Opening Day for Minor League Baseball is today, April 7, which is also my 38th wedding anniversary.
Throughout the last month Bonnie and I have celebrated our wedding while we have decorated and outfitted Arby for our four-month venture—an extended honeymoon. Even so, while I prepare to sing for the first game tonight, I dearly miss Bonnie, who has remained at home making final preparations for our RV journey. And I cannot think of a more loving anniversary gift from her than her enthusiastic support of my anthem project.
Two days ago I began the travel in ways that I had not anticipated. Unfortunately, I started my flight with the onset of a cold—hardly an auspicious beginning for a singer. But quite pleasantly at the Ontario airport, I was greeted by Audrey Farrell, a smiling agent at the American Airlines counter. When I said that it was good to see her again, she recognized my voice and responded, “You’re the anthem singer.” Wow!
A dozen years ago I had flown out of Ontario several times when traveling to sing for Major League games. Always smiling, courteous, and efficient, Audrey would exchange pleasantries with me while I checked in with luggage. Since then, I have shaved my full beard and have switched to LAX for my airport departures. I was amazed that she immediately recognized me by voice, perhaps a good omen for my anthem performances. If you ever want to restore appreciation for an airline, go to the American counter at Ontario and find Audrey.
During the flights to Florida, I wrote postcards about the trip to friends. Then arriving in Jacksonville, I found that my Hertz car rental was new, really new. It had four miles on the odometer as I turned on the ignition and began to navigate my way south on I-95 toward my weeks-long hosts Don and Ruth Musser in DeLand. Despite my continent-wide separation from Bonnie at that time, I felt a tethered connection with her as I crossed the eastern end of I-10, the freeway whose western end had directed us to Ontario hours earlier.
When I usually visit Don, we begin our visit with a fishing outing, often with our friend and guide Larry Blakeslee. And so we did on this visit, too. Yesterday, we spent several hours feeding shiners to escaping large-mouth bass, evil mud fish, and mean gar. We did, however, land several big fish, including an eight-pounder that I managed to catch.
And we saw five manatees swimming calmly near the mouth of the Ichetucknee Springs as we idled through the current of the Santa Fe River. Although this was my first trip to the restive and remote Santa Fe, 25 years ago I had tubed down the Ichetucknee with colleagues at the University of Florida, where I spent the summer taking a seminar sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
I was sure that seeing the protected manatees signaled a good start for tonight’s game, the season opener for the Brevard County Manatees and the Florida State League.