Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The National Past Time (A Day In The Life)

How many times have you heard about, talked about or read about somebody's first trip to the ballpark? Remember Billy Crystal in "City Slickers? " That was MY trip to Yankee Stadium!!! I was ten years old in 1962 and I remember my father coming home from work and pulling the tickets out of his brown leather bomber jacket. A lot better than a Snickers. You coulda knocked me over. Man, I held those things, turned them over and over, tried to figure out the seating.......whew!!.
"The Day" was one adventure after another. The bus ride from Plainfield, NJ to the Port Authority in NY, to the Horn and Hardart automat for lunch..... to the subway ride (on two different trains) up to the Bronx. Each of these is a story in itself. But....the Bronx. When the D train came up over that rise....well Holy Cow! There it was; huge, majestic......crowded. "The House That Ruth Built." Somehow my father seemed to know where to go. We passed the vendors and the small brass band, squeezed through the turnstiles and......we were in!!! We could hear the muffled roar of the fans as balls sailed through the air during batting practice. The inside of the stadium was a mass of humanity and sounds as we followed the huge circlular trail in search of our gate. And now here it is...... you've heard it a dozen times before. As we passed each gate and I got brief glimpses onto the field, something looked.......odd. Oh my God. Yankee Stadium was in COLOR. I mean gorgeous green, rich deep brown, white bases and lines., and, of course, pinstripes. After our small black and white tv, This was almost too much to take in. And that's a feeling modern kids will never know. It was a flippin' jaw dropper.
We got to our seats and let the barrage of peanuts, programs, hot dogs, soda, pennants etc begin. I know my dad was on a budget, but I don't remember wanting for anything. The smell of cigar smoke wove through the stands and to this day reminds me of a Bronx day in 1962. I don't really remember where our seats were but they were close enough to see faces. Yogi, Mickey, Roger, Moose, Bobby Richardson, Tom Thresh. ........they were all there. And so was Jimmy Piersall. Remember him......"Fear Strikes Out?" That was a bonus. He even did us the honor of geting into a bench clearing brawl that started with some fans in the right field stands harassing Jimmy and finally jumping onto the field.....much to their ultimate dismay. I can still see so clearly the black infield dirt flying off Yankee cleats as they met the Cleveland Indians in right field. Wasn't much of a rumble. Baseballs players are notorious for their non brawls. But the image was indelibly imprinted on my ten year old brain. I don't remember who won the game....or the brawl, but Johnny Blanchard smacked two out of the park, and Jim Bouton was throwing pure smoke. Man, it had it all!!
The trip home was anti-climatic, but my neighborhood status soared. I'd made it. The first one. I felt like George from "Of Mice And Men" as he related the rabbits story to Lenny. The boys.....and girls..... never tired of hearing about "the trip." I didn't even have to embellish all that much. I'm not a parent, but I can appreciate the impact we have on creating kid's memories. You have to recognize the moment. A backyard catch, a fishing trip, a new guitar chord, a walk in the woods. They're all potential life changers. I could tell you a story about each one of these. And ......I probably will.

Friday, August 05, 2005

"If I Could Get Down To The Sea Again......"

I went tubing down the Delaware last weekend. Lucy's had this yen to get on the water and being a Pisces it doesn't take much to get me on board. There's a place right across the river in PA that does all the work for you. Thirty minutes away, five bucks for parking, twenty bucks for the tubes, walk the cattle lines, a fifteen minute bus ride and into the river, baby!! We opted for the four hour cruise and it is nothin' but maxin' and relaxin'.
What is it about water that's so....familiar. Is it the old back to the womb thing? As a kid I was always the first guy in the water and the last to get out. My mom used to have a tough time getting me out of the bathtub!! Remember the way your fingers would get all white and wrinkled? That's the way they looked last weekend in the river. What is that, anyway? Around age seventeen I took up surfing. I was never any good at it but it was another excuse to spend hours in the water. Sitting on a surfboard out in the ocean at sunrise or sunset is ......primitive........a little bit dangerous and.....bonding. The ocean is a cure all for many ills. A friend of mine would get all kinds of skin maladys from the standard poison ivy, oak, etc....to stuff we would just call jungle rot. Nothing too serious. He'd always say,"If I could just get into mother ocean." I've adopted that saying over the years and it still holds up. I learned early on that the salt water of the Jersey shore was great for hangovers, zits, rashes of all kinds and attitude. Getting on to the beach, that first charge into the water, jumping over the first few waves, then making the perfect dive under a wave and coming up on the other side......well.....there's a certain art to it that only comes with years of practice. Don't get me started on the ins and outs of body surfing.....getting your face jammed into the sand......mouthfuls of salt water.......crashing into strange knees. Man, that's good. (Sprinklers, Slip n' slides, water balloons........remember them?)
We had a couple of pretty good quarrys in our area. Quarry swimming was a little more dicey. Unknown terrain, cops....an occasional drowning. But a chance to jump off a cliff. Who can pass that up?!? One time a few friends and I took a two day canoe trip some years back. The first night we're out in the middle of nowhere. We pull over, climb up a way and set up camp. In the middle of the night the ground starts shaking ....we see a bright light coming at us....take us home Jesus!!!! Turns out we set up camp about twenty yards from a train track. But....we survived. Great sunburn that weekend, as with most of my adventures with water.
Lucy seems to have the same affinity for water as me but doesn't seem to realize it....or make a big deal out of it. Like it's just a natural thing. And it is. She gets in water and a....what.......calm?.......gentleness?..........acceptance comes over her. It's great!!!!! I was watching this show on PBS about birth, from conception to delivery. The shots of the baby inside the womb are amazing. Surviving in liquid......almost more fish than human for a long time. And sure as hell not wanting to leave. Explains a lot.
Some of our best movies are about water...and fish. Moby Dick, Jaws,The Old Man And The Sea, Poseiden Adventure, Titanic and on and on. It seems at one time the earth was one continent surrounded by water. I give you CONTINENTAL DRIFT. How 'bout Water World. Horrible movie, but at the same time.....comforting. I don't know. The Standells..."Dirty Water". .....one of the most recognizable guitar licks of all time.
The Jersey shore has cleaned up considerably in the last twenty five years. Mother ocean is nothing if not resilient. She gives us so much. I'm glad we can help out when she needs it.