I had the pleasure of attending a high school baseball game on a bright, sunny, perfect spring day Monday.
A thousand miles away, at least 30 people had been killed in a brutal and bloody rampage at a college campus. A deranged gunman stalked the halls at Virginia Tech, taking the lives of dozens of sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and friends.
In Mannford, birds were singing and two teams of teenagers gathered to revel in America's greatest pastime - baseball. The day was set aside as Senior Day, meant to honor the three students, Matt Woodson, Jimmy Edwards, and Jason Alexander, who were playing their last regular season home game at Mannford. The three are classic examples of all-American kids. Bright, respectful, energetic, and with all the world in front of them.
In Virginia, kids not much older than those three met their tragic end in a senseless act of violence and cruelty and an incomprehensible disregard for the sanctity of life.
How many of those victims were on their high school baseball team? Theater? Science Club? FFA? Choir?
How many of those ever thought when they woke up on April 16 that they'd never see another sunrise, never talk to their parents again, never goof off with friends, and never get to have kids of their own? How many knew they'd never get to watch another baseball game? The Mannford stands were filled with parents and friends, cheering on the Pirates and the opposing Bristow team. The parents of Woodson, Edwards, and Alexander had the honor of escorting their boys onto the diamond in the break between the doubleheader games. Arm in arm, parent and child walked.
I don't know if any of those parents had been watching the TV news, listening to radio, or monitoring the Internet throughout the day. I don't know if they knew about the tragedy. If they did, the day must surely have been especially poignant.
Watching their young men excel at America's game has got to do something for a parent. Knowing that their children are in the prime of their lives, and making memories that will last a lifetime, has got to feel good.
Hopefully, the parents savored that moment. Hopefully, they'll never forget that feeling. In Blacksburg, Va., at least 30 parents found out that they'd never get to see their children again. Their kids were no longer going to call up between classes, shoot them e-mails, come home for laundry or summer break or Thanksgiving.
Those parents will never be able to escape the nightmare moment when they heard the awful news.
There's something about baseball. Something that cemented myself during Monday's game. James Earl Jones said it best in "Field of Dreams": It reminds of us of all that once was good in America.
Anyone who's ever picked up a glove, took in the scent of dirt and freshly mowed grass and horsehide knows what I'm talking about. See a game, watch a pitcher wind up, and you're transported instantly to another time and a place.
Maybe, if you're like me, it's your childhood and watching the Drillers take the field. Or even further back to when I was in Little League myself, dutifully manning right field.
Those times were good.
They belonged to an America that had sure footing, and to an America where things like Monday's Virginia shooting, or the Columbine massacre, or 9/11 or the Murrah Building bombing had never happened.
They belonged to a time of purity, simplicity, faith in your neighbor, fellow man, and relief pitcher. They belonged to an America that is now gone. That America was gone with the sad April news.
All hope is not lost, though. In Mannford, on Monday night, kids got out and did what they loved to do. They played their pure sport under brilliant sunshine and a gentle breeze. They reclaimed everything right with America.
I gave my cat, Bobbie Sue a bath today. To say this is a difficult thing to do is an understatement. I haven't tried to bathe her in nearly two years. Last time, too many people got hurt, and I couldn't bring myself to try again.
But the cat was getting dry skin, so I knew I really had no choice but to pull out the old cat shampoo, enlist the help of my niece, and throw a cat in the water.
There was much less blood drawn this time. I was smart, and wore long sleeves.
It only took a few minutes and a couple of rinses to get it done. After that, she was filled with rage, hatred, and self-pity. She took it out on the Doberman, but I think the dobie can handle it.
It's Easter. This is one of the greatest times of the year No matter what religion you are, we can all get behind one thing: Peeps. Peeps, for those who don't know, are quite simply the greatest candy ever created. For starters, the wise and benevolent makers of Peeps start with marshmallows. Then they cut the marshmallows into cute little bunny or chick shapes. Then those are coated with colored sugar. And that's all. The beautiful simplicity of Peeps right there, all in a sugary, sticky, sweet bundle. They were also invented to keep dentists in business. Bite into one, and you can feel your tooth enamel dissolving away. Quite frankly, Peeps may be the greatest and most cruel invention of mankind. Like everything else, they're meant in moderation, but are nearly impossible to take that way. You eat one, and with the satisfaction of ripping apart a cute little baby chick guilt-free, you want another. And another. And another. Eventually, the whole package is gone, and you're faced with the realization that you might have some self-control issues. And a blood sugar imbalance. That sugar high is awesome. I've never tried meth, but I believe the results are similar. Eat a row of Peeps, and much as you'd like to go to sleep after 86 hours, it's like “Sorry, I can't. My heart's racing, eyeballs are quivering, and there's spiders crawling all around inside my skin.”
We're lucky enough around here to have Route 66 running through our area. Old 66, the Mother Road, was the main thoroughfare between Chicago and Los Angeles. At least it was before the invention of Interstates and Turnpikes. Not far from Tulsa, in Catoosa, is the Blue Whale. The Blue Whale is, well, big, blue, and a whale. It was built in the early 1970s in a pond to serve as a swimming hole destination. Its life was brief, but popular. Thousands of people stopped to visit the whale and other tourist attractions on the land, and to take a dip on hot summer days. Today, the whale is open for visitors, but there's no swimming. It's a magnet for graffiti artists, and the pond is overridden with pond scum. But it's still a shining blue, easily recognizable from the road. Not long ago, citizens bought the whale and fixed it up. You can drop by and visit it and imagine what it must have been like in its hayday.
My niece's birthday is next Tuesday. This weekend, my sister and I put together a swingset for her. By "swingset," I mean "Deathtrap." At least it was after we got through with it.
The swingset was one of those do-it-yourself jobs from Wal-Mart. So we figured it'd be kind of easy. Insert Tab A into Slot B, Tighten Bolt D, etc.
The directions were written by someone who obviously was not a fan of the English language. The author of the instruction manual may have een slighted by an English teacher once, and decided to exact their revenge by slaughtering the language ever since.
Even the pictures were of no help, because important things like screws, nuts, bolts, and load-bearing structural components were helpfully omitted. As a result, we got quite a few things wrong. The genius of the instruction manual was that you don't know it's wrong until you are about three or four steps beyond that certain point on the instruction manual. Then you get to go back, take apart what you've accomplished, and turn some piece upside down, and put it back together.
As you can see above, we either got the directions wrong, or we bought the MC Escher model of child swingsets. That frame is supposed to be an equilateral triangle. We didn't discover that we had one side of the triangle installed upside down, so the bolt holes were several inches higher than those on the other post, until about one step from completion of the set.
As you can see above, we weren't exactly careful with throwing the ol' wood around. Some cricket gave his life in the name of child swingsets. It was nice to know there was some creature out there who had a worse time in the construction of this swingset than we did.
Cut to eight hours later and near dark, and we got it all together, and even in some semblence of what it looked like on the box. We were hot and tired, but when my niece came home, she gave out the greatest scream of joy I'd ever heard. We literally had to pry her away from the monkey bars that night, when it was too dark to see.
So I guess it was all worth it. Except maybe to that cricket.