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And a Merry Christmas to all…Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Holidays everyone! I've been traveling and shopping and seeing friends and generally having a good week or so of December cheer, so I apologize for being absent without leave here in Blogville, but I wanted to fire off this brief message to wish everyone a very safe and happy holiday season. Even getting this tiny little bit of info placed here wasn't easy, and it required the help of a certain editor (rhymes with Burgess) who is on an official Christmas Break until January 2, although his "break" is also of a different kind (can you say "ankle" and "hockey" in the same sentence?) Ouch! Anyway, as you probably know, I only write these blogs and take the pictures. I don't post them myself, and getting them out in the open requires the assistance of my highly-placed sources at NHRA.com, so I thank one particular highly-placed source (still rhymes with Burgess) for helping out during the holidays, while he's on the shelf with a cast on his leg.

I meant to get this posted BEFORE Christmas, but vacation days and other "breaks" meant it had to wait. That's my fault, for waiting so long to write this. You know, I was wondering if I was a procrastinator but I haven't gotten around to looking up the definition. Regardless, here it finally is. Better late than never! (I just made that up. Pretty catchy…)

Barbara and I were in Woodbury last week, and it was spectacularly festive there, with a deep covering of snow making everything look like a Christmas card. It's hard not to be in the holiday spirit when you can look out every window and see a scene like this.

Then, we flew back here to Spokane on Saturday just in time to enjoy the same sort of scenery in these parts, as a fairly decent little storm dropped about three inches of white stuff the day before we got back. I had the shovel and the scraper out first thing Sunday, doing what Neighbor Dave and I used to do, in almost synchronized fashion, throughout the Minnesota winters. It's not as much fun to scrape the driveway here without seeing Dave next door doing the same thing (sad face).

One key little factoid I'm proud of (I think) and would now like to divulge here, is this: "Diamond" is a guy's best friend. Get it?

Well, for the first time ever in my long "road warrior" history, I've made it all the way to the top rung on the frequent flyer ladder. I am now Diamond Elite on Delta, after years of topping out at Platinum. It takes 125,000 qualifying miles in a calendar year to make it, and I would never have the chance if it wasn't for American Express. I pay all of my business and travel expenses on my Amex card, so the numbers add up in a hurry and by the end of the year the fine folks at American Express had deposited 20,000 elite qualifying miles into my Delta account, for having hit two lofty spending targets. If there's one thing I'm good at, it's spending money.

I'm not sure I'll ever have the chance to be Diamond again, so once I got close this year I decided to make a couple of trips back to Woodbury just to hit the 125,000-mile mark. I'll be a big shot next season, baby! Excuse me, pardon me, Diamond comin' through...

And I even have one more trip left in 2013 to add a little cushion to it, which is okay because any miles you accrue over the target get rolled over to the next year, so I'll start with a few miles in the bank. Barbara and I are headed back to MSP one more time, leaving on the 30th to spend New Year's Eve with all of our Woodbury friends. It's a tradition I hope we can keep adhering to for many more years to come.

With all that trivial stuff out of the way, let me again wish Happy Holidays to all of you, no matter what specific holiday you embrace at this time of the year. Enjoy the season, hug your loved ones, and have a wonderful and safe New Year. 2014? Wow...

And, due to my tardiness with this blog installment, and the fact it is now December 26 as I finish this up, I can add a sentence or two about Christmas day itself.  Barbara and I made the conscious decision to enjoy the day with each other, and celebrate it with quality time and great food (also good wine, but that's probably unnecessary to state). We put a prohibition on big pricey mega-gifts, and instead restricted our buying to stocking stuffers only, while then spending a slightly huge amount on one particular item for the house. Yes, we bought a new vacuum cleaner! Actually, I was the one who pushed for that, despite the fact it's not much of a glamor gift, because I went cheap when we moved here and bought a vacuum that now drives me nuts, so we went with a Dyson in order to make up for that previous mistake. It's being shipped and isn't here yet, so I'm anxiously waiting like a little kid at… Christmas!

We made our annual Christmas lasagna, opened our presents, and played with the boyz all day. Seriously, I'd say the presents in the stockings marked "Bob" and "Barb" didn't add up to all the new toys and gifts for Boofus and Buster. It's crazy how they seem to know it's Christmas, and when the stockings come down off the mantle (where they were hung with care) both boyz come running into the room in a very excited state. They stick their noses right down into the stocking they share, and immediately play with every toy we open for them. Smart little critters...

So, in summary: Enjoy the rest of the holidays!!!  I'll leave my highly-placed NHRA.com sources alone until the new year. And it still rhymes with Burgess. See you in 2014!

Get well, Phil! Your hockey team needs you...

Wilber, out!=

 

Life should be a walk in the park…Monday, December 09, 2013

Okay, so I needed a headline and that one popped into my head. Unlike most newspaper reporters, I actually write my own headlines, so 99.9 percent of the time I write a blog I come up with the headline first and then go from there. Wait, you didn't know that most newspaper writers don't write the headlines that go over their stories? Well, it was that way "back in the day" when newspapers were the prime source of news, and therefore sold a lot of copies, and therefore (the second therefore) were heavily staffed. Writers wrote the stories, editors wrote the headlines. These days, with most newspapers relying as heavily on their websites as they do their print editions, which means they therefore (third therefore) are shrinking in size not only in terms of the number of pages in each edition but also the number of people in the building, it could be that times have changed, but I'm pretty sure they haven't, for one key reason. Headlines in newspapers don't just have to quickly encapsulate what the story is about, they also have to do that in a specific amount of space, and until the paper is laid out no one knows what the amount of space will be, so an editor gets the last crack at filling the space above the story with the right amount of perfectly chosen words.

Anyway, back to this particular story. There is a story here, but I'm having a little trouble actually getting to it. Truth is, yesterday I went for a "walk in the park" and it was great chance to clear my head, enjoy the great outdoors, and get some exercise. It's wonderful when the park is just right outside your back door, too. With the golf course closed for the winter, we once again have a gigantic 18-hole park as the enormous version of our backyard, and I love taking advantage of the winter season, to get out there and follow the trails (cart paths) and to marvel at the scenery (water hazards) while avoiding the pitfalls of loose sediment (sand traps).

While on my walk, on a brisk but still invigorating 14-degree day, I did take the time to stop and stare a few times, just to remind myself that time is fleeting and you need to take a moment to admire the scenery every now and then. Here, we are surrounded by what I call mini-mountains (because they're really too big, in my book, to be called hills) and they're gorgeous, but over time they become so "normal" as the background, a person can forget to admire them. Life is like that, right? Whoever came up with the line "Sometimes you need to stop and smell the roses" was onto the same thought wave.

What really motivated me to attack this theme was a short string of text messages I shared the other day, with my actor buddy Buck Hujabre (who, for the record, is nothing short of hilarious via text message). Buck had just come back from the big NASCAR "Victory Lap" deal in Las Vegas, where he and some cast mates from "Jersey Boys" sang the national anthem, and he was having one of those moments when it hit him just how far he's come and what his life has turned out to be. One of his sentences was "I feel like I'm living someone else's life" and as soon as I read that I knew exactly what he meant and how he felt. Every now and then, when I stop and smell the roses, I wonder if I'm also living someone else's life, because there are times when this one doesn't seem real, and there are times when the magnificent scenery goes unnoticed.

It's not uncommon for me to be telling a story at a party, about something I did or saw years ago, and then hear Barbara say "It never fails. There's always one more story that I've never heard before. When do you run out of stories?" I hope I never do.

With Thanksgiving still fresh in my memory, I guess I've just been in a thankful mood. I'll talk to Wilk on the phone and when we're done I'll think "I work for Tim Wilkerson, and that's pretty cool. Actually, in the big scheme of things, that's pretty unbelievable." I sit here in my office and if I look to my right, I see two baseball bats hanging on the wall. One has my autograph burned into it by the fine folks at Louisville Slugger, and the other has my father's signature. Really? I played baseball in front of thousands, and got paid to do it (okay, I didn't get paid much and sometimes in Class A ball it was more like hundreds rather than thousands, but I digress). Now, I walk to the starting line in front of even more thousands, and I get paid to do it. It's crazy and yet it all seems so normal. It's really enough to make my head spin, to be honest with you. These days, I sometimes make sure I stop and smell the nitro. And I truly do remind myself to stop and look around when I'm with the team on the track, taking it all. It's mind boggling to be there.

I write this blog, often about pure nonsense, and each time I meet someone at the races who compliments me on it I'm a little bit stunned. But, I should've always known I'd do something like this. My first published work was a story I wrote as a sophomore in high school that was picked up by a local St. Louis magazine, and it was all about running around the outfield at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C., catching batting practice fly balls hit by big leaguers during the summer when my dad was a coach for the Washington Senators, and then the next summer being the bat boy for his minor league team in Denver (the Denver Bears), when he was the manager. There you have it. That magazine story was the first official intersection of the two things that have guided my life. Sports and writing.

You can't pick your parents, and I'm eternally thankful for having been so ridiculously lucky in that regard. I've done things, gone places, and met people that all seem surreal, as if I was watching a movie and I just happened to be in it (and if that's the case, it explains why Buck and I are such good friends, because apparently we're in the same movie). But, the bottom line is that my parents instilled in me everything that I eventually ended up being. Without my dad's athletic genes, I wouldn't have experienced so many incredible things in terms of sports. Without my mom's communications skills (she was a fantastic writer and an ace PR person) I would not be sitting here right now, typing this blog. I just wouldn't be doing this. I've had these skills handed to me by two fantastic parents, and it's been my responsibility to hone them and develop them, to make the most out of it what I was given. It's my way of honoring them, and this blog is a big part of that. My mom would've loved this blog. Thinking about that keeps me motivated, and I think you need to be pretty motivated to have written as many blog installments (1,097, I’m told) as I have over the past eight years.

So, I guess that's what got me going here today. Just smelling roses, admiring the scenery, and kind of marveling at how this script has played out over the course of 57 years. And, I hope, there's still a hefty bit of script left to go, with twists and turns I can't even imagine yet. It's not lost on me how lucky I am, and it's pretty easy to sometimes feel I'm not worthy of some of the success I've achieved and the places I've been, but then I think of Del and Taffy Wilber and I remember why I'm here. And it's my job to keep getting better at whatever I do. It's too late to play in the big leagues, but it's never too late to be a better communicator, a better writer, a better PR guy, a better teammate, and a better person. Those are all things I try to work on. Just like in baseball, you can go through slumps where the stories just don't seem as captivating, or the press releases seem so uncreative or a burden to write, but over the course of a season the object is to look back and see that you had a good year.


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Sometimes you need to stop and admire the scenery.
 
And typing that last sentence connected the final few dots for why I've been writing all this. The season is over, and the year is just about done, so it's time to look back and see if I got through the slumps well enough to say I had a good year. I think my on-base percentage was pretty good, and although I didn't hit for as much power this season, I still kept my average up where I want it to be. I had a good year, and I was a productive part of the team, but I'm already working out and getting ready for 2014. I plan to hit more home runs next year…

I think our team is getting better, with the rookies coming along well, and if we all play the way we're capable of playing, we should get a chance to do some celebrating after some big wins. That's when I'll hit my home runs, rewarding the guys for their hard work by making sure everyone knows just how it happened, play by play.

I didn't see my first drag race until I was 35, so it's not hard to understand that I never thought I'd be here. But, now I've replaced the crack of the bat with the roar of a Funny Car, the smell of pine tar with the aroma of nitro, and the green grass of a baseball field with the sticky surface of a race track. The best part is, I'm still part of a team, I still wear a uniform, and there's nothing like the roar of the crowd or the appreciation shown by individual fans, all season long, to make you appreciate how great this all is. I'm very lucky, and I wouldn't trade this movie I'm in for anything.

Is it 2014 yet? Man, I'm ready to get out there and get going again. Fire 'em up!!!

Wilber, out!

PS:  Wow, I totally almost forgot one of the first things I was thinking about when I sat down and dove into this blog. Have you heard about the Ford Racing "Tournament of Ovals" on Facebook?  We were part of it last year, and it's a pretty cool deal for any of you who are Facebook members and willing to cast your vote.  There's a whole bunch of drivers from various forms of racing in the tournament, and each day another pair face off in an elimination-style fan vote. You just go to Ford Racing's page on Facebook (I think you have to "Like" the page) and every day there will be a new vote.

Our first round match-up is a tough one, especially on social media, and it's this Thursday (December 12). Yep, it's Wilk against Courtney Force and considering she's probably the most prolific and most popular driver on things like Facebook and Twitter, I know we're in for a David vs. Goliath style day, but maybe our Wilk's Warriors can do us proud. If you're in, make sure to go to Ford Racing's FB page on Thursday and vote for Wilk!!!
 

Today's blog installment was going to be about Thanksgiving, Coeur d'Alene, wonderful food, great company, the joy of family, the NHRA hockey pool, and a few work related things like my Publicity Review binders (done, and out the door) but then the subject matter changed when we all learned the stunning news that Gordie Bonin had passed away. It was one of those "shake your head and rub your eyes" moments, when I saw the first posts on Twitter and Facebook, and it took a few minutes for it to really sink in. It hasn't totally sunk in yet.

But here's the deal…  I'm going to write about "240 Gordie" from the heart in today's blog, but knowing Gordie as I did I can guarantee he'd be smiling and laughing and otherwise demanding that the rest of that stuff must go on, as well. He was like that. So we'll wrap up today's installment with my thoughts on Gordie. That's the way it should be.

I hope everyone had a fantastic and warm Thanksgiving (and for those of you who are not in the United States, I hope you had a fantastic and warm last week, with or without a holiday.)  It was a little extra special for us, having Barb's sister Kitty with us out here in Spokane. It wasn't easy for her to get here, having to fly from her home in Orlando all the way out to the upper lefthand corner of the country, but she dove into the trip full of excitement and just having her here for a few days was priceless.

Barbara and I can cook. Kitty can create masterpieces, and she absolutely loves the process of making magic in the kitchen. When I cook, I absolutely love the process of eating what I've created after all that hard work. To have Kitty here for Thanksgiving, therefore, was a multifaceted benefit for all of us. Let's just say that all three of us enjoyed plenty of amazing (sublime) food over the course of her four-day visit.

Kitty is also big into healthy eating and an organic lifestyle, which is something Barbara and I wish we could be more consistent about. Having her here, we ate about as smartly as possible for four straight days and it gave us some inertia and momentum to keep up the good work. The biggest problem with that, living here in Liberty Lake, is that our grocery options consist of Albertson's and Safeway, and in a town of this size even those two mega-chain stores have limited inventory. There are a few organic options, but they are just that and they are limited options.  You want boxes of macaroni and cheese, with the bright orange goo?  They have shelf upon shelf of stuff like that. 

Down in Spokane, however, there are a few stores that specialize in organic and natural foods, and Huckleberry's is one of the more renowned in that regard. We made two trips to Huckleberry's last week, up on the South Hill in Spokane, and it was like Disneyland for good food. Even our turkey was raised by local farmers and completely organic, with no hormones or chemicals. All of our veggies were fresh, we used whole wheat bread to make our stuffing, and good golly it was all spectacular.

Barb and Kitty made pasta one night as well, and when I say "made pasta" I mean from scratch. Out came the pasta machine and off they went, starting with flour and eggs and some tomatoes for the marinara.  Two hours later, after I was questioning the validity of this lengthy exercise when boxes of pasta and jars of Newman's Own are so readily available just up the road (and so tasty) we had a meal that simply stunned my tastebuds.  It was incredible.  I'll never do it on my own, but it was incredible.

On Friday, we headed east a few miles and experienced the Coeur d'Alene "Holiday Lighting Festival" for the first time, so that box is ticked off the list of Inland Northwest things to do. It was fun, though, so I'm glad we went, and downtown CdA (that's how the cool people abbreviate Coeur d'Alene) is a happening place on any given night, but when roughly 30,000 extra people descend on it for a parade, fireworks, and the lighting of about 1.5 million Christmas lights, it's a real adventure.  The fact we found a fabulous little wine bar (with great tapas to go with the Cabernet) made it even better.

As for work, my publicity binders were finally and completely done yesterday (with a few added bells and whistles at the last minute) so I pulled the trigger and fired copies off to both Dick Levi and Shannon Heisler at LRS, each accompanied by a personal note expressing my gratitude for all they (and everyone at LRS) has done for us. The binders had a good amount of "heft" to them, and I hope Dick and Shannon are happy with the amount of "ink" we produced this year, even if very little actual ink was involved. Next year, when we win four or five races on our way to a deep run in the playoffs, I might need a pair of binders just to hold all the clippings.

I mentioned the hockey pool at the top, and I might not have done that if my team was getting trounced. With that sentence having been written, you can probably surmise that I'm perched fairly high up in the standings. Oh yeah…  I actually worked at it pretty hard this year when the entry forms came out, because the trick is to get outside the "multiple choice" options for players and find a few gems who can be added to the roster in the write-in section, and those players are the guys who are carrying me.  Right now, I'm in a tie for second place (Greg Ozubko is atop the standings), with some other notables in hot pursuit.  Rob Flynn (who just landed a plum gig as Fast Jack's new crew chief) is in fifth, Chris Cunningham is in 13th, Susie Worsham is 14th, Jeff Arend (who REALLY should be better at this, eh) is 21st, Brandon Bernstein is 26th, and Mike Guger claims the raspberry award for being in dead last.  The season is young, however, so I'm guessing the standings are apt to change before we're done. Not for Guger, mind you, but for everyone else.

And now for Gordie Bonin…  

Three legends: Steve Evans, Gordie Bonin, and Roland Leong.

It seems like I've known Gordie forever, but in the big scheme of things I was a latecomer to his life. We met back around 2000 or 2001 (I'm guessing) when I was working for the Worshams and he was, at that time, a manufacturer's rep. He was always a go-getter, so it didn't take him long to snoop around the CSK pit area and ask a few people to point him in the direction of someone who could help him get his products into CSK stores. Whoever he asked pointed him toward me. He was energetic and outgoing, and very respectful and friendly, but the cynic in me figured he was just putting on the charm in order to network and sell some products. The cynic in me couldn't have been more wrong.

From that point forward, we were friends. And like I said, this all adds up to me being a latecomer in Gordie's life. So many people in our sport go back many decades further with "240 Gordie" including a bunch of people I know who came from the same neck of the Alberta woods as he did, up by Red Deer. He never stopped hustling, he never stopped living the dream, and as far as I could tell all he ever did was collect friends at an astonishing rate.

From the day we met, we were buddies. And I don't mean buddies in the sense that he might nod or wave if he saw me at a race. For the last 12 or 13 years, if I were to ever cross paths with Gordie at a race track, the genuine shout I'd hear sounded like one I'd expect from an old college roommate, or a lifelong friend. Initially, I was surprised and confused by this instant admission into the "Gordie Bonin Friends Community" and I couldn't figure out how I rated such inclusion, but that was Gordie.

When I joined Team Wilk, after the 2008 season, Gordie was one of the first to email me and his message was something along the lines of "You can now consider me a card-carrying Wilk Warrior. Go get 'em, BW. I'm here rooting for you all the way!"  That was Gordie.

He asked to be a part of my PR email distribution list, and I was happy to add him to it. That was thrill enough, but I wasn't prepared for how he then made it a completely interactive process. Every race weekend, no matter how exciting or mundane my email updates might be, Gordie took the time to reply to my PR blasts with personal notes that illustrated that he not only got the email and opened it, but that he digested every word.

As I told Phil Burgess the other day, I cannot count how many times I'd send out my nightly update from a hotel room, and within minutes I'd see a reply from Gordie in my In-Box.  Every time that happened, I'd have the conscious thought "I can't believe Gordie Bonin actually reads my stuff and replies to it, almost every day. That's amazing."  It was amazing. That was Gordie.

He had a lust for life, he didn't just live it. He risked it all too many times to count, driving cars that could harm you far more easily than they'd let you off the hook, and he always came back for more. When he saw me or spoke to me, his eyes lit up like candles, and his grin was as genuine as any you'd ever see. That was Gordie.

I think Gordie could've counted every person he ever met as a friend. He genuinely cared, he loved friendships, and he always seemed to be thrilled to see you, even if you were a latecomer like me, who had only known him for 12 or 13 years. That was Gordie.

I'm still coming to grips with the fact he's gone. When we get to the Seattle race, where he had a presence not unlike that of an unofficial King of the Court, it will fully sink in. Amid those pine trees in the Pacific Raceways pit area, I could always expect to hear that voice, shouting at me like a friend on the grade-school playground. "Hey BW!!!"  That was Gordie.

Rest in peace, my friend.  Rest in peace, 240 Gordie.  And Godspeed.

Wilber, out!

 

So it's the off-season.  Quick, name the first big project I have to get done once the season is over.  I'll wait…  (tick, tock, tick, tock).

That's right, as mentioned on this blog numerous times over the days, weeks, months, and years we've all been here, it's my "Season In Review and Publicity Summary" binder.  I have all the pieces in place, now I just have to get the copies made, slam all the pages into the binders, and call it done.

As a PR guy, it's always interesting to compare the sheer volume of "clippings" you can generate in a year, and then factor in how much of that was directly created by the team and the car doing good things. If you win races, you get a lot of "ink" without really trying. And yes, the terms "ink" and "clippings" are now about completely as out of date as saying something sounds "like a broken record" or that you "dialed" somebody on the phone.  Most of our "ink" these days is actually pixels on a computer screen, and most of the clippings in my binder are not clipped out of anything at all. They are, instead, created by taking screen grabs of websites and pasting the images onto documents.  Clippings?  I think that's what's left on the floor at Super Cuts…

Anyway, there are many ways for a PR person to measure themselves against their peers. The first would be by height.  Or by age.  Possibly by weight, but that gets a little touchy.  Then there's those mysterious clippings and other publicity that gets generated, but that total number has to be weighted and factored by round-wins and Wally trophies, I think.  And frankly, I've learned over my many years that even the best PR people (I've worked with plenty of good ones) will see a decline in the thickness of that clippings binders if things go haywire, or even just go a little underwhelming, on the track.

So, it is with some pride that I noticed the fact this year's binder is thicker than last year's, despite the fact we ended up 10th instead of 8th, and we didn't win any races.  I point the finger at myself for this. I must've had a bad 2012 in terms of publicity. But seriously (when am I ever not serious?), it was a challenge from time to time this season, but I work for a great driver who is enormously popular, with both the fans and the media, and he really makes the job pretty easy. Wilk is the man.

These binders should all be done in a few days, and then it's a matter of making sure Dick Levi and Shannon Heisler each get one. After I present them, at LRS World Headquarters in beautiful Springfield, Illinois, I insist that both Dick and Shannon sit down right in front of me and peruse each and every page, making comments as they go. That reading assignment is followed by a test, both written and oral, and spelling counts.  All of what I just wrote is true, except for everything I wrote after the world "Illinois"…  But I do hope they both enjoy flipping through the books to see how hard we all worked to make our sponsorship valuable for them. That really is the key.

And now, with all that racing PR stuff written, I'm out of material.  See ya later, everyone!  What?  I should write more?  Even though I'm out of material?  Boy you guys are demanding…

Okay, here goes…  Now that the season is over, the first thing I did on the weekend after Pomona was get on a plane and fly back to the Twin Cities.  It ended up being an enormously fun trip, and it featured a near overdose of sports, sports, sports, and more sports because my whole life is predicated on sports.  Or something like that.

Barb had spent the week in New York and then Toronto, where much of the non-business talk surely had to do with their spectacular mayor who continues to make amazing headlines on a daily basis. And as sad as it's always been that we lost Chris Farley at way too young an age, right now it's sadder still by multiple factors of sorrow. Chris Farley was born to play the role of the mayor of Toronto. But, Chris Farley and Rob Ford aside, Barb's trip put her on that end of the continent so it was easy for her to fly into MSP later in the week, and I got there on Friday night.

The first thing we did once we were both present and accounted for was to drive over to Hudson, Wisconsin to meet our friends Jerry and Janice Walsh for dinner, and I'm thrilled we did that for these reasons:  1. Jerry and Janice are great and a lot of fun.  2. Hudson is a quick 10-minute drive from Woodbury, and as much as I've heard people talk positively about it I'd never gone there for dinner.  3. The place Jerry and Janice chose, the San Pedro Cafe, was amazing. Kind of a Cuban / Caribbean style place, with terrific food and a great atmosphere.  I give it rave reviews, and a fun night was had by all.

Saturday night was basketball night, as we took our newly-married friends Mary Beth and Joe Gillis to the Timberwolves game. We met Joe right after Mary Beth had her first date with him, and all of our Woodbury friends immediately knew that they were meant for each other. They were, and now they are.  We got to the arena a little early, and after we walked around during pre game warmups, we headed up to our fantastic seats right at mid-court in the lower level. As we walked up the stairs to our row, I heard a female voice say "Barbara" and looked up to see Brenda, one of Barb's former colleagues from the Lawson Software days, along with her husband and their two daughters.  We haven't seen Brenda for at least six years, so it was incredibly coincidental that she'd somehow spot Barb walking up the stairs in an 18,000-seat arena, but what was more coincidental was the fact our four seats were directly behind their four seats. What are the odds of that??? 

The Wolves beat the Celtics, we had a lot of fun, and it was a great night.  And Kevin Love is a pretty good basketball player.

Sunday night was hockey night, as we joined Neighbor Dave and Neighbor Nichol at Xcel Arena to watch the Wild play the Winnipeg Jets. As always, it's great to spend an evening with the Jacobsens, and hockey is the best place to do that, but it was made even more fun by a tightly contested game that ended 2-1 in favor of the home team.

For the record, we'd heard that Winnipeg fans travel to the games in St. Paul in large numbers, and it's really the first time the Wild have ever had a rival team show up with so many fans coming along with them. Mostly that's because no other NHL cities are really that close to St. Paul, but with Winnipeg being a manageable drive they really did pack the place. I've never been to a hockey game where so many fans were rooting for the visiting team, and when I say "rooting" I mean that in the loudest most avid way. Whew, those Jets fans are FANATICS!  That was quite an experience, and I'm glad the Wild pulled out the win.

Monday was my day for my annual physical, so you can imagine how wonderful that was. Oh yeah, it's great being a male in his 50s…  Everything checked out A-okay, in terms of all the stuff you have checked at a physical exam, so at least I've got that going for me.  My blood pressure has never been better, my weight is about where it should be, and I haven't shrunk yet in my old age. I clocked in at 6-foot 1.5-inches, which is pretty much exactly how tall I was when I played baseball.

On Monday night, we took the 7:30 flight out of MSP but stopped at Ike's inside the main terminal, for yet another incredible meal. I've written about Ike's on here before, but it bears repeating that it seems unreal that there's a steakhouse that good inside an airport. If you're a carnivore, and you have a long enough layover someday at MSP, you simply have to eat there.  It's that good.

So now we're back in Liberty Lake, as winter approaches.  The sure signs of impending winter weather include large flocks of Canada Geese heading south in a perfect formation, as well as the appearance of snow or frost on the large hills (mini-mountains) that surround Liberty Lake. There's also a shift in the typical weather patterns, as the sublime summer/fall weather is replaced by rapidly shifting conditions, where it can be sunny and pleasant one minute and then totally overcast and drizzly the next, with the hilltops hidden from view by the low leaden clouds.

The surest sign of oncoming winter, however, takes place in our backyard. That yard, of course, is MeadowWood Golf Course, and it was just last week, right after I got back from Pomona, when I noticed the first sign of winter:  The flag sticks were gone. Yep, the course was open on Monday and then at around 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday I heard the groundskeeper's golf cart go by our bedroom window. When I looked outside, it took a few minutes but then I realized the course was closed for the season. Bam!  You can't play golf without holes and flag sticks.

The funny part of this whole last week, though, has been how methodical the groundskeepers are at shutting down the course. They only took the flag sticks on the first day. The next day, they came around and picked up all the rakes from the sand traps. Each day, it was a new item, and today they came by with a cart full of ball-washers, taking those in for the winter.

What this also means is that we have our private park back!  When the course is open, it's almost dangerous to be out on our patio, since we live right on the second green and although most of the golfers here are really good, we did collect about a dozen stray golf balls this season, after they landed "out of bounds" ranging from the backyard all the way to the front yard (meaning someone hooked one badly enough to not just hit it out of bounds but also clear our house entirely).  Once the course is closed, all of us who live on it now have the chance to enjoy the scenery without needing clubs, balls, and tees.  I'm looking forward to that first real snowfall so that we can go for a walk on the cart paths and enjoy our 18-hole championship park…


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It's a Saturday night in the Twin Cities. Let's go Timberwolves!
 
Let's see, what else…???   Well, a new DVD landed here at the house yesterday. It's the new concert video from the Rush "Clockwork Angels" tour (shot in Dallas, for the record) and yes, I did indeed watch the whole thing last night. 5-stars and two thumbs-up from me. Great stuff from these ageless musicians who just seem to play better and better with each passing year.

A couple of weeks ago, I got connected again (via social media) with another old baseball teammate, Pete Slattery.  Pete and I both played in Medford for the A's back in 1979, and it was great to hear from him after all these years. We weren't just teammates, we were also roomies and good friends that summer, so it was great to find each other again. Pete asked about Mike Altobelli, another of our roommates from Medford, and I sent him Alto's email, so now they're connected too.  Today, we were all three trading notes and I hope we can "get the band back together" (Pete's funny terminology) at some point.  Alto and I saw each other in Joliet a couple of years ago, so it would be neat to see Pete as well and maybe all three of us can make that happen.

Pete is a Massachusetts boy, and his thick Boston accent kept us in stitches that whole summer. He had a girlfriend named "Barb" and just to drive him nuts I'd say "So Pete, what's your girlfriend's name?" and he'd say "Bahb".  So I'd say "And what's my name?" and he'd say "Bahb".  We were easily amused…

Well, I think I've stretched this out about as far as it can go.  PR binders, basketball, hockey, physicals, Ike's Steakhouse, golf courses shutting down for the winter, and old baseball buddies.  And I didn't think I had anything to write about…

I'll be back as soon as I can come up with some more nonsense….

Wilber, out!

 

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