Deep-fried Macaroni-&-Cheese Nuggets

My day off, this week, started a night early at a baseball game! Friends Bryan and Laurie met me at the gate. We found our cold, wet seats and prepared to enjoy opening day. The wind, rain, and cold temperature made it a challenge to get comfortable. It was my first visit to this ballpark, which was built with intentional homage to Fenway Park.
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Here’s the first pitch of the season for the Greenville Drive.
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The nuggets named in this posting’s title were part of our ballpark menu; other similarly nourishing items kept us busy, too. We had some good conversation and lots of laughter. We also agreed that it’s not a good idea to use baseball as a way to taunt someone who is experiencing sub-zero weather — it might backfire on you!
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Published in: on April 5, 2008 at 11:03 pm  Comments (7)  

Ocracoke Vacation — Day Five, October 28

So this is what Sunday is like for normal people.

I woke up feeling rested, but not having any unreasonable need to exert myself, I lay there enjoying that fact. But eventually I became mobile. I washed the dishes, went running, and had breakfast. Sometime during all that, Michael found his way out of his room and began to appear conscious. It was still just 9:00, two full hours before church would start…huh, I could have slept some more. I got a shower and journaled a little while waiting for that perfect time to leave: you know, so you don’t walk in late and feel disrespectful, but also so you don’t get there too early and look like some kind of hayseed tourist.

I think we hit it about right. The day was considerably cooler than my previous days there. It felt the way I expect October on the Outer Banks to feel. It was quite windy too. And so we went inside for worship.

Going to church when I’m on vacation is an exciting thing for me. I get to sit among strangers while feeling quite at home. I once was a very good church member before God saw fit to turn me into a passable pastor, and to slip back into a congregation as an expectant worshipper is comforting, now. It has been over twenty-two years since I abandoned the pew to face the crowd and face the music on a weekly basis. I have long since learned to love the pulpit and my task there. But it is nice, on occasion, to not need my title, to sit near the middle, pick up a hymnal, and belong with the unsuspecting faithful.

Of course, if certain family members are with me, I’ll be outed before the prelude is through. Michael was generous, though, in that he waited until the service was over — and in natural discreet conversation with the pastor — to inform her that I am a UM pastor. We talked for a while, and several members made us welcome, including some of the musicians from Thursday night. They suggested the Flying Melon as a good lunch location, and we saw some of them there, later.

With no administrative church meetings to attend (ahhhh!), it was a good afternoon to spend on the beach. So after changing clothes, Michael and I went to Ramp 70, deflated, and started southwest through the sand. [For the sake of any readers who are familiar with Ocracoke enough to wonder why I kept using Ramp 70 instead of the much more interesting and challenging Ramp 72, let me assure you it was not because of fear or intimidation. My first visit to the beach on Thursday used Ramp 72, and it was a fun, rugged road with lots of deep water holes…three miles of it, according to one map. But it closed the next day and never did reopen while I was there.]

In church we heard of a sailboat that had gounded the previous day, and we began looking.

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Not exactly where you want your boat! We speculated as to how they might recover it…a large crane? Or is this a job for the insurance adjustors?

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Here’s Michael, thoughtfully calling his wife to tell her, “I’m on the beach, and you’re not!”

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The day ended watching Game 4 of the World Series, which Boston won, sweeping the Colorado Rockies for their 7th World Series title. That also moved the Red Sox into fourth place for all-time WS wins, behind the Yankees (26), the Cardinals (10), and the Athletics (9). Now it’s only four months until spring training!

Published in: on November 5, 2007 at 4:55 pm  Comments (2)  

I Like Walking in the Rain

And the opportunity to do so was upon us at the latest Body Challenge, Spirit Challenge gathering. Overall group motivation for such a thing, however, was impressively low. So instead of taking the boat to Bull Island for a day of genuine wilderness wandering, the five of us, physical and spiritual juggernauts that we are, covenanted in other ways:

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We went to a local cafe and had a second breakfast. We explored a canoe launch site for future use. We strolled around the Sewee Coastal Retreat Center grounds when the rain stopped around noon. We were eaten and chased back inside by hoardes of mosquitoes and sand gnats that emerged after the rain. We sat in an air-conditioned room and had great conversation for a few hours. We harrassed by telephone another of our members who was on his honeymoon in Arizona. We went to Barnes & Noble. We had an early supper of fantastic seafood. And we went to the home of one of our members to watch Game 5 of the ALCS (Boston beat Cleveland).

Although I was disappointed at first, it was a day of fine friendship that was much less stressful than the hours of life-sucking misery we would have endured after the rain stopped on an insect kingdom like Bull Island. It was a good day.

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Published in: on October 22, 2007 at 9:12 pm  Comments (4)  

Cake, Butterbeans, and a Gnatcatcher


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This afternoon after Mama and Daddy left to go back home, I saw a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in the oaks in my yard, the first since spring migration. My parents had been here to spend some time with me on my birthday, which was yesterday (July 31). We had low-key but genuine fun together; Mama brought a cake she had made (coconut); we played Scrabble; I showed them the Allis-Chalmers lawn tractors I had retrieved from Wisconsin back in May. And we had lots of good conversation.

One of the ladies who had been working in the church’s garden this morning gave me a bag of butterbeans she had picked. Mama and Daddy shelled them while I was doing some work in the office, and Mama cooked them later. Mama also brought two dozen homemade cupcakes for the two other people in my church who share the birthday. All 24 made it safely to their recipients, somehow!

Birthday cake is one of the many ways Mama has always expressed her love for her children. It’s just one of her things, and it’s always appreciated.

Butterbeans are forever associated with baseball for me. When the garden was producing heavily back when I was a boy, we would dump a load of just-washed butterbeans into newspapers spread across our laps, and shell them with Daddy while watching baseball on television before going to bed later. Tonight, while driving home from another meeting, I listened to my team, the Cincinnati Reds, on WLW, AM 700.

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, when they show up in my yard, are signs of something next coming, a bit of wilderness stretching my way to remind me August is here. Slightly larger than hummingbirds, yet with more personality, they glean and wheeze and teach the trees why they are there…for them, of course. Energetic casual confidence (if someone were applying human traits).

Migration has begun. Movement, local adjustment, exchanging of boundaries, exploring the range of one’s personal extent, reoccupying the old routes, discovering you still belong in the skin you thought you maybe outgrew, and being glad.

Published in: on August 1, 2007 at 11:55 pm  Comments (7)  

Tidal Creek Habitation.3


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Out in the water with a walkway back to shore is another way to occupy the creek. In a place like this I see simplicity and comfort. There is an elegance to living when you have what you need but not a lot more, a trim fitness that invites awareness of deeper thoughts.

On the porch of such a cabin I might have ginger ale and baseball on the radio, a deck of cards and friends visiting as often as they would come, two or three at a time. There might be a Frisbee to throw to passing boats, and a kayak to retrieve it when they miss. There would be a Bible or two, moving with me from bedroom to water’s edge and back. And there would be some pens, pencils, and notebooks for writing.

And if your dock were next to mine, and we liked each other, perhaps we’d make a rope ferry so we could be neighbors when the tide was high, sharing blue crabs and pumpkin bread. I imagine that might be pretty nice.

Published in: on July 19, 2007 at 11:36 am  Comments (6)  

Before and After Wisconsin

The Wisconsin trip was more than just tractor and kayak destinations, obviously. Between the Palmetto State and the Badger State were many interesting miles and conversations. Here is a glimpse of the fling and return of last week’s 2,387 miles.

The trailer was longer than the truck, and it’s a big truck (Nissan Titan crew cab). Getting used to the feel of it following was not too difficult, however. Remembering to make wider turns and give a little more room for stops were the main adjustments we needed. The strong 5.6L V-8 moved the trailer without complaint, but the price for that power came due quite often at the gas pumps. The highest I paid per gallon was $3.189.

On Monday we drove from Lancaster to a little past Cincinnati. A taxi ride took us to Great American Ballpark where we saw the Reds lose 5-4 to the Astros. It was a great evening for a game, and it really felt good to be back at my team’s field, eating Skyline Chili, and watching the boat traffic on the Ohio River. Cincinnati has more of a minor league feel than a lot of other major league venues, and I mean that as a compliment. There is a genuine hometown feel, without the glitz and noise that too many teams insert into their game settings. Sitting there in Section 417, Row F, Seat 20, I got the feeling that this town truly loves baseball, and that the team really appreciates the town. It felt like community, and I was glad to be part of it for the night, again.

Tuesday’s driving took us through the flat, wide farmlands of central Indiana and Illinois, where big tractors are still necessary to accomplish the work. Relatively speaking, not many big tractors remain in use in SC; the farms just aren’t big enough to warrant the size and expense, except for some counties down on the coastal plain. I enjoyed watching the big equipment operate as I drove past, remembering the pictures of these mechanical beasts in Progressive Farmer and Farm Journal magazines that had impressed me as a boy.

At a rest area in northern Illinois, Will and I threw a Frisbee for about fifteen minutes to work out the stiffness of so much riding. Earlier that day I had set the CD player to randomly choose from six disks, and it took most of the day to cycle through the complete set of good driving music: Eagles (Hell Freezes Over), Santana (Supernatural), Shania Twain (Up!), John Fogerty (Blue Moon Swamp), Hootie and The Blowfish (Scattered, Smothered, and Covered), and Bob Seger (Greatest Hits). When we finally made it to Cameron, WI, we found a wonderful roadside motel that I’m glad to recommend to anyone going that way: The Viking Motel. It is the old one-story motor lodge type of motel, most of which went out of business after the rise of the interstate highway system. This one persists and is entirely pleasant and comfortable.

On Wednesday, while driving to our first tractor pickup, we saw a bear near the road, which ran back along the woods edge as we approached. It was the first bear Will had ever seen in the wild. Later in the day, after both tractors were in tow, I began to notice how many Allis-Chalmers tractors were in yards, in fields, and parked near the road. This was the southern half of Wisconsin, true A-C territory, not far from the headquarters of the company, West Allis, WI. I wanted to stop and look at them all, but the journey was afoot once again.

We decided to drive on into the night to put us in position the next day to see another baseball game. Along the way, we missed an exit, sending us toward Chicago instead of Bloomington. Since it was not an easy mistake to correct, we decided to continue through Chicago, guessing that the traffic wouldn’t be overly thick at 10:30 at night. We guessed wrongly. But we made it through and spent the night in Hobart, IN.

On Thursday we got a later start than intended, putting us off schedule to catch the 12:00 Reds game. Some phone calls to family members sitting at computers informed us that the Tennessee Smokies were not playing at home, but the Lexington Legends were. We had plenty of time to make it to the Legends game, so that became our goal for the day’s drive. The game turned out to be another highlight of the trip, with the Legends beating the Lake County Captains 12-11. In attendance at the game were about a dozen Miss Kentucky contestants, wearing their crowns and trying not to sweat. They were each attractive in various ways, but the most stunning woman in the place was one of the ballpark ushers. She was absolutely beautiful, and on my way out after the game, I told her so, as she stood at the exit giving out free stuff. After that, Will and I went to Wal-Mart to buy a chess set so I could teach him how to play.

Friday was a day for getting back home. We left Kentucky, crossed the Tennessee and North Carolina mountains, and came through South Carolina without incident. Shutdown in Lancaster was around 5:15 PM, and sleep was good that night. I didn’t unload the tractors until the next day.

Now, I’m sure, somewhere in all of this detail is some lesson of balance, but I’m not going to analyze it too much. It was a safe trip across many highway miles, and I add to my prayers for such at the start my prayers of gratitude at the end.

Published in: on May 14, 2007 at 12:12 am  Comments (3)