Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Savannah Bananas: A Night at the Ball Park

 Last year Savannah lost its minor league team when the Sand Gnats moved to Columbia, South Carolina. It's no longer just the major league teams that chase new stadiums and Columbia provided one for the Sand Gnats.  I'd like to know whoever thought it a good idea to call a Single A baseball club the name of one of Savannah's nastiest residents?  In Savannah, the Sand Gnats played in the "historic Grayson Stadium" which has been around for 90 or so years. I know the stadium may not be up to snuff for professional ball players, but I like it.  You're close to the action.  There are large overhead fans that cools the fans below.  There's plenty of shade in the main seating areas.  And the best, the food and beer is cheaper than at a major league game. Watching a game in Grayson is a nice experience.  I was heartbroken to learn that the Sand Gnats were moving, but figured good riddance.  Sadly, they left the sand gnats behind when they packed up their bats and swept out the locker rooms.  Baseball appeared to be a thing of the past in Savannah.

The owner promoting the team
But up steps a young local businessman with the idea of a new team, the Savannah Bananas.  They are not exactly a minor league team. The players are all also college students and play for college teams.  They are a part of the "Coastal Plain League," a name borrowed from an old "Class D" minor league (a notch down from Single A).  The league stretches from Virginia to Georgia and two of my old locales support teams (the Petersburg Generals and the Wilmington Sharks).  The college players who make up these teams are hoping for a chance at the pros, and this gives them a venue to play once the college season is done.  They have a rather short season (mid-June to mid-August and play 24 home games.  This past Thursday night I went with a group from church to see this new team.  The owner is a marketing genius.  Last year, there'd be 1000 people on a good night to watch the Sand Gnats.  This year, they've been selling out with 4000 or more fans.  The food is even cheaper than last year (for a group, you can get a $15 a ticket that includes an all-you-can-eat wristband allowing you to munch out on hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, hamburgers, popcorn, cookies and soft drinks).  

The King of Potassium

The mascot is the "World's Strongest Banana," also known as the "King of Potassium."  The owner pranced around in a yellow tux, obviously enjoying the crowd.  Crews in banana costumes swept the infield, stopping at second base to dance.  Between one inning, there was a "catch the banana in the pants" stunt, that pitted two fans wearing over-sized pants trying to catch tossed bananas.  I don't think they can brag that no bananas were harmed in that stunt and there may have been other damages.  I hope the contestants were wearing cups.  And there was a little baseball mixed into the night's entertainment.  I was wanting the Asheboro Copperheads to slip on a banana, but sadly they made banana pudding, peeling the local team 6-4.  What's a baseball post without a few cliches!

I am up in North Carolina for a week with limited internet access, so I'll catch back up when I return.  I'm posting this from a coffee shop in Carthage.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Ken: a review of a new play

On Sunday, I had an opportunity to see the premier of a new play.  "Ken" was presented by the Savannah Community Theatre and played at the Muse Arts Warehouse, a small playhouse at one end of an old railroad freight depot which was a perfect setting for a play about a train ride across the country. 

The play is told through the eyes of Arnold, a drama student at Yale University during the 1930s.  He couldn't afford to go home, so he takes a job working in a hospital.  But as everyone leaves for the summer, he is feeling sorry for himself.  Then an opportunity occurs when a fellow student is found dead.  Arnold had known Ken but wasn't a close friend, but is asked by the school to accompany his body back to Portland Oregon.  Seeing a chance to travel, he agrees.  Along the way, he meets a young woman also traveling back to her family in Seattle after her year in school.  With a ten hour layover in Chicago, they head off to the World's Fair.  They enjoy a wonderful meal in the "air conditioned dining car.  They see the ravages of the depression and the dust bowl.  As they head west, there are travelers heading for vacations at Yellowstone and Glacier who sit across from others who are essentially refugees, fleeing their dried up farms. Arnold falls asleep as the train is split in Eastern Washington.  To his horror, he realizes that the body didn't make the Portland train and he feels horrible.  But all works out as the body is sent down from Seattle.  Arnold finds himself becoming more concerned about the feelings of others and is able to console the family.  He even decides to stay in Portland and work for the summer before heading back to Yale in the fall.

The story is told through two Arnold's.  The younger Arnold, who does the acting, is a college student.  The second Arnold is the narrator and a man twenty-five years older who looks back at what he learned that summer.  Ken is based on a short story of the same name by Arnold Sundgaard, which appeared in the New Yorker Magazine in 1959.  The story was based on the experiences of Sundgaard while he was a student at Yale.  It was produced by Stratton Leopold, a local man who has been very involved in the movies.  Leopold (whose family also owns the famous Leopold Ice Cream parlor in downtown Savannah) was a classmate of Sundgaard's son in the 1960s.  On behalf of the Sundgaard family, he asked another friend (Tom Coleman, III) about turning the story into a play.    A scoop of Leopold Ice Cream was given to each viewer of the play.

The set for the play was minimal.  A few long boxes served as the casket, waiting room seats, and train seats.  There was no curtain and the actors stepped out from behind a dark wall.  Most of the actors played multiple roles. One man would appear dressed as a train conductor, an undertaker or a farmer down on his luck.  A woman might appear as a secretary, mother, or a farmer's wife.   On a screen high above the stage old photos of train stations and sights along the way were shown, which helped set the mood. I enjoyed the play but then again I have a think for trains.  I've taken the Great Northern Route (Empire Builder) from Chicago to Seattle and could easily visualize the sites screen along the way.  The play is still a work in progress, but I came away with the understanding they hope it will be performed again.  If you get a chance, I recommend you check it out.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Another long paddle

A selfie
I’ve taken a couple of long paddles the last two Fridays.  This was on Friday, July 1.  A friend and I left from the marina on Delegal Creek at 9:30 AM.  We had three hours of falling tide.  Aided by the current, we paddled out into Green Island Sound, pass the last navigation marker with its osprey’s nest.  I was surprised that the bird wasn’t there squawking at us as she has done other times this summer, but then as we were about to pass the marker she came back to the nest with what appeared to be a marsh rat in her talons.  Dinner for the little ones!   

Instead of paddling in the open water, I wanted to try to explore some back passages to Wassaw Island, so we turned up Adam’s Creek and paddled against the falling tide as we made our way deep into Romerly Marsh.   We often saw families of birds along the shoreline and at one place saw several bottle-nosed dolphins running mullet up on the banks.  As the small fish flopped back into the water, the dolphins snacked on them.  But as we tried to get close enough to capture a good shot, the dolphins took off.  It was in chasing the dolphins that we made a wrong turn and paddled up a creek that played out.  We turned around and found Adam’s Creek again and continued paddling up it, between Skidaway and Little Wassaw Island until it turned into the Olingsell River.  By the way, I am not sure what qualifies as a river or a creek out here as they didn’t appear to be that different in size.

Marsh near low tide

Reaching the river was a milestone as it flowed out into the Ossabaw Sound on the west side of Wassaw Island.  Passing Flora Hammock, we continued to paddle in the heat, knowing that soon the tide would turn and we’d be paddling against it.  Sure enough, the tide did turn and the last mile or so against the current. 

We stopped at a neat but muddy beach on Wassaw Island, at the confluence with Wassaw Creek, about a half mile from the point.  It was shady and there were dead trees (reclaimed by the tides) that made good benches to sit and enjoy lunch.   It was nice to be in the shade as the temperature was approaching triple digits and the heat index well over a 100. 
Approaching lunch spot
lunch spot
From lunch spot
approaching storm
After eating and resting, we decided to get moving as it appeared there would be an afternoon storm.   Instead of paddling the creeks, we paddled out through the Ossawbaw and Green Island Sound, passing the shoals just south of Pine Island.  We watched a storm come in from the southeast, with lightning on the other side of the sound.  

About the time we arrived back into Delegal Creek, to the squawking of the osprey, we were soaked with a cooling rain.  It felt good and with the lightning staying south of us, we were okay (although not particularly safe, but there was nothing to do but keep paddling).  We got back to the marina, tied our boats up on our vehicles and then, while downing a beer, enjoyed a second storm with its cooling wind from the safety of a porch along the dock.  We had paddle a little less than 16 miles with about 6 or so against the tide.

Tim as we paddle back across Ossabaw Sound
Photo taken by Tim
Trip mapped by Tim's App on his phone
What have you been doing for fun recently?

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Fishing with Granddad: Joe's Fork

When I was a child, I used to spend a couple of weeks a summer with my grandparents.  I have written a few stories from these summer adventures before.  See "Confessing" and  "Saving Damsels."  This is another story about fishing with my grandfather.  

Joe's Fork in the fall of 2007, a mile up from the old millpond

"Were you able to dig us some worms?” my granddad asked as he got out of his truck. 

“Yes sir,” I said, “some nice ones.” 

He smiled and headed into the house.   Dinner was being served.  At the table, after he said grace, Grandma berated us both to put on plenty of Off™.  We ate quickly and I ran back into my room and put on long pants and strapped my Kabar™ knife to the belt.  Granddaddy collected the rods and placed them in the back of the truck along with tackle boxes and a can of worms.  We crawled into the truck and pulled out onto the highway, heading east.  About a mile later, the road snaked down into a hardwood swamp.  We crossed Joe’s Fork on a small bridge.  We could have waded across without getting our knees wet.  As we began the climb on the other side, granddaddy turned onto a two-track dirt road that led back into the woods.
“Where are we going?” I asked as we bounced in the truck and bushes swished along the sides of the truck. 

"To an old mill pond.”

"What kind of fish will we catch?"

“There should be some nice bream, maybe a jack or a bass.”

“Is the mill still there?"

“No, it burned.” 

“When was that?” I asked.

“I’m not sure.” 

“But the pond is still here?”

“Yeah, the beavers have damned it back up.”

“When you were a boy, did you ever bring grain down here to be milled? 

“No, it was before my time.” 

Realizing I wasn’t going to learn anything about the mill, I thought I might see if there was anything to know about the current residents. “When did the beavers move in here?”

“In the late forties, I think.  Your dad was a boy.”  He paused for a moment as he drove the truck into some brush so he wouldn’t be blocking the road.  It didn’t seem to matter much to me, for the road didn't appear to be well traveled. 

“You sure ask a lot of questions,” my granddad said as he turned the engine off.  Getting out, we sprayed ourselves with Off™, grabbed our rods and stuff and walked back toward the dam which the beavers had restored.  

On the edge of the dam, we dropped our gear.  The vegetation was thick around the pond.  Granddaddy wouldn’t be using a fly rod in here.  We’d both be fishing with worms.  I tied a hook to the line, put a small weight just above it, and attached a bobber about 2 feet high.  The pond was pretty shallow.  Once I had my rod rigged, I stepped out on the edge of the dam and cast into the middle of the pond, just shy of a water moccasin bathing on a log in the waning sun.   Granddaddy headed around the pond and found a place where he could cast his line out and be freed of more questions. 

My bobber floated undisturbed, as I swatted mosquitoes and deer flies which swarmed around my head, pausing occasionally to wipe the sweat from my brow.  It was a hot and stifling in the swamp.  After a few minutes with no action, I was becoming bored.  I slowly reeled in the line, and cast it again, right beside that big snake.  I didn’t faze it, but neither did anything nibble on my worm.  I pulled my line in again. 

“If you don’t leave your line in water, you won’t catch any fish.”  Granddaddy yelled over at me.  He normally didn’t say much when fishing.  He didn't want the fish to be spooked by the talk.  

I cast again, this time dropping the hook just inches in front of that big old moccasin’s head. 
I waited: ten seconds, twenty seconds, thirty seconds, a minute.  Nothing was biting.   After a few more minutes, I retrieved my line and made another cast and then another.  The whole time that water moccasin held his position.  I wondered if it was dead, but I knew better.   Maybe it was mocking me.   I could feel the snake getting under my skin.  I retrieved my line again.  Looking in my tackle box, I pulled out a large jitterbug, a top floating lure that works wonders on the bass right around dark.  I tied it on my line, and cast it just short of the moccasin.  I reeled it in, the lure jittering back and forth across the water.  

“What are you doing fishing with that?” my granddad asked.

A Jitterbug
 “Nothing was taking the worms,” I answered as I made another cast, just to the other side of that moccasin.  The snake didn’t move with the line lying across its back.  I slowly reeled, bringing the lure up beside of the log upon which the snake had perched itself.  Then I jerked the rod back hard and snagged the snake in the back with the lure’s treble hook.  The snake snapped around, his cottonmouth angrily exposed.  Then he slipped off the log and started swimming away with my lure.  I let him have some line, but tightened the drag. 

“What did you do that for?”  My grandfather yell, as he beat a path over to me.  “That snake wasn’t bothering you.” 

The snake turned around.  Instead of fighting the line, it started swimming toward me.

“What are you going to do now?”  He asked.

I pulled out my Kabar knife and held it along with my rod.

“What are you going to do with that?” he asked.

“I’ll stick him,” I said.

“Put that knife away,” he yelled as he picked up a stick what was maybe five feet long.  “Use this,” he said handing it to me.  “You hooked him, you take care of him.”  

It had seemed like a good idea, but now I wasn't so sure of it as this was one large angry and deadly poisonous snake.  Thankfully, when about twenty feet away, the snake shook the lure free, then turned and swam in another direction.  I reeled my lure in.  I’d been saved from an angry snake, but now I had to contend with an angry grandfather.

“We’re done fishing,” he said, packing up his gear.

As we walked back to the truck, I heard distant thunder.  A cloud was building that would bring an end to this hot day.  I crawled into the passenger side of the truck.  I knew better than to ask any more questions and my granddad maintained silence for the drive home. 

I was pretty sure there would be no ice cream and Pepsi float before bed.   At least the wind from the approaching stormed would cool the house.  


Friday, June 24, 2016


My last couple of posts were written and posted while I was on a trip back to Michigan.  I got home a week ago, but things have been pretty busy.  This is an account of a drive I did on Monday, June 13….

From the Internet
It was a wet dreary morning as I leave Grand Rapids.  It’s six thirty and my sights are set north as I rush up US 131.  At this time of the morning, the traffic is all coming into the city, so I make good time.  This is all familiar country.  I cross over the Rouge River and recall a fall paddle down this river.  At Big Rapids, I cross over the Muskegon River, the longest river in the state.  Another fall, I’d done a solo trip on this river, with just my dog.  A little before eight, I’m in Cadillac.  I stop for gas and breakfast: coffee and a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin.   It begins to rain harder as I head further north, but the air feels good as the forest has now changed.  Birch intermingle with the hardwood forest.  I’m in the north woods!  Up here, summer is slower in arriving and the black locust are in full bloom, with many trees covered what appears to be popcorn balls.  I make my way, through the rain to Traverse City, where just blocks from the bay, I turn left on M-22.  I follow this beloved road up along the west side of Traverse Bay, to the town of Sutton’s Bay.  I stop at the Inland Seas Educational Association (ISEA), park my rental car, and go inside.
Saying Goodbye 

My last piece of business from my years in Michigan is to get rid of a sailboat.  I thought I had it sold twice, but it never worked out so I began to look for a place to donate it.  A friend suggested this place and they agreed to accept the boat as a donation.  He had a boat that was being worked in Sutton Bay, so he hauled my boat up when he picked his up.  Outside of the ISEA’s building, with a handful of other boats, sits mine.  I get to see it one last time.  They will sell these boats which helps them fund their work of teaching about the Great Lakes.  They maintain a classroom schooner, “The Inland Sea” which is used to give students a unique experience on the lakes.  I sign over the boat’s title and receive a tour of the facility.  They have science lavatories and wood working shop where they teach boat building.  Tied up in their docks is someone’s restored steam tug.  Although I prefer boats propelled by paddles or sails, if I was to go into a powerboat, this boat would be a joy to own.  The small upright boiler looked as if it could have come off the African Queen. 
The Schooner "Inland Seas"
"Steam powered tug"
Leaving Sutton Bay, I drive across the Lelanaeu Peninsula to “Fish Town” in Leland.  The place has become a tourist hub.  I was first here back in the summer of 2003, where I took a ferry out to the Manitou Islands where I spent the fourth of July weekend camping.  The center of “Fish Town” is Carlson’s, a fish market that’s been in business since 1904.  I purchase a couple of smoked whitefish fillets as a gift for Jack, whom I am staying with in Grand Rapids.  Leaving Leland, I head south on scenic M-22, as it hugs the lakeshore.  After having rushed up to Sutton’s Bay, I plan to take my time traveling back to Grand Rapids.   Mostly I will take M-22, but I plan a detour that will cause me to miss the beautiful town of Glen Arbor on the shores of Lake Glen, but will take me through Maple City where I plan to stop at Gabes, to pick up some sausage for Jack.  The drive through these familiar woods is relaxing.  After Maple City, I get a bit lost (my only map is my iPad) and head too far south, but this allows me a chance to drive through the village Benzonia, which is where Bruce Catton’s memoir, Waiting for the Morning Train, is set.  Catton, who is mostly known for his Civil War studies, grew up in Northern Michigan early in the 20th Century and is a freshman at the University of Michigan when World War I began. 
North from Inspiration Point

I pick M-22 back up at Frankfort, another beautiful little lakeside town.  I stop at a diner on the edge of town for lunch, but they’ve closed their kitchen early for cleaning so I keep traveling. The road snakes around and up and down large sand dunes that line the lakeshore.  I stop at Inspiration Point, where stairs lead to the top of a sand dune where I feast on beautiful views north and south along the lakeshore.  I continue on driving south, enjoying the view of the City of Milwaukee, an old steam ferry that could haul passengers and a train across the lakes.  This ship was built in the early 30s and was operated by the Grand Trunk Railroad and later the Ann Arbor Railroad.  The ship was retired in 1982.  Today, on the weekend, the ship sits just north of Manistee and serves as a museum and bed and breakfast, allowing the guest to stay in the old staterooms.  Sadly, it was only open on weekends so I’m not able to tour it.

South from Inspiration Point
The City of Milwaukee 
I’m hungry and it is way after lunchtime, so I head into downtown Manistee to find a restaurant.  I pick out “The Boathouse,” which is located right on the Manistee River.  When I lived in Michigan, I did a three day canoe trip on the upper Manistee.  Of all the great rivers I’ve paddled in this state (Pere Marquette, Au Sable, Two-Hearted, Fox, etc), the Manistee was my favorite.  I had considered doing a longer trip that would end at the river’s mouth into Lake Michigan, but I was never able to come up with the ten days to make the paddle.  Alyssa is my waitress and seats me by the window where I watch the boats while enjoying a tasty blacken chicken salad.

Town of Manistee
The Spartan
(shouldn't it be painted the colors of MSU: green and white)
M-22 officially ends at Manistee.   This is a beautiful drive and on this trip, I missed two of the highways more beautiful parts (the section through Glen Arbor and Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes and the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula, both which I have travelled before).  I continue driving south and stop and walk around in Ludington, before driving back to Grand Rapids. I had been here a number of times when living in Michigan, staying in B&Bs and camping at the state park.  In Ludington, one can still take a ferry, The Badger, across Lake Michigan.  The ship is out on the lake, but mothballed at the harbor is another old ferry, the Spartan.   Back in the fifties, there were ferries that ran all over the lakes, hauling people, cars and trains.  But with faster highways and airplanes, most of those ships have become scrap metal.   

I’m back in Grand Rapids by 9 PM.