Tuesday, April 04, 2006


We had a thunderstorm last night.

You could see it coming. The day had been just as clear and blue and hot and humid as you please. April in Washington kind of weather, with the promise of a late afternoon thunderstorm.

It didn't disappoint.

Some time in the late afternoon, the light changed. Looking west you could see it. The sky was still blue, but now it was that deep dark blue that says "About that late afternoon thunderstorm we'd scheduled? Well, it's running a little behind, but don't you worry, boy, because it is coming."

It was, too.

On the East Coast, you don't see thunderstorms like this too often. This is what I imagine a Plains thunderstorm must look like. The storm turned from dark blue to gray, not the dull leaden gray of the ocean but but a living, malevolent gray with lightning flashing from somewhere within. As it closed in you could see the storm's leading edge swirling and twisting, turning over on itself like the ocean crashing on the shore, with little white tendrils of cloud writhing along the very edge of the cloud, darting in and out of the oncoming wave.

Because this was no ocean that surges and retreats. This was a storm, a storm that had killed in the Tennessee valley, a storm that had spent much of its energy crossing the mountains, but a storm with one last punch to deliver.

It had eyes. It had an angry mouth. It would devour, if it could muster the strength. And as I stared at it, I could swear it was coming straight for me.

Two arms protruded from its body as it closed in. Little cone shapes, inverted mountains of cloud. Swirling and twisting, trying to turn all that discordant energy that kept colliding in flashes of lightning into something more powerful. Something more rotational. You could see just a hint of that rotation as they closed, little wisps of cloud gripped by those arms and turned before they slipped away from the grasp that was not quite strong enough.

Not quite enough energy left to hold. Not quite enough energy left to kill.

Then it lunged.

And it missed.

One last angry gust of wind and the wave was gone, passing overhead, the two stillborn tornadoes still struggling for life but not there, not yet, perhaps not ever. The rain came, hard, replacing the evil gray with its own darker but somehow less frightening shade. I retreated indoors; it lashed against the windows, its own winds howling, rattling the windows, trying to get in, but not meaning anything by it, only wanting to share in warmth and good company.

I let it.

After a time, the rain abated. The storm clouds carried it to the east, dragging it on to visit other places, with its intensity perhaps abated by its visit to this place. And as the end approached, there came an orange glow from within, almost like that of a streetlamp on a foggy night, which eventually became, as the storm passed and the clouds parted, the sun, low on the horizon and burning yellow-hot as it hung there. A last few clouds were still trailing along behind the storm, silhouetted sharply against the light, and the sun stayed until it had shooed them all away. And then it too was gone, evening fading into night like the lights going down on the stage of the world.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Opening Day

Opening Day is here, and with it the Inner Columnist's 2006 baseball preview...

AL East
New York: The most potent lineup in the game will be enough to overcome the suspect pitching in the regular season. But not in the playoffs.
Boston: New York lite.
Toronto: A contender in any other division.
Baltimore: They've finished fourth in seven of the last eight seasons and are poised to make it eight of nine.
Tampa Bay: Could challenge the franchise record of 70 wins.

AL Central
Chicago: Last year's champs won't sneak up on anyone, but they won't have to.
Cleveland: A pleasant surprise last year, they'll either regress or figure out how to get it done at the end. Says here they steal the wild card.
Minnesota: Could be contenders for the wild card or even the division title. But probably not.
Detroit: Better. Still not good.
Kansas City: Well, maybe this year they won't lose 100 games.

AL West
Oakland: Good lineup. Solid staff. Just solid enough.
Los Angeles: Key series: vs. Oakland, September 28 - October 1.
Seattle: Jamie Moyer, Satchel Paige.
Texas: They'll hit a lot of home runs. They'll give up a lot, too.

NL East
Atlanta: I'm not picking against them until they lose.
New York: Fewer holes in the lineup, but still plenty in the rotation.
Philadelphia: They'll hit. Will they pitch?
Washington: Not even Donald Rumsfeld could solve the problems of this Defense Department.
Florida: Could win the World Series. The Triple-A World Series.

NL Central
St. Louis: They might not win 100 games this year. But 95 will be enough.
Chicago: A strong lineup which, if the pitching can hold up, will take the wild card.
Houston: Not as good as they were a year ago. The pitching is still solid, even if Roger Clemens doesn't return, but the lineup is still aging.
Milwaukee: Surprisingly good at .500 last year. Not a contender, but they should win a few more games this year.
Pittsburgh: A team headed for a turn-around. Which, in their case, means finishing fifth instead of sixth.
Cincinnati: Last year they were first in the NL in runs scored. Unfortunately, they were also first in runs allowed.

NL West
San Diego: Their 82 wins last year were 15th in the majors. And they won their division.
San Francisco: All Barry, all the time. That might not be a good thing.
Los Angeles: An unspectacular team in an unspectacular division.
Colorado: One of my favorite names in baseball is Choo Freeman. Used to watch him when he played for the Double-A Carolina Mudcats.
Arizona: Good stadium. Lousy team.

Chicago over New York
Oakland over Cleveland

St. Louis over San Diego
Chicago over Atlanta

Chicago over Oakland

St. Louis over Chicago

World Series
St. Louis over Chicago