The second week of July is always a big deal around our house.
That is because starting six years ago, our friends Mike Volk and Jody Lerner started organizing a "retreat" of sorts within our music community to a little California town called Long Barn.
Long Barn has a standing population of about 250, but they also boast The Long Barn Lodge, a lovely little compound with cabins and rooms and a huge expanse of grass. There is a swimming pool and paraphernalia to play horse shoes and volleyball.
Up the road ten miles is the larger hamlet of Pincrest which has a great kayaking lake and you can horseback ride around the area, or hike. Most of the 75 of us that converge on Long Barn talk and catch up.
It does get hot so a lot of time is indeed spent poolside, but there are also little jam sessions omnipresent, so the air is full of guitars and mandolins and banjos and fiddles as we eschew our electric gear in deference to rootsier instruments and older bluesier tunes.
There is a huge BBQ pit at the lodge and we all bring mass quantities for both our own consumption, but also to share and, well, we all regard the time as the best week of the summer.
Diane and I always drive up on the Wednesday of Long Barn week, but the official weekend does not begin until Thursday. Since we are pretty busy during the year, having an extra day to goof off together is great, and we usually go out to dinner--just the two of us--something that simply does not occur as often as we would like.
However, this year we had a bit of a problem with the Thursday start for two days ago, coinciding with folks arriving, and most are from the bay area, was the Giants/Athletics "Bay Bridge Series" final game, and since both teams are more than competitive this season, that proved to be of interest to many within the group.
Unfortunately though we all love both the Long Barn, and getting away from the city, there is no TV in the Lodge: at least none that will show either the Giants or Athletics.
And, there is a cluster of hardcore fans among the group, all of whom know of my affiliation with the game and keeping stats.
So, when I noticed that the teams were indeed playing against one another during the day, I suggested we not only drive six miles up the road to a nice little restaurant, Mia's, in Cold Springs, but that I would be happy to help anyone who wanted to learn how to score track the game's progress.
Now, I can be pretty intense about such things, especially when I am trying to teach, so I did have to keep reminding myself that these folks were among my dearest friends, and that starting at the right time didn't really matter, nor did getting rosters ahead, and again that the basic idea was to watch the game and spend some time together.
In fact, part of me was afraid that among the six or seven folks who said they were interested, half would change their minds when push came to shove and the whole idea would be for naught.
Surprisingly, 12 people arrived, and I got to enjoy trying to explain the basics--the difference between a wild pitch and a passed ball, for example--along with the rote 63/G means a ground ball, fielded by the shortstop, then put out at first.
Some folks were interested, and some friends just wanted to watch and talk, both of which, with my more relaxed thoughts about how to approach the whole affair, were just fine.
Jody and her daughter Monica Lerner-Volk were the most adept, but the rest of their family (Mike and daughter Sarah), and friends like Les Ogilby and his wife Janet, Lisa Leal, partner Christy and their son Louie, along with Jeremy Steinkoler, his wife Michele Friedman, and their some Evan comprised the group.
Of course there were sarcastic comments by the Athletics fans as the solid Oaklanders held the Giants at bay, at least till the sixth inning, when Mia's closed so they could prepare for dinner.
But, in between bites of pizza and Mia's great chips and sandwiches, talk of watching the game, and "How can you tell a slider from a curve?" and "What is the code for a fly ball to center that is a sacrifice again?" was the real thing that pushes us to love the weekend, and spending time together.
And that is the wonderful feeling of camaraderie that accompanies such a gathering. By the time we shuffled back to the Long Barn, indeed the rest of our clan was appearing, and just as suddenly baseball slipped away in the ether of being with friends you have not seen for awhile.
I suspect not much baseball will come up between now and Sunday, which in this case is a good thing.