If you read column # 69 you know that our hero was left cliff hanging in the wilderness, about to attempt to sleep in a tent filled with obnoxious neighbors. We will return to that troubling adventure in our next column, though to be truthful it is a subject not for the faint of heart. In the meantime, here's a reflective piece on our National Pastime. It is devoted to my mother, as rabid a baseball fan as has ever escaped institutionalization. Happy Birthday, Mom.
About the time that I mow the yard for the first time in the season--usually about two and a half weeks after my wife informs me it needs to be done--I begin yearning to go to a baseball game. The urge is buried deep as an instinct: it's like a salmon deciding it's time to swim upstream--except, of course, I don't want to rub against river rocks when I get there. I don't want to die once I've made the journey, either, though after sitting in the hot sun for nine innings, eating double onion chili dogs and drinking beer, I might smell like it.
Funny how attending a baseball game connects the dots to all the other such contests I've ever attended. Leaving the stadium gives me time to reflect on the end of so many days at the ball park.
When you're twelve, you remember every magic moment. You remember the friendly warmth of the sun, and the tang of old leather rising from your glove as you pensively pressed it to your face during a pessimistic moment in the game. The peanuts you ate, shell and all, gave your tongue a salt burn, while your stomach now feels like it is using the stuff to manufacture intestinal plywood. You remember the crowd rising to its feet in a roar when the batter made contact, like a spark igniting an explosion. You remember that, even though you didn't put it in your mouth, the baseball program you held in your hand somehow had a quality which could only be described as taste.
When you're twenty two, you remember the woman sitting three rows down, how she caught your stare and glanced back at you and seemed to smile slightly before turning her attention to the guy sitting next to her, some jerk who obviously was on steroids or something and should be arrested. Your attention drifted from the game into a fantasy where you mentioned out loud that you were really enjoying the book you were reading, and she turned eagerly from her block-and-tackle boyfriend and squealed that she was reading the same book and was ready to bear your children immediately. You remember the woman at the hot dog counter, with pretty eyes which didn't acknowledge your meaningful look, even though you were plainly communicating to her a silent message that you would be willing to take her away from this hot dog existence of hers and set her up in a life of luxury, even though frankly you were still selling suits at the men's store like you'd done every summer because you hadn't yet begun a career in your area of expertise. Or, for that matter, developed an area of expertise.
When you're thirty two, you remember that the client in Cleveland said he'd make a decision the first of next week, and you know he's going to go with the competition because it's what he's been saying all along, so you probably should not have kept him on the forecast for the quarter, except then there wouldn't have been a forecast.
When you're forty two you remember that your daughter has started talking about going to college at a school which costs more than the gross national product of Namibia. You remember that your mechanic says you can either buy a new car or put a new engine in your old one, which will cost as much as buying a new car. You remember that because your son dropped spoons into the garbage disposal to see if they would be sent into another dimension, your disposal now seems disinclined to grind up food, though it still spins stuff around with the old enthusiasm. There is a build up of dizzy garbage impeding the flow of water down the drain, which somehow has become your fault because your wife wrote "Fix garbage disposal" on a piece of paper and handed it to you this morning, along with "Fix the screen door" and "Fix the downstairs toilet" and a whole host of other terrorist demands.
When you're fifty two, you remember you parked somewhere over here, it was in this area. Well, maybe it was down here farther. You pass some other guys your age in the parking lot, and nod in recognition. Maybe... could you have parked over there? Which car did you bring, anyway?
When you're sixty two you remember that when you were twelve you went to a baseball game. The warmth of the sun, the smell of your glove. The explosive roar of the crowd when the batter hit the ball. When you were twelve...
Copyright W. Bruce Cameron 1998
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