Boys of Summer

With nothing better to do after work today, I decided, on a whim, to walk over to the bus station and catch a bus to the ballpark. Why not? Today was opening day in the Northwest League, which the Spokane Indians are a member of. The Northwest League, along with the New York-Penn League, are short-season Class A league, where many fresh-out-of-college draftees end up.

Avista Stadium at game time was perfect. It was 74 degrees, breezy, and clear. Over the horizon, you could see the rolling emerald hills of Spokane County. Families were all over the place. Hot dogs were affordable. The joys of minor league ball: players having fun and working hard to get to The Show, gimmicks and side attractions every inning, and the quaint surroundings of the stadium itself -- the County Fairgrounds. A barn and grain silo sat directly over left field. More than anything, that defined the hometown feel.

Two families set up shop on either side of me -- 10 year olds, constantly asking questions and taking the game in. I stood over the right field fence, literally standing above the players in the bullpen. I listened to a couple of the players chat among themselves, in Spanish. I, of course, understood none of it.

At the start of the game, the Indians starter threw six straight balls, a couple of those by the catcher. The second batter struck out, though the baserunner stole his way to second, advanced to third on another wild pitch, and eventually scored. I watched one of the pitchers warm up through the second inning, standing and throwing literally five feet from my face. He came in to pitch after the starter threw another wild pitch to score an AquaSox run.

The Indians scored two in the bottom of the first. The PA announcer mentioned at some point that if the Indians score six runs or more during the game, everybody in attendance gets a free chalupa from Taco Bell. The folks around me were debating whether this meant six in one inning or six for the whole game. The Indians put this to rest by scoring six in the bottom of the fourth inning, capped off by a big home run by their DH. (The promotion was six for the whole game, heh.)

I left after the fourth inning (Indians leading 10-3), when the sun started sneaking past the horizon and the temperature started veering below 65. I forgot to wear a coat -- granted, I came here straight after work anyway, it's not like I'd planned for the event. Either way, it was getting chilly, it was still windy, and I wanted to get home before it got too dark.

Indians won, 15-3. Yay for my new home team, eh? Seriously, I needed a fix of some good ol' baseball, in-person. Fun game, good crowd, great weather, and hell -- I get a free chalupa out of it. Can't ask for too much more than that.

Photos are up. I'm particularly in love with this one and this one.

Greetings from Spokane

I may not be posting much in this blog, but damnit, I've got plenty of photos.

Review Tower Monroe St. Bridge / Spokane River Spokane Falls, Long Exposure
Riverfront Park

Yeah, I've been messing around with Photomatix Pro (for those HDR shots) and Autostitch to do the panoramic images. Gimmicky, but fun.

I'll most likely be updating that Spokane photoset throughout the summer, so keep checking that out for updates, I suppose.

___

Also of note is that my previous post, Small World, was picked up and mentioned by the STL Hops beer blog. Pretty sweet.

Small World

I owe you some stories from the first week, I know. I'll get to that later, though.

Feeling sick of my small (and spartan) apartment, I wander around town tonight, looking for something to do. I'd felt a bit too much of a stranger, just wandering downtown the past few days... Most of downtown just seems a bit too upscale for me — at least, on a night like tonight — so I go a bit off the beaten path: downtown, but not quite the city center. I stumble upon the Empyrean Coffee House, this little coffee shop / bar / music venue just a few blocks from where I live...

Really reminds me of the places I used to hang out at back home. You know, the Blue Fugue, or Lakota, or the Cherry Street Artisan... Soulful music — and by that I mean your smalltime touring musicians and local artists — really nice people, and a little artsy/cultured/counterculture (that's a weird mix, I know) feel to the establishment.

I walk up to the bar and get myself a beer. One man at the bar immediately notices the St. Louis Cardinals hat I'm wearing.
"Hey man, nice hat."

"Thanks."

"I love baseball. Nobody up here really seems to; hell, my bandmates usually give me crap for it, always talking about how boring it is."

The man's name is Luke — he'd played here solo earlier tonight, as part of a little tour he's doing through the Northwest. He lives in Montana but cheers the Cardinals because his folks all live in St. Louis. We shoot the shit as time passes by: his folks have season tickets, he watched one of the playoff games against the Mets back during that year we won the World Series...

"So where in St. Louis are you from?" he asks me.

"Florissant, that's up in North County."

"I know where that is, that's actually where my folks live."

"No shit?"

"On Lindbergh somewhere. I used to visit them every summer."

"Wow. I live right off New Halls Ferry, at the north part of the town."

He mentions hanging out at Jamestown Mall throughout his summers, until he "got beat up there one day." This is the same ol' ghetto Jamestown Mall that I grew up going to, where I got to know some of my closest friends today. Which leads us to a conversation on the whole place becoming a hole and the white flight problem all over St. Louis.

...At some point I mentally remind myself that I'm in Spokane, Washington — I'm nowhere near Missouri. But strangely enough, it's like home followed me straight out here, over a thousand miles away. This was a natural conversation that could've easily happened in Columbia, at any random bar over there. Every other person over there is from St. Louis. Right now? I'm in Washington. This is something else entirely.

He tells me he's heading though the Midwest in September, and I mention that he should stop by Columbia if given the chance (and name drop the Fugue). He's played in Columbia before, a few years back.

I churn through another beer and before I know it, the place is about to close. (I've come to notice that most places I frequent near here seem to close at like 11pm at the very very latest.) We part ways and I wish him the best as he continues touring.

I get home and I smile at the irony: the first random bar conversation I have in Washington is with a guy who knows where Florissant is and who used to hang out at Jamestown Mall — the places of my youth. The odds of such a thing are near-miraculous.

I guess I've found a place to frequent in Spokane. Such grand irony cannot be ignored.