I've put it off long enough. I've warned you almost every day. So I guess I have to give you what I promised: A summary of my month off, some of it spent traveling in the wilds of New York, New Jersey and Maryland. So here it is. If you want to read it, great. Just hit the link. If you don't, I understand.
• Nothing I like receiving better than the gift of time. And, as I was scheduled to play golf this morning and my wuss-of-a-partner bailed (I must admit I was going to call him and bail too because it's raining buckets here), I've got a few extra hours. And I'm going to use them to first catch you up on the morning links then let you know how our vacation went. ... OK, now that we're done with the links, let's move on to the vacation (seriously, I couldn't find anything, except maybe my Sunday story which I didn't link yesterday but did post on Saturday evening).
• As daily readers of this blog know, (And really, every day? Thanks, but do you know the pressure you put me under? Trying to come up with something every day is fingernail-biting tough) the centerpiece of our vacation was the U.S. Open in New York (or, for Kim, the five Broadway plays she saw). But before we hunkered down on the upper West Side, we took a little side trip. Without my luggage.
Let me say I never check luggage when I travel (a tip from former Cougar writer Glenn Kasses – thanks Glenn). But with a two-week East Coast swing planned – it was supposed to be three, but when we were hit with a week furlough, we cut a week to save the cash – and Kim having packed a bag the size of a Kia (really), I figured I might as well check one. We would be waiting anyway. Except mine never showed up in Newark. And when we went into the Alaska Air office, before I could say anything, they asked if my name was Grippi. See, they knew the bag was stuck in Seattle and wouldn't be in Newark until 11 that night. Of course they would deliver it to me. Even though we would be in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, more than three hours away? A book was checked. The answer, yes. So we wrote down the address of our hotel and took off. At 11 the call came. Sorry, the company won't deliver the luggage that far. We'll have to FedEx it to you. What's the address? We'll be in Baltimore, so send it there. The next day the bag arrived. Every zipper gone. Rips in the fabric. The wheels barely rolling. OK, this story is getting too long. The upshot, when I got back to Spokane two weeks later, they gave me a new bag. The funny thing, everyone I tell this story to has a similar one to share. Guess it happens to everyone at some time. You?
• OK, back to the postcards. Gettysburg was, well let's just say as a former history minor in college, I've probably read more than a dozen books about the battle over the years and known of them prepared me for the scope of the scene. The length Lee asked the Pickett's (and other's) men to march? Idiotic. The rocks, the hills, the underbrush? What an impossible task. For us, it was an informative and startlingly sad day.
From there it was on to Baltimore, for a Mariners game (sent a text in the sixth to my son: Get rid of Betancourt NOW!), which they won. The highlight: The 20-minute mid-game rain delay while Kim was at Boog Powell's barbecue. She came back with a barbecued turkey sandwich (great) and soaked hair and clothes (not so great). One other highlight: While walking to Camden Yards (nice ballpark) from our hotel, we took the scenic route, stopping at three taverns to taste the ambience of the town. Which might explain this Orioles hat I came home with, though I don't remember buying it.
From Baltimore we headed up to Sharpsburg and toured another Civil War battlefield (the drive through the hills was interesting, especially when you drove by a home that was built before John Hancock signed his name). After a day at Antietam, we headed north, getting to Cooperstown the next day. Touring the baseball Hall of Fame with just Kim was easier this time than the last time we had done it, but not nearly as much fun. That time we had our two sons, both less than 10. One wanted to see how many plaques he could touch before his mother lost her temper (27 if I remember correctly), the other, a baseball nut, wanted to know everything about everyone. This time, the incessant questions were sorely missed. Anyhow, bought five postcards to send to friends and family, wrote them that night in the hotel and promptly left them on the dresser. You would have gotten one, I promise.
A day of driving through Vermont and New Hampshire (got to Dartmouth on graduation day, so there was no chance to even park, let alone walk the grounds) left us just outside of New York.
• Before I get into the golf, I want to thank everyone who left a New York suggestion or advice. Every little note helped – and I read each one. A half day in the city and I was crossing in front of cabs and doing my best Ratso Rizzo imitation ("I'm walkin' here!"), until my niece explained most of the cab drivers are convicted killers. She was joking. I think. Anyhow, your suggestions helped. As for the city, loved it, other than the fact I gained seven pounds despite walking about 10 miles a day. The food, at least at the places our niece guided us to, was delectable. We had a great meal every night. After seven days of riding trains, eating, drinking, just plain enjoying ourselves, it was easy to see why so many people like living there.
But on to the golf. I'm sure you know the deal, how the rain came on Thursday, everything was pushed back and the tournament ended Monday. We spent seven consecutive days on the course, from Tuesday and Wednesday's practice rounds, through the short play and Noah Ark-like flood Thursday (no lie, the water was flowing so hard down the 17th green, they could have held a kayak race), through much of the long days Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. What I can tell you is the rain condensed the area on the course spectators were allowed, pushing 40,000 people into about half the space they were originally intended, with all that entails. What I can't adequately tell you is the smell of much of the course as the mud built up, and 80,000 feet trampled it into a mush that reeked of ... heck, just take the worse smell you have ever encountered, double it, bury it under a rotting barn in an old tennis shoe for a week, bring it out and sniff. That's about as close as I can get. Awful.
That's why we – my brother-in-law Al and myself – sat in the stands on the 17th hole for the final three days. There we were able to see the 15th fairway, the 16th fairway and green, the 18th fairway and green and the 1st green. Plus smell the fragrant cigar of the Mets' fan sitting in front of us (different guy, same hat, same smell all three days). Anyhow, after listening to a 45-minute argument over a golf rule (a ball, a rake and a hazard were involved), I finally came to understand the term pushy. And obnoxious. Just saying. But all in all the group we sat with, which included a religion teacher from Boston, a fourth-grade teacher and part-time poker player from the Atlantic City area and two guys who worked at the Philadelphia airport who swore they never touched my bag, was fun to be around. And understood golf. Which is why all of us were so despondent when David Duval misread Monday's putt (everyone did) and bogeyed, costing him any shot at the title.
• OK, I've bored you enough. If you've read all this you deserve a Bloomsday T-shirt or something. But I will say, in summary, I'm ready to get back to standing at football and basketball practice. It's a lot less stressful.
• That's it for now. Oh, someone asked about a freshman football player and what the staff thought about his performance so far, whether he would redshirt or challenge for a spot. All I can say is the incoming group hasn't been on campus more than a few days, they can't work out with the coaches and no one - including the players - is sure who is ready to play at this level. We'll be back this week as events warrant. Until then ...