Sunday, April 24, 2011

Little League: Strike 10 - You're Safe!

I'M NOT a big sports fan. I don't like going to ballgames, not even for a really good hot dog.

But there's one game I wouldn't miss for all the hot dogs in the world -- my 6-year-old grandson's First Little League Baseball Game ever.


Last Saturday we watched Bradley play at Osage Park, along with his team, the Athletics. While two patient coaches helped the players warm up, we fans took pictures and dodged stray balls.

When it was time for the game to start, Bradley and his teammates took their outfield positions -- meaning they wandered around until the coach told them to stop and stay put.

At last count, there were more players on the field than I remembered being legal, but maybe the coaches figured the more, the merrier. Besides, no one wants to leave out a 6-year-old kid in his first ballgame.

The first batter from the opposing team donned his oversized helmet and took his place at home plate, bat raised as if preparing to kill something on the ground.

The coach gave him a few pointers on how to aim and swing, and then stood back at what he hoped was a safe distance. The crowd hushed, the pitcher threw the ball -- and the batter watched it fly right past him.

After a few more swings, the coach decided his player would have a better chance if the ball was propped on a stationery post. The kid swung again, hitting the post several times before actually making contact with the ball.

The coach ducked to avoid being decapitated by the flying bat, then yelled, "Run, run, run!" to the stunned kid, who eventually headed for first base.

The crowd went wild.

Before the inning was over, every player got a chance to hit the ball (usually off the post) and run the bases (where they were safe no matter what.)

Meanwhile, Bradley manned his position somewhere between the infield, outfield, pitcher's mound, first base, second base, and third base. I believe he was assigned Shortstop Number Two.

He spent most of the time figuring out how many things he could do with a mitt, such as: cover your face like Darth Vader; throw it up in the air and try to catch it (but miss); sit on it when you need a rest; use it as a puppet and talk to it; toss it to another team player who's also bored; or wear it as a hat.

His father did the same thing years ago, at his first Little League game, so apparently it's hereditary.

When Bradley got his chance at bat, he stepped up to the plate, eventually hit the ball, and ran/skipped to first base (at the encouragement of the coach).

Unfortunately, when it was time to run to second base, he was busy waving to his grandmother. No worries. The batter ran on past him, and with a little more encouragement from the coach, Brad finally followed the kid to home plate.

After three innings, Bradley's First Little League Baseball Game Ever was over, although I'm sure we'll get to watch the video on YouTube. Be sure to check it out. It's even more adorable than that "Laughing Baby."


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My Ivory Tower is a Beige Ranch-style House

They say writers live and write in Ivory Towers. Me, I live and write in Beige Ranch-style House. In the ‘burbs. Surrounded by cats, kids, and couch cushions. It’s not exactly the writing life I pictured, but it works. Especially when I have a deadline.

Last weekend I escaped the beige house and headed for Santa Fe, New Mexico, to join a murder of mystery writers who had gathered for the annual Left Coast Crime Conference. We were all in search of grist for the mill, literary enlightenment—or at least a good margarita. While Santa Fe is an artists’ colony, it’s hardly an ivory tower—mostly just flat and beige, much like my house.

But I immediately found myself enchanted by the multi-beige-colored deserts. Still, since I’d paid to attend the conference, I felt I needed to drop by a couple of panels on the state of publishing today, hoping industry professionals would address the elephant in the business—the expansion of e-publishing. Unfortunately no one really knew what to think about Amanda Hocking, the million-dollar e-kid turned traditional author, nor Barry Eisler, the half-million-dollar man who went e-WOL.

So I ducked out and headed for the Beige Outdoors in search of that grist I’d come for. There were lots of mini-trips to choose from—a tour of historic Taos, the famous artist colony where people like Georgia O’Keefe, Ansel Adams, and Andrew Wyeth hung out; the Tent Rocks, where ginormous cone-shaped rocks made by volcanoes and erosion hug the steep cliffs of a canyon; Bandelier National Monument, where remains of ancient Pueblos, petroglyphs, and cliff dwellings of the Anasazi Indians are preserved; a cooking class featuring the state vegetable—chiles—which not only fire the tongue, but also have medicinal properties (clearing the sinuses?).

After climbing the tent rocks and exploring the cave dwellings, I knew there was only one place I had to see before the weekend came to an end: The Atomic City, AKA Los Alamos. As a mystery writer, I couldn’t help but be curious about what’s going on there these days…and how I could get a good story novel out of it.

But I also wanted to go to The Hill because I have a history with Top Secret Facilities. My dad worked for the Atomic Energy Commission in Oak Ridge and in Berkeley, and I interned one summer at Lawrence Lab. Plus I grew up with The Bomb, where my school practiced duck-and-cover air raid drills, my neighbors built Fallout Shelters, and we lived in fear that the Russians were coming, any minute.
Driving up the winding mountain to the home of so many brilliant scientists, I wondered what it had been like, living in this isolated city that hasn’t changed much since those remarkable days. The houses are still military style, the checkpoints still in operation, the streets still named Trinity and Oppenheimer, the surrounding barbed wire fences still sporting signs that read: “Danger: Explosives!”

After a couple of hours I headed home with enough ideas for a dozen books. Now I’m back in my flat beige house, on my matching beige couch, working on another mystery without the benefit of an Ivory Tower.

No matter. I’ve got some fresh grist, several cool photos of me climbing rocks—and a recipe for a really good margarita. Sometimes that’s all it takes to be a writer.