An Unsettling Dream

I had a strange dream last night, and I’ve felt strangely gutted by it for much of the day, so I’m going to write about it.

The dream begins in a city neighborhood.  It’s a hilly neighborhood, as I walk uphill past rowhomes that were built probably around 1920 based on the architecture.  At one point, I actually go in one of the homes to visit someone on the second floor.  I go up the stairs, and what seems like a landing is actually a television room, and there’s a family sitting on a couch watching television.  There’s an older man there, maybe in his sixties?

I’m back out on the street, and I continue walking up the hill.  In the distance, over the neighborhood, I see a dome for a cathedral-esque church beyond.  It’s something of a narrow dome, but it’s tall.  It’s quite prominent.  Seeing it makes me feel happy, because I know I’m getting close to my destination.  I’m going to a comic book convention, and I’m really excited because I’m going to meet Jim Mooney there.

(Mooney was a comic book artist who worked from the 1940s onward, on characters ranging from Spider-Man to Supergirl.  I genuinely have never given Mooney a second thought.  Yet, Mooney is absolutely clear as part of this dream, and I have no idea why.)

I’m in a house.  Why?  It’s not clear.  But the house is flooding.  There are young children there.  There’s a man shouting, “The pumps!  The pumps!”  And I find myself looking for the pumps.  “In the basement!”  I rush down a wooden staircase into the basement.

There’s a smell of mold and mildew, but surprisingly the basement is generally bright and empty.  Given that there was flooding, oddly there’s no water here.  There’s a room to the left, I go through the door, and there’s a pump.  It’s on, it’s operating, it’s good.

I go to share the news, and there’s a frail, elderly man at the bottom of the stairs, surrounded by the children.  He’s their great-grandfather.  He was, in his youth, a giant of a man, but now he’s stooped over with age.  Yet, even so, he’s close to my height.  His fingers are bony and curved.

And he’s weeping.  There’s anguish there, genuine and raw.

That’s how it ended.  And that’s the image that has stuck with me all day — an elderly man, frail and stooped, weeping from some unknown pain.

I have no idea what the hell was going on in my subconscious or what any of this means.  But that image has left me feeling weird and unsettled all day.  My hope is that, by writing it out, I can settle that unsettled feeling.

Travels with Google Navigate

I will give Google Navigate this much.  It told me, when I left Philcon that it would take two hours and fifteen minutes to get home, and it took me two hours and ten minutes.

After the insanity that was the trip from York to Cherry Hill on Friday (where it told me it would take about two hours and ten minutes, and then it took three and a half hours) because I didn’t listen to it less than five minutes from my apartment (it wanted me to go south into Maryland instead of north to the Turnpike when it had originally wanted me to go to the Turnpike), I decided I would listen to it, no questions asked.

So when it wanted me to go into Camden, pick up 676 east, away from Philadelphia and home beyond, and then 295 to the Delaware Memorial Bridge, I didn’t question it.  “Google knows best,” I said.

I should mention, by the way, that there were gale-force winds in New Jersey.  Like, forty or fifty mile per hour gusts.  And the Beetle doesn’t handle very well in the wind.  (Neither did my old Beetle.) Its near-flat sidewalls are like giant sails, and the wind can shove that car, even thought it weighs something like 3,500 pounds.

Let’s just say that the Delaware Memorial Bridge was fantastic in the winds.  I was gripping my steering wheel with white-knuckle force — both hands!  I normally drive one-handed — and chanting, “Oh, fuck, oh, fuck, oh fuck,” as I climbed the Jersey side of the bridge, crested, and started down the Delaware side.

The toll taker at the bottom of the bridge at the Delaware border crossing was tremendously cute, by the way.

Into Maryland Google sent me.  I had an idea of what Google wanted to do.  “Perryville, and then somehow over to 222, and then to Lancaster and home,” I thought.  That seemed sensible.

Oh, how naive I was!

Past Perryville I went, and that meant going across the Susquehanna bridge.

Did I mention the gale-force winds?

There is nothing more terrifying that to feel your car move two feet to the left when you’re a couple hundred of feet in the air.

And I was in the middle lane!  I’m not stupid.  There’s no way that I was getting in the outer lane, the one closest to the retaining wall and the river below.  No one was in that lane.  Traffic slowed to about fifty miles an hour across the bridge…

…then some dumbass in a sports car shot past me in the outmost lane.

I think I started breathing again on the southern bank of the Susquehanna.

Google had me exit 95 in Havre de Grace, and at this point I had no idea where I was heading.  Obviously, I was somehow crossing through Maryland into southern York county and that would get me home.  My working supposition was that I would hit a road that would, in Pennsylvania, become PA-24, the road I take from Red Lion up to the York Galleria area.

I changed roads in Maryland three or four times.  I drove through farmland and a small town, and that was before I crossed US 1.  On the other side, I was in hill country, and then somehow I found myself crossing a bridge across a lake in the middle of a gorge where there were homes along the canyon walls on both sides, and each house had a pier.

The quality of the road changed as I entered Pennsylvania.  Maryland’s road was recently paved and smooth.  Pennsylvania’s road had been paved long ago and it was bumpy.

This was farm country.  It was hilly, and sometimes when I crested a hill I could see for twenty or thirty miles.  There were ominous clouds in the distance.  I wasn’t far from home, no more than twenty miles, but I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere.  Just as Frodo and the Hobbits had no choice but to trust Aragorn as he led them in to the wilderness after Bree, I had no choice but to trust Google Navigate.

I turned onto a forlorn road called Paper Mill Road where the speed limit was 15.  It was a strange road, unmarked and very nearly a single lane, that switched back down one side of a cliff, and at the bottom there was a two lane bridge, built no more than five feet off the stream, that was at a 90 degree angle from the direction I had come, and and on the other side the switchbacks up the opposite side resumed.

Eventually, this put me on Pennsylvania 74.  I know it as Main Street in Dallastown and Queen Street closer to and in York, but here it took me through farm country and a town named Brogue.  This was also Amish country, as there were horses and buggies out on this blustery and chill day.

It wasn’t until 74 that I had any idea where I was.  I crossed 372 at one point — fifteen years ago, after college, I lived on 372 in Chester County, where it’s known as Lower Valley Road and there are Amish farms — and I was to Red Lion before too long.  Soon I saw the water tower near my apartment, and my long journey through the backcountry of York County was near its end.

The wind never abated.  Even as I write this, there are powerful gusts of blustery winds in Yoe, and the twilight skies are filled with dark and menacing clouds.

It was, all things considered, a lovely drive, even allowing for the strange roads I traversed.  I drove through some gorgeous country, and there were some impressive vistas.  Had there been anywhere safe to stop — or even pull off the roads — I would have stopped and taken pictures.

I can even say that, until half a mile from my apartment, my trip to Cherry Hill did not overlap in any way with my trip from Cherry Hill.

But I never, ever want to drive that way from Philadelphia again.

Thoughts on the Inauguration

A week ago I’d planned on going to Washington for Hillary Clinton’s inauguration in January.

“It will be historic, and it will be fun!” I thought.

I’m not going to the inauguration now, and not just because Clinton won’t be the forty-fifth president.

The more I’ve thought about January’s inauguration, the more I see the potential for violence.

Besides the tens and hundreds of thousands on the National Mall to see the authoritarian populist inaugurated, there will thousands more there to protest his inauguration.  Packed into the Mall and the streets around the Capitol, the potential for something… combustible is high, and it would be something that the Capitol Police and the National Park Service Police may find difficult to contain and control.

All on live television.

I’ve promised my sister that I won’t go to the Inauguration.  I intend to keep that promise.

The Electoral College Won’t Prevent President Trump

The Electoral College is not going to stand in Donald Trump’s way.

I’ve seen chatter the last few days, both on political blogs and Facebook, that the voters of the Electoral College can, or even should, vote for Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump.  (For example, here.) It’s a nice idea — it’s the way the Electoral College was intended to function, with a small group of people, selected by state, voting for who they thought would be best — but it’s not how it works now.  (For that matter, that’s not how it’s worked since 1796.)

When we voted for President on Tuesday, though the ballot said Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump or Gary Johnson or Zoltan Istvan or Clifton Roberts or whomever, that’s not who we voted for.  We actually voted for that candidate’s slate of Electors.  Donald Trump’s Electors are Republican Party actors, just as Hillary Clinton’s Electors are Democratic Party actors.  These are people who put party first, who were selected because they put party first.  Trump’s Electors aren’t going to vote en masse for Clinton and vice versa.

That said, I can envision one scenario in which the Electors do vote for Clinton — if Trump himself made a public appeal to his Electors that they do so.  Why would he do this?  Maybe he wants to look magnanimous?  Maybe he doesn’t want the job?  Maybe he was just trolling us all?  I don’t know.  I can’t know; this isn’t a realistic scenario.

But I don’t know what would actually happen at that point.  Such an event would be unprecedented in Americna history.  There’s no guarantee that the Republican Electors would even do as Trump asked.  They could still vote for Trump.  They could vote for Mike Pence.  They could vote for Paul Ryan.  They could vote for Ronald Reagan’s dessicated, zombiefied corpse.  The real mess would come if no one received 270 Electoral votes, because then the top three Electoral vote getters would have to fight it out in the House.  I’m confident Clinton would not emerge from the House victorious due to the arcane rules the House would use and the make-up of the state delegations.

And even if Trump directed his Electors to vote for Clinton and she won under those circumstances, she’d face an extremely hostile Congress, to say nothing of Trump’s millions of supporters, who would feel that Trump betrayed them and Republican Party and that she stole what belonged to them through trickery and guile.

In short, Trump freeing his Electors to vote for Clinton would be a disaster.

Joe Buck, a Jeremiad

Last night, I reached my limit with Joe Buck.

I’ve never really minded Buck.  As broadcasters go, he’s wallpaper to me.  I think I even felt a little sympathy toward him because he so often had to share a booth with Tim McCarver and then Harold Reynolds, either of whom was prone to incoherent babble.  Listening to McCarver or Reynolds call a baseball game, I knew what it was like to be tormented for all eternity by the Elder Gods.

This World Series, partnered with John Smoltz, he hasn’t been bad.  If I had a criticism of his work through the first five games, it was his tendency to push the “narrative” of the game, as though it were a novel with a linear plot, and his singling out of certain players and showering them with man-crushes (cf. Kyle Schwarber, Corey Kluber) whether appropriate to the situation or not.  (Buck’s man-crush on Schwarber is so out of hand that someone has set up a joke wedding registry for Buck and Schwarber on Bed, Bath, and Beyond’s website.  Seriously.) But I overlooked these things, as they brought Buck out of his wallpaperish, droning monotone.

Last night, because the game was out of reach of the Indians by the start of the second inning, Buck had nothing to do but yammer incessantly.

And yammer he did!

Buck was like listening to Vogon poetry.

It was as though he felt a need to be the star of the show because the show itself — the World Series, Game Six — wasn’t going to hold people as the outcome was never in doubt.  (And, to be fair, I wasn’t watching intensenly after the fourth; I sketched out some WordPress ideas and wrote out my to-do list for work.) Did a lightbulb go off in Buck’s head?  Did he think to himself, “I have to hold the audience on my own, with the Power of My Voice!”  Because that’s really what it felt like.

Joe Buck is not Sir Christopher Lee.  He can not hold, has never held, anyone with the power of his voice.

The pictures can tell the story.  Silence has its place, and it’s a powerful narrative tool.

Game Seven Buck is going to be a monster, isn’t he?  If it’s close, if there are lead changes and two-out rallies, he’s going to be like a wind-up monkey toy.  And if it’s out of reach, he’s going to spend his time talking about the historical import of the inevitable victor.

I wonder if there’s a radio station carrying the game locally, because I don’t know that I can handle any more of Buck’s Vogon poetry…

Batman Vs. Dracula

On Halloween, I usually watch a Dracula movie or two.  Sometimes I’ve watched the classic Universal Dracula or one of its sequels.  Last year, I watched the first Hammer Dracula film, Horror of Dracula, with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

In the run-up to Halloween, I couldn’t decide which one I’d put in the DVD player.  I briefly considered Van Helsing, but I last watched that four years ago and thought it remained a deeply terrible film.  I thought about NBC’s Dracula, but that’s a ten hour investment and I need my sleep.  Then, a discussion on Facebook recently put The Batman vs. Dracula in mind.  I bought it on DVD when it came in 2005, but I never watched it.  I’d never gotten around to it at the time, and in the years since I’d pretty much forgotten that I even had it.  Here, then, was a “new” Dracula film for my Halloween, and I went through my boxes of unpacked DVDs in search of it.

The Batman vs. Dracula is based on an animated television series, The Batman, that I’ve never seen.  It aired about a decade ago and ran for a couple of seasons.  It wasn’t connected to the DC Animated Universe of Bruce Timm that ran from Batman: The Animated Series through Batman Beyond and Justice League to Justice League Unlimited.  This series had very different producers, with different character designs and different voice actors.  I’d heard that The Batman was geared toward younger audiences.

In the comic books, Batman tangled with Dracula twenty-five years ago in the Doug Moench/Kelley Jones original graphic novel, Batman/Dracula: Red Rain.  In that story, Dracula begins converting Gotham City’s homeless population into vampires, and Batman teams up with another vampire to defeat Dracula, which Batman does, but at the cost of his own humanity — Dracula turns Batman into a vampire in a final act of vengeance.  I doubted that this animated film would have much in common with the graphic novel, except for the presence of the two titular characters.

The Batman vs. Dracula is a bit different.  Dracula was, for reasons left unexplained, transported to Gotham City after the events of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula and buried in a crypt in Gotham’s catacombs.  The Penguin, after an escape from Arkham Asylum (that appeared to result in The Joker’s death), stumbles into the catacombs in search of a treasure he heard about from another Arkham inmate and finds, instead of the treasure, the desicated remains of Dracula.  But a drop of blood from the Penguin’s hand lands on Dracula, reviving him, and he breaks free from his bonds and begins to amass an army of undead followers.

batman-dracula-coverMeanwhile, Bruce Wayne is about to unveil Wayne Industries’ newest invention, a solar power collector.  Dracula, seeking to become Gotham City’s new overlord, crashes the party at Wayne Manor where he meets Wayne and his date, Vicki Vale.  Batman comes to realize that Dracula is a vampire and the root cause of a mass of disappearances throughout the city, but Gotham City’s police believe that Batman is the villain and begin to hunt him down.  After an initial encounter with Dracula that ends with him badly beaten, Batman begins to experiment on a way to cure vampirism and he finds a way to successfully cure The Joker, one of Dracula’s victims and not dead at all.  Armed with his cure for vampirism, Batman proceeds to Dracula’s lair in the catacombs in a desperate mission to cure Gotham City’s missing population of their vampirism and rescue Vicki Vale from Dracula’s clutches.

I didn’t have any expectations of The Batman vs. Dracula going in.  I quite liked it!  For an animated film aimed at kids it was surprisingly dark.  The story held together, and while there were a couple of dangling niggles (why was Dracula interred in Gotham? why didn’t Vicki Vale’s necklace, a family heirloom, figure in the conclusion?), overall I felt it was satisfying.  The violence is brutal; there’s no blood but Batman gets thoroughly beaten in his first encounter with Dracula, and Batman’s battle with the vampire Joker in a blood bank is destructive and bruising.  The vampire feedings aren’t especially bloody; it’s all handled off-screen, which actually amps up the horror because it’s not visible and leaves more to the imagination.  And Dracula’s draining Vicki Vale of her life force visibly ages her.  The result is something that’s not as graphic as, say, NBC’s Dracula of a few years ago, but it’s definitely more graphic than the classic Bela Lugosi film or Hammer’s Horror of Dracula.

As I’d never seen The Batman, I didn’t know what the “look” of the film would be like.  The designs clearly aren’t like those of Batman: The Animated Series, nor was the film’s style anything like that, but I felt that, in context, it worked.  The art deco stylings of Batman: The Animated Series had their place, and this was a different story, just as in the 1990s DC Comics could publish Batman comics drawn by Jim Aparo and Norm Breyfogle in the same month that looked and felt very, very different.  There’s room for different interpretations of Batman.  This was a younger, less experienced, even romantic Batman.  I felt this interpretation worked.

I probably won’t run out and watch The Batman, but on its own terms, I enjoyed The Batman vs. Dracula.  It wasn’t a bad Halloween choice at all.

Evan McMullin’s Plan to Win the Presidency

As quixotic as it is, I have to admire Evan McMullin’s plan to win the presidency.  The primary reason I find it admirable is that, unlike the other non-major party candidates, McMullin has a strategy.  He quite openly states that his plan is to throw the election to the House of Representatives and he’s hoping, thanks to the arcane rules by which the election will be settled in that circumstance, that he would garner the votes of the Republican delegations over Trump and, thus, win the presidency.

If Gary Johnson pursued the same strategy — focus his efforts on specific states to win enough Electoral Votes to throw the election to the House, and then win there — he’d stand a very good chance of being elected; Johnson fits quite confortably with the Republican tradition, as an encounter with the Robert Taft Memorial in Washington reminded me over the weekend, and House Republicans would find him far easier to work with than Trump (as Johnson would be on the same page as they are on at least 90% of things, most notably repealing the New Deal and the social state).  Even if she won a landslide in the popular vote, given the make-up of the House, there’s zero chance of Clinton being elected if the election went to the House, where each state’s delegation receives a single vote, no matter who the three candidates the House has to choose from are.

While I think there would be perception issues if McMullin succeeded in his quixotic quest — observers both inside and outside the United States would undoubtedly view the circumstance in which a third, fourth, or fifth place victor assumed the presidency as something close to a third world coup — occupying the Oval Office would provide its own legitimacy, as George Bush found in 2001 when he assuming the presidency after losing the popular vote.

McMullin is, as they say, “in it to win it,” and he has a plan that, if everything goes right, would achieve it.  Oh, it’s quixotic as all get out, but I have to admire that.  His fellow minor-party candidates, like Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein, could learn something from him.

Playoff Baseball, Thwarted!

I went to Washington today for the playoff game between the Washington Nationals and the Los Angeles Dodgers.  As I did two years ago for the Nationals-Giants series, I chose the second home game, which, again like two years ago, turned out to be game two of the National League Division Series.

The game wasn’t played today due to rain.  It will be played, instead, tomorrow afternoon at 1 o’clock.

I knew there was a chance, when I left my apartment at 8:30 this morning, that the game would be postponed.  It wasn’t raining here in Pennsylvania, but I looked at Washington’s weather forecasts and saw that it was raining and was supposed to rain through early evening.  I thought there was a chance that the game would be postponed, but only by a few hours.  So I took my notebook with me; perhaps in the slack hours I would have some time to write.

Some might say, “Wasn’t that a wasted trip?”  No, not at all.  Yes, I drove down to DC from York, Pennsylvania (it’s about an hour and fifteen minutes from York to the Greenbelt Metro Station), took the Metro in, puttered around on the National Mall and environs in the rain, went to the stadium, left the stadium, and got home about ten hours later.  No, there wasn’t a baseball game.  But I had a nice time.

When I go to DC, I invariably hop off the Metro at Navy-Archives.  For one thing, there’s a Wells Fargo right there (and I wanted to stop at an ATM machine so I’d have some cash).  But mainly, this is where the Navy Memorial is.  It’s a plaza with fountains and bas reliefs and a statue and ship masts with semaphore flags.  It’s a nice, quiet spot.  It’s also convenient to the National Mall; you’re two blocks away on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Some highlights:

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The bas reliefs are fascinating.  This one is John Paul Jones, father of the United States Navy.

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This one is the Astronaut Recovery Missions, depicting the recovery of one of the Mercury capsules.  Obviously not Gus Grissom’s.

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The Great White Fleet, with Teddy Roosevelt.

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The Navy dirigible corps.  My grandfather served in the dirigible corps during World War II.

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The first ship-launched airplane flight.

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The fountains.

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From there, I went over to the Mall.  Parts of Pennsylvania Avenue were closed of for the Taste of DC festival.  I went to the National Gallery of Art first.

The Capitol Building was striking in the rain.

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It was the sort of scene a French expressionist painter would have loved — a gloomy sky, rain-slickened sidewalks and street, passers-by with their umbrellas in the rain, the prominent building.

So, I tried the picture in Prisma when I got home.  This was with the “Hunter” filter.

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I was wearing a red Nationals hoodie — the one I bought at the playoff game two years ago, to be precise — and one of the security guards, a tall black man, thin, about fifty, stopped me in the exhibition of Early Federal Period furniture pieces.

He looked at the Curly W on the front and shook his head.  “You can put that back in the closet.  It’s over.”

“It’s not over.  Tanner Roark pitches tonight.  It’s not over.”

“It’s over.  It’s over.”

“Look, if we don’t win tonight and we go to Los Angeles down two games and it comes down to Gio, then it’s over.  I don’t have faith in Gio in that situation.”

“Me neither,” he said.  “Me neither.”

In another gallery, this one an exhibition of photography from the Corcorran, another security guard stopped me, again because of my Nationals hoodie.  We talked about Friday night’s game, and he wanted to know who was scheduled to pitch.

“Roark?” he said, mispronouncing the name.  “Roark will do it.  Roark will win it.”

I think he felt better after talking to me.

In an upstairs gallery, I saw this unique piece.

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It was called, if memory serves, “The Divine Household.”  It depicts Mary and Joseph (I’m assuming that’s the man behind Mary) and the infant Jesus.  I was struck by how much the sculpted figures resembled Pixar characters; they’re all deformed from the human norm in similar ways.

In another gallery, there was this piece.

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This is, as Spock says in Star Trek VI, “a depiction from ancient Earth mythology, the expulsion from paradise.”  I would call this, “Adam Throws Eve Under the Bus.”  Just look at the expression on Adam’s face and his body language.  “God, look at what I have to deal with here.  What did you expect?  You can’t possibly blame me for this.”  Eve isn’t exactly covering herself in glory, either; she’s pointing at the snake and blaming it.  And knowing what follows this moment — the “expulsion from paradise” for trivial reasons — God doesn’t come out of this story looking good, either.

Also note the lion in the lower right hand corner.  Medieval painters didn’t have any experience with lions, which is why they typically resemble super-huge (and super-freaky) house cats.

I walked much of the length of the Mall.  The rain was gentle, and it was rather warm.  Certainly much warmer than it looked.

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There were massive lines to get in other museums; I’d estimate the line to get into Natural History at 150 people.

And so it happened that, as I neared the Washington Monument, I had a better idea.  I would go in search of Swampoodle Grounds.

Swampoodle Grounds, as I wrote in April, was Washington’s baseball field in the 1880s.  The team called themselves the Nationals, Hall of Famer Connie Mack played for them, their field stood a few blocks from the Capitol Building at the edge of Swampoodle, Washington’s Irish neighborhood.

There are a couple of pictures of Swampoodle Grounds — I’ve seen two — and one of those pictures is my desktop wallpaper at work and at home (in my Linux Mint install).  “Maybe,” I thought, “maybe I can recreate the vantage point of my desktop wallpaper.”

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So, back up Constitution Avenue I went…

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I stopped at the Robert Taft Memorial.

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I think it’s a little weird that Taft, “Mr. Republican,” has a memorial.

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But it made me think about Taft and how he is, very much, the founding father of the modern Republican Party.  Taft set out the path that Republicans, from Goldwater to Reagan to George W. Bush to Paul Ryan have trod — roll back the New Deal and the scale of the federal government — with one crucial difference, isolationism.  The jingoism and military adventurism of the modern Republican Party would have been anathema to Taft.  He’d certainly be on board with Paul Ryan’s fiscal roadmap in social spending — he’d scale back Social Security and Medicare and repeal the Affordable Care Act &mdsah; but he’d have no place for an aggressive foreign policy.  In that sense, Taft probably resembles, this political cycle, anyway, Gary Johnson more than anyone, except more serious.

As I continued up the street toward Union Station, I turned around and took a picture of the Capitol Building.  As best I can tell, I matched — or, at the very least, came close enough for government work — the angle of the original photo.  Remember, I see this photo every day.  I’ve studied it.  I’ve even had it printed out as an 8 X 10 and put in a frame that hangs in my apartment.  I love that picture; it combines my love of baseball, history, and politics in a single image.

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Unfortunately, when I reached Union Station, there were trees in the way.

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That said, I felt confident that I was within five hundred feet of where that 140 picture of the Capitol was taken.

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I roamed around Union Station until I was bored, had lunch in the food court and did some writing in my notebook, and the caught the Metro to Nationals Park.

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It was raining and, unsurprisingly, the tarp was on the field.

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There was some entertainment!  A man was playing an electric baseball bat.

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It was, in actuality, an electric fiddle in the shape of a baseball bat.  Viv Stanshall would have been impressed, and he’d have wanted the baseball bat fiddler for the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, no doubt.

There was also a nice memorial to commemorate the Navy Yard shooting.

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With nothing to do, I wandered around Nationals Park.

I went up to the 300-level, which I’d never done before.  From there, I had a lovely view of the Washington Monument shrouded in mist.

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More importantly, I’d never seen the park from this view.

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This wasn’t a bad location at all.

As I made my way around the 300-level concourse, the Capitol dome came into view.

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I may not have succeeded in capturing the modern view from Swampoodle Grounds, but I managed the equivalent feat from Nationals Park.

There was also a nice view of the Anacostia River.

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It was serene.  There weren’t a lot of people, so I stood there on the ramp and watched the rain splash in the river and the waves churned up in the wind.  In my review at work I was told I needed to be “content,” and, with a light rain falling on me, I felt content as I looked out over the Anacostia.

Sensing that the rain seemed to be lightening, I went down to the main concourse and bought myself a frozen margarita tube.  I took the escalator up to the 200-level behind the scoreboard, tried to figure out where my seat was…

…and the Nationals announced that the game had been postponed due to the inclement weather.

“Well,” I said.  I had the margarita tube, I couldn’t possibly let it go to waste.

People streamed out of the gates.  I lingered, and I wasn’t the only one.

I stopped to watch some of the Dodgers toss a ball around.

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As I left Nationals Park through the Center Field Gate, a man was trying to unload his tickets for the game.  I guess he had other plans for tomorrow.

In the Metro station, I took the second Green Line train — the first was stopping at Mt. Vernon Square, and I needed to go all the way to Greenbelt — and, while I waited for the train, I read some of Jake Russell’s 100 Things Nationals Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, which I’d picked up in the team store after I arrived at Nationals Park.

A Hispanic man sat next to me on the train.  He saw my Nationals bag and wanted to know if they’d won the game.  I explained that the game was postponed on account of rain, and we chatted for about fifteen minutes.  He likes the Nationals, but he’s only been to Nationals Park once.  He likes the football team more.

I know there are people who like to say that Washington isn’t a baseball town — I’m looking at you, Peter Angelos — but my experience today tells me otherwise.  I had serious baseball conversations with three total strangers, If that’s not a testament to the interest Washington has in its team, then I don’t know what is.

The drive home was smooth, and I was back in Pennsylvania by six.  I didn’t even feel any effects from the frozen margarita tube. :)

My legs are sore, my back aches, I’m tired.  I’ll be back in DC tomorrow.  I think I’ll leave again about eight o’clock, take the Metro from Greenbelt to Potomac Avenue, and walk over to Congressional Cemetery for some explorations before the game.  Visit the graves of my great-great-grandfather and his sister-in-law, find the grave of my great-grandfather’s half-brother, that sort of thing.  And then walk down to the stadium.

Today wasn’t a waste.  Not at all.

An Ancient Rivalry Resumed

If you were to ask a Chicago Cubs fan who the Cubs’ rival is, most Cubs fans would say it’s the St. Louis Cardinals.  There’s some truth to that, especially in the last fifteen years or so with the division realignments and the unbalanced schedule, but that wasn’t always true.

If you go back into the dim mists of time, baseball’s greatest rivalry was between the Chicago Cubs and the New York Giants.  From about 1905 to about 1920, the Giants and the Cubs were the kind of rivalry we’d today liken to Yankees-Red Sox.

Tomorrow, that ancient rivalry is rekindled.  The Cubs and the Giants will play for postseason glory.  They met in the postseason once before, in 1989’s National League playoffs, but this year’s National League Division Series will have a pitching match-up to rival the glory days of the Cubs-Giants rivalry when Jake Arrieta matches with Madison Bumgarner in game 3 in San Francisco.  My mind drifts immediately to the great match-ups between the Cubs’ Mordecai Peter Centennial Brown, popularly known as Three-Finger Brown, and the Giant’s Christian Gentleman himself, Christy Mathewson.

We’re talking about an era of wooden ballparks, insane dimensions, expansive foul ground, and standing room only crowds in the outfield depths.  We’re talking about Baseball’s Sad Lexicon (“Tinker to Evers to Chance”) and Merkle’s Boner.  Ring Lardner was a sportswriter in Chicago in those days; he wouldn’t begin to write baseball fiction for a few years yet.

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The Cubs played in West Side Park; what would become Wrigley Field wouldn’t be built until 1914 for the Chicago Whales of the nascent (and short-lived) Federal League.  West Side Park had a double-decked wooden grandstand and sat about 16,000 fans.  Its foul lines were’t terrible — about 340 to left and 315 to right — but its center field depth was an eye-popping 560 feet from home plate.

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The Cubs played the White Sox here in the 1906 World Series, the first time that the World Series was held in a single city and the only time this happened in Chicago.  The Cubs lost that World Series, perhaps the greatest World Series upset of all-time &mash; the Cubs had major league baseball’s best ever record, while the White Sox were the “hitless wonders” who couldn’t hit for shite — but then won the next two World Series, beating the Detroit Tigers in 1907 and 1908 for their only two World Series titles.

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The New York Giants in 1908 played in the Polo Grounds, in Coogan’s Bluff in Harlem.  But it wasn’t the Polo Grounds that we usually think of.

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The Polo Grounds of 1908 was, like West Side Park, a wooden ballpark.  It was similarly shaped as the Polo Grounds of the 1920s through the 1960s, but without the familiar horseshoe shape with its double-decked grandstand that went all the way out to center field and enclosed the playing field.

giants-polo-grounds-panorama

This Polo Grounds was the site of the famous Merkle’s Boner game between the Cubs and the Giants.  With the National League pennant on the line, Fred Merkle of the Giants made a baserunning blunder when he failed to touch second on what appeared to be a walk-off hit and was subsequently forced out, negating the winning run.  The Cubs and the Giants then ended the season tied, necessitating a make-up game (as the Merkle game was unfinished due to rioting) as, essentially, the first play-off game in major league baseball.  The Cubs won that game, 4-2, and went on to defeat the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.

As sports commentators no doubt will mention in the coming weeks, the Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908.  If you ask me, if there’s a curse on the Cubs, it’s because of Giants manager John McGraw.  McGraw was, to be charitable, an asshole, and he didn’t consider the Cubs the legitimate champions.  He had medallions made for his Giants that proclaimed them the real world champions (McGraw wasn’t a fan of the American League, either, which is why he refused to play in the World Series of 1904), and if there was a curse placed on the Cubs, it was placed on them in 1908 by McGraw.

giants-polo-grounds-1909

This Polo Grounds burned to the ground in 1911.  Part of the stadium survived, mainly the outfield bleachers, and those were retained when the grandstand was rebuilt as a concrete and steel ballpark.  While the construction was ongoing in the spring of that year, the Giants moved temporarily into Hilltop Park, home of the New York Highlanders (who are better known today as the Yankees).

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The Polo Grounds would be home to the Giants and, for a time, the Yankees, and when the Yankees moved out to Yankee Stadium across the Harlem River in the Bronx from the Polo Grounds, the Polo Grounds were expanded, with the double decked horseshoe completed.

The West Side Park, of course, was abandoned by the Cubs in 1916 for Weeghman Park in Chicago’s north side, to be renamed Wrigley Field.  I believe a hospital stands now where West Side Park once stood.

The Giants abandoned the Polo Grounds in 1957 for the West Coast, and the expansion New York Mets abandoned the Polo Grounds for Shea Stadium.  Apartment towers stand now where the Polo Grounds stood.  The Giants have moved twice more in the last sixty years, almost thrice more — first, from Seals Stadium to Candlestick Park, then nearly to Florida in the 1980s, and finally to AT&T Park.

The Cubs and the Giants still play, six or seven times a year, but the games between the two teams don’t have quite the import and drama that they did back in the early 1900s.  The coming week’s games will be as momentous and weighty as they were back in 1908.

Tomorrow, the ancient rivalry between these ancient clubs resumes.  May their clash be as momentous as it was in those long ago days.

My Wild Card Predictions

This weekend I was rooting for UTTER CHAOS!  I wanted a four-way tie for the American League wild card and a three-way tie for the National League wild card.  I wanted the Tigers to play a make-up game today.  I wanted tiebreaking games 163 and 164.  I wanted CHAOS!

Instead, the season ended quite calmly.  The Giants secured the second wild card in the National League with a win over the Dodgers (and watching Cardinals fans explode on Twitter with accusations that the Dodgers threw the game because they were afraid of the Cardinals in the post-season was hilarious).  Meanwhile, the Orioles secured the second wild card in the American League with a win over the Yankees.  The teams who controlled their fate did what they had to do.

The post-game celebration by the Orioles (and, really, any wild card team) seems absurd to me.  All the team did was to advance to an artificial game 163, a Baseball Thunderdome.  They go wild and trash a clubhouse because they get to play one more game.  Go wild and celebrate when you win that Baseball Thunderdome and advance to the Division Series.  The post-game celebration seems wildly out of proportion to the accomplishment.

Preface out of the way, here are my Wild Card predictions, fully cognizant that the Wild Card game (and baseball’s postseason in general) is a crapshoot.

American League: Toronto over Baltimore, but if you ask me ten minutes from now I can easily pick Baltimore; that’s how evenly matched these two are.  I feel that Toronto has an edge in pitching, while Baltimore has an edge in offense.  If Toronto can keep the Orioles from smacking the ball out of the park, then Toronto will control the game.  This is the game that can really go either way, but I think, right now, it will be Toronto’s game.

National League: New York over San Francisco.  The Mets have been on a roll in the month of September (only a few weeks ago I’d have thought they would miss the postseason altogether), while the Giants squeeked in by winning three must-win games after an historic epic near-collapse.  (Seriously, they were running away with the National League West.  And then they couldn’t remember how to win.) So, I expect the Mets to continue to roll, with Asdrubel Cabrera powering the Mets attack on the Giants.