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OK, so, admittedly, it’s been awhile* since I last blogged: Just under 5 months, if anyone’s counting (and Jane, I KNOW you are) — and I do not have a good excuse for going so long between posts … although I do have a pretty damn good reason for not paying all that much attention to my bloggie in recent months … plus I know, in my heart of hearts, that anyone who truly needs A Daily Dose of Di usually knows where to find me, online and otherwise.

Anyhoo, I could not let today’s awesome yet ultimately heartbreaking men’s championship match between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick go by without reminiscing about and even celebrating the 10-year anniversary of when I had a childhood dream come true and got to go to the All England Lawn Tennis Club at Wimbledon. (My ACTUAL childhood dream involved playing a point on Centre Court, while one of my, uhm, adult fantasies involves making out there. Neither of those occurred during my 1999 trip to Wimbledon, of course, but I did get to see Pete Sampras and Venus Williams play matches on Centre Court.)

Not saying I would have been able to play a point there, either, because before I even left the United States — in fact, just as I boarded the Metra in a South Side suburb of Chicago to begin the second leg of the journey (the one that would take us Downtown to catch a cab to O’Hare) — I suffered a horrible ankle sprain, thanks to a lame-brain conductor who insisted I move from one mostly empty train car into another mostly empty train car. While I was still standing in the inclined aisle of the mostly empty train car I was already in, the train began moving, and as it lurched forward, I staggered and my right ankle rolled completely over and all kinds of pain ensued. But, what the heck: Who needs two good ankles for activities like running through airports or walking through the grounds of Wimbledon or leisurely strolling through London and Paris?

However, the incident made for some funny stories, later, and gave me ample opportunities  to show off my spot-on British accent whilst telling them, so it was not an entirely bad thing.

What do I remember most about Wimbledon?

  • Seeing Anna Kournikova making her way toward the practice courts just as our bus dropped us off.
  • Watching Steffi Graf practicing on an outer court.
  • Laughing as Martina Hingis, whom I believe was the No. 1 seed, lost in the first round on Court 1. (I had gotten tickets for that court off some guy I found on the Internet. I will admit, it was a little scary: I sent him some money and he said he would send the tickets, known as Debentures, to the hotel where I was staying — and when I arrived at the Henley House Hotel, the tickets were actually there!)
  • Marveling over how small Centre Court looked when Pete Sampras played on it. (I swear, he served the ball and got to the net in, like, 2 steps!)

Mostly, I just remember wandering around the outer courts and noticing how everything was so GREEN — from the grass courts to the overall color scheme of the tennis facility. And I recall smiling over how much bigger Centre Court was than it looks on television … and also how much bigger it was than the lawn of the house I grew up in, where Debra and I and various neighorhood kids played badminton rather than tennis but still referred to our ongoing tournaments each summer as Wimbledon.

———

I never thought Andy Roddick would make it to another Grand Slam final, let alone put up such an incredible fight before going down 16-14 in the 5th set of Wimbledon.

I admit: I gave up on Roddick years ago. He always struck me as sort of a one-shot wonder: Big serve, no real game to back it up. Too slow. Too inconsistent. Not enough heart. True, he has a U.S. Open title to his credit, but that was WAY BACK in 2003 (seems SO long ago, doesn’t it?), and although he’s had a couple of chances to play for a Wimbledon title before, once those opportunities came and went, I never, ever thought he’d get another chance to play for the championship, let alone win it.

And it’s possible, perhaps even probable, that he won’t ever win Wimbledon. But, wow: He gave it everything he had today, and I found myself not only hoping but also believing that he would win the match. And when it was over, I found myself feeling so, so bad for him — yet I was also so thankful I got to see the effort he put in because that, to me, is what sports in general and tennis in particular are all about: Playing your best and giving it your all, win or lose.

He reaffirmed my faith that, indeed, anything is possible. In fact, everything is.

Believe it!

———

* — After using the phrase “it’s been awhile,” I am, OF COURSE, reminded of the song by the same name by Staind … and my favorite line: “And it’s been awhile / but I can still remember just the way you taste.”

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Sheila holds up her camera to take a picture of the two of us, and she asks, “What do you think I’m gonna get a picture of?”

“Your nose!” I reply.

Obviously, I should have said, “Our noses!”

So, I turned 43 a few days ago. Eleven, to be exact, which can only mean that April is almost a memory — and, if I chose to look at it this way, that we are one step closer to yet another unbearable winter.

But I’m a “glass half full”-kinda gal, which I was reminded of this morning whilst troddling to work when I looked toward the southern sky and saw a jet streaming its whitetail trail diagonally upward (and westward) from the half-full moon.

And, besides, how pessimistic can a girl be when she encounters a sight like this?

Poppy Burst 1

I found that poppy Sunday morning when I was on my way over to The Lovely’s for lunch (chicken casserole, corn, peas, grape tomatoes, bread and butter, courtesy of Margaret). I thought the flower would be fully emerged by now, but it isn’t. I will keep checking because I’d really like to get it on film. Which, of course, is not actually film, but I still like saying “film” because … well, I just do. I know I’ve ranted about this before, but I like that I grew up using “film cameras” and knowing the importance of getting good negatives (even though I’m a positive person!) and even that, at this very second, I can still recall the (probably toxic) smell of D-76 developer and Acufine and Dektol … and, honestly, I wish I still had one or two of the shirts that I completely ruined by splashing fixer on them!

But I digress. And that poppy picture was most definitely taken with a digital camera and resized in PhotoShop while I was sitting here in my living room rather than in any kind of darkroom.

And as I sit here, I really could be in a crappy mood. I just — as I typed — received a call from my mechanic, Jay, who has had my car at his shop for four days now (not his fault: I had the car towed there Saturday morning [his shop is closed on the weekend], and it’s not as if there weren’t several other people with sick or injured vehicles ahead of me). Turns out my car’s timing chain broke, which is what caused the Grand Am to quit running while I was driving through South Sandusky Campground on the aforementioned Saturday morning. There could be other issues as well involving words or parts I don’t really know anything about, such as “valves” and “gaskets” and what-not, although the fact the car was going just 10 to 15 miles per hour at the time is supposedly A Good Thing.

I am cautiously optimistic.

Meanwhile, I am thankful for the beautiful spring weather we have been having. Makes walking the 11 blocks or so to work a surprisingly refreshing way to start the day!

Well … except for my broken left pinkie toe. Which might actually be sprained. Or maybe just jammed. All I know is it hurt like a bleeping bleep when I ran my foot into the humidifier the day I was getting ready to go to the opening for the art, craft and photography exhibition. (No, I didn’t win anything, but I did get some helpful suggestions regarding my photos. And I gained some insight into myself and my interests and abilities. [Remember: It IS all about me!] And it was kinda cool to be a part of the show because there was some really good stuff on display — most of which didn’t win anything, either — and I haven’t competed, photo-wise, in anything for a very long time … and the last time I did, I really should have won [instead of placing second] because the picture I took was dramatic and full of great action and facial expressions, and the picture that did win was a photograph of a girl running the hurdles — which, as any sports photographer knows, is probably THE easiest action shot to get because all you really have to do is focus on the hurdle and wait for the runner to jump over it!)

But, again, I digress.

And as far as my toe is concerned: It’s mostly just a little swollen now. The upper third of my foot was bruised for a few days, but the bruises are long gone now. If I could go barefoot all the time, my toe wouldn’t hurt at all, really; mostly, it’s uncomfortable when I cram my foot into my Merrells and for a few minutes afterwards, but then I’m OK. My tennis shoes don’t cause me any pain; in fact, I’ve played tennis five or six times since The Injury. So far, though, my foot hasn’t been able to get comfy in any other shoes.

What else should I say about turning 43?

Oh, yeah: My birthday was the day of the big earthquake that I essentially slept through! Diane and I spent a wonderful — albeit rainy — day in St. Louie, (briefly) exploring the Missouri Botanical Garden before heading over to Maggiano’s for lunch (mostly courtesy of a birthday gift card from Delra!), followed by a dash into Crate and Barrel, a nap in our room at the Drury Inn and a trip to Busch Stadium to see the Cardinals play the San Francisco Giants.

Kameron and Kendra helped me blow out the eight candles on my birthday cake the following day. The day after that, I got sunburned on my forearms, face and ears whilst watching Diane’s tennis team play their final two matches of the season. She’s retiring from coaching at the end of June, so it was bittersweet to see her team go out with a victory in the last match.

I spent the next two days recovering — and, naturally, playing Fetch with Kiddle (a.k.a. Bits)! — before having to return to work last Wednesday, just in time for Sheila’s birthday.

Other than all that, what can I say? The sun is shining as I write. Believe it or not, I even took my bicycle to Mr. Wiggs’ shop for new tires and tubes!

I arrived at The Lovely’s to find that Shane had managed to get his remote control airplane caught in one of the highest branches of a tulip tree (at least I think it’s a tulip tree; I’m pretty sure I looked it up once upon a time, but at the moment, I’m too lazy to look it up again). Shane tried throwing a skateboard (minus the wheels) and a tennis ball to try to dislodge the plane from the branches, but somehow, the plane was wedged in very well, with branches stuck between its wings and horizontal stabilizer (I did look that up, just now: it’s the thing that looks like a little wing at the very back of the plane).

I decided to go outside and “help” with the rescue attempt. I tried throwing a partially deflated mini-basketball at the plane but managed to hit it only once or twice. Shane shimmied halfway up the tree, and then I spent most of my efforts “rebounding” the ball after he’d throw it and miss his target. He also attempted to shake the branches, but they simply wouldn’t let go of the plane.

“I’ve gotta get a picture of this!” I told him as I whipped out the cell phone.

And wouldn’t you know it: I took this picture — and this is the throw that knocked the plane out of the tree and safely to the ground! (I’ve still got it — even with a cell phone camera!)

You have to look closely, but you can see the yellow plane about to be hit by the black ball, just to the right of it.

Shane in a Tree

Then Shane made it back down the tree, and the plane was none the worse for wear … whatever that means.

Shane Climbing

Shane's Plane

Crab!

It has been a few days (weeks?) since I promised some Keys photos.

This handsome guy (gal?) showed up on the sidewalk on the way to the pool at our hotel. True to form, I didn’t even notice him until Diane said, “Oh, look: A crab!” (I am nothing if not observant.)

Sun on Water

One of the best parts about Key West is watching the sun set (almost) every night.

One night, Diane and I headed to Mallory Square to watch the event along with all the other tourists who gather each evening. When we arrived, though, we found a huge cruise ship docked there, blocking the view of the sunset for a good portion of the area. (Apparently, there were two or three ships at the docks that night.)

Karl called to tell us they had found a spot between two of the ships and said to hurry over there. We started walking in that direction but were unable to get through because that part of the dock was locked. We went back to the first dock and tried to wedge ourselves between the crowd to get a view of the fast-approaching sunset. Unfortunately, we had to stand three or four back, and I started pouting because I knew I wasn’t going to get a clear view for a picture.

“We should try to walk around to get to where Karl is,” I fumed. “I can’t get any good shots from here!”

“There’s not enough time,” Diane said, pointing to the sun. “Let’s just watch the sunset and enjoy it.”

I fumed some more, silently … and then, just as the sun was about to go under a cloud — thus ending any hopes of a “perfect sunset” — I climbed up on a chair and clicked off three or four shots, hoping I could just get something.

Sailboat at Sunset

(For the record: Just minutes before sunset, one of the cruise ships moved right in front of Karl and the rest of the gang, obliterating their view!)

Another one of my favorite activities is going to the Dolphin Research Center.

The day Diane and I went, however, the Keys were setting record lows for temperatures. The wind was bitterly cold coming off the water, but I was determined to get some good dolphin photos.

Can’t help it: I love them!

Dolphin Pals

I almost always take a picture of this Tennyson quote at the AIDS Memorial at Higgs Beach:

Tennyson

Diane and I took a walk to the beach near our hotel. A couple at the beach asked me to take their picture, so I did, and then we had them take our picture.

Di & Diane

Right after that, another couple asked me to take their picture … but before I did, the guy’s hat went flying off his head and into the ocean! He jumped down into the water and retrieved it … and then I went ahead and took the picture! (I had also snapped one of him going after his cap — but that photo is on his camera, not mine!)

Anyhoo, I realize I’ve been slacking on blogging for the past few weeks (months?), and I have set sort of a mini-goal in honor of this being a Leap February and all: To write a little something every day of this month.

It’s only 29 days …

So, during our weekend visit to Chicago — known as the Windy City, we explained to Kameron, as gusty winds threatened to lift him off the ground whilst walking along State Street! — we also had an opportunity for a “Brush with Fame” when we happened upon a film crew just a block from our hotel.

Not that seeing a film crew is all that out of the ordinary in Chicago. A few years ago, we saw Bruce Willis on Wacker Drive, shooting a scene from Mercury Rising (I never saw the actual movie.) A year or two after that, we saw a bunch of trailers, some cameras and lights, and Sherry asked one of the guys wearing a “Security” shirt what was going on.

“He told me they’re shooting a film with Edward Asner in it,” Sherry said. “And Jason Alexander … whoever that is.”

Whoever THAT is?

“That’s George Costanza!” I squealed.

We waited around for a few minutes, but no George. No Lou Grant, either. (I just checked IMDB: The name of the movie they were filming is The Man Who Saved Christmas. I’ve never seen it, either.)

I’ve seen a few other actors in ChiTown, too: James Kiberd (Trevor Dillon from All My Children) and his wife, Susan Keith (Shana Sloane from Loving — which I only watched for a season or two), strolling arm-in-arm down Michigan Avenue (I suspect Diane and I were the only ones in the city who would have recognized them), and, during that same trip, Brendan Fraser, shopping at Niketown. (Coincidentally, we had just recently seen him in the film School Ties … and, is it just me, or would it be MUCH easier if his name were Brandon Frazier?) Plus, one other time at Niketown, I’m pretty sure I saw Christina Ricci.

Then there was the random celebrity sighting in Daytona Beach, Fla., when my traveling companions and I saw the cast of Revenge of the Nerds as we were leaving our hotel; apparently, they were there filming the Nerds in Paradise sequel. I, of course, had not seen Revenge of the Nerds, so I was completely unfazed — yet willing to walk up to a man my cohorts knew only as “Booger” and ask him for his autograph. (His real name is Curtis Armstrong. I had him address the autograph “To Betty” — Patti’s mom; Betty saved it all this time and, after her death, it was among her belongings and Patti sent it to me.)

I’ve also met John Malkovich (mainly because I’ve worked in the same office with his mom, older brother and youngest sister) and Michelle Pfeiffer (she is more beautiful in person than onscreen, even). I’ve gotten autographs from a few random sports stars, most of them tennis players whose names are unpronounceable (is that even a word). I’ve also had some “Could it be …?” brushes with fame, like the time Sherry was convinced the guy sitting in the bar of the restaurant in Cancun was Tom Arnold (he looked NOTHING like Tom Arnold, I discovered during a walk-by), or when Patti used to come up with these celebrity look-alikes — e.g. “Don’t look now, but it’s former child actor Immanuel Lewis,” she’d say in a conspiratorial whisper when a somewhat short black man walked past our table at Marty’s.

Anyhoo, on Saturday, we saw this guy:

Timothy Hutton

And that’s pretty much what Diane said when she saw him standing across the street from all the cameras and lights and soundboards.

“There’s that guy!” Diane said. “I don’t know who he is, but he’s an actor!”

I glanced over to where she was pointing. “Wow! That’s Timothy Hutton,” I said. “I love him.”

Well, OK, love might be an exaggeration; however, I do love the film Ordinary People, and I do love Timothy Hutton in it, so … yeah, maybe I do love him. Just a little, anyway.

I started snapping away. Meanwhile, members of the film crew kept telling us we couldn’t take pictures, couldn’t use flash, couldn’t take videos, blah blah blah. (If I were really techno-savvy, I would’ve filmed a little snippet using my camera’s video feature and could’ve posted a YouTube clip … but nooooooo. All you get are pictures from me, baby!)

Timothy Hutton & Blurry Man

By the way, a few minutes later, Timothy Hutton was using that stick or club or telescope (?) to smash the windows out of three cars that were parked along Monroe Avenue.

We told Karl and Sherry about our “Brush with Fame” a few minutes later. They were visibly unimpressed because they assumed they had no idea who Timothy Hutton was.

“What’s he been in?” Karl asked.

Ordinary People,” I said. “The Falcon and the Snowman.”

Karl stared at me. “Anything else?”

“Uhhhh …”

I showed them the pictures I’d taken, and they realized that yes, they had, indeed, seen Timothy Hutton in something … they just couldn’t remember what.

Hours later, I would also think of Taps, but I didn’t even bother sharing that title. And, when we returned to Southern Illinois Sunday evening, guess what actor we ran across, starring in a movie called Beautiful Girls, on Lifetime?

That’s right: Timothy Hutton!

Begin 66

Dear Matthew,

Thought of you this weekend whilst wandering around the streets of Chicago. We were headed to the Art Institute when The Lovely said, “Oh, look: There’s the Route 66 sign!” So I snapped a couple of shots — one without flash, and one with (this is the one with). A few minutes later, we were standing in line and a guy selling Street-Wise was telling everyone with cameras to “get a picture of the Route 66 sign,” and I thought, You’re gonna have to give me a lot more information than that to get a dollar from me!

Anyhoo, when I was looking over my photos from the weekend, I remembered one I had taken earlier this year — a different highway, in a much different locale:

Begin 1

I also remembered that on the other side of the street was a sign that showed the end of Route 1, but the “END” part was missing from the sign. It occurred to me, this morning, that I should have taken a picture of the “END” of Route 66; after all, the sign would have been on the other side of the street, right? (I didn’t even think to look!)

All of which makes me wonder:

Are there highways on the moon?

Your pal,
Di

P.S. We did, indeed, see the Richard Misrach “On the Beach” exhibit. I especially liked the photographs of the various people on the beach — reminded me of something by Norman Rockwell, a little — and the ones of individual people in the water.

On Saturday, whilst driving the tennis team to Principia College — a school that is located in The Actual Middle of Nowhere (part of it does overlook the Mississippi River, however) — I happened upon this tiny village called Elsah.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to wander all the way up and down Elsah’s few streets, but I did snap a few shots of a shed that caught my attention.

Shed in Elsah

Gourds in Elsah

Something about Elsah — the houses and other buildings, the flowers, even the weather (chilly and overcast, but not unpleasant) — reminded me of walking from Vernon to Giverny on the way to Monet’s house back in 2001.

The other evening, in the midst of the ceremonies honoring the fallen firefighter, I get a call from a co-worker telling me she’s heard From Reliable Sources that Oprah is going to be in Sesser for the visitation.

Yes, that’s right: Oprah. As in Winfrey.

Which is not completely out of the realm of possibilities because Oprah’s show originates in Chicago. Which is approximately 5 hours away from Sesser by limo, less than 90 minutes by private jet and then limo from the closest airport. Geographically, it’s definitely do-able.

Plus, for the last year or so, Sesser has had this “Oprah, call Sesser!” campaign going on as part of some book promotion. Signs bearing that message are up throughout the community, and some residents have bumper stickers on their cars and SUVs asking the popular talk-show host to call their town.

So, I go to Sesser and stake out the church that’s hosting the visitation.

Sadly, no Oprah.

In fact, even though it’s in season, I don’t see any okra growing anywhere in Sesser, either.

I do make a couple of passes by the Sesser Opera House, but even that place shows no signs of The Big O.

I head back home, just after sunset, and as a deer darts in front of me and then scampers, harmlessly, into the almost-darkness, it occurs to me how many drives across the lake I have not made this summer — at least compared to the last summer or two. And I also realize, as it’s just past 8 but almost dark, already, that I’ve somewhat missed out on the extended daylight hours of summer. I’ve pretty much not seen any sunsets and moonrises, for reasons I cannot explain except to say I haven’t really been looking for them.

I don’t feel particularly sad about any of this, but perhaps I’m a little wistful. In the same way that, occasionally, I wish I could be 8 or 9 again, riding my bike until it’s dark enough outside that cars (almost) can’t see me or playing pitch and catch in the yard with Debra until Mom yells, for the third time, that it’s time to get inside.

Thankfully, the crickets and other evening noises still sound the same.

I am a tad cranky today. Partly because I believe the next-door cat is, indeed, gone (that mainly makes me sad, but it contributes to my overall crankiness), and also because I truly detest unsolicited (negative) comments, as well as people in authority — who really should know better — who call you the day of an event they fully expect you to cover (in this case, “you” being “me”) instead of giving you (again: “me”) the courtesy of advance notice (for example, a couple of days or more rather than a few short hours). Especially considering said event consists of spending an excruciatingly boring evening in a hot gymnasium. Blech.

Also, I am cranky because a year ago, I was en route to the Grand Canyon, in the midst of a most excellent trip to Arizona, and I cannot help wishing I were there, again, right now.

Earlier in the week, I had set out for the Saguaro National Park with my trusty atlas in hand … resulting in a photo that captures My True Drokdom just about as perfectly as possible:

Traveling Drok

This particular trip was especially good for thinking because I spent a good portion of it alone. Driving. And listening to music. And seeing stuff I had never seen before.

And I do not wish to rewrite the trip because what I wrote here and somewhere in here (the MySpace bloggie is not nearly as easy to navigate — another reason I ditched it, I suppose) is better than anything I could write today because it was fresh, then … and here it is, a whole year later.

My, how time flies.

I do remember, though, a site I saw and a thought I had, at one point in my journey. I had just (reluctantly) left Sedona, and as I drove toward a town called Jerome near the top of Mingus Mountain (7,815 ft., according to my atlas), on a couple of nearby mountains, I saw the letters “J” and “C.” And me being me, at the time, I immediately saw that as a reminder of an acquaintance of mine whose initials are J.C. — an acquaintance of mine who was, I finally realized, becoming an ex-acquaintance.

Just over a month later, though, I made a new friend whose initials are J.C.

How cool is that?

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