On this day, two days removed from an earthquake that rocked the very same Washington Union Station that I had been in the day before, I watched the television news break into hurricane coverage about mandatory evacuations to tell me about an Amtrak derailment. The California Zephyr, a train that I had been on just 23 days earlier, had run into a stalled piece of farm equipment left on the tracks. There were 178 people aboard and thankfully none were seriously injured. This has been the second major train crash this summer and amidst rumors of terrorism plots to bomb passenger railways on the anniversary of September 11th, I’ve become concerned, naturally.
But through the veil of concern I glimpse a multidimensional life map of my summer and realize how lucky I’ve been so far. Here I avoided train crashes, there an earthquake, and the whole recent time I’ve been playing chicken with a potentially fatal Atlantic Ocean behemoth of a storm. I’ve weaved my way between these mines of misfortune to have quite possibly the best summer of my life. Granted, I haven’t been playing centerfield for the Anthony Wayne Blue Jays, but I’ve experienced a number of cherished and remarkable events unsurpassed by nothing except the thrill of playing little league baseball.
The first that comes to mind is my great friend Jason’s wedding. On August 6 Jason tied the knot with a wonderful, friendly, stunningly beautiful woman named Michelle and the wedding was fantastic. I say this because of the day’s intimacy. It seemed that everything was arranged, performed, created, and designed by friends, family, or the bride and groom themselves. Doing this immediately transformed the stuffiness of expensive “luxury” and needless formality, too common amongst celebrations, into a warm and comfortable atmosphere dripping with care, consideration and love. I’m sure that being close friends with Jason for almost 20 years and having the privilege to be his best man added to my perceptions as well. I was able to see many old friends, including Jason’s dad for the first time in years, and my two sisters (Ali and Holly) and mom flew in for the occasion too. We had a party just like Lionel Richie would’ve wanted: All Night Long.
|Jason The Groom, Jenny, Hambone, Hambone's sister Liz, my sister Holly, me, my brother-in-law John, Holly's boyfriend Ryan, Phil and Mandy|
|Smokin': Holly and her big bro|
After the wedding my family and I took advantage of the opportunity to be together by heading an hour east of Toledo to Cedar Point (the greatest amusement park in the world). We had a strong crew that consisted of my sisters Holly, Julia, and Jen; my mom and step dad Dennis; Holly’s boyfriend Ryan; and my step mom Sue. We crushed Cedar Point, surfing our wave of family mojo from ride to ride, leaving a kaleidoscopic wake of laughter and spent adrenaline behind us. Born so close to the park, most of the family grew up roller coaster lovers. This has not been the case for Julia (who I affectionately refer to as Jules). However, on this day Jules gave most of the rides a shot, including the incredibly intimidating Millennium Force. A ride so tall, steep and fast that I was once told to “bring another set with me” if I chose to ride it. Her courage to face her fears, regardless of their importance, was endearing.
|Jules, Holly and Ryan walking towards Cedar Point|
|Jen and Jules feed me dippin' dots (the ice cream of the future)|
It was with feelings of endearment and brotherly love that I embarked on the next part of my trip. Jules was to accompany me to Cleveland on the train and watch the Indians versus the Tigers with me. Because of the way the train and baseball schedules were laid out I was able to spend a day in Cleveland with Jules. We arrived on the scene at six in the morning and promptly took a nap at Jules’ biological grandmother‘s (my step grandmother) house after some tasty scrambled eggs and toast that really hit the spot. We awoke, ate again, and headed to the lake. Julia’s aunt (my step aunt) Mary, Uncle Todd and her children Robert, Addison and Evelyn live a five minute’s stroll from Lake Erie. The Great Lake - the most temperamental of the five - was in rare form. Because of the powerful waves, humans were discouraged from swimming at the beach. We enjoyed the extreme conditions and walked up and down snapping pictures, looking at the water-worn rocks, pocketing found sea glass, and simply admiring nature before we headed out for dinner and drinks with Mandy and Phil. Mandy is my sister Holly’s best friend from elementary school which makes her an old friend to me as well. Jules and I visited with Mandy and her husband Phil, touring their up-and-coming neighborhood, chatting away and laughing often before making our way to the stadium to pick up our free tickets courtesy of the lovely young couple I just mentioned. We watched the Indians scorch the Tiger pitchers for 10 runs on 18 hits before strolling through downtown Cleveland and eventually catching the long bus back to our beds for the night. Spending the day with Jules left me impressed by her curiosity, envious of her youth and overwhelmed by her remarkable maturity. It was a day I will always remember.
|Jules and her camera, Diana, ready to capture the approach of the Lake Shore Limited|
|A blurry Mandy, Phil and Jules|
I am brought back to poolside by the postulations and pontifications of retired men, who mid-float, really should have nothing to complain about. But old habits die hard: “Water‘s pretty warm today. Too warm I‘d say.” “Went golfin' yesterday. Ralph shot an 88.” “Are you kidding me? He’s broke, doesn’t have a pot to piss in and I‘m supposed to pay my taxes so he can golf?” “No, no, no, he made all his money through Radio Shacks in Ecuador.” “I’ve been listening to you fellas since ten after and I still don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.” “I don’t know why nobody listened to me fifteen years ago when I told everybody on the board…” Hearing the gripes I decide to zone back out and continue my reflections. I leave my week in Ohio behind and move on down the line…