Last week is here already!

I posted 7 pics this morning. I have been behind in posting since April, and I thought time would never catch up with me, but here they are already — last week’s photos. I’ve caught my tail!

 

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(7/23/17) The “Southside Sprint” is a day-long series of bike races through our neighborhood.  It’s the second half of the Big Waters Classic, which begins with the “Rondo Rush” in St. Paul a day earlier. There are some very good bikers in these races, and it’s fun to watch them buzz around and around a 3/4-mile route near the 48th and Chicago Ave. area in south Minneapolis. At 2:30, there’s a kids “race”. My two intrepid grandchildren are seen above mentally preparing for the start.  Svea cranked around the course with the same game-face you see here, while Otto scooted his pedal-less glider bike while his dad ran along trying to keep up. Both kids enjoyed getting a medal at the end and were even more excited about the free water bottles.

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(7/24/17) Filling the ammo tank in preparation for soaking Gramps using the blue and red weapons in the foreground. 

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(7/25/17) Columbia Golf Course in N.E. Minneapolis

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(7/26/17) The Happy Hour group met at LUSH in N.E. Minneapolis this week.  Lori shows how she feels about Claire’s color choices, while Krista and Ron prefer to avert their eyes.

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(7/27/17) Life on the Mississippi

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(7/28/17) Roger is looking good as he hits his second shot on the 15th hole at the University of Minnesota Les Bolstad Golf Course.

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(7/29/17) Lake Nokomis, Minneapolis

 

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Photos from the less-distant past

Today I’m posting photos of the day from only a couple of weeks ago.  I’m almost caught up. This is progress.  As a procrastinator, being this close to on-time is scary territory. But since this project is the least important of all the things in my life that I’m behind on, the bigger picture is that I’m still in my “don’t worry, I’ll get it done” groove.

Here are my photos from Week #29 of this year.

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(7/16/17) We went with the kids and grandkids to see the St. Paul Saints play at CHS Field in downtown St. Paul. I love this place. It’s nestled unobtrusively into a corner of the “Lowertown” area.  The dark color they chose and the open middle-tier design make it a low-key, airy, and elegant structure. You can stroll around the whole perimeter at the top of the lower deck level and linger to watch for a while just about anywhere, such as this spot in right field.

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(7/17/17) In the driveway

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(7/18/17) The only picture I took today — a plate of mussel shells and a bunny at the Italian Eatery near where we live. OK, so the bunny’s not Elvis or Jesus, but hey — it’s a piece of bread! Shaped like a bunny! (I.E. is a very good place to eat, by the way.)

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(7/19/17) We both like the light above our front door.

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(7/20/17) Guess who at guess where?

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(7/21/17) Not sure of these guys’ names, but they’re part of “Chase and Ovation”, a Prince tribute band that we saw at the Lowertown Blues and Funk Festival in St. Paul.

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(7/22/17) A man fishes on a dock at Lake Hiawatha, one of the smallest and least-known lakes within the city limits of Minneapolis. This lake is part of an ongoing controversy, because the western shore (in the distance) is actually a levee that keeps the lake at its current level and keeps the Hiawatha Golf Course (and part of the neighborhood) from being flooded. The city has to constantly pump bazillions of gallons of water into the lake to keep the golf course open.  They’re seriously considering stopping that, letting the lake flood the course and return to it’s natural level. That might seem like a reasonable plan that allows nature to take it’s course (what a great pun, huh?) but the golf course and nearby homes have been around since they dredged a swampy area in 1929, so there are very few living people who remember it being any other way. Minneapolis is very lucky to have the municipal golf courses we have, and I hope we don’t lose this one.

On Boston and a couple of old shirts

A week ago today, without even thinking, I put on an old grey sweatshirt I’ve had since 1996 but have probably not worn for several years. It wasn’t until after hearing about the horror in Boston last Monday that I thought about the shirt I’d worn the night before. It was an inexpensive sweatshirt with the word “BOSTON” printed on it that I’d bought it as a souvenir of my trip to run the Boston Marathon 17 years ago. I got a chill when I realized I hadn’t even remembered that it was marathon weekend until I heard about the bombings the next afternoon.

Yesterday I wore a Twin Cities Marathon shirt to the health club, as I often do. A woman walking by me said, “good to see you guys wearing your shirts”. I looked around and two other people near me had marathon shirts on, too — but they were from other races. I wondered why a stranger would say she was glad to see the shirts. As I watched some of the endless reports about the tragedy on the TV screens while running on the treadmill, it dawned on me that she might have been referring to our shirts as a sign of support for the people at the Boston race.

As I chugged away on the treadmill — 17 years older, 20 pounds heavier and a LOT slower — memories of my big race day flooded back to me. I thought about the bus ride to the little town of Hopkinton, part of the enormous field of runners (almost 40,000) who ran that year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of this unique and historic event. I remembered the exhilaration of the start and the energy created by the river of thousands of runners flowing through the countryside and small towns on the first part of the course. I could picture the huge billboards with old black and white photos from the early races. But most of all, I remember the people, the spectators, all along the course. They were there to cheer on the runners, to be sure, but really they were there to cheer for the community — to cheer for themselves and for each other. There were bands, there were Patriots Day parties, there were kids up in trees, there were people wearing (and painted in) red, white and blue all along the way. All were cheerful, all were proud and all were glad to be part of this American spectacle.

I think an urban marathon is a community event in ways that no other sporting event can match. It’s about so much more than just the athletes. Think about it — you can walk up to the course at any point and (free of charge) literally touch everyone from a world-class runner down to a plodding 6-hour jogger. The race cuts right through neighborhoods and downtown streets — no need to drive to a suburban stadium or buy an expensive ticket at a downtown arena.

Over the past week, the people of Boston have shown what they’re made of. They’ve shown the rest of us how to handle unthinkable tragedy — just like New Town has recently, just like New York City did in 2001, just like Oklahoma City before that, and just like other communities who have suffered severe trauma. None of us know for sure how we will react when and if it’s our turn, but this week we can take strength from watching and listening to the people of Boston. Because they are strong and resilient — even defiant — we believe that we can be, too.

The bombers chose a big event, an important event, an event with easy access, to spread their particular brand of terror. What they didn’t realize is that they chose an event in a city that will not shrink in fear and ultimately will be stronger, not weaker because of their actions. My deepest sympathy to those directly affected last Monday and my thanks to the people of Boston for what you’ve taught us.

I’m wearing my BOSTON sweatshirt as I type this and I’m going to be wearing it a lot for a while. It’s an honor to have had the chance to be a miniscule part of the history of this great event and great city.

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Strange encounter on the golf course

Yesterday I played golf with daughter Emily. All was going well (except for the golf) until we were walking to the tee of the final hole and my cell phone rang. It was a mysterious male voice asking where we were.

Against my better judgement, I told the voice our location — on the 9th tee waiting for group of elderly women playing just ahead of us. The voice said, “OK — I have a visual on you just behind the Cotton Tops”. Moments later, two well dressed, but shadowy figures were walking toward us.

As they got closer, they paused for a moment and appeared to be holding hands.

I had a queasy feeling about what was going down. Who were these guys — FBI agents? An Evangelical conversion squad? The IRS? Door-to-door shoulder bag salesmen?

They gave me the creeps and I wanted to run, but Emily was my daughter after all, and I felt I needed to protect her.

So I backed up slowly instead of breaking into a full gallop.

Then they got close enough for me to see their faces.

They identified themselves as resident psychiatrists from the nearby clinic, apparently part of some sort of outreach program designed to identify potential “clients”.

Emily was greatly relieved and played the final hole masterfully.


But their explanation didn’t put my mind at ease one bit. In fact, the whole experience traumatized me. I had nightmares all through the night and now I can’t get those smirky smiles or that voice on the phone out of my head.

And I may never be able to play golf again.

Target Field makes me happy.

Last year the upper midwest emerged from a 3-decade funk of watching baseball indoors in the world’s worst stadium. Yes, the Twins won two World Series at the Metrodome and created great excitement and community spirit in 1987 and 1991. But that was because of the teams, not the venue.

A few nights ago I went to a game by myself at our year-old ballpark, courtesy of a last minute cancellation and discount price offer of a friend with season tickets. (Thanks Rita!) I took the opportunity to just wander around for the whole game, sit in different sections all over the ballpark, take some pictures, and just let the sights, sounds and smells waft.

You can almost see the Metrodome from here - but who wants to? (photo by Steve Date)

I went to 3 games last year and fell in love with Target Field like just about everyone else. But last year the place was new — unfamiliar and unexplored. Monday night I felt like I spent some quality time with a new friend.

I’d never gone to a ballgame alone before and I enjoyed the experience in a whole new way. Not that I don’t like good conversation (because I do) but it was a chance to just look around and get to know the place. The baseball game seemed like a backdrop for the real event, which was the ballpark itself, and seeing how the people interact with it and with each other.

There were a lot of "#3s" on this night. Everyone who passed by paid their respects at the Harmon Killebrew statue. (photo by Steve Date)


Two young fans are thrilled to talk with Twins pregame co-host Anthony LaPanta. (photo by Steve Date)


I'm not sure if I wish I could be the kid or the dad. (photo by Steve Date)

The evening began with a tribute to Twins great Harmon Killebrew, who recently died of cancer (see previous post). There was a video and a moving moment when the entire Twins team surrounded the big #3 etched in the infield dirt as manager Ron Gardenhire gave a short speech about his hero and held Harmon’s jersey in the air.

Gardy and the current Twins team remember their mentor and friend, Harmon Killebrew. (photo by Steve Date)


She's too young to appreciate the importance of Harmon Killebrew to Twins fans, but when she's older, she'll remember being here on this night. (photo by Steve Date)


Everybody is #3 this week. (photo by Steve Date)

Right field (photo by Steve Date)

I think my favorite part of Target Field is the outfield — asymetrical, quirky and visually interesting from every angle. Little flower beds, an overhanging home run porch in right field, the iconic Twins-shaking-hands sign in center, the steep angular lines of the seats, the view of the Minneapolis skyline to the east — I can go on and on.

On this night, slugger Jim Thome returned from the disabled list with a vengeance and hit two homers – one a 465 foot monster that landed almost at Gate 34 in the right field plaza.

(photo by Steve Date)


Target Field gets even more beautiful as night falls. (photo by Steve Date)

The Twins were great last year, winning the division and providing us with a lot of excitement. This year they’re off to a slow start, to say the least. As I write this, the Twins have the worst winning percentage in major league baseball and are 14.5 games out of first place. But people are filling the ballpark every night and having a good time anyway. Why? Because they’re spending time together outdoors, in a place that is better than they had hoped for and which has quickly become much more than just a place to watch a baseball game.

My daughter Emily's long-time friend Kelsey Boesch (center) happened to be on the Kiss-Cam that night. You'll have to guess who she just kissed. (photo by Steve Date)


This night was all about Harmon Killebrew (photo by Steve Date)

Tomorrow night I’ll be back at Target Field with my daughter Lauren — Chicago’s biggest Twins fan and lover of Target Field. I can’t wait.

Lauren with her first Target Field Kramarczuk's brat last July. There will be more.

But in the longer term, I’m also looking forward to growing old together with my new friend — this wonderful place.

(To see more photos from this game, go to my Flickr set here.)

(photo by Steve Date)

Harmon Killebrew

The Minnesota Twins’ inaugural season began a few days after my 8th birthday. I knew nothing about baseball and neither did any of my friends, but we all signed up to play little league that spring. I still remember going to the registration night with my dad, new glove on my hand, as if we were going to hit the field right after we filled out the form.

I also brought my baseball glove on my first visit to Metropolitan Stadium a couple of months later. My memory tells me that the Twins beat the Kansas City Athletics 4-3 and Harmon Killebrew hit a home run. We sat in the 2nd deck on the first base side. You can probably look it up and prove me wrong, but it’s my memory and I’m sticking to it.

The Twins were Minnesota’s only major league team at the time — the Minneapolis Lakers had left for L.A two years earlier, and the Vikings wouldn’t arrive until September. We 8-year olds didn’t know squat about playing baseball, but we knew we had a big league ball club and the bonus was that it came with an established star player — Harmon Killebrew.

Harmon was never flashy, never cocky, never sexy. He and Minnesota were a perfect fit.

He was also not particularly large in stature, although he seemed like it to us kids. At 5’11”, and a bit over 200 lbs, other big hitters tower over him in old photos. But his stocky frame and muscular legs, coupled with that memorable extension when he swung the bat, turned out to be a perfect combination for hitting a baseball a long distance. He was a power hitter — period. He even later admitted that he never paid much attention to his batting average. He drew a lot of walks and also struck out a lot, but he also gave us plenty of thrills.

Possibly the oddest tribute in all of sports is the red stadium seat that hangs high on a wall above the “Log Chute” ride inside the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. The mall was built over the old Met Stadium site. The lone seat marks the approximate landing spot of Harmon’s longest home run at the Met, estimated at 522 feet.

Harmon’s greatest attribute was not his ability to play baseball, however. When you listen to all the tributes to him over the coming days, I guarantee you will not hear a single one that doesn’t mention his character — who he was as a person. Of course it was a different era, and sports stars hadn’t yet become the rich, ungrateful, “don’t-give-crap-about-being-a-role-model”, jerks that seem all too prevalent today. But even in those innocent early ’60s, we all knew Harmon was someone special, someone we could look up to, to emulate. He might strike out with the bases loaded now and then, but he would never let us down. And he never did.

Twins baseball was a big part of my life in elementary school and Harmon was the biggest Twins’ star. To be honest, I had a lot of “favorite players” in those early years – Tony Oliva, Bob Allison, Zoilo Versailles and a little later, Rod Carew. I remember trying to start a Lennie Green fan club during that first season. But Harmon was who I imagined I was when I was at the plate.

In recent years, Harmon showed us all how to grow older. He did it by staying busy, making himself useful, caring about others and teaching younger people to appreciate the sport he loved so much. He mentored many of the current Twins players, too young to remember his playing days — and became their hero, too.

I watched the sports on a local news channel this evening and they showed a press conference with a bunch of former ballplayers. Teary-eyed Hall of Famer Paul Molitor said, “I picked the right guy to be my hero”. Jack Morris was completely choked up and said that it was Harmon’s quiet strength and kindness that he will remember. The TV sports reporter, who is about my age, concluded with, “He was my childhood. He was our superstar.”

In the past few weeks and months, Harmon also showed us how to die. His straightforward, 3-paragraph statement just last week began with this sentence, “It is with profound sadness that I share with you that my continued battle with esophageal cancer is coming to an end.” No sugar coating, no false hope, just the truth.

Let the tributes roll in. Harmon deserves all of them.

An aging Mickey Mantle once said something like, “Ah, to be 25 again and the star of the Yankees”. I say, “Ah, to be 8 again and pretending to be Harmon Killebrew”.

February golf in Minnesota – not all of our domes have collapsed, and we’re grateful for that

Winter golf in Minnesota is a bit of a challenge. But there are a few options:

1. Watch golf on TV. (most popular)

2. Go outdoors and try to actually play a version of the game of golf.

The Chilly Open, Wayzata, Minnesota

An example of this is the “The Chilly Open”, which takes place today in Wayzata, Minnesota on Lake Minnetonka. Unfortunately, all their tee times are sold out, so if you didn’t plan ahead, you can only go out and be part of the gallery. The event looks like it could be fun — at least the eating and drinking afterward.

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3. Head to one of Minnesota’s luxurious golf domes. This is what I do occasionally with friends Roger and Bob.

This is what I call a winter get-away

Go through the airlock revolving door and you are instantly transported to another world — one where nothing is natural, nothing real. It’s a place you can — you must — let your imagination run wild. It can be Pebble Beach, St. Andrews, or the crappy muni in your town. It can be anything you want it to be if you just close your eyes and swing away.

Is it a balcony seat at Radio City Music Hall? The Hollywood Bowl, perhaps? No, it's the 100 yards your ball gets to fly before hitting the plastic tarp and falling to the floor.

But don’t think it’s all about whacking drivers or hitting fat iron shot off mats that fly just as well as crisply hit ones. There are places to hone the short game, too. The putting and chipping areas are easily as good as many mini-golf courses – without the pesky windmill, dinosaur or pirate getting in the way.

This guy understands that putting on astroturf is better than nothing. Or he thinks that's true anyway. The jury is out on that one.

So a good time was had by all on Friday afternoon. Did we improve our swings? Probably not. Did we get sore backs? Yes. Did we do anything that vaguely resembled golf? That’s unclear.

But we Minnesotans are a grateful people, and it was worth a few bucks to get out — then get in — and hang out, use our imaginations and think about real grass and warm sunshine. And just like real golf, sometimes it’s not about the golf.

So those those are pretty much all of the Minnesota winter golf options.

4. Actually, there is an option #4, which is the one Roger is choosing. Get on an airplane on Tuesday and fly to Palm Springs.

Good for Roger and his airplane. I couldn’t be happier for him.

Roger is practicing with the idea that he will actually be playing golf soon. Whoa -- It's hard for me to wrap my head around that one, but do what you must, Roger.