Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Muscle control

I worked a 14-hour day on Monday.

It's not the first time I've done something like that, and likely won't be the last. But maybe this is a sign that I'm getting older:

I arrived at the job at 10 a.m. and I left just before midnight. By 11:15 p.m., I started losing my motor skills, one by one. First I lost the ability to draw a straight line, which was critical for the task I was completing. Byt 11:30, I was having trouble with reading and comprehension. I'd read a word or a series of numbers, and then I'd have to re-read it seven or eight times to make any sense out of it. I found walking difficult. So I overcompensated, like an experienced drinker, by slowly placing one foot in front of the other. My speech was low and slow, again overcompensating.

So I called it a day. And I very carefully drove home.

Which, in hindsight, was pretty stupid.

-- Matt Kelsey

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Monument brings me full circle

On the road yesterday, I found something special.

In my current job, about which I can’t go into specific details until it is all over in a few months, I am required to drive up to Kansas’ Indian reservations several times each week. It’s fascinating to explore the differences of the state’s four tribes: the Potawatomi, the Kickapoo, the Sac & Fox and the Iowa Nation. There’s a Kelsey family rumor that we descend from Native Americans on my father’s side of the family, although to date we have found no solid proof. However, my grandmother had the distinct facial features of an Indian, and my dad remembers his grandfather being a full-blooded Cherokee. It may be only a rumor. But all my life I’ve felt the connection to the Native American community, and I hurt for their historically horrendous plight at the hands of white European immigrants, from whom I am also descended.

I have taken on this task of learning more about Kansas’ reservations with a relish. But as of yesterday, I had not come across anything that carried true meaning for me.

On my way back in to the office, I had some time to kill. My plan was to stop in Highland, Kansas, where a sign points to a Native American Heritage Museum just three miles off the highway. I turned off at the exit, drove a mile north to Highland and realized the road to the museum was closed. No detour. Just closed. Back to the highway.

Passing near Troy, Kansas, I saw a sign directing travelers toward a “Peter Toth Indian Monument.” I’d seen the sign many times before in my travels, but I had never taken the trip to search out the monument. I had never heard of Peter Toth, and I couldn’t imagine what the monument would be like. So I ventured into Troy.

The little brown tourist signs guided me down a handful of rural roads until it appeared I was heading back out of town. I saw one last brown sign in the distance and sped toward it. The sign informed me that a local Boy Scout troop cleaned up the trash on that stretch of road.

All of a sudden I was back at the highway, and I had a choice to make. To my right was the road back to Kansas City. A U-turn would give me another chance at the monument. After a few seconds of hesitation I spun the wheel hard left and headed back toward Troy.

Finally I stumbled into downtown Troy, a pleasant but dead town square area surrounding the beautifully-renovated Doniphan County Courthouse. I passed by the monument once and didn’t even notice it.

Then, on the second swing around the square, out of my rolled-down window, I saw this:

That’s the Peter Toth Indian Monument. And this picture does it no justice.

The wooden sculpture, carved from a 250-year-old burr oak, is 27 feet tall. It’s almost as high as the courthouse. I slowly stepped out of the driver’s seat and reverently walked to the base of the monument, staring up in awe. It was beautiful. And in my heart, I felt the thrum of the ancient tribal drums tracing back through the generations.

A plaque directed me inside the courthouse for more information. Postcards of the monument were 25 cents apiece. A friendly employee (could have been the county clerk, for all I know) told me about Peter Toth, who is not, to my surprise, the subject of the monument, but rather the artist.

Toth, a Hungarian-born immigrant, has created a series of sculptures, called the Trail of the Whispering Giants, in each of the 50 states recognizing the Native American tribes across the country. Kansas’ sculpture is in Troy. I bought two dollars’ worth of postcards, took one last look at the Peter Toth Indian Monument, and drove home.

I had been searching for meaning in this assignment. Yesterday, in the land of our forgotten and obliterated hosts, I found it.

--Matt Kelsey

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Okay. So... How about a little good news?

We're three games into the new Royals season, and to paraphrase the great baseball movie "Major League," these guys don't look to freakin' good.


There are a few specks of good news.

The starting pitching has been spectacular. So far, Zack Greinke has been the worst of the three starters to pitch. And we have Gil Meche back from the injury list this weekend; when he's healthy, he's proven to be a capable middle-of-the-rotation guy. Luke Hochevar did a lot to secure the No. 3 spot in the rotation in Game 2.

And the offense really hasn't been that bad. Hell, Yuniesky Betancourt and a big gust of wind hit a home run in the opener. He's on pace to hit over 50 (that's a joke, by the way). Rick Ankiel finally broke out when he needed to in the second game. And the Royals have been getting men on base. I'm hopeful the offense will come together nicely this year.

But then there's the bullpen.

Just like last year, the bullpen has proven to be atrocious so far. Even reliable Joakim Soria blew it in game two, though he did strike out three batters before giving up a bloop home run to Miguel Cabrera.

I'm hopeful, though. Maybe I'm just blinded by Springtime and opening week. But I think the pieces in the bullpen might fit together to make a fairly complete puzzle. Farnsworth? No. Huh-uh. If they can't trade him, they should make him irrelevant. Only pitch him in situations where a power righty makes sense. Juan Cruz, I think he'll bounce back this year. Roman Colon and Robinson Tejeda will get better. Dusty Hughes has looked good. And Soria is one of the best closers in the game.

So. There's hope. We're still likely looking at a losing season. But it's a step along the journey.

--Matt Kelsey

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I've got them Opening Day (Powder) Blues

Ah, opening day.

Fierce thunderstorms then clear skies. Oak and Juniper pollen fills the air. Left over March winds whip the flags at the ballyard. Thirty cities secretly whisper, 'This is the year.'

Well, in New York they growl, "This better be the year. Again."

Nothing but aces on the mound. Hitters tuned up and turned up. Standing room only, from sea to sea.

Like spring, the shoots are all green and tender. Everything is new. Winter is gone. Time to start over. A clean slate awaits.

Not so fast ye fans of Kansas City baseball. This is the garden patch nobody tended. Nobody pulled up last year's dried out tomato vines lurching every which way like varicose veins on meaty untanned legs. Nobody cleared away the moldy remains of sycamore and walnut leaves from the last days of fall buried from Christmas Eve until March 15th beneath the snow. Nobody turned the soil and dug in new compost.

This opening day knows no season, no year, no rebirth. Like waking up to the same old alarm after yet another fitful night of too-little sleep, the coffee tastes just as bitter as it did yesterday.

We had our bright shiny moment in the late 1970s and early 80s -- sorry if you missed it -- and the forecast, unfortunately, isn't good for a return.

That said, the home nine will probably roar back Wednesday with a resounding victory and some among us will start thinking about World Series tickets. The rest of us will be feeling drowsy from the allergy medicine.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Royals: Maybe ALL they have is depth

Did I just hear the color man proclaim: "Man, what depth the Royals have this year!"?

I'm not sure how to wrap my mind around such a thing. It certainly tests the definition of depth.

Would this be considered depth in Minneapolis or Chicago?

Maybe depth is different on a last place club.

Maybe depth is ALL this club has.

--Lofflin, refusing the lure of spring training hope

More signs available here...