Tuesday, October 29, 2013

There's Always Next Year

   We sat in disbelief as Shane Victorino's big fly settled in the outfield seats. A two to one lead was erased as three runs crossed home plate in front of him.
   After a few seconds of stunned silence, Hank said, "Hey, it's only the seventh inning ... we still have a chance."
   "Sure," I added.
   "Well, you Pollyanna's can delude yourselves all you want," said Uncle Billy. "The series is over."
   Mary looked at him. "I don't know, Bill ... we have two more innings."
   Billy snorted. "You think we're gonna score three runs in the next two innings ... what game have you been watching?"
   Eb nodded. "I hate to say it, but I think Bill's right ... our offense has been a little weak."
   "Weak? That's an upgrade," said Billy. "And we haven't had a decent closer since Willie Hernandez."
   Hank shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know ... seems to me that we've had a good team ... playing in the American League Championship ... we must be doing something right."
   "Yeah," said Hank, "for the third year in a row."
   I raised my glass. "Now, that is something to celebrate."
   Mary and Becky raised theirs.
   "Here's to the Detroit Tigers," said Becky.
   "They've got a long way to go," said Billy.
   "Why can't you just enjoy the success they've had so far, Uncle?"
   Billy frowned. "They've broken my heart too many times."
   "Sure, we've had some disappointments," said Hank, "but we've had a lot of highlights too ... that's baseball ... you win some and you lose some."
   "We've had some pretty good seasons, lately," said Eb.
   "That's a fact," added Mary. "We were in the World Series last year."
   "Yeah, and what happened than?" said Billy. "They were swept by San Francisco."
   Hank sighed. "But we got there ... and took down the Yankees on the way ... that was pretty cool."
   "Now, you have to admit that ... right, Uncle?"
   Billy shook his head. "They got lucky ... that's all. When the Giants called their hand, they got caught bluffing."
   "Bluffing?" said Hank. "How many other teams made it to the World Series?"
   "Why can't you just enjoy the great season of baseball they gave us this year, Uncle?"
   Billy took a sip of his beer. "You're right, Chris ... they gave us a great season of baseball."
   Hank slapped Billy on the back. "That's the spirit, Bill."
   Billy ignored him. "Too bad they screwed up the post-season."

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

So Long Rick

   I open the door and strains of 'You Always Hurt the One You Love' by Spike Jones filled my ears.  Uncle Billy, wearing his jacket, sat in his easy chair watching the crawl from CNN on a soundless TV.
   "You can turn that off," he said, motioning to the iPod docking station.
   I turned it off. "Are you ready to go?"
   He flicked off the TV. "Yeah ... been sitting here for twenty minutes waiting for you ... I couldn't listen to anymore of the idiot news."
   "So, you were just watching it?"
   He stood up. "I didn't want to get sucked into a movie or anything ... in case you actually showed up."
   "I'm sorry I'm late, Uncle ... I just received an email with some bad news."
   Billy looked at me. "You look a little down ... what was it?"
   "An old friend of mine ... Rick Massoll ... passed away last week ..."
   "No kidding ... I remember him."
   "He was a one of my closest boyhood friends ... we spent a lot of time together all through school."
   "I remember ... didn't he live on Donald?"
   "Yes ... just a block away."
   "What happened?"
   "Don't know exactly ... he wasn't in the best of health and they found him in his condo ... last week."
   Billy shook his head. "That's too bad ... when was the last time you saw him?"
   "That's just it ... we drifted apart years ago ... and I hadn't seen him in about fifteen years ... I really regret that we never seemed to be able to hook up."
   Billy put his hand on my shoulder. "It's tough to lose an old friend ... I know."
   I was a little surprised by Billy's show of empathy and compassion. "Thank you, Uncle."
   He abruptly pushed me toward the door. "Now, let's get going before Manny's closes."
   I sighed. "How many times do we have to go through this? Manny's never closes."
   "That's what you say ... but you just never know."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Phone Envy

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   "Look at this one." I pushed the Sprint flyer across the table so Cheryl could see it. "An HTC Evo Shift 4G ... whatever that is," I said.
   Cheryl set down her paper and studied the ad for a moment. "It says it's pre-owned ... that's not so good."
   "Yeah, but look at the price."
   "A hundred and twenty bucks," she said.
   "Well, compare that to some of those other phones ... look, that LG Optimus G ... it's Five Hundred and Forty-nine."
   She took a sip of her tea and looked at me over the paper. "Haven't we been over this before? How much does the service cost?"
   I nodded. "Yeah ... that is the problem ... you have to get data service with those things and our monthly bill would double."
   "And tell me again why you think you need one of those?"
   "Well ... I could get emails wherever I am."
   "That's worth a hundred bucks a month?"
   "And I could access the Internet whenever I wanted."
   "And that's important because?"
   "Well ... suppose we were on a road trip and needed to find a hotel ... I could search on-line for a deal."
   "When was the last road trip we took?"
   I thought for a moment. "Okay ... it's been a while ... but you never know when the opportunity might crop up."
   Cheryl pushed the flyer back toward me and picked up the section she had been reading.
   "Hey, what about checking the weather radar when we we're camping," I continued. "You have to admit it would be nice to see what's coming."
   "Yes," she said without looking at me. "But do you really think paying an extra hundred dollars a month for the next year is worth it? If we really needed a weather report when we're camping, couldn't we just run up to Joe's Friendly Tavern and watch the weather channel?"
   I sighed. "Well, Uncle Billy swears by his smartphone ... he says its the greatest thing since television."
   Cheryl took another sip of tea. "Maybe ... but Uncle Billy spends hours online with his Facebook and Twitter accounts ... are you going to be doing that?"
   I shrugged my shoulders. "No."
   "Look, you can do whatever you want ... I'm just repeating the same arguments you gave me when I suggested you upgrade to a smartphone last month ... you said you just needed a phone to make calls and check your voicemail ... that was it ... you didn't want all those extra features ... right?"
   I nodded. "Yeah ... you're right." I pulled out my new flip phone and looked at it. "This is just fine."
   "Now, why don't you use that thing and call Clara ... I want to know if Billy asked her to go to Eb and Becky's wedding with him."

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tee Time

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   "I wonder what's taking Eb so long?" asked Hank.
   "If he doesn't get here soon, we're going to miss our nine-forty tee time," said Uncle Billy.
   "What time is it now?" asked Hank.
   I reached into my pocket and fished out my new Kyocera Kona, and said proudly, "Well, let just check my new phone." I looked at the time readout.  "It's nine-twenty eight."
   Billy looked at the basic flip phone with distain. "That's a phone?"
   "Yeah ... I just got it yesterday ... I was overdue for an upgrade."
   "That's an upgrade? What did you upgrade from ... a Crosley Candlestick?"
   "No, I had that red Samsung ... you remember, I've had it for years ..."
   "Oh, yeah ... that piece of junk." Billy pointed at the Kyocera. "So, that is better, eh?"
   "Yeah, it's great ... good reception ... clear sound ... "
   "That's not a phone." Billy flipped open the holster on his belt and produced his Apple iphone five. "This is a phone."
   Hank whistled. "Wow, that's a fancy phone, Bill."
   Billy turned the smart phone over in his hands. "Yep, does everything ... except the dishes ... they gotta work on that."
   "Well, it's a little too much for me," I said.
   Billy ignored my comment and starting tapping the screen on his phone. "Check this out, Hank ... I can show you a satellite image of where we are standing right now."
   "Why would you want to see that on a phone? I can look around and see were on the first tee at Rouge?" I said.
   Billy ignored me again and held
the phone for Hank to see what was on the screen.
   "Wow, that's amazing," said Hank.
   Billy nodded and started tapping on the screen again. "Remember that great run that Reggie Bush made against Chicago on Sunday?"
   Hank nodded.
   "Well, watch this."
   Uncle Billy held up the phone for Hank to see. I leaned in to look too.
   "That is amazing," I said.
   Billy smiled and sliped the phone back into the holster.
   My phone suddenly rang.
   "It's Eb," I said and flipped the phone open. "Hi, Eb ... where are you?"
   "Just pulling into the parking lot," said Eb.
   "We're waiting on the tee," I said.
   "I'll be there in a couple of minutes."
   "Okay." I snapped the phone shut and slipped it back in my pocket.
   "Wonder why he didn't just text me?" said Billy.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

One Game at a Time

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   The ball sailed up and over the net behind home plate, coming down quickly between an elderly couple in the next section. An alert spectator behind them reached up and grabbed the foul ball before it landed on the woman's head. The crowed cheered loudly.
   "Nice catch," said Uncle Billy.
   Cheryl thumped a fist into her black Rawlings glove. "Why won't one come this way?"
   "Probably because you're ready for it," I said.
   She frowned and exchanged the glove for the bag of cotton candy that had been occupying her lap. "Just once ... I wish I could get a foul ball." She stuck her hand in the bag and withdrew a wad of the sugary treat.
   I patted her knee. "You will ... keep the faith."
   There was loud crack and another foul ball whistled into the seats behind the visitor's dugout. Before anyone could even react, it hit a railing and bounced high in the air, arching down into the hands of a portly man, wearing an AC/DC tee shirt. Again the crowd applauded.
   "Wow, it's lucky someone wasn't killed by that missile," I said.
   Cheryl patted the glove in her lap. "I could have caught that."
   "Now, if Martinez can straighten out one of those and drive in Fielder, we might have a chance here," said Billy.
   "It's amazing, it seems like the last time you got tickets from Mr. Swanson, we were playing the Royals and struggling to close out a playoff bid," I said.
   Billy rubbed his chin. "You might be right ... anyway, these guys are always tough ... for us anyway."
   "Chris said Mr. Swanson gave you four tickets ... couldn't you find anyone else to invite?" asked Cheryl.
   Billy smiled. "You mean like Clara?"
   Cheryl blushed. "Well, yes, now that you mention it."
   There was another crack of Martinez's bat. The crowd gasped as it soared majestically toward the right field stands, then, and audible sigh arose when hooked just outside the foul pole.
   "Man, that was close," I said.
   "He's gettin' the measure of this guy," said Billy.
   "So, did you ask?" said Cheryl.
   "Ask what?" said Billy.
   "Clara ... did you ask Clara if she wanted to come to the game?"
   Billy grabbed his beer from the cup holder in front of him and took a long swallow. He wiped his chin with his free hand. "She was busy."
   "Oh, so you did ask her." said Cheryl.
   There was another loud crack from Martinez's bat. A screaming grounder headed between the short stop and second base. Alcides Escobar dove to his left and snagged the ball before it could reach the outfield. He rose quickly to his knees and flipped the ball to a waiting Chris Getz, Getz tagged second, whirled and fired a strike to Hosmer to complete a neat double play. Another audible sigh rose from the crowd as potential rally was snuffed out.