The Bona-Nation is thrilled to be included in the NCAA Division I basketball tournament this year. We haven’t forgotten two seasons ago, when the Bonnies were unceremoniously shafted by “the committee.” We won’t complain about being relegated to an 11-seed play-in game. We’re in. We’re dancing!
We’re dancing in Dayton against the Bruins of UCLA. The Bonnies are gritty, tireless and talented. They can win this. In some ways, it will be redemption for what might have happened 48 years ago. In 1970, the Brown Indians of Bonas were cruising toward the Final Four behind the strength of Bob Lanier. In the West, John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins were coasting toward the final rounds in a field of just 25 teams. A Bonnies-Bruins showdown seemed inevitable.
Against Jacksonville in the semifinals, Lanier blew out his knee. Jacksonville defeated the Bonnies, earning the right to play UCLA in the finals. UCLA won.
Then, as now, it would have been a true David vs. Goliath story. Before entering into battle with the giant, David, a young and lowly sheepherder, explained how he defeated lion and bear to rescue his sheep. The Bonnies have also vanquished some vicious opponents this year, and are ready to take on the giant, the UCLA Bruins. These are a few stats to chew on.
45,482 students (Undergrad and Graduate)
Seasons: 99 (1919-20 to 2017-18)
Record: 1873-839 .691 W-L%
28-2 .933 W-L% (1st of 196)
Conference: 12-2, 1st in Pac-8
Coach: John Wooden (28-2)
The Bruins were led by forward Sidney Wicks, John Vallely and Henry Bibby.
St. Bonaventure Bonnies
2,100 students (Undergrad and Graduate)
Seasons: 98 (1919-20 to 2017-18)
Record: 1343-1021 .568 W-L%
25-3 .893 W-L% (7th of 196)
Coach: Larry Weise (25-3)
In NCAA Tourney, they beat Davidson, NC State and Villanova to reach the Final Four.
After Bob Lanier, who averaged 29.1 points and 16 rebounds per game, blew out his knee, the Bonnies lost to Jacksonville (led by 7’1” Artis Gilmore) in the semi-final game.
Had the Bonnies won, they would have faced John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins.
At hand, we have a confrontation between the Bonnies and Steve Alford’s Bruins, favored by 3 points. Are they ready to slay the bear?
Since moving to Colorado, I’ve wanted to join the throngs of people skating at Evergreen Lake. On this crisp, sunny day, hundreds of people came out for a recreational skate. A tall, blonde figure skater remarked about a kid wearing a Sabres’ jersey, and I learned that she was from Buffalo and her friend from Rochester. I saw kids in goalie pads, and toddlers getting pep talks from mom and dad.
For me, it was a throwback to youth. I grew up on skates. The Eastridge pond was easily accessible by cutting through neighbor yards. I started lacing ’em up when I was just 3. Back then, the pond was lit at night. For years, December through March, skating on the pond was an every day occurrence. After school, my friends and I would play hockey until dark, ignoring Mom’s calls for dinner. She was convinced I couldn’t hear her, so she would turn on the outside lantern as a bat-signal to get my butt home. On weekends, we would skate nearly all day, doing our best impressions of Bobby Orr, Rod Gilbert, Bobby Hull or Gordie Howe.
The last time I went skating was New Year’s Eve, 2008, with Jim and Stefanie Gramkee at Manhattan Square Park in Rochester. I’ve moved those skates a dozen times since, and today, I would finally lace them up and skate on this fabulous natural resource. Evergreen Lake is the largest Zamboni-maintained outdoor rink in the world.
It was tough going. On the first lap around the long free skating rink, my legs burned. I fell a few times. I got winded. I felt old.
After a spill, another skater asked if I was okay, and I told her, “Yeah, I just fell on my ego.” The admission to the ice rink was a $7 lesson in mortality. It may have been my last time ice skating. If so, it was a glorious place to take a last lap.
After reserving my ticket 90 minutes in advance, I stopped to wait at a restaurant kitty-corner across the street. The music playing there?
I got a little change in my pocket goin’ jing-a-ling-a-ling…
It was appropriate because I was across the street from the Denver Mint. The massive two-story building that encompasses the the entire block at Colfax and Cherokee began churning out coins in 1906. This month alone, The Denver Mint will fill an order for more than 500 million coins – 319 million pennies, 109 million nickels, 76 million dimes and 76 million quarters.
The fact was, I needed a little more change in my pocket in order to feed the parking meter.
At the gift shop, I was directed to a change machine, and after purchasing my quarters, the clerk told me, “Those quarters were just minted yesterday, and you’re the first person to touch that machine.” In essence, I may have been the first person to have the newest America the Beautiful series featuring Michigan’s Pictured Rock National Park.
On the tour, I watched a portion of today’s 17 million pennies go through various production stages. I was given a sample of a struck and unstruck penny. Tom the Tour Guide assured me the mint wasn’t losing money on the tours. One-cent pieces cost 1.8 cents to make. Nickels cost 6.6 cents. But dimes cost just 3.3 cents to make, and quarters are only 8.3 cents. The U.S. Mint turned a healthy profit last year.
Then, there was the story of Orville Harrington, who once worked at the Denver Mint in its early days. Over a span of a few months, he smuggled 56 gold bars out of the mint. He was caught. He served three and an half years of a 10-year prison sentence, with time off for providing a really good story.
This week, I won the chili cookoff at my workplace. It’s a minor victory, but I’m a competitive person so winning is better than the alternative. I learned a lot through this experience.
Chili means different things to different people. for some, it’s celery and carrots and vegetables. Others take a very bean-y approach. Some are a tomato concoction, much like the traditional chili my Mom used to make. Years back, the stress of working at a high-powered PR firm gave me the beginnings of an ulcer, and I moved away from eating tomatoes. I found some beef-based chili recipes that packed some heat but didn’t have all the acid. A few weeks ago, I added chorizo to create more of a meat sauce, which led to this Sneaky Hot Chili Recipe.
SNEAKY HOT CHILI RECIPE
1 large Sweet Onion, chopped
3 Serrano Peppers, sliced
3 Cloves, chopped Garlic
2 tbs. Fresh Cilantro, chopped
¼ tsp Coriander
2 tsp. Cumin
4 tsp. Oregano
1 tsp. Red Pepper
1 tbs. Brown Sugar
¼ cup Corn Starch
1 tbs. Salt
2 tsp. Black Pepper
30 oz. Beef Broth
1 lb. Steak, top round beef, diced
20 oz. Pork Chorizo
3 cans Chili Beans (or red kidney beans)
Dice the steak. Brown in a skillet, and set aside. Saute the chorizo, and set aside with the beef. Chop the sweet onion. Slice the serrano peppers thinly. Heat skillet to medium high. Brown the onions and peppers. When the onion is translucent, add the garlic. Add cumin, oregano and red pepper. Add cilantro, coriander. Transfer the spice mixture to a crock pot (Setting: High). Add beef and chorizo. In a mixing bowl or measuring cup, stir corn starch into ½ cup of the room temperature beef broth. Stir the remainder of the beef broth in the crock pot. Sprinkle in salt and black pepper, stirring. When the liquid is hot, stir in the brown sugar. Pour in the corn starch mixture. Finally, add the beans with liquid from 2 cans. Drain the third can and add it. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour. Reduce heat and continue cooking on low for 2 hours. Season to taste with more red pepper or salt.
Set up: Gorgeous drive and a full day of hiking at the Craggs, Northwest of Pike’s Peak. By 2 pm, I found a campsite south of Lake George, Colo. Nothing like the Lake George in NY, except the name. I set up my tent, explored the neighborhood, cooked a great meal and cleaned up.
The story: The temperature had dipped into the 40s.so I had a heavy hoodie on. I took off my shoes and climbed into my sleeping bag, zipping it up for the full cocoon effect. My phone was on the tent floor to the right, and a really bright light was hanging overhead, which I turned off once I was settled. In short order, the sandman came to visit.
I was awakened by footsteps on the gravel outside my tent. I listened intently. About five inches from my head, I heard sniffing. I stayed as still as I could. About five seconds later, more sniffing. I assumed it was a bear, although it could have been a raccoon, a stray dog, a killer rabbit or Sasquatch. I thought of all my options. I was laying on my left side, and my phone was on the right. I had a really bright spotlight hanging over my head, but had no guarantee it would have any effect.
I grew confident, because I’m a pretty smart guy, and a bear has a brain about the size of a tennis ball.
I could use my bear spray, if I had any.
I could chop the violator with my ax. Oh, I didn’t have an ax.
I did have a claw hammer. In the car. I was screwed. But, hey, wait! I root for the Bruins!
I lay motionless, giving thanks to the zipper technology that was all then kept me from “it.” My heart beat furiously. I thought it might give out. I prayed, I thought about the friends I care about who may not know how dear they are. I carefully moved my hands up to the head opening on the sleeping bag. I wasn’t going to go without a fight.
After about five minutes I heard the sniffing again.
At this point, the bear, or Jehovah’s Witness, or whatever, was thinking, “I don’t want to eat this. Smells like fresh urine and feces.” And that may or may not have been the truth.
I waited nearly an hour, and then a made a dash for my car, about 30 yards away. By “dash,” I mean the zipper on my sleeping bag got stuck, I had to put my shoes on, I fumbled with the spotlight and tripped getting out of the tent. Nothing was out there.
Sleep wasn’t in the forecast either. I reclined the passenger seat and waited for daylight, more than four hours away. I’m going to have problems going forward. The bear in the Snuggle commercial now frightens the hell out of me. The Charmin bear family? Forget about it. I’m going to need bear-apy. I did buy some gummy bears to exercise my superiority over the species. But I may never go camping by myself again. This experience was terrifying.
Today, I adventured to the Santa Fe Art District in Denver, and the Bitfactory Gallery. Australian artist Ron Campbell exhibited more than five dozen of his creations. If you grew up with a television in your house, or carried a lunchbox to school, you probably have seen his work.
I was drawn to the exhibit – hey, that’s a pun! – by mentions that he was the artist and director for the classic Saturday morning cartoon featuring The Beatles. As Mr. Campbell skillfully drew a custom cartoon for a patron who bought one of his pieces, I took in the vast array of characters that this man created, drew or animated — Scooby Doo and all the gang with the Mystery Machine, The Jetsons, The Rugrats, Big Blue Marble, George of the Jungle, the Smurfs, the Flintstones, Winnie the Pooh and perhaps the most ambitious, The Beatles’ movie, Yellow Submarine.
The man who bought the Jetson’s space car print had a look of sheer delight as Mr. Campbell used a paintbrush and bright blue watercolor to create a miniature Elroy Jetson blasting off with his jet pack.
In the two-room studio, I was blasted off to my childhood, where laying on my belly on the avocado green carpet, I was entertained in half-hour increments by the characters on the wall.
Nostalgia. It’s a powerful evocator.
Butler Gulch is a 4.8-mile trail in Clear Creek County just west of Idaho Springs (and St. Mary’s Glacier). We climbed to a point just below the treeline at 11,400 feet above sea level. We stopped before reaching the top because of adverse hiking conditions. For much of the way up, we scrambled off-trail through rugged terrain.
After, we visited Empire for a memorable lunch, we returned home.
Denver, home to the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, rarely is the first stop on a tour, whether it’s a rock concert or an exhibit with relics of a saint. While I was writing “Warriors at the Gate,” a frightening tale of exorcism and spiritual warfare, I learned entirely by accident that the relics of St. Padre Pio were being exhibited at the cathedral. The revelation came as I was writing about the relics that my very own Fr. Francis Vindicare carried to keep him safe while battling fierce demons.
In my research of relics, I learned that in Catholic lingo, “relics” actually means body parts. So that afternoon, with a slight, drizzling rain falling, I made my way to the cathedral to see body parts of a dead saint. The holy internet told me that the previous year, the Diocese of Boston showed Padre Pio’s heart. Other exhibits from the Vatican reliquary displayed parts of fingers, feet and bones. I was psyched!
Fr. Padre Pio, who died about 15 years ago, led a life filled with torture from demons. He battled them with his unswerving faith. It his possible that Padre Pio’s relics would be powerful in an exorcism.
On my May 10 visit to the cathedral, there was no heart, organ or bone. Unless it was sliced very thin and placed in a glass orb. My thirst for morbid satisfaction was unresolved. While my visit with the saint was disappointing, the cathedral was quite beautiful.