Summer is now upon us, and that means the joys of iced coffee, kids shrieking in the spray of fire hydrant fountains, and of course the pied-piper melodies of the ice cream truck. Toward the evening, when the heat comes as much from the pavement as from the sky, the humid air vibrates with reggaeton beats (this latinized jamaican rhythm being the perfect soundtrack for this meltingpottest of cities) until about 3am (or until it rains). Kids loiter downstairs, setting off fire crackers in preparation of the spectacles around july 4th (vertical only if you are lucky and followed, inevitably, by the sound of sirens). Tv is suddenly crappy, the better stuff having been wrapped up for now (in excruciating cliffhangers or luke-warm open ends), promising pleasures on the other side of summer or until the release of the dvd box set.
But Summer is also something else, something I could never have dreamed when I was a little girl growing up in the heart of europe– It is a diamond, a leather sphere, a stick, some plates, and… well, time. Lots of time. Summer time, which flows at a different pace than, say, marathon season or holiday madness. A time that has room for parades and picnics and– Baseball.
Baseball is not a game I grew up with– it was so American (and thus, deliciously foreign). I discovered this game of instant nostalgia once I’d decided to do some research into the soul of America (I also sought to understand American humor–which, it turned out, was a tree with many branches, some of them hanging lower than others). It immediately caught my eye with its old fashioned-looking uniforms (pinstripes and stirrups anyone?) and its leisurely pace, a game as slow as summer. I found the colorful lingo and superstitions infinitely more alluring than any football-confusion of helmets and shoulderpads or tangled mess of legs and nets could ever be.
After learning some history with the help of Ken Burns and watching people play in the park (Bad News Bears style), I felt I was ready to go to my first real game, and decided that if I was gonna go, I might as well do it right, and make it a Subway series game (Yankees @ Mets)…
Shea stadium’s sprawling 80ies ugliness disppointed me a little, but I was soon excitely drawing the face-painted mobs; some were torturing effigies of the enemy’s most feared players, banging on cowbells, while others blocked my view with their more comical than menacing drunkesn, sunburned embraces, and for once the ladies’ room was empty, while the line to the men’s room went on forever…
I ate my first hot dog at that game (it was edible but overpriced), and because it was too much fun watching the vendors toss their wares into the crowd, I also had a box of crackerjacks, pretzels, a soda, cotton candy, and a plastic souvenir-cup full of beer. Needless to say I had to recover a little after the game, which ended up being moderately disappointing for someone rooting for the underdog (5:0 yankees).
That weekend, I followed up with a visit to the Bronx, where the Mets were trying (unsuccessfully) to even the score with their cross-town rivals; Yankee stadium with its cake-icing bleachers and steep seating immediately appealed more to me than Shea, and I was torn between bearing reference by drawing and becoming one with the deafening roars erupting around me; in the end, i put away my drawing pad, and joined the crowd, defeated by the sheer momentum of the moment.
Though this was years ago, I still have the plastic mug from the first game, and try to go to a few games every season, though still more for the experience than the actual game. I will sorely miss the old Yankee stadium (Shea, not so much). And if any New York team ever wins the World series again, you will find me at the parade, not drawing, but cheering with the fans!