BALTIMORE-WASHINGTON INTERNATIONAL - The Department of Homeland Security says the threat level is "orange." Actually, the voice with no regional dialect that booms over the P.A. system speaking for the Department of Homeland Security, says the threat level is, indeed, "orange."
I know this because I hear it every 10 minutes here at BWI, where I will soon be jetting off to sunny Florida for the 2008 World Series. It should be fun - and busy. The World Series is probably one of those events that attracts weirdoes, people seeking alcoholic beverages, people seeking a glimpse of "history," more weirdoes, media folks*, women, some kids, a handful of celebrities, and teems of overblown egos.
In other words, it's a party. Actually, it's a party I get to write about.
But back to the "orange" threat level... is this good or bad? I suspect it's good because it has remained at "orange" throughout the seven different airplanes I've boarded over the past two weeks. That total could climb to double digits by the time this baseball season ends, which makes it good to know that the threat level has remained a warm, fluffy and consistent "orange."
I assume that the darker the color of the threat, the less secure we are. "Orange," I guess is bit toward the bad side as opposed to green or taupe. When it gets to mauve or cool, ocean blue, we get to keep our shoes and belts on and our computers in the bag when we go through the security post. Red means there might be snipers casing the long-term parking lot. Be sure to keep the Kevlar with the carry on.
I'm not sure what the level of preparedness they are at in the Tampa Bay area where the Rays, nee Devil, play their games. For one thing, the denizens of Tampa Bay sure do know baseball. In fact, it's probably a huge component of the local economy, what with the Pirate festivals and spring breakers and all that. Just think of all the teams that train in the area: the Blue Jays are in Dunedin; Yankees in Tampa; Pirates in Bradenton; Reds a little farther south in Sarasota; and of course the Rays in St. Petersburg. The weird thing about the Rays is that they train and play in the same spot...
That never ceases to amaze me.
In the middle of it all, of course, are the Phillies. Since the early 1950s the team has called Clearwater its spring home, and as a result, tons and tons of people from our little area of the country flock down there in February and March to watch the local nine prepare for the upcoming season. Actually, because of those visits, some folks from the Philly area grow to like Clearwater and the surrounding towns so much that they pack up and move there.
Snow birds they call them. Check them out at Frenchy's or Luigi's where they wait in line and beat on the doors in order to be the first one in for the early-bird special. Actually, the good folks in Clearwater love them some old people. According to the latest census results, just 35 percent of the residents of Clearwater proper are between the ages of 18 and 44 and 45 percent of the population was older than 45. That last number breaks down to approximately 22 percent over the age of 65.
Nevertheless, Clearwater is a good place to visit in February and March when the air in the northeast still has that nasty bite and one's skin hasn't been kissed by the sun since Labor Day.
Anyway, Clearwater is also a good place to go if you like chain stores and strip malls. Based on the visit last February/March, it appeared as if the palmettos, reeds and tall marsh grass final surrendered in the turf war they never had a chance to win. Now, instead of swamps, it's Target, Borders, Costco, Wal-Mart, Taco Bell, etc., etc.
If you thought the Philadelphia suburbs (and now exurbs) were over-developed, you ought to check out the Gulf-to-Bay Blvd. in Clearwater. Either the folks really want to be homogenized by chain stores or they get really, really peeved if they have to drive the SUV more than three minutes to get a venti mochachino or an industrial sized vat ‘o mayonnaise from the Costco or whatever else folks go to.
Remember, you need a membership to go to those places. It's that exclusive... and the parking lots? Massive! Some have their own zip code.
The parallel, of course, is that the baseball season truly has come full circle for the Phillies. Better yet, it really has come full circle for me. When it began I jetted in to Tampa International, got a car and checked in to a Marriott-owned (yes, it's a chain, but I get points!) inn just off the main drag. I spent my days and nights at the ballpark, just off Route 19, learning about what type of season the Phillies might have.
Here we are nearly eight months later as the season is about to end. Again we're flying in to Tampa International, getting our rides and checking into the very same hotel. After that, it's baseball all day and night until there is only one team remaining.
Then we get to start all over again in February.
More later when we get all squared away.
* Which is a sub-category of weirdo, but for this purpose we'll give the media its own classification.