Category - photography

What Is It About Baseballs?

I keep a baseball by my desk.  I’m not sure where it came from.  Beneath the Rawlings logo there’s a stamp that says it’s an “Official Ball” from the Pacific Coast league, so I must have picked up at one of the many Nashville Sounds games I go to.

I keep it by my desk and when I’m proofreading something I’ve written, I pick it up to give my fingers something to do when they’re not flapping away at the keys.

My ‘fidget spinner’

I like the way a baseball feels in my hand.  I like the smooth texture of the leather surface, the tight precision of the laces, the hardness of the thing.

Mind you, I could never do much with an actual baseball. I never could judge the flight of a fly ball off the bat; I’d set myself where I thought it was gonna come down and … it always went over my head.   And it scared the living daylights out of me when Donnie Cohn pitched hardball in summer camp.

They say the the hardest thing in all of sports is “swing the round bat at the round ball – and hit it squarely.”  The doesn’t even take into account that the ball is coming at your head at 90 miles an hour.  Before you can even think about swinging, the first thing you have to do is not duck.

Still, I just like the way a baseball feels in my hand. It’s much more organic than one of those ‘fidget spinner” gizmos.

*

Have I mentioned yet that I’ve got a ‘part time summer job’ at the ballpark?

I’m a ‘fan host.’  Most nights I’m on the periphery of First Horizon Park, scanning tickets and telling people where to find the funnel cake.  Some nights I’m ‘inside the arena’ – actually getting paid to watch the games and chat with fans about the team and the players’ prospects to make it up to ‘the show‘.

One night during the Sounds last home stand, I was stationed in the Vandy Picnic Zone – the area in right/center field that is set a side for large gatherings.  That night  the team hosted a group  from PPG Paints.

My job was mostly putting wrist bands on the fans as they come in so they can pass freely between the stands and the buffet (it’s tough work but somebody’s gotta do it).

Before each game, while the Fan Hosts are all sitting in the stands behind home plate getting our instructions for the evening, I watch the batting practice and see if any balls get knocked into the seats.  This particular night I saw a ball go into the left field stands and ran out to retrieve it before taking my post.

Once I’ve got a ball, I keep an eye out for somebody to give it to.

At some point in the evening, I found a prospect.  A couple came in with two kids, their son about ten and an adorable little girl, I’m guessing seven or eight years old.  She had dark hair, was wearing an Atlanta Braves T-shirt and, most importantly, she brought her baseball glove to the game.

I always wonder why fans bring their glove to the game. It can only mean one thing: they hope to leave with a souvenir.

Later in the evening, this same adorable child came up and addressed me by my name, which she could read from the name tag hanging from a lanyard around my neck.

“Excuse me, Paul.  Do you have a Sharpie?”

“What’s your name?”

“Avery.”

“Well, Avery, I’m sorry, but I don’t have a Sharpie.  I’ve thought about bringing one, and now that you’ve asked me, I’m going to bring a Sharpie tomorrow and every night after that, and I’ll think of you if anybody ever asks me for a Sharpie again.”

She said “OK,” and then I spied one of the group sales people and he found a Sharpie for her.

Later in the game, I noticed that Avery’s brother had some how gotten his hands on a baseball and was showing it off to people.

An inning later, I decided it was time to make a gift of my batting practice ball, and went down to the seats on the front row of the section where Avery was sitting with her mother.

To my surprise, Avery was in tears.  Her mother quickly volunteered that one of the outfielders had tossed a ball their way at the end of the inning, but her mother had reached for it bobbled it back on to the field, leaving poor Avery with nothing in her hand but that glove.

“Avery,” I said, “tell me, what’s that glove for?”

“I was hoping somebody would toss me a baseball” she said, quivering through her tears.

“Has anybody tossed you a ball yet?”

“Yes, but my mother dropped it,” she said, burying her head in her mother’s shoulder.

“OK then, get your glove ready…”

She looked at me, a little confused, and with some encouragement from her mother finally put her gloved hand out in front of me.

And I dropped the ball into her glove.

And jeezus if that adorable little face didn’t just light up like it was Christmas and I was Santa Claus.  Her mother’s face lit up, too, and as I walked away there was applause and fist bumps from others seated nearby.

Is that all it takes to make somebody happy? Toss them slightly beat up batting practice baseball?

When the game was over, Avery came up and thanked me again and gave me big hug.

Yeah, the job pays peanuts, but a moment like that?

Priceless.

Old Folks Night At The Bluebird

Under the Neon Bluebird: On the left, Don Henry;
hiding under hats L-R: Tom Kimmel, Dana Cooper and Michael Lille

The Bluebird Cafe figured pretty prominently in my early days/years in Nashville.  I went there a lot.  I don’t go there as much as I used to.  Since the venue was a featured location in the TeeVee show Nashville for several seasons, it is near the top of most visitors’ ‘must see/do’ list when they come to Music City – which means reservations are very hard to come by unless you jump on the website within minutes of tickets going on sale.

It’s kinda like Yogi Berra once said of a popular club in New York,

Nobody goes there any more – it’s too crowded.

I don’t monitor the Bluebird schedule like I used to, and if Dana Cooper hadn’t called me and let me know this show was happening, I would have been kicking myself if I heard about it after the fact.

Because all of these guys – especially Michael Lille and Tom Kimmel – played a pivotal role in those early years.

I think I first heard Michael Lille at the Commodore Club on West End in 1994.  The first thing I noticed about Michael was his approach to the guitar, it had a very ‘Michael Hedges/New Age’ quality to it – very unlike the shredding metal sound I heard from most plugged-in acoustic guitars (I still hate that sound).   Then he performed a song called ‘Life On the Run’. The song describes a trip Michael took to Indonesia, and waking up to the sound of “laughing children at the edge of the sea” – and contrasts that to his (our) lives in Western what–we–call ‘Civilization.’   I’ll put the only recording of the song in a playlist below, here’s the chorus:

They kneel on the ground
And raise their heads up to the sky
And thank the lord for another day begun
The wheel goes around
Far away on the other side
You and I live life on the run

To this day I cite that as the moment I realized that there was more to Nashville than the popular perception (think Hee Haw) that most people outside the 440 beltway have of the city – that there is a deep well of talent that flourishes just beneath the thin crust of mainstream country music business.  That was one of the two primary motivations at work when I started to ask the people I was meeting ‘what would you think if I tried to sell some of your CDs on the Internet?’ This was 1995, so a common answer was ‘what’s the Internet?’

Similarly, I met Tom Kimmel at the Bluebird,  in roughly the same time frame that I met Michael Lille. I was still on a bit of a ‘spiritual’ quest at the time – I had worked ‘A Course in Miracles’ while I was living in Los Angeles before coming to Nashville.  I heard Tom perform a song called Angels.  That chorus also resonated with me:

We’re lifted up by Angels
Higher than the world
Strong enough to leave it
Bound to learn the secrets
Angels never heard
We’re lifted up by Angels

I was still playing a bit myself in those days, covers mostly. When the show was over, I introduced myself to Tom and asked if he had a recording of Angels that I could learn the song from. Tom said it was not recorded on any of his CDs but kindly offered to send me a cassette and lead sheet and I learned the song from that.

Fast forward to the spring of 1995: Tom was one of the first people I approached with the idea of selling CDs on the Internet.  Unlike most of the people I spoke with, Tom had some idea what I was talking about because he had participated in the “Internet Quartets” – a traveling series of Bluebird-style ‘in the round’ shows promoted by folk-on-the-web pioneer Alan Rowoth.

“That’s a great idea!” Tom said, “I’ve been thinking I need a home page of my own.”  He not only needed a home page, he volunteered to help with the enterprise.  He introduced me to Michael Camp singer/songwriter with some tech experience.  The three of us talked it over, we each pitched in ~$300 to secure some server space and a domain – which turned out to be ‘songs.com‘ – and the rest is history.  Ancient history by now.

Dana Cooper, the Hardest Working Road Warrior in All of Show Business, was one of the first people we signed on to the service.

And Don Henry… well, I started talking to Don in the early days but never quite managed to get him on the site.  I’m glad to see he’s finally got a website.

So, I go waaaaay back with all these guys, and it was just heart warming to hear them all again for one night.

As he was introducing his first song, Tom told a story about the first time he ever played at the Bluebird, “for a room full of little old ladies…”  And I could not restrain myself from blurting out from my seat,

Tom, those old ladies are our age now!

So, yeah: Old Folks Night at The Bluebird 🤣.

I had the presence of mind to bring my camera:

 

And I’ve compiled a playlist of my favorites of their recordings.  Not all of these songs were performed that night, but some of them were.  I have included two tracks from Dana Cooper’s latest CD, I Can Face The Truth – which Dana said that night is his 30th album!  I’ll will have more to say about that one in a future post.

In the meantime…

 

Signs of the Season 5
The Elusive “Green Fringe”

Fall is my favorite season, but the middle of April is my favorite time of the year.

That’s  when the foliage begins to return, when the grey landscape of winter takes on a fringe of green.

I see it everywhere – on my morning walks,  when I’m driving around and see a hill in the distance that has begun to show hints of the green to come.

It’s the fringe, and its suggestion of renewal (another winter survived!) that appeals to me.

But, boy, is that fringe hard to capture in a photo.

Here are a few attempts.

Not my best work ever, but, well… you get the idea.

In another week or two, the foliage will be filled in, summer will near, and the scene won’t change much util October.

These photos were shot with an iPhone 13 Pro and edited in Adobe Lightroom and Luminar Neo.

And if you have any doubt as to the fleeting quality of the weeks just past, well, this is what my neighborhood looks like now (May 2, 2022):

The Last Dandelion

Every morning for the past several years now (thanks, Jerry), the first thing I do once I hoist myself out of bed is put on my sneakers and go for a two-or-three mile walk before I re-plant myself in a chair with my coffee and laptop.

Over the past week  or so (late April) it seems this year’s crop of dandelions have all come and gone.  Mostly they look like this now:

…which is to say, they have scattered their seed to the wind and what remains will return to the earth for another year.

But a couple of mornings ago, I found one that was nestled in among some bushes, still completely intact in its ‘just before it all gets blown away’ phase.   It made a nice image with the macro lens on my iPhone 13 Pro.

Signs of the Season 4

I took myself to Cheekwood yesterday…

… and aimed my macro lens into some tulips.

 

 

Snow Day: Jan 6, 2022

It’s been a minute…

Happy New Year?

We’re having quite the “winter precipitation” event here in Middle Tennessee today. It started snowing just as I was getting out of bed around 7AM… oops, no walk through the neighborhood this morning. If I don’t get out later, today could be the first time in a couple of years that I don’t “close the rings” in my Apple Watch fitness apps.

What is it about a ‘snow day’ that invites the mind to wander? Is it just the notion that ‘nobody is going anywhere for a couple of days…’ that tempts us to back away from the usual sense of duty and obligation and consider other possibilities? That’s how I’m feeling at the moment. There is nothing I really have to do so… what would I like to do.

And it seems that the first place I turned is the open “Post” window for this website that I’ve been casually maintaining for what seems like a decade now.

Also: perhaps not coincidentally, today is the first anniversary of the “High Water Mark of the Conlunacy.” – apparently the last essay of any consequence I posted here.

Furthermore: I turned 71 while y’all weren’t looking, so all the miracles contemplated when I turned 70 remain germane.

I went on a road trip in late October/early November. From Nashville to Quebec Canada with stops in Gettysburg PA (for the battlefield) and Cooperstown NY (for the Baseball Hall of Fame) on the way up, and stops in West Hartford CT and Philadelphia PA (for family) on the way back. I nailed the timing, the foliage pretty much looked like this the entire time:

Shenandoah Valley, VA

Of course I took lots of photos along the way, but, also of course, I haven’t quite figured out what to do with them. Maybe I’ll just post some at random over the weeks or months ahead. Or maybe not.

Then it dawns on me, I can put the images on the web in a “shared album” via the Apple Photos app. Wanna see where I went? I’ll have to come back over the weeks ahead and tell the stories that go with the pictures.

An any event, Buster was certainly glad to see me when I got home. She is sitting wedged between my thigh and the arm of the chair I’m sitting in as I type, but here she is when I got home from the trip back in November. She likes to ride around the house perched on my shoulder.

I know, I haven’t been doing the Daily Busters, I haven’t been doing the occasional “Wisdom From A Typewriter,” hell, I haven’t been doing much online at all – mostly because back in June I got my sorry ass off of Facebook and Instagram, which is where I posted all that stuff.

Now I guess I have to find some… strategy?… for posting stuff here with some regularity. Such are the sorts of thoughts that never make it past the “vague intention” phase of their formulation – and beg for some attention in the midst of a ‘snow day.’

In the meantime, I have assembled all The Daily Busters in a shared Photos album you can view on the Web via iCloud.

Click the link above or the image to see all The Daily Busters

*

Having fully retreated from the toxic swamp of “social” media for the past six-plus months has altered my sense of ‘connection’ with the rest of the world – in ways that I am still hard pressed to make sense of.

On the one hand I rather miss the occasional – if ‘virtual – contact with people I care about.

On the other hand, I totally do not miss the obsessive ‘poke and scroll’ impulse or the subconscious desire for validation and gratification by inherent in “Like”s and comments. And I sure don’t miss being a peasant on Zuckerberg’s estate, tiling his digital fields for free while all the wealth goes to the Lord in his castle.

That’s about as much sense of the detachment as I can make for the moment.

In the months – years – prior to my “Zuckerberg Extraction”, I would often comment that I felt about Facebook (in particular) the way I felt about Scotch and vodka in the months/years before I finally stopped drinking. That was 34 years ago this past Thanksgiving. I wonder now, what was I like in that first year of sobriety? I think there may be parallels to what I’m feeling / experiencing now re: social media withdrawal. I don’t miss the reality of it so much as maybe I miss the idea of it, and even that passes with time.

But, still… what about the people I care about?

Who are they?

How do I stay in touch with them?

Do they want to stay in touch with me??

These are tougher questions to answer absent the casual association through the artificial mediation of something like Facebook.

But maybe I know where this is going, if I can muster the energy, focus, determination and consistency to get it there.

This vaguely forming concept of “analog social media” started during my road trip. I actually wrote and mailed a few postcards to people that I otherwise would have taken for granted would see my posts on Facebook. It was a much smaller potential audience, but as my friend Susan said when she got hers, “Postcards. What a great invention do you think they will catch on?”

Why the hell not?

So, I dunno, over the months ahead, I may pare down my bloated contacts database, find the 150 or so people I really want to keep in my life, and start sending them postcards – even if I’m not going anywhere.

Who knows, maybe some of them will send one back.