set my own schedule caddying. If I had an AM interview, I'd be on the course in the afternoon. Having a place to go and doing something productive on a day to day basis while looking for another job gave me great confidence. I never got bummed out I wasn’t working full time and I didn't come across as desperate headed into my interviews. Ultimately I got hired by a CPA firm in mid October 2001.

When caddying, we’d get a set wage of $25 per bag and in some cases a tip, while optional, was also included. Here are my Best and Worst tips from my weekend adventures in the early '90's at Chevy Chase.

Best: I got $75 on top of $25 for one bag from a Bridgestone sales rep. A lot of times the regular caddies in the caddy yard would refuse chances to carry one bag, opting for the more lucrative two bag loop. So when they all passed, I took the bag. My thinking was carrying the single is fun as you have more of a one on one relationship with the golfer and it’s a more relaxed walk than a foursome. By the time we were finished, the same caddies who turned down the bag were still sitting in the yard while my pocket had more $ in it. In my earlier days there I learned never to turn down work. The way I looked at it I helped the Starter Jim out. He had a long memory so in the future he’d always make sure to look out for me.

Worst: A quarter from an older gentleman for taking his clubs to his car after his round. I'd just finished my round and was storing the clubs when the gent asked me to take his bag to the car. So I did and talked with him about his round, who he played with, the weather, the typical schmoozing. I must have made quite the impression as a hard working lad as he handed me the quarter and said for me to go get a soda. I did all I could do to not laugh and I was able to say a serious thank you without cracking up. To this day I wasn’t sure if he was pulling a joke on me with the quarter to see my reaction or was he being serious, but stuck in the 1960's as this was a huge tip then.

Like anything else in life, you get what you put into it. All you need to do is show up with a willingness to work and you’re set. I got a lot of good memories, some exercise, great life learning experiences and a lot of laughs.

Monday, May 05, 2008

My Trip to Nats Park

First impressions of the park were good. I left my camera in the car so no pictures but I'll save that for when I take Benjamin and Weena on June 29th vs the Orioles. My friend Jeff and I sat in the upper deck in seats along third base, section 305. Nice view for $18, you can see all over the park and even hear the pop of the ball hitting the catchers mitt. The HD TV screen is nice. During the game I was making mental notes of places and things Benjamin and Weena would like.

The park is a short walk from Navy Yard Metro (Green line). I was watching parents with kids and saw you can bring a stroller, food, water and juice from home into the park. Side note: It used to be when I would go to the ball yard in Baltimore with my friends John and Tim in the '80's, we would check for two things while entering Memorial Stadium. Women and where the Budweiser or National Premium beer stands were. Now I'm looking for family restrooms, ice cream stands and chicken nuggets...

I drove to my old job in Bethesda at the Air Rights Building and parked there. I took the Red Line to Gallery Place, transferred to the Green Line and four stops later I was at Navy Yard where the stadium is. Almost 40 minutes train and wait time (I got lucky, longest wait for a train was 6 minutes). It's pretty much the same distance mileage wise driving from Casa Benjamin to Bethesda and Casa Benjamin to Vienna Metro Station, but it would have taken close to an hour (more stops on Orange line) to get to the ball yard. Plus I wasn't sure if there was single tracking on the Orange line due to maintenance which is why I chose to travel via Red Line. In future games I'll drive and park in Bethesda as that worked well.

Word of advice for those sitting in the upper deck. Take some sunscreen! This knucklehead forgot to.

Great day at the ball yard as the Nats won 5-2 and took 3 out of 4 from the Pirates and went 8-3 on the home stand. Despite a nine game losing streak earlier in the season, the Nats are 14-18 now and playing decent ball.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Spring Picture

Benjamin recently had his Spring picture taken at day care so when I went to pick him up today, this is what awaited me in his cubby.

The key words to the photographer in a note before the pictures were taken were "Cowabunga!", "Cheese!" and "Yeti, Yeti, Yeti" which was taken from one of Benjamin's favorite programs, The Backyardigan's. We were hoping we would get smiles and overall, these came out well.

Also included was a group shot of his classmates and teachers, which we will keep as well and include in his album. He's really growing up fast!

He's been involved in a Swan's swimming class at the local recreation center. He loves being in the water and so far he's learned how to float, use his arms and legs to kick, blow bubbles and he's been underwater a lot. We're pleased with the instruction and plan to enroll him in more classes when there are openings. He interacts well with the instructor, the other kids and parents too. It's fun and we'll have some pictures posted soon. I'm the one in the water so I can't take any photos but Weena got some the other day that we hope turn out well. Usually we get there early and he's first in the water. When his class ends he doesn't want to come out of the water, so we go to the kiddie area and use the water slide. Fun stuff!

Bad News For Ben Olsen & D.C. United

Steven Goff reports in Soccer Insider that Ben Olsen's career could be in jeopardy due to ankle problems.

Ben Olsen has been a great leader for D.C. United both on the field and off the field. On the field no one works harder than Ben. Off the field he's been involved in many charitable activities for D.C. United. He's scored several clutch goals for D.C and at times also played tough by taking on the role of enforcer when needed.

One of the best D.C. United memories I have is Ben's goal in MLS Cup 1999 vs the L.A. Galaxy in Foxboro, MA. I took a road trip up with the Screaming Eagles and Olsen intercepted a terrible clearance by Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman and scored the second goal in their 2-0 victory. His hustle that day earned him MLS Cup Most Valuable Player.

Another memory I have was watching him on TV score his first career hat trick against New York in a 4-2 win last June. His play that day earned him Player of the Week and Goal of the Week honors.

Check out the 2005 article my friend Dave wrote for D.C. United.

Here's hoping Ben can come back. He's been down this road before, being injured, missing a lot of time and he rebounded and made the 2006 USA World Cup team. He's got a lot of heart, guts and determination, so maybe it is too early to retire him just yet.

A D.C. United legend when he does retire, he will be on the Tradition of Excellence banner that currently hangs in RFK Stadium.