BIB2018: The Smoke Gets in your Eyes/Not Quite a Run for the Border Tour
The last time we visited the Pacific Northwest, in 1999, Gerry arrived a day later than the rest of us. So when he showed up only hours late this year, we weren’t particularly fazed. There was a good deal of cloud cover and smoke from nearby forest fires, so we attributed Gerry’s tardiness to the fact that Wisconsin-based aircraft are likely not equipped with instrumentation for anything less than perfect visibility. In fact, it gave the rest of us a chance to find a place near Sea-Tac (shortened compound form of “Seattle-Tacoma”) International Airport for brunch (shortened compound form of “Brothers munch”). And find a place we did, with the almost impossibly generic moniker of “Dave’s Diner”. Even after a leisurely meal, though, we still had plenty of time to blow while we waited for Gerry’s Air Milwaukee Wright B Flyer to land. Kevin did a little Googling for offbeat attractions and hit paydirt. Jimi Hendrix’ final resting place was a mere 9 miles away in an otherwise unremarkable (i.e., nondescript) cemetery called Greenwood Memorial Park. Luckily, there was an unlocked pfuneral home adjoining the cemetery, as Mark’s Jimi Hendrix Experience included a quick side visit to relieve himself. No “p” in funeral home, you say? There was on this day.
Before we picked up Gerry, Scott disclosed that the rooms for our third night, in Vancouver, had been mistakenly cancelled due to some sort of credit card glitch. He had called to reinstate the reservations, but the woman he had spoken with on the phone seemed as though she may have donated her brain to science before she was done with it. A follow-up call would be in order. Scott also mentioned in passing that the rooms would get nicer as the trip went on, implying that the first night’s rooms at a place called Hotel Ruby 2 in Spokane may not appear on the Condé Nast Readers Choice Awards. Kevin turned to Yelp, where he found comments like “Great value hotel, super clean, friendly staff. Only con: close, very close (100 yards) to very active train tracks.” And “I would rate the hotel 4 stars except for the trains.”
Once we completed our foursome with a return trip to SeaTac to pick up Gerry, we were off on the first leg of the trip, a nearly 300-mile pilgrimage to see a minor league baseball game in Spokane. It was Superhero Night at Avista Stadium. Among other things, that meant that the first pitch would be thrown out by none other than Superman, looking resplendent in his red, yellow and blue leotards and cape. The problem was that you half expected Superman to drive the catcher into the wall behind the plate with a 200 mile-an-hour fastball. Instead, when this imposter let loose with an effeminate throw-from-the-elbow eephus pitch, he went from Man-of-Steel to SNL’s Stefon in the bat of an eyelash. It sucked the manhood out of the entire stadium. The stadium itself did exude just a little bit of machismo based on some of its vintage 1958 features. Real men build stadiums that last 60 years (hey Atlanta, your slip is showing). Most notably, fans enter through a concrete tunnel from underneath the stands. Adding to the retro feel is the fact that it sits in the middle of a fairgrounds. Two more quirky things about Avista Stadium warrant a mention. First, a vendor with a bandage on the middle of his glasses and teeth so crooked it was like a dental funhouse in his mouth had us trying to guess all night whether he was really that nerdy, or playing a character as part of his shtick. Second, virtually every one of the young female employees was decidedly not nerdy. There is absolutely no way that they were selected from a statistically random candidate pool. They had us wondering all night whether Spokane is made up of some sort of genetically superior gene pool, or there are some creative hiring practices being employed by the ball club.
A large, enthusiastic crowd saw the hometown Spokane Indians take a 3-2 win from the Everett AquaSox. Adding insult to injury, the AquaSox were wearing controversial jerseys that identified them not as the AquaSox, but as the “Conquistadors”, part of a minor league baseball initiative to celebrate teams’ “fun-loving, multi-cultural fans.” What the Everett folks must have failed to recognize is that the Conquistadors were mostly white Europeans who, according to La Vida Baseball, a web site produced in association with the National Baseball Hall of Fame to celebrate Latino baseball, “were the bad guys in Latin American history and U.S. Latino history — they were the ones our forebears fought against in seeking national independence. They were responsible for the death of millions of indigenous peoples from what is now the U.S. West and Southwest through Mexico into Central America and South America.” Congratulations, Everett. You gotta try pretty hard to make the Indians the second most offensive team name on the field.
The Ruby 2, as promised, came complete with more train sounds than Patrick Monahan. Christina at the front desk tried to reassure us, through a faint Eastern European accent, that “Only rooms at the far end can actually feel the trains. The good news is that thet air conditioning unit usually drowns out the train noise.” Condé Nast, indeed. Trains or not, we were tired and jet-lagged enough that we slept pretty well before waking up for breakfast and driving the short couple of blocks to Molly’s Family Restaurant, notable for its 6-egg omelets and its distinctive A-frame structure…that’s A as in antacid.
Before Bing was a browser, it was a crooner. And his house still stands on the campus of Gonzaga University, where we visited it. While it is true that the house was built by Crosby’s father and two uncles, there is no truth, as far as we know, to the rumor that he was named for the sound that the doorbell made. We left a very light rain behind in Spokane and headed back west toward our second of four games, in Tacoma. Along the way, we stopped for lunch at Twede’s Café, which served as the RR Diner on the show Twin Peaks. The renowned cherry pie from Twin Peaks is only one of a number of pies we sampled, though none of us tried the “damn fine cup of coffee” for which the diner became famous. The diner is only a short distance from Snoqualmie Falls, also featured in Twin Peaks, but equally well-known as a hotbed for Sasquatch sightings. Years from now, those who were there that Friday will speak of coming face-to-face with the large, hairy, frightening species of primate known as BIBfoot.
We had enough time before our game Friday evening to grab a drink at the Social Bar and Grill on Tacoma’s waterfront and become acquainted with Chihuly glass, which is featured at the Museum of Glass just a few feet away. Chihuly glass was invented by Dale Chihuly, a Tacoma native, not to be confused with Jeff Gillooly, the goon who tried to take out Nancy Kerrigan’s knee in the 1994 Olympics. Chihuly is associated with complex, multi-colored figures. Gillooly is associated with simple rednecks.
Cheney Stadium, home of the Tacoma Rainiers, is nestled in the pines just west of downtown Tacoma. The field itself features a 29-foot tall wall 425 feet from home plate in straight-away center field. A batter would have to really get ahold of one in order for a fan to Tacoma ball that’s hit over that fence. An enthusiastic crowd of 7006 saw the Rainiers fall 8-1 to the Fresno Grizzlies, many of them sitting in private seating areas that seem to make up an inordinate percentage of the seats at Cheney Stadium. Keeping the crowd stoked, as at many minor league parks, was a master of ceremonies who roamed the stands. This one came with a twist, though. He sported a suit and tie and Forrest-Gump-in-the-military style haircut. Between innings, he would bark trivia questions at fans, give them about three-eighths of a second to answer, and when they inevitably froze up, would heap verbal abuse on them. The whole routine gave off a Pee-wee-Herman-meets-Sam-Kinison vibe that was surprisingly entertaining and only mildly frightening.
Following the game, we knocked off a portion of the drive to Vancouver before bedding down for the night at the Marriott Towne Place Suites in Everett, Washington. It was less a hotel than a series of bungalows situated on a hill. The BIB pecking order became a little more evident that evening as Scott had the only king-size bed among the group (he makes the reservations, remember?). Kevin, on the other hand, was in the most remote building, far enough up the hill to require less a bellman than a Sherpa, and force a decision as whether to attempt the whole climb that night or establish a base camp half-way up and tackle the rest at daybreak.
Saturday morning started at Patty’s Eggnest Restaurant. It is required that we begin each day with unhealthily large breakfast portions – call it binding carbitration. We unanimously agreed that the first thing we would do upon arriving in Vancouver was to ride the comically misnamed “Hop-On, Hop-Off” bus. The problem with the whole HOHO attraction is that it had far too few seats on the buses to accommodate the number of people who wanted to get on at each stop. That meant that getting off to see anything – especially with a group of four - meant risking what could be hours until another bus with sufficient seating came along. So we were essentially trapped on this cramped bus for the entire two-hour duration that it took to navigate around the city and back to the starting point. Think maximum security prison, but without the structured recreational activities. We decided to parole ourselves a few stops early and hoof it the rest of the way. That afforded us the opportunity to grab lunch at Doolin’s Irish Pub and take the glass elevator to the top of the 553-foot high Vancouver Lookout. The latter turned out to be a real coup, not only because it was an unusually clear day for viewing, but because we got to help Mark overcome his fear of heights. Treating mild acrophobia with a glass elevator involves the same kind of tough love that might lead you to lock your germaphobic friend in a McDonalds playland.
Saturday night’s game was at the Vancouver Canadians’ home, Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium, built in 1951. Two unique features of the field are a bullpen that protrudes into the playing surface, actually reducing the amount of playable outfield grass and creating a short porch in left field, and dugouts that are unusually far down the lines, not even starting until almost first and third base. Another large crowd (6413) cheered literally every pitch of a 4-0 win over the Spokane Indians (the second time we’d seen Spokane in three days), a little surprising given that you would expect Vancouver to be more hockey than baseball crazed, but these folks were really into it. We couldn’t help but take note of the 3-foot hot dogs available at the game, called – what else? – Yard Dogs (shouldn’t it be a Meter Mett in Canada?). And for the second night in a row, we got a flippant emcee trolling the fans. He shot back at a heckler, “When you’re doing your job, I don’t tell you how to flip the burgers.” We also encountered an entertaining, if somewhat geographically conflicted, beer vendor wearing a maple leaf cap and Hawaiian shirt (Don Hoser?). The beer, by the way, is served in small cups with lids you can sip through. If they’re going to go that far, they might as well just include a straw and avoid any pretense of beer-swigging machismo: “Sir, I’ll need to see some ID for that beer and just drop your man card in the shredder at the end of the row.”
The follow-up calls to the Vancouver hotel’s reservation agent revealed that she had a photographic memory, but with the lens cap glued on. Long story short, we called an audible and wound up in another hotel with a perfectly acceptable location and reservation desk employees that hadn’t been left on a tilt-a-whirl too long as children. Even better, it was convenient to Ricky’s Country Restaurant, British Columbia’s answer to Denny’s. What could be more appropriate for a BIB breakfast north of the border than a Grand Slam with Canadian Bacon? A 48-minute wait at the border crossing was punctuated by an attractive young female agent who hailed from Minneapolis and instantly established some sort of upper Midwest bond with Gerry. Once she heard he was from the neighboring dairy state, we could have been carrying passports written in crayon and armed like the Frito Bandito and we’d have gotten through as long as she detected even the faintest hint of cheese curd wafting through the air from the back seat.
Safeco Field is beautiful. The Mariners’ play was not. The Dodgers whipped the M’s 12-1 in a game that was over before Seattle even came to bat. LA scored 5 runs in the top of the first as Clayton Kershaw notched his 150th career win without even breathing hard. It was so bad that M’s shortstop Andrew Romine pitched the top of the ninth. Dodger reliever Zac Rosscup finished off the Mariners with an immaculate inning in the bottom of the ninth. The game got out of hand so quickly that the notoriously late-arriving Dodger fans must have been surprised to see that the game was still in the first inning as they took their seats. Dodger fans are obnoxious when they are losing; they are unbearable when the Dodgers are winning big. Nevertheless, Mark made a few friends among some Dodger faithful sitting in the row behind us (in the remarkably good seats that Scott somehow procured behind the plate). In their drunken stupor, they seemed completely captivated by Mark’s explanation of our quixotic adventures. Speaking of which, on a nostalgic note, the Mariners’ in-stadium historical museum (they’ve really missed an opportunity by not calling it the Room of the Ancient Mariners) featured a display describing the June 27, 1999 last game played at the Seattle Kingdome, also the last game that we attended as a group in Seattle.
Following the game, Seattle hosted a run-the-bases promotion for children in attendance. It seemed to go on forever. The announced crowd was 45,419, but there seemed to be more kids (and adults) than that that emerged from the center field wall and made their way to the basepaths over the 30 minutes or so that we hung around after the game. Either kids were finishing up and circling back for multiple trips, or Puget Sound spontaneously emits children.
As if the Vancouver Lookout hadn’t provided enough knee-weakening heights for one weekend, we drove over to the Seattle Space Needle after the game. Adding an extra bit of excitement to the 605-foot tall tower are a rotating glass floor and angled glass benches on the exterior that face inward, but lean their occupants backward into the nothingness below. Only Gerry had the cajones to stand on one of the benches and lean backward. With dusk setting in, we hopped on the Seattle Center Monorail near the base of the Space Needle and rode to a nearly empty Pike Place Market. While it was entirely possible that the flood of visitors that would normally be there were all still rounding the bases at Safeco, we attributed the lack of tourists to the fact that it was Sunday evening and most of the shops and restaurants were closing down. The Seatown Seabar was open for al fresco dining along Elliott Bay. Luckily, Al had not claimed his reservation, so we were able to snag his outdoor table. Scott settled for a cheeseburger and fries when he realized that the menu did not include his favorite seafood dish (fish and chips). Gerry had what he purported to be his first raw oysters. Given that oysters are known to enhance testosterone levels, one could question why he chose to try them on a trip with three other dudes. It’s not like we were going to be impressed with his mussels.
A late-night drink at the Sea-Tac Marriott Courtyard and a final farewell over breakfast spelled an end to BIB 2018. 2019 beckons, with Miami and Atlanta, both nearly a continent away from the Pacific Northwest, as possible destinations.
BIB2017: the Ohio-Style Polka Tour
We had gathered everyone and their luggage together and exited the Columbus airport somewhere around 11:30am. By 11:58am, the first item on the standing agenda had been addressed, with the proposal to include significant others in future BIB events (henceforth to be known as “Title Nein”) going down to defeat in a unanimous bipartisan vote. Even if someone had been inclined to offer a shred of support for the notion, we were all so grumpy from waking up early that we’d have swatted it away like LeBron James on a Kevin Hart jump shot.
This year’s itinerary called for Columbus-to-Cleveland-to-Akron-to-Cleveland-to-Columbus, with the initial jaunt to the Mistake on the Lake designed to afford a full afternoon at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Kevin suggested that we pause for just a second to consider the wisdom of the “Cleveland-to-Akron-to-Cleveland” part, and “wouldn’t it make more sense just to go straight to Akron, where tonight’s game would be played?” The Vulcan Death Stare from the passenger seat (Scott) and rear-view mirror (Mark and Gerry) seemed to be tacitly conveying phrases like “Cheap Trick”, “Public Enemy”, and “Grateful Dead”, none of which had anything to do with bands. The GPS remained pointed to the North Coast.
For lunch, once we arrived in Cleveland, we selected an establishment within walking distance of the Hall of Fame, curiously named the Winking Lizard Tavern. There were no obvious signs of any reptiles, flirtatious or otherwise, though we may have picked a bad day, since the downtown location had to be close to at least a few law firms. Lunch was uneventful, but for the waitress chasing down Gerry outside the restaurant after he’d left his credit card behind. A few blocks away, there was something at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for each of us: a floor-to-ceiling image of Frank Zappa for Mark, Ringo Starr’s drum kit for Kevin, a 3D U2 concert movie for Scott and an exhibit toasting Les Paul, the “Wizard of Waukesha” for Gerry. A big day for Gerry – in the span of less than 2 hours, the Wizard reunited him with his hometown, and the Lizard reunited him with his ability to pay for anything.
After the Hall, we hopped on I-77 and headed for Akron. The first thing we noticed upon arriving in Akron is that Canal Park, home of the Akron RubberDucks, is quite literally the best-looking edifice in the downtown area. While much of the downtown area is, at best, underutilized and, at worst, a testament to urban blight, the ballpark and the immediate area around it seem to be thriving. The crosswalks leading to the park are happily painted not with simple white lines, but with cartoonish yellow webbed duck footprints. With some time to spare before the first pitch, we found the Barley House just a block away, a local Sports Bar with enough craft beer and free popcorn to keep us occupied until game time.
We would never have wasted gastric capacity on popcorn had we realized the veritable amusement park of clown food awaiting us at the game. The Rubberducks go out of their way to advertise what they describe as “Extreme Foot Items”, lending an air of legitimacy to what sounds like a sort of culinary X Games. The marquee item is the “Notorious P.I.G.”, described as “two fried pork tenderloins as the bun, filled with a stack of pulled pork, pecanwood smoked shoulder bacon, and maple honey mustard sauerkraut slaw”. If that isn’t state-of-the-artery enough for you, how about the Yardbird: “a healthy [that word alone should be enough to draw claims of false advertising] portion of turkey, bacon, apples, arugula, and honey-whipped cream cheese, sandwiched between two warm apple fritters”? Rounding out the lineup are the Squealer (a half-pound hot dog stuffed with pulled pork and cheddar cheese, wrapped in bacon, then deep-fried and drizzled with barbeque sauce), the Nice 2 Meat You Burger (a 1-1⁄4-pound hamburger, stuffed with a 1⁄2-pound hot dog and a 1⁄4-pound of bacon, cheese and onions), the 3 Dog Night (a hot dog stuffed inside a bratwurst stuffed inside a kielbasa, topped with sauerkraut and stadium mustard, all on a hoagie roll), something called Not Your Routine Poutine (12-ounce pile of french fries topped with gravy, cheese curds, BBQ pulled pork, bacon bits & green onion), and for dessert, the Screamer (a 5-pound sundae served in a full-size keepsake Akron Aeros batting helmet, featuring 21 scoops of hand-dipped ice cream, a pound of crumbled brownie, four whole bananas, hot fudge and sprinkles). This park doesn’t need restrooms; it needs cardiac arrest-rooms. Of our contingent, only Scott ventured even a few steps into this dietary minefield, waiting in a ridiculously long line to visit a concession called Taters, home of Fried Mac N Cheese Bites, thereby earning Scott honorable mention, Junior Foodie Division.
On the field, Corey Kluber pitched five innings of one-hit ball in a rehab assignment as the Ducks clobbered the Bowie Baysox 10 – 0. Akron’s manager, Mark Budzinski, turned out to be a friend of Scott’s, so not only did we get to see a big hometown win, but we had great seats that cost us exactly nothing.
Scott might well have been feeling gratified after securing free tickets to wrap up a well-planned first day. However, there would be no resting on his laurels. In fact, there would be no resting at all. The otherwise very nice Residence Inn where he’d reserved rooms for the night had a courtyard with a fire pit right beneath his window, a fire pit that served as a gathering place for all manner of loud party-goers until well into the morning. When we headed off to Bob Evans (a BIB favorite when we’re in the Midwest) the next morning, it was clear that for the second night in a row, he’d gotten something less than forty winks.
The morning began with soap box derby racing at Akron’s Derby Downs. What we learned there was that soap box derby cars are just science fair projects on steroids. The cars are remarkably sophisticated…so much so that’s it’s patently obvious that the kids had nothing to do with creating them. Not much that the kids need to do as far as steering either…the track is straight downhill with wide enough lanes that you’d have to really have a motor skills deficiency to screw it up. So what role do the kids play? Well, one of the local experts explained to us the science of tailoring the weight distribution between the front and back of the car to the length and incline of the track…so the kids are essentially just ballast.
It’s not unusual for the banter as we drive between cities to, at some point, turn to medical procedures we’ve had performed over the past year. This happens in part because we share a genuine concern for each other’s well-being and in part because any procedure that hints of a life-threatening condition raises the exhilarating prospect of getting to split the deceased’s baseball memorabilia evenly between the surviving members. The drive to Cleveland somehow turned into a share-and-compare conversation about colonoscopies. While we universally agreed that the preparation was far more stressful than the actual snaking of the drain, the claim of one BIB (who shall remain nameless) that during the process itself, administered with sedation, he’d “never felt so euphoric” seemed like a bridge too far [note the deliberate avoidance of the term “overreaching” in this context]. The moral of the story? Keep your friends close and your enemas closer.
An impromptu stop at Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park provided an opportunity to catch a breath of fresh air, change the subject and search for a Men in Black neuralyzer. As luck would have it, once we’d hiked the short distance to the falls, we encountered a young man on bended knee proposing to his girlfriend. The juxtaposition of this life-changing personal moment with the arrival of us four lumbering dolts was the rough equivalent of having Richard Simmons crash a bris.
The first place we visited upon returning to the Cleveland area was the Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame in nearby Euclid, because…why not? The CSPHF is just like the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame, but without a few of the amenities…like visitors. Poor Rosemary, the charming staff member who greeted us, nearly stroked out when we walked in. She just naturally assumed that any four males entering without the aid of walkers had to be there to rob the place…and we’re sure that happens on occasion. Do you have any idea of the street value that can be fetched by a hot piece of Frankie Yankovic memorabilia? Neither do we, but we’re sure it’s a lot. Rosemary, bless her palpitating heart, was a fountain of polka-related information. Were it not for her, we would never have known about 2012 inductee Father Frank Perkovich, who popularized the Polka Mass. Evidently, one day in 1973, he must have just eighty-sixed the organist, brought in the Schmenge Brothers to emcee the whole affair [your hosts with the hosts?] - and voila! - his masses became a sensation. Not even making this up…his plaque literally says his polka masses became a sensation. Rosemary also introduced us to Rich Yonakur, curator of the Slo-Pitch Softball Hall of Fame, conveniently located right upstairs. Rich himself is a kind of one-man sports melting pot. In addition to his Softball Hall of Fame duties, he used to play basketball for the San Antonio Spurs and is the son of local football legend John Yonakor, a member of the 1946-1950 All-American Football Conference Cleveland Browns. Finally, Rosemary turned us on to Kristy’s Tavern, a nearby restaurant that looks for all the world like a biker bar from the outside, but on the inside is a shrine to all things polka, including Euclid’s own Richie Vadnal, who apparently frequents the place regularly. When the folks at Kristy’s heard we were friends of Rosemary, they assumed we must be polka aficionados and cranked up the stereo. Nothing makes a relaxing meal go down easier than the understated elegance of Slovenian folk tunes in fast duple time.
Speaking of understated elegance, our next stop was at the Christmas Story House, home to the original leg lamp. This is the house where the 1983 holiday classic was filmed. The house itself more or less plays second fiddle to the museum and gift shop across the street that combined, occupy easily twice the square footage and offer for purchase leg lamp charms, leg lamp mugs, leg lamp ornaments, leg lamp sweaters, leg lamp baking kits and, if you really need one, actual leg lamps. Gerry opted to go with the leg lamp nightlight…thereby capturing the light-emitting characteristics of an actual leg lamp, without all the hassle of overhead storage for the plane ride home, not to mention the embarrassing conversation with any TSA agent who might mistake it for a prosthetic device.
A 4:10pm start time afforded time for us to check into our Cleveland hotel before the game against the Kansas City Royals. Just as we did, we saw a wedding party gathering outside the church across the street. So for the second time that day, the start of a young couple’s life together had been punctuated by the arrival of the Flab Four. If the bride and groom seeing each other before a wedding is considered bad luck, you’d think they’d run under a ladder to break a mirror, while crossing paths with a clowder of black cats in order to avoid seeing us right before they tie the knot.
Our seats at Progressive Field were in right center field. This location was convenient for two purposes: visiting the statue of Frank Robinson unveiled the very day we were in attendance and searing one’s own flesh in the afternoon sun that turned our seats into human-sized versions of those Hot Pockets crisping sleeves. Scott and Kevin opted almost immediately for seats down the shaded left field foul line, from which they had a majestic view of what appear to be giant shipping containers in the right field upper deck. The Cleveland organization somewhat inexplicable placed them there to replace about 7,000 seats in 2015. They have retired numbers on them, so I guess that’s a plus, but aside from that, it looks like a misplaced annex of the Cleveland port authority. The game itself was pretty uneventful. The highlight occurred in the top of the first when both Eric Hosmer and Ned Yost of the Royals were ejected for arguing a checked swing call. They needn’t have worried, as the Royals took care of the Tribe, 5-2.
The postgame meal was served alfresco at Pickwick and Frolic on Fourth Street, and featured an appetizer non-so-appetizingly named the Cleveland Sausage Party. The outdoor seating was great for people watching and for listening to a nearby polka band with enormous range. When they started cranking out “Louie Louie” and “Hang on Sloopy” on an accordian, you had to give them credit for putting a new spin on some pop classics. But when they broke into David Bowie’s “Major Tom”, it was clear that their repertoire also included Iggy Pop Classics.
We knew we had picked the right spot for Sunday morning breakfast, when we saw the poster in the window of Cleveland’s West Side Market Café advertising an upcoming event called “Beer and Bacon”. It should come as no surprise then that Scott ordered something on the menu called a Hot Mess (cheesy scrambled eggs & bacon over home fries smothered with sausage gravy). This dish is only one definitive linkage to a coronary episode away from qualifying to appear on the menu at Akron’s Canal Park next season.
Over breakfast, we decided that if we had time to see only one attraction and still make it to Columbus in time for the game, that attraction would have to be the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, where much of the movie Shawshank Redemption was filmed. This would be our fourth prison visit since 2008. Even Snoop Dogg can go longer than us between joints.
On our way from Cleveland to Mansfield, our aging bladders reminded us that you can’t finish “trip” without a “p”. Serendipity was shining on us though, as we were able to avoid a full-on DEFCON 1 situation until we got to the exit that was home to Grandpa’s Cheesebarn, a two-story structure large enough to be a furniture store, but instead chock full of cheeses and smoked meats. It was only once we arrived that we realized to our dismay that the place didn’t open for another 20 minutes and we didn’t have time to wait. And with that, all our cheesy dreams came crashing to earth like a house of curds. Why do bad things happen to gouda people?
The reformatory was pretty much what you’d have expected it to be…if what you expected was a monument to human despair. The perfect setting for a film whose climactic scene involves a man crawling 500 yards through fecal matter. It had to have been a man…because a woman’s work is never dung.
We arrived in Columbus with a little time to spare before the first pitch of the Columbus Clippers hosting the Norfolk Tides. The sun was beating down, but the wind was blowing out to left, contributing to 6 home runs in a 13-6 victory for the home squad. And so it was that we completed the first BIB trip in which all games were hosted by affiliates of the same club, in this case the Cleveland Indians.
Despite the fact that we’ve been park-hopping since 1990, there still remain nine major league ballparks that we’ve yet to visit. Scott’s tentative plan for next year currently calls for either knocking off Target Field in Minneapolis or executing an all minor league Utah/Idaho/Montana swing (wherein we will presumably eat potatoes under a big sky with the Osmonds). Until then, we will endure what remains of the season for the teams we individually support (the Athletics, Reds, Padres, and Brewers). Among them, only the Brewers has the chance for the slog through the rest of the year to be anything other than the metaphorical equivalent of the climactic scene from The Shawshank Redemption.