No Awe, No Wonder (69/365)

What’s wrong with kids these days?  Aren’t they amazed by anything anymore.  Are all the special effects in movies, or those blasted video games and such are taking the wonder out of the world?  If everything is awesome, then is there any awe left?  I wonder if there’s any wonder left.

On Saturday, my wife and I had to travel to Brookfield to sign some tax forms.  I wanted to make the trip worthwhile for my kids because sitting in the car for an hour and a half without getting to do something cool seemed unfair, especially since it was the weekend.  I decided that stopping at Miller Park would be a unique experience for them.

We arrived at the Brewer’s baseball stadium around three in the afternoon.  For those not familiar with this stadium, it’s a giant brick stadium with a massive green metal roof.  The inside has four levels of seating, and can hold over 40,000 people.  My kids weren’t as amazed as I thought they would be.  I asked my five year old son, Ivan the Wonderful, “So, isn’t it huge?”

“Yeah.  It’s big,” he replied.

Miller Park

We entered the stadium by some doors near the left field corner, and entered a restaurant there called Friday’s Front Row Grill.  I thought we’d get a good view of the field, the grandstands, and the roof from inside the restaurant, bout you couldn’t see as much as I would have liked.  The outdoor balcony wasn’t open.  All you could see out the windows of the restaurant was the field, but the entire field was covered with a tarp.  You couldn’t even tell it was a baseball field.  My daughter asked if they played football here.

Sadly, I answered, “No.  It’s for baseball.  You can’t see the field because of the tarp.”

When we left the restaurant, I started looking around to see if we could enter the stadium to better see the huge closed roof.  All the gates to the concourses were locked shut.  I was irate.  How dare they cover the field!  How dare they preventing us from gazing upon the giant retractable roof!

That’s when I decided to take my kids up the closed escalator.  Yes, that was probably against the rules, but I blame the Brewer’s organization for not giving my kids the experience I wanted to give them.   I guess I could just bring them to a game, but that’s besides the point.  Bow to my unreasonable wishes!

While my wife and daughter were still in the Brewer’s store near the restaurant, so I snatched my two boys, moved aside a yellow construction sign, and led them up an escalator to the second level.  They were going to see the inside of Miller Park, and they were going to like it!  We swiftly made our way upstairs, and then went into the stands.  I pointed up and showed the kids the huge closed roof.  “Isn’t it amazing!  Look at how high the roof is,” I said, my voice filled with wonder.

My nine year old son, Bob the Builder, was someone who I thought would appreciate the soaring arched roof.  He answered with, “It’s tall.”

Discouraged, I told my kids that it was time to leave.  They sensed that we were doing something wrong, so they slunk up the stairs, giggling, hiding behind seats and ducking behind posts.  I didn’t care, probably because I was disappointed with the experience that I thought they should have, so I just strutted towards the escalator.

When we got back downstairs, I saw my wife and my daughter.  I waved them over so I could show my daughter the upstairs.  She gets excited about everything, so maybe The Flower Child could lift my spirits.  We turned to go back up the escalator, and a maintenance man suddenly appeared at the top of the steps.  Apparently, my bold move to go up the stairs the first time was noticed by someone, and he was sent to make sure it didn’t happen again.

“You see the caution signs,” he said.  “That means you can’t come up here.”  I nodded.  My wife shook her head in dismay at my bold attempt to snoop around upstairs.  Disheartened and defeated, I lead my family out of the building.

Was I wrong for wanting a bigger reaction from my kids?  I’m not sure.  Maybe they were impressed, but didn’t really say it.  Who knows?  Are my kids, or all kids these days not amazed things as easily?   I’m not sure, but I think I was impressed a lot easier than their generation is.  Was I wrong for sneaking around, and taking them upstairs to show them more of the stadium?  Of course not!

Survival Sunday – Day One of The Walking Dead Scenario (46/365)

I am addicted to survival shows. I love them, but I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s because my life is so incredibly cozy and wonderful, I am thrilled by these challenges.  Maybe it’s because I like watching other people suffer.  I’m not sure.  Do you watch any of these shows?  The Walking Dead, Survivor Man, Naked and Afraid, Man vs. Wild.  They are all incredibly fascinating to me.  Now, The Walking Dead is a drama, unlike the other three reality TV shows, but they all have similar qualities.  Basically, it’s you versus the world.

Because of my love of these shows, I often think about what I would do in the same situations.  How would I handle myself?  Well, quite simply, I’d probably cry a lot and then die.

Now, let’s say I could back my life up a bit.  I don’t want to even consider the apocalypse right now, with my family.  Instead, I’d like to pick a time in my life before I met my wife, before we started a family.  Here’s what I would do.

THE WALKING DEAD – HOW TO SURVIVE THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE – DAY ONE

Back around the year 2000, I lived with my brother in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  I was in peak physical condition, because I just graduated from UW-Oshkosh where I ran track and cross country.  I also had taken up lifting weights that spring, and probably was as strong as I ever will be.  My brother is a piece of iron.  He’s always been in great shape.  For me, this would have been the ideal time for the world to collapse into a state of complete chaos.  What a ridiculous thing for me to think!  I know.  Anyways, back to the story.

Let’s say the city of Milwaukee was overtaken by the zombie hoard in summer months.  My brother and I survived the initial chaos, but we still find ourselves at the apartment building on 91st and Dixon.  What would we do?

Step one.  At the break of dawn, we would flee the city.  A higher population means a greater chance at getting swarmed by walkers or zombies or the living dead or whatever you want to call them.  We would each load up a backpack with food and water.  My brother had a bike, but I didn’t at this time.  One of us would ride the bike and carry the large backpack.  The other would run nearby brandishing a 33 inch 31 ounce maple baseball bat.  Also, I would strongly consider wearing my catching gear, or at least the shin guards.

IWillSurvive

We most definitely would not take a car.  The streets would be clogged with broken down vehicles or other obstacles that I guarantee we wouldn’t be able to traverse in my 1982 Buick LaSabre.  It felt like I was driving a boat in that thing.  The easiest way to escape the city from our location would be to head west.  I would stay away from the main highway.  Interstate 94 would be a giant path of death.  We would stick to the side streets.  Using a bat as a weapon instead of a gun would help us to remain quiet.  Also, our biggest asset comes from our speed and endurance.  Any time there was a threat of being swarmed by zombies, we’d just turn the other way and run or bike.  I don’t think very many zombies can crank out a sub five minute mile.  Once we make it out of Milwaukee, and through the large suburban area of Brookfield, we can make our way towards Hartland.

Step two.  Rescue Mom, Dad, and Bad Sister.  You might ask, “How would you know that Mom and Dad would still be in Hartland during the Zombie Apocalypse?”  Trust me.  I just know.  My dad will never leave there, even during the zombie apocalypse.  According to Google Maps, its about 22 miles from the apartment to my Mom and Dad’s residence.  If my brother and I split time on the bike, we both would have had to ran 11 miles.  Let’s say we ran at a solid pace, but didn’t push it too hard, plus we had to make some stops, or change route a few times to avoid a zombie mob, I’d say we’d get there somewhere between three to four hours.  We’d arrive around lunch time.  Mom would be happy to see us.  Dad would be happy too, and we’d talk about how it sucks that the Brewers season has been cancelled.  My sister would tell us some helpful scientific stuff about surviving in a world of zombies.   Then, Mom would probably make us a sandwich, or we’d just raid her cupboards like normal.  Now, I know my dad wouldn’t want to leave, so I’d have to have a secret meeting with Bad Sister.  Once we devised our strategy, we’d cajole Dad into leaving the house.  With the help of Bad Sister’s persuasive powers, we’d convince everyone that we need to find a safer location.

Step three.  Go to downtown Hartland.  Now when I say downtown, don’t get the image in your head of a large city.  Instead, imagine one main street bordered by three story brick buildings.  That’s downtown Hartland.  That’s where we would set up our fort.  Now, I know in a zombie apocalypse, the surviving humans are equally as dangerous, but I don’t think we’d have to fight off any humans to claim one of these spaces.  Most or all of these buildings are commercial, and not residential.  Also, none of them are grocery or drug stores.  The restaurants down there might have been ransacked, but that’s about it.  I don’t think many people would be congregating in the barber shop, consignment store, or dentist’s office.  Once we are in one of these buildings, we’d find our way up to the highest level.  Once inside the highest level of one of these buildings, we’d secure our entry point, and then look for other exit points in case we need to flee.  By this time, I think it would be about dinner.

Step four.  It probably was a pretty busy day.  I don’t think we would do much more other than maybe play cards before calling it a night.

NEXT WEEK ON SURVIVAL SUNDAY – Day Two of my personal The Walking Dead Scenario

The Four Most Beautiful Words in the English Language

It’s time to dust off the tools of ignorance

Get out your athletic support

Grab the Delaware River mud

and the rosin bag, ole sport

The South paws, the hurlers, the closers,

and throwers of every sort,

the starters, side-winders, flame-throwers,

and relievers to hold the fort

Plus squatters, and backstops are coming

boarding planes at the airport

They’re all heading to Arizona or Florida,

but not to a resort

“Hope springs eternal in the dead of winter,”

my father did retort.

“The four greatest words in the English language,

pitchers and catchers report.”


 

 

Story Time – My First Home Run

This summer, I started playing baseball in league for washed up players who can’t let go.  Of course, I want to hit a home run, but I doubt I will.  Playing again did remind me of my first ever collegiate home run.  When most baseball players hit their first high school or collegiate home run, it’s memorable for good reasons.  My first over the fence home run didn’t quite end up that way.

Look at that serious home run face!

Look at that serious home run face!

During my freshman year of college, I tried out for the baseball team at UW-Oshkosh.  The best part about tryouts was all we did was play games.  The coaches would make teams, and all fall we just played against our teammates.

I knew my chances at making the team were thin, just like me.  Back then, I wasn’t that big of a guy.  I was about six foot one, but I probably only weighed 30 pounds.  Another factor against me was I was what they call a “walk-on”.  This means I wasn’t recruited by the coaches to play baseball.  Thankfully, I made it through the first week of cuts.  The coaches must have seen something in me, because they started working one on one with me.  The hitting coach made me change my batting stance, and how I held the bat.

The next game after I had my one on one coaching session, I was penciled in as the starting left fielder and hit seventh in the order.  The pitcher we faced was a sidearmer.  His fastball was pretty nasty.  It tailed like crazy as it came darting in towards the plate.  The first two innings, he mowed down all of the batters he faced in order.

Right before I was to lead off the third inning, the pitcher from our team, Tom Petri, told us to start getting some hits.  Petri was a great collegiate pitcher, and actually played in the minor leagues after college for two years.  I don’t remember how he knew me back then since he was a Senior and I was a Freshman, but Tom talked to me right before my at bat.  “Tief,” he said.  “Get a hit.”

I trotted up to the batters box and got myself mentally ready.  I wanted to get a better read on the sidearmer’s fastball, so I took the first pitch.  The catcher called balls and strikes since this was a practice game.  The first pitch was way outside, but the catcher called it a strike.  What a load of crap, that call was, I thought to myself.  Well, at least I knew one thing.  I’d better be swinging up here.

The pitcher wound up for the next pitch, unfurled his body and hurled a low and inside tailing fastball.  I swung hard, whipping the bat down at the pitch and totally crushed the ball high and deep down the left field line.  Normally, when I pull the ball, it tails way foul, so I stood in the batters box after I hit the ball.

My majestic blast hung right on the line and was so high it went over the top of the foul pole.  The catcher didn’t say fair or foul, so I just stood in the batter’s box like an idiot.  Finally, the head coach broke the silence,  “Start running!  Who do you think you are?  Barry Bonds?”

It was fair.  I just hit a home run.  I sprinted around the bases and then headed back into the dugout. Petri was laughing, along with the rest of the players.  “What were you doing out there?” he asked.  I just shrugged my shoulders.  They all laughed some more.

– David Tiefenthaler

Writing Tip – Rule of Five

My middle school kids don’t like to edit or revise anything they write down.  Come to think of it, I don’t like to do that too much either.  That’s a big problem when you are opening up a paper, so sometimes I force my students to follow the rule of five?

What’s the rule of five?  It’s where you write the same event five different ways, and then you pick your favorite.  I’ll carry out this exercise to show you exactly what I mean.

Yesterday, I went to a Major League Baseball game where the Milwaukee Brewers faced the Colorado Rockies.  I’ll take one play from that game, and describe it five different times.  In his second at bat of the game, Rickie Weeks hit a home run.  That’s what happened.  Don’t count that first bland description as one of my five attempts.

Rickie Weeks Crushing It!

Rickie Weeks Crushing It!

I don’t normally draw like the picture above, but I was inspired.  Rickie Weeks was impressive last night.  He hit a single, a double, and a home run.   Here’s my five tries at a descriptive event.  I decided against using any bold or italics in these descriptions because that’s not how I would write in a book.

1. As soon as Juan let go of the ball, he knew something bad was about to happen.  He didn’t turn over the grip on his slider and the baseball just hung in the air.  The ball screamed, “Hit me!  Hit me hard!” and Rickie obliged.  With a lightning fast stroke, Rickie turned that flat slider around.  The ball launched off the bat like a rocket.  It reached its final destination in the left field bleachers in a matter of seconds.

2. Standing at 5 feet 10 inches and weighing in at 215 pounds, Weeks is built more like a running back than a second basemen.  He uses his monster forearms and muscular frame with deadly efficiency, creating some of the fastest bat speed in the major leagues.  Juan Nicasio found out first hand what happens when Weeks strikes a pitch on the sweet spot of his bat.  An unmistakable CRACK echoed throughout the stadium as Weeks unloaded on a pitch from Nicasio.  The ball whistled through the air, over the left field fence, and ended it’s flight path by leaving a dent in the bleachers.

3. The ball was absolutely crushed.  Carlos Gonzalez, the left fielder for the Colorado Rockies, knew it was gone from the moment it jumped off of Rickie Weeks’ bat.  Gonzalez didn’t even turn around to see where it was going to land, because he knew it was a souvenir for a lucky fan.

4. The best feeling in all of sports.  To hit a baseball square.  Weeks saw the slider tumble toward him and uncoiled his body.  Hips turn, chest toward the ball, hands whip forward, and bat meets ball.  Like a hot knife slicing through soft butter, he felt almost nothing, but the sound left no doubt.  That baseball was going out.  As straight as a string, the ball traveled over 400 feet over the wall and into the stands.

5. The normal call from Bob Uecker, the play by-play radio announcer for the Brewers, for a home run by Rickie Weeks would sound like this. “Here’s the pitch. Rickie Weeks to left field and deep.  HEY!  Get up. Get up. Get outa here and gone for Rickie!”  On this home run, Weeks hit the ball so hard it traveled out of the stadium too fast for Uecker to even describe it.  He only managed to say, “Here’s the pitch. Rick!” and then the ball reached the seats.

That last one was a bit of a stretch, but I was running out of ideas.  Back off.  No one said following the rule would be real easy!  Enough about that stuff.  Hey, guess what?  I’m still following my blog writing rules.  Write books first and then blog!

Words written since my last post for my next book: Just over 2,ooo

What went well: The start of a previous chapter was bothering me, so I fixed it.  Take that chapter nine.

What did I struggle with:  The flow in the chapter I’m writing now isn’t as smooth.  My protagonist is taking a back seat in this chapter, and I’m afraid since this book is in first person, he’s just getting pulled through the plot.  I’ve got to make him more invested in the story.  GRRR!

Writing Tip: Remember to give each character distinct differences in dialogue (how’d you like that alliteration).  You can give them accents, different levels of vocabulary, or alter their speech pattern.  Don’t make them talk like Yoda though.  There’s only one Yoda.

What do think about the rule of five?  Did you like any of my descriptions?  Which one was your favorite?  I’m not telling you what was mine.  I’d like to hear what you have to say.  Feel free to try that out when you have something you want to describe.

– Dave