Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ready, go (unedited)

Short and simple: I have a monumental challenge ahead of me during the next two months. If I succeed in accomplishing my goals, I will find peace, and happiness, in my life. If I fail I can dust myself off and try again.

I use to have a defeatist attitude. I have mourned my lack of good fortune. I am blessed in many ways, and I have more than many people could ever hope for. I will not dwell on the negative. There's a light at the end of my tunnel. I'm not sure what that light is coming from, but I will find out, and I will reach it.

Friday, July 29, 2011

What a strange Journey

I was never a big fan of Journey, but I did go to a Journey concert in 1987. I think it was 1987, my memory is far from flawless. I do know I was in high school and went to the concert with comp tickets from WLOL. That's another story -- a great one -- and one I rarely tell.

Journey had its share of hits in the 1980s, but traces its roots back to the 1970s. Since the late 1990s the band has soldiered on without the lead singer from its heyday, Steve Perry. Perry sang most, if not all, of the hits we know.

It's not clear to me whether Perry has voluntarily distanced himself from his biggest success or if the band dismissed him because he delayed their touring plans as a result of surgery he put off. Either way, the band replaced him... three times.

For several years after Perry departed Journey's lead singer was a guy named Steve Augeri. After about eight years he was replaced on a short-term basis, and for the past few years the band has been fronted by a Filipino guy who they found through a YouTube video of him performing Journey tunes. I don't know about Perry's first two replacements, but the Filipino guy is often touted as a Perry soundalike.

On Thursday night Journey was in St. Paul, performing with Foreigner and Night Ranger. (Foreigner has also been touring for years without the guy who sang all the hits, Lou Gramm. According to Wikipedia, the only original member these days is its lead guitarist.) Nine hours after the concert Journey was in New York, performing live on the Today Show plaza. Every Friday during the summer NBC's Today Show has a concert on its plaza. The performances vary greatly. Sometimes it's a big artist that is popular among today's youngsters, sometimes it's an established artist that isn't the biggest draw on the concert circuit. Journey has persevered without Perry, and their hits have become rock classics that have stood the test of time.

One of my friends made a comment on Facebook this morning about not knowing Journey has an Asian lead singer. I noted the irony that in the same 10-minute span Journey and its YouTube sensation were singing "Don't Stop Believin'" on NBC while Debbie Gibson and Tiffany were singing the same song during ABC's Good Morning America concert in Central Park.

Those comments generated a couple of discussions about the validity of Journey. A few people seem to think that Journey shouldn't exist without Perry singing lead vocals.

One comment: "Simply saying that a Journey song originally recorded by Steve Perry shouldn't be sung in concert by anyone other than Steve Perry."

Another comment: "Just don't bill them as Journey. Because without all the originals they arent."

The rules regarding bands are often fluid, and rarely is a case black and white. People identify most bands by the lead singer. A guitar player or drummer may stand out and be recognized as an intregal part of the band's sound, and success, but most bands live and die by the lead singer. AC/DC flourished with a replacement lead singer, Brian Johnson, who replaced original lead singer Bon Scott, who died. Van Halen succeeded with Sammy Hagar when David Lee Roth decided he was bigger than Van Halen. (Roth is often held up as the poster child of lead singer disease.)

Does the absence of the lead singer mean the band should be forced into retirement? In the case of Journey, the writing credits for Don't Stop Believin' belong to three people, one of them is Perry. The other two are still with the band to this day. Should the band be forced into exile if any one of the three no longer tours with the band? Since it's Perry that is the odd man out, should the rest of the band be forced to continue without performing any of the songs the band wrote simply because the lead singer of the original recording is no longer present? I don't think so.

As far as I know nobody forced my brother, my college friend, my former co-worker or anyone else to attend Thursday night's Journey concert, or to buy tickets to the concert. If people want to enjoy the music as performed by musicians who wrote it, why does that bother people? Should nobody be allowed to vote with their wallet because somebody else is singing the song we hear on the radio? Last I knew, people still have free will when it comes to spending their entertainment dollar.

More ridiculous, however, is the moronic suggestion that a band should no longer exist without all original members. If that was the case, Journey as we have known it wouldn't exist because Perry wasn't the first lead singer of the band. Beyond that, so many bands would cease to exist today if they were forced to rebrand themselves or abandon music they had written previously because the original drummer or bassist is no longer in the band.

People will always remember bands and music in their heyday, and I get that, but why is it that it bothers people that some form of the band exists for those who care more about the sum of the whole, rather than the individual parts?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

With hope, all is lost (unedited)

I've decided I'm going to come to an understanding as to why my life has turned to shit in the past year. And with that understanding, there will be peace and happiness.

I'm a pessimist, always have been. Yet there's more optimism inside of me than anyone would guess. Usually that optimism results in disappointment, at least in my life.

I'm not depressed, I'm rudderless. Life is a self-fulfilling prophecy. That's probably not true, but without hope, I have nothing. I can't solve the world's problems, and I can't order a fresh, new and exciting life at I can either drift aimlessly or I can be one of those fools who goes on some ridiculous treasure hunt. The treasure I seek: inner peace.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. I've been on that road too long. Good intentions are a waste of time. I'm tired, I'm always tired, and I have half-assed it through life far too long. I'm going to get rich or die trying. I'm never going to have much money, I'm not that guy. I have enough money to put a modest roof over my head. That's all I ask for. But I'm going to be rich.

It has taken me 40 years to finally understand what matters. It has taken me 40 years to sort out what I want, what I need and what I can accept.

Doug is going to get his wish. I can't hope for that, hope is for suckers. I have to make it happen.

Monday, July 25, 2011

December promise you gave unto me (unedited)

Monica and I went to see Collective Soul at Lumberjack Days in Stillwater last Friday night.

Collective Soul emerged at the end of the hairband era and managed to adapt to carve a musical niche in the grunge era. They've probably been called a Pearl Jam imitator, as there are some similarities.

This was the third time I had been to a Collective Soul concert, all of them with Monica. I like several of their songs and their live performance is solid. Their concerts aren't visual spectaculars, but musically they enrich several of their songs, adding a little extra to excellent musicianship.

Monica insisted upon getting to the concert area early to ensure she'd be up close to the stage. And we were. We were about as close as you could get, and there were a couple thousand people gathered at the stage by the time the concert finally started.

The band played about 90 minutes, providing a thoroughly entertaining show. I paused several times to remember how fortunate I am, fortunate to have a friend who is there for me when I need a friend and values my friendship more than I value my life.

Sweating bullets all evening at an outdoor concert on a humid Friday night in Minnesota doesn't change the fact that I'm still drifting aimlessly through life. I found an ounce of peace with the fact I'm drifting aimlessly through life, but at the end of the night I still have to find a meaning and purpose to my daily existence.

We all hope that when faced with adversity we'll persevere. We all hope that we will overcome every obstacle life presents us with.

I made a December promise to myself. I pray that I have the dedication and inner fortitude to deliver on that promise.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It's time to let go (unedited)

I don't know if it's anger or sadness. I can't figure it out.

My ability to cope has been challenged lately, and I suppose I can argue that I'm winning, but I worry that there's no end in sight. The human body has limits -- physically, mentally and emotionally -- I'm nowhere close to my emotional limits, but the wear and tear isn't doing me any favors.

Some people break down when they are pushed to their limits, and for some it doesn't take much pushing to get there.

Some people recover quickly from setbacks in life, and rebound stronger than ever. Emotionally I am slow to recover. I've said it before, I'm less debilitated by personal disappointment than I was in years past, but that doesn't make the recovery process any quicker. Lately I have been having recurring bouts of sadness and anger, after going weeks without them. I never feel crippled by them, and somehow I'm emboldened by them, as if this is the last time I'm going to have suffer through such personal disappointment.

They say time heels all wounds. It probably does, but I don't have enough time left on this world for my latest wound to heel.

When I was driving north on the Fourth of July to spend the week with my friends at their lake place, the thought of making that drive, alone, for the next 10 years and sponging off the generosity of my friends just didn't hold much appeal to me.

On the night before I headed back to reality I was out on my buddy's boat, enjoying beers while he unsuccessfully fished for walleye. As I stared at the relatively calm water as we were returning to shore at sunset I couldn't help but think about how much Minnesotans value the ability to cruise around a lake in a motorized vessel. I stared at the water and thought about how many people would cherish a moment such as that, and how ungrateful I was for it.

Since my vacation I have found myself dwelling on one fact of life, my life is relatively meaningless, and will never be anything more than that. I have waited 40 years for a purpose to my life, and I don't have one. That's because there ain't one, and there isn't going to be. If you're the type who prays to a god you probably believe your god has a plan for your life. My god has a plan for the lives of almost everyone I know. Yet somehow I was left off the list when purposes were being assigned.

I am a friend to many, indispensable to no one. My life is meaningless. I am blessed to have as much as I do in the world, but all the blessings in the world don't change the fact there's no scar tissue left. I am no longer able to heal.

Sometimes people make a full recovery following surgery. Other times people are crippled for life, despite the best efforts of their medical team. Some people are as good as new after knee surgery. Others are slowed down, hobbled or crippled by their knee.

I want to believe that this wound will heal. I want to believe that the happiness I had in 2010 can be recaptured. I want to believe my life is not disposable. But I'm not much of a dreamer. I have collected enough evidence to know better. It's time to let go. I'm holding onto so little, but it's hard to let go. But it's time. It's time.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Stinktown 4, Colorado 3 (unedited)

Chip was in Colorado today, watching his beloved Stinktown Brewers defeat the Colorado Rockies 4-3. It was two weeks after watching Stinktown lose to the Minnesota Twins here in God's Country. Chip came to the Twin Cities during Fourth of July weekend for a pair of Brewers games.

Chip has spent much of his vacation time the past several years traveling around the country, by himself, to see Major League Baseball games. Occasionally those games feature Stinktown, but not typically. Some years Chip goes to a game while traveling for work. Last year he was in Washington, D.C., the same weekend the Brewers were in Minnesota. I had tickets for a Twins/Brewers game that weekend, anticipating Chip would join me, but obviously that didn't happen. He was at Nationals Park at the exact same time I was watching the Twins and Brewers at Target Field. We often call each other when we're at a major league ballpark, and we had a brief phone conversation that day while watching our respective games.

Chip has been to a home game in every current major league city other than the Florida franchises, and I'm planning to attend games in those cities with him in 2012, when Miami opens its new stadium. In some cases Chip has been to home games at two different ballparks in several cities. I know he has been to home games at the old and new ballparks of the Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies. I'm sure I'm forgetting a city or two. I think he's up to 36 or 37 different ballparks that he has visited. Had the planets aligned slightly differently, perhaps he could claim to have been to three different stadiums for Minnesota Twins home games as I have, but he didn't make it to a Minnesota Twins game until he was in college.

Chip also makes a point to visit and tour the state capitals of states he travels to. Given there are 50 states, I can promise he's not as close as to finishing that tour as he is to finishing the ballpark tour.

Chip had been to Coors Field in Colorado previously, but he wanted to finally put his free Frontier Airlines flight to use, and it has been many years since he visited Colorado. He says it's the second best ballpark in the country, so he determined it was worth it to make a second trip to Coors country.

He flew to Colorado on Saturday and will return Wednesday night. There's no business tie-in to his trip, it's all vacation, and it's all on his dime, sans the free flight from Frontier.

In April I went to Las Vegas for five days, by myself. It was pure luck that my trip coincided with the end of a one-week vacation my Halloween friends took, and Monica booked a pair of layovers in Vegas during my week there, so I wasn't on my own the entire week. But I was prepared to be, and I wouldn't have cared.

Chip and I are both in our 40s. (He's about 11 months older than I am.) He has done it far more than I have, but we both have taken vacations on our own. I was fortunate to be able to take several vacations with my ex-girlfriend during our time together. (They didn't happen because either of us is rich, but that's another story for another day.)

Once again I'm faced with either finding a trip both Chip and I are interested in taking or flying the friendly skies on my own. I have friends who might be willing to travel to Vegas with me, so there's a chance I might book a trip to Vegas someday without having to travel on my own. But reality is setting in, there's no romantic trip to Paris, Niagara Falls or the Mexican Riviera in my future.

For some people, that's the hand life has dealt them, and they're fine with it. I'm going to have a hard time playing my cards.

Casey Anthony, will you marry me? (unedited)

I didn't follow the case of Casey Anthony closely. The story was more bizarre than typical parent-kills-child tales, but I'm still not sure why it deserved a national spotlight. If you had to justify missing persons and murder stories to a national audience, many times you'd fail to do so, I suspect. I guess what it comes down to is that we're all looking for a good story.

Late last night Anthony was released from prison, having served her time for lesser crimes she was convicted of. Protesters showed up at her late night prison release, protesters who think she should have been convicted of murdering her daughter. It seems that most people think she did. I don't think many people are arguing that she didn't, and her actions that followed the mysterious disappearance and death of her daughter make it hard to argue otherwise. But nonetheless a jury of her peers determined the prosecution didn't prove she did it, so she walks.

Anthony is reportedly concerned about her safety. Allegedly she has been the target of death threats.

Even if she didn't have any reason to fear for her safety, what the hell is she doing to do with her life now? She hasn't had a job for about five years, and is reportedly a high school drop out. In America we do forgive and somewhat forget as time goes on, but somehow I doubt Anthony is going to be able to have a successful career as anything other than a second-rate porn star. Allegedly there are offers for the rights to her story, so that would pay the bills for a while, but it's hard to imagine she'll ever be allowed the privilege of living and working as a normal member of society. She won't fade into the woodwork. She won't be forgotten in a year or two.

I don't feel sorry for her, even if she weren't guilty of killing her daughter.

So today's story about Anthony highlighted the extraordinary security that surrounded her release and her quick disappearance from the public eye. As they showed her getting into an SUV with her lawyer, I somehow found myself wondering about an odd question. How many marriage proposals did she receive while she was incarcerated?

In a country of more than 300 million people, it's not surprising that we have 200 million with a few screws lose. I've seen this story more than once, but the example that comes to mind instantly is that of the Menendez brothers. These guys were convicted of killing their wealthy parents in 1989 and are expected to spend the rest of their life in prison. And yet one of the brothers has been married twice since being incarcerated, the other once. Women who cannot spend time outside of prison with their husbands, or have conjugal visits with them at the prison, decided that a relationship with brothers who killed their parents was a good idea. That, my friends, is the textbook definition of mental illness.

And I'd bet Anthony was receiving fan mail in prison, as well, from guys whose 15 minutes of fame expired after their appearance on The Jerry Springer Show. There are guys a lot more demented than Anthony, so I can understand her appeal to them. But there are probably seemingly ordinary, average guys out there who have reached out to her, too. And I'll bet she received some sort of marriage proposal from more than one of them while she was incarcerated.

It's a weird world we live in, and thinking about the Menendez brothers, Anthony and her potential suitors makes me a bit uneasy about venturing out to the grocery store tonight. I might be shopping alongside the next Anthony, Menendez brother or future spouse of a convicted murderer. I'm borderline paranoid right now, which is dangerous. Paranoia is probably the first step down the aisle, of marriage to the next Casey Anthony.

Update: I should have known. I did one quick Google search and found this.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Thank God I don't live in Richmond (Minnesota or Virginia) (unedited)

I made another cameo north of the Twin Cities, to the little, forgettable town of Richmond.

Richmond is your classic small town. It's not disconnected from the world, it's about 30 minutes from St. Cloud, the third largest city outside of the Twin Cities metropolitan area, (and the eighth largest city in the state.) Richmond has a tiny downtown district, a school district, a few recreational amenities and a summer festival. Every town has to have an annual drunk fest.

My college friends and their children live in Richmond. It has been a decent place to raise a family, it appears, and it's not as if they are trapped in their small town. They find their way to St. Cloud, the Twin Cities and out of state on a regular basis.

I visited them today, taking in the festival's parade and the mediocre fireworks show after dark. I've seen it before, it's nothing special, but it's an excuse to go to Richmond and visit my friends, who just returned home from a long vacation.

I was glad I made the trip. I don't find my way up to Richmond more than twice a year, and usually just once in any given calendar year. I see my friends and their kids at other times during the year, so I don't need to make a cameo six times per year. I'm sure if they lived 30 minutes away, instead of 90, I'd drop in for a visit far more often.

Some people like the quiet, less hectic life a small town typically provides. I can appreciate that, but I need the trappings of the asphalt jungle, and all the choices it affords. I have access to thousands of jobs within a short commute, should I decide I need to do something different with my life. I have dozens of entertainment choices within 30 minutes of my apartment, every night of the week. I have numerous grocery stores within 10 minutes of my apartment, not two within the 10-mile radius of my apartment.

Given it is easier than ever to stay connected to the world, life in Richmond probably seems less isolating than it did 20 years ago. I started my life in a small Indiana town, I have vague memories of that life. It wasn't terrible, especially since it was all that I knew. And after graduating from college I spent 2-1/2 years in a city similar to Alexandria. So I have enough experience in the small town and small city atmosphere to know life in the big city, or at least its suburbs, is the only place to be. At least for me.

It's too bad I'm having such a tough time enjoying this life.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Thank God I don't live in Alexandria (Minnesota or Virginia) (unedited)

As I noted not so long ago, I made a cameo in Alexandria, Minn., while on vacation in small town, Minn.

I was born in a town somewhat like Alexandria. It was in Indiana, and I haven't lived there in 30 years. I have wondered many times what my life would be like had my parents never divorced and I never wound up in Minnesota. I'd love to know how radically different my life would have been in the Bizarro world.

I know people who grew up in Alexandria, I think. They still have ties to the area, but they have chosen the bright lights and big city instead of the incestuous life of Alexandria. Good choice.

Alexandria has its share of nice neighborhoods and lakeshore properties for the doctors and lawyers who work there. It's not the worst place to live, but knowing all the things a suburban area such as the Twin Cities has to offer, I can't stop wondering why anybody would choose the relative isolation of Alexandria.

I "met" several people last week, and most of them reminded me that I have no interest in living in their unspectacular city. Allow me to introduce a few of them to you. Please keep in mind that I'm making uneducated guesses about who they are. And even if I paint a depressing picture of them, they are likely happier than I am, and therefore that makes them better than me.

My favorite new friends from the Alexandria Beetles baseball game include:

• Announcer Guy. He's the guy providing much of the narration during the minor league baseball game. He has a great radio voice, so he's a natural behind the mic at a minor league baseball game, especially given the fact the job doesn't pay much. I'm pretty sure Announcer Guy works for a local radio station after his training at some prestigious school of broadcast. He's professional, no doubt about it, but he sounds like every textbook deejay in small town, America. That shit doesn't play well in a major market. Announcer Guy is either happy to have a steady job in the small market where he grew up or he is resigned to being a big fish in a small pond.

• Freckles. I mentioned her in my diatribe about attending a Beetles game. Despite the obscene freckle count on her face and arms, she was probably a cute enough girl in high school for some guy to violate. I'd love to see the guy who fathered her 13 children during the past five years. I'm not sure if breeding and living in Alexandria for the rest of her life was her greatest aspiration, but I'd bet her left arm she dreamed a bit bigger than that.

• Insurance Guy. My guess is that he either sells insurance or manages the sales staff at a local car dealership or radio station. I suppose there's a chance he's a doctor or lawyer, but he didn't seem the type. All I know is that his fancy green polo shirt and healthy gut made him hard to miss. I couldn't help but think I'm only 20 pounds away from being him, and that scared the shit out of me. Lest you think I'm painting a negative picture of Insurance Guy, guess again, muchacho. His fast track to success in his chosen field landed him a pretty nice trophy. I loved his wife's made-for-TV hair. Insurance Guy can get away with carrying an extra 50 pounds, but the trophy wife can't get away with that shit. She has to maintain a pre-pregnancy figure, and dress the part of a real housewife of Alexandria. Mission accomplished. By the time her kids are in high school she might be just old enough to no longer qualify for MILF certification. Oh well, nothing lasts forever.

• Sex Kitten. She appeared to be attending the game with her young, beloved son, and the father of her child. She liked to sell her young and adventurous persona, but appeared to have made a commitment to the family life. She doted upon the young boy and politely tolerated the older, slightly rotund stepdaughter. Sex Kitten didn't appear to be old enough to have given birth to the girl, so I could only assume that she was a child of one of dad's previous relationships.

• Toilet Paper Guy. This dufus appeared to be attending the game with his unsexy wife and a couple of kids. What little I saw of him led me to believe he was no prize. I was highly impressed by his game night attire, specifically a T-shirt depicting a roll of toilet paper with the caption "that's how I roll." Brilliant.

There were some cute teenage girls attending the game, and perhaps a college girl or two, as well as their male counterparts. But at no point did I mistakenly think I was attending a Mensa meeting.

I ran across a few other interesting characters during my travels around the Alexandria area, the most memorable being the fat guy who stopped at the gas station in Garfield. Garfield is one of the old rail towns outside of Alexandria, and served as my rest stop/turn around while bicycling one afternoon. This slob had an ill-fitting T-shirt that wasn't long enough to cover his gut, but that didn't seem to bother him. By pairing the T-shirt with cotton shorts and slipping on shoes he didn't have to tie he was set for an afternoon cameo at the epicenter of Garfield. I biked 21 miles to get to Garfield, only to have to watch fatty waddle into the convenience store. If there was ever a reminder that my life isn't all bad, tubby was it.

These people were no different than people I could meet in the Twin Cities. And, God forbid, if I lived in Alexandria I'm sure I'd enjoy sitting down to a beer with some of them. But spending a few hours in the bowels of Alexandria reminded me I have been fortunate to live in the Twin Cities for the past 14 years.

I am blessed, yet I am hard pressed to remember that on a daily basis. Shame on me.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Alexandria Beetles baseball: desperation entertainment (unedited)

I like the idea of minor league baseball, but it's hard to get emotionally attached to a team.

My beloved Chicago White Sox won the world series in 2005. Less than six years later there are three players left from that 2005 team. That's the nature of baseball.

In the minor leagues the turnover is far greater. I'm sure there are players who spent several years on the same minor league team, but movement up and down the minor league system, or being traded from one team's minor league system to another, is the common scenario for baseball players trying to make it to the big leagues.

Most minor league baseball teams are affiliated with a major league team. If you play for the Great Falls Voyagers of Montana, your goal is to make it to the Chicago White Sox.

But there are several minor league teams not affiliated with a Major League Baseball franchise, and one of those teams is the Alexandria Beetles of Alexandria, Minn.

The Beetles play in the Northwoods League, a summer league composed of collegiate baseball players. Many aspiring Major League Baseball players are drafted out of high school, foregoing the collegiate experience. But college baseball is a viable avenue to a major league career, too, and college baseball players who are living the dream have few options during the summer if they want to maintain their college baseball eligibility. That's where the Northwoods League comes in.

You won't find the career minor league journeymen playing in the Northwoods League, it's a place for collegiate players to spend their summer playing competitive baseball without getting paid to do so. I'm sure the teams are allowed to arrange housing and other benefits for their players, but the players aren't paid.

Some minor league teams, typically the AAA affiliates of Major League teams (the highest level of minor league baseball) draw thousands of fans to games. The teams are typically located in cities of significant size, such as Buffalo, N.Y., Indianapolis, Ind., and Toledo, Ohio.

Most of the Northwoods teams are in Minnesota and Wisconsin, in cities that are of decent size, but far from spectacular in population. Toledo has about 287,000 residents. Alexandria has less than 12,000, and there aren't many neighboring cities of significant size to draw upon.

Allegedly the Beetles game I attended last week drew more than 1,000 spectators.

I have long wanted to see the charm a collegiate minor league game in Minnesota has to offer, but I've been unwilling to make the 60-90 minute drive to cities north and south of Minneapolis to attend a Northwoods game. But I made the 15-minute drive last week to see the Beetles while on vacation.

There's a definite small town feel at a Beetles game. The old city ballpark that hosts Beetles games has a nice grandstand behind home plate, but it seats a few hundred, not thousands. There are bleachers along the baselines, but there's no outfield seating, other than a few promotional seats that weren't in use last week.

The only minor league products I have witnessed are the St. Paul Saints and the defunct Duluth-Superior Dukes, both independent minor league teams. The Saints franchise has been around in its present form for nearly 20 years. They were drawing more than 6,000 spectators a night, every night, for years. In recent years they have had to work harder to keep people coming back, but that's another story.

The Beetles sell a similar experience as the Saints. There's a lot of entertainment added to the on-the-field product. The game is serious, but the atmosphere between innings is far less so. Humor and minor league antics are part of the total package. It's cute, but not a reason to keep coming back week after week. If you don't enjoy watching competitive baseball, you'll tire of attending Beetles games in a hurry.

I had wanted to attend a Beetles game two summers ago, but their schedule didn't mesh with my vacation plans. Ditto last year. But I finally made it in 2011, and I can't say I'm going back in 2012.

Half the battle in minor league baseball is putting asses in the seats. Minor league ballparks don't gouge patrons like their major league counterparts when it comes to concessions, so once you're in the ballpark, there's a chance you'll support the franchise with a hot dog, soda or beer purchase. For the Beetles, putting asses in the seats means giving away general admission tickets for weeknight games. I made the mistake of saving $6 or $8 by taking advantage of a free general admission ticket to a Wednesday night game.

Many people who attend minor league baseball do so for the social aspects of the experience, not so much for the action on the field. In Alexandria that means several well-meaning parents attend a game with their undisciplined children, because being a good parent means pretending you're creating a lifetime memory at the expense of people who have little tolerance for your filthy offspring.

I wound up sitting in front of some freakishly freckled woman with about 10 kids under the age of 6. I lost count how many times her disinterested children brushed up against my back because it was difficult stepping around the folded stroller behind me. At no point did Freckzilla appear to notice her spawn were infringing upon my personal space. I call that Alexandria hospitality.

I got up to get a beer before the game was half over, if for nothing else than to get away from the riff raff. When I returned my bench was infested with the little freaks. Freckles was surprised to see me return and sort of apologized for invading my space. I quickly pointed out there were plenty of good seats still available. That's because several people were already headed home before the game was half over. I knew I wasn't returning to my seat, Freckula made it less obvious I wanted nothing to do with her brand of white trash.

As for the action on the field, collegiate pitchers aren't under a minor league contract for a reason. If you're above average as a pitcher, it has to be tough to turn down a minor league contract, even if there's a college scholarship dangling in front of you. The pitching and game play isn't horrible, but it definitely lacks what Major League Baseball has. I saw home runs and defense, but I also saw a fair amount of lackluster play. Not sloppy, just lackluster. That makes it harder to appreciate the game in progress, especially when it quickly escalates to a lopsided contest. Final score: 13-4 in favor of the home team.

The ballpark was like nothing I had ever seen. If you know anything about baseball fields, you know the deepest part of the park is center field, and that the distance to left field is shorter than the distance to center field. Yet in Alexandria it was 350 feet to the left field foul poll, yet only 345 feet to center field. The odd dimensions included a 385-foot sign in left-center field. The dimensions from center field to the right field foul poll were in line with your typical ball field.

As I watched the game, studied the field dimensions and surveyed the crowd, I was thankful for my meaningless life in the Twin Cities, but more about that another day.

I was glad I spent three hours at the ballpark by myself, and thankful I'm not resigned to accepting a night at an Alexandria Beetles baseball game as summertime entertainment.