It took me three tries -- and the kids just one!
Man, I step out of the country for a week and all heck breaks lose in Mets land!
I've been enjoying the vacation of a lifetime, cruising through the Caribbean with my parents and family.
One of the many joys of being on a cruise ship is that you are pretty well disconnected from everything else in the world. One of the minor downsides is that, well, you are pretty disconnected from everything in the world, especially the world of sports.
Oh sure, the television in the stateroom gets ESPN. But when the options are frolicking on the beach at St. Maarten and sitting around watching television, it's a pretty easy choice.
The ship -- we were on the Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas -- posts mini-newspapers each day, four- or six-page summaries of the day's news, and one for sports. I walked past one day and saw the main story was something like "Mets reaching out to Wagner" and got excited. There wasn't too much detail because all the stories are short.
Then, while flipping through the channels waiting for the kids to get ready, I saw a SportsCenter promo that said the Mets had traded for Carlos Delgado. Say what? Details! I needed details! I stalked the little stand where the staff posts these daily news sheets, and there was just a snippet about the trade, but at least I could see who we were giving up.
Arriving back in Miami on Saturday, I could get my hands on a full newspaper again, and the Marlins are being smacked around like a pinata. One of the columnists in the Palm Beach Post called it the darkest week in the team's history. He was adding the Beckett trade and the threat to move the team.
As you know, the Fish are a second-tier favorite for me. The fans here have been screwed over time and again. They get tagged for not showing up, but the team refuses to hold on to decent players. And the whine about the new stadium just gets older and older. Do we really think that Major League Baseball is going to give up on a top-10 market and send the team packing to Portland or Las Vegas?
The sentiment here is that the team will more likely head north to Palm Beach County, with the theory that the vast majority of the people going to the games are headed south to Miami. A stadium in the suburbs would continue to draw whatever Miami residents are coming, plus make it easier for those coming from Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
But since the Mets seem to benefit from these Marlins fire sales, I suppose I can't complain too much.
As for the cruise, I learned many things in addition to the Mets trade. Here are some of them:
Euro-bunnies must be very poor because they apparently can afford only one piece of their two-piece bathing suits -- the bottom pieces. And they must be rather helpless because many men would walk by -- slowly -- to check on them while they were laying out on deck 12 at the front of the ship. None of these concerned men, however, offered to buy the Euro-bunnies the rest of their swim suits. Poor Euro-bunnies.
2) Casinos are strange places.
Just because a casino says it has 5-cent and penny slot machines doesn't necessarily mean you can use your nickels and pennies. I had never once set foot in a casino. But I read that the one on the ship had nickel and penny slot machines. And one evening I was feeling really sassy and had some pocket change and thought "I'm gonna let these babies ride!" I walked up to a 5-cent slot, dropped in a Jefferson and it dropped right into the tray. I tired a couple more and the same thing happened. Same with the penny slots, too. I told an attendant, and he said the machines take quarters and dollars. I said "But they're nickel slots!" and was told that I could get five plays for my quarter.
So I walked over to the cashier booth, plopped my five nickels on the counter and said that I would like to trade them for a quarter because I was feeling lucky tonight. The cashier laughed and said "We don't exchange small coins." I asked how I was supposed to play the nickel slots if the machines won't take nickels and she wouldn't exchange them for me. She said I could get a quarter somewhere else or put a dollar in the machine.
I took my nickels and left in a huff! Heck, I would be better off starting a collection for the Euro-bunnies.
3) Puerto Ricans don't get excited about their baseball teams.
As you know I try to work a baseball adventure in to all my travels. And since we were in San Juan, I thought I'd look for a cap or something from one of the city's two baseball teams. We were not in port long enough to make a trip to the stadium, so I had to make do by searching for a sports store in Old San Juan as we walked from the fort back to the ship. We found just one sports store, and there was nothing for the Senators or Crabbers.
My Dad, again spoiling me by joining me on this trek, asked clerks if they had such caps, only to get strange looks. The store did, however, have plenty Carlos Beltran shirts on display, which was nice.
4) Climbing walls are easier for kids.
One of the features of the ship was a large climbing wall along the back smokestack, with four paths topped by a bell to ring, and a shorter path for kids. I'd never climbed one of these, so we decided to give it a shot. I let my 13-year-old go first, and he worked his way to the top and rang the bell.
Easy enough, I figured. Except that as I got higher and higher, my arms started feeling like lead and I has having more and more trouble finding little nubs to grab on to . With about three feet to go I just couldn't get any higher and dropped off the wall in shame.
"Try it again tomorrow," the attendant said.
So we did, this time letting my 8-year-old daughter go first. And like her brother, she climbed right to the top like the Amazing Spider-Man, only on the shorter kids' path. I must have passed along some sort of recessive mountain goat gene. And again, I made it to within three feet, and it felt like every ounce of energy had drained from my arms. They simply could not move. Talk about shame.
Now I was obsessed. I went out there one night after the wall was closed and studied the paths for a route that looked better, contemplating whether it was worth the risk of a complete meltdown. Actually, it wasn't a risk. A meltdown was a sure thing, especially since my son was mentioning his success any my failure at every opportunity.
I decided to try again on Thanksgiving morning. It was a day at sea, and I hoped that most passengers would be distracted by the Euro-bunnies and I could make the attempt without anyone watching. People climb Everest with less thought than I was putting into this potential third assault.
As I was getting fitted for my harness and helmet, my wife said "You know, it's not the end of the world if you can't do this." Ah, yeah, it pretty much was, I decided.
I told the crew member who holds the rope about my previous two attempts, and he pulled out his bag of white powder. "It's all about the rosin," he said. "This will be your day."
With rosin caked on my hands, I started the climb. You don't want to look down, and I didn't want to look up -- just focused on the blue and green nubs. I got a little higher and higher and started to feel the familiar aching in my arms -- but not enough to stop yet. A few more feet -- and there it was, the bleeping bell! I reached out and swatted the cord, then swatted in again because that clang was sweet music to my ears.
Sadly, my exploits were not featured in the little sports newsletter that came out the next morning!