Friday, February 27, 2009

Snowstorm Aftereffects

The nice thing about a big snow storm in this state is that the next day is often very clear with a beautiful blue sky. It's a pretty place to do some snow shoveling and to wait for the city plows to clear off the snow. I took a picture of Fairmount Avenue before the plows came. There are few cars - just the absent minded few that don't mind a parking ticket now and then. The street is passable and packed with snow. After the plow passes there is an opportunity for second shoveling - clearing off the ridge that the plow leaves on the sidewalks opening to the street. It was about five degrees when I took these shots, but it will get to about 20 tomorrow and maybe 30 by early next week. The sun is strong and the snow will be gone soon.

I played tennis indoors at Fort Snelling today. It's an exciting place after a big storm. There is a lot of snow on top of the bubble and as the sun melts pieces of it, large chunks slide off and make a big crashing sound - usually when I'm about to serve. It happened several times today. It was nice to play inside - a place without wind or the annoying glare of the sun - but it's cold and not nearly as nice a spot as that orange orchard that I played in last week. I played two sets and seem to have my cold weather tennis skills back. "I am a serious monster. I have powers you can't understand."

The Princess and Herb are off to Chicago tonight, braving the possible weather problems with the confidence of youth.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Half a continent

I am back in the North. An uneventful flight into a very snowy Minnesota ended on time with a fairly smooth landing. The last sunset in Florida is a stunning contrast to what awaited me in my beloved home state.

Herb picked me up and we drove home on unplowed Saintly City streets. The van in front of us on the Lexington hill fishtailed incessantly and nearly failed the climb. Herb's green machine was easily equal to the task, however. We stopped on Linwood because a young lady in a Mazda was stuck in the middle of the street. We pushed her out to get her home a block away as she cursed the day she bought that car. It had no traction in the snow.

Then we came home and shoveled the several inches (WCCO says 7.2 inches of snowy loveliness in St Paul) of new snow off the apron behind the garage and the sidewalks around the house - in the dark. I enclose a photo as contrast to the Florida scene a day earlier.

Home at last.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Baseball been bery, bery good

The Tampa Bay Rays fell to Cincinnati Reds 7-0 in their first spring training game in their new stadium. Santini and I were there to take in the action including a fifth inning grand slam home run by the Reds' Jerry Hairston, Jr. The stadium is a very nice venue for the Rays and the summer occupants, the Port Charlotte Stone Crabs. There was a full stadium and a full scale traffic jam on the way to the park as the city learns to deal with the success of the 2008 American League champions. We had good seats in the stands behind home plate. They were in the shade and a nice breeze blew though.

My best action shot of the day was taken along the first base line in the last of the 6th inning. It's baseball, baby. The Reds are in red. Although he played, I don't think that AL rookie of the year Evan Longoria is in the photo.

There is a walkway all the way around the stadium, so it is possible to watch the game from many different vantage points. Santini stands near the beginning of the boardwalk in her baseball fan disguise.

I managed to escape the park without any Rays themed merchandise, a fate somewhat luckier than Santini, although some of their baseball themed tee shirts were tempting - just to get the economy humming again in my own small way.

My time in southwest Florida is drawing to a close, but it is possible that Minnesota winter weather may extend my visit. Winter storm warnings have been posted for the Saintly City.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hard core tennis in an orange orchard

I took a road trip to Spring Hill to play some tennis and catch up with my high school tennis coach, Paul Bouchard. He's still playing tennis twice a week at age 73. This is my third year doing this and we've developed some rivals from the host of Florida geezer tennis players who he plays with. We play on a clay court among about 30-40 orange trees that belong to Bob, one of the players pictured below. Bob took this picture in front of one of his prize Valencia orange trees shortly after picking the orange and slicing it into sixths for me to consume. It was a tasty and very fresh dose of orange goodness.

We played three sets on Monday morning, with Paul as my partner. Left to right: Nile, Paul, and Reuben. The morning contest began at 9:30 when the temperature was about 46 degrees and finished near noon at about 62 degrees after 3-6, 3-6, 6-4 sets. There was plenty of wind and a clay surface to master, but it was a lot of fun to be outside smacking forehands.

Today, Paul (left) and I took on the owner of the court, Bob (at right) and his partner, Ken (middle). It was a cooler day, because we started at 8:30 and finished at about 11. 6-3, 7-6, 7-6. There was a pretty stiff cross angle wind of about 15 mph, but we all adjusted pretty well. Lobs were used liberally, because overheads in the wind are pretty iffy. It's a nice place to play, and after a few erratic games, we played some long points and even longer games. When we were done we smoothed the clay, swept the lines and had a couple of oranges. Bob is a very gracious host, as is Paul when I visit here.

It was a good couple of days spent about 50 miles north of Tampa Bay. I am eager to get back to the balmy weather in St Paul, and a chance to play inside where the wind is calm and there is snow, always this time of year, within a few feet of the door.

A couple of extremely nice days in southwest Florida.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Yogi is me

It was 35 degrees this morning in southwest Florida, a record low for the day in Port Charlotte, but by this evening we had warmed to 75 degrees. It was a nice enough day to picnic in the park, engage in raucous singing, and to take a short bike ride around the waterways. Santini is pictured below in front of her hacienda just prior to the ride, wearing appropriate riding apparel. The gale force winds of previous rides had abated and it was a pleasant seven and a half miles.

We've been dining at a small Greek restaurant, Olympia, not far from here. I've been feasting on their assortment of local fish dishes - grouper and tilapia. The food is good and their Greek salad with feta cheese never fails to please. John and Santini seems to have become regulars there and I am happy to join them for the vittles.

Tomorrow, I'm off to play some clay court tennis in Spring Hill with Paul Bouchard, my high school tennis coach. The geezers we beat last year want a rematch. To be fair, the tennis was very good, the matches close, and the guys were warm and friendly, at least after we left the courts. I look forward to smacking some forehands and some friendly competition.

Another beautiful day in southwest Florida.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The New Park

There is a new park across S. Waterway from the Santini abode. It's new since last January and includes two brand new tennis courts and access to the waterway for canoe and kayak launching. It is a great addition to the neighborhood and the entrance is pictured below. There was an old guy fishing from the dock this afternoon and said that he has caught Red Snapper from there. He was empty handed when I encountered him, and was willing to pass the time of day with another retired geezerish fellow.

We went to visit the TB Rays spring training camp this morning. They had batting practice and engaged in some catcher work on nabbing base stealers while we watched. It was a chilly day, but there were quite a number of snowbirds watching the boys of early spring get ready for April. I only recognize the very recognizable Don Maddon, the portly manager, because the other guys wore their jackets and they were all young and trim. Barry Bonds was not in attendance. Nor was Barry Obama.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Panther Pointing

Santini took me on a bike ride in a gale this morning. It was short enough and no one got hurt, tired perhaps, but not hurt. We went to the beach along a circuitous route that guaranteed plenty of upwind riding. I felt strong on the way back.

This p.m we went in search of the promised parade of Tampa Bay Ray baseball millionaires in downtown Punta Gorda. I brought my camera, and took some photos, but have been unable to download them to Santini's computer. I took this photo with Santini's camera in front of a Punta Gorda civic building on the way to the parade. The sculpture of the panther is old and rusting a bit, but is the only panther that I've seen this week.

The parade was very parade-like, civic dignitaries and high school bands passed by while we waited for the young men representing the 2008 American League champs. As it turns out, I didn't recognize many of the players, but an old Minnesota Twin, Jason Bartlett, was in attendance, riding in an open car as the shortstop on last year's team. I didn't get a picture.

I had some nice Greek food this evening at Olympia restaurant, including a Greek salad sprinkled with feta cheese and grouper marsala. It was a good day, but a day without any tennis or sightings of Barack Obama.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Monsters and Rays

There is a warm place for Monsters of a serious nature to go to escape the rigors of winter and to experience beautiful sunsets. And I am a serious monster. "I have powers that you can't understand."

Santini and I have tickets to watch a spring training baseball game between the TB Rays and the Cincinnati Reds next Wednesday. The Rays are defending American League champs. Baseball is back in America already, but only in Florida and Arizona. Meanwhile, the temperature in St Paul is still frigid.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Dreaming of Summer

It's the middle of February and summer is still a long way away. My tennis activity requires a drive to an indoor tennis facility where there is no sun, no wind, and a marked lack of heat. I'm looking forward to summer and dreaming of outdoor clay courts in orange groves.

The climate in Minnesota retains a wintry look. We had some melting lately and a lot of the snow cover has scrammed, but the winter will replenish the white stuff in the next few weeks. The streets and icy sidewalks are currently pretty perilous for walking, but I had to go look at nature this afternoon. There is ice yet over Minnehaha Creek and warnings about the danger that lies there. It has a kind of bleak beauty.

The cold weather of January has curtailed some of my outdoor photo activity, but the winter has loosened up a bit. The outdoor ice rinks have mostly closed down, because the more direct sun in the latter half of February doesn't allow ice that is fit to skate on. Ice fish houses have to be off the lakes by March first in the southern half of the state, because they can fall through the ice any time after that - or freeze in place after a warmish day. Even today the creek has some open water. There is plenty of ice, but no one can say where it is safe when water is moving under it. This spot is a couple of hundred yards upstream from Minnehaha Falls.

The Prairie Princess started her new job today and seems happy to be once again gainfully employed full time. The whole economy seems sick at the moment, but I have some hope for the federal stimulus package. Spending 787 billion bucks should cause something to change.