Friday, December 26, 2014

Bud Norris, Two Times

We saw right-hander Bud Norris twice this year, although only Melvin took note of the fact. We watched him in a mid-July minor league start during the MLB all-star break and more recently as the Orioles completed a three-game sweep of the Tigers.1

Bud Norris pitches to Ian Kinsler; bottom of the first, Game 3 of the 2014 ALDS.

The division series game was, as my trilingual brother would say for effect, the ray-ZHON-det-TREAHR for the short October trip. However, any visit with Melvin and Watson is a profound pleasure whether or not baseball is involved and we spent our time together well.

Melvin picked me up at ORD, potentially saving my life, and we headed straight for his current brunch fav, Three Aces. We both thought the breakfast poutine was too salty but how often can you start the day with poutine? The pulled porchetta sandwich rocks; the recorded music did not. Wings? Really? Restrict them to the menu, maybe not even.

Having left the house before dawn, I questioned the wisdom of having a cocktail at brunch, then consumed two Ward 8; Wild Turkey Rye 101, Fee Brothers rhubarb bitters, house grenadine, fresh lemon and orange. Melvin, who probably got a decent night's sleep, had two of a coffee cocktail that doesn't appear on the online menu.

Watson hopped in ein Uber auto and met us at the International Museum of Surgical Science. Trying to understand the odd selection and sequence of not uninteresting artifacts, we concluded the exhibits must be reliant on sponsorship, which turned out to be the case.

This vitrine lacked a wall label, which may have been just as well.

Next stop, (Michael & Louise's) Hopleaf Bar, where the Duchesse De Bougogne was the star. On my recommendation, Melvin ordered the Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes (BFM) Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien  and pronounced it "like drinking balsamic vinegar." Only later did I realize (pardon me for sounding like an ass) that I had only drunk the Grand Cru variants aged in pinot noir or champagne barrels.

After a quick stop back at 'the pencil factory,' it was off to Pizzeria Serio for supper, with the Giants-Nats game on a distant television. A general comment about my need for a vegetable resulted in spinach being added to the hot sopressata, red onions, and pepperoncinis that top the diavolo pie. I hadn't made clear that I would have been content with the caesar salad.

When the Giants tied-up Game 4 of the NLDS in the top of the ninth, we coaxed our waiter into putting the game on a closer screen, ordered the pie of the day and another round of beers, and settled in to watch four scoreless innings before heading home. Sunday was going to be another early start, so we were asleep when San Francisco finished off Washington in the 18th inning to win the series, 3-1.

"really good american food," really slow service.

Melvin and I hit the highway at 7:00 with a 12:30 lunch reservation at Zingerman's Roadhouse. Under other circumstances we might have been grateful for a leisurely meal of Alex Young's award-winning, farm-to-table cooking.

However, the hour-and-a-half it took us to order, eat and pay for a Pitmaster's Salad and Roadhouse Reuben left us with no time for another stop before the 3:45 game. As small consolation we explored Comerica Park, in particular the branded porch, deck and "jungle" on the 200 level.

Our buddy Norris and Tigers starter David Price each allowed just two hits and a walk through five innings. Nelson Cruz put the birds on the board with a two-run shot in the sixth and then——and then a man in the next section had a heart attack. It was a truly consciousness-altering experience.

Through the seventh and eighth and into the ninth innings, police officers and others took turns manually compressing the man's chest as he lay half-undressed on the cold concrete of the grandstand. Then the word most of us know only from television, "Clear!"

Other than the doctors who had already joined the first responders, the crowd couldn't help; there wasn't even much to see. To watch seemed purient, to turn away, unsympathetic. Many of us vacillated between the two. Most of the stadium was oblivious to the life-and-death drama in the upper deck behind home plate and the game went on.

The Tigers struggled to rally and the efforts in the next section became more desperate and, self-consciously, my emotional responses to the two events commingled. It was an overcast fall evening and everything felt terminal. Melvin and I only found one media report about the incident, which was later updated to state the man had died.

Other lives went on (which, I am sorry, is just a fundamental fact of life). We popped into Hot Taco Detroit for a tasty snack while the traffic thinned out. Game 3 of the other ALDS was on the television, as it would be when had supper at (Foran's) Grand Trunk Pub and latter at our hotel. We stayed up to watch Kansas City sweep the Angels as well. In the morning I boarded the red-eye for New York and Melvin drove back to Chicago.2

Home in time for the monthly exec' committee meeting.

Not quite three months earlier, Melvin and I saw Norris in a tune-up start with the Double-A Bowie (Maryland) Baysox. He would last just 4.1 innings in a 5-0 loss to the Richmond Flying Squirrels.

In our travels, we have seen all sorts of mascots, between-inning entertainment and advertising tie-ins. At the intersection of all three in Bowie, a little girl walloped a man dressed as a cockroach, a plug for a pest-control company. When she was done, he got up and walked off the field.

Under sweltering conditions, an almost nonexistent crowd
watched the cockroach-man slink off the field.
Journeyman catcher Zane Chavez has seen it all before.

There is lots of cool stuff at the National Cryptologic Museum but the narrative is a jumble. I am willing to cut the International College of Surgeons some slack, but I think the National Security Agency would have a more finely crafted message.

The National Cryptologic Museum is a bit of a cipher.

Melvin and I made a quick stop at the 1869 Bollman Iron Truss Bridge, the sole surviving example of the first bridging system constructed entirely of iron. For the recornd, Bollman, first name Wendel, was the engineer; the 160-foot span is in Savage, Maryland, not its original location.

"Paired end posts at mid-span showing connection of diagonal
tension members with anchor casting." (Image cropped.)
Historic American Engineering Record, October 1970.

From there we were off to track down what remains of Enchanted Forest, a nursery rhyme themed amusement park that opened in 1955 (one month after Disneyland). Most of what has been salvaged is being restored at Clark's Elioak Farm, a working farm and petting zoo. We arrived there after closing but were able to see Old King Cole and the original park entrance at the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center.

Old King Cole was a merry old soul, and a merry old soul
was he whenever wearing eyeliner and lipstick.

We had supper at the Honey Pig in Ellicott City, one of four Korean restaurants in the local chain. Good, not great, but enjoyable in large part because we made the decision on the fly.

Honeypig, do you heart Baseball Byways?

The Aberdeen Ironbirds game was rained-out, spoiling further3 what was planned to be the second day of back-to-back doubleheaders. Our last three trips have been marred (or worse) by rain; last July 'along the Ohio River,' Georgia in April, and now this. Responding to my genuine despair, Melvin promised me we would go somewhere dry in 2015.

We returned3 to Baltimore on Tuesday to see the exhibits in the American Visionary Art Museum. Melvin and I meandered through the Greenbelt Historic District, the landmarked planned community within the city of Greenbelt, Maryland.

"Okay, then make a right at the next intersection."

We had lunch at the acclaimed R&R Taqueria, tucked away inside a gas station in Elkridge, Maryland, ordering a reasonable amount of food and then doing so again. Given the time we spent listening to Nick Pahys at his One and Only Presidential Museum in Williamsfield, Ohio—Was it really only 90 minutes?—how could we not backtrack3 to Frederick to see the statue there of John Hanson?

John Hanson, the first president of something,
looking presidential or like a guy in a hairnet.

We stopped into Benny's Pub, home of Antietam Brewery, both before and after a game between the Hagerstown Suns and the West Virginia Power. The home team won, 8-4.

The sun sets literally on the Hagerstown Suns, although a planned
move to Fredericksburg VA has been delayed again, now to 2017.

What followed the next morning, has already been documented, which is a heck of a way to build a narrative.

1.  Since then, Norris got no decision in Game 2 of the ALDS against the Royals.
2.  I have visited Detroit twice in three years and have left feeling unrequited both times.
3.  Pardon me to making references to previous destinations not otherwise documented herein.

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