Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hat into the ring?

My sister sent me a web link to a fun and innovative video project. It revealed my brother-in-law's bid for the Highest Office in the Land. I was so inspired, I decided to join him in the race for president. Already, my campaign has garnered some news coverage.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Farewell, Mary Lee

Mary Lee Hostert and Lee Simon, July 2007

In the newsroom Tuesday afternoon, while pulling my print jobs off the printer, I shuffled through printouts colleagues had yet to retrieve.

A familiar name caught my eye. It carried the name Mary Lee Hostert, of Cascade, Iowa. It was the draft of an obituary. Even though Mary Lee was well into her senior years, I was stunned. The death notice mentioned a "brief illness." She was 81.

From the start of my project to research and write the Red Faber biography, Mary Lee was a tremendous and faithful supporter. Proud of her town's Hall of Famer, she very much wanted a book written about him, and she pledged that she would help as much as she could. She did. And then some.

In the introduction of my book, I discussed choosing Faber as my subject, after considering other candidates:

That decision was affirmed after I contacted the Tri-County Historical Society in Cascade, Iowa -- Faber's hometown, just 25 miles from my front door. The organization's small museum does not have regular hours -- or much heat -- in the winter. But on a bring but frigid January day, Mary Lee Hostert and Lee Simon unlocked the place and showed me around. The museum's Faber collection, like the player himself, is modest. But what impressed me was Mary Lee and Lee's pride in their hometown star and their pledge to help my project any way possible.

A slight, white-haired woman you'd love to have as your grandmother, Mary Lee carries out much of the historical society's work. She knows Cascade history -- the famous, the infamous and the notorious -- and refers to Faber on a first-name basis. The historical society board granted me complete access to its collection at virtually any time; Mary Lee would just meet me and unlock the place. Whenever Mary Lee came across mentions of Red or other members of the Faber family in the back issues of the Cascade Pioneer, she sent me photocopies. It didn't take long for me to realize that the Tri-County Historical Society was counting on me. I hope they feel I did not let them down.

I'll miss checking in with Mary Lee now and then, discussing the museum (which has significantly improved its Faber exhibit, due in large part to Lee Simon's dedication and persistence, with political support from Mary Lee), and feedback either of us had received about the book.

It is some consolation that Mary Lee lived to see the Faber biography published and the museum improved to pay proper recognition of Cascade's baseball legend. She wanted that very much.

I consider Mary Lee a Hall of Famer herself.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Master teacher

Friday evening, Madame X and I stopped at River Lights Second Edition bookstore for the book signing event for friend and running partner Dennis Healy. His book, "Becoming a Master Teacher," is a how-to guide for less-experienced teachers.

Healy has taught English at Dubuque Senior High School for 33 years (or more), and was recently honored as the Iowa Mentor of the Year. So he knows his stuff.

I'm not a teacher, but I sleep with one. And she says the book could do a lot of teachers a lot of good. They just need to read it.

After the signing, several of us went across Main Street to Salsa's for dinner. The rest of us walked, but this young lady got carried away. (Actually, she needed the help due to recent foot surgery.) A good time was had by all.

Congratulations, Dennis!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

St. Louis weekend

Madame X and I spent a chunk of the weekend in St. Louis, where we delivered our youngest son for his final year at St. Louis University. After saying our good-byes, we stayed in town and made a weekend of it after scoring a Sheraton hotel deal through Hotwire.

Nothing terribly exciting -- but here is my account.

Before that, however, we took our son and his roommate to lunch. They selected a new barbecue place, Pappy's Smokehouse, on Cardinal Street just off Olive Street. Informal and delicious.

We squeezed in a reservation for two at Dominic's Trattoria in suburban Clayton. This is Dominic Galati's second location, the original located on The Hill, St. Louis' famous Italian section. (The section is famous, not necessarily the people of Italian descent who live there. Though there have been some famous products of The Hill, including baseball stars Yogi Berra and Joe Gariaiola. Anyway ...)

It was a pleasant experience, at a leisurely pace. However, at least on this Saturday night the crowd was definitely older. Madame X and I were probably 20 years younger than the average patron. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Made me feel young.

Sunday morning we attended Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. It was our first visit. (Usually we go to Mass on the SLU campus.) Anyway, as it happened, the Mass was a special celebration honoring the cathedral's namesake, St. Louis. I learned that St. Louis was also King Louis of France. Construction on the cathedral started in 1907 and continued for the next 80 years. The mosaics adorning the interior are fantastic!

After walking all through the cathedral, we walked several blocks west and found the Coffee Cartel, where we have a light breakfast at a sidewalk table outside the shop. Little did we know that the place has a Web cam. Our table was in view. Good thing we behaved ourselves!

We could not put off the 300-mile drive back to Dubuque any longer, so we spend what was a beautiful Sunday afternoon behind the wheel. But we're home save and sound -- and the "nest" is a little emptier.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Greg at Pigman

Greg, our youngest, today competed in his first Half-Ironman Triathlon, the Pigman in Palo, Iowa.

The event consists of a 1.25-mile lake swim, 56-mile bike route and half-marathon (13.1 miles).

The conditions were tough -- no shade for the bike or run on a sunny day in the mid-80s -- but he survived.

An unusual incident in the event occurred when a motorist drove right up to the finish line and became irate when race officials demanded that he not damage their equipment (and become trapped) by driving through he finish line.

Shortly afterward, Greg arrived to cross the finish line. He finished in 5 hours, 47 minutes and 49 seconds, good for 154th out of 323 male finishers and eighth among the 16 finishers in the age 20-24 male division.

Congratulations, Greg!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Rite of summertime

For the umpteenth consecutive year, C.J. Chenier entertained in Dubuque for the "All that Jazz" summertime series.

The Zydeco star attracted a big crowd -- several thousand -- on a perfect evening weather-wise.

The "Jazz" atmosphere -- encountering and visiting with friends and acquaintances on the Main Street plaza -- makes it virtually impossible to take in every song of every set. Plus, we made an earlier-than-usual departure for dinner with friends. So I can't report whether Chenier played his cover version of my Chenier favorite, "Man Smart, Woman Smarter." Maybe next year.

I'm not sure how to post audio only, so I put the song behind a video-less video link below.
Photo: Alligator Records

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Rah Rah, Wah Wah

OK, I know it is not polite or appropriate to make light of another's misfortune. But I can't help myself here. Assuming that none of these mishaps produced a crippling injury or fatality, I decided to post this video from sporting events and cheerleading practices, etc.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Leadville scenes

As mentioned here, members of the Cooper family spent the better part of a week in Leadville, Colorado, a mining-tourism community about 100 miles from Denver. The highest-elevation city in North America (10,200 feet), Leadville stages its annual Boom Days celebration the first weekend of August.

Caution: It was a full week, and this video runs longer than most.

Friday, August 08, 2008

20 years ago tonight

Now playing:
Steve Goodman - Take Me Out to the Ballgame
via FoxyTunes

Today might be noted for the opening of the Summer Olympics in China, but 8-8 has other significance in sports.

It was 20 years ago tonight that the Chicago Cubs played their first night game at Wrigley Field.

Yes, on 8-8-88, the Cubs hosted the Phillies. As it turned out, the game started but did not reach Official Game status because of a downpour.

The installation of lights was a delicate and controversial issue at the time. Many Wrigley neighbors opposed lights, arguing that it would detract from the neighborhood. The State of Illinois even weighed in to preserve day baseball. A look at the renaissance of the area indicates how accurate that prediction was.

Here is a link to a chronology of the run-up to night games at Wrigley.

I well remember watching the first game on TV. When the rains came, some members of the Cubs -- starting catcher Jody Davis among them -- entertained the waiting fans by executing slides on the rain-slick tarp covering the infield. Management was none to pleased.

In observance of this 20th anniversary, the Cubs host the St. Louis Cardinals in -- no way, it's a day game today.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Do-it-yourself "race"

Leadville did not host a Boom Days 5k, as it had in previous years.

Two years ago, Madame X and I competed. Despite walking several times -- racing above 10,000 feet elevation is no picnic -- we fared well in our age groups. But it was a small event and, apparently, not popular enough to continue.

Disappointed but undaunted, we staged our own run one weekday morning last week. It wasn't 5k, we made up the route as we went along, and we avoided as many hills as we could, but we had a good time -- and drew a few curious looks along the way.

Though she had her own race number, Claire was a spectator, supervised by Aunt Ellen

For those of you in the betting pool, Greg outkicked Andy on the finishing hill to claim family honors.

Matt and the burro

Cooper Summer Vacation 2008 was to our favorite destination, Leadville, Colo. By my count, Madame X and I have been there five summers for sure (starting no later than 1990) and probably six and maybe seven. None of our four kids has made every trip. The town was just written up in The New York Times.

This was a special vacation, in that all four kids -- can I still call them that, even though all are 21 or older? -- plus both spouses and our granddaughter, made the trip, too. (Renting a vacation home instead of camping sweetened the deal.)

Leadville is also the home of the Koch family, where they serve the best pizza in the world at their restaurant High Mountain Pies.

We timed the vacation to coincide with Leadville's annual Boom Days weekend. The celebration included several heats of burro races, where anyone can step up to the line -- but watch where you step -- and run up and down a block of Harrison Avenue pulling a burro (0r vice versa).

My nephew Matthew appeared to be the youngest contestant in the races, accompanied by his dad, Tim. Incidentally, these races were just for fun.

Speaking of fun, we had plenty during our week in Leadville. More posts about vacation soon!