Saturday, July 30, 2005

Adventures in San Diego: Days Three & Four

Day Three

I hit a snag. Got back to the hotel room after a long night, and found a message. Turns out that I’m getting charged big-time for accessing the Internet in my room. So I’ll hold off for now, and try to get online somehow tomorrow, if not Friday night.

Old Town

When I went to the old-time park five years ago, I didn’t have that much fun. I figured that it would be more of my mother’s speed, with the small markets and historical stuff. Turns out I was right.

The biggest bug was trying to find Bazaar del Mundo. Turns out that some company bought the park and renamed the area. So we went through several minutes of “Are we going insane or something?” before finding out. what was going on. We checked out areas with Mexican influence, including folks in period garb. Mom got a few mementos, I choked down hot lemon spice tea (seemed like a good idea at the time), and we met two donkeys on their way to entertain kids.

Balboa Park

We walked around for a few hours. Like I said before, there are a lot of museums in the area. The only one where we paid admission was the Hall of Champions, which honors sports in San Diego. The sad thing was that barely anybody was there. I’m hoping it was because of the time of day. It is a nice place to visit for a spell, with exhibits on baseball and football in the area, a local Hall of Fame, and an exhibit on bass fishermen. There’s even a big-mouthed bass swimming around in a tank. Try to find that in Cooperstown.

We also went to the Timken Museum of Art. If you want paintings, most of which are religious in nature, this is your place. Hey, it was free. The other thing I can recall is the lily pond, complete with bright red koi fish. We didn’t hit as much as we could, but it was a good place to walk around.

Petco Park

It hasn’t been a fun time for Padres fans these days. Even though their team were three games up on Arizona in the National League West, the squad was 50-50 overall. Worse, they were on an eight-game losing streak heading into tonight’s game against St. Louis. Even worse, there came a multitude of Cardinals fans coming over. Don’t ask me if they lived in the area or if they trekked a few thousand miles.

I got two upper deck tickets...not a smart move on my part. We could see most of the field, but it was bordering on nosebleed territory. All I wanted was a close game, for reasons I’ll get into later. But this was a game for the books. Consider:

1. St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujois steals second, and runs to third on catcher Robert Fick’s throwing error. With Dave Roberts not rushing to field the ball, Pujois goes for broke and tries for home...only to get gunned down at the plate.

2. The Padres tie the game at 1-1 in the third inning, and had the bases loaded for Ryan Klesko. He hits into a broken bat 1-2-3 double day to end the inning.

3. On a fly ball to deep centerfield, Brian Giles advances to second. Rather than pitch to Joe Randa, Jason Marquis tries an appeal at first base...and it actually worked. Giles was determined to have tagged up too soon, and was called out. I don’t think I’ve seen an appeal up close, and I can’t recall one getting upheld.

After wandering the stadium to get a better seat (and dragging my poor mother along), I ended up on ground level with some of the more enthusiastic fans. After eight innings, the score was tied 1-1. I was ready for some excitement...and I didn’t get it.

Let me explain. Five years ago, I went to a Giants/Padres game, back when the team was in Qualcomm Stadium. The Padres had a lead going into the ninth. Suddenly, a church bell started chiming. This was “Hell’s Bells” by AC/DC, the entrance music of ace reliever Trevor Hoffman. Seriously, who needs Mariano Rivera and “Enter Sandman”? That’s why I was hoping for a close I can get the same drama. Would the scoreboards cry out “It’s Trevor Time!” like in Qualcomm? How crazy would the fans get?

Here’s what happened: the P/A played a few songs. I couldn’t tell who was pitching until it was announced: Trevor Hoffman. What a letdown. The only logical thing I can think of was that “Hell’s Bells” gets blared only in save situations. Hoffman did earn his keep: after giving up a single and a runner-advancing fly ball, he walked Jim Edmonds intentionally. Just when I thought that we’d get a meltdown that I’ve seen from the likes of Branden Looper, Hoffman struck out John Mabry and got Mark Grudzielenk to fly out.

How did the Padres respond? Rather well, actually. Amazingly, Marquis was still in the game, batting for himself in the eighth. He got hit for a one-out trouble from Klesko. After intentionally walking Randa to get the potential double play. But we got Fick, and he singled to centerfield. Pinch-runner Damien Jackson scored, and the Padres won, 2-1. First major league baseball game I’ve seen since 2002, and I got a walk-off affair. Even more amazing, there were four other similar endings in the majors today. Good times all around.

I’ll stop for now. Tomorrow, I got the zoo and the Gaslamp Quarter.

Day Four

No trip to the Gaslamp after all...after a long day, Mom wanted to chill without taking another trip. No online for me...after trying to go wireless with borrowed equipment, I gave up. I was connected long enough to find out that I had messages on my e-mail account, and that was it. I’ll have to check when I get back home tomorrow. For all I know, it’s all spam.

I went to the San Diego Zoo for the third time. This time, I had a time limit, thanks to the hotel shuttle schedule. Not that I ever spent all day there; both times, I had stuff to do afterwards (Padres at Qualcomm in 2000, comics and Preview Night at CCI in ‘03). Also, as I was getting ready, the local news reported that one of the panda bears might be pregnant, which I found funny. We have HBO in the hotel room, and Anchorman was on last night. Even funnier, not only is the film is set in San Diego (hey, Will Ferrell just smacked Jack Black with a burrito...on the Coronado Bridge!), but a pregnant panda was also a plot point.

Wanna know a secret about pandas? They’re not that exciting. The first time I was there, the line to see the pandas was so long, I didn’t bother. Second time? No was in a tree motionless, the other was lying on its back. I swear, with the paws up in the air, it looked kinda dead. Today, we only got to see one panda, and it was lying in the tree. It’s a surreal walk it, forced to talk in a normal tone of voice, while a zoo guide doles out facts on a microphone. If anybody has seen a panda up close and actually walking, let me know.

The real stars of the Zoo? Has to be the orangutans. They’re big, bright orange, and always moving around. The big one is Clyde, whose cheeks are so big and droopy. When he comes, the others scatter. I saw him fool around with a box. I also saw two orangutans fool around with each other, and got to see a zookeeper throw food at them. With no sign of chimpanzees or gorillas around (did I miss the exhibit? Were they not on display? Late for work?), the orangutans were great to watch.

Other fun stuff to watch? We got to see polar bears fool around with giant bottles and swim in the water. The hippo looked the same as always...hung over. Actually, the big fella moved around this time, and I got some good pictures. Most of the animals were barely moving, either from the heat, lethargy, or from being held in captivity...but they seem to be cared for. Of course, when it comes to staying in trees, there aren’t many experts like the koala bear. The ones outside sat serenely, while those in an indoor exhibit moved around a little. The rest is a blur, as I led my mother from one end of the zoo to the other. She’s a trooper...I walk frequently back home, but she’s not used to it. We took the tour bus and the cable Skyfari cars to lessen the burden. We missed a few things, but nothing too important. It’s good to share the sight of a hippo pressed against the glass, you know?

And that’s about it. We had Italian for dinner, and we’re getting ready for the trip home. My mother was impressed with her first trip to California, and she’d like to come back. As for me? Well, next year will be the tenth anniversary of Kingdom Come, the unbelievably great comic book miniseries, and that book had an unofficial message board that would evolve into Comic Book Resources. The posters in those forums made up the first online community I ever joined, and I can’t think of a more appropriate reunion venue than CCI. Also, I should be getting my passport in the next few weeks, just in time for a trip to Toronto in late August. Lame that I’ve yet to go off-continent (been away from the U.S. for about five days total), but my possibilities are going to be more open soon. One day, I’ll get a life, and I’ll be able to get a heckuva lot further than San Diego. But with temperatures that top out around 80 degrees and beautiful scenery, that’s not a bad thing.

PS: The panda mamma? Pregnant with twins. If they both survive, it’ll be a license for the Zoo to just print money.

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