Our trip to Washington DC

We just returned from a long weekend spent in Washington DC and we are happy to report that is was enjoyed by all. Here is a recap of the trip, with details both big and small, along with some commentary that I am in dire need of sharing. I’ll even throw in some learned tips because I am that generous.

The drive from New Jersey to Washington DC

  • Lunch purchased ahead of time at Wegmans (the Holy Grail) because that is how we roll. Tip#1 – Sushi enjoyed in the close quarters of a car doesn’t smell so great.  
  • Driving is always a nice time to get reacquainted with your significant other as the kids tune out with their respective devices.
  • Tip #2 – Always use Google for navigation. We hit major traffic approaching DC and Google lady coached us around it. She even had traffic nailed to the second.

Evening#1 at the hotel

  • We arrive late so no plans to visit any museums or monuments. Dinner is within the hotel so an easy walk and chance to game plan … and enjoy some beverages.
  • Tip #3 – Kids just want to swim more than anything else. Seriously, we could have driven to any random town in NJ and stayed at the local hotel and the kids would have been thrilled. Swimming and staying in a hotel room is all they need. So we swam after dinner and they loved it.
  • Tip #4 – Beware of traveling during Spring Break. Especially to tourist destinations like Washington DC. There were young teenagers everywhere and I would estimate that 90% of them are a-holes. And many of the chaperones aren’t far behind.
  • Tip #5 – All kids are restless sleepers. I’ve never witnessed so much tossing and turning in my life. To say sleep was limited is an understatement.

Full Day # 1 – National Archives and Newseum

A quick Metro ride and we are in the heart of the city.

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While it is clear and sunny, it doesn’t feel a bit like “spring”.

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National Archives 

  • The National Archives is tremendous as we were able to see the original Declaration of Independence, Magna Carta and Constitution.
  • My son clearly knows more about all of these documents and their history so it was fun to allow him to educate us.

Newseum

  • The Newseum was an absolute favorite judging by the fact that we spent nearly five hours there and could have done many more.
  • Pieces of the actual Berlin Wall started us off and the kids were intrigued immediately.

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  • We slowly worked our way down starting with this roof top view on the Family Terrace. An awesome view of Pennsylvania Ave.

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  • Highlights included the 9/11 Gallery which was emotional and powerful as told through the eyes of the journalists who were there that day. Tip #6 – Be wary with young children at this gallery. My 12 y/o son handled it OK but my 8 y/o daughter never grasped the magnitude of that day before. She had a rough time with it.
  • This photo below is a collage of all of the world’s/state’s issues that next day.

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  • The FBI exhibit covered 9/11, Waco, the Unabomber, Patty Hearst and others. We read every last detail and again, I think some of it was a bit much for the kids but we also don’t believe in shielding them from everything.
  • The Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery moved us more than anything else that day with some of the images familiar but many others never seen before. We shielded the kids from a few of these but they were in awe of those they witnessed. Wow.

Dinner at Founding Farmers

  • Quick cab ride down Pennsylvania Ave from Newseum. Tip #7 – DC cab drivers are a dream compared to those in NYC.
  • You must order the skillet corn bread, kettle corn, pot roast and farmhouse platter. We had all of these and loved them.
  • The kids are learning to appreciate local and carefully crafted food/drink. Nice.

Evening #2 post dinner 

  • More swimming.
  • Teenagers acting like savages in the pool.
  • Threatening my son if he ever acts like what we witnessed in the pool.

Full day #2 – college visit and chilling with friends

  •  We took a short drive to visit a soon to be graduating family member at Mary Washington University. We are friggin old.
  • Brunch out an awesome local joint and a chance to catch up and tour of the mind of a soon to be graduate.
  • The roommates were still sleeping post brunch (I miss college) so we hung outdoors for a bit. Is this not classic college set-up?

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  • I wish my college home had bulbs and a garden.

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Evening #3 – dinner with friends and an evening tour of monuments

  • Drinks at the hotel. Even the kids got in on the action.

kids dc

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  • All were in great spirits (pun intended) and enjoying the moment.

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  • The perfect occasion for the ultimate group selfie.

selfie

  • As we walked through the brisk evening air, I longed for finally seeing the cherry blossoms but we were a bit too early.

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  • My best attempt at framing the Washington Monument through a cherry tree.

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  • We took a quick tour through the FDR Memorial and I was taken by one particular quote more than all of the others.

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Last day – National Zoo and then time to head home

  • Of course, the biggest draw is the panda exhibit and it didn’t disappoint, except for the crowds who acted like it was New Year’s Eve in Times Square. Adults pushing children is always a joy to see.

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  • I love me some Golden Lion Tamarins.

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  • And elephants entertaining the crowds that are watching them.

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  • And the always entertaining Meerkats.

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  • But no mammal is more fascinating than the “guy with a selfie stick posing in front of the mongoose display”. Identity protected because I am a responsible journalist.

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  • The only thing more fascinating than selfie guy was the tons of mulch being blown all over the zoo. Look at this major faux pas. Are you kidding with that mulch?

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All in all, a vacation to remember. One that was educational, emotional and silly all at the same time. I’ll say it again, may they not get a day older any time soon.

A spark

One of the rites of spring is the removal of the dead foliage on the perennials to hopefully reveal new growth underneath. It can be a real shot in the arm for the passionate gardener. A sign of better things to come and reassurance that the plants yet again, survived a brutal winter.

I probably take this rite a little too far. If you catch me at the right time, you’ll see me ripping through the soil on my hands and knees in search of any signs of plant life like a desperate dog looking for its buried bone.

Golden Retriever dog digging hole

Maybe I am that deeply affected by the horrific winters or maybe I’ve lost so many plants over the years that I’m scarred, but either way, I’m so incredibly pumped up to spot any signs of plant life. I thought this would wane over the years as I became more seasoned but I thought wrong. I’m still nuts for it.

Today was the first day of “out with the dead and in with the living” (wow, that is an awesome Walking Dead tagline if I do say so myself). I walked outside armed with my pruners and a little jump in my step. There wasn’t a lot of time to go on the hunt but I just needed a little fix.

First up was a Sedum. These are almost too easy. They are typically one of the first plants to show signs of life in spring and are reliably solid survivors of the winter.
emerging sedum

While I started out in a mad rush to complete the task, I quickly found myself reminiscing about gardening of years past.

The simple image of the new Sedum growth brought me back to the late 1990’s when I planted my first perennials. I had always been told that the Sedum was fool-proof so it was one of the plants I added to my inaugural garden. I can still vividly remember the first time I set eyes on those curled up stems and how exciting it was. You mean a plant will keep coming back year after year, bigger and better? What a fantastic concept!

A gardener was officially born that day.

As I proceeded from plant to plant this morning, now in only a semi-rush, I started to realize each plant had been associated with a rather specific memory. Not all that different from the memories associated with specific songs.

The Baptisia, only added to my own garden within the past two years, will always remind me of the garden I had put together with my parents a few years back at my childhood home. Not to mention the hilarious attempts by my parents to control them after that. That is what hit me as I dug through the mulch and soil to find this.
emerging baptisia

I will always thank Amsonia for teaching me to not only think native plants, but also for accepting and appreciating what growing conditions I’ve been granted. She is as reliable as they come for surviving wet winters.
emerging amsonia blue ice

Let’s extend this trip down memory lane to the shrubs. I can remember falling in love with Viburnum carlesii years ago with those early sweet scented blooms. I didn’t think they could survive the deer but I had to have one.

I nursed that 6 inch “stick” for years to the point where it became a “real shrub”. While the blooms are sporadic due to the aforementioned deer, I get enough to make me happy.

I appreciate those that make it through …
viburnum bud

… and even those that don’t.
deer eaten viburnum bud

Can we extend to grasses too please? Thank you.

I discovered ornamental grasses by necessity as they are one of the truly deer resistant plants in existence. They also don’t mind be flooded at times. It was an immediate love fest and it became an even deeper love once I understood the “cool season grass”. I remember identifying as many as I could online and then going into a mad rush to locate and purchase them.

I’ll take any green growth I can get in early spring and what a sweet transition they provide to the warm season grasses that follow in May.
emerging cool season grass

Let’s not just talk old memories, new memories are made each gardening season. Last spring I planted a bunch of Trollius on a whim simply because I liked their orange blooms.

trollius

They aren’t deer resistant and I don’t think they care too much for the always moist soil. But you know what? They came back.
emerging trollius

For how long, who knows?

But for now, new memory officially made.

Pruning the Redtwig Dogwood

It may be snowing here in New Jersey as I write this, but it didn’t stop me from heading outdoors and completing another gardening task today. Today was all about pruning the Redtwig Dogwood ‘Arctic Fire’.

My lone Redtwig Dogwood is unfortunately, in a location where I can’t let it grow as large as it desires. ‘Arctic Fire’ maxes out at about 5′ x 4′ (don’t believe what a lot of other sites will tell you). I had no other choice but to plant it in a bed along the front of my home where I’ve managed to shield it from the deer for years now. Anywhere else in the yard and it would be toast.

Because of that, I potentially have to prune it for size control for the first time this spring.

Here she is last summer just about outgrowing its spot.
redtwig dogwood

And last Fall after shedding its leaves.
after11

And as of this morning.
pruning redtwig dogwood

If size wasn’t an issue, I don’t think pruning the Redtwig Dogwood would even be a need at this point. As you can see below, the stems are all still wonderfully fire truck red.
pruning redtwig dogwood 4

So let’s now unveil the final decision via video. How will he be pruning the Redtwig Dogwood?

There we have it. Time to chop it down to the ground.

And just like that …
pruning redtwig dogwood 2

Yes, another big hole in the garden but if we want to experiment and learn, this is a necessity.
pruning redtwig dogwood 3

So another pruned shrub to keep a close eye on this spring/summer. Fun stuff.

And by the way, I used my new favorite pruners for pruning the Redtwig Dogwood and for pruning the Salix ‘Hakuro Nishiki’. And that would be the Corona Anvil Pruner.
corona pruners

Nothing has ever worked or felt better in the hand. A serious endorsement for this one.

Have a great weekend.

Pruning Salix ‘Hakuro Nishiki’

Today was the official start of the gardening season. I completed my first official gardening “task”. And by task, I mean getting outside, freezing the ass off and performing some sort of physical labor. That task was pruning Salix ‘Hakuro Nishiki’. A shrub that I absolutely adore. 

But first, allow myself … to introduce myself and what the plan of attack would be for this shrub.

With that in mind, here is what she looked like by the end of last summer.

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Just about ready to really take over my deck. The only choice I see is to cut it back severely in order to keep it in bounds. Not to mention the possibility of improving on the white and pink variegation in spring.   

So this is where we started off today.

pruning salix

As you can see below, the buds have just started to form on the branches so pruning Salix time is of the essence.

pruning salix 2

I didn’t take photos of the actual pruning of the Salix, as I basically cut all of the branches down to about 12-18 inches off of the ground. Even with some of the thicker branches (close to 2″ in diameter) I was able to cut these down using hand pruners and a little brute force.

I did my best, where possible, to cut right above a bud in hopes of having the newly chopped down branches leaf out in a well shaped manner. Honestly I don’t even know if it was necessary but we will see how it plays out.

pruning salix 4

After the severe pruning of the Salix ‘Hakuro Nishiki’, here is what she looked like.

pruning salix 3

pruning salix 6

A rather large hole in the garden right now, but I’m willing to put up with it knowing how quickly this shrub puts out growth each year.

All in all, the pruning took no more than 5 minutes with minimal effort. Now the waiting game begins.

pruning salix 5

Pruning Salix is only one of the many planned severe prunings I have planned for this spring. As always, I will be sure to track the results throughout the spring/summer/fall/winter.

I would love to hear all of your feedback in the comments section if you’ve pruned your Salix in the past.

 

Spring reveals plant life

More severe snow melt this weekend, not to mention mega amounts of rain, and that made me a happy man. A lot of plant life was revealed as a result, both good and bad. Here is a sampling of what I found:

The Hyacinths are indeed on their way.
hyacinth

 

As are many of the daffodils.
daffodils emerging

 

I was pumped just to see the buds that have formed on the Lilacs.
lilac buds

 

As with last year, I’m planning on pruning back the old wood on the Ninebark ‘Diablo’.
ninebark winter

 

As It is now easier to identify the ‘older wood’ of the Ninebark by the grey color of the branches.
ninebark branches

 

The Tsuga ‘Moon Frost’ took a major hit this winter, most likely from those dang rabbits.
taxus

taxus eaten

 

Also taking a hit was Juniper ‘Gold Cone’, critter unknown.
juniper gold cone deer

 

I think I may have discovered a new breed of Boxwood, a nice brown and yellow variety.
boxwood dead

 

I am very thankful to see Boxwood ‘Wedding Ring’ remained unscathed.
boxwood winter

 

Nothing, I repeat nothing, could destroy my many Sweet Flag (Acorus).
yellow flag winter

 

And seeing the Sedum ‘Red Carpet’ fight though the ice was a most welcome sight.
sedum red carpet ice

Signs of spring

The first signs of spring have arrived in my garden here in New Jersey and with that news in mind, allow me to break out my Kevin Bacon “Footloose” dance moves.

Footloose

Seriously, I promised my wife one day I would learn this entire dance and perform it for the family. It is equal parts awesome and ridiculously goofy, yet I am consumed with it.  When the day comes that I have it mastered, I promise you it will be revealed here first.

Speaking of dancing, I haven’t truly “danced” since my own wedding over 18 years ago. Prior to that, I kind of thought I was a decent dancer for a gawky 6 foot 3 male. I was fearless and had no issue with letting it all hang out. I was even known for doing a solid running man.

However, upon further reveal (specifically my wedding VHS tape) it turns out I am an embarrassment to male dancing. Like cringe worthy bad. And even worse than the lack of rhythm was the facial expressions that accompanied the dancing. An awful overbite mixed with false bravado. Brutal. I vowed from that moment forward to never dance again and other than some alcohol induced wedding screeching/singing/hopping, I haven’t busted a move since.

But if I can master the Footloose dance without anyone seeing the prep work involved, I’m willing to come out of retirement. If it’s quality, I look great and it goes viral. If it’s horrendous, the comedy value will still be worth it … and it goes viral. It seems a lot less intimidating to mimic an existing dance rather than freestyling on my own.

So let’s dance our way back to the signs of spring.

Seeing these irises emerging is incredibly exciting, even if they are still surrounded by a foot of snow.
signs of spring

 

Yes, a single crocus stem is enough to get the juices flowing this time of year.
signs of spring 2

 

After seeing these signs of greenery, I made an announcement to all of the deer that were within earshot. Gardening John is back and if you know what is good for you, you’ll head out immediately.

With that intimidating declaration, the deer obliged and headed for cover.
signs of spring 2

signs of spring

With signs of spring here, game is officially on.

Lady’s Mantle – Alchemilla mollis

I think it may be time to change the name of this blog to “Obsessive Baseball Fan Who Happens to Garden As Well”. Even when I attempt to create a post solely about one plant, I can’t prevent a baseball reference from sneaking its way in.  Maybe I still haven’t recovered from last week’s festivities. Or maybe, as a former NJ governor liked to say, “Gardening, baseball and you, pahfect tagetha” (you really should check out that prior link. It will have you immediately booking a vacation to NJ this summer.)

Every winning baseball team has its share of superstars. They are the players that grab the headlines, perform their best on the biggest stage and whose names are seen most often on the backs of fans shirts. Players like Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter and Darryl Strawberry come to mind with my unforgettable 1986 Mets. Or even Mike Piazza from those solid Metropolitan teams in the late 90’s/early aughts.

But superstars alone cannot get it done. You need those other players that do all the little things well; things that go unnoticed by many but what ultimately help wins championships. Those that move runners into scoring position with less than two outs. Those that knock the ball down and prevent doubles from turning into singles. They can’t all be stars, you need some of those unsung players as part of the winning formula. Guys like Wally Backman in 1986 or Todd Pratt in 1999 come to mind.

One of the Wally Backman’s in my garden today is Lady’s Mantle.
lady4

 

Alchemilla mollis rarely steals the show in the garden. Instead, It is that steady performing groundcover or edging plant that makes the garden whole. From the moment those leaves start to unfurl in spring, you know old reliable is back for another season.
lady2

 

Let me correct myself for one moment. There is a time when this perennial does truly “shine”. Sort of like when the utility infielder hits an unlikely walk off home run. And that is when Lady’s Mantle captures the rain droplets in spring.
lady's mantle

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lady3

 

It is a photographer’s dream.

Beyond that, this plant provides a nice contrasting leaf shape to other perennials and shrubs from spring through fall. The chartreuse blooms, typically arriving in June, are a nice understated feature as well.
lady's mantle

lady

 

I have found it is best to trim off the spent flowers as soon as possible to keep this plant looking it best as summer approaches.
lady5

 

Some additional info for Alchemilla:

  • Survives in zones 3 – 8
  • Size typically maxes out at 1.5 ‘ x 2.5′
  • Can handle full sun (more on that in a minute to almost full shade)
  • Blooms in June here in zone 6B
  • Prefers a consistently moist soil
  • Has been reliably deer and rabbit resistant over the years

I currently have these as a groundcover in my back bed along the deck.
full3

 

As you can see below, Lady’s Mantle comes along pretty quickly in spring as evidenced by the “still no signs of life” ornamental grass sitting behind them.
ladys-mantle

 

I honestly thought I’d have more photos of these in mass, but they line the garden beds I’ve struggled with the most over the years so I’ve done a good job of hiding that from you all. Maybe this will be the year we step up to the big leagues (couldn’t resist).

The one negative/higher maintenance aspect of Lady’s Mantle is that it does require constant moisture. If not, this is what you may see.
lady-2527s-mantle-fall

 

Luckily for me, constant moisture isn’t much of a problem unless we have a real dry summer but keep in mind before purchasing Lady’s Mantle.

Until next time when I find a way to compare daffodils to relief pitchers.

Dreaming of spring bulbs

Back in New Jersey and this is me in a nutshell.

Since November

A photo posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on

     

My likeness right? I worked long and hard on that design.

Dude is kind of ripped by the way.

We had 8 more inches of snow today, are in the single digits tonight and tomorrow and it literally feels like we will not thaw out until June.      

Spring not far off right? Right? A photo posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on

 

Photos of the snow have gotten old.

Looks cool … still hate winter. #winter #garden

A photo posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on

 

So I’ll just dream of what is lurking under all of that the snow instead. I have never longed for spring bulbs this much in my friggin life.

Enjoy and you’re welcome.

crocus

 

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daff8

 

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daff2

 

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NY Mets Spring Training: Day 3

The last day of our “Escape to Mets Camp” was Sunday and unlike all of the other days, we were welcomed by this unfamiliar site.

mets tradition field 2

I googled it and learned it is referred to as “sunshine”. What a neat concept. I like it.

So if day one was about the initial excitement and day two was about perseverance, then day three was about … a few different things:

  1. Soaking it all in – while Jack was on the autograph hunt, I reminded myself to take it slow, enjoy the experience, carefully observe and realize just how damn unforgettable this was going to be.
  2. Jealousy – to be so young with your future still out ahead of you. To make a living out of your passion – for the players, coaches and media, etc. To be a 12 year old without a care in the world. Not to mention the joy that is that giant yellow orb in the sky.
  3. Jealousy turning to determination – for my son, I want to do all I can to allow him to pursue his dreams while keeping him on track but not meddling too much. Easy right? For me, even at 42 years of age, I CAN still follow my passions and enjoy the journey.

With that as the backdrop, here is the story of two dudes; one mature/devastatingly handsome/well seasoned/world wise … and the other his father. Read on as they tour Mets spring training camp in Port St. Lucie, FL on March 1, 2015.

Game on at 9:30 AM after having arrived at 8:00, iced coffee in hand, to watch the players arrive in their ridiculously expensive rides. And maybe a scream or ten for an autograph.
mets entrance

 

Since Jack and I were now experts on how to navigate the Mets workout, we wandered off on our own while the players stretched and the majority of the fans looked on in awe.

I decided to capture the calm before the storm on the various fields.
mets equipment

mets bats

mets helmets

mets equipment 2

 

We then regrouped in time to catch the end of the stretch and inspirational message from the coaches.
mets team 3

 

And then they were off to their assigned drills in what appeared to be controlled chaos. One of the cool things here was the high fives given to the kids along the pathways.
mets running

 

While my son wandered to and fro and managed to score some free baseballs from the coaches, I settled in at infield practice. There I witnessed the familiar David Wright field, hop and throw we’ve come accustomed to the past ten years.
mets wright infield 2

mets wright infield

mets wright throwing

 

But even more interesting was watching the Mets manager, Terry Collins, closely monitoring his two shortstops. One of the biggest concerns this season is the defense provided at SS. You could sense the tension as Terry paced the field like an expectant father.
mets collins infield

 

I then followed him to another field where his dynamic pitchers were practicing fielding drills. He said very little and just observed. That said a lot.
mets collins 2

 

A quick stop to watch Bobby Parnell warm-up.  To me, there is something fascinating and almost magical about a pitcher’s wind-up. To see someone throw 90 mph up close is beyond impressive. A true art form.
mets parnell

mets parnell 2

mets parnell 3

 

And then Jack and I made our smartest move of the day. No, it wasn’t putting on sunscreen. We got first in line at the batting cages and just patiently waited for the arrival of the players. One by one they poured in and we had front row access to witness their swings and baseballish banter.

Brandon Nimmo, the nicest and most accessible Met in camp.
mets nimmo

 

Noah Syndergaard in what looks like the perfect baseball pose. I guarantee it is on a future baseball card. And that hair, chin line and beard is kind of awesome. To be in my early 20’s again.
mets thor

 

Seriously, is there a better color combo on a baseball uniform?
mets pitchers

 

I had to convince Jack not to steal a protein shake when no one was looking.
mets wright cuddyer

 

David Wright and Michael Cuddyer, friends from way back in the day, are the true leaders of this team and that was obvious throughout the three days we were there. And they are obviously besties.
mets cuddyer wright

 

And then our strategy paid off big time.

Autograph from David Wright.
mets wright signing

 

And Zack Wheeler.
mets wheeler signing

 

And Noah Syndergaard.
mets thor signing

 

And Wilmer Flores.
mets flores signing

 

After that nice run, there were two players that remained elusive and basically shunned signing for anyone.

That would be Matt Harvey …
mets harvey

 

… and Jacob de Grom.
mets degrom

 

I understand they are the two “hottest” signatures to obtain, but if David Wright can take the time out each practice to sign for all, especially the kids, so can they.

Oh well. A challenge for next spring.

By 12:30, after getting some additional autographs and watching David Wright, Curtis Granderson and Juan Lagares tear it up at batting practice, we called it a day.

We hit up Duffy’s for lunch for a third time and chilled out with our haul and our sunburns. Jack was thrilled with how day three turned out and appeared ready to head back home to the NJ.

After lunch ended, we had about two hours to kill before heading to the airport so I suggested we drive back to Tradition Field and take some pictures of the stadium now that it was empty. Lo and behold, we pulled in and some of our fellow diehards were still there. Apparently some of the players were still in the locker room so the stalkers fans could still get one last glimpse.

As expected, Jack jumped out of the car and took up his favorite position by the media gate.
mets jack media gate

 

And wouldn’t you know it, he got a few more autographs including #3 on the back of his shirt – Curtis Granderson.

Once it was confirmed by the security guard that the last player left, I finally saw Jack admit to himself it was over and let out a sigh.
mets jack

 

Our father/son adventure had come to an end and while we were both exhausted and devastated to see it end, we both knew it exceeded even our lofty expectations. It truly was a time neither of us will ever forget.

Until we do it again next year …

And in 2017 …

Because we know it’s happening.

EPILOGUE

Our flight back to NJ was delayed and we didn’t land in the Trenton airport until 12:20.

We then waited 40 minutes for the staff to de-ice the ramp off of the plane.

Even after that it took 10 minutes just to walk down the ramp.

After an icy walk to the car, I had to remove three inches of ice off of my car and broke the scraper half way through. I chopped the rest with my elbow.

The drive home took an hour and fifteen minutes instead of 35 minutes because of the road conditions.

I almost hit three deer.

We walked into the house at 2:45 AM.

Jack stayed home from school.

I went to work after four hours of sleep.

I still have a stye in my eye.

I hate NJ.

THE END

 

NY Mets Spring Training: Day 2

If yesterday was all about awe and excitement, today was about perseverance, determination and maybe a dash of insanity. This was the view from our car as we arrived in the parking lot at 8:00 AM this morning.

Not giving up on practice yet. Son won’t let me. #mets #mlb

A photo posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on

 

As we drank our Starbucks (Decaf for the  little guy) and wolfed down our chocolate croissants in the rental car, the mood started to head downhill quickly. I then made the mistake of suggesting we take the two hour drive to Walt Disney World (only half joking). The look my son gave me would scare small children and I knew then we were in for the long haul.

By 9:00 or so, through the wonders of social media, we learned that practice was going to be canceled and that the players were going to work out inside the bowels of the complex, out of view of the public. Not good. 

In a move of desperation, I started tweeting directly to the players and posting all over Facebook, Instagram and Twitter under the hashtag #Mets in the hope that they would just say “C’mon inside you silly diehards, you loonies have proven your commitment to the team.”

That never happened.

But my son was still determined to not give up. While he wandered the grounds and peeked through the media gate, I started taking photos through the deluge. This pretty much summed up the vibe.        

A dreary day at the park today but big ups to the #Mets players who signed on their way out. A photo posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on

 

And this is where my son eventually settled in for about three hours, unaffected by the disappointing news.

 

While so many gave up and left the park, our perseverance did eventually pay off as so many of the players graciously signed for Jack as they were leaving Tradition Field between noon and 2:00 PM.

Mets injured and former closer and all around good dude Bobby Parnell. The beard is even more incredible up close. 

Jack getting autograph from Bobby Parnell #mets A photo posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on

 

Mets current closer and entertaining character Jenrry Mejia. He was fantastic with the two young kids who were with us and like a superstar, sped out of the parking lot like a maniac.

Jenry Mejia granting Jack an autograph in the pouring rain. #Mets

A photo posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on

 

For a blogger like me, it was such a cool experience to meet and chat with famous Mets blogger, Matthew Cerrone. His award winning blog is entitled, shockingly, Mets Blog.

He has been a personal inspiration for me, and my son and I bond over every one of his posts. The Mets have finally embraced bloggers these past few years and we the fans are better off because of it.

Jack with our fave blogger, Matt Cerrone of MetsBlog. #Mets A photo posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on

 

Mets manager and all around good guy Terry Collins, was kind enough to stop as well.

Mets Collins

 

Former Met, new member of the SNY team and all around cool guy Cliff Floyd made an appearance. We had actually sat behind Cliff at Chili’s the day before but chickened out and couldn’t approach him. This was a nice turn of events.

Mets Floyd

 

By 2:00 I was shot and told Jack I needed to sit down in the car. I need my food and missing lunch can take its toll. He was all like “go ahead old man, I’m sticking this out because I’m 12 and awesome and I know there are still players who haven’t left yet”.

Sure enough, Mets outfielder and Jack personal favorite Curtis Granderson emerged and signed for the last man standing, my damn cool son. After they exhanged pleasantries, Jack looked at me through the rain and through the car window with the shit eating grin that said “Now we can go.”

Tomorrow is our last day and as of this evening, the weather looks OK for the morning but then nasty again in the afternoon. We’re staying optimistic and hope to deliver more great news in the next post.

 

AN EMOTIONAL JOURNEY OF ONE MAN'S ATTEMPT TO GRASP THIS GARDENING THING