Monday, June 21, 2010

Ten reasons to be glad summer is here

While sweltering in Virginia's typical 95-degrees-with-117-percent-humidity weather, there are still a few reasons to be glad the seasons have turned and that summer is here. Actually, you might not notice. We seem to be losing our springs and falls and going right from furnace to air conditioning weather these days.

In any case, these are the reasons that I'm looking forward to summer:

1. New, more interesting Williamsburg City Council - On July 1, the era of consensus and 5-0 votes ends. With the swearing in of recent College of William & Mary grad Scott Foster and hotelier Doug Pons, the city will finally have two members of council who are not members of the Colonial Williamsburg-W&M-Chamber of Commerce power structure. That should make for some interesting council meetings.
2. Vampires and Werewolves, oh my! - HBO's True Blood is back for its third season and, if the first two episodes are any indication, we're in for a wild ride. Bill's in trouble again. Can the lovely Sookie Stackhouse get the sinister Eric to quit drooling over her long enough to help rescue him? Can Jessica learn to find happiness as the hottest redheaded jailbait vampire in Louisiana? And what of my personal favorite, Eric's acid-tongued lesbian second-in-command Pam? Will she stay perennially amused at the outrageous goings on around her? And will Sookie's friend Tara ever stop whining? And this year there are werewolves too! Good times are ahead in Bon Temps.
3. Baseball being very, very good to me - I'm a big baseball fan. As we get deeper into summer the other unimportant sports fall out of the headlines (World Cup? Isn't that a coffeehouse in Richmond?) and we get down to what matters. And it looks like a very good year. As the days heat up, so do the pennant races and we seem to have some good ones with some surprise teams looking very real. The Atlanta Braves were supposed to be in a rebuilding phase. They've rebuilt themselves right into first place in the National League East. The Cinncinatti Reds haven't been any good since 1990. They look pretty good this year. The Texas Rangers haven't ever been any good, but they look like a contender too. It doesn't look like such a great year for my teams, the Red Sox and the Cubs. While the Sox have played better of late, that just doesn't look like a championship team to me. Hopefully the Rays can beat out the Yankees in the AL East just so I don't have to listen to insufferable Yankees fans (or is that redundant?) all off season.
4. More miracles from Baseball Jesus -- I know it's still baseball, but Stephen Strasburg deserves his own bullet point. Through three games, the Washington Nationals new starting pitcher looks like some unholy amalgam of Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton and Cy Young. Striking out 32 guys in 18 innings of work would be a hell of an achievement for baseball's best veteran pitcher. Stiking out 32 batters in  your first 18 innings of work? That's a miracle. Hence Strasburg's Baseball Jesus nickname. The last guy who was anywhere close to this dominant at the start of his career was Bob Feller. If World War II hadn't cut Feller's career short, he'd probably be the yardstick we use to gauge pitching excellence today. Stasburg's potential is unbelievable. It will be fascinating to see if he can keep this up all summer.
5.Congressional races heat up - We've got two tight Congressional races in Virginia, in the 2nd and 5th districts, that could go a long way toward determining which party controls the House of Representatives after November. In an interesting turn of events the Republican nominees in both races, who've spent the last six months trying to appeal to Tea Party activists, are trying to keep independent candidates associated with the Tea Party out of debates for the general election. It's easy to see why they'd want to do that. The Republican primary in Virginia's 1st District, in which Rep. Rob Wittman handily beat Tea Partier Catherine Crabill, demonstrated that about 10% of the Republican electorate is stone crazy and will vote for a candidate who advocates violent revolution and mutters about putting Congressmen in front of firing squads. While 10% of the Republican electorate might not sound like much, it could mean as much as 5% of the vote in the general election. Which could be enough to tip either of the close elections in the 2nd and 5th and send an embattled Democratic incumbent back to Washington with a plurality victory. We won't have much a race in the 1st. Nothing against Democratic nominee Krystal Ball. No Democrat can win the 1st as its currently drawn, just as no Republican could win the 3rd or the 8th.

6. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, baby! - The wife and I will celebrate our fourth anniversary with a trip to Sin City near the end of the summer. Seems like my kind of town. Based on a previous trip to New Orleans, I won't gamble all that much, but I'll certainly enjoy the casinos' nuclear air conditioning. We're staying in the Flamingo, one of the original Strip hotels in a very retro room so I'm hoping to get in touch with my inner gangster.
7. The BP oil leak gets plugged -- hopefully - As I write this, BP's oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has been gushing for nearly two months. It's recently been learned that, after getting caught lowballing the amount of oil that was pouring out each day, BP was still at it. The new estmate is that 100,000 gallons a day are leaking. That's an Exxon Valdez disaster every two to three days. The Gulf Coast may be dealing with this environmental disaster, which even BP's partner in the well now says was caused by the company's "recklessness," for the next century.  Meanwhile some GOP members of Congress actually felt it was appropriate to apologize to BP's CEO when Democrats called him to Washington to chew him out. I'd like to apologize to the guy French Revolution style.
8. Area tourism picks up -- With travel up about 5% nationwide this year, the economy continuing to improve and gas prices remaining low, it's only a matter of time before tourism in the Historic Triangle surges. Busch Gardens which, despite what the suits over a Colonial Williamsburg say, brings far more people into the area than any other attraction, just launched a big discount, allowing children under 9 in free with the online purchase of an adult ticket. That has to help. I actually think tourism would already be ahead of last year's pace (which isn't saying much) if not for the terrible weather in January and February.
9. Not spending any money at the movies - I already saw "Iron Man II," which was the only thing I was really looking forward to. I'll watch "Sex & The City II" when it hits HBO because of my crush on Sarah Jessica Parker, but I'd have had to turn in my man card to see it at the theaters. I wish my son Alex was a little older, because I hear "Toy Story III" is very good. Maybe he'll be ready by the time it's out on DVD.
10. Virginia tries to fix its roads -- again - I saved this for last because it might get pushed into the fall. Gov. Bob McDonnell plans to call a special session of the General Assembly to deal with selling the state's ABC stores and using the proceeds to pay for needed transportation infrastructure improvements. The way the McDonnell administration is going about ABC privatization -- letting the companies that are likely to buy into the business set the price and conditions -- won't likely create a windfall for the state to spend. However, another McDonnell initiative, a tax on I-95 at the North Carolina line, might. As currently envisioned that toll could be $1 to $2 per axle. That's $4 to $8 for a roundtrip visit to grandma in Raleigh in your passenger car. It's a whole lot of money for the interstate trucking industry on East Coast. I don't completely understand what the governor has against North Carolina. I mean, you could raise even more money if you slapped that toll at the border of Virginia and Washington. Or Maryland. And I'm not sure what he has against I-95. Last time I checked, I-85 runs between Virginia and North Carolina too. (And it might have a lot more traffic on it if the I-95 toll goes through). As usual when the General Assembly deals with transportation, they'll be a lot of  bluster and posturing. It remains to be seen if anything gets done.

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