photography, sports, travel

I met Joe DiMaggio, but couldn’t keep my eyes on the ball

Is Throwback Thursday still a thing? Let’s throw it back to 1996. I was a high school junior. My parents took my sister Kendra and me to Florida for Spring Break. We went to Disney World and a bunch of Spring Training baseball games. The Royals still trained in Florida in those days. When we went to their park, I was lucky enough to meet George Brett and he signed a baseball for me. A Hall of Famer, not too shabby. That would have been the highlight of the trip until we went to the Tampa airport to return home.

We always flew Southwest Airines. Dad flew a lot for business and he racked up a ton of free SWA tickets, so it made our vacations less expensive. We were sitting at the gate waiting for our flight home, when my Mom noticed him. He walked past with two other men and settled into a chair a few rows over. Could it be? No way! The Great Joe DiMaggio is flying … Southwest Airlines? And he is even carrying a Yankees-branded duffel bag? And he’s just … sitting there? It was mind-boggling. And it didn’t seem like anyone else in the airport had noticed.

Now of course we had to do something. But I’m not very good at approaching celebrities. Most of the time I prefer to let them be. This man had been world famous for 60 years as a superstar New York Yankee. He was briefly married to Marilyn Monroe. He did commercials for Mr. Coffee. How would he handle it if we went up to him? Is he so conditioned to appeasing fans, that it’s no big deal? Or did he tire of it and become surly decades ago? I’ll admit I didn’t have the guts to do it. I became way too nervous.

Dad stepped up and led Kendra and me over to the Hall of Famer. Mom stayed with our stuff (you da real MVP!). Dad spoke to him first and shook his hand. Dad asked Joe if he would sign an autograph for us. Joe said yes. I handed him the Yankee hat I happened to be wearing. “Sorry, not that,” he said. Hmm OK. We had a program from the Yankee game we had attended a few days before. That worked. “I guess you probably want a photo, too,” he surmised. Yes please! Dad snapped the pic and we left the man in peace.

Except not really. Sadly we had attracted the attention of the masses. So Joe moved to a far corner of the terminal and his two companions assumed guard duty to keep others at bay. Oops, sorry.

The camera that took the photo was, of course, a film camera. This was 1996, after all. When we returned to Oklahoma City and Mom pulled the camera out of the luggage, it had opened during the flight, exposing the film. Tragedy! We sent it for developing and hoped for the best. Sure enough, the double exposure had created some problems, including red vertical lines through the image. And our faces were washed out. But you could still see us and you could still see the man who once hit safely in 56 consecutive games. The only real problem: My eyes are closed in the photo! This is a common problem for me, as my eyes are super sensitive to bright light, including camera flashes. Oh well. Can’t re-shoot this one.

I recently tried my hand at editing and restoring the red-stained image, and the result is posted at the top of this page. Here is the original:

There was a 1991 episode of Seinfeld in which Kramer tells his friends about seeing DiMaggio in Dinky Donuts. Jerry is incredulous that DiMaggio would be in a donut shop or that he would dunk his donuts. But I’m here to tell you, If he flew Southwest and sat among the commoners, he probably dunked his donuts, too.

DiMaggio died three years after we met him. Paul Simon penned a tribute in the New York Times. Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? You will forever be the most famous person I ever met.

cycling, photography

Clinton MO bike photo blogging adventure

It’s been six years since we moved to Clinton. It’s been two years since I started taking photography seriously. It’s been two months since I bought a new bicycle. It’s been two weeks since I started blogging. There’s no relevance to any of this except that I decided to combine all of these things into one bike photo blogging adventure.

I spent two hours Sunday morning cycling across Clinton, stopping frequently to take photos with my Sony A7iii with a 35mm lens that I had strapped to my back. My journey covered 22 miles of trails, gravel, grass, dirt, and roads.

I present this black and white photographic tribute to Clinton, Missouri, on National Camera Day.

I usually start my bike rides by going to the Katy Trail State Park. At 240 miles, it is the longest developed rail-trail in the country, and it is less than two miles from my doorstep. Clinton is the western terminus of the trail. Sometimes I stay on the trail and sometimes I meander back to the streets for more of a road ride.

A new road was recently completed that links the Katy Trail to Golden Valley Memorial Healthcare. This happens to be Aften’s workplace. I’m excited that I can now get there easily on a bike while avoiding the highway.

GVMH, of course, is what brought us to this city of 9,000 in west central Missouri. Before that, I had never even heard of Clinton. Since we moved here, we have gotten married. We have two beautiful daughters. And we’ve made some amazing friends that I’m sure will be a part of our lives forever.

The first couple of years we lived in Clinton, I worked with the chamber of commerce. They brought me in to redesign the web site, but they also had me take over the tourism budget. One of the things that we always touted was that Clinton has the biggest historic downtown square in the country. The big event on the square every year is the Olde Glory Days festival in July. It won’t happen this year because of Covid-19.

On one corner of the square are statues of a Union and a Confederate soldier. Apparently Henry County was the site of a few “skirmishes” during the Civil War. At some point, someone deemed it necessary to honor both the winners and the losers. As far as I know, the call to tear down monuments hasn’t reached this rebel.

After the square, I usually like to ride to one of three places: Artesian Park, Meadow Lake Country Club, or just straight down Second Street to Truman Lake. On this excursion, I chose the lake. It was created in the 60s, and there are some old roads leading up to it that have been abandoned. They are full of holes and covered with limbs. What’s bad for cars can be pretty fun on a bike. There are also a few trails near the lake. I’m not sure if bikes are even allowed on them, but I’ll seek forgiveness rather than permission.

By the time I finished my ride, the temperature was creeping close to 90 and I was sweaty, tired, hungry, and thirsty. My girls were playing with their friend in the yard, and served as my welcoming committee back home.