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Tea for Americans

Something we need here in America: Afternoon tea.

And congrats to the Chicago Cubs!

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Hey, Is This Heaven? No, It’s Iowa.

I know it’s been a few days since I’ve posted, but the parental units are in town for the first time since October so I’ve been spending just about every waking moment with them since they arrived Friday morning. We went to Art Fair on the Square yesterday, and today, we got in the car and drove two hours to visit the setting of my dad’s all-time favorite film, Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa, and some other places.

We set out from Madison at about 11:30 AM, bound for Galena, Illinois, which doubled in the movie as Chisholm, Minnesota. There was an art festival going on so the town was full of people. Galena is basically one long strip of cute little shops and old storefronts. It was very quaint and decked-out for a town that small. There, we saw the DeSoto House, which doubled as the “Welcome to Chisholm” sign; the Logan House, which was also a bar in the film; and a local doctor’s office which was also the front door of Moonlight Graham’s office in the movie. The weather was not looking promising, and we needed to press on to Dyersville, so we left.

An hour later, after crossing the Mississippi River into Iowa, we ambled down the dirt road that led to Field of Dreams. It was an actual baseball field built for the 1988 movie of the same name, on the Lansing Farm. The families who owned the farm bought the rights to the name, and they make money off of merchandise. Though the farmhouse where the Kinsella family lived is a private residence and closed to the public, everything outdoors is free and open to the public. It’s all still there: the baseball field, the lights, the cornfield, the bleachers where Karin fell, the spot where Archie transformed into Doc Graham, and of course, the Kinsella house. I learned that when they made the film, they actually had to build a platform in the cornfield so that Kevin Costner could be seen above the cornstalks. There was a family there playing baseball, but Dad and I were able to walk around the bases together. I even walked down a few trails to find some geocaches and took funny pictures with the corn. Everyone visiting and working there seemed happy and chatty; true “Midwest nice.”

Other than that, there’s not much to Dyersville. We stopped at a McDonalds, and then went straight back to Madison, which was a little over two hours. All in all, it was a good day trip; Galena is adorable and the movie site is still as it was.

Thanks for reading; I’ve got a few fun blog posts in the works for this week, including reviews of the two books I finished on the ride to and from Dyersville, for which I did not have to drive, thankfully.

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Flip the Script Friday: Richard Greenberg, Take Me Out

It’s Friday, so it’s time once again to flip that script.

Regardless of whether people like it or not, I should be reading more plays in general. This week, I was thinking of reading a Noel Coward play, because the book I’m currently reading (Two for Sorrow, by Nicola Upson) mentions him in several places, but then I realized I don’t have any Coward plays in my collection. So I just picked a random play that I hadn’t yet read off the shelf, and now I’m sharing it with you: Take Me Out by Richard Greenberg.

Basics

Take Me Out premiered in London in 2002, at the Public Theater in New York City later that year, and on Broadway in 2003.

Characters

  • Kippy Sunderstrom, baseball player, “big dumb Swede” who’s smarter than he looks
  • Darren Lemming, baseball player, gay (closeted until the end of Act I)
  • Shane Mungitt, pitcher, “redneck” with a thick accent and intense rage
  • Skipper, another baseball player (doubles as William R. Danziger, a random person who writes Darren a letter)
  • Martinez and Rodriguez, two interchangeable baseball players who speak only Spanish
  • Jason Chenier, another baseball player
  • Toddy Koovitz, another baseball player
  • Davey Battle, a baseball player for an opposing team
  • Mason Marzac, Darren’s accountant
  • Takeshi Kawabata, pitcher, a baseball player from Japan

Setting/Plot

Present day, New York City. Take Me Out, in a nutshell, is the members of a minor-league baseball team. In the first act, we meet most of the players, including newcomer Shane Mungitt – a man of few words, except for when it comes to outing his teammate, Darren Lemming. In the second act, we see the buildup of the team, its relationships, and the return of Shane; short-lived, as he pitches a ball at Davey Battle which takes him down for the count, for good. In the third act, Kippy and Darren attempt to get Shane out of prison, and despite winning the World Series, end up at an impasse.

My Thoughts

Racism. Sexuality. Death. Nudity. Baseball. What’s not to love about a play that contains all of these things? But on a more serious note, this play deals with a ton of issues that are still prevalent in sports in the 21st century. As far as I know, there still are not any out gay Major League Baseball players, and incidents of racism still take place. What’s most interesting about this play is how multi-faceted all the characters are. Kippy refers to himself as a “big, dumb Swede” but is incredibly introspective and well-spoken, coming off at varying times as a lawyer, pastor, and philosopher. Darren, who is both mixed-race and gay, seems to be the most level-headed of the bunch, aside from Kippy. Rodriguez and Martinez only speak in Spanish, and I see this as akin to a “Tower of Babel” situation; they’re clearly talking about the same things that the others are, yet they can’t understand the English speakers and vice versa. Kawabata, the Japanese pitcher, is on an island of his own in the first two acts, speaking only Japanese, but reveals himself to be an eloquent English speaker in the third act.

Biting the Baseball?

The common denominator: we all get to see them naked (well, all except Marzac, because he’s not a baseball player). The shower is the one place where their differences get washed away; at the end of the day, or the end of the game, they’re all men, with the same DNA and despite differences in skin/hair/eye color, height, and weight, biologically the same as one another. In the first act, when Darren’s sexuality is known but not made a big issue, all the players being naked in the shower together is second nature. They talk, laugh, joke, and argue, taking no account of their naked bodies. In Act II, the first time we return to the showers after Shane outs Darren to the media at the end of Act I, there’s suddenly tension in the shower, embarrassment among former friends, and people turning around in different directions before quickly exiting the shower and dressing, akin to a loss of innocence, the innocence of ignorance to anatomy of your fellow teammates. Act II is also when we see the Shane/Darren incident in the shower, where Shane tries to ignore Darren, who’s not having it. It’s actually kind of hilarious when (mixed-race) Darren says that he knows (white) Shane’s secret, that he’s actually “a colored guy,” – you can do the math.

From the Baseball Field to the Bedroom

A final note…does anyone else not see the symbolism in “pitcher” and “catcher” in a play about sexuality and baseball? I guess Greenberg might not; Darren plays center field. The person who is said to be catcher is Jason; we do not end up finding out too much about him, other than the fact that he’s young, kind of dumb, and uneducated in the ways of the world. The two people who are pitchers are Shane, who represents the antagonism in professional sports against homosexuality, and Kawabata, whose story arc has nothing to do with sexuality and who rarely, if ever, interacts with Darren. It does, however, give new meaning to the line in Kawabata’s final speech in the play, and some his only words in English – “why must everything have meaning?.” If I had the chance to meet Greenberg, I’d ask him why he made those choices, but I’m suspecting I might get a Kawabata-style answer.

How I’d Flip It

For some reason, the image that came into my mind was that of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, which I visited with my family when I was a kid. I don’t remember it that well, and maybe I’m amalgamating it with my visits to the Louisville Slugger factory in Kentucky, the Negro Leagues Museum in Missouri, or any of the many baseball stadiums I’ve been to, but there are displays about baseball players set up in lockers, with their uniforms hanging as if they’re about to go play or something, and I kind of imagine that setup, with each player “appearing,” as the script says, at least initially, from a designated locker, either in a straight line or a U-shape, and then each player’s shower head hanging above and in front of their locker. You could really mess with the audience by putting varying items in each locker, or by arranging the players in a specific order in the lineup: for example, if a U-shape, having Darren and Shane facing each other at the ends, or in a straight line, maybe arranged in some sort of racial order or something.

The very title of the play “Take Me Out,” is another interesting choice; you’ve got the American tradition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and the not-so-tradition of coming out in professional sports. And then there’s also the song that you’re already playing in your mind right now but I’ll link you to it anyway…

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What I Saw (And Heard) on St. Patrick’s Day

Traveling on a holiday is always interesting, but traveling on St. Patrick’s Day was a new one for me.

Here’s my list of St. Patrick’s Day-like things I experienced today.

1. 10 AM, Espresso Royale, Madison, WI. There is Irish bagpipe music playing in the background. “What is this,” says my brain, “Irish Day?” … three seconds later … “Ohhhh, right, St. Patrick’s Day.”

2. 3:35 PM, General Mitchell International Airport, Milwaukee, WI. I board my flight to Tampa, and several people are dressed in green, no more than usual though. I’m in the first group of people on the plane, so I pick an aisle seat in an empty row. Some guy asks me if the two seats next to me are taken. I say go right in, and then his wife and son go into those seats. Sensing that someone’s a little bashful today, I offer up my seat, which accepts gratefully and with some surprise, as if he thinks that either a) he was actually expecting to put his wife and kid in a row with someone else already in it and just sit elsewhere, and then when that stranger offered up his seat, was taken aback, or b) he was hoping to put his wife and kid in a row with someone else and sit elsewhere in the plane with his mistress and/or girlfriend, or at least at a place where he wouldn’t get caught slipping his number to a flight attendant (and if this was the case…whoops, sorry for ruining your plans!)

3. Same time, same place. I sit in the row across from them, next to two girls from some community college in Minnesota decked out in lots of green and beads. One even has a light-up shamrock necklace. I kid you not.

4. Time unknown (maybe about 5 PM), in the air. I’m listening to music and reading, when Shamrock Necklace girl taps me on the shoulder and points to the drink menu. I’m all, “huh?” until she points out that since today is St. Patrick’s Day, Southwest Airlines offers free alcoholic beverages. And since we’ve been talking and have shared ages, she knows that unlike her, I am of age, so I celebrate accordingly. When the flight attendant comes around, I order a chardonnay and then opt to change it to a rum-and-coke, upon the guy behind me ordering the same.

5. Some time later, in the air. The drinks arrive, waters for the girls and my rum-and-coke, with a little wedge of lime. I wait until the stewardess passes, and then offer a sip to Shamrock Necklace girl (whose name is Natalie…unlikely that she’s going to read this). She looks at me incredulously, saying, “really?” I respond: “Go ahead, it’s St. Patrick’s Day and it’s not like you’re flying the plane.” She and her friend break out laughing and she sneaks a sip. Her friend politely declines.

6. Later, same place. I’ve gone back to reading/listening, and I get another tap from Natalie, who is giggling and holding a piece of plastic in her hand, the little piece that holds the tray table in the upright position. Apparently, her friend was playing with it and broke it off. And she wasn’t even the one who had anything to drink.

7. Same as above. Another tap from Natalie, and she gestures me to look to my right, where the guy who ordered the rum-and-coke is asleep with the little red Southwest Airlines toothpick hanging down out of his open, snoring mouth. We have a good laugh, and then we all hope that we don’t hit turbulence because it could result in us hearing “Is anyone on this plane a periodontist?” over the plane’s intercom.

8. 7:10 PM (EST now), Tampa, FL. We arrive, deplane, and take a tram to the main terminal, where we are greeted by a crowd watching a quartet of Irish dancers and an accompanying band of bagpipers. Apparently, we’re now in some Irish version of Florida.

9. 8 PM, Sarasota, FL. After my parents pick me up at the airport, our first stop is dinner at this pretty expensive seafood place. I order a sangria, because I can, and I surprisingly coerce my mother into sharing it with me.

10. 10:30 PM, Sarasota. We arrive at the hotel where my parents have been staying for the past few days. It’s a Hilton Garden Inn that’s practically in the middle of nowhere but “close to the ballpark” which is the reason for the trip, but a) the room only features two beds, which means that when my sister gets here in two days I’ll have to spend the next two nights sharing a bed with my father, b) we are in Florida and not walking distance from any beach, c) the hotel has a pool, but it’s a square about as big as two bathtubs put together, and d) when we walked in, the floor was wet in the room, so we will hopefully change rooms in the morning, but that still won’t solve the four-people-two-beds problem.

But I’m here, with my mom and dad, so I guess that’s what matters.

Happy St. Patrick’s day to all, and welcome to my two newest countries: Egypt (ترحيب!) and Montenegro (dobrodosao!)