It’s been a long week. It began with travelling from Bellingham, WA to Estacada, OR to see my friends Kraig and Barbara. Even though I’d been down there just a couple of weeks earlier, I didn’t really want to leave the States without saying a real goodbye. They’ve been good to me, and I wanted to say thank you properly. We had a nice weekend, with a trip to the beautiful Oregon coast around Lincoln City (feeling a little bit of silly pride at being in a city named the same as my hometown, I bought the t-shirt), and to a really nice restaurant called Rendezvous which is kinda of in the middle of nowhere (about halfway between Portland and Mt. Hood). From the outside, it doesn’t look like anything special – just a run of the mill, kinda crafty looking place next to a wine shop and a gift shop – but the food is delicious.
Tuesday, the comments shit storm went down while I was on the mind-numbingly slow train from Portland to Seattle. Not since the biggest flood of Minipops-related emails back in 2003, when a BBC Radio One DJ started talking about my work, have I had such a bursting inbox. It sent my head spinning, because in amongst the forty-plus comment notifications, and the regular emails, were a couple of hundred emails about my new baseball website, Flip Flop Fly Ball. My brain pulled me one way and the other. Stress, sadness, and anger on one side; joy and amazement on the other. It’s been incredibly strange to see the reaction to FFFB. I’ve beavered away on this stuff for quite a while, mostly for my own enjoyment, thinking that one day, I’ll get around to putting it online. Being a non-American, I felt (feel) like an interloper when it comes to baseball. I feel like I have the mental age of a 13-year-old in baseball years. The amount of time I’ve been into the sport would make me that age if I’d have got into it when most American boys get into baseball. And to suddenly go from that, to having serious baseball emails from people who’ve been following the game for decades is humbling.
I was visiting Heather and Andrew for a couple of days in Seattle. Old friends from Berlin. Andrew and I went to Safeco Field, where I could see one last Mariners game before I left the Pacific Northwest. An interleague game against the San Diego Padres. On my fifth trip to Safeco this season, I finally got to see future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. play; not only play, I got to see him hit a home run. The 619th of his career. I’ll never be a Mariners fan, but I’ve really enjoyed going to their games, and as they rallied towards the end of the game, I found myself genuinely cheering them on. It wasn’t to be, though: they lost 9-7. I also had the joy of seeing a guy I saw play for the Padres Triple-A team a couple of weeks back in Portland. It was nice to see that the guy I’d done the photo montage of – Josh Banks – had been called up to the big leagues.
But it wasn’t to be my last time at Safeco Field. Wednesday, I went on the stadium tour. Nine dollars to take the hour-and-a-half tour. I was one of about thirty people being shown around by a couple of kindly old fellas. We got to walk a little bit on the dirt track – “not on the grass!” – and sit in the Mariners and visiting team dugouts. Apparently, Ichiro, the Mariners’ awesome Japanese right fielder, always sits in the same spot on the bench, so all of the Japanese people on the tour had their photos taken sitting there. No clubhouse access on this tour, unlike the previous stadium tours I’ve been on in The Bronx and Oakland, but we did get to see how the other half lives; being shown around the fancy boxes where the rich people pretend to enjoy a baseball game by scoffing expensive food and watching the game on TVs. A brief stop in the press box, and the tour was over.
I sauntered north to the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum. I’m not a massive sci-fi fan, so I rarely paused in there, but it was nice to see some of Jimi Hendrix’s guitars in the EMP; and the small-but-lovely Jim Henson exhibit is definitely worth seeing. There’s a real Kermit in there! No photos allowed in the museum, so, y’know, no photos here.
I was nervous about flying on Thursday morning. Back in the olden days, I used to be scared of flying; but when flying to Miami in 2005, the plane I was on flew through Hurrican Katrina and since then I’ve taken any bumps or dodgy landings in my stride. This time, though, I had a different reason to be nervous. The I-94W visa waiver stub that I arrived with is still stapled in my passport. The expiration date on that was March 3rd. Even though I had receipts from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that tell anyone who wants to know that my application is pending and voids the expired I-94W, I was still nervous; mainly because you and I know that I’m not gonna be following that through.
My nerves weren’t helped by the most ridiculously unorganised system at the Delta ticket desk. You have to use a computer thingy to print out your boarding pass, and then get in the throng of people to give them your bags. The Delta folks are shouting out surnames, which, over the noise of hundreds of people in the building, was kinda difficult to hear. The woman in front of me in the queue asked how we were supposed to hear our names, and we were directed to check the little sticker on each computer terminal, which told us to stand in a specific queue.
Bag checked, one last smoke, then to the security thingy. I’m one of those people who is kinda well prepared for the metal detector thing. I tend to take off my watch, iPod, belt, and shoes early. So when I finally get to the guy checking IDs, I’m more concerned about my trousers slipping down to my knees than him seeing my expire I-94W. Thankfully, he doesn’t look at anything other than my photo and boarding pass. A little jump for joy. A jump that was cancelled out when, just as I was boarding the plane, and the Delta employee was scanning my boarding pass, the machine didn’t make the “beep” it had made for everyone else, it made a “beepbeepbeepbeepbeep.” My glass-half-empty self resigned myself that I was gonna be cuffed and dragged off the plane in front of everyone. Didn’t happen, of course.
The self-appointed King of Pop popped his clogs, and as my pal Derick drove us to Brooklyn from JFK, all the cars on the road had one song or another coming from the speakers. We had a beer in a local bar, watched the Yankees beat the Braves on the TV whilst listening to a succession of Michael’s songs as hipster girls and hipster boys danced nearby. It was a funny feeling seeing the Jackson reaction. I have a sneaking feeling that, in this “hottest thing on the web today, forgotten about tomorrow” era, aside from family and friends, a lot of people of my generation and younger don’t care deeply about much in particular. We’ve never had a defining moment. Maybe that’s different for New Yorkers, because they have had a defining moment this decade. But the reaction to Michael’s death seems a little fake to me. It’s nice to
hear his music, to be reminded of the reason he was famous in the first place; but I’m not entirely sure if the rest of it is just a way to try and feel something.
A nice relaxing Friday, a bid for tickets on eBay later, Derick and I were heading to Queens, to Citi Field, the new Shea, the home of your 2009 New York Mets for the first game of the “Inaugural Subway Series” at their new stadium. It’s the first time I’ve seen the Yankees away from Yankee Stadium, but when we got there, it didn’t really feel like that. While there definitely were more Mets fans there, there were still a good 30-40% Yankees fans around.
The new Shea is a very nice stadium. We had tickets in the “Promenade” section; their fancy name for being right at the top. As we watched the Yankees doing their batting practice, the clouds looked ominous, and shortly afterwards, as I smoked in the smoking section (you could still see a big screen from the section, so didn’t have to miss any of the action), an employee informed my fellow smokers and I that it was about to get rainy, so we should get under a covered part of the stadium.
And rainy it got. Lashing in, getting us wet even stood about twenty feet away from the uncovered area. I scoffed a tasty grilled hot Italian sausage covered in peppers and onions, chugged down some Beck’s, and we waited it out.
Nearly an hour after the scheduled start, we took off our caps and stood for the national anthem. Then the local anthems began: “Let’s go Yankees!” “Yankees suck!” Let’s go Yankees!” “Yankees suck!” Let’s go Yankees!” “Yankees suck!”
We noticed straight away that both teams were paying tribute to Michael Jackson when on the field, by wearing just one glove. Nice touch. Anyway, the Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia was fairly dominant through four innings, long enough for some Mets errors to give the Yanks a 4-0 lead. And aside from a Gary Sheffield home run for the home team, the Mets put up very little fight, eventually losing 9-1. The star of the show, though, was the sky that followed the thunderstorm. Stunning orange mammatus clouds. All the better for being up high in a stadium where half of what the eye can see is clouds. More photos on my Flickr.
I’ve got another week or so left in New York before returning to Europe. I’m gonna soak up as much baseball as possible. Starting this afternoon, with a trip to Staten Island to see the Staten Island Yankees, the Single-A affiliate of the big boys in the Bronx.