Friday, June 22, 2007

Packing


We have lived in our current home for four years.

It is amazing how little time four years seems when you’re over forty.

Remember high school? That took four years too.

Well for most of us anyway. But it seemed like a life time then.

My daughters are six and almost five years old now. This is really the only home they know. All that they really remember.

It’s too bad, because we have lived in some nice homes.

But we never owned those homes.

So while it seems like we just got here to Darlene and I, as we are packing, we find ourselves bombarded with memories of the girls that occurred here.

  • Starting daycare.
  • Riding the school bus.
  • Starting elementary school and the awards they have racked up.

My daughter Alannah has won the student of the month award two years in a row for being the most trustworthy in her class. This does not speak kindly of the trustworthiness of her classmates.

But we packed up her certificates anyways.

Ashley-Rae learned how to walk in this house. Then run. Then jump. Usually on the living room furniture.

We had to have the furniture cleaned.

They both really learned how to talk in this house.

Then they learned to talk back.

In the summer time we live in our backyard. It’s quite nice and rather private given our location. Both girls learned to ride their bikes in this yard. Alannah learned how without training wheels.

We made up our own version of kick-ball back here. Our rules are based on three or more players. Our scores are often 10 to 8 to 6. The pine tree is first – the fence along Mr. Bud’s garage is second base, and the crabapple tree is third.

Home plate is this big worn spot created after several years of intense kick-ball matches.

We don’t think we can play kick ball in the new house. But maybe we can.

There was the first Christmas here when Alannah was not yet three.

She woke up Christmas morning, and not having been given clear rules about Christmas presents, started unwrapping all the presents.

Luckily she came across Uncle Glennie’s box of chocolates, or she may have opened up absolutely everything.

When we realized what had happened and “sprang from our beds to see what was the matter” – there was Alannah – chocolate from ear to ear – and the living room piled with unwrapped paper.

We were mad … for about 45 seconds – until we realized it was our own fault. Christmas morning present etiquette is a learned skill and not inherent.

As I was downstairs this evening, Darlene was busy packing up behind the bar in the family room. Our bar has a lot of great little knick-knacks – bar stuff.

  • Coasters and mugs, and posters.
  • Bowling trophies for champions and skunks.
  • Irish Guinness memorabilia.
  • And dart boards and equipment.

Our new house doesn’t have a bar – not yet anyways. So this stuff will likely be packed up until we build a new one.

Darlene found my box of photographs. It’s a small box. There are probably about two hundred or so photos in there. Usually photos that people have given me from their duplicates.

There I stood in one picture, all thin and muscular. And my hair was still brown.

I looked in the mirror.

“What happened to that guy?

There were pictures of the kids in our family that are now all grown up. Pictures of Becky and Ben, Reid and Cole, Corrine. Now they are all adults or in their late teens. And it is amazing how much Corrine and Becky resemble each other.

Good thing they are good looking.

There were pictures of Dad, Uncle Fred, Aunt Sheila, and Uncle Herb. All are gone now. Together someplace else. But in this picture they are still with me.

I looked out the window in the yard. It was full of birds. Some were looking in.

I think those guys know we’re moving too.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

My Dad

I don't have a digital picture of my Dad.

I doubt that I have even 5 old-fashioned pictures of him.

We just were not "picture people".

It's too bad because today I would like to have opened this entry with his picture.

My Dad was Raymond Allen Brill.

Ray was a masterful salesman. A professional presenter of material, and probably the best mentor, teacher, coach, and as inspirational as a boy could possibly have for a Dad.

Born in London, Ontario in 1932, Dad and my Uncle Fred were brothers. They played baseball and hockey. They loved both, but they will admit they loved baseball more. Dad would draw pictures of himself stretching full out at second base to make that diving catch.

Yeah, they were Detroit Tiger fans.

He would tell me stories of growing up playing ball, and drinking beer in the hotels. And how good that beer would taste after a hot ball game. He talked of those days so passionately that those stories are primary reasons why I would later move to London myself, play ball in those same leagues, and drink ice cold beer after at those same hotels.

I only saw my Dad drink the odd beer. And it usually caused him severe stomach pain afterwards. But you could see he appreciated it when he did.

Dad worked very hard with my brother Paul and I, teaching us to throw behind the ear, charge the ball to field it on the short hop, and lift the elbow to hit consistent line drives. We could be on our way anywhere, dressed any way appropriate for our destination, but if Dad spotted an empty ball field he pulled over. The equipment bag forever in our trunk, we took infield and batting practice, Mom playing first or outfield shagging fly balls.

We loved it so much. We never fought or bickered playing ball. It's just what we did.

Dad was also a sailor. A self taught sailor. We learned together as a family and those memories are as special as any other. We started with a tiny little 13 foot Sunfish. Advanced to bigger waters in a 17 foot Viking which we sailed on the lakes of Michigan and docked in Mitten Bay. Moving to Minnesota when Dad climbed the ladder with 3M, Dad bought a Coronado 23. We would sail on week long adventures, taking our floating camper to different corners of Lake Peppin - the mouth of the mighty Mississippi - tossing out anchors - swimming and camping on the boat.

Dads' biggest dream was that we lived where it was always warm.

In 1975, 3M gave my Dad three options to move as a regional sales manager:
  • London, Ontario
  • San Diego California
  • Atlanta, Georgia
Having just lost both his own Mum and my Mother's Mum a couple years earlier, Dad entertained moving back to Canada. But during a trip mixed with a family reunion, he realized it would not be the place he wanted to live - he wanted us to live.

Why Dad chose Atlanta over San Diego, I may never know. Most likely Atlanta was still within travel distance to come back to Windsor and London. I often wonder how different I would have been as a surfer dude from the coast beaches. I still have a slight southern trace about me in my manner - and I wonder which would have been better - good ol' boy or surfer Dude.

In Atlanta, Dad found my Brother Paul's interest in Tennis. He helped Paul rise to the Top ten juniors in Georgia, and the Top 5 in Louisiana. Tennis was big back then, and Paul had this natural ability to just beat the crap out of most anybody.

When Paul was a freshman at our high school - Berkmar - he was of course on the Tennis Team. He played in the county finals against a senior who had won last year. This kid expected to walk all over Paul - because Paul was little. But this kid had no business being on the same court as my brother.

Paul wore a horrible plaid pair of golf shorts, and a different pattern plaid shirt. He didn't take the match very seriously. At the beginning of the match, the kid was condescending to Paul. After Paul took the first set 6 - Love, the condescension turned to outrage. The kid complained about every call, and Paul just rolled his eyes and laughed at the kid. Paul won that match 6-love, 6-love, 6-love. He had to be escorted off the court because the kid kept trying to get at him to beat him up.

And my Dad watched as proud as any Dad could be.

But my Dad also loved smoking. And in the end, it was that love that proved to be fatal. He survived with emphysema after having pretty much half his internal organs removed for Cancer in 1983. He lived with my Mom in the same apartment my Mom is in now from 1984 to when he died in September of 1990.

It has been 17 years now. And I miss him.

There was a wealth of knowledge there to tap, that I did not tap.

I don't know what he would think of my life choices to now. Maybe he would have talked me into taking those jobs at Apple and IBM. Maybe he would be upset that I chose to live in Windsor again, after he worked so hard to leave.

But one thing I know. He would have loved my wife. And he would have cherished my two little girls.

I can see him there with Alannah now, positioning her leg, lifting her elbow, telling her to watch the ball all the way to her bat. "Atta-girl" he would say as she smashed the ball against the fence on the other side of the yard.

"Atta-Girl".

Happy Fathers Day

Friday, June 15, 2007

Special Tiger Moments Keep Stacking Up

By now you have most likely heard that Detroit’s Justin Verlander pitched a No Hitter Tuesday, June 12, 2007. Below is a recap of the game showing this amazing feat.



The game was not on Windsor Cable - unless you cough up the big bucks for the MLB package.

So - like every night, I was sitting in the back yard listening to the ball game - and it started to get special as early as the 4th.

Dan Dickerson and Jim Price painted that game so beautifully for me, I could see the wicked slider, and imagined the Infante - Polanco - Casey double-play. When I saw the replay it was exactly how I imagined it. It's in the video clip I embedded above.

But the most amazing thing was how they conveyed the importance of the moment - what was really happening - without saying it.

".. and the boxes all have zeros for Millwaukee!"

They never even came close to crossing the jinx line.

That was soooo great.

What made it more incredible was the fact he threw a fastball to the first batter in the first inning around 103 MPH. That’s as fast as most any man can throw. He threw a fastball 102 MPH to the last batter in the 9th inning – some 110 pitches later.

That’s an amazing feat.

And he did it in our own yard.

Since Comerica Park assumed the role once that of Tigers / Briggs stadium seven years ago, it has seen

  • The worst record in baseball – 117 losses in one season
  • The 2005 All Star Game
  • The 2006 World Series
  • And now Justin Verlander’s No Hitter.

I told you earlier that Comerica Park was very special to Darlene and I. I believe now that Comerica Park has seen enough new history to be important to all Detroit Tiger Fans.

I also told you earlier how Willie Horton signed my daughters baseball card. He also signed his own card for Darlene. Mr. Horton is immortalized by one of 4 huge bronze statues in Comerica's center field

And this season I have been lucky to exchange comments and opinions with Detroit's best baseball columnist Pat Caputo - although I probably stay at a higher and lighter level than he would like.

I really feel close to this team - to this season. Any closer and I would be opening beers and lighting Marlborough's for Jim Leyland in the back yard.

But our Tiger's have an Achilles Heel this year. Their bullpen has let us down more times than it has helped us for sure. Our record could be at least 5 games better right now if our bullpen could have held the lead the starters left the game with. I will let "The Book" explain it best. I posted my comments on his comments page.

Let's see how the All Star Game goes for the Tigers. Leyland will be the manager for the AL side, with Justin Verlander starting, and Maglio Ordonez starting in right. And who knows who else might show up.

Or not show up. It may be that Barry Bonds does not even go to the All Star game the very season he is to break Hank Aaron's homer record. Is that justice or injustice - an interesting debate?

Well, back to the basement to do more packing.


Saturday, June 09, 2007

Listing the Unlisted

Oh man, are we getting excited.

Three weeks till we take possession of our new house.

Lots to set up – some of it has already been done. Some still has yet to be done.

The packing? Still needs to be done.

In our current home we have two phone lines – one for our residential phone, and one that I was told by my office that I needed to have at home. This second phone line has two numbers – and office voice number, and FAX number with a distinctive ring, When you dial the FAX number – the FAX picks up. When you dial the office number, you get my home-office voice line. The DSL internet also comes in on this line.

So now I have two phone lines – with three phone numbers – and DSL. It adds up.

There is another problem as well. We have always kept our home number unlisted. The best way to avoid telemarketers is to un-list your phone number.

I have never gotten a call that I wanted because somebody found my name in the phone book.

[RRRRRIIIIIINNNNNNNGGGGG]

“Mr. Brill?”, boy am I glad I found your name in the phone book! I have been trying to find somebody to give all this money to!”

I never get that call.


[RRRRRIIIIIINNNNNNNGGGGG]

Fred? … “How ya doing?!! It’s me, Robbie, Your best friend from high school!”

“Robbie? .. wow! .. how did you find me?”

“I’m in town for a plumber’s convention at the Windsor Casino! I was just looking through the Windsor phone book seeing if there was anybody in town here I knew! And I found you! Boy am I glad your name starts with ‘B’!”

I never get that call either.

I do get calls from every charitable organization going. And I am rotten at saying no. The company I work for actually strongly promotes charitable contributions and will match them. I do most of that through my office.

I do not want them to call me at home.

But they do.

The company gave me a real hassle for having the unlisted number. No, they didn’t tell me not to have it. They just questioned every expense report because the bill listed the unlisted charge, even though I didn’t list the listed unlisted charge on my list of expense on my report.

Are you still with me?

It got confusing. So I dropped the service to not list it.

It is amazing how much some companies will charge to not do something.

Everyone I know knows not to call my home-office line. I won’t answer it. Call me on my cell instead. It plays Classic Rock and Johnny Cash when it rings.

So my home office de-un-listed phone rings all the time but I don’t answer it.

You’d be excited to move to!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Mr. Grizzard and Mr. Caputo

As June arrives in Windsor in muggy summer fashion, I sit in my backyard listening to the Tigers game from Arlington, Texas. Tonight we are up 5 - nothing in the top of the fifth.

I'm tapping this into my little PDA. I hope this works.

Ask anyone who knows me, and they will tell you I am a sports freak. I love my baseball, my golf, hockey, and basketball. If the Lions didn't stink so bad, I might go back to loving football too.

Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I actually think I know what I am talking about.

I am right more often than not. That puts me somewhere between 51% and 99% accurate. I can live with those margins.

When I was in university in Georgia, I used to read a sports columnist in the Atlanta Journal Constitution named Lewis Grizzard.

Although he was a sports columnist, he was more of a general humorist. I would buy the whole paper just to read his column. I loved the guy so much that I switched my major to be a journalism major and a poli-sci minor.

Why political science?

It seemed to me that joking about politicians would be funnier than sports. Perhaps - but sports are much more "real". And politicians are too easy to make fun of.

Mr. Grizzard died some time ago. Some would say his lifestyle kIlled him.

I write this blog in the memory of Mr. Grizzard.

I even try to emulate his style.

In Detroit, the best sports columnist is Pat Caputo. He writes for the Oakland Press and has a radio show -The Book on Sports - on 1270 AM.

I have a link to his blog site 'Open Book' on the left sidebar. I post comments quite often to his blog - pretending to be a knowledgeable sports fan, and Pat is very generous in his replies.

In one post, I was actually referred to as one of the great Canadians. Unfortunately he was kidding.

But I am enjoying this blog very much. To all who have been reading, thank you. I will try to do a better and more consistent job.

Below is a Lewis Grizzard Column from the Spring of 1992 - after his beloved Atlanta Braves lost the 1991 World Series to the Minnesota Twins. This is pure Grizzard:

The Boys Of Summer Go Under The Dome
Lewis Grizzard

Baseball season came to a rather rotten end for me in 1991. There I was in Minneapolis's house of horrors, the Metrodome, covering the seventh game of the World Series between Atlanta's Braves (with apologies to the Portland Oregonian) and the Minnesota Twins, a nickname a clever person said was insensitive to couples who couldn't have children.

Around the fifth inning, with no score in the game, the ribbon on my typewriter, which was manufactured sometime around the turn of the century, suddenly wouldn't advance. I couldn't make letters and words appear on the white paper in front of me.

I fiddled with the problem for six more outs and was nearing a panic stage. What if I couldn't figure out a way to free the ribbon?

The game would end and I would have to write my column longhand and I hadn't written anything in longhand since my last essay-type test in college.

And who could I get to help me with the ribbon? Everybody else in the press box was writing on a Star Wars computer. Who would remember about typewriter ribbons?

By the grace of God, I finally hit the right lever inside my typewriter and the ribbon started moving again.

Then the Braves lost 1-0 because Lonnie Smith went brain dead on the base path.

I finished my column and left the Metrodome. Outside, Twins fans were celebrating by doing such things as climbing onto the tops of buses.

I had hired a car and driver to take me back to my hotel.

Some kids had asked my driver for whom he was waiting.

"Some guy from Atlanta," he told them.

When I arrived at the car the kids began heckling me.

"We beat your [bad word]!" one screamed.

"Go home, you redneck!" screamed another.

Once I was inside the car and had locked my doors, they banged on the windows and roof and one of the Norse waifs pressed his nose and mouth on one of the windows.

As I recall the incident now, I think he looked a little like Paul Tsongas.

When I finally reached my hotel, shaken but unscathed, the bar was closed.

I made a mental note that Minnesota calling itself the gopher state was an insult to gophers, and went to sleep.

It is difficult for me to believe the 1992 baseball season is upon us so quickly.

Wasn't the nightmare in Minneapolis just yesterday?

Indeed not. The 1992 Atlanta Braves, defending National League champions, are about to open their season, and many questions arise.

I will attempt to answer some of them:

Can the Braves repeat as National League champions?

Sure.

You really think so?

If you really must know, I'm extremely concerned about Cincinnati.

What can we expect of David Justice this season?

A lot of pouting when things don't go his way.

Does the team have a drug problem?

Well, they were drug all over the field during spring training but you can't really go by that.

Will the chop come back?

Was Custer surprised at little Big Horn?

Will Jane and Ted have a successful marriage?

Who do I look like, Dear Abby? Let's stick to baseball.

What part of the Braves do you think will be the most improved?

Their bank accounts.

What would you like to see out of Lonnie Smith this season?

An apology.

If the Braves get to the World Series and have to play the Twins again, would you go back to Minneapolis?

If I can take along a typewriter technician, and my own bat.




http://www.lewisgrizzard.com/


Monday, June 04, 2007

You Tubin? Me Too.

Today the girls and I are sick and staying home. It’s the messy kind of sick that makes you sick to see it. They need some cheering up.

So the girls are home from school, and I am home from work. Well, kind of home, I am really supposed to be logged into the office taking care of a couple of things today. I am hoping writing this post helps get the blood moving.

Every Monday morning, I check out Pat Caputo’s blog on his site (see link on the left sidebar). Today he points us to one of these ultimate fighting bouts – featuring the debut of a former Detroit Lion 1st round draft pick in 1994 – Johnnie Morton. Another great player the Lions smothered all the greatness out of.

Johnnie was not so great in this fight. He got knocked out like a guy blindly walking into a wrecking ball.

But afterwards, I did some looking around on You-Tube. I would be what one might call, a You-Tube Newbie.

I spent well over an hour surfing TV. Literally. I started with the fight, which took me to Steve Martin (Morton to Martin), and watched Wild and Crazy Guy stuff , then found old Rowen and Martin Laugh-In skits, then Smothers Brothers clips. Steve Martin used to write for them.

It was great.

But I couldn’t lay on my couch and watch – which in this condition was very desirable. Instead I sat here at my home office desk watching my 19” flat screen monitor – faded and streamed in not-so-clear format. But it was hilarious just the same.

Will this take over from conventional TV? That is the prediction.

But the link of the couch and the potato still has to be made. The lazy person flopped on the couch effortlessly watching … what ever is on.

The missing link is the "Lazy". Take away the Lazy, and you lose the potato. Take away the potato, and you lose the couch.

The PC I have at home does have a TV card in it, Windows Media Centre, remote control and hooked into our 42” (non HD) TV. But you have to really work if your not watching TV or a DVD or listening to music. You-Tube is not remote-control-friendly.

And if you can’t use your remote – then it’s not couch friendly.

Yes, I have a wireless mouse and keyboard. But has anyone ever really enjoyed sitting on a couch with a keyboard typing into a TV 10 feet away?

It just seems like work. Not good old fashioned couch-time.

So will You-Tube take over from TV? Not yet. Not yet in my house.

But it certainly will take away from the TV. The audiences are now significantly lower for the big three networks. Cable and the Internet are interfering with their god-given-corporate-monopolistic rights to at least 33% of the viewing audience.

I have moved a bunch of our old VHS home movies now to DVD. Why? So we can watch them on TV. All together. All sitting together and focusing on the same thing.

Get everybody in your house together right now. When they are with you here, click the play button. This is Ashley and Alannah’s favorite video right now. While you watch it – imagine my 4 and 6 year olds dancing all crazy:

Everybody enjoyed it right? But I bet you all wished it would have been on the TV.

But maybe I just bridged the generation gap?




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