Archive for September, 2016

End of an Era

Friday, September 30th, 2016

I arrived in Atlanta in 1996, and was caught up with the Olympics held in and around the City. I attended a couple of events at the Olympic stadium which was subsequently and quickly converted into a baseball stadium to become home to the Atlanta Braves. I attended several games in their inaugural season of 1997, so I thought it was fitting that I  should attend one of the games in their final season at Turner Field. Nostalgia? Curiosity? Sentimentality? Call it what you will.

I went last night to see a game featuring the Philadelphia Phillies with my friend George. This was the penultimate series to be held at the Ted before the Detroit Tigers bring the curtain down on the weekend. George wrote a brilliant piece on Facebook capturing the essence of our experience last night, and it is posted below:

My friend David Alexander James and I attended the Braves-Phillies game tonight at Turner Field. We arrived early, had some good food and stayed until the 8th inning. I did a lot of looking around tonight at The Ted as we Atlantans have come to know the ballpark. Lots of baseball and Olympic events were held in this space.

Now that the Braves are moving to Sun Trust Park next year it was truly a pilgrimage of sorts for my friend and I to attend this game. I have to admit I haven’t followed the Braves much this year. And when the starting lineup was announced I found myself saying, “Who’s that guy?” A LOT. So the trip was not really about watching the game but to be in that space one last time before it’s no longer the Home of the Braves.

The field looked immaculate as always. And the Braves won tonight in grand fashion. But I couldn’t help but feel some sadness. I am glad that the ballpark will not be torn down but instead will be converted to a football/track and field stadium for my alma mater Georgia State University. And from what I understand, the parking lot that was Atlanta Fulton Co. Stadium will once again be a baseball field. That is certainly fitting in my eyes.

But the one thing that I said more than once was, “ I can’t believe that this will not be where the Braves play ball anymore. “ I understand the whole move…, business and so forth. But with the exception of several lights or panels out in the various displays around the stadium, the place is in fantastic shape. It’s a shame that the powers at be could not come to some sort of compromise. I’m sure I’m not alone in my feelings.

So ends the 2016 Braves season in a few days. I feel good that I did go back to that ballpark and “pay my respects” so to speak. I won’t ever forget this place. Lots of memories and fun times have taken place in the Ted for me as I am sure is the case for countless other people. And although maybe the place can’t hear me, this I verily say unto thee…..

Thanks for the memories. I’m glad you are sticking around.



A Beach Trip

Friday, September 30th, 2016

I love road trips. I love the anticipation of  driving to the destination. I love the relief of arrival. And I love  acquainting myself with the new location, but it always amazes me how humans adapt themselves so quickly to new surroundings. We had rented a 5 bedroom house juxtaposed to the sand dunes at Cocoa Beach, Florida.

Cocoa Beach is normally an eight hour drive from Atlanta, but we broke up the journey by staying the night in St Augustine. For all its history and Golf Hall of Fame the town is quite unremarkable, and I was quite happy to hit the road the following morning.

We arrived just after 2pm and the owners were waiting to welcome us to the house which would be home for the next seven days. Now Cocoa Beach is a mere 5 miles from Cape Canaveral, and as luck would have it we were in time for a rocket launch which was taking place at 7pm. We grabbed a couple of chairs at the appointed time and sat on the beach sipping a couple of glasses of wine watching the rocket soar into the sky.

The house owners had informed us that we were in the middle of turtle mating season and if we were lucky we might catch the odd turtle or two crawling up the beach to lay their eggs. As an added bonus they also  advised us to take a short trip to the locks at Cape Canaveral where we would enjoy the sight of manatees cruising through the water. Unfortunately neither creature materialized during our stay.

Three of our grandchildren along with their parents joined us on Saturday, and proving their energy knows no bounds, they jumped out of their dad’s van after a nine hour road trip and headed straight for the beach, shoes and socks thrown to the sea breeze.

We spent most of Sunday on the beach with the grand children. Monday, the parents drove the kids to Disney World for the day, and my wife and I decided to hold sports day on the beach: bogie-boarding, a game of  bochi ball, flying a kite, throwing a Frisbee, taking a 3 mile bike ride to the pier. Wow, where did all that energy come from?

The following day, the tropical storm came ashore and it rained incessantly well into the evening. Nevertheless, there’s something magical about watching huge waves crashing onto the shore while heavy rain lashes against the windows of the house. Braving the rain, we ventured out late afternoon and took refuge in  a quaint Irish pub, Hogan’s, partaking in a pint of Guinness or two.

We had our fair share of seafood on this trip. Fish Lips was a reasonable restaurant for haddock and chips while the shark bites left a lot to be desired. There were two decent fish markets in the port area, one for fresh shrimp and the other for beautiful fresh swordfish. It was also the first time I’d tried smoked mullet and concluded it was also the last.

The grandchildren left the day before us and we spent what time was left doing laundry, tossing out the trash, putting all the toys and games back in the cupboards, and packing in readiness for the trip back home. The dishwasher was a godsend.

Our time was up, and our beach living was at an end. We left with the consolation that we had made a decision. Atlanta traffic is horrendous and we have been attempting to decide whether to move to the mountains or the beach. This trip was the determining factor. Our next abode will be near the beach.

Rio-A Review from the Leather Chair.

Monday, September 5th, 2016

I am the first to admit that I was one of those doom and gloom merchants who predicted that the Rio Olympics would end in tears because of water pollution, lack of security, empty seats, doping crisis and touting scandal. Thankfully I was wrong and notwithstanding a few glitches, it proved to be a roaring success particularly if you happen to be a Brit.

Firstly congratulations to Osain Bolt and Michael Phelps for confirming that they are two of the greatest Olympians ever. Swimming events are too similar in my book which enables swimmers of Phelps’ caliber to win a shed full of medals which is almost impossible in any other sport, but nevertheless I don’t wish to denigrate his fantastic achievement of 23 gold medals over 5 Olympic Games.

I watched my first event on the first full day of competition which was the men’s  road cycle race. Now cycling is not my idea of sports entertainment, but I was awe struck by the spine tingling downhill finale to the finishing line with cyclists exceeding speeds of 60pmh. There were several casualties on the descent which made it more intensive viewing.

Almaz Ayana blew me away when she won the ladies’ 10000 metres breaking the world record by 14 seconds. British rowers got the ball rolling for their team with a couple of gold medals preparing the way for a total of 67 medals (27 gold) by Team GB. Justin Rose proved to be a class act winning gold in the men’s golf tournament. The Brownlee brothers, who sound as if they are characters from W E Johns’ “Biggles” books, won gold and silver in the men’s triathlon.

Andy Murray successfully defended his Olympic title in the men’s tennis tournament, and Nick Skelton competing in his seventh Olympics finally won an individual gold medal in the Equestrian event at the spritely age of 58.

Amongst the sporting extravaganza, we were entertained by a narrative twist. Pre-Games, the US media warned how their athletes were at risk from Brazil’s crime epidemic; Post-Games, US officials apologized after four US athletes made up a story about Rio gun crime as cover for vandalizing a gas station for their night out . A US statement condemned “lapses in judgment and conduct”.

Back to  Olympic action, American gymnasts provided breath taking athleticism on a range of apparatus. How on earth could Monica Biles perform back flips on a beam only 4 inches wide? I had trouble simply standing on the damn thing when I was a pimply teenager in secondary school. Maybe it was the acne that put me out of whack. Kudos also to Matthew Whitlock, the first British gymnast to win a gold medal in gymnastics, and to prove it was no fluke he won a second gold for good measure.

There were many other firsts for the British team in Rio. The ladies hockey team won an inaugural gold by defeating defending champions Holland after an exciting and exhilarating penalty shoot out. The mercurial Mo Farah defended his 5000 and 10000 metres titles surviving a fall in the longer race. Even so, I wish he wouldn’t act like a dick head  when he’s crossed the finishing line.

Speaking of dick heads, Russia’s sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, attacked Rio organizers for taking no action over foreign fans booing Russian athletes (most of whom were banned for drug taking) – accusing officials of failing to uphold Olympic integrity. Mutko said crowds were “not sporting” and must be controlled. “Organizers must protect the competition, and the competitors.”

In contrast a Fiji police spokesperson adopted a relaxed view during the public meltdown that followed their rugby sevens gold: “there is disruption on the roads, congestion, it’s chaos here. But, ah-we’re unconcerned.”

Quote of the Games came from an exasperated official, Mario Andrada. Explaining why organizers couldn’t be expected to just fix the green water in the pool overnight: “Chemistry is not an exact science.”

The sporting moment of the Games, exemplifying the true spirit of the Olympics, was Nikki Hamblin and Abbey D’Agostino helping each other finish the 5,000m. Hamblin: “When I went down it was like: ‘What’s happening? Why am I on the ground?’. And suddenly there’s this hand on my shoulder, like: ‘Get up, get up, we have to finish this!’ A little later than expected, but I have finished this post too.