I am currently on a 3-day Anniversary gift — a trip to Tempe, Arizona for three Los Angeles Angels spring training games. I am journaling my trip for the Angels organization and plan to share some of this with you as Catches.
This is sweet. I never get to wear these things except for games, and I attend maybe half a dozen games in a year. These T-shirts go back a number of years. My birthday is on May 17 and my usual present is a new Angels shirt and a seat with the family at a ball game. It’s all I ever ask for. (It’s the only way I can get them to come to a game with me. They do not share my love for baseball.)
Here’s the rest of the list:
Camera with telephoto lens for close-ups of players
New Rawlings Major League baseball for autographs
Ball point pen (Bic. Blue. Medium point, as recommended on the Internet.)
Mitt for catching home run balls at batting practice
Game tickets (It would be too much like me to forget these!)
Spring Training Angels hat (came with the ticket package)
BY 5:30 I am on the I-5 North. It’s early enough to catch the full moon over the Pacific. Early enough also to pass two FedEx double trailer semis. I don’t remember seeing double trailers on the freeway before. It must be a night thing. Passing one of these makes you a little uneasy as if the driver might lose control of that back trailer and fishtail into you.
At this hour on Saturday, you can use your cruise control – a rare opportunity on L.A. freeways.
At 6 a.m. I remember my wife wanted me to make sure she was up. She has a 9:30 appointment she wants to get ready for. So I call her, and for the next half hour, I become her human snooze button. “Can you give me ten more minutes, please?” I do this through two ten minute drills and three or four two-minute ones until I finally decide that trying to handle my phone while trapped between two FedEx double-trailer semis is hazardous to my health, and tell her she’s on her own.
In Moreno Valley the light of day dawns slowly on a low-lying fog against the shallow hills in the distance, and snaking through those hills a little later, I recall a time a few years ago when I came upon an active rock slide on this road that totally disabled my right front wheel. Some things can’t be avoided.
Finally, on Interstate 10 that will escort me to my destination, an orange glow appears over the hills ahead of me, where the sun will soon appear. At 6:59 a.m.the first sliver of sun breaks through five miles this side of Cabazon. There’s snow on the tips of the mountains on my left.
Soon I am over the last set of hills and finally in the desert. I know this by the scrub brush, the cactus and the power generating windmills, like giant Mercedes stars twirling silently in the wind.
At 7:24 I pull off to look for a place for breakfast. I’m immediately in a vast parking lot of a new shopping complex with nothing but fast food places that aren’t even awake yet. I want eggs, sausage, pancakes, and a waitress with an apron who calls me “Honey,” and when I realize that’s not going to happen here, I hop back on the I-10. The next town is Blythe, and I know can find what I want there.
At the first exit for Blythe is a Denny’s. I decide to see if I can find the local “Johnny’s Cafe” I really want, and at least I’ll have Denny’s as a fall back. The parking lot is packed and people are waiting outside. Waiting in line for a table at Denny’s? No thanks.
I decide I will see if I can find the main street of town – that street that used to bustle with life before the Interstate bypassed everything. I immediately discover that Lightening McQueen needs to visit this place. Half the town is boarded up.
Everywhere there is dirt and weeds. Driveways lead to nowhere. Rusted skeletons of abandoned gas station signs jut into the sky. And just when I’m about to come to the end of this misery, there it is. The last building on the street before you have to get back on the Interstate shows signs of life. The parking lot is full. An American flag flies over the entry. I can see that it’s busy inside. Welcome to the Steaks ’n Cakes restaurant.
I walk inside and I don’t see an empty table. A waitress in a blue apron calls to me, “You lookin’ for a seat, honey? Come on back here.” And she takes me into a back room where a few more customers are seated.
As I sit down with the menu, I notice rows of little banners hanging from the ceiling, each one from a different place. Boaz, Alabama. Mobridge, South Dakota. Capela De Santana, Brazil. Honiara, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. Parker, Arizona. What are they? They are various chapters of Rotary Club somehow connected to this little place in Blythe, California. The Rotary meets here every Wednesday.
As I say good-by to the Steaks ’n Cakes, I think about this town falling apart yet they still make it a priority to meet and serve their community, and connect with other communities around the world. There’s a lesson here somewhere.