First we got there...
So much to write about from today.
I was a very literal child. I used to write in my personal journals the precise minute I woke up in the morning, what I had for breakfast, precisely what time I left for school, what minute the bus arrived...and when I used to come home from school if my parents asked me what had happened that day, I had no sense of giving them the Cliffs notes. I'd start, "first we got there...then I hung up my coat..."
So, now, it's a common phrase in my family when beginning an exhaustively long and detailed story where it's difficult to know where to begin to start with, "first we got there..."
I met Iain at the Copley T stop this afternoon and we walked over to the Pru for some gourmet luncheon at the food court (gotta expose him to American culture, after all). Then we went up to the SkyWalk at the top of the Pru for some sightseeing. We were handed some little "audio tour" transponders when we first walked into the observatory, but I scoffed at them, sure I could just tell Iain what everything was. Turns out I was really good at telling him what the roads and highways were and a few landmarks, but half the questions he asked I couldn't answer. "You are the worst tour guide ever," he finally said incredulously. I have to admit it's true.
He took his revenge by telling me in detail the totally infuriating crap Shaughnessy had spewed forth in his column today. Turns out even hearing about the shit the CHB hath written is enough to make me want to rip out my hair in frustration.
Going to the top of the Pru was one of those things, though, that you never do if you're a native (like a Duck Tour or Old Ironsides, in my case, also). But it was great, and I got some nice pictures of my city, including some great bird's-eye views of Kenmore Square and Fenway Park (which both of us identified immediately).
The weather was precisely 180 degrees from the day before--today rolled out the red (Sox) carpet for our visitor, and for that I was glad. It was the perfect day for a ballpark tour, which is what we did next (after we visited Iain's personal Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory--the Souvenir Store on Yawkey Way).
On the tour, we got to go on the Monster and the players were out in force warming up and goofing around on the field. Music was playing for them to relax and loll about on the grass to (which most of them did at one point or another under the guise of stretching). I would say it was lovely to see them free from scrutiny for a moment, but that can't be true since we were there, and the majority of our tour this afternoon was made up of extremely enthusiastic and excited young urchins who spent every minute on the Monster screaming at the top of their little voices for Manny Delcarmen or Willie Harris (the ones who ventured closest) to throw them a ball.
The park that had veiled itself in mist the night before had put on its best dress today, all sunlight and bright greens and candied reds under a cloudless sky. Sausages grilled, unattended, on the Monster as our tour walked by--seeming like one more prop, olfactory as well as visual, part of a carefully engineered experience.
After that we got a sumptuous hamburger (with hot dogs and sausage at the ballpark last night and pizza for lunch today, Iain has officially checked off all the major American food groups) at Game On, at a sidewalk table out in that dizzying sunshine. One of the great things about Game On is the hodgepodge of video clips they show (and play the soundtracks to, loudly)--everything from the "Last Out" chapter of the Faith Rewarded DVD to the "Dream On" segment from City of Champions to the classic "More Cowbell" sketch from SNL (this last I had to explain to Iain, and coax him to go back into the bar and watch, because it is not to be missed).
Earlier I had watched as Iain, decked out in full Sox regalia, stood at a pay phone and spoken fluent French to his family back home. It was one of the moments of realization I've been having every so often since he got here about just what a rarity Iain is. Decked out as he has been in his Sox gear, if he doesn't speak, he blends right in. So imagine walking by a guy as typically Boston-looking as can be on a pay phone, and hearing him speak into it in French. Then imagine that guy hangs up the phone and turns to his companion (me) and begins to speak English, but with a Northern British accent. It blew my mind; who knows what passerby at that moment must have thought.
Over dinner, it was Iain's turn to get cultural vertigo as he drank in the carnival atmosphere around the park, most of which was passing directly by our table.
"I see maybe one Sox cap in a whole year, if that," he said, wide-eyed, watching permutation after variation on the "B" and "BOSTON" and "COCO" and "ORTIZ" and "SCHILLING" and "WORLD CHAMPIONS 2004" float by. Since he is used to scanning crowds daily for signs of a like-minded person, the flood of them cascading past all around had totally overloaded his system. He couldn't get enough of all the different hats and t-shirts being sported, the different slogans and symbols and names.
I had expected Iain to get weepy when he first saw the ballpark; he didn't. Generally he'd seemed pretty low-key during his first visit (although in my experience Brits are experts in suppressing any outward signs of emotion, so it's also possible he was on overload just the same)--but it turned out that just sitting for an hour outside the ballpark before the game had been what finally blew out his circuits completely. It was, of course, the moment I'd been waiting for--it was fascinating to see the place through his eyes.
Just like Heaven
As I drove down the highways toward tonight's Red Sox game, I was worried...that, eventually, if I keep up my pace of Sox games...I might fail to be completely bowled over by Fenway Park, as I have been every time I've gone there so far...It was almost like the baseball gods, sensing my blasphemy on the drive in, had arranged for an aesthetic experience last night that would absolutely blow my mind.
The eventual sunset was not as spectacular as on that night, still the most awesomely beautiful night I've ever spent at Fenway, but atmospherically, tonight's game was the closest I've come. When we first walked up the ramp out into the bleachers, the sunlight was near-blinding, the choirs of angels nearly audible as our eyes adjusted and we began to make out the shapes of kids climbing the bullpen fences and a few Blue Jays stretching and gossiping in the outfield.
Later on, watching dusk mellow into night over the grand facade of Fenway, relaxing after the Sox plated five runs in the first and there was not much left over but the shouting, I amended my thought--I hope this is what heaven is like. If there is a heaven, of course, and if each person gets their own personalized heaven, I want mine to be Fenway Park on a night like this, but unending. Maybe my mortal mind is puny, maybe it sounds like so much hyperbole, but I have yet to experience anything more perfect and sublime than those bleacher seats, this warm and inviting night, the slow, graceful pace of a ballgame and a victory for the home team.
Wily, we love ya
We sat in Section 35, where I haven't sat in a long time, if ever--it's the triangle right under the Bank of America sign, where the K-men set up their shop. It soon became clear how unfamiliar I was with the section, since I misread "36" as "35" where it was painted in small numbers on the wall at the top, and we were roughly ousted from our seats in the second.
But our eventual seats had an added perk: being the closest in the park to Wily Mo, who the fans soon realized hasn't learned to be sick of us yet--hasn't learned that skill most of the veterans have of seemingly being able to ignore anything. Amazingly, he responded to the shouts of his name and the cheers for his every catch and the begging for the ball once Around the Horn was over in the midst of an inning. He even kept up an extended gesturing conversation with the crowd after tossing a ball to the Monster rather than to our section, making that same "cut it out" motion with both hands that Manny often makes. It seems he's at least learned mannerisms from Manny and Papi, along with--I can hope--more patience at the plate: he was also was seen giving the double-guns.
My favorite thing about the 2006 edition of this team so far is the novelty of players like Wily Mo and Jonathan. Tonight I really fell for Wily Mo, watching the sheer unvarnished earnestness of his grins when the fans shouted his name. Like Jonathan's scoreless streak, it can't last--but that's what makes it so appreciable, the sense of its fragility and vulnerability to the less forgiving reception from this crowd that's bound to happen.
For tonight, at least, Wily Mo and the fans smiled at each other. The fans cheered his catches with enthusiasm that bordered on the sarcastic (but which I believe was not--more than anything, as said above, the fans seemed thrilled by the fact that he'd turn around, wave, point, laugh and nod).
Right now it all reminds me of what my dad said, watching Wily Mo dig in at the plate in a crucial situation last night, the crowd on its feet clapping and chanting--"This kid's died and gone to heaven."
Just a heavenly night all around.
Speaking of fragile...
Jonathan, for now, is in that same honeymoon category as Wily Mo, although the affection for him is far more parental than for Wily--no doubt the result of his baby face. There were heart palpitations all over the park when he began to gingerly goose-step behind the mound after delivering another crisp strike to Vernon Wells, finally picking up one foot and appearing to try and stretch.
There was a tense moment as he began to walk back toward the rubber, and then the whole infield seemed to release itself somehow, while Mike Lowell walked over and put his arm around Jonathan's shoulders, gesturing for help from the dugout.
We turned to watch the screen on the scoreboard that showed a close-up of the conference on the mound, Jonathan, still in flared-nostril mode, alternately shaking his head and nodding to Francona, who appeared to ask him variations on the same question over and over again, all the while squinting into his face from a very short distance away, as if by just standing near his young fireballer he could sense any change in his aura. Meanwhile his teammates folded in close and watched Francona as if they might be called upon to hoist Jonathan onto their shoulders and carry him off the field.
Foulke, Seanez and Tavarez had already worked; only Timlin was left in the bullpen of the regulars. Vernon Wells represented the tying run. I don't know if I can speak for anyone else in the park, but I personally needed a paper bag to breathe into. (Thankfully, early reports are that he is fine.)
For whatever reason, the more I watch Jonathan, the more lines from a poem by Marianne Moore that I studied in one of my classes in college spring to my mind and will not get out, like an annoying catchy tune:
with swart blind look askance
and gondoliering legs, so fine
as the chintz china one with fawn-
brown eyes and toothed gold
collar on to show whose bird it was.
Maybe it objectifies him, dehumanizes him, but that's what I think of when I see him out there on the mound, especially when it seems he might be damaged in some way, and when that fear throws into perverse relief what a treasure he is to us, this miraculous creature that we know will be tarnished and blunted and generally lose its luster, but that we wish, silently, as if the wish will somehow intercede on his behalf to make him the one new and precious thing that just stays. No swan so fine.
Top of the Pru photo set here.
Ballpark Tour photo set here.
Game photo set here.