The Halfway Mark?

Apr 14, 2016   //   by bwilber   //   Bob's Blog  //  Add a Comment

Nice day... Not/

Nice day… Not.

Welcome to Liberty Lake, Washington, where Spring throws more jukes and head-fakes at you than a shifty NFL wide receiver. This past weekend, it was so sunny and warm we had all the windows open, but by mid-afternoon on Sunday it was actually getting hot inside the house. Mark the date. On Sunday, April 16, 2016 we turned on the air conditioning.

Today, it’s not so hot and the AC is not on. We’ve had light rain or mist coming down all morning, with low clouds scudding across the mountain tops in the distance, and it’s 42 degrees. Me thinks that once this system moves out we’ll see new snow at the tops of the hills. And the snowmelt from the winter was all but over this week. Maybe we’ll get a supplemental supply of snowmelt from this.

That snowmelt is an interesting thing around here. When the tops of these small mountains finally do warm up, and the snow melts, it obviously has to go somewhere. That somewhere would be downhill, of course, but eventually the water works its way into Liberty Lake itself, that being the lake not the town, but the latter part of that sentence is true as well, in a way. Did you follow me there?

The water runs downhill and it ends up in the lake. When the water in the lake gets to a certain level, it tips over the edge of a run-off canal that feeds into a long ditch, running north toward the Spokane River. For about 340 days a year, that ditch is bone dry. For a couple of weeks though, during this time of year when the melt is really going, it fills with crystal-clear water and flows rapidly, only a few blocks from where we live.

The ditch carries the water to another retention area, where it then flows into an underground concrete pipe that carries it the two more miles it needs to go in order to reach the river. It’s pretty fascinating to ride our bikes on the trail that borders much of the ditch, and see it absolutely dry one day and absolutely full two days later. Then the next week, bone dry again.

Last year, when it was too warm to snow much, it barely ran as a trickle. This winter was even warmer (the warmest on record), but the winter storms that did roll through as rain here were heavy, wet, snow up in the elevations, so over the hot weekend we had quite a rapid river running in the canal (the fancier word for “ditch”). Yesterday, not a drop.

That entire digression about snowmelt and water runoff was created out of thin air because I wrote about the miserable day we’re having and that it’s probably snowing up there on the peaks. Such is the unmapped style of blogging via a method we call “stream of consciousness.”

It’s a good day for a cup of soup and some writing, though, and since it’s Thursday here I am. As for “Bats, Balls, and Burnouts” Chapter 14 is in the can and will get fired off to my editor Greg tomorrow.

Even when I get a chapter done early, I still typically hold it until Friday. One reason is to let it sit for a few days so I can take a fresh look at it one more time before I share it with Greg. It’s amazing what you see or discover when you step away for a bit and then go back. Another is to keep Greg and me on something of a synchronized schedule.

That’s not necessarily an easy thing to accomplish. All I do these days, for a job, is write. Greg not only has a real job, he’s got a very demanding and time-consuming job as the Executive Editor of the Standard-Examiner, which is the newspaper in Ogden, Utah.  There are few jobs that are more repeatedly stressful than newspaper editing.

First of all, the paper has to go out every morning. You can’t say “Well, we don’t have time for this one, so we’ll just skip Wednesday.” The deadlines are hard and strict, and every day you start out with nothing, when it comes to the actual stories and editorial content. I worked on the school paper in college for a few months, and even that little rag drove me to knew lengths of stress on a daily basis. I can’t imagine what Greg’s job is like.

So, I’m on a pace of a chapter per week, and he’s on an editing pace of about a chapter every 10 days or so. Right now, I’m a few chapters ahead of him, so there’s no use in piling on and firing new material at him just to do it. I’ll stick with the weekly pace and we’ll get it done.

I’ve also been trading emails with my contact at Outskirts Press, learning all about the things a new writer never thought of before. The biggest unthought-of hurdle is the need to gain the rights to any images I want to use. Many photos are copyrighted, usually by the photographer and in some cases by the publication that first printed them. Copyrighted images, therefore, can’t be published without permission. Today I got the forms I need to fill out and get signed by the various professionals who have taken photos I hope to use, including the exceptional photographer Mark Rebilas, who shot the cover and some other cool photos I’ll use inside the book. It’s going to be a pain to gather real signatures from so many people, but it’s the only option I have if I want to use the pics. All I really want to do is write, which makes me I think I need an assistant. A good one, who pays lots of attention to detail and has tremendous organizational skills. Who will work for free. That last part is kind of important. Buster would do it, but he’s not exactly that good about emailing things or getting forms signed. He’s exceptional at sleeping and wanting treats, though.

Okay, so Chapter 14. It’s a short one, coming in at only about 5,000 words, which correlates to about 12 pages. I’ve had a couple of monster chapters hit 35 pages, so this one was a quickie. The main reason for that is because Chapter 14 is mostly all about one single important day in my life. The first few pages are a lead-in to that monumental day, and it’s one I’ll not only never forget but can still remember vividly, as if it just happened. It actually happened, though, on September 29, 1979.

Because it’s such a critical chapter with such a great story to tell, I don’t want to give away too much of the material here in snippet form, but I found a couple of paragraphs from the “lead-in” segment that I do want to share and here’s the background on that. My summer, in 1979, was spent in Medford, Oregon where I started off as a hot-hitting outfielder but then got badly hurt. By the end of the summer, much to my complete and unexpected surprise, I was a relief pitcher.

I was getting hitters out, despite the fact I was totally making it up as I went along out there, so when I got back home in September I kept working on it with one of my college roomies, who had been pitching his whole life. He became my de facto pitching coach, and I was making great headway with him. Finally, I asked my dad (whom we all called Skip) to watch me pitch and to give me an honest appraisal of whether or not I could really make this transition at the age of 23. I pitched (pretty well, I thought) while he watched, and then it went like this…

Afterward, Skip was relatively effusive in his praise. Over the years, he’d mastered the art of being diplomatic with his youngest son, in terms of my baseball skills. When I’d get on a hot streak, he’d vociferously praise my hitting. When the hits dried up, he’d try to encourage me and point out some things I could work on. He never once said “Sorry, you just can’t hit.”

On this day, after he’d seen me pitch, he had a look on his face I’d never before seen. He prefaced his remarks with one of his go-to lines, “Well I’ll be go to hell” and then said “You can do this. You need a little more velocity, but more pitching can do that for you. The fastball is nasty, and the curve is coming along. Lance has to keep working with you on the release point for that, so that you’re not telegraphing the curve with a higher release. The only thing I can tell you is that you should work on a change-up. With three pitches, you’ll get a lot of people out.”

I couldn’t help smiling, and I vowed to work on that change-up although I’d already been working on it a little. We didn’t have much time though. It was getting to be late September.

Obviously, as you all know, after that session I went on to a marvelous 18-year Major League career, won the Cy Young Award four times, and now I’m in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Okay, none of that is true. That was just the dream.

And the “Well I’ll be go to hell” line was one of Skip’s favorites. It made no sense, of course, but we knew what he meant. He was also prone to saying someone who was playing well was “hotter than a two-dollar pistol.”

The headline on today’s blog has to do with my current pace and my work toward having the book complete. I can’t be sure if I’m actually halfway to the finish line yet, because I still have so much to write and I never know how long a chapter is going to be until I write it. You’d think I’d be in control of that, but it doesn’t feel like I am. I just write. I try to write all of it, and then we trim from there. If a chapter is meant to be 12 pages, then that’s what it is. If it’s meant to be 35, so be it.

But, I do think I’m about halfway. Maybe I have another three months to go with the writing, hopefully less, and then we get to final production and publication. I’ve felt like I’m ahead of schedule, but looking at it this way I figure I’m about right where I thought I’d be. Maybe I’ll find a way to pick up the pace a little more, as we move forward.

Shifting gears now, I’ll look back fondly on those days of yore when it was warm and sunny here. That would be all the way back to last weekend. Barbara and I have been tackling projects around the house one by one, and I mentioned the carpets and windows in last week’s installment. On Saturday, we decided to spruce up the front of the house with one easy small project. At the corner of our driveway, where it meets the street, we have a little “island” of landscaping, with a small tree, a few rocks, and a brick pillar with a decorative light atop it. We use nuggets of pine bark in our landscaping because they’re heavier than mulch and don’t blow around as much, and that was our Saturday project. We’d buy a few bags of pine-bark and freshen up the little island. And it looked great!

Just a little bit of Saturday work...

Just a little bit of Saturday work…

Then, we decided to do a little more.

I went back up to Home Depot and bought 10 more bags, and we started on the south side of the house. We have this landscaping all the way around the house, but we weren’t going to do it all. We’d concentrate on the most visible spots.

On Sunday, we decided to go a little further with it. And I bought 10 more bags. Then 18 more bags. And we kept going. By the end of a very warm sunny day, we’d finished the entire landscaping, all the way around. It was insane, but very rewarding.

As I said to Barb when we were done, “This is just like us. We decided to dress up the little island by the driveway, and before we could stop we’d done the whole house.”

We were a little tired. Just a little. All in all, I think I bought a total of more than 50 bags at Home Depot, and my car can really only hold about 15 in the back, so that was a lot of trips up and back to do that, all while covered in the stuff and soaking wet with sweat.

It just kept going, and going, and going...

It just kept going, and going, and going…

The last time I checked out and paid for the final car-load, the clerk asked me if I was done and I said “This is that day when you look around your house and think ‘We should’ve landscaped with rocks’ instead of pine bark.”

I didn’t feel the need to go to the gym that afternoon, that’s for sure. Each bag probably weighed about 30 pounds and I had to load them onto a cart, load them into my car, take them out of the car, and carry them around to various parts of the house. My biceps got bigger as the day went on. And my lower back got more sore by the hour.

We’ve also been simplifying the way the interior of the house is decorated, to spruce that up quite a bit and de-clutter a lot. One of the improvements in that regard was moving the two side-by-side cat condos out of the living room.

Snuggle boyz

Snuggle boyz

The rattier one of the two went to the garage to await its eventual fate, and I moved the other one to our bedroom, right in front of the window. The boyz seem to love it there, and now that we’re having a cold and gray day here they’ve been nestled in each other’s arms for hours. If I go in to look at them, all they do is open one eye and then close it again. Good boyz…

Boofus is serene and happy now, but he had a total meltdown the day the guy came to wash all the windows. One of the final things the professional glass-cleaning guy did was take down all the screens and clean them, too, and he had a special gizmo for that all set up in the backyard.

We decided to put the boyz out there in their pop-up hut, so we could all enjoy the sunny afternoon together, and Buster calmly went right in and laid down. Something about the window guy, or the screens, or the gizmo that was cleaning them freaked Boofus out, though.

I was carrying him and he basically went haywire. He was manically trying to get out of my arms and we were having quite a tussle, then he won the fight when his back claws dug into my forearm, fingers, and stomach and I had to let him go. When he got free, he leaped and landed right on three screens that were leaning against a chair. Those screens are now at Ace Hardware being fixed.

He shot around the front of the house and I chased him, but it became immediately clear that he wasn’t going to be caught, and he also wasn’t trying to run away. He just wanted back inside. We got the front door open and he flew in there so fast he was just a little black blur running through the door, to the bedroom, and under the bed. Poor little guy. I don’t know what flipped him out, but we shall most likely never take him outside again when screens are being cleaned! And after applying copious amounts of Hydrogen Peroxide and Neosporin to my slash wounds, I think I have avoided major infections. Those back claws are SHARP!

So that’s about it for this week, I guess. Remember, if you read this blog and liked it, please “LIKE” it by clicking the button. We need those “Likes” here in blog land.

See you again next week.

Bob Wilber, at your service.


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