Saturday, September 19, 2015

Marlins-Padres: Fort Lauderdale 2002

Okay, I don't know if it was really the year 2002, but it was around there. This was a baseball game. MLB. In Miami Gardens at what was once called Joe Robbie Stadium. It was the Florida Marlins--now the Miami Marlins--against the San Diego Padres.

We--my family--used to attend a few Marlins games each year. Tickets--in general--were plentiful, inexpensive and baseball was a relaxing sport to attend. We saw one Dolphins football game (I prefer football to baseball), one Miami Heat game (before Lebron James came to play for four years) and a few Florida Panthers hockey games. But we saw maybe a dozen Marlins games.

So we were there--my wife, my two daughters and I--sitting in good seats almost above the home team  dugout. Clear view. Close to the action. A sunny day. Marlins winning. My wife and older daughter were in the seats closer to the aisle, I sat next, and my youngest daughter, maybe ten or eleven, sat in the last seat. The seats beyond us in the row were empty. It was a big stadium for baseball (the Marlins now have their own place, in Miami) and you usually were not crowded . . . So, a Padre was up to bat and we were watching but also just being lackadaisical, talking, eating popcorn, drinking sodas, beer for me, not paying real close attention. And this is why I recall this game:

The Padre batter took a swing. He lost his handle on the bat. The bat comes flying. It goes over the heads of the front row fans. I'm watching this. Not quite slo-mo, but not exactly in an instant. The bat is coming towards us. Us. Towards me--no, not me, towards my younger daughter. And I'm watching. Yes, the bat is definitely coming right at my daughter. By the time I filly start to reach over, the bat has landed in the two seats right next to her--she's flinching, I'm reaching, the bat is bobbling, bumping, roiling around in those empty seats. Then I have my hand on it, grab it--the bat--stop it right there . . . I ask my daughter if she is okay and she is. I hand her the bat. The crowd in the stadium is seeing all of this. I tell her, "Stand up."

So, she stands up, holds the bat aloft in both hands, the stadium crowd roars and claps.


I've always wondered if they showed that on TV. But it was a moment for her--for us--to have a sports crowd cheer. We got to keep the bat. Still have it. And it reminds me of that game, of that time, of South Florida.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

South Dakota: 1957

I was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in late September. I arrived at Mercy Hospital, somewhere in that city. I was the third child--the third son--of a family who ended with the fifth child. A middle child in the end. All my brothers and one sister were born in Sioux Falls, and I imagine at Mercy Hospital.

I don't know what day or at what time I was born. I suppose there is some record of it somewhere. There is no longer anyone I can ask who would know such trivial facts and I am not from the type of family who is concerned with such information.

I moved away--with my family--from South Dakota after I had turned five years old. Do I have memories of the place? Yes. Some vivid, some murky, some ingrown I suppose . . . Our first house, our second house, some people, places, events. You'd be surprised what you can remember from early childhood. I can't say how being from, and living the first five years of my life in, South Dakota has shaped me.

It's a strange state, in many ways.

I can say that I have dreamt of it.

My mother was from Arlington, South Dakota. My father from Red Oak, Iowa--though he was really born in eastern Nebraska.

When I have dreamt of South Dakota, in my dream I have always known that it was South Dakota. That was explicit. In my dreams I am always not in a town but out in the countryside. My Aunt Nancy--my mother's only sibling--lived in Arlington. Actually, she lived on a farm just outside of Arlington. She and her husband--Lawrence--had five children of their own. We visited them quite a few times when I was young. Maybe that's why my dreams are outdoor dreams. My grandmother lived in a small house in Arlington, though it was very much a country house.

One dream I had was of swimming in a river under a bridge in the open spaces of South Dakota. It was summer. Warm. Golden and dry. The river was shallow and weak of current. It was a pleasant dream. It was of a sparse landscape with a scattering of trees and open yellow fields and a gravel-bottemed clear clean-water river. A pleasant and happy swim with a friend.

Another dream also had the same landscape--more plains or western than midwestern. There were the trees and golden land and distant distance. But in this dream I was visiting my mother and my mother was rejecting me. I can't recall the specifics--it was a dream--but it was not nice. It was disturbing. Yet, the landscape was of the same subtle beauty. Inviting, if potentially harsh in the long run.

Well. 1957. That's a long time ago by now, to most if not all. I should go back to South Dakota. Return. I have been back, that is, been through, but not in many years. Decades, really. If nothing else, I should try to dream of it.

Sour Cream and Onion Burger: Iowa City 1982

After a night in the bars we'd sometimes hop in Matt's car and drive to Coralville where the all night diners were.

My favorite was the Perkins.

Perkins had decent late-drunk-night service and a menu with all these different burgers on it. Burgers that were--for that time--somewhat eccentric. I always ordered the Sour Cream and Onion Burger with fries and I would dump ketchup all over it and alongside it and around it and probably some mustard too. I'd drink coffee even though I wasn't having eggs.

Those late-drunk-night diners could get rather freewheeling. I remember the table next to us one time getting in a syrup fight. Yes, syrup. I feel sorry for the waitress, manager and clean-up person even to this day.

Anyway, I'd eat my burger and my fries in a rather fast and mechanical way. I recall one of my friends--Jeff Wheeler? I don't remember his name exactly as he was not one of my close friends and he was from Osage, Iowa and I'd ask him about that small town and it was kind of a running joke between us (why do I think everyone's name was Jeff? I bet his name wasn't Jeff, but it was, I'm pretty certain, Wheeler and he was, definitely, from Osage)--he was watching me and said something like: "That guy knows what he's doing" as I went through my meal with a rhythmic chop and chomp.

But now that I think of it, we rarely if ever tipped the waitresses. We were no doubt loud and obnoxious--not as bad as the syrup fighters, but still . . . And eventually Matt got into the unfortunate habit of doing some dine and dashes--not paying for his meal. That never happened when I was with him but he'd told me about it and eventually he'd dined-and-dashed once too often and the waitress recognized him and they held him.

I was there that time and they basically held the whole table there and made sure we all paid. I felt insulted. It never occurred to me to not pay. But, later, I understood. Guilt by association. I think Matt had to pay for back meals.

Still, I never tipped. I'm not sure why. Stinginess, yes, but also I plead ignorance. Lack of experience. Not understanding how the system actually worked. I don't think I got it until I went to Santa Fe and worked as a waiter. Now I almost always over-tip.

My neo-compensation for those Sour Cream and Onion Burgers will never reach the ones who deserve it.