Monday, August 06, 2007

Dear Governor Kaine,

Virginia is for morons. Or at least moron drivers.

Look, all I wanted to do was drive myself down to your capital city to catch the baby Reds take on the baby Braves. I wanted to see Joey Votto, who is swinging for the fences in this shot, and Jay Bruce, who may be my favorite Red before even putting on a Major League uniform.

I ended up having a pretty terrible weekend, and it wasn't just because the Bats lost both games I saw. No, it was because of your stupid roads and your stupid drivers and your stupid inability to do anystupidthing about the stupid traffic in stupid Virginia.

Ok, so Virginia's not all bad. Had I not been sweating miserably in my unairconditioned car on a 100 degree day with five billion percent humidity sitting in standstill traffic on black asphalt taking five hours to go 107 miles instead of the two hours it should have taken, perhaps I wouldn't have had such a terrible weekend. Perhaps I wouldn't feel the need to curse Virginia.

I had planned on arriving about 1:30pm to Richmond to explore the city a bit before heading to the ballpark for batting practice around 5pm. When I arrived in Richmond at 4:30pm instead, drenched to the bone, to see that the stadium was in a crappy part of town (directly across from the Greyhound station) and nowhere near any little cafes or bars to grab some refreshment, I figured I'd just drive around a bit using the Richmond info Basil from Federal Baseball gave me - you know, the places I WAS going to visit before traffic ruined it.

I saw some things that interested me in your city, Governor, and I was disappointed that I would not be able to see anything else when I began to head over to The Diamond about 5:15. When I discovered that the park didn't open until one hour before game time, I pretty much screamed myself hoarse inside. And seeing the Hated Braves tomahawk all over the stadium was cause for utter misery. The creepy Indian guy was laughing at me as I tried to figure out what to do to kill another forty-five minutes. I felt oh so gross, my clothes were soaked through, and I said something aloud that was kind of like "stupid Virginia." Then I noticed the Holiday Inn sign a block away.

Have you ever paid $135 for a shower, including state and local taxes? I bet old Larry Wayne Jones never has. So there's something I've done that he has not. That was essentially what it was, a misery-driven decision to stay in Richmond, and to maybe get to see some of the city the next day - before, of course, the second Bats game!

I have a "best shower" ranking sort of like my "best stadium" ranking (San Francisco, Wrigley, Fenway). My top shower ever was after a weekend trip down to Cinque Terre, Italy when I was living in Luxembourg. We took an overnight train down there, hiked through through three cities to the fourth on a very hot day, slept on the beach in Vernazza, and hiked to the final city to catch another overnight train that arrived back in Luxembourg two hours before class started...

Oh wait, I let myself dream a bit, I guess. Sorry for that, Governor. (Have you fixed the traffic problems yet? I mean in some other manner than charging residents $1000 fines for speeding?) So yeah, I was really refreshed after that shower. I had put my clothes over the airconditioner, so they were nearly dry. My mood was completely different the second time I arrived at the ballpark, especially when I was first in line for tickets. I got box seats ten rows behind the Bats' dugout...FOR TEN DOLLARS!!!

I couldn't believe it. I mean, I knew that minor league games were much cheaper than MLB games, but I was still expecting to pay about $25 for good seats - about half of what I would pay for the same seats at RFK. I mean, this is AAA - the last stop before the big leagues - and you have a lot of Major League caliber players there. Shoot, one of the reasons I went down in the first place was because it'd be the last time I'd be able to see Jay Bruce and Joey Votto in the minors.

The Diamond was very Bull Durhamesque. I looked around for Crash Davis but saw only Chad Moeller instead. I tell you what - I felt so bad for that guy. He really was jerked around by the Reds coughWayneKrivskycough this year. He should have never been on the roster in the first place. He was very nice - I got him to sign my 2007 Reds scorecard.

But that was the second day. On the first day, the very first player I saw, the very first autograph I got, was none other than my new favorite Red before he's even played on the Reds, Jay Bruce.

I knew immediately it was him though I haven't seen many pictures. There was just something about him, something about the way he carried himself, some sort of quality I just couldn't put my finger on, but man, he had this aura around him that just said ballplayer. I mean really good ballplayer. I mean really great player.

I'll tell you who I wasn't excited to see - Elizardo Ramirez. Why? Because I think it's just crap that he got to pitch once for the Reds and got sent down again. When I saw him in the hotel last week and said, "Hey Elizardo, glad to see you again!" and he responded with a beaming smile and a thank you, he looked so happy. Not so in Richmond. The poor guy was abused last year by the Reds and Jerry Narron (a start the day after a bullpen appearance?!?), I hope his arm isn't ruined forever. That pinstripe suit he wore in the hotel when he was called up last week? Sweet. That inning he pitched in DC last week? Sweet. The only thing sweet about going back down to Louisville is the manager.

Speaking of unsweetened baseball, see what Elizardo is signing up there? He was signing a dozen baseball cards for a bunch of potbellied older men...wait, for ONE potbellied older guy. There were a few of these vultures who obviously were just going to sell them. That really pissed me off, because I was directly affected by such types at least twice: 1) Jay Bruce was not allowed to sign the sweet spot (more unsweetness) of my new ball (remember, he was the first one I saw) because of these types of profit-sucking scavengers, and 2) Joey Votto would not sign my ball because he would "only sign for the kids" (I'll speculate more on that in a minute).

I tell you what - Bill Bray will significantly upgrade the aesthetic factor of the team.

I made a stupid, stress-induced mistake after Sunday's game regarding Bill Bray. I'll explain the source of the stress in a minute, but I got to say hi to Bill's family, who were all wearing Reds gear, and I ran away to deal with car issues. Stupid me. I should have hung out there - I could have met Bill. At least I got him to sign my ball, right under Jay Bruce's ink. Yeah, I think he's right-under-Jay-Bruce worthy.

Bill is from the area (I believe he went to school at Virginia Commonwealth University?) and had a ton of family and friends at both ballgames. I think you can tell a lot about a person by his family and friends, and well, Bray's family and friends seemed pretty down to Earth.

He was so nice. I asked him about his arm and he said it felt 100% better. I told him I couldn't wait to see him called up, which was not one bit of an overstatement. I really think he'll be a good asset to the pen and may even end up being the better end of The Trade. He's been pitching well, and well, Toad Coffey stinks. There's no reason that Bill can't be wearing a Cincy uniform in his roster spot tomorrow. Wayne? Get him there Tuesday!

You know who shouldn't get called up? Gary Majewski, he who walked in a run the first game. I really don't know what happened to him. Damaged goods? Or maybe just a bad pitcher? He was really popping the ball in there, though. It just was going in places it should not have gone.

I got to see Eddie Guardado's (hopefully last) rehab appearance. I bet he's called up this week. Seeing him pitch in comparison to most of those other minor league guys made me realize how great a difference there is between AAA and the Majors. I mean, wow. He really had some fire - the ball just sounded different when it hit the catcher's glove. I got him to sign my 2007 Reds scorecard, too, which was cool. It really is amazing how you get a chance to actually talk to the players. Or maybe I was just really lucky. Or maybe it was the Reds cap?

So, the traffic, Governor? Fixed yet? Here's a start. Take my advice, because I learned how to drive in the Midwest where people actually know how to drive. And believe me, I'm not biased. I've lived in California, Texas, and the East Coast, and though I do believe that Maryland drivers are a little worse, Virginians are right up there in terrible. See, Governor Kaine, you people have to learn how to MERGE. You don't put traffic lights on an on ramp. You build really long ramps, not really short ones. And you teach people to get over into the left lane when a car is trying to enter a highway. You know what else you DON'T do? You don't put "use entire lane" on a flashing sign when a lane is ending and cars need to merge into one lane. No, you put signs a couple miles back saying the lane is ending. Then you put another, and another, and another, and you teach people when they are learning to drive to get over into the other lane as soon as they see a lane is ending. By the time the lane ends, they are all over, and there's no need for stopped traffic. Using the entire lane is what CAUSES these traffic issues! It's quite a simple concept, actually. You can drive through downtown Columbus - a metropolitan area of about 3 million people - at 5pm on a weekday, and you're only going to slow down to maybe 40MPH on a bad day. You know why? Because Ohioans and other Midwesterners KNOW HOW TO MERGE! You Virginians, Sir, are no Jay Bruce when it comes to driving. No, you are more like the Anderson Machado of driving. Never heard of him? Exactly. He can't hit!

Ahh, Joey Votto. What a bittersweet experience with him. First of all, he didn't play on Saturday night. No, Jorge Cantu got the start at first. Votto coached first base. Then came the second day. The sweet spot on my ball - the bittersweet spot - was still open, ripe for a Joey Votto signature, one of the two players I had been so pumped to see. I wait and wait and wait and wait for the opportunity for him to come out and sign. And then, finally! I pretty much forget where I am and dart over to him. I let the kids around go first, and then I hand him my ball.

Or try to. He says, "Sorry, only the kids today." Well, there were ONLY kids and me. And the vulture guys. But they already knew he wouldn't sign for them. And I had a ball with other signatures on it, so it wasn't like I was going to sell a sweet spot Joey Votto top ten prospect ball. And every other player had signed for crazy stalker girl types like me. I heard those words. "Sorry, only the kids today." A million simultaneous thoughts fly through my head. The five hour trip. The sweat. Missing the Bonds homer on E$PN by an inning. The rude pizza guy on the phone when I tried to order food. The broken flip flop I had to tie on my foot with the strap of my camera because I had no other shoes. Saturday night's loss. Having to look at Chipper Jones' picture as I entered the stadium. That bitch in the black SUV that cut me off during one of the few times we were actually moving on the highway. The disgusting fast food I ate for lunch at the time I was supposed to be in Richmond eating lunch - only I was still two hours from getting there. That stupid mocking Indian. My car sitting dead out in the parking lot...and what did I say? I said "Ohhhh!" like a spoiled little brat, turned away, and then mumbled under my breath "But I came all this way to see you play." Dude, I was totally bummed, Governor. I mean there I was, my last chance to see Joey Votto before he becomes a Major League All Star, and he wouldn't even sign my ball. Yeah, I pouted. And yeah, he noticed, because he gave me a dirty look when he saw me sitting in the front row right next to the Bats dugout when he was on deck for the first time. And yeah, I was embarrassed. It was the second "I carried a watermelon" moment I'd had in a week. The first was with Junior at the hotel. But Votto hit a homer during the game, and I was cheering the loudest. Am I a groupie?

I don't like that word "groupie." But yeah, I'm a huge fan, Joey, for many reasons that I've mentioned on this blog. I am on the Free Joey Votto bandwagon. And your teammate Jay here in this photo deserves to be there, too.

Man, are the Reds going to be good in the next couple of years.

As long as we don't carry three catchers.

Speaking of third catchers, let me tell you about what happened to my car while in your state. I suspect it has something to do with FIVE FREAKING HOURS OF DRIVING IN 100 DEGREE HEAT WITH 100 BILLION PERCENT HUMIDITY FOR A DISTANCE OF ONLY 107 MILES!!!!!! See, I drive from the back of the hotel to the lobby area to checkout. I'm ready to see Richmond since I didn't get to the day before. I checkout all cheerful and ready for some baseball, get in my car, and nothing. Car's dead. Sounded like the battery, but how could a battery die in ten minutes, even if you left the lights on?

Now, I have a 2002 Chevy Cavalier, not exactly a Tom Shern model of a car (seen here warming up for Saturday's game.) In fact, my next car will probably also be a Cavalier. They have big, durable engines, get amazing gas mileage, have room inside, and are a very practical car. So I begin to scream inside again and look up at the sky as if God has decided to be mean to me this weekend for some reason. (Is it because I made fun of that giant statue of Jesus on I-75 north of Cincinnati, you know, the one that looks like he's pleading to God to rescue him from his followers in the church?) Then I slowly trek back to the front desk, whose employees aren't exactly a picture of efficiency. And you know what? They couldn't help. They had no clue how to help a stranded motorist. At that time, I was not a member of the Bats, I mean AAA.

I stretch my brain like Chris Dickerson here trying to figure out what to do. I need someone to jump me, right? So I go into the restaurant there intending to ask someone to jump my car. When the hostess asks if she can help me, I tell her my problem. She calls maintenance for me. Apparently that's too tough for the front desk people. Maintenance guy comes with no car and no jumper cables though I asked for a jump. Speaks no English. I don't know the word for "jumper cables" in Spanish, so I can't get him to understand that I need my car jumped. Well, he pops the hood, takes one look at the battery, and sees that the whole battery is broken. Yes, broken. The plug where you attach the battery cable was completely broken off.

Like Aaron Herr here, I hung my head. I thought this a disaster. I counted the vacation days off work I had left in my head. I wondered how long it would take a repair guy to fix the thing. Dollar signs appeared in my head. D'oh! Why had I spent $135 on that shower!

The maintenance guy tried to clean out the corroded mess. Battery acid had been leaking all over the place - hoses and other under-the-hood car stuff looked like stuff was growing on it. I tried to start the car again. Nothing. He waves his hand signaling "again" as I wrack my brain trying to remember the Spanish word for "again?" Nothing. He says "Uno minuto" and goes inside.

Then, a hero arrives.

No, not Jay Bruce. A nice Virginian guy in a huge Dodge Ram who was willing to rescue a damsel in distress. (Ick. I am certainly not a helpless damsel!) The guy was awesome, jumped my car, told me to drive around or let it run to charge it up, and so I ended up driving around Richmond for awhile. Dude, you rock! Thank you!

I drove around for a half hour, accidentally going through a part of town that made me check the lock on my door. Thanks to my grandfather and then my mother who passed it on, I have one of the skills I am most grateful for possessing - an awesome sense of direction, which makes driving around aimlessly very easy, as well as getting out of not so, um, comfortable neighborhoods for a woman alone. I drove back to a better part of town with no problem. As I had not intended on staying in Richmond, I didn't have the basic toiletries I needed for a day, nor a change of clothing, but I had washed all of my clothes in the sink and dried them on the airconditioner overnight, so that was no problem. But it was another 100 degree day, and I needed deodorant. Which meant I had to stop. Like Marcus Mcbeth in the photo, I needed some pity when I stopped and heard the funny noise that told me I was not going to start up again.

Another hero arrived.

No, not Jay Bruce. I went into the CVS/Rite Aid/Walgreen's/Whatever It Was without any concern at all. I can't say I sensed things would work out, but for some reason, I didn't worry. I simply went to the deodorant aisle, picked up my kind, forgot to look for new flip flops since the camera strap was working so well (MacGyver was my favorite show as a kid!), paid, and asked the cashier if she or any employee in the store had jumper cables. It didn't seem like there were any customers, so I had to rely on CVS/Rite Aid/Walgreen's/Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim and Disney employees to get me to the ballpark. None of them had cars. But this awesome customer guy who appeared from nowhere had them and was so nice about giving me a jump! It was a bit tougher to get started this time, but it finally worked. And did you know that BMWs have their batteries in their trunks? Dude, you rock! Thank you, too!

It was at this point when I realized that if I turned my car off, I would not be able to start it again. So here was my dilemma: Should I go to the baseball game and risk getting stuck in Richmond (because the gates to the parking lot closed only one hour after the game) or should I just go home? Baseball or Practicality? It was only about 11:45 at this point and the game didn't start until 2pm, which meant I had an hour and fifteen minutes before I could get in. Since I couldn't stop my car, I had to drive around while deciding. I even got gas with my car running, which is supposed to be a no no. I obviously couldn't see any of Richmond, at least any of it that couldn't be seen from a car window.

You know, I kind of felt like Chris Dickerson in my luck. I mean, last year he deserved to be on the Reds more than Dewayne Wise or some of the other jokers we had. The guy is fast. He's on the 40 man roster. With some of the others who have been given the chance, why hasn't he? Look at his dirty uniform. He's a basestealer.

I'm not advocating him because I think he's a star; no, he'll never be more than a fourth outfielder. But the alternatives who got a chance were no better than he is. I should name my car after him.

So of course I chose to go to the game, but not before I got on the highway to go home. But then I thought, shoot, there has to be one person out of 5,000 people who go to the game who will jump my car one more time, if indeed, it will start one more time. I'm not very knowledgeable about cars, but I know once your car is running, you don't need a battery. So I turned around and took the chance.

You wouldn't believe how tough it was to find someone to jump my car after the game out of all those people. You could see looks of guilt across some of their faces as they lied and said they didn't have jumper cables. I must have asked twenty people before one finally was helpful and told me to go back to the stadium because they had a service for things like this.

Another hero arrives.

No, not Jay Bruce. The ballpark guys. I got to ride on a golf cart from the stadium out to the parking lot. The ballpark has one of those jump generators, so they set me up. But it was reaaaaally difficult to start the car. At that point I was becoming religious. And then...vroom! It started! And the wee lads proved that they understood cars even less than me by saying "You aren't going to get very far with that." It's just a battery! But I had to drive for 3.5 hours (better than 5, still not the 2 it should take) to get home. Which meant no beverage of any kind in the terrible heat. But I made it.

Yeah, I had a bad weekend, but you know what? I wasn't in last place. I got to see two baseball games. I got autographs on a ball from Jay Bruce, Bill Bray, Paul Janish, Jeff Bannon, Marcus Mcbeth, Gary Majewski, Jason Kershner, and Jorge Cantu and on my scorecard from Eddie Guardado and Chad Moeller (my scorecard is now filled with signatures, but the funny thing is that no one will sign on Brandon Phillips' face). I sat next to father and son Reds fans on Sunday so I didn't feel like I was behind enemy lines. (Hope you guys check out my blog!) The ushers were awesome. The beer girl started pouring my beer while I was still three or four back in line. I had french fries in a big baseball helmet. Joey Votto hit a home run. Governor, it's baseball. How can anything dealing with baseball be bad?

So look, Governor Kaine. I put up signs for your campaign. I volunteered. Check your mailing list - I'm on there even though I don't live in Virginia. But the traffic in Virginia sux. Saturday's traffic was hands down the worst traffic I have ever seen in my entire life, no exaggeration. You guys have to teach your young drivers how to merge (And ticket people who pull over to the side of the Interstate - when there wasn't a ramp or a lane ending that caused the standstills, there was a car pulled to the side EVERY SINGLE TIME no exaggeration. I'm a very observant person and made sure I took note of this. There was no exception for 107 miles.) But I gotta say - getting a jump three times (despite those 19 people, about half of whom were lying), getting help as a stranded motorist with very little problem, well, you Virginians are pretty awesome.

As a sort of epilogue to this monstrous blog post (I hope at least one person reads all the way through!), I'll let you know that last night I joined the Bats - I mean AAA - online. This morning I called to have my car jumped so I could drive it to the shop to fix this horrible, financially breakable problem with my car. The guy came, looked at my battery, said, "Oh, I can fix that. I see this quite often. You see that with these AC Delco batteries." I now have a new battery in my car, which I just sent in the last payment for, by the way, and everything is just great - didn't have to go to the shop and only paid for a new battery and a Bats membership. Now if only the Reds would call up Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Bill Bray, and Eddie Guardado, but not Gary Majewski, and if they would just win every game for the rest of the season...

The things I do for baseball.

No comments: