Friday, June 11, 2004

It’s been a busy week. Work was once again very busy with all the new requirements as we had our first month-end close in the post-merger world. I think things went pretty well, and it can only get easier as we get used to the new stuff.

Our trip to Cooperstown was great. Much of Saturday, of course, was spent at the Hall of Fame. The museum is under extensive reconstruction this summer. Many of the exhibits were moved around to new locations, and some weren’t open. The Hall itself was, of course. I thought a good addition there were these badges they put under the plaques of each player who had served in the Armed Forces, indicating which conflict they had served in. I thought it was a nice touch to recognize these players for their service, especially since many of them gave up significant portions of their careers to serve their country.

One new part of the museum that was finished was the World Series room. It looked terrific, and if the rest of the museum is as good when it’s finished it will be a big upgrade over the previous version. One really interesting exhibit in the World Series room was the showcase of World Series rings. They had rings going from the early part of the 20th century all the way to the 2002 Angels championship rings. It’s amazing how ornate the players rings have gotten in the past few years. Whereas the World Series rings were once akin to a college ring, they’re now these huge, diamond encrusted pieces of jewelery. It seems like the price of the rings has gone up at the same rate as players salaries over the last couple of decades.

There was one jaw dropping part of my visit to the Hall. I was looking at the Negro Leagues exhibit and standing nearby was a woman and her son. He was probably 10 or 11. They were checking out the exhibit when the son asked, “Mom, what’s a Negro?”

I wasn’t sure what to make of his question. I suppose it’s a good thing that the kid didn’t know the word - it’s certainly gone out of common use. Did he just not understand that African-Americans were once forced to set up their own leagues if they wanted to play baseball? Major League Baseball, of course, didn’t admit them until Jackie Robinson broke the color line in 1947. His mother answered his question by answering that “Negro” was a word that was once used for African-Americans, and that people didn’t use that word anymore. I hope she later used it as a teaching moment when they were in a more appropriate place to discuss it than a crowded museum.

I left the Hall around 3:00, and we headed over to the Cooperstown Brewing Company for a tour. The brewery is actually in Milford, NY, about 8 miles from Main Street in Cooperstown. I had sampled their Old Slugger ale at dinner the previous night, and it was very good. We went into the brewery, paid our $2 and one of the brewers took us around. The tour was very well done, as he explained the brewing and bottling process, took us around to the different parts of the brewery, and took great pains to explain the difference between craft brewing and what he described as “beer factories”, (i.e., Bud, Miller and Coors). He said the main difference was that craft beer was brewed by people, where the factory beer was brewed by computers.

The highlight of the tour was the tasting at the end, where we had samples of their six styles of beer. They had a golden ale, pale ale, India pale ale, a special ale, a porter and a stout. They were all very well done, and all had appropriately baseball themed names and packaging. Even the bottle caps had a baseball painted on them! We bought a case of the beer to bring home, plus a pint glass. The pint glasses had a baseball molded in the bottom, which was a cool touch.

After the tour we went back to Cooperstown to relax until dinner. We had another excellent dinner at a restaurant called Portabellos in neighboring Fly Creek. The Cooperstown area has no shortage of good, locally owned restaurants, as compared to Framingham which has chain after chain after chain.

We reluctantly left the Inn at Cooperstown on Sunday morning, and drove to Brookline to pick up the kids. They were happy to see us, and they had a good time with their grandparents over the weekend.

It was a very quick, four day week and before I knew it we were packing up to head to Vermont. We were to meet with two realtors and choose one to take on the task of selling the house.

We drove up Friday night after I got home from work. I had been really looking at the bright sides of selling the house. First, it would give us the freedom to try some new vacation spots during the summer. While we’ve discussed going other places in the past, it’s hard to justify spending money on a place to stay when there’s a free room in a beautiful spot. However, it really began to hit me what we would be giving up as we drove down route 12 into Barnard. I’m really going to miss having the freedom to go up there whenever we want, although I understand the necessity of selling.

We met with the two realtors on Saturday morning, and the difference between them was astounding. One was an older man, a very folksy kind of guy. He seemed to be much more interested in the legal niceties surrounding the sale of the house than in the sale itself. He recommended an offering price which seemed a bit conservative, as well. The second realtor was a 180 degree turnaround from the first guy. She seemed very focused, had an excellent presentation, and seemed to have a much better grasp of the market and the value of the property than the first guy. It took us about five minutes to figure out that she was the one we wanted to charge with selling the house.

After the business was taken care of, it was time for some fun. We had lunch, then headed up toward Burlington to the Champlain Valley Fairgrounds for a balloon festival. We stopped at the Ben & Jerry’s factory for some ice cream, then went to the festival. Our intent was to wander around for a couple of hours, ride some rides, see some exhibits, have some dinner and then watch the balloons go up at around 6:30. One thing we didn’t count on was the heat; it was a pleasant, cool day in Barnard, but it got warmer as we went north. The Burlington area was downright hot. As we were eating dinner it was obvious that the kids were wilting (to be honest, A. and I were wilting a bit, too). We asked them if they wanted to stay to watch the balloons or go home, and they both wanted to go home. So, we left without seeing the balloons. But we had a good time, and that’s all that really counts.

A sad note on the week was the passing of former President Ronald Reagan. While I didn’t agree with all his policies, he certainly had some great successes. His huge defense buildup, while it seemed like a budget buster at the time, contributed to the eventual fall of the Soviet Union.

Maybe the most important thing Reagan did was to make us all proud to be Americans again. Before Reagan won the election in 1980, the U.S. was having a pretty hard time. The disaster of the Vietnam War had ended only five years earlier. We had gone through Watergate and the Iran hostage crisis. The economy was in a shambles, with high inflation and mortgage rates in the teens. Reagan reminded us that, even with all the troubles, America was still a great place to live and, even more importantly, that it was OK to feel good about that.

That’s it for this update! We have a big baseball weekend ahead of us, with J.’s last two T-ball games of the season, my first visit to a Pawsox suite on Saturday night and a trip with the kids to Lynn to see a North Shore Spirit game on Sunday. On top of that, the Dodgers are in town to take on the Sox in a meaningful game for the first time since the 1916 World Series.


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