Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My Wallet Card's 8000-Mile Canadian Yukon Aurora-Hunting Adventure


I took my Griffey card to see the Aurora Borealis (aka the Northern Lights) from a little town in Canada called Whitehorse, the biggest population center in the Yukon. It was an awe-inspiring trip to say the least, and every opportunity I got to include my trusty wallet card, I took.


Leaving New Orleans for significantly colder climates. It was a smoldering 75 degrees when we left. In Whitehorse it barely broke freezing. Despite Griffey's four sharp corners and lethality with a bat, I did not have to check him.


I got a whole lot of reading done. Griffey just sat there smiling, creepin' everybody out.


Canadian currency is awesome. It's plastic, colorful, has holograms and translucent elements, and every bill contains raised braille indicators for the visually-impaired. Check out the kids playing hockey on their fiver. I had to adapt quickly to their total lack of any bills smaller than a five. They use one- and two-dollar coins instead which they call loonies and toonies, respectively. I saved a few, but most of this cash went towards tipping, alcohol, beef jerky, exotic Canadian candy, a Roots backpack, and a sweet Vancouver Canucks shirt.


There was a lot of First Nations art in the Vancouver airport, but surprisingly few baseball cards. Lots of hockey stuff, though.


When we took off from Vancouver this is what the mountains looked like.


It didn't take long before everything was snow-covered. EVERYTHING. Griffey is thinking "So this must be where all those home run balls ended up."


I have lived on this planet for 33 years, and this right here is the first real snow I've ever seen. I've seen ice, a little sleet, and even an occasional flurry, but nothing like this. Beds of snow a foot thick or thicker, hills and mounds of powdery accumulation around every tree, rock, and post. It was hard to hide my excitement.


More firsts, here is my first encounter with yellow snow. Around this spot were massive paw prints that made me just a little uneasy until I finally met the creature who made them:


Loki, future champion sled dog. The paws on this guy...


This was taken on Marsh Lake, a massive frozen flat with nothing to hinder your view of the horizon. It's a solid two miles wide and nineteen miles long, the vast majority of which was frozen over several feet thick. We spent a lot of time just seeing how far out onto the ice we dared walk. I don't believe we got even halfway across. That horizon is tricky.


As you can see here, Griffey's penny sleeve started getting mighty crinkly. He got something much more substantial when we got home.


We took advantage of the conditions and made out first ever snow angels. This is mine.


This is Griffey's. Sadly his is more of a snow rectangle. Relax - penny sleeve, guys. Penny sleeve.


On the first of two snowmobile treks through the forest. This particular shot was taken on Caribou Lake after a meal of elk sausage and hot chocolate. I just couldn't pass up a shot in front of those mountains.


Living in south Louisiana I grew up fishing, but this was something else entirely. It was an absolute blast, though, digging our own hole with a giant ice auger and jigging this tiny pole in search of lake trout. We didn't catch anything, though, except a runny nose.


Whoops! Some of the folks we came out on snowmobiles with had a little accident as a result of some visor fogging. It looks a lot worse than it really was - nobody was hurt, but we did have to cut down a tree to get it out. I ended up getting this very snowmobile up to 50 mph out on the ice not 24 hours later.


After two days of fun in the snow but no Aurora we started to worry that we may not see it (which we knew was a possibility from the start). Lucky for us this was the forecast on the morning of what was to be our last night in the Yukon. We decided to tailgate out on the frozen lake that night until we saw it. It was all or nothing.


We got out there around 12:30 am, reinforcements in hand. Don't worry - I was a boy scout. We left nothing but footprints.

Out there the stars are the first thing you notice. I've been on numerous camping trips and several cruise ships, but nothing could prepare me for how bright those things were out here. For example, I (like many of you) have been living under this constellation my whole life:


With the naked eye you almost completely lose it against the background star field. Jupiter was also out that night and looked like an actual planet as opposed to just a really bright star which is what I'm used to.

The stars were almost my favorite part. Almost...







After a good 90 minutes on the ice and the beer starting to run out, a spike of green finally sprouted in the distance and slowly exploded into a solar storm that filled the North sky. In my excitement I almost forgot the Griffey.

Now, I came here, card in wallet, to take a photo of the Griffey in front of the Aurora. Before we get to that, allow me say a thing or two about how photography works when trying to capture the Aurora.

You have to use a really good camera and a very long exposure to give the lens enough time to gather up all that light. The exposure times ran between 6 and 45 seconds which means tripods and absolute stillness as well as a lot of patience. I, armed with only an iPhone, took none of the Aurora pics you see above. Luckily we were out on the ice that night with two other couples, one from the UK and another from Australia, both with cameras far better than mine,

We tried a few different techniques of capturing an image of the Griffey (a few feet away) against the Aurora (miles up in the night sky). We did our best with flashlights and chairs and Jaegermeister (okay, I was the one with the Jaegermeister), and this is as close as we were able to get:




There ya go. The 1989 Upper Deck #1 Griffey Rookie and the Aurora Borealis, together at last. Yes, that's me holding the card. Don't let the giant winter clothing fool you - like many card collectors I am a husky man.

I need to tell you that if you've ever considered going to see the Northern Lights, you should. We had a fantastic time on the ice before it started creeping over the horizon then gently flowing across the sky like a curtain in the breeze. When we finally saw it, all we could do was yell and giggle. Chopin was playing in my head, and my eyes were a hard blink away from full-on tears. It was magical.


The morning sky applauded our effort with an amazing sunrise (at 11 am) and a visible crescent moon (the sun and moon chase each other only in this one small segment of the sky). The lake never looked finer than on our last morning.

No Griffey needed


In our final hours we decided we should take advantage of all this snow we may never get to see again. This is my snow Jabba the Hutt.


My wife managed to morph Snowjabba into a reasonably identifiable snowman which I decorated.


With a few hours left before our flight we took some time to visit town with two goals in mind: first, find the LCS. There is one comic and card shop in Whitehorse. No baseball cards, but plenty of hockey cards and a reasonable selection of comics and gaming items.


Our other goal was to find some poutine and eat it, and we accomplished this in fine style. I was expecting something comparable to chili cheese fries, but these were nothing like that. I am now in love with the stuff. Yes, that's a penny sleeve - no gravy on this Griffey.


I took this picture because if you've ever flown on a plane you need to read this part.

After about ten minutes in the air, the flight attendant comes down the aisle and asks, "Hey, would you like a beverage?" Um, okay. Drinks on a plane. No stranger to that.

A few minutes after that, same flight attendant, "Chicken cordon bleu or roast beef?" Say what? Real food? Yeah, chicken sounds great, thanks!

YUM.

A few minutes later, "Refresh your beverage?" A second beverage, you say? Why, this is unprecedented.

A few minutes later "Say, would you like a slice of cheesecake?" Say WHAT? Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes! I am a mighty SULTAN!

The kicker? The flight was an hour and a half.

One of the first things I did when I got home was take to Twitter and put Air North on blast about how amazing they are. Can you even imagine service like that on an American airline? What's more, they actually answered back to my tweet, and now they're sending me an Air North hat. Just keeps getting better.

Funny end to that story - the very next plane we were on was a 5-hour American Airlines flight to Dallas where they tried to sell us $6 Pringles. Psh. No thanks, I'm full. Full of Air North hospitality, that is.

Vancouver was reasonably fun. I won't get into our shenanigans there, but we did run across an interesting menu item:


This one's just for you, Chris.


This seems like a good place to end it: one of the world's largest collections of Donald Duck figurines. This display was two-sided, so take all those Donalds and double 'em. That's a lot of speech impediment.

I hope you enjoyed this post! My next wallet card entry, barring something spectacular and/or tragic happening between now and then, will be from on a Mardi Gras float. Thanks for reading.

Yes, that's me. Male pattern baldness is a bitch.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

2015 Topps and I Have BEEF…


…and it’s bigger than any recycling-of-photos or too-many-parallels gripe you may have heard in the past. Way bigger.

Even while poking fun I generally try to stay positive on the blog and give the benefit of the doubt to the brands. There is already enough criticism of Topps on the blogsphere that I rarely feel the need to add to it (though I, too, am guilty of occasional bitch and/or moan), but my beef goes beyond all that.

In my time working with and occasionally managing others, I’ve learned you should always communicate a negative sandwiched in between two positives. So before we get down to it, here is a gift for those overwhelmed by all the posts about the release of the new Topps flagship checklist: the only checklist you really need:

2015 Topps S1 Griffeys:

Archetypes #A-25
Baseball History #15B (15A = Clinton Earns Democratic Nomination)
Baseball History Stamps #BH-KG #/10
Baseball History Cut Signatures #BHCS-KG 1/1
Gallery of Greats #GG-4
Gallery of Greats #GG-4 Gold #/99
Gallery of Greats Relics #GGR-4 #/25
Gallery of Greats Autographs #GGA-4 #/10
Gallery of Greats Autograph Relics #GGAR-4 #/5
Inspirations Duals #I-2 (w/ Robinson Cano)
Inspirations Duals Relics #IR-CG #/50 (w/ Robinson Cano)
Inspirations Duals Autographs #IA-CG #/25 (w/ Robinson Cano)
Inspirations Duals Autograph Relics #IAR-CG #/10 (w/ Robinson Cano)
Spring Fever #SFA-KG

Hee hee. You all know how I roll – it’s go Griffey or go home. And for the record I’m certain there are going to be plenty of excellent cards in the set as well as some pretty neat inserts, Griffey or no.

WANT

Now just for a laugh, let’s take a look at the inserts that while otherwise appropriate do not include a Griffey in their respective checklists:

Birth Year Coin/Stamp
Career High
First Home Run
Highlight of the Year
Strata

Junior doesn’t need to be in every checklist for me to enjoy the product. There are also a few inserts not listed here that only contain active players and/or rookies, and I get their not getting a Griffey as well. But First Home Run? Come on! Birth Year? Who wouldn’t love yet another card that heralds Junior being born in the same town as Stan Musial? I know I would.

But that’s not the problem I have with the 2015 set. The problem I have starts with card #1.

You see, Jeter retired in 2014, and he is getting a card (the first card, no less) in this year’s flagship set. In fact it looks like he’s getting lots of cards in this and probably every other Topps set. That’s fantastic and well-deserved. Really, no complaints there.

Junior retired in 2010, and guess what? NOT A PEEP from Topps in 2011. No Griffeys in 2011 Series 1 or Series 2. No Griffeys in 2011 Allen & Ginter, Gypsy Queen, Tribute, or Heritage. NO GRIFFEYS in 2011 Tier One, Finest, Lineage, Marquee, Update, Triple Threads, Stickers, Chrome, or Opening Day. No base cards, no inserts, no cards of any kind. NOT. A. SINGLE. ONE.

Like he never existed.


As a Griffey fan and a card collector, I can’t help feeling slighted. Had he gotten just a card or two that mention his retirement and final career stats or even just a single final tribute or something that would have been one thing, but absolutely nothing? NOTHING!?! There is no way this was not done purposefully. They had to have gone out of their way to keep Junior off their checklists. But why?

Then, starting the very next year and continuing through this very day, TONS of Griffeys. A few in just about every set along with relics, 1/1’s, parallels and signatures – the whole nine yards. And what do I do? I buy them. I spend hundreds of dollars a year on packs and boxes in hopes of pulling cards of a legendary player whose retirement was utterly and (it appears) intentionally ignored by this brand.

The sudden resurgence in 2012 of one of the most beloved players of the modern age on Topps-branded cardboard begs the question: are they just including him now to move units, or do they really care about the players and their fans?

I hope I’m wrong about this. I’ve been known to trust my own (questionable) powers of deduction too much and jump to (stupid) conclusions. I’m hoping (really, really hoping) that there was some licensing issue with the Player’s Union or MLB in general barring Topps from making Griffey cards that year. I can’t imagine what that would be (and why it’s not the case with Jeter), but if someone knows please enlighten me. It would make me feel better about all the money I fork over to Topps every year.

I ain't mad atcha.

All that being said, I like Jeter a lot. I honestly can’t wait to see his base card from this set, especially if Sooz picked the photo. But it’s going to be bittersweet, my friends.

Though I am positively chomping at the bit for a Biz Markie First Pitch card. Holy schmeckel, what an idea that was.

Criticism sandwich complete.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fanfare For the Common Card Man: A Trade Post

I recognize that there are other Griffey collectors out there, and I’m all about helping them out. Even after the great purging of 2014 I still have piles of duplicate Griffey cards. I try to keep at least a couple of copies of everything, but everything beyond that is fair game following the recent shift in focus from quantity to quality.

Enter Tony, Griffey guy from Milwaukee ("which is Algonquin for 'The Good Land.'" - Alice Cooper) and purveyor of The Common Card Man. Tony is well on his way to being a Griffey supercollector, and I’m proud to have a few cards from my own collection in that mix. Here’s a look at the plethora of great stuff he sent in return:


The highlight is without a doubt these two Griffeys, neither of which I had in the collection. It’s rare to receive entirely new Griffeys in trade – Tony must be a reader of have lists. Those Pinnacle Epix cards still go for a few bucks each, even the relatively common orange ones. And I’m very excited finally to add the refractor of Griffey’s Topps Chrome sunset card.


But there’s a lot more. These are not your everyday Javys. They’re nice Javys with sparkly bits and shiny foil akimbo. That’s also true of the Buhners he included:


I cannot get enough of that Tale of the Tape subset.


And a few nice Grissoms from his days in Milwaukee ("the only city in America to have elected two socialist mayors" - Alice Cooper). Check out the dance moves on that Upper Deck Highlights checklist.


One aspect blind trade packages share with boxes of chocolate is that you never know what you’re going to get. I love the Saints and consider myself a fan, but I don’t actively pursue their cards. That’s where trade packages such as this one really shine.

Just look at these great cards of local heroes Drew and Jimmy. Sure, they had a rough year, but who cares? We love these guys. You know how long I’ve admired Topps Magic from afar? When are they going to make a baseball version? When?? That patriotic number on the top right is numbered out of 250, btw.


Here’s a pair of excellent pulls including a relic of Mark Ingram who is coming off a monster year that earned him a spot in this year’s Pro Bowl. And that Brees depicting him in his Purdue Boilermakers getup is a big hit with every Louisianian. I haven’t shown it to anybody yet, but I assure you they’re all smitten with it, sight-unseen.

Be warned, Tony from Milwaukee - even now I am slowly amassing more and more Griffey dupes to unload on you at a random time. You will not know when or how I’m going to do it, but someday there will be more Griffeys at your door than you’ll ever know what to do with. Heed my words!

Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Thanks for the trade! This one's for you: