Cynthiana, Kentucky couple are Cubs fans to the core

Cynthiana, Kentucky couple are Cubs fans to the core

 

The four unmistakable signs of spring time in Cynthiana, Kentucky: The Cynthiana Democrat’s Home and Garden Show, the opening of the Farmer’s Market at Flat Run Veterans’ Park, dogwoods and tulips in full bloom, and the annual unfurling of the Chicago Cubs flags in the front yard of Jamie and Karan Russell’s home.
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 The Kentucky Wildcats can boast all they want about the national appeal of the Big Blue Nation in NCAA basketball. In the world of major league baseball, at least as far as the Russells are concerned, there is only the Chicago Cubs. And they are as mad for the Cubs’ season-opening game as Wildcats’ fans are for Midnight Madness.
Any other time of the year, the Russells’ home is just as quietly dignified as any other family dwelling on Church Street. But on opening day, the Cub’s signature blue and red colors blossom all around the yard, along with images of the baseball team’s famous logo.
Pinstriped cards featuring the numbers and names of past Cubs’ hall of famers line the sidewalk leading to their front door.
In honor of Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary celebration this year, the Russells had an image of the ballpark’s famous sign custom-painted to the rear window of their car.
Now, if they were just Chicago area residents, the level of the Russell’s Cubs fandom would barely register. They’d still be considered diehards, but they’d hardly be alone. Anyone who has visited Wrigley Field for a Cubs’ home game knows the extent to which the fans will express themselves.
But when fans live six hours south of the corner of W. Addison and N. Clark Streets, the Russell’s home is a Wrigleyville oasis that adds a unique note to their block in downtown Cynthiana.
The decorations don’t fail to make an impression on passers-by, especially those who are unfamiliar with the passion of the Cubs’ fanbase.
“Jamie had some friends who didn’t know that we were such huge Cubs fans. They were coming to our house and the woman saw our decorations and said, ‘now that’s tacky.’ I quickly owned up to them and said I aspire for the tastefully tacky,” Karan said.
Karan can’t help it. She and her husband love their Cubs.
“We have Braves’ fans in the neighborhood who threaten to sneak little tomahawks onto our lawn. Our friends who are Reds fans tease us every year we fall short in the playoffs. But someday…” Karan said with a prayerful gesture to the baseball gods.
Karan introduced her husband to the pleasures of wearing the red and blue.
She grew up in Rockford, Ill., which is still about two hours away from Chicago.  Her family got cable television in 1980, that ancient time when there weren’t 500 stations on the box.
When it came to baseball,  there was the so-called “America’s Team” on that Atlanta station, but Karan and her dad preferred to watch the Cubs on WGN.
That was the beginning of the one relationship that has lasted longer than her marriage. In fact, Karan said, she and Jamie planned their honeymoon vacation around Cubs games.
Just as some Kentucky boys realize that marrying a young girl meant marrying into her family, Jamie knew soon after he’d met Karan that the Cubs were going to be a part of his wedding vows.

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He’s never regretted accepting the Cubs into his life, although early on he still had some learning to do about being a fan.
His first lesson came before they were even married.
“He [Jamie] suggested we just take off for Chicago one morning for a game. This was before we had kids, so we could do things like that. Or at least he thought so. I kept saying it wasn’t a good idea. But next thing I know, we were arriving at Wrigley Field at 3:15 in the afternoon,” she said.
Unfortunately, the game was sold out and scalper tickets were just out of their range.
They managed to make the best of it, Karan said, but from then on, they’ve made sure to get tickets before taking off to a game.
“I wasn’t all that into sports when we first met. But I keep up with them in my own way now,” Jamie said.
For Jamie, that means not only traveling to Cubs games, but also taking in games with the minor league affiliates like the Tennessee Smokies and the Daytona Cubs.
For the family, vacation planning often centers around Cubs games, even if their trips are to destinations down south to Georgia or Florida.
Their kids, Westin and Miranda, have shared the Cubs experience with their parents, but have not yet acquired the same level of appreciation for the team.
“We once asked Westin where he wanted to take a family vacation and he said anywhere where there wasn’t a ballpark nearby,” Jamie said.
The Russells acknowledge, grudgingly, that there exists a rival fanbase for some New York team. They have even heard rumor of another professional baseball team out of Chicago’s southside.
But the Cubs rule their household. And just as the spring season brings about all kinds of re-birth, so too do the Russells’ hopes, along with countless other fans across this country, that this year will be the year the Cubs make the Series.
Maybe they’ll even win it!
After all, it’s gotta happen sometime.

Last Night I Experienced Something New……

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“There are times when a journalist truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the ‘new.’ The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends. Last night, I experienced something new….” – Screenwriter Brad Bird, Ratatouille  

I have taken a slight liberty with the above quote which is from an animated feature film by Pixar. Though the quote addresses critics specifically, I think it has a profound application to my work as a journalist.  

There is very little that I don’t love about this work, but the opportunity to experience and convey the “new” to readers is high on my list of professional perks.  

However, in context to this column, I am applying a flexible definition to the word “new.”   

Confession time: I had no idea that James Baker Hall was a Harrison County resident until I learned of his induction into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame last week. He and his wife, Mary Ann Taylor-Hall, as many local people know, lived on the Harrison side of Dividing Ridge Road for over 35 years.   

Taylor-Hall still lives there, in fact. It’s a lovely home and she was a very accommodating host, taking considerable time to introduce me to her husband’s work and showed me a number of rare, handcrafted poetry collections from a wonderful little place called Larkspur Press in Monterey, Kentucky.  

This unique publishing company in rural Owen County has been in operation since 1973. In my lifetime, I have traveled through the town of Monterey hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of times. I didn’t know a thing about Larkspur until last week.  

I don’t know if the average resident appreciates just how rich is the literary heritage of north central Kentucky.  Mind that I am casting a wider net than Harrison County when I say that. I include myself among the “average residents” by the way. Most writers in this area I know more by name than by a familiarity with their works.   

There was a time when I would be uncomfortable with this admission, but I’ve grown old enough, I guess, to realize that its just flat impossible to be familiar with everything. Besides, despite what the young and immature may say, even the old can be new. Especially to those who are receptive to it.  

Therefore, it has been a gift to read Hall’s poetry for the first time and I sincerely appreciate his wife sharing a small piece of his legacy with me.  

It is an irony that when I embarked on my research into Hall that I was more familiar with his wife’s novels. I have long been a fan her novel Come and Go, Molly Snow because I love bluegrass music and because I am a woefully amateur fiddle bower. (Note, please, that I didn’t say “player.”)   

I have long been an avid reader. Novels, short works, essays, articles — I am not inclined to favor one form over the other. But it has not been the same with me toward poetry. I have no explanation, rational or irrational, to justify why it should be … it certainly has not been for lack of exposure. My parents are long-time fans of Wendell Berry’s poetry and I remember listening to the works of Robert Frost being read aloud at home.  

But my past appreciation, and interest, in poetry can be best described as lukewarm. And really, that is no way to be toward anything, particularly to things that I consider to be an essential part of the spirit.   

Define that however you wish.  

Pertinent to the general subject of this column though, just as Hall said in a 2001 interview that “he had his eyes opened” by T.S. Eliot’s Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, I have had my enthusiasm for poetry sparked by something “new,” relatively speaking.   

I cannot recall the circumstances that led me to the IndieFeed: Performance Poetry podcast on I-tunes, but I have never once regretted subscribing to it.  

The oral tradition in poetry goes back centuries. Contemporary “Spoken Word” or “Performance Poetry”  has its primary roots in the groundbreaking work of the Beat poets of the late 1950s and 60s.  

It’s nothing really new.  

But it feels very new. A branch of contemporary poets are using web-based media to reach a huge audience of listeners.It is a new frontier and I believe that IndieFeed is the leading internet resource to showcase the work of these new and established poets.

Three times a week, the site features a broad sample of poets from around the globe.  

Some merely read their works before a live audience. Others utilize music to enhance their performance. But the web is inspiring them to craft a new branch of poetry and its reviving interest in poetry among a large audience, but it is a form of verse that relies as much on the sound studio and the performer as it does the page.  

Recently, I was entranced by a piece from an African poet, M. Ayodele Heath, entitled Of Ash and Dust.  

It is an elegy to the astronauts killed in the Challenger and Columbia Space Shuttle disasters. Heath uses every tool of the written word and the sound board to create an emotionally affecting listening experience. 

Below are links to four podcasts from the IndieFeed: Performance Poetry website

These four contain nothing offensive, but that is not true of every poem on the website. And, as is true of all things, none of the poems on the podcast will appeal to all tastes. But I invite you to listen to these and other works that appear there and on other sites, if you choose to explore this genre further.  

 Let me know if you find them as new and fresh as I did the words of our own late poet laureate who has only now become new to me.