What I’ve Been Up To

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(photo from Yahoo! Sports)

Dudes? Spiderman plays for the Sox? Cool.

Suuuuunnnnburned! Shonda Schilling would not be very happy.

Okay, so, what have I missed? Oh yes, that would everything up to and including last Thursday which, yeah, okay, Thursday is tomorrow. I know that’s almost a week. But kids, you’ve got to give me a break here. Since then, I’ve been to New York and back, traversed the state of Connecticut twice and dealt with Car Fiasco ’05.

Probably best to begin in the beginning…

Amy (sans nuts) and I boarded the really quite reasonable Greyhound and departed for points South to – as I told my mom who has learned to shrug and shake her head when I say such things – “meet people from the internet and argue over baseball.”

“So you’re going to Brooklyn for…baseball?” she said.

“Yeah,” I replied, “And to meet some people.”

“Don’t you have baseball in Boston?” A logical question.

“Yeah, but this is a Yankees game.”

She looked at me strangely, “You’re going to a Yankees game?”

“No,” I said, “I’m going to a bar to watch the Yankees game. And to make fun of Yankees fans. And to talk baseball and meet some people.”

“Um,” she said, “So you’re going to New York to meet people and pick on them for liking the Yankees? There aren’t any bars in Boston?” She paused for a minute. “You know what? Never mind. Just have fun and be careful.”

Really, I think she’s just flat out given up on me making sense anymore.

But the people we met were excellent. Including Sars as well as a handful of Yankees fans who – this shocked me too – could discuss baseball intelligently without resorting to the “Neener! Neener! We have twenty-six rings!” tactic that I’m so used to from the Boston brand of bandwagon Yankees fans. It was, dare I say it, refreshing. The highlight, I would say, was seeing a charming gentleman change into full Varitek uniform halfway through the evening.

“Wow,” Amy said, “That takes balls of steel.”

“This was my Halloween costume,” he explained.

“You went as Jason Varitek?” I asked, surreptitiously checking to see if he measured up.

“No,” he said, “I went as A-Rod’s daddy.”

Beer? Meet nostrils. Charming young man? Meet Kristen hugging you. It was good times.

Because we’re good little publishing assistants, Amy and I decided to head to The Strand bookstore in Greenwich Village on Friday. “18 Miles of Books!” the signs promised. And I am here to tell you that the signs don’t lie. I am – this will shock you all, I am sure – a bit of a book geek. So is Amy. We’d also both just gotten paid. A three-story bookstore including a full floor and a half of half-priced reviewers’ copies spells disaster. Also? An entire comprehensive sports section. “Sweet!” I thought, “Father’s Day taken care of!” I picked up “A Tale of Two Cities” by Tony Masseroti and John Harper for my dad, reasoning that no Red Sox fan can read enough about last year’s ALCS. Plus, there was the added sweetness of buying it in New York. The knife? She is twisting.

I also picked up a well-loved looking copy of “Wait Till Next Year” by Doris Kearns Goodwin for my dad. It’s one of my favorite baseball books. Not so much because it’s about someone growing up, waiting for their beloved team to win it all (though that is part of it), but because it is, at it’s heart, about the relationship between a father and a daughter and the way in which the father passes his love for baseball down to his daughter, who, in turn, passes it down to her children. I don’t have any kids yet, but I know that in the future, if I ever do, I will explain baseball to them the way my dad explained it to me: with patience, reverence, respect and love. And when they grow up and move out on their own, I hope they will, as I do, call their parents to talk about a fourth-inning strike out or a particular second-baseman’s cringe-inducing tendency to ground out to short. I expect that they’ll know what the infield fly rule is by the time they’re old enough to grip a baseball, even if, no, especially if, they’re girls. And if I ever serve as assistant coach on my daughter’s high school softball team and she tears a ligament in her forearm while trying to tag out a runner advancing from third and I sit her for the rest of the game because I fear permanent damage, I hope she’ll yell and scream and curse at me the way I did to my dad when he sat my injured ass. If I remember correctly, I held a grudge for a week, despite the fact that my arm necessitated a bandage and one of those tennis-elbow pillow doohickeys to hold the ligament in place. My dad, as has been the case many times in the past, was right. But don’t tell him I told you so. Anyhow, Doris Kearns Goodwin says it better than I ever could so I thought the book was appropriate for Father’s Day.

Since we had to buy tote bags to carry our new (and used) books around Manhattan, Amy and I decided we’d head over to Times Square and see if maybe we could get some half-price tickets to a Broadway show. Reasoning that we were about thisclose to Emerson revoking our liberal arts degrees for never having seen Rent, we ponied up and got two mezzanine seats. To kill time before the show started, we figured we’d head to a bar and have a few beers. “Ooo!” I said, glancing around, “ESPN Zone!” Amy, because she is long-suffering and a wonderful sport, agreed.

The bartenders were all decked out in Mets t-shirts but I noticed that on their nametags, underneath their names, were what I took to be their favorite sports teams. “Ohio State Buckeyes?” I asked our bartender, after he’d explained that the Mets shirts were a promotion designed to get people to accept, get this, free tickets to see the Mets play.

“Yeah,” he explained. “They’re my team.”

“Huh,” I shrugged.

“Hang on a second,” he said, rummaging around behind the counter, “I’ve got another one for you ladies.” He reached into a Crown Royal bag and pulled out another nametag. This one said “Pittsburgh Steelers.”

“Oh, so it’s like that, huh?” I asked, laughing.

“That’s right,” he said, “I pegged you guys as New England fans as soon as you came in.”

“You’re damn right,” I said.

“Your reign is over!” he yelled, “OVER!”

“Okay,” I said, laughing, “We’ll see about that.”

“Both your coaches are gone, plus Bruschi’s not gonna play,” he argued, “That’s huge.”

“If I told you I wasn’t a little worried,” I said, “I’d be lying. But-“

He interrupted, “But if anyone can do it, it’s your coach.”

“Ha!” I said, “You fear him!”

“I do,” he replied, with, what I would call the requisite amount of reverence, “That guy’s amazing.”

So I mean to tell you, Patriots fans, that Steelers fans, despite all their blustering and trash talking, are still knock-kneed with fear. Man, I miss football.

You might possibly argue that shit-talking with a bartender who’s responsible for charging your drinks and pouring your beer would not be the wisest course of action. But with this particular bartender, you would be wrong. Our conversational banter and friendly back-and-forth earned us a television turned to the Sox game on NESN as well as a replacement beer, free of charge, when I knocked over my half-empty one, gesturing in my French Canadian fashion. So the ESPN Zone folks? Good people.

And speaking of the Sox…during Rent, I was getting updates on my cell phone from Annette who, if you read the messages, underwent a serious case of panic, obsessive, bipolar disorder. In quick succession I received messages that said, “FILLED WITH RAGE! ER leadoff triple and he doesn’t score with Manny and Tiz up!” “I. Hate. Our. Bullpen.” And finally, “JD walkoff hit, we win 6-5!” Seriously? Sox people are the best.

I caught the highlights on ESPN News when Amy and I got back to our hotel room and Tek? With the blocking of the plate? This is why the man is the captain. That was some stellar baseball, right there.

As we entered Boston on the bus on Saturday afternoon, I saw for the first time the sign that lives outside of the city announcing, “Welcome to Boston, home of the 2004 World Champion Boston Red Sox.” “Fuck yeah!” I said a bit too loudly and involuntarily. Amy, because she is nothing if not accommodating, treated me to a spoken-word rendition of “Dirty Water.” I tell you, it was something to hear.

Saturday night’s game was watched at my camp alongside my dad. We traded off hurling insults and praise at the television.

“Gentlemen,” I tried to reason with them, “Timmy pitches a gem and you’re going to lose a 2-run game to the Pittsburgh Pirates? Unacceptable.”

My dad chimed in with what has become his traditional complaint, “Bellhorn is awful. How is that guy playing major league ball?” Bellhorn, apparently feeling slighted, immediately made a great play to throw out a runner. My dad didn’t miss a beat, “That guy’s the best!” he said with a straight face. Later, when Edgar bobbled a ball to short, I turned to my dad, “Bellhorn would have had it.”

When Dougie blasted a double off the wall, I exclaimed, “Shit! Now I owe Kevin another six-pack!”

“He gets a six-pack every time Mirabelli hits a double?” my dad asked.

“Six-pack for a double, twelve-pack for a triple and a case for an inside the parker. Plus, you have to eat your shirt.”

“That seems unfair. What do you get?” Dad asked.

I shrugged, “I get to see Dougie haul his piano all the way around the bases and I get to see you eat your shirt. That seems worth it.”

When my brother came bellowing in the next day for Father’s Day dinner all blustery with the “Now you owe me two six packs! Dougie’s the man! I’ll go easy, Miller Lite is fine. I’ll wait to ask for the Sammy’s Summer until he hits his inside the parker!” we decided that the wager needed to be amended.

“Wait a minute,” my dad said to Kevin, “What does Kristen get when Tek does something good?”

“Um,” Kev thought about it for a second, “Tell you what, if Tek ends the season batting above .350, you get a case.”

“.350? Manny doesn’t hit .350. Come on, be reasonable.”

“Okay, .300 then.” Kev relented.

“Deal,” I said, “He’s at like .324 now so you might want to start searching for a good case.”

My mom looked at my dad and rolled her eyes, “They’re your kids all right.”

I caught most of Sunday’s game in between my dad and grandfather’s stubborn insistence on watching some golf something or other on another channel. My grandmother laughed at me as I shuttled back and forth between rooms as they flipped channels. “What?” I said, “Matty’s on fire. I want to see this!” But hey, it was Father’s Day, so I was happy to share the TV.

Monday’s game was a near disaster and I must admit to seeing only the first and last two innings. In between, Annette, Amy and I watched The Incredibles. I can justify this by saying that a) it was David Wells pitching and he started to botch things up but good around the second inning and b) Mr. Incredible bears a striking resemblance to our good friend Youks. Also? Annette hits hard and has apparently taken to smacking me by proxy when Keith Foulke screws up since Beth wasn’t available to take the beating. And speaking of Mr. Foulke and Mr. Embree, I will say only this: Grrrrrr.

Yesterday’s game was a bit more relaxed in no small part to David Ortiz who has taken it upon himself to go apeshit on opposing pitchers of late. Kevin Millwood can’t be too excited to face him, is all I’m saying. And Manny, continuing his demonstration that he clearly loves us more than Cleveland, hammered his second homer of the series way, way, way far back. Also, Nixon made a Kenny Lofton-esque, Spiderman type play in the 8th to save John Halama’s bacon. I, for one, don’t think Trot gets nearly enough credit for his stellar defense. Let’s give it up for him, people. If we don’t start paying attention, Trot’s gonna get angry. And I’m pretty sure none of us want to see Trot angry.

A side note as the Sox closed it out last night taking the first two of the series with the Indians and the O’s beat the Jays, splitting the first two games of that series: Tampa Bay? What the fuck? If we can’t count on you to hold an 8-run lead after you’ve beaten Randy Johnson to within an inch of his life, you’re worse than we ever thought. And by “we” I of course mean “Red Sox fans and everyone who delights in the struggles of the Yankees.” A 13-run inning? Really? Come on, you vest-wearing, carpet playing, dome-dwelling bastards. That is ri-goddamn-diculous. Even my grandmother, who is steadfast in her love for you, is probably about ready to kick your sorry asses after that display. I just…don’t know what to say to you anymore. And if this monumental collapse on your part is what it takes to spark the Yankees on a tear, well, it’s your heads I’ll be coming after. That’s if Piniella doesn’t beat me to it. 13 runs…Jesus! I mean, the Yankees are familiar with monumental collapses, they’re just used to being on the other side of them. Rimshot! But that felt good.

Anyway, tonight the Sox look to close it out with the Indians, going for their second sweep in the last three series. Wade “Zen Master” Miller takes the hill, undoubtedly hoping that his offense likes him as much as they like Matty, Bronson and apparently Wells. Somewhere, Wake is swearing.

And that, kids, is what I’ve been up to. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find some aloe. Ooooowwwww!

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