Strange bedfellows indeed

Politics makes strange bedfellows. Here’s the origin of that term from

Baseball just brought together at least 750,000 people in Houston, and not because of misery.

My beloved 2017 World Series Champions have been all over the place. Even you non-Houstonians might have caught a glimpse of them on The Tonight Show or SNL. We’ve also seen news coverage of them at Texans and Rockets games and celebrating at Disney World. Everyone has seen the marriage proposal (Correa) and none of us were invited to the Tuscany wedding (Verlander), though they did release a picture or two of the happy couple.

Last Friday, I was with all of them. (Except for the one who was already on his way to Italy.) I couldn’t resist joining the crush of Astros fans for the downtown parade and celebration. I didn’t have much of a view of any of it, but it was still fun to people watch and cheer and just be there.

After the parade, the official rally took place on the steps of City Hall. All any of us wanted to do was cheer the team, but first they had to introduce all the politicians in attendance. Mayor Sylvester Turner: rousing applause. Gov. Greg Abbott: smattering of applause. Lt Gov Dan Patrick (whose legislative priority is the ‘bathroom bill’): roundly booed. Sen Ted Cruz: more robust booing. County Judge Ed Emmett (top Harris County official) and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (queen of the photo op): smattering of applause. I didn’t realize that I had so much in common with my fellow Astros fans. Sports and politics, strange bedfellows indeed.



Well I never…

File this under things I never thought I’d say.

I am going to a World Series game today.

I am a sports fan in general, but baseball has always been my true love. I know I’ve talked about it in posts here on tftb in the past. It is a connection to my youth and to older generations in my family. It is my comfort sport. It was my constant companion during a long recovery after an accident when I was in middle school. It is the subject of some of my favorite books, movies, songs, and TV documentaries. I have trouble deciding if baseball provides the metaphors for life, or if life provides the metaphors for baseball.

Going to a World Series game has never even made my bucket list. Because going to any old World Series game wouldn’t be all that special. But this year, MY team is in the World Series. The ASTROS have Earned History and made it into the October classic.

I don’t know how it’s all going to end up. As I type this, the dodgers and the ASTROS are tied 1-1 heading into a 3-game stretch here in Houston. I’ll be elated if the ASTROS win it all, but only mildly disappointed if they don’t. What a ride, what a season, what an incredible bunch of human beings make up this team, from the players to the management to the broadcasters. As I told D#1, I think this team has finally supplanted the Cubbies of my youth as the #1 team in my heart. Yes, I can still recite the lineup of those loveable loser Cubs, but these ASTROS players will be loved and cheered by me, wherever their careers and lives take them.

I am going to a World Series game today.

And for it all to be happening this year, of all years – it’s enough to make anyone believe in the baseball gods. Harvey took a heavy toll on Houston this fall. For some it was a heavy physical and financial toll. For the lucky of us, it was just an emotional toll. But everyday I walk the dog and feel the same pit in my stomach as I see the streets of empty, gutted houses. They’ve announced where all the blockades are going up on Halloween to keeps trick-or-treaters and ne’er-do-wells out of the uninhabited 70% of our neighborhood. The ASTROS were out-of-town when Harvey hit, and an additional series was moved to a neutral site before it was feasible for them to play at home, about a week after Harvey made landfall. We bought tickets and went to that first game back. I sat there and cried during the pregame. I cried again when George Springer hit a home run and pounded the “HoustonStrong” patch that had been added to their uniforms as he ran from third to home. It was, once again, the great baseball-life metaphor. Life would go on, full of good things and normal things and, sometimes, bad things. People will come together and laugh and cry and celebrate together. Yes, it always eventually ends, but for most of us, there’s always next year and we live to play another day.

I am going to a World Series game today.

“Let’s play two!” is my fondest baseball quote of all-time by  Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks. It’s a beautiful weekend for baseball in Houston, let’s see two! We have tickets to tomorrow’s game, also, and we are letting the daughters have our tickets. They have caught that lifetime affliction known as baseball fever from their mother and I can’t think of any experience I would rather give them. There is no cure for this disease and I’m pretty sure this will make the fever stronger. The husband had been exposed in childhood, but caught the fever from me early in our marriage and it has become our shared summertime passion and hobby. So, to be truthful…

We are going to a World Series game today.

I was born and raised in Chicagoland. Houston is my adopted home town and the ASTROS are my adopted home team, but after 33 years, there is no longer any question where I belong or what baseball team belongs to me. I can’t get enough of my beloved ASTROS. I’ve been eating up the media coverage of this team ever since that improbable Sports Illustrated cover from 3 years ago predicting that the 2017 ASTROS would win it all. Most of you don’t care that much, I get it. But if you’ll tolerate only one story about the ASTROS and Houston, read this one from SBNation. I really, really, really hope they win it all this year, but if they don’t…well (read the article.)

It’s time to post this blog for soon I will head to the bus stop, wearing orange with a ticket in my pocket and a scorebook in my hand. There’s a familiar refrain that keeps running thru my mind today. It’s the mantra of every baseball fan on every Opening Day in April. But I’m an ASTROS fan and it’s October and I am still believing that THIS COULD BE THE YEAR WE WIN IT ALL.

I am going to a World Series game today. GO ‘STROS!

One in 122

One in every 122 people on earth is a refugee. Let that sink in. Some are displaced within their home countries and some are seeking asylum across borders.

Last week I went to see REFUGEE, a traveling photo exhibit by the Annenberg Foundation that was sponsored in Houston by Fotofest International. The Annenberg Space for Photography commissioned five internationally acclaimed photographers to capture the refugee experience on five different continents. It was stunning. The link above will take you to the official website of the exhibit and some of the photographs.

I’ve been hesitating to write this post because, well after all, a picture is worth 1000 words so how can I possibly describe what was contained in this photo exhibit in a 600 word post? I only took a couple of photos of the photos because it seemed weird and probably frowned upon.

Lynsey Addario photographed the Rohingya of Myanmar. Discriminated against because they are Muslims in a Buddhist state, many are forced to live in camps within Myanmar where they don’t have access to education, medical care, or legal jobs. The photographs highlighted the difficult conditions and suffering in the camps.

She also photographed a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon, focusing on the life of 12-yr old Hana. Here is a picture of Hana riding to work at dawn to pick cucumbers. The photos depict a fairly ordinary seeming life, but Hana and the others are always aware that they are not really home.

Omar Victor Diop photographed portraits of refugees in camps in Cameroon. More than 850,000 residents of the Central African Republic, nearly one-fifth of the country’s population, are displaced both inside and outside the country due to power struggles between Christian and Muslims. If refugees were able to make it to the camps in Cameroon or other neighboring countries, they were able to find medical care, food, and shelter. The portraits (and their captions) revealed proud, strong men and women who were looking forward to building new lives and providing for their families. Although this section of the exhibit highlighted the future and the potential for these refugees, they have all lost so very much.

Graciela Iturbide photographed life inside the Puente Nayero Humanitarian Space in Columbia. It is a safe zone created by 302 families trying to stand up to violent gangs. The drug trade in Central and South America has made life difficult and dangerous. Certainly we hear about people fleeing these areas and seeking asylum in the US, but imagine the other option of having to live within a compound in your city just to feel safe. How valuable is freedom?

Martin Schoeller took portraits of refugees resettled in the US in 2015. These extreme close-ups remind us of how much more alike we all are than unalike.

Tom Stoddardt documented the refugee crisis in Europe with photographs from the shores of Greece to the streets of Berlin. Mostly Syrians, but also refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Somalia and Nigeria are all fleeing from armed conflicts in their home countries. His photo of the piles of life jackets and the realization that each one represents a person fleeing one life for another is the one non-human image that has really stuck with me.

There were two other series of photos in the exhibit, I apologize that I did not get the photographer’s names. One was a series of photos of Sudanese refugees showing the most important item that they brought with them.

The other was a series of photos from the town of Rigonce, Slovenia. Within a 10-day period, more than 70,000 refugees passed through this town of 176 residents on their way from Greece to Germany and Austria – an unusual route that they were forced to take when Hungary abruptly closed its border with Serbia on October 17, 2015. Here photos of the refugees were mounted side-by-side with the people of the town.

I know this post doesn’t do justice to the exhibit, but there’s a short film that comes close. I sat and watched it at the exhibit, but it is also available on Netflix. There’s a short preview of it on the website linked to above. It’s called REFUGEE and is narrated by Cate Blanchett. Personally, I don’t even know how to watch something on Netflix, but I’m confident all of you do. Next time you’re trying to decide what to watch, invest 23 minutes on REFUGEE.







A feast for the eyes – part three

We left Moab feeling that it was a place we’d willingly visit again, but also realizing that we likely wouldn’t ever return to this corner of Utah. It’s not really on the way to anywhere and there are so many other places in the American West that we’d like to explore.

We rendezvoused with D#2 and not the son-in-law (ntsil) and went into Big Cottonwood Canyon in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest to hike the Donut Falls Trail. In drier times, the water gently falls thru a hole in the rocks creating a unique waterfall that you can hike up to and around. During the spring snow melt run-off, however, the stream is rushing and the whole effect of the donut is less dramatic. Still a pretty waterfall, however, that I don’t happen to have a picture of. (See previous comment about checking other family members’ facebook and instagram pages.) I do have this shot of the daughters-as-intrepid-explorers a little further up the mountain trail.

The daughters taking in the view.

From there we drove to the High West Distillery for an informative tour and tasting and then on to Park City where we met up with the extended family for our nephew’s wedding. The wedding was lovely, the mountains and the scenery were spectacular, and it was grand to reconnect with family that we don’t see nearly often enough. Northern Utah is a place we are much more likely to revisit, both because of its proximity to the airport in Salt Lake City and because our nephew and his new wife make their home there. We did have some time to explore a bit around the Park City area, but we’d happily spend more time there someday.

The best part of any vacation is the people you spend it with. These four make any vacation extra special for me.

Ntsil, D#2, D#1, and the Sil, ready to do some zip-lining at Sundance.

A feast for the eyes – part two

Moab is also the gateway city to Canyonlands National Park. The park is divided into three adjacent yet unconnected sections, separated by the Colorado and Green Rivers. We only visited the Island in the Sky section. When I think of canyons, I tend to think of water carved passages, but there are other factors involved in forming the canyons in this part of Utah such as faults, salt domes, inland seas, and, perhaps, even a meteorite (thought they haven’t been able to conclusively prove this.) We didn’t do any major hikes here, mostly just to various viewing spots. But what views!

LaSal Mountains in the haze

That’s the Green River down there.

Both the Green and Colorado rivers are fairly placid as they flow thru Utah, until their confluence within the park. Sadly, there wasn’t a spot to view the confluence from where we were. Looking off to the east from Canyonlands you can see the La Sal Mountains while to the west lie the Henry Mountains which was the last mountain range to be added to the map of the lower 48 states.

Arches National Park is closing early this summer due to road construction in the park, but we found an arch located outside the park that we could hike to one evening. After a near disastrous road choice, which earned  the s-i-l hero-for-life honors, and which I would tell you about in more detail except that we all promised it would remain the s-i-l’s story to tell and we don’t want there to be any chance of it getting back to the rental car company, we ended up on a lovely, paved road along the Colorado River just outside of Moab. And when a highway sign says “Pictographs” with an arrow, of course we pulled over.

The drawings can be seen for about 30 yards along the canyon road.

These were discovered when they cleared the canyon of rockfall in order to put in the road.

We continued to the Corona Arch trail. I have to say, tho we weren’t the only ones on this trail, it was really nice to get away from the crowds at the parks. We didn’t quite stay until sunset, mostly because I was nervous about tackling the ladder (I hate ladders!) and some rock scrambling sections in the dark. We were almost back to the car when the bats started coming out of the cliffs all around us! Which would have been even more wonderful if the mosquitoes hadn’t arrived at the same time. All-in-all that was probably the most adventurous expedition of the week.

Corona Arch. Worth the short ladder climb.

One neat thing about the Moab area is that it’s not all desert mesas and canyons. The Manti-LaSal National Forest is another great place to hike. D#1 and the s-i-l really wanted to hike a mountain, while the husband and I were happy to drive to the trail head with them and breathe some cooler, mountain air. The first choice hike was nixed when the snow melt stream was running too high and fast to cross in a car. When we got out of the car to assess the stream situation we were surrounded by hundreds of butterflies. On our drive out to a different mountain access point, we saw a bear along the side of the road. Best aborted hike ever.

While the two young-uns tackled a peak (sadly not making it to the top, but with stories to rival the Corona Arch adventure,) the husband and I hiked around the alpine lakes and meadows. In the future, the husband promises not to confuse a map with a topo map. Or at least not to promise me a relatively flat hike.

Alpine aspens.

Alpine meadows


Alpine stream.

Alpine view.

There is a bit more eye-feasting I want to share with y’all. Check back later for part three.