Wednesday, September 30, 2009

September's Passing

It's the last day for Curt before he flees to Arkansas to avoid the nasty Minnesota winter. The tennis group assembled at a Caribou coffee house this morning in Mendota to wish him Godspeed. Most of us are retired so we lingered for a couple of hours as we talked over the season and seasons past. We also solved a few of the world's more vexing problems. Then we decided that it was warm enough to play a couple of more sets before Curt left town, and thus scheduled a four o'clock match. A last chance for fun before September flees.

So we played three sets, changing partners after each set. We played until the light began to get iffy. The third set went to 7-5 and then we were done. I had my camera and decided to get a photo of the four geezers in attendance, I took a couple shots of the other three, but there were two guys playing on the other court. One guy offered, "Can I take the picture so all four of you can get into it?" And I let him take the photo below. The other guy on the other court then spoke up, "Can I take the picture so all five of you can get into it?" A witty guy who gave us a chance to laugh. And we did.

The Geezer Tennis Association guys in the photo are : TT, Dennis, Curt, and Bill H.

Curt leaves tomorrow morning and plans to drive straight through 830 miles to his retirement place outside Little Rock.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The End of Minnehaha Creek

Some days require a long walk. I had a couple of days off from the tennis wars and I was ready to smack a few forehands, but it was only about 55 degrees at its warmest today. I went to visit the falls across the river. As Mr Moohoo has noticed lately, the falls are dry. There is no water going over them. It's part of a repair program for the stream's banks downstream from the falls, and it's necessary, but it's a strange sight to see the falls sans agua. [Notice I used both French and Spanish at the end of an English sentence.] I decided to walk the stream to its mouth at the Mississippi River again and see how the stream was doing. It's pretty dry, too. There is a foot bridge at the end of the creek where it empties into the big river and it is pictured below. There is really no need for the bridge at the moment. It is sans agua. Or nearly so.

The weather has signaled the arrival of a new season. There are freeze warnings out tonight and the burbs are likely to lose all uncovered tomato plants. The city appears safe from this one. The weather creatures are predicting 38 degrees in the city. My tomatoes are safe for a while yet. UH and I have picked all the red leaning fruit and I'm starting to think about a couple of lunches of fried green tomatoes, a la the old man.

Curt's going away to Arkansas breakfast is tomorrow, and the GTA will be down one member player for a few months. Comings and goings happen pretty often this time of year. We'll get by with the hard core guys who stay the winter.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

One of the nicest days ...

It was one of the nicest September Saturdays in the history of September Saturdays. It was so nice that we opted to cancel our indoor tennis time at Wooddale and play at Woodbury High School. There was just a hint of a wind and the temperature was in the mid sixties when we began hacking a new can of tennis balls around. It's sort of bitter sweet, too. Rich has left town to resume his retirement in Tucson and next week Curt takes his show on the road to his retirement community in Arkansas. We played and enjoyed the day as we realized that the winds of winter are soon going to take charge again.

I went home for lunch and found the young'uns had gone off - PP to work with her MCC youth group, and UH to a conference or class that he was interested in. I decided to wander around Hamline to see if I could find an athletic event to watch. I found two in progress when I arrived - the women's soccer team was playing Carlton, and the football guys were playing St Thomas. The soccer game was tied at 0-0 at half time when I checked on the gridders. The Tommies were kicking butt at 28-0 in the second quarter, so I went back to watch the soccer game. It was closely contested and it looked like it might end in a tie, necessitating overtime, but with about two minutes left in the game, a scramble in front of the Hamline goal resulted in a Carlton goal, and they won 1-0. The scoreboard below records the decision.

There was the usual mass handshake and the blue clad Carlton Knights went home happy. I remember from my soccer coaching days that sometimes the teen aged boys on UH's teams would sometimes complain that the other team would spit on their hands before the hand shake - I guess to register their dislike for our team. I'm reasonably sure that the college ladies in this game didn't resort to that tactic. They actually seemed pretty friendly.

The quality of the play was not the highest that I've witnessed, but they seemed to be playing hard and enjoying a beautiful September day. One of the best.

Friday, September 25, 2009

It rained all day

We needed rain, I guess, because it rained today. I scavenged a photo from a couple of days ago. It demonstrates what can be done with an elm tree after it dies from Dutch Elm disease. This tree used to stand on Benhill street near the top of a long hill. It's a pretty good representation of Christopher Robin and a few of his close buddies. It's always a milestone on my return from bike rides down by Crosby Farm Park, informing me that I'm at last back at the same altitude as home.

Rich is on his way back to Tucson tomorrow, but while he was here we managed to get in six sets of singles and several more of doubles with the Geezer Tennis Association. We played yesterday at the new St Clair courts, but the rain did us in today. The traveling trophy for the "endless season" is going back with him, so I'm going to have to go and fetch it later this year. It was nice to have him back and to play some singles again, but it is a taxing exercise. I guess I'm not 59 any more.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Walking around the lake again

A day to rest my weary old bones. I have been playing quite a bit of tennis while Rich is in town, playing both doubles and some singles sets with him. We've had some good competition, and it has been fun, but it was good to have a day off. I relaxed by walking around Lake Como, looking for photo opportunities and enjoying a pretty decent afternoon. It was cloudy, but didn't rain and the temp stayed at around 70 degrees. It's the first day of autumn in the northern hemisphere and it's starting to look like it. The migrating birds seem to be gathering and building their strength for a flight to warmer climes. It will be good to be rid of the overpopulation of geese, but the ducks seem a bit more acceptable. I surprised these guys taking their ease near the shore of Lake Como. They weren't at all afraid of me.

As I walked around the lake, it was mostly peaceful except for the high school cross country team - boys and girls. They were galloping around the lake training for the season, which I assume is pretty much under way. They ran in groups and seemed really intent on producing a good time around the lake. I think they were St Paul Central runners, but I can't be sure. I encountered the coaches near the pavilion and they were writing down times for the runners as they finished, so it was a serious session. There was a lot of yelling and encouraging remarks, too, on a nice day to run.

A teeshirt I saw on my walk, "My drinking team has a hockey problem."

More tennis tomorrow.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tennis, tennis, tennis

An old tennis buddy is in town. Rich played on the same college tennis team as I did back in the early 60's, and now we are both in our mid 60's. He and I have been playing singles against each other off and on ever since then. He now lives in Tucson, very near the place where the USTA National Tournament for 8.0 mixed doubles teams will be played in November. My team of hardcore ladies and gents will be competing there and I'll get a chance to visit Rich's home and his home club, too. Rich and I repeated our usual practice of playing a couple of sets of tennis today. It was a nice warm September day in the upper 70's. There was friendly competition and no one got hurt - a successful outing. PP took this photo in MBY (my back yard) this morning before the tennis took place. When I asked Rich if he would pose for a photo, he agreed, and then went to his car and changed into more attractive clothing, I guess because he now knows that a photo like this one might show up on the internet. And so it has.

This evening, after an afternoon nap, I managed another three sets at Wooddale, this time with the hardcore girls and Jerry - core members of the mixed doubles team. We had good competitive tennis, splitting the first two sets. It was good preparation for the coming travails in Arizona. Then, when we quit, I went to Yang's Chinese Restaurant and got lo mein and an egg roll to bring home to share with PP. Because she's the prairie princess.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sumac's Changing

The season's are beginning to change. The sumac at Swede Hollow are half way through the process and look conflicted. It was a cloudy morning and not so good for photography, but I had a hike through Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary and Swede Hollow to see what was up and about in the morning. There were eagles again, ruling the roost, but out of range of my walk around camera. They are impressive beasts, and I know where they hang around many mornings in the fall. There was also a shadowy figure that ran rapidly across my line of vision that was about the size of a badger, but looked too brown to be a badger. I didn't get a very good look or a photo, so I'm only guessing. And there was a guy walking his two pitbulls off leash, and they seemed more ominous than the wild things.

Eventually the clouds burned off or dried out and the day got warm and bright. I played a set of singles with my old Hamline nemesis, Rich, who is visiting from Tucson, and later a set or so with the Geezer Tennis Asssociation. It was one of the nicest September days in the history of September days. I managed to get another minor injury. This seems to be a broken blood vessel in my right big finger - an injury of overuse, I suspect. GOINFS. [growing old is not for sissies.]

Monday, September 14, 2009


In an otherwise forgotten conversation yesterday, PP told me proudly that in her four years spent at the institution of higher learning nearest the State Fairgrounds, she had not set foot on the football field. I know that I spent a few moments there at one time or another about forty years ago, before they went to the large scoreboard and artificial grass, but I had no photos to prove it. Since I had the day off from the tennis wars after five consecutive days of trying to beat some other senior gentlemen, and since the US Open final wasn't scheduled until 4:30, I went with my camera to my alma mater to seek out the football arena. It doesn't compare, really, with the new TCF field at the University of Minnesota, but it has a nice feel to it. They keep the artificial grass really green. This one's for you, PP.

And while I was in the neighborhood, I sought out the vegetable garden that PP helped organize last spring and one where I helped plant some squash plants. The time for harvest has arrived and I wanted to see if the garden was producing. The garden is located behind the Hamline Methodist Church, across the street from the Manor House dormitory, a dormitory that was old when I was there in the 60's. The garden is doing pretty well. A lot of tomatoes have been harvested, as has the summer squash, peppers and cukes. The corn has some ripe looking cobs that need picking, but I guess the harvesters have been picking veggies and donating most of them to charities and food shelves. PP said that she has taken part in the harvesting, and even cooked some of the summer squash a while back.

I think the name of the student organization is pretty cute - SPROUT.

I spent four and a half hours watching Juan Martin del Potro outlast Roger Federer in the US Open Championship this afternoon. My predictions for the men's and women's winners - Serena Williams and Roger Federer were wrong, but it was a very entertaining tournament. I was quite happy to see Kim Clijsters and del Potro win. There were some very entertaining runs and some very good tennis matches. The best shot of the whole tournament was the between the legs retrieval shot by Roger Federer in yesterday match with Novak Djokovic. The shot came in the last game of the match and Federer later said that it was the best shot of his career. I've played tennis since I was 10 years old and I've never even tried the shot. But. I love this game.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Serena Loses It

After my Sturday morning tennis adventure at Wooddale, I went over to the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary to see what PP was doing. She had invited me to drop by and see her at work restoring the prairie. Today, she and her Minnesota Conservation Corps (MCC) crew were gathering grass seeds for later use in seeding other prairie restorations. She has a crew of six high school age workers who are interested in nature and get paid to work on various projects. It was fun to see her at work and see some of the people that she has been working with. I guess they are required to wear the yellow hard hats. It was a hot, streamy day, and I'd already played three sets of tennis, so I didn't hang around long.

On my subsequent stroll in the sanctuary, I encountered these very red berries on a bush near a stream at the base of the tall cliff. I took a sample to PP and she said that she thinks they are high bush cranberries. I didn't taste them, but they did seem to be a miniature version of the Thanksgiving berries that we usually get out of their can shaped mold in November.

Today for me was the fourth of five straight days of tennis of one form or another. I must admit that I'm wearing down a bit and the quality of my play indicates that a day off is required. Maybe Monday. Today it was practice for the mixed nationals with Jerry and the hardcore girls. My side was dusted pretty well in the first two sets, but managed to win the meaningless third set. I was happy to get home for lunch and I hoped to see some of the US Open tournament going on sporadically between rain showers in New York. Rafa Nadal advanced to the semis this afternoon as he completed his quarterfinal by shutting out Gonzo Gonzalez in seven straight games.

The semi between Clijsters and Serena tonight ended oddly with Serena losing the last two points on a foot fault - double fault followed by a loss of a point for abusing a referee for the foot fault call. Unfortunately the point she lost was match point and it sent Serena to the lockers and Clijsters to the final against Wozniacki tomorrow 6-4, 7-5. The men's semis are also tomorrow. It should be a very good day of tennis action.

Unky Herb is spending the weekend in Chicago. I am hoping that he'll return with some of that tasty crab sushi from the Asian store there that he frequents. Delicious.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Nine, nine, nine

September 9, 2009 is Nine nine nine. It's just a numerology curiosity but worth noting. This orange colored bloom is not going to be around much longer. The trees are beginning to show fall colors and then comes autumn and winter. The seasons are changing. The tennis venue changes to indoors this week, and although there will be some more outdoors tennis ball smacking, the season is changing.

I played some doubles at Marie Paark on a sweltering humid afternoon. It was good tennis and good companions. We played two sets and called it a day, so that we could go home and watch the US Open. I was hoping for another victory for 17 year=old Melanie Oudin, but she lost in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2, to the Danish 19 year-old, Caroline Wozniacki in the quarterfinals. It was a good run and lots of fun to watch. Roger Federer then managed to hold on to beat the Swede, Robin Soderling, in four sets, the last two tiebreakers. And the doubles team of Venus and Serena have moved into the semifinals. A good tournament with several good match-ups to come.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cone Flowers and Ducks

The world has gone normal. School started everywhere in Minnesota today and most summer vacations have elapsed. The ducks on Lake Como were still around. In fact they arranged themselves in a row on a log and gave me one shot at getting a photo as I stumbled across their symmetry. Seven ducks all in a row. [No, Joe, them is trux.]

The flowers in the Enchanted Garden near the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory are in their prime. I have seen the cone flowers in many parts of St Paul, but the purple ones shown here are nameless to me. I probably should know their names. The cone flowers may not even be native to Minnesota, but they grow pretty well in the Como flowere garden that was designed to attract Monarch butterflies. The Conservatory was established in 1915, but was renamed for Majorie McNeely in 2002 after her family contributed about $7 million dollars to renovate and maintain the building.

The US Open continues in New York. Serena plays Kim Clijsters in the semis, probably to determine the championship. Nadal, Federer, and perhaps Djokavic are the probable favorites among the men.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Venus in Eclipse

I admit it. I went to the Fair, not once, but twice. It's an experience that I won't repeat this year, but it was, as the old Norwegians are wont to say, different. PP was working at the MCC booth by the DNR area, so I stopped and picked her up as her shift ended and we took this photo of her pretending to be an MCC employee in the photo cutout. She actually is an MCC employee and has, on several occasions, wielded a chain saw. So, other than the wooden-like stance, it could be a photo of her at work.

Then we toured around the fairgrounds. We ate some of the on-a-stick gastronomic delights(?), like the alligator and a pronto pup, visited the International Bazaar, and generally checked out the Minnesota people out in public and on display. I had a tour of the Poultry Barn while PP was working, and only later thought that I could have encountered the bird flu in that venue. But I wasn't alone. Apparently Garrison Keillor spent some time there this week, too. I was struck by the variety of chickens that people raise, some of which are quite attractive birds, yet when one buys chicken meat in stores there is no mention of the variety that one is buying. Apparently they are all the same, at least taste-wise.

The other must-go exhibit for me is the fine arts display. The range of art work is wide, but there are a lot of very talented artists in Minnesota that enter their work for ribbons and a chance to be displayed. I personally like the sculpture and the oil paintings.

I found the car parks in the Como area pretty interesting, as did Mr Moohoo on his blog. My next photo is of some one's second income source. The $15 rate for parking seems pretty excessive, but they are filling their yards and collecting their fees. It was and is possible to park free at Highway 94 and Snelling and catch the bus to the Fair, also for free. It's hard to knock the free enterprise system though.

Venus lost her match this afternoon to the resurgent Kim Clijsters at the US Open, 6-0, 0-6, 6-4. It was a very weird match with the two offsetting bagel sets, before a hard fought third set. Clijsters is returning to the game after having a baby girl. The only mother, that I can remember to ever win a grand slam event was the athletic Evonne Goolagong. Clijsters has a few obstacles to winning this one, including Serena, but she's in the quarter finals. It's all a pretty good show.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Spam Hot Dog

It was a no tennis day, but I spent most of the day on my feet. In the morning I visited Pike Island. It's a favorite spot for a long hike in forest conditions, and I'm almost always able to see some wildlife. I stopped along the way to check out the fort's vegetable gardens. They planted many of the same crops that would have been grown here by the soldiers when they were here in the early 1800's corn, squash, beans and sunflowers (I guess). The garden had several giant sunny's and this one was being visited by a bee when I took the picture. The corn is ready to harvest and the beans seem to be long done. The squash have a while to go yet.

I walked the three or so miles around the island. I encountered a large family of wild turkeys, maybe the same ones I saw in the spring. They weren't scared, but not sociable either. As I finished the walk, I stopped on the bridge that separates Pike Island from the mainland and took the next picture of the Mendota Bridge reflected on the river.

When I got home PP was finishing lunch - she had the day off. She suggested a trip to the Minnesota State Fair. We caught the free shuttle and got to the fair in mid afternoon. It was seniors' day, so my ticket was just six bucks, and the place was loaded with Minnesota's geezers. We mostly just took in the fine arts displays in the Fine Arts building and, of course, took in some calories "on a stick." PP had a spam hot dog, which wasn't half bad. I stuck to fresh squeezed lemonade and egg rolls. It was a nice day to stroll around the fairgrounds.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Split Timber One

I was up early enough to smack some tennis balls this morning at the new St Clair Avenue courts. I'm trying to be sure that my conditioning is good enough for a trip to Tucson. It was a beautiful September day (can it really be September already?). I guess I'll be ready for whatever happens. Curt and I hit for about an hour, mostly groundies and serves, then I came home for lunch. Three bean salad and tuna salad on 9-grain bread. Yum.

There is a surge of activity by Jerry's team to find the best hotel and airline prices for the unexpected expense of a trip to the mixed dubbs nationals. My GTA tennis buddy, Dr Bill, informs me that his trip to the nationals last year cost about a grand. Part of the reason is that there is an tourney entry fee, and there is a sponsoring hotel, which may or may not be offering "deals". There are, however, some pretty good prices for air tickets to Phoenix via Sun Country.

There is a fake water falls at Como Lake near the Black Bear Cafe. I was over at the park taking a circumnavigation of the lake and saw a photographer in action by the fake falls. It's an interesting location with action. I took the picture.

The US Open is still in action in New York. Andy Roddick and Venus have advanced to the second round. So did Roger Federer and Serena Williams. The upsets, if there are any, will come later.

"You lie, August. Split timber all over, no wonder, distemper." - Anon(?)