Legalized Price Gouging

I don’t usually aim for “newsworthy” material–there’s enough drama in my life already–but I have to pose this question.  Since when is price gouging legal? 

We went to the Face2Face concert (Billy Joel & Elton John) last night, and it was a normal ride into South Philly up until we got to the parking lot.  We have Phillies Sunday season tickets, so usually we pay $12 to park.  (It was $11 last year and $10 the year before.  As far as I can see, the ballpark hasn’t changed an iota.  If someone DARES tell me, “Expenses went up; we have to pay our ticket-takers more”, listen bub:  I didn’t get a raise this year, and I was told to “just be happy you still have a job.”  Same goes.)  Last night we pull up and hear, “$20, please.”  Uh, excuse me?  Looks like the same ballpark parking lot we’ve been frequenting for 5 years now.  Why the sudden one-time uplift in pricing?  Okay, fine.  Whatever.  John hands over the $20 and we’re in. 

Now granted, we didn’t read the website ahead of time to see what was permissable to bring into the ballpark and what wasn’t, but when we go to a ball game, it’s fine to bring in a drink (or three) and a sandwich, as long as the drink container is sealed, it isn’t glass, and it’s not beer.  I can see the sense in that; baseball is played during the summer when it’s hot.  People need to stay hydrated, or they pass out.  When you go to the ball games, you have the option to bring your own food or buy theirs.  Theirs is pretty good so sometimes we take that option, sometimes we don’t.  It’s nice to have a choice. 

Anyway, we’d stopped on the way for hoagies at Corropolese’s (shout out; OMG, that was the best Italian hoagie I’ve had in a while) and picked up some bottled water.  I didn’t open mine so I brought it to the gate so I wouldn’t have to buy a $4 bottle of water.  Cost-saving, right?  Not really.  I got to the gate and when they checked my bag, they said I couldn’t bring in outside food or drinks.  I had to surrender a full, sealed bottle of water, as did the lady ahead of me.  Kind of disappointing that I couldn’t bring a $1.39 bottle of water so I could buy their $4 bottle of Dasani.  It’s the same water

Mind you, Citizens Bank Park only shows concerts in the summer.  It’s not like they put on a show in December when you DON’T need the water so much.  It’s either hydrate or call the medics when I pass out.  The water costs the same at the ball games (when it’s optional), so fine, whatever, I’ll deal with it.  But we walked up to the stands, thinking I’d buy John a birthday beer, and the same Michelob Ultra that costs $6.75 during the ball games now costs $8.50!  Pardon me, but isn’t that the exact same beer we’d buy at a baseball game?  Nothing looked different about it.  The label wasn’t printed on 24K gold.  It wasn’t served to me by a Hooters waitress or a Chippendales dancer.  (The guy at the stand was funny, especially when we balked at the price, but I’m sure Citizens Bank Park had nothing to do with that.)   We passed on the beer and spent $8 on 2 bottles of water instead.  Judging by the crowds around us and the supremely irritating vendors who kept trying to sell beer DURING THE SHOW, we were in the minority.  (Hey dude, why don’t you ask me to pass the beer to somebody when I’m not paying $97 to see someone sing, okay?  And dude in the middle of the row, how about you drink a little LESS so I don’t have to keep getting up so you can go drain the main vein every 5 minutes?)

And I’m sorry, but Bud Light for $8.50?  What did the planners at CBP smoke for lunch?  That stuff is beer-flavored water, and they want $8.50 for it?  I think not.  I wouldn’t even drink it for $2, but every beer they offered was $8.50, regardless of brand (or quality).  

The worst part of it is, there was no option.  If I wanted water, I either bought theirs or I stuck my head under the fountain for the warm stuff outside the ladies’ bathroom.  (‘Nuf said.)  Why is it we have options at the baseball games but not at concerts?  It’s not like people get more or less drunk at one or the other.  Trust me, there were a few folks who were well overserved in our area. 

Oh, and don’t let me forget about the $10 margaritas.  We didn’t even go near those stands.

I’m going to try to word this into a thoughtful, well-crafted letter to the operators at Citizens Bank Park.  What I witnessed last night was nothing less than legalized price gouging. 

Oh yeah, and one hell of a great show by Billy Joel and Elton John. 

Something else on that “you can’t” sign outside the ballpark:  cameras.  Yeah, right.  We saw flashes going off all over the place.  Mine included.  You’ll get my camera phone when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands.  And let’s not talk about that after-hoagie brownie I smuggled into the ballpark.  Neener, neener, neener.

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Lost in my own skin

Ryan’s been at his dad’s for over two weeks now.  I saw him 2 Fridays ago when I brought Alex for visitation, and I saw him again on Sunday when I picked Alex up.  Other than that, he hasn’t called (he says he can’t) or sent  email (he says the connection is terrible).  I missed him, so on Sunday night I called my ex’s cell phone and left a message.  Ryan returned the call last night, and we talked for 40 minutes.  Nothing’s changed, though I did tease him about his mustache.  It was visibly growing in, last time I saw him.

This morning I dropped Alex off at camp.  He’s such a big guy, physically, even if developmentally, he’s still my little boy.  He’s excited about his independence.  (He was so proud to have his own umbrella today, even if it was a 24-inch Winnie the Pooh Umbrella he’s had since it was bigger than he was.)  I drove away as he stood there in the drizzle, with his fellow campers and his counselors, and immediately I missed him. 

On the drive in—which seems to be when I’m most philosophical—it occurred to me that maybe what I miss isn’t so much the boys.  I’m delighted to see them growing into themselves.  It makes me feel like “I done good.”  What I miss is my identity.  As they grow up, I still wear the “mom” label, but I’m not a mom the way I used to be.  The days of spoon-fed mashed veggies and watching Sesame Street are behind me now.  The boys are growing into who they’ll be, but I’m growing into who I’m going to be too.  I won’t be Mommy anymore.  Already, I’m Mom.  My identity is changing.

(It makes me think there’s a very real benefit to prolonged monogamy.  As my other roles change and adapt—and despite my family’s belief that my brother is awful at accepting change, I really believe I’m the worst at it—as long as we’re both healthy and together, I’ll always be “Honey”.)

Often I’ve heard the expression, “Just be yourself”, but for years I wasn’t sure who that was.  I’ve spent so much time trying to be who people needed me to be that who I am got lost somewhere along the line.  I try to remind myself of the things I enjoy doing, the things in my life that make me happy, but I’m not sure that fully explains it.  Who am I? 

It’s raining outside and I have 3.5 more work days ahead of me before a very busy weekend.  I picked a lousy time for a midlife identity crisis.  🙂

There IS crying in baseball

And not because of any particular game.  (Sorry, Stevie; yes, this blog will be about baseball.)

I don’t know what it is that gets me so emotional, but I cry at baseball.  I cried when McGwire broke Maris’s record (and this was when juice was only a liquid squeezed from fruit).  I cried when Ripken broke Gehrig’s record.  I cried when the Yankees paraded up Broadway in ’96.  (It was a few weeks after delivering my 2nd child; I wasn’t just emotional, I was hormonal.)  And all the ones that came after.  I cried like a baby when the Phillies won last year.  Heck, just thinking about it, I still tear up.

While enjoying a lazy Saturday morning, John found a documentary about Ted Williams on HBO, so we watched.  You guessed it:  I cried.  I’m not even a Red Sox fan.  (I’m REALLY not a Red Sox fan.  I respect their immense talent, but I prefer it when they don’t win.)  I knew a little about the Splendid Splinter, but not that much.  Today I learned about the person he was, and I empathized.  More than anything, I could see why Boston and all of baseball fell in love with the man.  He put everything he had into the game; maybe even some things he shouldn’t have.  (That line about, “I smell sh*t.  There must be a writer around” had me rolling.)  He gave everything, and he held nothing back.  I could aspire to be like that, but I’m too much of a marshmallow. 

Watching the story of his later years, and his last appearance in Fenway at the ’99 All Star Game, and the way the players walked up to him “wide-eyed, like kids walking up to Santa Claus”, I cried all over again.  He was larger than life.  He was almost larger than baseball itself. 

We keep our signed Harry Kalas baseball on the TV.  It’ll be there all season.  Once in a while the Superpretzel commercial comes on, the one that ends with a black-and-white photo and the words, “We miss you, Harry”, and I choke up all over again.  The games go on, but I miss Harry Kalas like I miss my own grandfather.  After all the Phillies games we watch, I may have listened to Harry more than I did Grandpa.  I love ’em both.  (Note the use of present tense, not past tense.)

I went to the Tim McGraw concert in Allentown a few years back, and when he sang “Live Like You Were Dying” and he held up Tug’s World Series ring for the camera (and I wore a Phillies jersey!), I will bet you anything there wasn’t a dry eye in the county.  Certainly not mine. 

When the Phillies had their ring ceremony this past April and Pat Burrell came back to stand in line with his former teammates and get his ring, and Pat Gillick sobbed, I was right there with him.  At home, of course, but I don’t know which of us cried more.  (It was a class-act move on the Rays’ part to let him come back, and I salute them for that.)

I was in the ballpark on a sunny summer Sunday when Doug Glanville shattered teammate Eric Milton’s bid for a no-hitter.  In the 4th inning I turned to John and said, “Don’t look now, but there’s something on the scoreboard you need to notice.”  (It’s tradition to never use the words “no hitter” when a pitcher is working on one.  Unless, of course, you’re a position player, who will try to bust the pitcher’s balls by saying, “Hey Joe, is that a no-hitter you got going?”)  In the 6th we held our breath.  The guy behind us got on his cell phone and called home.  “Honey, turn on the game.  I can’t tell you what, but just trust me.  You want to see this.”  In the later innings, if the no-no is still on the board, in a show of respect, the other players will move down and let the pitcher sit alone on the bench.  To this day, I have a hard time forgiving Glanville for screwing up that simple pop fly in the 8th, and then killing Milton’s try for a shutout in the next play.  Maybe on my deathbed I’ll say, “It’s okay, Doug.”  Then again, maybe not. 

When MLB Network got started, they showed segments of Ken Burns’ “Baseball”, and I cried then too.  Laughed a lot also, but some things about baseball never fail to make me cry.  It’s the vintage clips of historic games, amazing plays, classic players exhibiting almost superhuman feats of strength.  There’s something about baseball that’s infinitely rich in tradition and hope.  Baseball endures like the human spirit.  It takes a hit, slips a little, sometimes it falls, but it always gets back up and keeps going because tomorrow is another game.  It leaves us bored and restless in one minute, and breathless with anticipation the next.  With baseball we feel extreme highs and lows, just minutes apart, and we keep coming back for more because we want to know what happens next.  It’s the story that never, ever ends.

I love the Walt Whitman quote at the end of Bull Durham: “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.”  Why yes, I do have a copy of the script.  Surprised?

And yet I don’t cry at football.  I scream and I curse, but I don’t cry.  Why is that?

Yes, I guess you could say baseball makes me cry.  I have no problem with that.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.

What to do while waiting

Here I am, waiting on responses from a few queries and submissions.  I’m not in the right frame of mind to edit anything I’ve finished lately—with the mood I’ve been in lately, everything I wrote sounds like crap—and I don’t have a new story in mind to work on.  It’s frustrating, being stuck here in the middle.  I want to do something, but I can’t. 

Yesterday I brainstormed with a friend who needed help with her plot.  It was a lot of fun, much like going shopping with a friend to buy a stereo.  In the end, it’s not my money being spent, but it’s also not my stereo going home.  I can make all the suggestions I want, but ultimately, the job is all hers.  Besides, what matters most is what feels right to the other person.  I could recommend a story about vampires, but if she’d rather work on a story about talking kittens, a story about talking vampire kittens probably isn’t going to work.  (Give me enough vodka and I’ll see what I can make happen.) 

So in the mean time, I’ve been knitting.  In addition to the pair of socks I made John for Father’s Day, I’ve finished 2 socks but unfortunately, they’re not a matched set.  One is for Ryan, and the other is for me.  The one that’s for me actually has a story to go with it. 

I found a cute little sweater pattern that I wanted to make for my niece, and it requires a brand of yarn I happen to have on hand.  One skein was available, the other was part of a sock.  I figured I’d use up the full skein, then unravel (aka, frog) the sock and use that on the sweater.  (Once again, I’m putting aside my own wants for someone else, even if my niece definitely didn’t ask for a sweater from Auntie Carla.)  The only problem was, when I went to check out how much sock needed frogging, I realized I was well past the point of no return.  I’d made the cuff, turned the heel and finished the gusset, and I was halfway through the foot.  A few dedicated hours and I’d have a completed sock.  This was no time to unravel something that was so close to fruition.

So I spent most of Sunday finishing the sock.  It’s now finished, but now I need 2 more skeins of that yarn; one to make the 2nd sock, and the rest to work on the baby sweater.  Too bad I didn’t consider making baby socks with the same yarn, so they’d match with the sweater.

Sock knitting is addictive.  I never thought I’d be able to work with DPNs, but really, there’s something about knitting in the round, over and over and over again, and surprisingly, it’s not monotonous.  When you’re knitting with two needles (as I’m often knitting with just one needle), you can always say, “Let me finish this row before I…” but with DPNs, you can go on forever or until you reach the desired length.  It’s seamless, and it’s magical.  When you use self-striping yarn, you look forward to seeing what color row comes up next and how big it will be.  This morning I worked on the gray wool socks again and even though the color never changed, it was just as much fun to watch the sock growing in my hands.  Seriously, it’s magic!

Sock knitting will never overtake writing as my favorite hobby, but it’s definitely running a close second.  The problem is that since writing isn’t bringing in any money, and sock-knitting will cost me money when I start running out of yarn (somewhere in the year 2015), not to mention the time I spend knitting could be spent writing, eventually we’re going to run into a logjam here.  But in the mean time, I’m going to enjoy myself.  🙂

Learning to Write Again

I may have to change that title.  It sounds like I had a stroke and I’m in therapy, learning to write again.  (Spoken by the mom of a boy who had hip surgery at age 4 and had to learn to walk for a 2nd time.  Any question why I’m dreading the thought of more surgery?)

But really, a few times and from different sources, I’ve been referred back to “Techniques of the Selling Writer” by Dwight Swain.  Since I otherwise don’t seem to be getting anywhere anyway, I finally decided it can’t hurt to give it a try.  Actually, a second try.  I tried reading it once, about 10 years ago, and it put me to sleep faster than chloroform. 

My copy arrived yesterday, and what a surprise:  it put me to sleep again.  I slept through 4 innings of the Phillies’ game.  (I hate when that happens, but at least I woke up in time to see Victorino’s game-winning hit.  BTW, VOTE VICTORINO!  www.phillies.com )  But I think this time, I may be in the right frame of mind to absorb what Swain has to say a little better than I was ten years ago.  For one thing, one of the first elements he discusses is feeling, and that struck a chord with me.  I went back to look at where I was stuck in my rewrite of “Worlds Apart” and I realized, the emotion was missing.  What was there was rather dry, almost like a news account of events happening to the characters.  Odd to say that even while the book put me to sleep, it also woke me up. 

I plan to read some more, albeit a bit at a time.  I’d like to stay awake past 9 for a change.   But I also hope that this book will help me to learn to write again.

Me Time

I don’t do anything for me anymore.  Okay, so we have the house (and the mortgage, and the bills) and I have more yarn than the local yarn store.  It’s not like I need much of anything, really.  I consider that a good thing, because there’s a big difference between “need” and “want”.  There’s also a big difference between “selfish” and “selfless” and “self-sacrificing”.

When I’m making plans, I put everyone else first on the list.  When I go to the store, my focus is that we’re out of detergent; Ryan needs sneakers; Alex is out of sunscreen.  If the boys want a toy and they don’t have the cash, sometimes I oblige.  It makes sense; I mean, I’m a Mom.  I have to prioritize that way.  But lately it’s gone beyond just that.  Even when I need something, I don’t get it.  I’ve bought nearly $100 in clothes in the last month and returned it all.  Some of it didn’t fit, but the rest, I couldn’t justify buying for myself.  It’s not like I don’t already have a closet full of clothes, right?  Just because nothing in there is under a year old…?  (I pulled out my blue dress shoes this morning.  The left heel came loose, and both heels are so worn away at the bottoms that you can see the plastic.  It looks like a compound fracture.  Am I going to replace them?  Not if the glue holds.) 

Anyway, being the gadget girl I’ve turned into, when my iPod died—it wouldn’t sync; something about a corrupted hard drive—I fought it tooth and nail.  I tried every remedy under “Help” and scoured the internet, trying to fix the thing.  When I bought it 4 years ago, the 4 gig Nano cost $250.  We had Christmas money (and no house), and I wanted an iPod so bad that it hurt.  Now that we have even less disposable income, dropping $150 on the 8 gig version made me nervous. 

Apparently what made me even more nervous was the concept of buying something purely for myself, because I wanted it.  Honestly, I didn’t need it.  I could make do with the old one, even though all my newly downloaded songs were stuck on iTunes, and it was driving me slowly out of my mind. 

When the iPod died, I browsed, shopped, read reviews, compared prices  (aka, hesitated), until finally I forced myself to get in the car, drive to BestBuy, and get another one.  It was the oddest feeling because even in the car, waiting at a red light with my turn signal on, I kept thinking, “I don’t really have to do this.  I could just make a u-turn and go do…whatever else.”  But I had the gift card from my new phone, and nothing else I needed to use it on.  Altogether, between the gift card and the sale price, it only cost me $90.  (Oddly enough, I wasn’t nearly so reticent about getting a new cell phone.  That was a necessity; when the old one was stolen, I was in the AT&T store that night buying a replacement.  I never thought twice.)  It’s a new toy and I really didn’t need it to live, but I got it, I love it, it’s fun as all hell, and I still feel guilty that I bought something for myself.

This is something I’m going to have to get over.  It’s okay to treat myself.  I work hard, I do the best I can at the things I feel are important, and I always put family and friends first, but when the time is right, once in a while, it’s okay to do for myself too.  I also deserve to stand up for myself, and when someone does something against me, I have every right to defend myself.  It’s been too long that I’ll sit back and say, “Okay, let me put aside my own work and see what I can do to help you with this.”  Hell, half the time I take the task right off their hands and do it for them.

I think it’s hereditary.  When we were kids and money was tight, we’d get 3 steaks for dinner; Pete and my mom and I each got one, and Dad got the bones to gnaw on.  Until he bought the Mercedes (which is since gone), I don’t remember anything he ever did for purely himself, because he wanted to.  Yes, he had more tools than a NASCAR intern, but he used those either on the house, on our cars, or on someone else’s car as a side job.  Knowing what I now know about how it feels to deny yourself all the time, I can’t imagine how he stayed sane all those years.  I know he was working toward the future, putting away for our needs, taking care of his family.  Now that he’s retired, I’m deliriously happy to see him doing for himself, but it was a risky proposition, planning on a future that no one knows will actually come about. 

The lesson learned here is this:  Do for yourself.  You count, too.