Thursday, April 28, 2011

Albion Baseball

It was a cold, overcast day for most of the day. About 6:30 p.m. the blue sky chased the clouds off to the east and the sun came out. That's a good omen for tomorrow, but didn't help today's photo any at all.

This afternoon after my day's errands were accomplished I took a walk of a couple of miles up to Grand and Lex, then east to Dale, followed by a loop around Linwood Park. It was afternoon and the kids were out of school for the day. I hadn't seen any teams practicing in the last weeks, but today there was a baseball game in progress. More accurately slow pitch softball (maybe fast pitch, but the pitches were slow and loopy.) This was amateur kids' ball and they were having fun, plus they had spectators - grandparents and tiger moms were out in force. They even had t-shirts as team uniforms. I watched a while then continued the journey.

I spent a little time organizing some of my books today. It's a retired person's task. I have books left from about 50 years of sampling this and that. I stumbled onto some old books of prose and poetry by Richard Brautigan, a hippie-ish guy who lived in San Francisco when he was still living. I found "The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster" and in it one of my favorite poems - one that makes me laugh out loud and at least smile broadly whenever I read it, "Albion Breakfast."

And I quote:

"Albion Breakfast"
For Susan

Last night (here) a long pretty girl
asked me to write a poem about Albion,
so she could put it in a black folder
that has albion printed nicely
in white on the cover.

I said yes. She's at the store now
getting something for breakfast.
I'll surprise her with this poem
when she gets back.

The Prairie Princess used this poem one time for a high school class when the instructor asked them to bring an amusing poem to class. I think it made her smirk a bit, too.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Late Spring

It rained the whole day. The total for the last 24 hours was about 1.35 inches, which, if the weather creatures on MPR are to be believed, sets a record for rainfall for all April 26's on record.  A cruel day in the cruelest month.

And yes, it is a very late spring. To illustrate I'm including a photo from Sunday at the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis and also calling up a photo from April 26, 2010, a year ago today. There is a noticeable lack of green leaves on the trees this year. Maybe the all day rain will change that soon, but the forecast for tomorrow morning mentions slush. Slush!

This is Harriet Island in 2010 from a perch next to the Smith Avenue High Bridge. Now that's what spring is supposed to produce from cooperative trees.

No tennis today.  I stayed inside and began to brush up on my French language skills.  They've been rusty for a good many years, but I'd like to get the pronunciation of chocolate eclair down so that I don't look like a fool at the boulangerie the next time I visit the city of lights.

Inside tennis tomorrow at Fort Snelling, it appears.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Birds and outdoor tennis

I'm still learning how to use my new camera. It was a nice day - real nice, by recent standards - and a Monday to boot. Mondays are nice because there aren't as many people out, and I feel less inhibited about where and when to snap photos. So about noon I went to Harriet Island to assess the recession of the flood and to try to learn more about the camera. As to the flood - the water is down and most of Harriet Island is again above water. A few puddles remain, but there is river mud everywhere. The city employees present were shoveling the mud off the sidewalks and power washing the surfaces. Soon it will be back to normal, ready for the Taste of Minnesota (which, incidentally will not be returning to Harriet Island this summer. Something about unpaid bills) fireworks.

There were some geese milling around. I took some photos with the telephoto to judge photo quality and whether my eye was up to using this equipment. So far, I think I can handle it.

When I got home I noticed a cardinal in the back yard. I've tried to get pictures of them before, but they are a shy breed and fly away whenever I get within camera range. The telephoto lens got me a little closer.

And then this afternoon became my first outdoor tennis day since February in Florida. The gang of geezers and I decided that Marie Court was a better fit for our games than the Fort Snelling bubble. We swept the winter's dirt off the courts before we started. It looked like top soil from South Dakota - black and rich. Then we played a couple of sets in the wind and sun, and thanked our lucky stars for a nice enough day to do it, at last. I guess it was about 65 degrees. Nice.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Kind of a nice Sunday

It was Sunday and also Easter. You'd think that there might be some lilies blooming somewhere outside on a Sunday this deep into April. I went to see what I could find. I haven't been to the Stone Arch Bridge in a while, so I drove there and spent the afternoon looking at the river and seeing what was going on. The first photo is the Stone Arch Bridge from an angle not often seen.

A wide shot of St Anthony Falls from just above the falls as the Mississippi roars over the edge.  Minneapolis' west bank is in the distance.

These aren't lilies, but crocuses. The crocuses in my yard are past prime, but these, on the shore of the Mississippi, are freshly emerged and looking good.

There were also a lot of people and water birds strolling around, enjoying the warm afternoon. These mallards were very tame and I was able to get close to them and got a pretty good photo.

No tennis today, but it would have been a good day to play outside. I was tired enough from last week's action to put off the outside play until next week. There will be more days like this and some better as we progress towards the summer solstice.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Spring continues to be reluctant. I should be happy that the snow drifts are gone, but I yearn for 70 degrees and the sound of outdoor activities, and the opportunity to wear those new shorts that I bought in Florida in February.

I played indoor tennis at Wooddale this morning. The original foursome has dwindled to two and we play with subs every week. Jerry has a herniated disk and Pat has some other long existing and recurrent back problem. Bob and I remain and we played the new guys to a virtual draw this morning, 6-2, 4-6, 3-4 when we ran out of time. Our permanent court time ends next weekend, so it'll be outside all the time after that. Jerry is getting a cortisone shot in his back, and hopes to return in a couple of weeks.

Unky Herb was doing some P90X exercise this afternoon and I needed content for the blog. He was dressed in a unique way as he beat the pulp out of the air in front of him. It's keeping him fit while he continues his daytime desk jockey job.

The Prairie Princess seems to like her new job in Wisconsin. We iChat-ed this evening for an hour or so. She's five hours away, so she's not likely to visit much this spring, but technology seems to fill the gap. She's been participating in dry vegetation burns and doing some chain sawing. And living in a small town.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Another snow day

Sure enough, it snowed over night. It has all melted, of course, but it was a dark day and a little too chilly for much outside fun. I took a few photos of the morning snow, just to record the white cover to the bushes.

The snow didn't interfere with the indoor tennis schedule at Fort Snelling this afternoon. The extra courts are being used by high school tennis teams getting ready for the spring season. On the court next to us the boys from Highland Park were hitting the ball around. They had too many players for the court (more that 4), so they were engaged in drills directed by their coach. We played on an end court, so weren't disturbed by their activity, but it was nice to see the young guys out hitting some tennis balls.

The geezer guys and I played two sets and a tie breaker in 90 minutes. Good exercise and good competitive points.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Possibly Tulips

Walking is pretty good exercise. It's also nice to have a mission. I thought I could find some colorful outdoors flowers. The place to look is in the parks and people's flower gardens. There have been crocuses and glory in the snows, but I think I stumbled across actually blooming tulips. I'm not completely sure because the shape of the bloom seems wrong, but the leaves, and the season of the year seem right on. These were sprouting in the butterfly garden at Como Park. They were pretty enough for a picture.

Most of Minnesota is waiting for the next snow fall, predicted for tomorrow, that may make this year very near the snowiest ever - or at least since European-Americans arrived and started to measure and record snowfall amounts. It's hard to get too excited by spring, when it keeps on snowing.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The cruelest month - April

As expected, yesterday's snow disappeared. Today, although a trifle brisk, had sunshine and a hint of optimism. Unky Herb was around and we did some yard cleanup. I'm always a little nervous about messing with the Prairie Princess' garden when she's not around, because it's mainly native grasses and I'm not sure how she wants them to be treated. But we picked up some of last year's grass and bagged it for the recycled grass site. It was pretty low key clean-up. I had a close-up look at the rabbit damaged lilac bush. I'm convinced it will survive, but it has been cut back by the once hungry hares. It is beginning to bud. Nature is pretty much in control in the back yard, however.

UH and I took a walk to Linwood Park, then down to the tennis court (then not being used - too cold), up the long steps, then to Grand Avenue and home. On the way I caught Herb taking an artsy photo along one of the tall stone walls lining St. Clair Avenue.

There is some more weather coming this way next week. One site predicts three inches of the lovely white stuff for Tuesday night into the morning. April is indeed a cruel month.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Snow, again?

Winter refuses to give up its grasp. Another coating of slushy white stuff came over night and changed the prevailing color of the landscape to white. It was enough, I think, to make this the fourth snowiest winter on record here in the Saintly City. This was the view out my front door at about 7:45 am. Judicious use of the new camera.

Despite the snow, I was able to hit some tennis balls. Indoor tennis facilities are necessary here if one wants to be sure of a playable venue. The Saturday doubles competitors split sets this morning and we had to quit at 5-5 in the third. A reasonable score for Saturday morning.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Some ducks being ducky

The ducks are back for the summer, although in truth, many spent the winter here. I saw a whole herd of them at Carver's Cave at Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary in the dead of winter. I guess all they need is some open water and some accessible food. In this case these mallards are pairing up and probably will be leading a pack of little ducklings around in a month or so. I'll keep an eye out for them.

The Prairie Princess blogged today and announced that she has been accepted to the Norwegian graduate school that she applied to for the second time a few months ago. She was accepted the first time last year, but decided not to go this past year, but it looks like this time will be different. She starts sometime in August.  I sense that I'll be traveling to Norway sometime in the next year. In fact I made some sort of promise to that effect. Read about her new situation in her blog - Daughter of Norway.  She also has some photos from her new town in Wisconsin.

There was tennis on the agenda again today.  Jerry, a regular on Thursday and Saturday, was back tonight from a back injury that he suffered a couple of weeks ago, an injury caused by attempting to move a TV set that was heavier than it looked.  It looks like he'll have to play himself back into shape, but at least he's back.  We managed to finish a couple of sets tonight and except for one moment when the wincing was out of control, no one was injured ... or re-injured.

Snow is predicted for tomorrow night.  Winter refuses to go away quietly.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

One thousand games

This morning before the Wednesday afternoon tennis struggle, I went to look at the Mississippi and how the flood of 2011 was progressing. It's past its crest, but still running well above its normal summer time water level.

This is a view of the Mississippi flood plain from the West Side of St Paul in the Cherokee Park neighborhood. The well named Water Street runs between the Mississippi River on the right and Pickerel Lake on the left.  They merge at about where the electric lines stand, at Water Street. Water Street is under water. And closed to traffic.

The difficulty in keeping statistics is that sometimes you have to sum them up and see what they tell you. I've been logging my tennis games and sets since the first of the year, and now with three months worth of statistics, I had a look and crunched some numbers. According to the log, I have, as of today, played 1000 games of tennis in 2011. In the first quarter, I played 85 complete sets and 31 partials - a total of 923 games, or about 8 games per set or partial set. Most of this is pretty meaningless, but it keeps me entertained and that's a good thing. But that's a lot of tennis.

The geezers and I played most of two sets today at Fort Snelling, then Dennis H. had to leave early to umpire a college team tennis match at Hamline. Since I used to play there in the 60's, I went over to watch some of the action. The Pipers were playing St Johns, and they seemed to be doing ok. It's hard to know who's winning a team match without a scorecard or access to a member of the coaching staff, so I don't know who won, but the guys on the court knew what they were doing and I'm pretty sure they could beat an old guy like me without much trouble. But 46 years ago was the last time Hamline won the conference title, and I was on that team. Since then the Gusties have won about 98% of the tennis conference titles - a not insignificant streak.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Another nice day. I bought a new camera and had to test it out. Naturally I wanted to get a photo of something green and growing. And not slimy.  The chives in my back yard sufficed, but now I have this really long learning curve to figure out the intricacies of this box of technological miracles. But, it seems to take pretty good photos.

No tennis today, but tomorrow is another struggle with the other geezer guys. I think we may be playing outside next week, if the threatened snow storm fails to live up to the hype. I have seen some outdoor tennis ball smacking going on, so I'm sure I'll be out there soon, too.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Early to mid April, waiting for the taxman

The person who knows about prairie burns has left town, but today I discovered that the city recently did a spring burn on their native plants area at Como Lake. Burns are supposed to discourage the invasives and encourage the natives. It was a really nice day to circle the lake and observe nature coming back to life. There were birds about, mallards and even a pair of wood ducks swimming about enjoying the sunshine. There were even quite a number of those human creatures taking in one of the nicest day in about six months. The weather guys are cooking up a snow event for the weekend, but as we know, snow this time of year is an empty threat and doesn't need to be shoveled.

The trees are budding here on the tundra. These are future leaves springing from the branches of a maple tree.

Hurray for April.  Except for that tax thing.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Old Tennis Players

One of my team mates, Bruce McK. from the 1964 Hamline tennis team is trying to get our old coach into Hamline's athletic hall of fame. As a result of his activities rounding up the old players and getting the necessary documentation, I had the occasion to go look at the yearbook from 1964 and a chance to remember some times nearly forgotten. The coach was Doc Lewis, the Hamline librarian, and an all around good guy. He was instrumental in getting me to attend Hamline, and helped get me some financial aid, without which I couldn't have attended a private college, even in the cheap old days. As I recall, a year's tuition and books, plus a room in the dorm, was $700 for my freshman year. Times have changed a lot. Doc Lewis' teams won conference championships for three of the four years that I was at Hamline. Since those years, nearly every subsequent tennis championship has been taken by Gustavus. Doc Lewis died on April 1st of this year in Red Wing, Minnesota.

Doc is the guy in the suit.  I'm in the back row between Charlie Huss and Bruce McKinnon.  John Wirtanen is in the back row at the far left.  Rich Stebbins, my long time tennis playing doubles partner and singles competitor is in the front row on the right.   He carried me to some nice doubles wins that year (1964), for which I am grateful.

It was the first day in the 70's of the year, and it was a surprise to me.  I was able to be outside and be comfortable without a jacket.  The prairie princess left today for her new job, halfway to Michigan.  She crammed her auto with the necessary items and drove.   It's going to be a lot quieter here without her.

There will be outside tennis soon for me.  I saw a family hitting balls back and forth at the Linwood courts this afternoon while I was out walking with PP's bro.  Spring has returned to the tundra.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


After my Saturday morning tennis outing, the Prairie Princess, Unky Herb and I went out for lunch of dim sum at the Mandarin Kitchen. The food is very Chinese and very tasty, served in the classical Chinese manner. We ate a bunch of stuff that tasted good, but I often was unaware of the ingredients within.

It's difficult to believe that these young adults are as old as they are, but time charges on.

PP is on her way to her new job tomorrow and life will make another change in direction. Life is like that.

April, the cruelest month, has been pretty tame thus far. The snow is nearly all gone, except for a few places where it was piled up by the plows after some of the big snow dumps of the winter. I guess it may rain today, and perhaps even hail. Spring is finally here.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Kayaking on the Creek

It was a nice day in April, perhaps the nicest day of this almost middle-aged year.  I played some tennis and generally enjoyed the sun beating down on the remaining clumps of snow.

Yesterday I witnessed a new thing for me.  The Prairie Princess and I went to have a walk by the falls to see how the ice was melting and perhaps to see if Prairie Restorations was still cutting down buck thorn and other assorted invasive species of trees.  While we were standing around talking to one of the Prairie Restoration fire tenders, two guys in wet suits came up along the banks of the creek with their kayaks and made signs like they were going to get into the raging waters with their kayaks just below the falls.  So we watched and I took a few photos to show my loyal readers.

The first guy buttoned up his wet suit and started down the creek, past the pile of burning tree parts from the invasive trees.

And then the other kayaker in the orange craft left shore and sped down under the bridge I was standing on, beginning the journey to the swollen Mississippi, about a half mile down the creek.  Notice that the ice is still hanging from the cliff next to the falls. The water was, and is, still quite chilly.

As far as I know, both sportsmen made the trip successfully.  I didn't see them again the rest of my time in the park, and we walked all the way to the spot where the big river was backed up into the creek, where we couldn't walk any further on dry land.

The creek, seen below, is full of water and over its banks all the way to the Mississippi.  It was a nice day and there were a lot of walking citizens taking in the breezes.  There is still a noticeable lack of green vegetation, just a few brave sedges.

It's been birthday week in the TT residence.  Unky Herb's was the 5th, and the Prairie Princess' will be on Sunday.   As seen and mentioned elsewhere on the inner tubes, PP is moving halfway to Holland and taking her Bianchi with her.  She'll be working, saving the prairie somewhere south of Madison.