Nice to Find Someone Else Doing an Onerous Job

You may have figured out that I was planning on chronicling the tearing down of old Cobb Field as well as the building up of the new stadium in its place. I now have the pleasure of pointing my readers to a spendid website run by the Parks and Recreation Dept of the City of Billings. Let us call the link the New Baseball Stadium.

Mazel Tov!


The Past is Still with Us

Yesterday it was damp and cold, as sometimes happens here in Billings as mother Nature gets us ready for winter, so we turned on the furnace, put sweaters on, and Carol looked up one of her old favorite recipes for taking the edge off a cold day in Montana. This is from a newsletter put out by the management of a place we used to live in Cincinnati, back in the late 60s.

I was an intern and resident from 1965 to 1970 at the Children’s Hospital and Cincinnati General Hospital in pediatrics and pathology. We lived in an apartment complex called Williamsburg of Cincinnati, a pleasant place to live with great neighbors.

One of the points of interest in the newsletter item is the high cost of trans-Atlantic calls in the 60s and later too for that matter. Isn’t it amazing what competition and decreasing government regulation can do for us ordinary folks.

Edith and Donn Cramblette have both passed on, bless their souls, but Carol and I remember playing bridge with them whenever we have this chili. We had some last night without stale beer but with some excellent dark Moose Drool, brewed right here in Montana, I think in the People’s Republic of Missoula, if I’m not mistaken. I drank the leftover beer and took a second helping of this really good chili.

Forgive me Mom, but what you called chili really was not, so for many years I thought I didn’t like chili. That last sentence sounds like it was freshly translated from the German, but I think it gets across what I mean. Perhaps I will try to fix it at a later time.

Miscellaneous Billings Stuff

I was driving out 4th Ave a few days ago, on my way to the Red Oxx luggage shop in preparation for our upcoming trip to Italy. I will wave if you promise to watch the papal Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Anyway, as I was driving along looking at signs of growth all around me, here is a business advertising its services right in front of me. I had my camera on the seat next to me, so at the next stop light I got this picture. I didn’t realize the scale of our drinking problem. The words under the telephone number are, “Keep the Streets Safe and Have a Hell of a Time Doing It.”

Speaking of getting ready for Italy, look what I found at CostCo, one of my favorite places in Billings, mainly because they illustrate the workings of a world-wide market. This was one of a number of language lessons on CDs. Notice the price: $5.79! for 3 CDs! I figured I couldn’t lose and in this particular instance, of course I got what I paid for, but what a deal. You could almost see the words coming out of the mouths of these clearly enunciating ladies. I’m going to have to look around for some more of these Instant Immersion Crash Courses. Wow. Molto Bella.

Something is Wrong at Albertson’s

Albertson’s is our local grocery store. They are usually pretty good, though the wine is a little cheaper and the selection is better at CVS Drug Store. Their produce section is pretty fresh, at least the one on Grand and 13th is.

I worked for some years in my father’s meat market when I was a teenager and before that too, so I like to check on the price of this and that from time to time. Usually I just check on the price of good steaks and ordinary hamburger because that is about all I can remember from the late 40s and early 50s.

In those days people often ate cheese if they couldn’t afford meat. Nowadays it’s the other way around. I am sure $2 a pound for ground chuck is a bargain because we used to sell it for about 40 to 50 cents a pound. Good steaks were about $2 a pound in 1950, and now they vary from $5 to $8 a pound, again a very good deal as most everything else is at least 10X as much now as then.

I was startled by the item above in the meat counter at Albertson’s at 13th and Grand Ave right here in River City. I hope you can read that they are trying to sell smoked oysters for $35 a pound!! I checked some other bags just to make sure it wasn’t a mistake. Maybe Albertson’s has taken a lesson from the airlines and this is really their equivalent to the full fare, fully refundable and changeable anytime coach seat price, which of course, no one pays, and everything else is some sort of discounted price.

I might guess that real Russian caviar might cost $35 a pound, but smoked oysters? Who do they think they are kidding? Are the Chinese buying up all the oysters in the world? Viagra is pretty cheap I’m sure, even in China, in fact it is probably cheaper there than here. And it works better than oysters. Have I not been paying attention again?

Of course my favorite place at Albertson’s is the checkout lane where I get to know what is happening in the real world of Jen and Brad and Angelina. Isn’t there a limit on the number of kids one person can adopt? This is a magazine prominently displayed at the checkout. I don’t have the courage to open it up, but I did sneak a picture of the cover. I don’t suppose their prime readers are guys, are they? How old are their readers? Maybe this explains some of the behavior I witnessed on my Semester at Sea jaunt this past summer. Please don’t ask, my ears are red already. I wonder if the author of the “Hands” article included handing your beloved some incredible ravioli?


I had an eery feeling things would turn out this way after the first game, a blowout, and an almost predictable result after not playing for eight days, especially after winning a dizzying 21 of 22 games before that long layoff.

That kind of trip needs almost daily fixes. Any baseball team capable of winning 21 of 22 games could easily lose 4 in a row.

This picture just above is of Main St in Hustisford, more accurately Lake Street, but everyone called it Main St in those days and probably still do. It looks about the same as it did in the 40s. The picture to the right is from a recent entrance into that fair village. In the 40s the population was 564.

I was reminded of my rough introduction to beginning statistics by the Sox sweep of the Rockies. I was 10 years old. I had lied about my age to get a paper route. My father had not yet hit upon the idea of using my profits from delivering papers from 5 to 6am every day of the year in deepest Wisconsin to pay for my orthodontic beautification. So I felt fairly fat in the wallet in early October 1950.

Murphy the barber had one of the few TV sets in the village. He had it brought down from the apartment above the shop (we lived above the meat market too) and set it up in the barber shop (a little further down the road on the picture above) so his customers could all watch the Series. In those days that was all that happened in the world for that week or so, or so we thought.

The picture to the left is the house we lived in in the 50s. I remember drinking pop and sitting on the front porch in the cool evenings. Mr Johnson, our upstairs lodger, and the high school band and choral director and history and civics teacher, would join us. We thought we were fairly advanced in those days.

Perhaps you remember or may have read of the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies, the Whiz Kids they were called. They were to play the hated Yankees for the World Championship. In those days upstarts like Cuba and Japan were not even heard of in our baseball world. I was so convinced that the Phillies would humiliate the Yankees I bet Murphy the barber $1 on the first game. I couldn’t believe it when the Phillies ace, Robin Roberts, lost that first game.

Murphy kindly offered to double my bet on the following day. I was a little wary but since my income in those days was about $3 per week, I thought I would take the chance. Double or nothing, how could I lose? Of course, by this time I was deeply hooked and eventually out $27 by the end of the fourth and final game. That was 9 weeks of delivering papers in the damp, dark days of 1950!

So then I learned something about statistical arguments the hard way. After that I took to learning things the easy way: in school.

The picture above right is of the cemetery, duh, though I suppose it could easily be a setting for the 3rd Act of Wilder’s Our Town, a play I am reminded of everytime I visit this particular graveyard because I knew so many of the people whose names are carved on the headstones. I loved the idea of a Stage Manager and particularly one who could violate the fourth wall at will, and could speak to his audience.

Sudoku Problem

I have a problem with this Sudoku puzzle. It is labeled medium difficulty, which sometimes leads to doing them too quickly. The rule is that there is only one solution allowed. So, assuming that the puzzle setter is playing by the rules, what is the mistake that I made so that when I get down to two or three couples (as you can see in the middle column: 18 in the top box, 16 in the middle, and 68 in the bottom box) and the numbers appear to be interchangeable?

This has happened once or twice before and when I looked at the answer the next day my numbers all looked like gobbledegook, so I expect that will happen again, but the irritating thing is that looking at the answer doesn’t tell where or when you went wrong.

I know this is embarrassing, but that is one of the advantages of advancing age: Embarrassment doesn’t bother one so much anymore. Can anyone help, either with the answer to my question or directions to where I might find the answer?

Hurrah for the Ides of October

The ides of October, which I think is singular, either the 15th of some months or the 13th of other months, is often more favorable than the ides of March, especially if you use the Roman rather than the Julian calendar, and of course, it is particularly more favorable if your name is Julius. But then, not many parents name their kids Julius anymore. One of these days the breeders are going to revolt and switch from names of towns to colors, just you wait. Or are they doing that now? How about Orange Julius? Well, no matter, ever since I opened my first Crayola box, the normal sized one, not the huge one, I have wanted Burnt Sienna as my first choice were I to find myself back in the naming racket, the color, not the band. I only knew about the latter because I looked it up in Wikipedia.

Carol and I just returned from Oregon where the Shakespeare Festival (that is the outdoor theatre above, only used for evening performances from June through September) runs from late February to late October in Ashland, and a really good jazz festival has been held the 2nd weekend in October for the last 19 years in nearby Medford. I was surprised by a waiter, who had lived in Ashland for more than a couple of years, who said he had never heard of the Medford Jazz Jubilee. I suppose we could have found someone in Medford who was unaware of what was going on in Ashland, just 15 miles down the 5.

My favorite was Gem of the Ocean, August Wilson‘s ninth and penultimate exploration of a special family or group of people wrestling with their and our problems. This one is a part of Wilson’s multi-faceted project of getting 20th century African-American life on the stage. The story takes place in Pittsburgh in 1904. Aunt Ester, a very old lady (285 years! to be exact), has the task of guiding younger generations in the business of soul cleansing. G. Val Thomas and Kevin Kenerly play some important parts wonderfully well, not surprising of course, but then all these players did well. The title refers to the paper boat Aunt Ester uses to sacramentalize the Atlantic Ocean passage that all their ancestors endured. Yes, there is something about water that has that hopeful quality.

Wilson is obviously getting more confident by this time (2003) as he seems to almost effortlessly engage his audience in the business of “making the invisible visible.” Like Joe Dimaggio, effortlessly, going after a flyball to deep centerfield in Yankee Stadium, we are carried along by the players to another time and place, somewhere we could never have gone by ourselves. I liked the a capella singing of the ensemble, calling up rhythms and words from an earlier time and generation. Sadly for all of us, Wilson died in 2005 just after completing his tenth play in the series, called I think Radio Golf. I wonder if he was aware of his impending early death when he wrote this play? As Aunt Ester says, “It’s all adventure . . . you signed up for it, and didn’t even know it.”

The director of Gem of the Ocean, Timothy Bond, says it is a “secular African-American Passover Seder.” It didn’t look all that secular to me, not all that Jewish either, except for the idea of passing over the ocean, similar to passing through the Red Sea, as constituting an identity for African-Americans. Highly recommended.