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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Take Me Out To The Ballgame...

As we all know, because we've been told so for decades, there is more than one way to skin a cat. On a side note, I think this is one of the creepiest axioms ever. As true as this statement may be, there is a part of me that thinks the thought might be better served with a suggestion that is a little less violent and anti-pet. For instance, "there is more than one way to plow a field", or "pick a pocket", or "iron a dress shirt" or "dispose of the decomposing body of the Korean hooker in your basement, even though it was all an accident and a big misunderstanding, it might be safer to get it out of the house..." would all be less gruesome than the image of skinning the house-kitty. Except maybe the hooker-thing - that's also pretty disturbing, but after all, you barely knew her and what right did she have to argue about fees for what you considered to be a rather sub-average service?

But this is not why I'm writing.

I had tickets to the ballgame yesterday, which is always a pleasant way to spend a summer evening. The fact that the tickets were free, the seats premium and the company superb were simply positive reinforcement for the activity. And as it turns out, we were in prime foul-ball territory - a section behind home-plate - and as the balls came rocketing back and careening off the stadia above, I couldn't help but notice how many folks were still busy risking life and limb texting on their phones instead of being alert for the incoming missiles.

The ballpark should probably be another one of those places where my idea for the cellphone jamming device would likely come in handy. As with automobiles, grocery lines, restaurants and movie theaters, I am of the firm belief that there is really nothing that can't wait until you get back outside. Although all the photos of everyone holding their plastic cups drunkenly aloft with the beautiful expanse of green field in the background are cute and sometimes provoke a wistful sigh, I could probably live without them, or at least wait until you got home to download them from your telephone-less digital camera. Ah, when I am King...

But I digress.

I debated before the game about how I was going to get to the stadium. I narrowed it down to three choices:

1) I could drive downtown. Given that temperatures were in the low-100's, my car has no air-conditioning and parking would cost me ten dollars, plus rehydration fees, this option was quickly nixed. Driving to the game under such circumstances would only put me in a foul mood and elevate my core temperature to unacceptable levels, neither of which is suitable for optimum viewing pleasure.

2) I could drive the three miles to the light rail station and park there and take the train downtown to the ballpark. Though the temperature would still be over a hundred, the drive would be short and it would save me the trouble of waiting for buses as well as trains. Probably the most convenient manner with which to go.

3) I could walk across the street, catch the bus to the train and reverse the process on the way home. Likely the simplest option and the one that would provide me the maximum air-conditioned riding.

I ended up choosing a sort of hybrid variation of option #2 and option #3. I had Logan (daughter) drive me to the train and would catch the bus home. Sounded simple and easy enough to me. I was on my way. The wait at the train station was relatively short, but I run a little warm - my doctor says I should lose a couple of pounds, and I in turn have told him he should buy some new frames and it has since become a ticklish standoff - and I was hot and sweaty when I got on the train that my companion was already aboard.

We got to the stadium early enough to watch rookie pitcher Trevor Bauer warm up, doing Ninja-stretches, working with some kind of flexible, pointless spear and throwing the baseball from one outfield foul-pole to the other, which doesn't sound like much until you see it in person and realize that even on a bicycle it would probably take me ten minutes and two rest stops to get from pole to pole.

The game began with Bauer striking out the side - Gardner set the over/under at 8 strikeouts. I took the over, proclaiming that 10 strikeouts was within reach. After all, the kid was already a third of the way there and looked unstoppable. "We could be on hand to witness a no-hitter, or dare I say it - a perfect game!" I gushed. I was giddy. The next inning, Bauer was tagged for two runs and four or five more the next inning - I lost count. He had a total of four strikeouts when he was pulled in the third and I was once again inevitably bushwhacked by my own exuberance, whimsy and lack of plain common sense.

In the fifth inning, a lady came to sit in the mostly-empty row behind us. She was wearing a scruffy-looking Padres tee-shirt and shouted out support for her team, which was by now soundly drubbing the hometown boys. When Justin Upton struck out with the bases loaded, she went nuts, shrieking and screaming like the preacher at a backwoods Baptist Snake-Handling service. We turned back to give her stink-eye and I blurted out, "JESUS, LADY - WHERE DID YOU COME FROM? (in all fairness, she had just arrived, so this was not a reference to any snake-handling in her past) YOU'VE GOT AN EIGHT RUN LEAD, FOR CHRISSAKES - CALM DOWN!" She said, "The pitcher's my BOY!" Gardner snarled, "Yeah, yeah, Upton's my boy, too..." "NO," She continued, her voice going higher as she tried to explain. "HE CAME FROM MY LOINS!!!"

Once we learned that the opposing pitcher was indeed her son, we mumbled reluctant apologies and after the following pitch was jacked out of the ballpark on her boy with the bases loaded, suddenly trimming the eight-run lead in half, we spent the next inning and a half in an uncomfortable silence, until she slinked quietly away. I have always found irony to be an untrustworthy bedfellow.

After a couple of scuffling errors and with the game most likely out of reach, we made our way to the exit and the train. We observed a kid by the light rail stop playing electric guitar and singing into a cute little microphone. He turned out to be amazing and when he broke into "Jesse's Girl", his reputation was cemented in my mind. Not enough to give him a tip, mind you, but watching him take handfuls of 1's, 5's and 10's from his tip jar and stuff them into his little backpack every five minutes, I figured the two-bits I was going to toss in the jar was not going to be that helpful when it came to paying for his orthodontia, or Korean hooker, or whatever he was going to use his rucksack of nontaxable income on.

The train was crowded and several passengers insisted on bringing their bicycles aboard with them, further crowding the bystanders. I was forced to turn my body in such a manner that I am certain I resembled a portly Baryshnikov in mid-pirouette to avoid taking a pedal to the onions at every lurch of the train.

I was dropped off at the train station of my choosing, bidding Gardner adieu and saw my bus driving into the distance. "Curses," I muttered and sat on a bench to sweat. I find it less miserable to sit when I sweat. I waited and sweated for a half-hour, when the next bus arrived. "You stop at McKellips and Rural, right?" I asked. "No sir," the driver said, pleasantly. I looked at the number of the bus again to verify I hadn't read it wrong. "The 72 runs up and down Scottsdale Road, right?" He shook his head, gamely. "Not after ten..." I realized that the bus I had missed a half-hour earlier might have been my last hope. "Useful information, that," I said. He turned to me and explained, "There is one more stop of the Earth at the transportation center that will take you there, providing you get there on time..."

I stared at him, puzzled. "Wait... Stop of the earth? What?..." Was he suggesting that there was some sort of magical portal at the "transportation center" that was going to somehow halt the movement of our planet and transport me to the location of my choice?

The bus driver explained. "The 'Earth' is a free shuttle that runs from the Tempe Transportation Center - there is one more shuttle that will be leaving in a few minutes. It stops at McKellips and Rural - if you stop prattling on, get aboard and we can get this bus moving, I might be able to get you there on time..."

I shot him a rakish grin and swung aboard, suddenly Errol Flynn. "That's a good man - onward!" I paid my fee and pointed out the window. "Ahoy - get me to the Earth!"

Forty minutes later, after driving around side streets on a free shuttle full of drunken, stinky loud people, I was dropped unceremoniously at my stop, all the Errol Flynn soundly slapped out of me by the shuttle ride. I walked into a dark house, to a kid on a computer. I gave a half-hearted account of my ride to little or no interest or response. So I went to my room, to be alone with my thoughts. And this keyboard. And an hour of getting lost in a Dick Van Dyke YouTube vortex from which I was lucky to emerge alive.

All in all, a very good night.

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