Saturday, July 14, 2007

Ho, Ho, Huh?

So on Saturday I did another one of these random things that we all do from time to time: I threw out the first pitch at a North Adams Steeplecats game dressed as Santa Claus, but with a Hawaiian shirt, sandals, and shades.

Let the record show that Santa threw a strike.

It was Transcript day at the 'Cats game and publisher Bob Chapman went with a "Christmas in July" theme to bring in some toys and generally remind folks about the paper's yearly Santa Fund drive. His original Santa had to cancel, so I was tapped on the shoulder and asked if I'd step in. I figure this is because most of the best Santas are 6'4". And the real exceptional ones actually celebrate Hanukkah. Brings a nonjaundiced eye to the role, I'd say.

So I ho-ho-ho'ed around with Slider the mascot for a half an hour before the game, amazed at how often a woman in a tiger suit gets asked for her autograph. Then right after the lineups were announced I shook my bowlful of jelly onto the field and shaved the outside corner with a two-seam split-fingered fastball. More waving, some handshakes, a few innings in the stands (disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reported for a minor metropolitan blog), then off to the Hot Dog Ranch for some dinner. If you like hot wings, they have some pretty good ones. Just a tip.

If I run across any pictures of this, you'll see them here (the Santa stuff, not the wings. I assume you all know what chicken wings look like).

[UPDATE: Pics by Nick Mantello and/or Holly Pelczynski found at the Steeplecats web site, here and here. These better get re-run come this December.]

The other interesting thing that happened: in the Joe Wolfe parking lot on the way in, I was asked to sign a set of nomination papers by Mr. Stephen Andrews, proprietor of the Wigwam up on the Western Summit, who is trying to throw his hat in the ring and become the next mayor of North Adams.

"Really?" I inquired, wishing I could raise one eyebrow as well as my lovely wife.

He really was. And in response to the "Why are you running" question, apparently Mr. Andrews has or had been in a purchasing capacity with the federal government for some number of years and--I don't have an exact quote but this is close--"you can't really compare prices from just one vendor." This was, for better or worse, his own summary of his campaign platform.

Now I'm no politician, but in case the day comes I ever seek public office, my strategy isn't going to be to run as "the other guy" to "give the voters a choice". Our incumbent mayor has been around for a long time, and you don't displace that kind of mojo by being just another name on the ballot. That's pretty much how John Kerry lost in 2004.

Still, someone has the cojones to give it a shot, which is impressive in itself. We'll see if he gets his signatures.

Seeing as how it was Transcript day at the game, are we going to read about this in today's paper? Stay tuned, sports fans!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Wild Irish West

We're back from a few days in the West of Ireland. An awesome country to visit, unless you don't like green. If you have a problem with green, man, you'd be in the wrong country. You would HATE it there.

And it's probably not a good idea to walk around streetcorners and stand outside pub bathrooms muttering "Always after me Lucky Charms." I don't think the locals appreciate it.

This our first return trip to Ireland since we got married there five (blissful) Januaries ago, in Monaghan. This time we put about 600 kilometers on a blue right-hand-drive Ford Focus throughout the middle West, venturing through Mayo, Clare, Galway, and Limerick. We picked up a pair of Belgian hitchhikers in the Connemara on the way up to Cong. I bought a bodhrán in Spiddal and drank shots of Jameson in the bar at the Galway Bay Hotel. I learned how to pronounce taoiseach, ghaeltacht, and bodhrán, for that matter. Slept a lot, ate too much, and almost got into only one pub fight, with a couple of crabby sisters from New York.

More interesting details: gas costs on average $6.10 a gallon. A crazy lady tried to run out of the plane onto the tarmac at JFK. Some of the Irish "national" roads make Rensselaer County Road 5A look like a four-lane superhighway. There's a ton of new houses, with a lot more pink sandstone than you'd think would make sense. And of course, you got your livestock:

You gonna eat that grass?

We actually did get into one of those sheep-causing-a-traffic-jam situations, but only for a few seconds. A very picture postcard moment.

We spent quality time with Tara's folks and two local radio personalities who accompanied us for the bulk of the trip. Tara's folks would go off to check out cliffs and castles, while we found cute little towns to poke Westport:

Always after me Lucky Ch...dammit, sorry

...and Ennis:

Sure'n you'll be wantin some winkles and dillisk, then?

Always after me lucky pork chops...

...and the aforementioned Spiddal:

Don't be scared, Seamus, they're leaving soon

So a wonderful time was had by all, and really there's no better place to spend a vacation: the weather is mild, the people are friendly, the food's a lot better than in Scotland, and most of the people there speak something like English. So as they say there, céad míle fáilte, which is pronounced "centrifuge" and means "winkles and dillisk for everyone".