The onset of darkness

By | September 9, 2019

The morning after the New England 3-Day, I find myself feeling tired, depressed, and kind of pathetic. I worked my tuchus off all weekend and now it’s over and I have nothing to look forward to for a very long time.

This year has been kind of about

work
work
work
Trip to NC over Memorial Day Weekend
work
work
work
Trip to NYC to see “Hamilton” and “Wicked”
work
work
work
Walk Twin Cities 3-Day
work
work
work
Crew New England 3-Day

but now the foreseeable future for a long way out is:

work
work
work
work
work
work
work

No vacations planned, no special events to look forward to, just a long Vermont winter and the onset of my usual I’m-so-pathetic-and-everyone-hates-me blues.

Major depression is a real illness and mine happens to be drug-resistant and very hard to treat.

Past experience has shown me that the smartest thing to do, when my depression starts to get bad, is to simply delete/deactivate my social media accounts. No one ever notices my absence, no one ever reaches out to say “hey, you’ve disappeared, how are you??” And that’s perfectly understandable. People are busy and have their own lives, and no one would put me on their list of top ten (or twenty, or fifty) friends.

And pulling a vanishing act has one major thing to recommend it — if I don’t even have a social media presence, I can’t use it to do pathetic, lonely things on those days when my depression is really out of control. And that means “fewer things to regret doing later.”

So if I do kinda drop off the surface of the Earth here in a few days or weeks, it won’t be because I’ve cried “goodbye cruel world” and jumped into a pond.

It’ll be because it’s the easiest way to avoid embarrassing myself worse.

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The Boston “Sweep Van Experience”

By | September 8, 2019

So, Carole and I spent the weekend in a 12-passenger van driving around Boston and environs; Carole was navigator and I was driver. We served as “Sweep Van B” for the 2019 New England Susan G Komen 3-Day. We had walked in the Twin Cities 3-Day a few weeks ago, and this was kind of our chance to pay back the incredible work of the Minneapolis/St Paul 3-Day crew by serving as crew ourselves in Boston and environs.

We had a theme for our van and everything! We chose “Under the Sea” as our theme, decorated our van with fun underwater props and decorations, and even dressed as though we were on an underwater expedition — Carole as a mermaid, and me in snorkeling gear. Carole got a lot of attention because her costume really did look pretty snazzy. I was just a weirdo in a shortie wet suit, mask, and snorkel who occasionally put fins on when I was standing by the van cheering walkers passing by. (I did not drive with the mask actually over my eyes; I’m not a complete idiot.) We passed out lots and lots and lots of Swedish Fish candy and the walkers we gave lifts to were surprisingly very glad to get them — apparently Swedish Fish are a lot more popular than I’d previously realized.

We had a playlist of underwater-themed music (think “Octopus’s Garden” and “Under the Sea” and stuff like that) to blast out the windows of our van as we drove the route — playing music loud enough to be heard by the walkers is meant to help them know you’re there and available. It’s frustrating as heck to realize too late that a sweep van just drove by you and you didn’t notice in time to raise your arms over your head in an X to signal for a lift. The music didn’t work as well as we’d have liked: Boston traffic is loud. Carole had to spend a good bit of time leaning out of her passenger-side window flat-out calling out to walkers who looked especially tired, “You okay? You okay? You there — you look marvelous!”

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Was it fun? Well…

Serving as sweep driver for three days in Boston-area traffic was exhausting. The proverbial aggressive Boston driver is not a myth — I cannot tell you how many times I carefully signaled a lane change and had a car barrel up and cut me off. When you drive an event vehicle at a 3-Day the organizers emphasize safety, caution, and so on, and so on. And then they tell you what to do if and when you get into an accident, give you paperwork to document what happened, tell you who to call and in what order… and wait for the semi-inevitable “oh God” moments when someone does side-swipe three parked cars or worse, actually has a fender bender with another vehicle.

I very much did not want to be That Guy, the one who had to call in to 3-Day command with a “um, so…” call from the scene of an accident. But as a result, I spent all weekend gripping the steering wheel for dear life, ready to make emergency evasive maneuvers as needed. My hands literally hurt tonight on the drive home from Boston. Carole served as navigator and an extra pair of eyes and she was worn out from the stress.

But … I didn’t wreck, didn’t scrape any other vehicles, didn’t run into anything, didn’t run over anyone. As I joked at one point, I call that a win.

The 3-Day is a positive, life-affirming experience most of the time. But then there’s having to drive five miles out of your way because you missed a turn and you can’t get safely turned around what with traffic and one-way streets and all that. Repeatedly. It was especially aggravating the first day as the route took us through the narrow winding streets of Charlestown and the North End, with traffic so bad that on occasion it took us a half hour to circle back to a point on the route three blocks behind us where we’d been informed that walkers were waiting for pickup. (By the time we got there, of course, the walkers had either given up and kept walking, called an Uber or Lyft, or, if they were lucky, been able to flag down one of the other six sweep vans as it came by.) We heard repeatedly that walkers simply didn’t see any sweep vans on Friday — we were just lost in the hurlyburly of Boston traffic.

One nice little detail from the weekend: we heard from several walkers that they didn’t realize that Carole and I were actually a married couple crewing together because we were being too nice/courteous/civil to each other as we drove around, even when things around us were absolutely crazy.

I. Am. Not. Kidding.

Our passengers were those walkers who were tired, sore, injured, etcetera (or who really, really needed to get to a bathroom). All lovely, pleasant people, a pleasure to serve and ride and talk with. We were honored to serve them. Many of them are breast cancer survivors, and every one of them cared enough to raise at least $2,300 in order to walk in the event. So there was that. Awesome people. Inspiring. Getting to be of service to such people was why Carole and I wanted to volunteer at the event. We got to see a few old acquaintances when we did stop for a few minutes at pits and even gave a couple of them rides, and that was nice.

But then there’s the downside — missing out on all the other parts of the 3-Day. The unfortunate thing about long hours spent in a sweep van is that you really miss out on a lot of the 3-Day experience; you don’t get to spend much time at pits or at lunch other than when you’re dropping off walkers, and you don’t get to visit with the people who don’t need a lift. You wave as you drive by them, and hope you don’t miss them signaling for a ride, but you don’t get to hear their stories or find out what motivates them to walk.

In principle, we could have done some of the socializing on Friday and Saturday evening at “camp” (the evening events and walker accomodations were in hotels this year, but we’re used to calling the event site “camp”).

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That was the theory, anyway.

However… Carole and I were assigned a hotel two miles or so from the two main event hotels — just luck of the draw. Our hotel was right next to the vehicle lot, which was convenient, but it meant that we had to shuttle over to “camp” if we wanted to take part in 3-Day evening stuff. The shuttles were vans like ours, driven by crew like us, fighting traffic back and forth the whole way between hotels, just like us. What sounded good in theory (shuttling people to camp from our hotel and back again) didn’t work out so well in practice.

We did go over to camp the first night (Friday), but shuttling to the “camp” hotel where all the 3-Day festivities were being held took an hour, and after dinner we were too tired to function. We waited for a half hour for a shuttle to take us back to our hotel but the shuttles were all stuck in Friday night traffic, so we walked back. It was faster.

On Saturday, we didn’t even bother going back over. My day had started at 5 am driving hotel-to-hotel shuttles (in much lighter traffic, admittedly, than at dinnertime on Friday) before starting our sweep van work, and by evening, I had no gas left in my tank, so to speak. We simply weren’t up for another hour shuttling back to camp and another hour shuttling back so we missed out on the honor ceremony and other aspects of camp life. We had dinner near our hotel and then we crashed for the night.

I don’t think anyone missed us when we didn’t appear at camp on Saturday night. We certainly didn’t get any messages saying “hey, where are you?” and that’s good, in a way. I used to be very obnoxious, if I do say so myself, about getting noticed at a 3-Day, wearing my pink hard hat and doing a lot of rah-rah social media posting before and during the event. When I look back on all that, all I can think is that making such a spectacle of myself, well intentioned or otherwise, detracted from the real purpose of the event, celebrating those fighting breast cancer and remembering those we’ve lost. If I’ve managed to become sufficiently invisible that most people don’t even know I’m at a 3-Day, then I guess I’m doing something right. It’s not supposed to be about me; it never should have been.

I should give credit, by the way, to our awesome sweep captains, Melissa and Ryan, who got to spend their weekend sitting at a table back at the camp hotel, up on the sixth floor next to the medical area, watching our transponders move around a map of Boston on their laptops and fielding calls and texts from us and from other 3-Day crew as to who was where with how many walkers and who was available to pick someone up at such-and-so location. They had things very well organized and kept our crew of seven sweep vans (two crewmembers each, driver and navigator) busy.

The most important detail from the weekend, though, is simply this: the 1200+ walkers and crew who took part in this year’s New England 3-Day raised $2.9 million dollars for the fight against breast cancer. That’s a serious chunk of change and Carole and I are proud to have played a role, however small, in making it all happen.

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“Michael” from “Google”

By | September 3, 2019

Today I got a call from “Google” letting me know that my Google Business account might not be Verified.

Gasp!

Carole had mentioned having gotten quite a few answering machine messages from someone at Google about our “Google Business” account.

I had no idea what Google wanted, but supposed it might be an annual re-verification that our phone number was still supposed to be tied to our listing, or some such (and that the real purpose of the call would be to try to pitch us an advertising package).

In any event, I know from long experience that if there’s one thing Carole hates, it’s having to play back long answering machine messages after a long day’s work. I promised her that since I’d be working from home for a few days, I’d definitely take the call when it came in.

So … today around 4 pm, our land line phone rang.

Warning sign #1: the area code and exchange were the same as my home number — 802-434-####. I thought “hmm, maybe this is one of our neighbors calling”.

So, I picked up.

Warning sign #2: It wasn’t one of our neighbors. It was a recorded voice telling me that my Google Business account MIGHT NOT BE VERIFIED and to press 1 to be connected to someone who could help me.

That was when I went “hey, hold on”. If it was really Google, they’d know if my account was verified. And in any event, they wouldn’t be spoofing my local exchange.

But I pressed 1 anyway, just to see who or what I got.1I know that was a bit of a mistake; in so doing, I confirmed that there was a real human at our number, willing to press buttons and so on.

What I got was a guy with a thick accent identifying himself as “Michael” who asked who he was speaking with. He was calling from a very loud room of some kind — I visualized a boiler room call center like the ones 419 scammers are usually depicted working in. In the background, I could hear loud voices of other “Google agents” talking to their marks.

And here’s where I screwed the pooch, as it were: I HUNG UP.

Like an idiot.

I’ve always admired the people who keep phone scammers tied up for hours. THAT COULD HAVE BEEN ME.

Sigh. Perhaps “Michael” will call back tomorrow. I miss him already.

 

Parenthetically, Carole and I do have a Google Business account listing, even though we don’t actually own a business. It’s just our house, listed as a business called “Carole and Jay Furr”. I set it up a while back under the name “Otter Lodge”, describing it as a retreat center for those who enjoy metasyntactic variables or some such. I figured it’d get ignored; it was just me screwing around.

Well, one rainy Saturday night, we had someone actually show up at our front door, asking if there was a “lodge” there. I assume they were looking for a place to stay. I apologized and said “no, no, this is just our house.” I felt really awkward about it.

When I shut the door and told Carole what had happened, she gave me a very hard look, arms folded. I immediately went and changed the listing from “Otter Lodge” to “Carole and Jay Furr”. We haven’t had a lot of contacts regarding the “business” since then.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. I know that was a bit of a mistake; in so doing, I confirmed that there was a real human at our number, willing to press buttons and so on.
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Song Suggestions Needed

By | August 24, 2019

Carole and I are signed up to be “sweep” crew for the 2019 New England Susan G Komen 3-Day (September 6-7-8). You probably know what that means — we’ll be driving a van along the route each day, picking up walkers who are too tired/blistered/sore/etcetera to continue on. Sometimes people just need a lift for a little while, sometimes they’re done for the day. Either way, sweep crew are there to boost their spirits and cheer them up, not just to provide a ride. With that in mind, sweep crews always pick a theme for their van, something jolly and cheerful. We’ve picked “Under The Sea” (because, of course, Carole is actually a sea otter and all that).

I’m going to wear a dive suit, mask, and snorkel (in all likelihood a shortie dive suit, not a full body-covering suit; that’d get really hot) and Carole’s going to dress up as a mermaid. I’ll have fins and stuff to put on for those intervals where we’re just parked alongside the route cheering walkers on — obviously, I can’t drive with fins on. We’ve got decorations for the van all picked out, candy that fits the theme, etcetera.

But the one thing we’re still working on is music. Sweep vans often hang or mount a speaker on the outside of the van and play happy music as they drive the route — that way, you know from the approaching music that a particular sweep van is making its approach to your tired little knot of 3-Day participants. I am adamant that I don’t want generic “sea” music — people keep suggesting Jimmy Buffett stuff. I like Mr. Buffett’s works as much as anyone, but his oeuvre is beach and sailing and so forth … stuff that happens above the waves. I want music that connotes our theme: under the sea.

Hence this post — I’d love suggestions from the Internet hive mind.

Ideas we’ve had so far:

  1. “Fins” — Jimmy Buffett (okay, one Buffett song is allowed)
  2. “Under The Sea” — Little Mermaid soundtrack (and by other artists as well)
  3. “Octopus’s Garden” — Ringo Starr
  4. Theme from “Jaws” — John Williams
  5. “Yellow Submarine” — The Beatles
  6. “Once In A Lifetime” — Talking Heads
  7. “Wipeout” — The Surfaris
  8. “Bottom of the Sea” — Matthew Nathanson
  9. “Low On Air” — 77 Bombay Street
  10. “The Beautiful Briny Sea” (from “Bedknobs and Broomsticks”)
  11. “Down To The Bottom Of The Sea” — They Might Be Giants
  12. “Cowtown” — They Might Be Giants

… etcetera

 

Thoughts?

Suggestions very much appreciated.

You can leave suggestions as a comment to this post, or click here to send an email.

 

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Green Mountain Horn Club performance in North Hero

By | August 10, 2019

The Green Mountain Horn Club has been a thing here in Vermont for several decades, changing in membership over the years but always managing to come together every few months to put on fun French Horn-only performances for our legions of admiring fans.

We did a performance recently in North Hero, Vermont at a little roadside venue called Island Arts (North Hero is one of the town-sized islands in northern Lake Champlain). We had assistance from a piccolo player (for the “Stars and Stripes Forever”) and several drummers from the talented pool of Vermont percussion players. Four of our horn players also brought their Wagner tubas — brass instruments that look like skinny, stretched-out French horns — to use for three numbers. It was a fun evening and I’m grateful to our legendary conductor and organizer, Charles Mayhood, for putting the whole thing together.

Jay sat on a blanket in front of the band and did his best to film the performance on his cell phone, but predictably had a few “oops”-es along the way. Fortunately, a cameraman from Lake Champlain Access Television was also present, to film the performance for later broadcast, and just the other day the video went up on their website. Enjoy.

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Send us mail at the 2019 Twin Cities 3-Day

By | August 1, 2019

Carole and I will be walking in the 2019 Susan G Komen Twin Cities 3-Day in three weeks (August 18-20).

Those of you who have taken part in past 3-Day events know how nice it is to walk 20 miles and then get to the 3-Day campsite and find letters and postcards of encouragement sent by friends and family and other supporters. Those of you who haven’t might not know that — so here’s information about how you can do that if you want to. 😀

Send a Letter

Getting mail on event can provide a big boost to a participant’s spirits. Take a few minutes to write a note which will brighten their Komen 3-Day experience! We’ll have a P.O. Box open for two months before the event. Send your letters, and we’ll bring them to camp for the participant to pick up.

Susan G. Komen 3-Day Camp Mail
ATTN: [INSERT NAME OF PARTICIPANT HERE]
P.O. Box 50714
Mendota, MN 55150

Mail must be postmarked no later than August 6. Envelopes only, please. No boxes or large packages. Any mail that is not received by the 3-Day by August 13 or retrieved by the participant by September 2 will be destroyed. Please note: This address is not the actual location of camp, but a P.O. Box for mail delivery only.

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The Unbearable Lightness of Being… Light

By | July 30, 2019

My diet and weight loss efforts are paying off. I started off at 255 lbs and I am now somewhere below 209 lbs. My goal is to get back down to 180 pounds, which is where I was last time I went on a big diet and got myself back in good shape … almost 10 years ago.

Back then, I was also in the habit of shaving my head to show solidarity with those suffering from breast cancer. I managed to freak out a few people who saw my skinny, bald-headed frame and thought I had come down with some horrible wasting disease.

However, I wasn’t able to keep the pounds off due to depression and bad eating habits and lack of exercise. I’ve been stuck in the 240 pound to 250 pound range for several years. My former primary care physician retired three or four years ago and my current PCP has only ever seen me at my obese, 250-pound level. She’s a nice lady and I like her a lot …but she’s been almost a little too tactful: trying to manage my high blood pressure through one medication after another and saying very little about how maybe I should lose weight.

I am really, really, really looking forward to walking into her office in a few weeks or months and doing the normal pre-appointment weigh in and totally freaking out the nurses and then my PCP when they realize that I’ve lost 70-plus pounds since they last saw me.

Everyone should have a goal. That’s mine.

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Baseball: “After”

By | July 24, 2019

So now it can be told: Carole did a splendid job on the Star-Spangled Banner at the July 22 Vermont Lake Monsters game, and I suck at throwing out first pitches.

As I said, throwing out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game ain’t no thing. No one gives a damn how spectacularly well, or spectacularly awful, the first pitch is unless it’s a celebrity at a major league game… and this certainly wasn’t that. Heck, there was hardly anyone at Monday night’s game – 1,566 was the announced attendance, but at game start, honestly, I think it was probably half that. (That number may actually denote tickets sold, including season tickets, as opposed to butts-in-seats.) It was a gray day and it’d been raining off and on all afternoon and wasn’t really a great night for baseball.

A few minutes before the game, we (Carole and I and Carole’s dad Glenn, who was visiting from Ohio) were shown out onto the field along with some folks from the presenting sponsor for that night’s game (a pet supply company — the first 500 fans got a collapsible pet bowl) and briefed on our duties. Carole got to do a quick sound check, which eased her nerves, and for my part, I was reminded that I didn’t have to throw from the mound and that I could come as far forward as I wanted. Wish I’d paid attention to that.

I was a little surprised when it turned out that I wasn’t the only person throwing out the first pitch — they had five balls to throw out, one for me and one each for the two adults and two kids from the sponsor. The sponsors got to go first — and it quickly devolved to the younger of the two kids, basically toddler aged, wobbling cutely around holding a ball while the parents and a catcher from the Lake Monsters coaxed him to toss it. Eventually the kid did and the catcher snagged it from approximately two feet away. Then the Lake Monsters mascot Champ stepped up and played catch with the kid for a bit. It was adorable.

So, this whole time, I’d been standing a few feet off to one side, kinda awkwardly, and when it finally was my turn, I wound up being my own worst enemy. Even though I’m quite sure that no one would have minded if I’d taken a few seconds to get myself squared away, I found myself kind of in a “must-throw-ball-NOW” mindset; we’d been out there for quite a while and I imagined that people in the stands were thinking “get on with it”.

So… pretty much as soon as the catcher had stepped back to the vicinity of home plate (he’d come almost all the way out to the mound for the toddler), I stepped up and …

… basically lobbed the ball right into the ground a few feet to one side of the catcher.

Sigh.

The catcher alertly snagged it on the bounce. I got a handshake from the catcher, got the ball back for a keepsake, and then it was time for Carole to sing.

(As we were leaving the field after the anthem, one of the Lake Monsters players in the dugout cheerfully snarked “Nice pitch” — but he was smiling as he said it, and to my credit, I just smiled back and said “Thanks!”.)

 

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Weight Loss Update

By | July 22, 2019


Against all logic and reason, my weight loss plan is going well. From a high of 258 pounds in February, I’m down to 209.4 as of Saturday.

I know that people lie about their diets all the time, but my scale is WiFi/Internet-integrated and the numbers don’t lie. It’s knowing that the scale will rat me out digitally for all to see that helps keep me honest. (I’ve got my IFTTT account set up to automatically tweet/share my weigh-ins, WeightGurus.com syncs to Fitbit, Fitbit updates my weight, IFTTT tweets it. Isn’t technology wonderful?)

I’m pleased by my progress, but at the same time I feel awkward about what may come across like bragging — as though that nice even line of descent from 255 to 230 to 209 was easy.

It wasn’t.

Okay, some of the weight loss seemed to happen just by itself. I attribute that to stopping my carvedilol and losartan, both of which were prescribed to help with high blood pressure and neither of which was making any dent at all (I never could get my systolic blood pressure below 150 consistently while on those two drugs) and both of which have a known side effect of causing water retention. Since stopping, my blood pressure didn’t get worse, but I lost a lot of weight very quickly, dropping from 255 to the upper 230s almost overnight.

But the rest is the result of some seriously anal calorie counting using the MyFitnessPal app and doing a ton of walking. Case in point: I walked nine miles a day Monday through Thursday of last week and then close to eleven on Saturday. That kind of activity adds up. I’m walking to burn calories and I’m walking to build muscle. I eat a lot of high-protein/low-fat/low-sugar foods, too. So far, it all seems to be working.

But I’m borderline ‘hungry’ a lot of the time — the result of a body trained to expect food every time a little hunger surfaced, just like a cat who expects to be tossed cat treats on demand. Rest assured, I’m getting enough nutrition; being hungry doesn’t mean I’m on a starvation diet. Learning to ignore hunger, or at least to not give in to it, is the hardest part of dieting. Well, that and the “oh, what would one _____ hurt?” All the little lies we tell ourselves, you know?

I did all this once before, back in 2009-2010, and got down to 180 pounds. Then I put it all back on, and then some, in the intervening years. I blame depression and stress and a lot of lies-to-self. I hope this time I can keep it off. The only semi-guaranteed way to do anything about high blood pressure is to lose weight. Once I’m down at my target weight, we’ll see where my BP winds up — and then we can make a sensible decision regarding medication.

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Baseball: “Before”

By | July 22, 2019

Tonight will be a special night in the Furr household.

Carole will be singing the national anthem at tonight’s Vermont Lake Monsters minor league baseball game, which is cool, and … I’ll be throwing out the first pitch, which isn’t actually all that cool. Or exciting. Or noteworthy.

The Lake Monsters play in the short-season A (low-level, the rung just above the rookie leagues) New York-Penn League. They’ve been averaging 2,251 fans per game this season, but that includes both the weekend games where they have fireworks and 25 cent hot dogs and free t-shirts for the first thousand fans AND the games where the skies threaten rain all day, and the free giveaway is a collapsible dog bowl with the Lake Monsters logo, and it’s Monday.

Today is Monday, and the free giveaway is a collapsible dog bowl with the Lake Monsters logo, and rain is in the forecast. I’m going to be surprised if they get much more than a thousand fans in the stands.

And that’s exactly what Carole wanted when she was asked (after submitting a video of herself singing the anthem at a Burlington Concert Band concert, and having been accepted into the Lake Monsters’ anthem-singers pool) what night she wanted to sing. She figured it’d be easier to sing at a low-attendance, low-expectations game than it would be to sing at a packed house.

That said, I think she’s going to be great. She’s been practicing quite a bit and she’s been in very good voice. Other than nerves and technical issues with the microphone (which we hope will be nonexistent), there’s no reason why she shouldn’t do an amazing job.

As for me — the imbecile throwing out the first pitch — well, that’s likely to be another story entirely. No one really pays any attention to whoever throws out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game unless it’s a bona-fide celebrity (local or otherwise) or if whoever has the honor has brought a lot of friends and family along. Most people don’t even register that there is a first pitch being thrown out; it’s all done in a very low-key fashion. The fans are too busy finding their seats, eating hot dogs, peering confusedly at their souvenir dog bowls, and so forth. It’s not until they call for the fans to rise for the anthem that anything happening on the field really registers on their radar to any great extent.

Of course, you do see YouTube videos of great “first pitch” fails at major league games — like the poor woman who plunked a cameraman standing along the first base line. You screw up colorfully enough, you’re going to get some notoriety. But again, we’re talking major league there. There are a lot more eyeballs and television cameras, to say nothing of smartphone videos, involved. If I screw up horribly tonight, it will be little noted nor long remembered (™ A. Lincoln 1863).

But that said, in the mind of the person throwing the ball, it’s a low-reward high-risk experience. You’re so terrified of being one of the great all-time fails that you think too much and boom, you plunk a Little Leaguer who’s on the field for the national anthem festivities. It’s not really something I’ve ever really stayed up nights wanting to do.

So, with that said, you’re probably wondering how I came to be in this fix in the first place.

Well, so I am I.

I mean, I know technically how I got the honor — I won a charity auction a few months ago for the right to throw out the first pitch at a Lake Monsters game.

The auction was one of those grab-bag online auctions where everything from ski passes at the local ski resort to gift certificates for local restaurants are up for bid. There are always some hotly desired items (a golf outing for four at the local PGA-level course) and some clunkers (have your fortune told by local Tarot card expert So-and-so). I find charity auctions kind of interesting for a couple of reasons — one, it’s amusing to see what sort of things the charity was able to get donated (tarot card readings? really?) and once in a while there actually is something desirable and worth bidding on. And if nothing else, there’s the urge to get in a moderately low bid early for something peculiar or strange and see if against all logic and reason it holds on and winds up as the winning bid.

This year’s auction on behalf of the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts (our main local theater and performing arts space) had 220 items up for auction — some interesting, some not. I won the bidding for two items (but put in bids on four or five more, none of which I was especially heartbroken to lose out on):

I have absolutely no idea why I bid more than a few dollars on the whole first pitch thing. I can see bidding fifty bucks early on just for giggles with the expectation of being outbid in due course, and if I’d won at a bid of $50, well, why not? But $185? (Yes, $185. I’m embarrassed just typing it. That’s real money.) I do not remember bidding that much and can only say that either I made a typo (and then overlooked the typo when the site asked me to confirm my bid) or I was just out of my damn mind late one night and was up web-surfing when I should have been sleeping. You know those late-night (or drunk) Amazon purchases you hear about? You’re insomniac and cranky (or drunk) and five days later a Christmas-edition Big Mouth Billy Bass shows up at your door? Well, I think “bidding $185 to make a total fool out of yourself in front of a thousand strangers” certainly falls into the same general area.

Did I mention that the package also included a free baseball cap and Lake Monsters mascot bobblehead?

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The cap turned out to be a leftover giveaway cap from last year’s Northeast Delta Dental cap night (although it is a nice cap; I’ve been wearing it on all my walks this summer) and the bobblehead definitely fills the “souvenir mascot bobblehead” niche in my life list, the one I didn’t know needed filling.

Have I been practicing? I meant to, but travel for work and other things cut into my free time and I didn’t get around to it — and then suddenly here we were, with only a couple days to go. I took a dozen baseballs to a local high school field yesterday and set up on the mound and aimed in the general direction of home plate. A third of my throws would have been right on the money. Another third or so would have required the catcher to step a couple steps to the left or right to make the catch. The others? Well, they weren’t as good. No cameramen would have been killed in the process, but they wouldn’t have had major league scouts calling up to sign me.

From what I understand, the most common mistake by first-pitch-throwers is shorting it; the advice generally given is to aim for three or four feet behind home plate, and hope it comes out in the wash. (I’ve never had a really strong throwing arm, so it probably doesn’t matter what I try to do; it’ll work out or not and all the planning and preparation I can do will probably not affect things in the slightest.)

Anyway, I expect to have some footage to share here later or tomorrow, both of Carole doing a tremendous job on the national anthem and me … doing whatever it is I wind up doing. I can say for sure that right now the words going through my mind are right out of Shepard’s Prayer (q.v.).

 

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