Baseball for Baseball’s Sake

I’m becoming an old fart. Some will say I’m already there. Specifically, I’m an old fart baseball fan. They’re the worst kind, actually.

You would think the most annoying part of a baseball game to an old fart baseball fan would be the umpires. You would be incorrect. The most annoying aspect is other fans.

Why? Because they are not fans. They are barely spectators.

I do not understand why people pay good money to purchase a ticket to something they don’t care to watch. If you don’t care about baseball, why do you go? You can find beer in other places that don’t have an eight-dollar cover charge.

Because people don’t want to watch the game, the team does all sorts of things to entertain the crowd. This includes having a blob mascot run up and down the top of the dugout to get the crowd into the game. My seats are just behind the dugout. So, I can’t see the game since the blob is right in front of me. So, I’m being punished because other people won’t watch.

Do the fans a favor. If you don’t care about the game, DON’T GO. You’re loud, you’re distracting and you’re wasting your money. Don’t take your kids to teach the teamwork. You’re teaching them ignoring the game is fine.

Baseball is the only major sport that has predictable pacing. Other than the teams changing sides at the middle or end of innings, an injury or a pitching change, the game goes on. It is easy to follow. You know where the pitcher is going to pitch. If you’re fanatical, you can keep score. You can keep yourself immersed in the game. You just have to pay attention.

This is especially true in the minors, where games aren’t usually televised. There are no TV time-outs. The game just plays.

So, I don’t think true fans need mascots. Or t-shirt guns. Or beer barrel races. They need the game to unfold in front of them, so they can enjoy it.

If you don’t understand baseball, watching the game will help you learn. Watching the mascot will not.

Can’t we go back to a time when fans watched the game? Maybe “in the old days”, people paid attention because they had to skip work to go to a game.

I miss those days, and I wasn’t even there. (That is the definition of an old fart, by the way.)

One thing after another

There is a cliche – the cure is worse than the disease. I’m getting that a lot lately.

I went to see my doctor because my ankles looked swollen and my feet were getting sore. So, he told me to lose weight (again) and gave me a diuretic. I really didn’t have to pee that much, but I guessed it was doing something.

However, as the days passed, my feet started to hurt. A lot. All over. I thought it was just putting weight on them, but I don’t walk that much, and there should be less weight with the diuretics, anyway.

So, back to the doctor. Poke, poke, poke. Nothing. So, the old Columbo stare off into space and then … “Have you ever had gout?”

I had gout years ago, probably directly linked to the amount of beer I was drinking at the time. So, yes, I’ve had gout.

Down for bloodwork. Apparently, the diuretic can raise uric acid levels in some people (“very few”), and I’m in the lucky number. So, I was drying out and re-aggravating my gout at the same time.

Also, this was “all joints on deck” gout – everything in both feet hurt. The beer gout was just in my left big toe, and it hurt like hell, but nothing like this.

The great thing about today’s medicine is that there are pain killers for everything. So, I got a really good pain killer for my gout. I missed the “take with food” instruction the first two days, so I also got magical journeys in my mind. And naps. Naps with dreams of ants crawling on me – but just one ant. (It’s possible it was Rocky the Chihuahua, come to think of it.)

On the bright side, when I went in for the follow-up that found the gout, I had lost 14 pounds in six days. So, the diuretic worked before it crippled me.

My doctor had also looked at my bloodwork and decided my good cholesterol was too low, so he put me on Niacin. Just like in cereal and Pop Tarts, but a huge dose. It’s an easy pill to take, and there are very few side effects. However, there is one – the Niacin flush. This is not flush, like a toilet, where everything comes out at once (thank God), this is flush like Southern ladies blushing (“Oh, my!”)

In fact, it’s a lot like blushing. As your blood vessels dilate from the drug, you feel flush. Actually, you feel like your head and arms are on fire. I woke up at 3am this morning, and my upper torso was on fire. Plus, I had to use the bathroom.

So, now, I’m limping (gout) to the bathroom (no problems yet), with my upper body on fire (Niacin.) It wasn’t until after the episode that I discovered the Niacin flush or I would have blamed it on hallucinations (pain killer.)

Modern medicine.

Near-Death Vacation

Nine levels of switchback. Nine Circles of Hell. Coincedence?
Entrevaux Citadel

Yesterday, I thought I was going to die, all alone, while slowly approaching a French Citadel. Isn’t that what a vacation day on a business trip is all about?

Years ago, the Spousal Unit and I went to Southern France for a couple of weeks – I was on business, she was on vacation. Part of the time, we were both on vacation. On one of those days, we took the train to from Nice to Entrevaux, a Medieval city about two hours north of Nice. (Nice is a seaside town that is at the edge of the Mediterranean on one side and the edge of the Alps on the other.) So, Entrevaux is in the mountains.

Apparently, many years ago, somebody thought it would be a good idea to fortify the town by building a citadel (which means a fort way the hell up in the sky.)

“Monsieur, some evil people are attacking the town!”

“We need a citadel. How about putting it way up there out of sight?”

So, Entrevaux has a Citadel. The Spousal Unit and I shot some photos of it last time. From the ground. However, this time, I was not with my wife, I was with two of my co-workers. Co-workers desperately afraid they will miss something interesting while on a business trip with an open weekend in France. So, we climbed up to the Citadel. On foot.

So, the rest of this is a remembrance and tirade about taking a walk. Those of you in good shape who exercise regularly can roll your eyes and stop reading now. Those who know me and are already giggling or enjoy seeing me in pain (hello, family!) can continue on.

There was a helpful French guide at the foot of the climb who sold us our tokens to enter the passageway up. Three euros. Each. She said there were seven switchbacks along the way. She lied. The brochure says there are nine, as in the number of circles of Hell.

So, David from Austin, Sakamoto-san from Tokyo and I started the ascent. In retrospect, it is very clever to charge people for the opportunity to walk straight up into the sky. If you didn’t charge them, many would get to the foot of the walkway and decide against such a foolish escapade. With a charge, the thought is – “Hey, I don’t want to waste three euros!”

This is the same theory as joining a gym. At least you can skip going to the gym more easily than skipping the walk.

Quote: “How to get to the Citadel: Go through toll-gate [Editor: with the 3 euro token] and walk straight up for about 20 minutes. Easy walk on recently restored cobbled path (difference in height: 156 meters.)” Some key points, for those who don’t easily read between the lines:

  • Straight up. This is not an exaggeration, even though the path has seven to nine switchbacks.
  • Recently restored. France is in Europe. “Recently restored” could be sometime in the 1800s.
  • 156 meters. For Americans, that’s actually 511 feet which sounds a lot higher than 156 meters. However, you don’t actually walk straight up, you walk fifty-seven miles through the “seven” switchbacks. Rappelling would be 156 meters.

    Warning Sign
    This is not information. It is a warning.

David and Sakamoto-san are a lot like me, except for age, weight and general disposition. As they sprinted up the recently restored pathway, chatting happily, I got through the first switchback just barely before my heart began to pound.

Maybe I’ll just stop here and take a couple of photos. I’m not out of breath or anything, this is just a good vantage point, since it’s so close to the ground and all.

My colleagues are now out of sight. As well as out of earshot. So, at least now I can whimper in peace.

So, I’ll guess I’ll just stop here in the middle of the second switchback to {huff, puff} take some more photos. Wow. It’s already a long way down. I’m making progress! Wow. It’s an even further way up. I’m going to die.

Continue climbing.

Horrible realization – I don’t have a pen with me. I can’t leave a note for David and Sakamoto-san to find on the way down, asking them to deliver the camera back to the Spousal Unit. I also don’t have a safety pin to attach the note to my clothes before I breathe my last. Should I be concerned I’m already planning my last minutes on earth?

I’m only concerned about the camera because the Spousal Unit lent it to me before I left and asked me to re-shoot the town of Entrevaux, especially the Citadel. Hey! That means this is all her fault! Feel slightly better. Still out of breath.

Realize if I die on this walk, the Spousal Unit will just buy a truly expensive camera with her inheritance money. If I die, I’m throwing this camera off the mountain.

Continue climbing.

Horrible realization deux – I now know why I don’t remember the climb being this difficult the last time I was in Entrevaux. It’s not just because that was eight years and probably fifty pounds ago – it’s because we didn’t actually make the climb. So much for age and experience. I would yell at David for dragging me up this mountain, but he’s already at the top, and I’m here on the third switchback, out of breath. I mean, taking photos.

Well, {choke, wheeze}, at least I’m almost half-way there.

Continue climbing.

If Lance freakin’ Armstrong goes by on his bike, I’m putting a stick through his spokes.

Well, {sneeze, cough, whimper}, at least I’m almost half-way there.

Another Fort
Hey, that fort over there looks a lot lower.

Continue climbing.

Why am I not making any progress? I wonder what David and Sakamoto-san are doing at the top? I wonder if they will pass me on their way down? I wonder if they will recover my body?

Continue climbing.

Stop to catch my breath, uh, I mean, take some photos.

Meet a couple on the way down. Try to be polite without heaving too much. “Bonjour!”

Why do they look so damn happy? Oh, maybe it’s because they’re going down. Bastards. Wonder what “bastards” is in French? If I could get a WiFi signal, I could use Google Translate. Who am I kidding? If I had a WiFi signal, I would call for help.

Continue climbing.

Well, at least I’m almost half-way there.

I wonder if David and Sakamoto-san remember me?

Hey, I made it all the way through that switchback without stopping. I wonder why my heart is beating so far out of my chest?

I think that was switchback 27. If I ever make it down to safety, I’m kicking that cute tour guide in the butt, as soon as I catch my breath. And can move my legs.

Damn. More people coming down. Look pleased to be here. “Bonjour!” Well, at least a little old couple hasn’t passed me on their way up.

At least I’m almost half-way there.

Hmm. What kind of message does dying on Father’s Day send? I’d better get moving. I’ll just take a couple of photos, since this is a nice vantage point.

Dear Lord, if You could just give me one more chance and let me survive this easy climb on a restored cobbled path, I’ll build You a freakin’ chapel at the top, next to the Citadel.

At least I’m almost half-way there.

Looking down at Entrevaux
If I puke, will I hit the houses?


Holy Crap! (Sorry, Lord.) Another couple is heading down. How many old people think climbing a mountain to see an old fort is a rational idea? Were these guys stationed here at one time?

If this freakin’ Citadel is closed for lunch when I get up there, someone’s going to die. Unless I die first.

Bonjour. That man looked pleased to be descending. I’m pretty sure the woman said “Almost” in a slight whisper as she passed me. Almost to the top? Almost dead? Almost is some French word for “look at the fat guy dying on his easy walk”? I’m pretty sure that was a pity smile she gave me.

I wonder if it’s time to start saying “Bon soir”? I’ve been climbing for about fourteen hours (twenty minutes my ass) and it was late morning when we started.

Hey, at least my pants are getting looser. It’s either the altitude or the 37 1/2 pounds of sweat I’ve produced so far. It’s a bit warm in Southern France today.

If one of these couples calls the authorities, and I get med-evac’ed off this stupid easy climb, the first thing the Spousal Unit will say when the US Embassy calls is “Was he wearing sunblock?” What is wrong with her?

At least I’m almost half-way there.

Hey! That’s David up ahead! Hmm. I don’t remember him wearing a white robe. Why is there so much light behind him? Why is he telling me to come into it? Why are my grandparents behind him?

I think I have enough time to shoot some more photos.

At least I’m almost half-way there.

As I turned another corner in the 42 switchbacks, I wondered how the French architects and builders managed to make the switchbacks at the top longer than the ones at the bottom. I wonder if the French army lost any wars just because their soldiers couldn’t make it up to the fort in time. I wonder if the enemy soldiers could just dodge any arrows shot from the Citadel since it would take a half-hour for them to reach the ground?

Man, I thought that can of olive oil the Spousal Unit requested I purchase in Nice was going to be overweight luggage. Wait until IBM has to ship my corpse home. That is going to be one big-ass internal mail envelope.

Wait! This time, it really is David. I’m at the top. That was easy.

Where’s the welcoming party? The snack bar? The oxygen tents? The snack bar?

We’re at the damn top at last, let’s take some photos. Hey! A bench! Let’s rest, then take photos.

Well, that was fun. Let’s go down. Does France have a Care-Flite service?

Going down wasn’t nearly as bad as going up, and I did take a few more photos.

Entrevaux Citadel
French soldiers were stationed here, waiting for attack. I’m waiting for a heart attack.

I even kept David and Sakamoto-san in sight most of the time. Most of the time.

I only stumbled once, but I didn’t even fall, since I’m an experienced climber now. I did, however,  have a flash of rolling down a recently renovated cobblestone path, wiping out co-workers and tourists as I fell. Bowling for Tourists.

At the bottom, we saw a young couple with two bouncing sons in tow, approaching the entrance. I thought “That hike should calm those kids down.” Then, I thought, “This is going to be the vacation those kids discuss with their therapist.”

Once safely at the bottom, I realized that I had forgotten to build the Lord His chapel. Considering what He’s overlooked in my life so far, he may let that one slide. Come to think of it, it may not be the first chapel I’ve shorted Him.

Lord, I would go back and build Your chapel as promised, but I think that climb was a once-in-a-lifetime event. Mainly, because the next time would kill me, and I know how You feel about suicide.

I’m still alive. Next time, I’m buying posst cards at the gift shop and just telling people I made the climb.

David said he signed the guest book as “IBMers from Texas and Japan”. So, the next time you’re at the top of the Citadel, you can see my name in the book. Implied.

Wounded Knee

It’s time.

I don’t like going to the doctor and I’m very allergic to surgery, but I may be tolerating both very soon. It may be time to finally fix my knee.

My right knee went out yesterday while I was bending down to look at furniture at IKEA. If I tried to build it, it would probably be fatal. So, I’m back to limping around and no male my age likes to hear the word “limp”.

A bit of back-story – I hyper-extended my right knee in soccer practice in high school, either 1977 or 1978. I’m pretty sure it was junior year, so 1977. It hurt like hell when it happened, but the pain diminished rather quickly over time.

It was a stupid injury. I remember it like it was 35 years ago. I was playing fullback, chasing down a ball, cut back around one of my classmates, slipped and landed full-force on my right knee. I landed so hard, I kicked myself in the butt. This is known as “hyper-extension” and it is very bad. In exotic dancers, it’s called “flexibility” and is much more popular to watch.

I spent a couple of days at home with ice or heat (who remembers?) on my knee and spent the rest of the season on the sidelines. I was on the JV anyway, so it wasn’t that much of a demotion.

My mom took me to see an orthopedic surgeon and he said it wasn’t hurt badly enough to fix. Apparently, in the 70’s, there were knee injuries and then there were real knee injuries. He invited me to come back if I ever really hurt it. So, I finally had a knee injury after six or seven years of playing soccer, which would be cool, and it wasn’t worth fixing.

So, I can still say, “Yeah, tore up a knee playing soccer”, but there’s no cool scar to show off, and if you played soccer in Texas, it meant you couldn’t make the football team.

Over the years, it would go out every now and then. I would limp for a couple of days, and then it would straighten itself out and I’d be back to normal. So, I never really saw a reason to have it checked since a) it didn’t cause pain very often and b) it wasn’t bad enough to fix anyway. The most annoying part of the recurring pain was that it was completely unpredictable and it didn’t help determine the weather, like some injuries. Maybe only bad hips can tell when it will rain.

Fast-forward to December, 2009. My knee went out again. My wife convinced me to go see her knee specialist – she has a guy for almost every part of her body, which is not as slutty as it sounds, it just means she gets injured a lot.

First question – “When did this injury occur?” “Uh. That’s a good question – either 1977 or 1978, I’m not really sure.” Dramatic pause. “Why are you coming to see me now?” A clever answer would have been “Because now I have insurance and can afford you”, but I told the truth – it only went out sporadically and I had an existing (approximately 32-year old) medical opinion that it wasn’t worth fixing, anyway.

Dramatic pause. “Somebody told you it wasn’t worth fixing??”

“Yes, I had it checked right after the injury happened.”

“Ah. 1977. Well, back then, it might not have been worth it. Now, we can fix it.”

I assumed this meant prices have risen enough to cost-justify the doctor, hospital and related costs associated with out-patient surgery. (I also wondered if it was the same doctor, since he was not exactly young.)

So, then the questions went on – had I considered rebuilding it? Would I use my own tendon or a cadaver’s? (“Wow. Literally a dead man walking.” Even the doctor smiled.) It sounded painful, but doable – just a matter of scheduling. Then he mentioned the one major problem – no travel for up to six weeks after surgery.

Remember, this was in December. I was still in Lotus. January is Lotusphere. I was presenting. So, no surgery in December or January. February I had customer visits scheduled. March was end of quarter and completely unpredictable as to travel. By April, I had forgotten my knee had gone out.

A few months later, I received a lovely card from the doctor, as did my wife. He was retiring. “Oh, shit. I was going to have him fix my knee.” So, I forgot about it.

A couple of weeks ago, my knee went out. Ouch. I hobbled a bit, and it went back. Then, my left knee popped.

An unsettling thought occurred – “Hmm. Which knee did I actually injure in high school?”

If you can’t remember which knee you hurt in high school, perhaps your time there were not your “Glory Days”, in spite of what the Boss may say.

Both knees straightened themselves out in a couple of days.

Yesterday, I knelt down to look at the back of an entertainment unit my wife wanted to purchase and when I straightened up, BOOM! My right knee (“Dammit! That’s the one I hurt!”) popped out. It hurt. A lot. It was excruciating. It was much worse than usual. At first, I could barely wobble, and even though we were in a furniture store, there weren’t any chairs around to get off of it. So, I staggered around drunkenly until I found the proper limping motion to keep the weight off my leg, and then I was able to walk. Barely.

Bravely, my wife continued shopping. It’s why I love her so.

Eventually, we loaded the five boxes of the entertainment center parts into the car. Ouch. We drove home. We unloaded the five boxes of the entertainment center parts. Ouch. Ouch. (I dropped the end of one of the boxes on my foot. Try hopping in pain on a bad knee. It’s redundant.)

We went out to dinner. We parked uphill across the street from the restaurant. Ouch.

We went home. We walked the dogs. Ouch.

Finally, I tried to just lie down and put my leg up, but I couldn’t find a comfortable position. Luckily, I had dogs pushing me in various directions, trying to help me find the right way. Ouch.

I thought, “The last time this happened, I slept it off. So, I should be better in the morning.” That was last time. This time, notsomuch. So, for the first time in years, I called in sick – although I can actually just work from home, so I’m not really out sick, I’m just not in the office. Technically, it was more calling in “can’t drive“.

I had to tell some of my team why I wasn’t in. I’m sure the word has spread on the floor, so now everyone at the office knows why hiring the elderly is a risk. Also, I weigh slightly more than I did in high school, so nobody believes the “tore up my knee playing soccer” line, anyway.

Tomorrow, I go to see the orthopedic surgeon. Not my orthopedic surgeon, of course, since he retired. His replacement. I have a feeling my knee may have a replacement, as well.

If they fix one knee and not the other, I hope I don’t walk in circles.