Category Archives: personal essay

Clean Underwear

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I know my underwear is in there somewhere, nestled gently and warmly at the bottom of the dryer. I can see the dryer, it’s on the top row of a long line of dryers. It sits idle, its job finished. They are all finished, every machine at ease after a hard day’s work of washing the dirty underwear, soiled rags, pubic-hair lined towels, period-stained sheets and bedbug-harboring comforters of Brooklyn.

If you ever want to know the makeup of a neighborhood, go to its laundromats. Mine is a melting pot and everyone comes here to wash their clothes, immigrants from Mexico, Poland, Bangladesh, the West Indies, some Puerto Ricans, a random smattering of Blacks and Whites—everyone but the Hassids. One by one the machines yawned open to offer their last loads to mothers, daughters, bachelors and bachelorettes, college grads and retirees. Maybe each of these people surreptitiously smelled the armpit of their favorite yoga shirts, the arch of their socks, the crotch of a pair of boxers to confirm their garments’ most recent baptism. Clean laundry is an unparalleled smell of accomplishment. Perhaps the clean laundry is the only thing they accomplished today, or maybe one of many accomplishments so numerous as to be called chores.

I think of the people I saw when I did my laundry. They are all home now, with clean clothes. I am not. My fresh clean laundry is resting at the bottom of a dryer and I am outside the laundromat rattling at the locked front door like a madwoman. I grab the metal door handle and forcefully yank it too and fro; if it were an infant it would surely be dead. The lights are out but the metal gate has not been drawn so I still have hope I will get my underwear. Maybe the attendant is using the bathroom? It’s not yet ten, so the expectation that I can retrieve my clothes is not unfounded. Soon someone deep in the bowels of the laundromat, maybe looking for light bulbs, will come out soon. They have to. I am not wearing underwear and I have places to go.

But no one comes out. They only thing I accomplish is seeing how truly insane I look. I see it in reflection in the glass door. My antics have exacerbated my cowlick and my unbound boobs wobble gently under my tank top. I actually don’t know the exact closing time of the laundromat. It is not my favorite laundromat for this reason, but it is the closest. Once, a few months ago, I came a little after ten to get my laundry from the drier thinking the place was open until eleven, like the other place is as indicated conspicuously on the front door. But this place posts no signs.

“At ten we close,” said the attendant the next morning when I picked up my clothes before work. They were not fresh and warm, but cold, wrinkled and resentful.

“Okay, I didn’t know that. I tried to look for your hours but they’re not posted?” I tried really hard not to sound angry and when I filter my angry sentences they come out as questions or exclamations.

“Yes, at ten we close.”

“Okay! I wish I had known that!”

“Yes,” said the woman. She was Mexican, with short wiry white hair. She is good at maintaining the flow of the laundry—making sure one does not have to wait too long for a drier. But she comes and goes as she pleases. She’s definitely not there when the coin machine is not working and you need to exchange your dollar for some quarters. With all the coming and going and maintaining the laundry flow I guess she hasn’t found time to post the hours.

Tonight I look for the hours and they’re still not posted. I rattled the door again. Expletives rattle around in my head, but stay there. I may not know where this woman is, or when this goddamn place closes, but I do know that I will not leave here without my laundry.

The attendants must live in the neighborhood. There is nothing else to explain their constant coming and going. I will rattle on this door until it is the only sound in the street, or at least until I figure out what to do next. I do not rattle long before I hear shouting.

“Is closed!”

I turn around and see a family of Mexicans across the street. Some sit on their front stoop, others lean on their neighbor’s fence. There are mostly men, but among them is a woman holding a baby. Are they the owners? Is the attendant among them? Or are they just annoyed by the rattling?

I cross the street to find out. I must gather the loose folds of my skirt against my thighs lest a car’s breeze lifts it up to reveal the reason I am desperate to get my laundry.

My mother always said you can catch more flies with sugar than you do with vinegar, but I choose a neutral flavor for this interaction. If I am too nice they might get the false impression that I can be convinced that I don’t really need my underwear today. If I am too mean they might not help me at all.

“Hey,” I say. It seems like a neutral way to start. “Do you know where the woman went who works at the laundromat?”

“She left. Is closed,” says a man in a red shirt.

“When is she coming back?”

“She come back in the morning.”

“I can’t come back in the morning. I need my clothes now.”

The red-shirted man looks at the man nearest him, a man in a Mets cap.

“She left,” says the man in the cap.

Since they are speaking for the laundromat they must know the employees, but how well?

“Do you have her phone number?”

Again they look at each other. I am a random, apparently desperate stranger and they don’t know what to do with me.

“No,” they say in unison.

“Is she the owner?”

“No.”

“Where does the owner live?”

The red-shirted man shrugs.

“He lives nearby, right?”

I pretend to know this truth to be self-evident. If the movies have taught me anything, it’s that the more information you purport to know, the more you’ll get in return.

“I no know,” says the red-shirted man. “You can come in the morning?”

“I cannot come in the morning.”

The red-shirted man exchanges more looks with the capped man.  The woman on the stoop says something in Spanish—nothing to do with the owner’s domicile or the employee’s whereabouts. She simply wants to know what the heck it was I want.

As the red-shirted man explains things, the capped man leans towards me.

“He lives around the corner, third building,” he says in a hushed conspiratorial tone, as if he were explaining where the local crack house was.

I nod, thank the man, and hurry off before his companion decides to renew his effort to convince me to come back in the morning.

I turn the corner, past a small apartment complex and a house, and stop in front of the third building, a narrow three-story multi-unit home with a gate, a small postage stamp sized patch of grass for a yard, and wide porches on the first and second floors.

There are three doorbells and three mailboxes. All windows are bereft of light except a large window on the first floor that faced the street. I try to spy movement in the window. This might not be the owner’s window, or even his house. I’ll ring every doorbell I could find, and if this isn’t the house I’ll try all the others on the block until I procure someone who can help me procure my underwear.

I stare at the house, mentally fortifying myself to canvas the whole block if I have to.

“Hey!” A male voice shakes me to attention. I turn and see a short black man of indiscernible age approach me. His accent suggests he is from the West Indies.

“I hear you’re looking for your clothes.”

“Yes, yes I am.” Apparently my racket had alerted the whole neighborhood to my quandary.

“You’re at the right place. Try the first floor. The guy’s name is Mohammad.”

“Wow! Thanks!”

“Yes, do you see how the grate is open? They do that when they know someone still needs their clothes.”

“But how are people supposed to know how to get in? Why can’t they just stay open?”

“Everyone knows where Mohammad lives!”

“Well, I didn’t know where Mohammad lives!”

“You must be new to the neighborhood.”

“I’ve been here for almost two years,” I protest.

“That is new,” he laughs. “I’ve been here almost thirty years.”

I concede that it is, indeed, a very long time and open the gate to Mohammad’s yard. The man nods at me as I make my way to the porch and ring the bell.

Mohammad’s frame quickly fills the doorway. He does not seem fazed by me, a complete stranger, standing on his porch.

“Hi! Mohammad?”

The man, who is tall, doesn’t look directly at me, but over my shoulder at the thirty-year resident and waves. His neighbor waves back. I have been vouched for, and Mohammad directs his attention to me. “Yes?”

“Hey Mohammad! Sorry to bother you, but I really need to pick up my clothes—I thought you guys closed at ten, so I got to the laundromat ten minutes before and it was locked!”

“Okay,” says Mohammad. “Let me get my key.”

I join the neighbor on the sidewalk as Mohammad retreats into the house. While I wait for Mohammad he tells me about a DJ gig he has tonight in the Lower East Side. He shows me a postcard and tells me I should come and bring friends. He saunters into the night when Mohammad ambles up nonchalantly swinging his keys.

I wait to see if he would address the issue at hand here, that his business had closed prematurely, putting me in the precarious situation of wandering commando around the neighborhood—a place full of children and people who subscribe to religions that forbid them from showing the face, hair and ankles, but he did not.

“So…what are your normal hours? You close at ten, right?”

“This month is complicated. It is Ramadan, so I cannot be there so late.”

“I see. But it was a woman who was there?”

“Yes, sometimes she leaves early.”

“Yes.”

We cross the street and I hold my skirt down again. I stand behind Mohammad as he unlocks the door. His numerous keys clap against the glass. The person I see in the reflection now is composed and collected, an ordinary customer waiting to pick up her laundry.

I do not wait for Mohammad to turn on the lights. I rush to the drier and quickly dump my clean clothes into my granny cart. I do not hold them up to my nose or bother folding them. Mohammad turns on the light and passes by as I grab a wad of underwear as colorful as collection of tropical bird feathers.

I should not have felt sheepish about my underwear. Undergarments are to a launderer as vaginas are to gynecologists, but I treat them like contraband anyway and quickly stuff them into my bag.

Mohammad is sitting at his desk, counting the day’s earnings by the time I’m done.

“Thanks!”

“No problem!” He looks up and waved at me.

I drag the granny cart through the door and into the night. I look across the street and see that the Mexican family is watching me. I wave and they wave back.

It is good to have clean underwear.

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How to Make a Baby

 

madonna-and-child

The boy made a big entrance, talking about jungle fauna as he tripped over his shoelace and nearly felling his mother as they came onto the train together. His mother scooped him up, stood him straight, gently grabbed his hand and put it on the pole. She was short, only a head taller than her son, who could not have been older than six. She did not wear heels, but a giant pile of hair that balanced precariously on her head, like a bird’s nest in a windstorm.

The two were playing a guessing game. Tumbling on the subway floor did not faze the boy, who did not miss a beat as he rattled off his clues.

“I look like a spider and I’m small and I’m a monkey. What animal am I?” He looked at his mother, trying to determine if he had stumped her. His giant eyes were made even more giant by giant blue glasses that snapped around his head to hold them in place. His backpack was twice as big as his torso.

“Hmm,” the mother tapped her cheek with her index finger. “Are you a spider monkey?”

The boy was amazed at the depth of his mother’s zoological knowledge. “How did you know!”

“I know things.”

“Mommy?”

“Yes honey?”

The boy placed a hand on his mother’s stomach. It was a taught stomach, but he tried to knead it anyway, like playdough.

“Is there a baby in there?”

The mother laughed.

“Are you calling me fat?”

“No, it just seems like there’s a baby in there.”

“Well, there’s not.”

“Why not? Can’t you put a baby in there?”

“Babies are a lot of work.”

“No they’re not!”

Another laugh from the mother, and from the depths of the tightly packed train came more laughter from random clusters of matronly folk who, in their collective mirth, became the mother’s de facto Greek chorus.

“What? Are you going to help me put it to bed? Feed it? Pay for it?”

The boy was not prepared for this line of questioning and looked at his untied shoes. “No.”

“Well then.”

“But I want you to have a  baby. Maybe daddy can help you?”

Even more laughter, even louder, from the mother and her chorus. “Hmmm, yeah, why don’t you bother Daddy about it?”

“But you’re the girl so it’s your job.”

The chorus quieted. The mother crossed her arms. Ever since he was born there was a bucket list of questions and issues that she knew she would have to eventually talk to her son about, like why there’s no women on any dollar bills, why men actually should cook and clean the dishes, why you have to wear a condom, what consent is. She knew this was a conversation that needed to be had, and she probably thought she’d get to it all in good time, but her son forced her hand and here she was, talking about it on a subway full of people.

“Who told you that?”

“The baby goes here, in your belly,” said the boy, keeping hand on his mother’s belly. “Is Daddy supposed to help?”

His mother laughed and rolled her eyes, as did her chorus. “Yes.”

“How? How does Daddy help? How are babies made? What happens?”

The mother looked around the train. Her chorus had dissipated and everyone else looked away, waiting to hear what she would say but pretending not to care. She smiled at her son, a forced smile but a smile nonetheless, and brought her hands together with a big  clap.

“Like this!”

The boy clapped his hands.

“Now what? Tell me all the instructions.”

Suddenly the chorus was back. They laughed even though the mother didn’t. She shook her head. Her pile of hair wobbled to and fro. “Oh lord. I can’t. I just can’t right now.”

The boy did not share in the laughter either.

“Later? Can you tell me later?”

“Someday you’ll know.”

“Okay. Let’s play the jungle animal guessing game now!”

The mother shared a conspiratorial sigh of relief with the chorus.

“That sounds like a great idea!”

 

 

 

 

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On Being Done

i love drawing

“Can I be done?”

The little boy stared at me, a complete stranger, waiting for an answer.

Being the only childless grown-up here I must have been a confusing presence to a pre-school aged person. Tuesday was the United Nation’s International Peace day and while the world’s leaders assembled to discuss their goals for 2016, the Four Freedoms Park Conservancy and the American Kitefliers Association hosted kite flying workshops at Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island, right across the East River. The newspaper said the event was going to be fun for all ages, but children outnumbered adults by a long shot.

The conservancy had a number of ready-made kites for participants, who only needed to decorate and fly the things. Markers, cray-pas, crayons, and a place to sit were also provided. The kites’ bodies were made of thin white plastic, of the sort used in throwaway tablecloths. They looked like cooped up doves as they sat in their boxes, waiting to be handed to participants by smiling volunteers.

It was a perfect fall day, the sky a blue you’d want to swim in. Many kites had taken flight already, bobbing above the trees while children and a handful of adults bounced in excitement below.

I grabbed my kite and took a seat at the table next to a nerdy couple who looked like they were at least in their mid-twenties. There were no children at our table, which I felt mitigated the sense of creepiness that a single adult can sometimes lend to situations like these. But soon enough the seats were filled with wiggly rumps and small hands abused the tables, and I learned the couple was not as old as I thought they were when I heard them debating whether or not they should write Class of 2016 on their kite.

My friend Adam was coming later on bike but until then I was a suspicious, solitary stranger. I seemed to fit in easily enough, however. Children and I have a lot of things in common. We enjoy the same things–markers, crayons, cray-pas, and drawing with joyful abandon. Before long I started a precise but simple chevron pattern to match the angles of my kite.

A winsome girl, probably eight years old, joined me at the table. I had seen her come with her mother and the same little boy who was now inquiring about his doneness. Once her children deposited themselves at my table, their mother went to fetch some coffee at a nearby food truck. The girl had curly blonde hair, freckles, and bright blue eyes. I don’t know if anyone’s ever taught her about stranger danger, because she immediately started talking to me.

“I like your drawing.”

“Thanks!” I smiled only a little. I did not know how long her mother would be gone, and didn’t want to appear too gleeful about talking to a seemingly unaccompanied child.

“It’s very colorful.”

“I like colors.”

I hoped the girl would leave it at that, but she wanted to keep talking.

“Can I do what you’re doing?” Back in my day, we called it copying, but I appreciated the girl’s blossoming grasp of euphemism.

“Sure. But I think any design you choose will look nice.”

“Okay!”

Then we both bowed our heads to our work and the girl’s little brother engaged in a short-lived coloring frenzy. If he were my kid, or my student, or my anything, he would most certainly not be done. His kite lay lifeless on the table, an uncertain offering to the sky gods. All most kites is a breath of wind to take flight, but this one looked like it needed an IV drip.

I had seen him as he gripped the blue marker in his sweaty paw and roughly defaced the virgin surface of his kite. For a whole inspired five seconds he scraped the marker across the delicate plastic surface so hard it looked like he was trying to murder it.

Once the blue blob achieved the size of a small fist, he promptly capped his marker and placed it on the table. The kite looked like it had gotten into a bar fight. Then the boy looked at me, his giant blue eyes were like pinwheels caught in a hurricane. He repeated his question.

“Can I be done?”

Though he was looking directly at me, I wasn’t certain he was addressing me. I looked for his mother and spotted her at the table next to ours, drawing on her own kite, probably happy her child was bothering someone else for a change. I waited a second to see if she was aware of the question of her child’s doneness, and when it seemed she wasn’t, I addressed the issue.

“Well, you have a lot of blank space. Why don’t you add more color?”

I’ve been a teacher and a nanny and nothing bothers me more than a piece of paper that is left mostly blank. Too many times kids have come to me, proudly bearing a stick figure all alone in a vast field of white, like it was caught in a blizzard.

“That’s nice,” I would say, thinking it was only the beginning of their work.

Realizing how easy it was to earn praise, the budding dilettante quickly went on to the next fresh piece of paper and did the same thing, until I had seen thousands of iterations of the same drawing. Mommy, daddy, sister, brother, teacher, several versions of me, invisible friends, Harry Potter, Hanna Montana, Derek Jeter and grandma all merged into a singular blur on a white flag of surrender. Something had to change, otherwise each drawing session would have felled an acre of the rainforest.

Also, I did not want to set them up for false expectations about commitment and follow-through later in life. Drawing is always more than just drawing, right? As a grown up you can’t just toss out your life when you get tired of it, right? A fresh, blank page is a privilege, not a right.

My new rule was that they had to fill the whole page, front and back, before they got a new piece of paper. If they protested I told them to think about the trees. I tried the same logic with the little boy.

“That’s a nice start, but why don’t you use more colors? You have so much space.”

But this little boy would not be reasoned with. He shook his head with overmuch conviction.

“I don’t want to add more color. I want to be done.”

“Okay, so be done.” It was not my place to teach the finer points of art and ecology to a stranger’s four-year-old, and besides, I had my own kite to work on.

After determining his own doneness the little boy grabbed his kite and scampered to his mother’s table. I listened, waiting for him to ask his mother if he could get a new kite to draw on, but I soon learned that drawing is not always about drawing.

“Mom! Look! I’m ready to fly my kite!”

fly a kite

His mother lifted her head from her work—an intricate paisley design that was slowly revealing itself on the thin plastic—and turned to his kite.

“You don’t want to add more colors?”

“No! I only want blue. Can I fly my kite now?”

“You can fly your kite when I’m done.” She continued gently working with a red cray-pa.

“Moooom! Just draw scribble scrabble, okay?”

“Toby, I don’t want to draw scribble scrabble.”

Thunder and lighting flashed in Toby’s blue eyes. “But Mooooom, I want to fly my kite NOW.”

Toby’s mother kept her eyes on her kite and held the cray-pa as if it were a talisman for calm and tranquility.

“Toby, just let me draw.”

Toby threw himself into a chair, roughly placed his feet on the edge of the table, and stomped on it.

His mother slammed the cray-pa on the table and brought her face close to Toby’s so her eyes could show his that she could throw a tantrum too. “Get your feet off the table.”

Her voice was dangerously low when she spoke. “You don’t have to fly a kite today. I can take it away from you.”

Toby folded his arms and dropped his feet, letting them dangle off the chair. His mother drew herself up and spoke louder. “Besides, we also have to wait for Katie to finish.”

But Katie was oblivious to Toby’s plight and proceeded to talk to me about her new design idea. She opted for hearts and flowers instead of following my pattern and held up her kite to show me.

“That’s lovely. And very colorful.”

“And I’m going to draw on both sides of the kite so everyone can see my design better when it’s up in the air!”

“Sounds good.”

Toby could only sit and fold his arms for so long, so he hurried over to Katie .

“Katie, are you done yet?”

“No, I need to fill all the blank space, and then I need to color on the other side. See?”

Katie flipped over her kite, so he could see the side she hadn’t even started working on.  Toby pouted, sighed heavily, and stomped his foot.

“But I want you to be done!”

“But I’m not going to be done right now.”

“But I just want you to.”

Their mother glanced up from her work.

“Toby, come here. Don’t bother Katie.”

“But I’ve been waiting for a long, long time.”

“It hasn’t even been five minutes. Come here. I’m almost done. Katie can join us later.”

Toby joined his mother again, and stared ponderously at every line she made until she stood up, collected her cray-pas, returned them to the communal tray at the center of the table and smiled at her son.

“Okay, let’s go and get tails for our kites!”

Toby smiled too, grabbed his bruised kite and scampered away with his mom. Katie, meanwhile, diligently worked on her kite for another ten minutes before she decided she was done.

That’s when Adam rode up happy and sweaty on his bike, wearing the same manic grin that so many of the kids here sported as they gamboled in the sunshine.

“Hey Robin! When can we fly your kite?”

I was two-thirds done with my kite and couldn’t leave it blank even though I was itching to get it up in the air.

“Don’t you want to color your own kite?”

“But you’re going to be done with your kite soon, and it’ll take me forever to finish mine.”

“Well, you don’t have to do a design like this. You can do something quicker.”

Adam shook his head.

“I don’t want to draw on a kite! I just want to fly a kite!”

He also pointed out that he wouldn’t be able to take his kite with him on his bike. I looked down at my kite. The only thing that separated us from flying was me and some blank space. But it was so close to being exactly how I imagined it would look.

“I can’t just leave it like this. You are just going to have to wait. Or help me.”

But Adam didn’t want to help. “I’ll just mess it up.”

“Okay, hold on. Just give me five minutes.”

I stood up as I drew. The less sedentary I felt the quicker I worked. I saw all the other kites taking flight in the sky. Now, instead of looking like a flock of jailed doves, they looked like a flock of tropical birds let loose over the park. The East side of Manhattan loomed large across the east river and the boom of the FDR ricocheted off all buildings adjacent to the river, but did not drown out the flutter of the kites as they thrilled in the wind.

I bent my head and steeled my hand for the final rush of colors. I, too, wanted to be done.

 

adam

Adam flies my kite!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WORLD SERIES GAME 5: The Golden Ticket

jerroddysonbyzack

Picture courtesy of Zack Hample

It’s hard to know where to start when it comes to writing about Game 5. It would have been hard to write about if I watched the game on television, but it’s even harder because I was there at Citi Field. Do I start with the moment I got my ticket or the moment I started thinking about getting my ticket? Because that would start with Zack texting me early in the morning to see if I had bought my ticket to the game yet, as if it were a foregone conclusion.

“Well, my friend Garrett bought plane tickets from Kansas City last night after they won last night, so…”

So what was my excuse? “Well, isn’t it really expensive?”

“Prices have dropped because the Mets fans don’t want to see them lose.”

Game 6 and 7 are in Kansas City, but if people there are coming here to see Game 5,  that could only mean that the Royals were going to win it now and that I had to be there. I thought about my dream, the one I had way back during the ALDS. There was the stadium full of people in orange. They were cheering. There was a man on first. Someone named Flowers, whom can only be the Mets’ Flores, is at bat. The question is, did he strike out or did he hit a home run? After the at-bat I was sad. Was I sad because I was with the people in orange? Was I sad because this was not me at all in the dream? Was I somewhere else celebrating a World Series victory?

I went to StubHub. Zack was right, prices dropped. My roommates, who were cheering for the Mets, were complicit in my getting the ticket.

“You’ll be kicking yourself if they win and you’re not there,” they said. Then they lent me a computer and a printer for the ticket, which I still have. For the rest of day I walked around with the World Series ticket in my purse, thundering like a telltale heart every time I passed a Mets fan.

But I won’t start there either, or the ride on the train packed with  Mets fans, or the wait in line to get into Citi Field hoping to spot some Royals fans. There were many people like me who were flying solo. I scanned the concourse thinking, but not knowing, that some of these faces were ones I knew. Was that my sister’s friend’s mom? The waiter that works at Bella Napoli’s? As customer from the Dime Store, where I used to work? A guy I bumped into in the mosh pit at El Torreon? Someone I was in a high school play with? Probably not, but there was a sense that I was wading through my past, if not mostly because the last time I was surrounded by this many Royals fans was a long, long, time ago.

Before the game even started I recognized someone I really did know—someone from grade school. I’ll call her Sarah. She was a grade above me but we had recess and lunch together. She was there with her older brother, who I’ll call Matt. They adopted me for the game. But I can’t start this story there, or even a few innings from there, when we were adopted by a Mets employee that Matt’s friend’s friend knew, and we got to sit in the Caesar’s Club in the second level with the season ticket holders, where an attendant named Sal, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge with Tony Bennett, gave us cream puffs from a bakery in Astoria.

It’d be nice to start at the sixth inning, when Edinson Volquez made the best of a bases loaded situation and an error by Eric Hosmer (Is it now part of Royals dogma that when bad things happen to Eric Hosmer good things happen to the Royals? Or is it just the Universe balancing itself?) and got out of the game with just one run scored by the Mets. His performance did not earn as much hype as Harvey’s, but he got his job done—which was to keep the game close. Harvey, with all his brilliance, did not.

This story starts in the ninth inning, when Cain was walked. That was the end product of a chain of events that had been set off earlier, when Cain struck out twice. The Internet has all types of ways you can re-watch games. There’s versions where someone has filmed the game as it streamed from their television screen, there’s versions with Japanese subtitles, versions of the whole damn game that you can watch, there’s the highlight reels and then there’s the condensed versions which are like the highlight reel, but more extensive and without any commentary. Included are key moments and slow motion replays of the key moments. I don’t know who does these things, but it’s surely someone with a keen sense of narrative arc and plot twist. In the condensed version of Game 5 they found it prudent to show, in slow motion, each third strike in Cain’s at-bats. These were pitches below the knees that would have been balls had Cain not been fooled and swung at them. This time Cain put the brakes on his swing and earned himself a stroll to first after being 0 – 2.

harveysstrikes.jpg

Church of Harvey/I did not take this picture!

Ecstatic Royals fans who knew the script by now waited for Cain, grand larcenist extraordinaire, to steal second. Mets fans knew the script by now, too. Up until now it had been the Church of Harvey, and the congregants had been standing and chanting his name for hours. But the walk drew swears from the crowd and put bottoms on their seats. There had been no doubt in Mets fans minds whom they wanted to see pitch in the ninth. Harvey’s performance had been dominant all night, so much so that fans started uttering another name alongside his: Madison Bumgarner. Would he be this year’s Madison Bumgarneresque foe? But towards the eighth inning the whisper of Bumgarner soon faded and only one name could be heard from the fans, not one of who was sitting.

“HAHVEY! HAHVEY! HAHVEY!”

Not Harvey, but Hahvey, in case you forgot this was New York City. Pretty soon their battle cry was the only thing I could hear, over my own thoughts and beating heart. He was not the Dark Knight anymore, he was their gladiator and this was their coliseum.

“They can’t put him in, it would be crazy to put him in,” we told each other.  He still had to deal with the top of the order—it would have been their fourth time seeing him.

“Nah, they won’t do that,” Matt’s friend’s friend agreed.

But he did come out—no he charged out, sprinting towards the mound as if it were a clutch of barbarian warriors from Gaul. The crowd went wild.

Wow, they just jinxed themselves, was all I could think. We exchanged looks of incredulity. It was the best thing that could have happened. Harvey’s mind and body were out of sync with the game.  He acted like he had already won. It’s as if he forgot he had gone to the mound to make three more outs. When Harvey realized he had work to do it would be too late; his mind and body had already moved on. 

But back to Cain and the silence at Citi Field. This was the rally we were waiting for, but we allowed room for failure, not doing so would be tantamount to jinxing the whole thing. Cain did his dance at first and gave himself a big lead—not sure quite how big without Joe Buck to say, but it was a lead big enough to be a parking spot in New York City. All 44,000 of us of us in the stadium waited with bated breath. Mets fans and Royals fans alike were no longer looking at Harvey, they were looking at the dance at first. Cain did not dance for long before tearing towards second—there was no stopping him. It was already written.

Now it was Royals fans’ turn to erupt in cheers. Our scattered but substantial numbers could be heard throughout the stadium and we directed our attention to Hosmer. It was his turn to make something happen. I don’t know what I would have been thinking in his place. Did he utter words to a benevolent God? Was he praying a prayer of the penitent? Dear God, forgive me of my blunder, deliver me from erring?

I don’t know. When I saw a ball fly into the gap in left field I knew this was it. This was the rally, and if this was the rally, this was also the game. Cain raced home and Hosmer put on the brakes at second.

Terry Collins took Harvey out. The Mets gave him an ovation. His stunning performance was only marred by his stunning arrogance. He believed in himself, but not so much in his team. He still managed to author eight great chapters for Mets fans.

SRO

The view in SRO! Can you see Tony Bennett singing the national anthem? Neither can I!

Those same fans kept standing in anticipation of Familia, and our view of most of right field and most of the infield was blocked by backs and heads. Moose’s job was to move Hosmer to third, which is exactly what he did with a grounder to first.

Next came Perez, who I saw through a gap between one man’s hear and another man’s chin. I saw that he hit the ball and started cheering. I had no idea where the ball went. I was cheering in blind faith. If the ball is put in play the Royals will score, that’s how the script went. From the reaction of Mets fans I could tell my cheers were not unfounded. The scoreboard told me so as well. It had changed from 2 – 2 as quickly had it had changed to 2 – 1 from 2 – 0. The despairing Mets fans sat down and I saw that the Royals had been erased from the bases. Where was Salvy? I looked and saw the Royals had two outs, but how did Hosmer score if Salvy hadn’t singled? Did he hit a sacrifice fly?

Sarah, Matt and I were confused. What happened? We ran from our posts and joined another group of standing-room-only Royals fans that had crowded under the television to see a replay.

What I thought was a long-hit single to left field was only a little blooper quickly fielded by David Wright. So the inning must be over and Alex Gordon singled Hosmer home? Did we somehow miss two at-bats? Did someone mess up the scoreboard? We were still scratching our heads when we saw Hosmer pelting helter skelter towards home from third like there was a pack of hellhounds nipping at his heels. It was now unclear who he had been praying to during his at-bat because this was the kind of desperate act that only a man who had sold his soul to the devil would ever consider doing. We saw Duda catching Wright’s throw, getting Salvy out. All commonplace, all according to procedure. We waited for Duda to drop the ball, or pass out, or spontaneously combust, anything that would explain the tie, because unless you’re Jerrod Dyson you just don’t score from third on ball that doesn’t even make it past the infield.

Then Duda threw home. Great, I thought. These Mets fans should start getting happy real quick. But the throw was wide and high, like the 18-wheeler that Mets fans felt like they had been collectively struck by. The Mets catcher nicked the ball with his glove but was nowhere near catching it. Hosmer slid home.

hosmerhome

Hosmer slides home/I sure did not take this picture!

Matt doubled over in joy,  I grabbed my face, Sarah shook her head, we all hugged. When I tried to talk I sound like a broken record. I just cant. Holy shit. Wow. I just cant. Holy shit. Wow.

In retrospect, Hosmer’s explanation for running when he did makes total sense. We were up two games, Familia is hard to hit, and the scouts said Wright has a slow throw and Duda is not clutch in clutch situations. Plus there’s always that memory of Alex Gordon being stuck at third. No one wants to get stuck there anymore (Which begs the question, just what would have happened if Gordon ran?). But it would have been awful leaving that stadium that night if Hosmer had gotten out.

The Mets fans were reeling. Some of them started leaving so we grab seats and sit for the first time—as if the game were just starting and we were strolling in during the first inning. Sitting was nice. But sometimes we stood, just to shake away the jitters. We hated that the Mets were last to bat because if they scored a run that would be it.

The Mets fans stayed seated and would not stand again until the twelfth inning, when they started leaving. Herrera made a heroic effort, pitching three clean innings of relief, and Hochevar followed with two. November 1st turned into November 2nd and three outs in the ninth turned into twelve outs and extra innings and lemons turned into lemonade.

The twelfth inning brought a new pitcher, Addison Reed. Salvy singled and we knew this could be the last inning. Our hunch was validated when Yost unleashed Jerrod Dyson to blaze a path to victory. Dyson danced a little at first with Alex Gordon batting before dashing off to the races and sliding into second. Mets fans shook their heads, some started heading up the stairs and out of the stadium. Harvey and his exploits seemed like such a long time ago. Gordon got out but advanced Dyson to third. Everything in its right place, but wait, who’s batting next? Who could it be? What is going on? Who is this guy? We did not know. It was not a body or number or face we had seen the entire postseason.

It was Christian Colón, who had not had an at-bat since the end of the regular season. Having him bat would be either a stroke of brilliance or a monumental blunder on Yost’s part, but really, what were the options? It was Colón’s only at-bat so he had to make it count. And make it count he did. He ripped a single to center field and Dyson charged home. And then it rained Royals. It rained so hard the Royals scored five runs in one inning. The game only needed Wade Davis to punctuate it.

He struck out the first two batters, but Conforto got a hit. There was a man on, and who but Wilmer Flores came up to bat. At this point I didn’t care about my dream. We were going to win whether Flores struck out or hit a grand slam. But he struck out and we won the World Series and I was there to see it.

wade davis

Last inning…

wadedaviscelebrates

Didn’t take this picture either, but it’s a good one!

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WORLD SERIES GAME 4: Put Some Chapstick On It

daniel murphy chapstick incident

It’s past 8:30 and I haven’t even started watching the game yet. But I have a good reason. I’m at my friend Anesa’s good-bye gathering in Astoria before she heads out of the country tomorrow on a South American adventure and I don’t know when I’m going to see her next. Don’t even mention the fact that it’s Halloween because I don’t care. I have zero interest in getting corralled in a subway with a bunch of drunken sexy nurses, zombified hockey goalies or anything else.

Last year I was a booger for Halloween. Not a sexy booger, just a booger. I was too busy watching the World Series and then mourning the World Series to put much thought into my costume. A few years ago a friend and I made anglerfish costumes out of recycled material. We scavenged for boxes at bodegas and grocery stores and plundered neighbors’ recycling bins for cans and bottles and then spent a whole weekend engineering the costumes. We were a hit. Last year I took a five-second inventory of everything in my closet and realized that I had a lot of green stuff. I piled it on me, and taped some Saran wrap over my layers of green, and boom, I was a slimy booger.

 

Before last year’s World Series I could have been a zombified baseball fan because that is something I’ve never been in real life. Now being a rabid baseball fan is my reality. Because of this new reality I’m not even going to carve pumpkins with Anesa and company. We say our goodbyes at the grocery store, where they have a small clutch of pumpkins left. It’s a testament to Anesa’s character that she’s not even mad at me for ditching her to watch baseball, she says she’ll even cheer for the Royals.

baseball furies 2

Would have been an apropos costume…

I scurry past an Irish sports bar and try really hard not to find out what’s going on in the game. I don’t want to know anything until I get to my friend Noemi’s apartment in Long Island City so I can watch the game in neutral territory. But an eruption of cheers forces me to catch the score through the window: 2 – 0, Mets at the bottom of the third inning.

I am now very aware of the chips and guacamole that I had at Anesa’s place. Usually innocuous, the crunchy blue corn chips I love now seem to be shredding the lining of my stomach. I need to get to Long Island City fast. I start running frantically towards Broadway and hop in the nearest taxi. The driver, from Ghana, doesn’t know much about the World Series and has no sense of urgency.

“It’s like the World Cup, and my team is in it,” I explain, hoping this will get him to drive a little faster, but all it does is inspire a conversation about how confusing baseball is and why they even call it the World Series if it’s two American teams playing each other. The conversation goes nowhere fast—or at least quicker than it took for me to get to Long Island City.

I try not to trip over myself as I lunge out of the car and dash to Noemi’s building. When she opens the door I try to read her face for any signs of doom. She knows me well enough to deliver the good news first.

“The Royals scored a run!”

“Okay, cool, okay. Awesome, great. And the Mets? What about them? Have they scored?”

“It looks like they just got a homerun,” says Noemi’s husband, Daniel, from the couch.

I try not to react too histrionically. Noemi knows I am susceptible to dramatic outbursts and I want to prove to her that I can be a sane person under this kind of duress.

“That’s cool. It’s okay. I mean, it looks like we’re waking up offensively, you know?”

“What are the chances of them coming back?” Daniel asks.

I certainly can’t tell him that there is a good chance, a really good chance, that the Royals will rally because saying it out loud would only jinx it.

“Well, I can’t really say.”

“But you’ve been watching the team—you have a pretty good idea, right?”

“I do. But I don’t want to jinx anything.”

Daniel is an avid fan of the French national soccer team who suffered through the improbable Zinedine Zidane headbutt of the 2006 World Cup, so he has a healthy respect for jinxes. “Okay, but as a general observer of the game, and not as a Royals fan, what would you say the chances are?”

“As a general observer, I would say there’s a pretty good chance.”

“Okay.”

It goes without saying that I still have to knock on wood. Stephen Matz, the Mets’ rookie lefty pitcher, has been on point so far, but the sixth inning will be the real test of how well he can keep the Royals at bay. He’s not as hyped as Harvey, DeGrom and Syndergaard and fans have not yet christened him with a quirky moniker, but he’s allowed less runs in five innings than his cohort did in each of their starts.

The first batter up is Zobrist who takes a leaf from Escobar’s book and swings at the first pitch. The ball flies into deep left field and Zobrist reaches second.

“YES!” I know it’s not a run yet, but it looks like a classic Royals rally in the making. Cain follows with a single and Zobrist scores.

“YES! YES!” I slam my fist into the couch. Daniel implores me to keep it down, because what will the neighbors think?

With their lead dangerously slim, Terry Collins pulls Matz from the game. The camera follows the young rookie do the dugout, where he slams his glove to the ground. If there were a couch, I’m sure he’d slam that too.

The sixth inning ends with no further damage and the Royals trailing 3 – 2. After a soundless seventh inning we enter the eighth, with Clippard of the aviator goggles pitching. In the first at-bat he gets Escobar to ground out, but then lets Zobrist take a stroll—and Cain too, after he had Cain 0 – 2 two pitches into the at-bat.

I am excited, but try to keep my tone conversational. “Okay! Keep the line moving!”

scary la familia

Scary Familia

Terry Collins and the Mets would prefer to bring the line to a grinding halt, so he swaps Clippard for Familia. Clippard can be seen mouthing a four letter curse. The levee hasn’t broken yet, so this is Familia’s chance to patch things up with Hos coming up to bat. Hos makes contact on the second pitch. It’s a soft grounder  that seems to be making its merry way to Daniel Murphy’s glove. But the ball is only flirting with the glove. It coyly stays low—millimeters away!—and scampers out of reach. Zobrist scores to tie the game. Daniel Murphy copes by applying Chapstick. Whatever helps.

Familia really has the worst luck—cursed since Game 1 by Alex Gordon’s home run. He can’t seem to pull himself together and gives away consecutive singles to Moustakas and Salvy, bringing the Royals on top 5 – 3. Yost wastes no time unleashing Wade Davis and the game is in the bag past midnight. It is a spooky Halloween indeed for Gotham City.

The Royals are one win away from winning the World Series. This year’s one-win-away sensation is much different than last year’s, because it was also a one-loss-away situation. This year there are lots of different ways we could win the World Series! We could lose two games and win one, lose one game and win one, or just win one without any of the losing! It is strange and novel to be from Kansas City and for the second year in a row and have one’s team be a game away from winning the World Series.

Stranger yet is that this all happening less than ten miles from where I am sitting on a couch. The television fills up with blue—not blue and orange, but just blue. There is a whole legion of Royals fans at Citifield. It looks like half of Kansas City is hanging out in Queens.

“Wow, look at all the Royals fans,” says Noemi.

“I know! I should be there.”

But really, who are those people? If they are they made it to Citi Field there must be a way I can, too. This is what I think about as I pace the platform waiting for the G train. I forgot it is Halloween until I see a slutty librarian and Darth Vader.  The thunder of the train’s arrival brings me out of my reverie. The train is packed. It is not your Halloween type of packed, where you won’t escape without getting glitter bombed or elbowed by a dominatrix using the holiday as an excuse to wear her work uniforms in public. Nor is this the typical Saturday night type of packed, with red matte lipstick, high heels and gelled man-buns.

No, none of that. I see flashes of blue, flashes of orange and realize this is the crowd from Citi Field coming from the 7 train at Court Square, the same people whose misery I just saw on live television. They are in old Mets scarves, old Mets hats, Piazza jerseys worn over blue sweatshirts worn under jean jackets; they are wearing stuff they dug out of storage or an outerborough garage, stuff that was garnished with cobwebs until this postseason.

mets sad fan

I really do understand the pain

Other than a sporadic vampire, these are the only other people on the train. The only ones. The train comes to a stop and the doors yawn open. No one gets off. I make a big decision in this moment. Do I unbutton my jean jacket and ostentatiously broadcast who I’m cheering for, and by default, how happy I am? Or do I keep my jacket respectfully buttoned? If I stay buttoned I could be one of them, except for the fact that my visage is far too sanguine for me to pass as a Mets fan at this moment.

I usually avoid ostentatiousness but not provocation, so this is a dilemma for me. I go for a compromise, unbuttoning my jacket but not exuberantly letting it flap open like the shutters of a window on a spring day. I see this as a humble display of pride that won’t merit any kind of knuckle sandwich.

At first there is only room to stand. What my shirt says is of no consequence because no one can see it anyway. There is not much talking on the train as it worms its way through Brooklyn. Conversations are muffled by sweaters, scarves, hats and bodies. I find somewhere to sit once the train spits out a few bodies at Bergen Street.

There is now enough space in the train to hear all the conversations about What Went Wrong. Most people talk about Daniel Murphy. He is a hard one for them to talk about, because he was a big part of What Went Right earlier in the postseason.  I catch the serious conversation of a clutch of red-faced men who are having a nightcap of bagged beer.

“It’s not just on Murphy, though.”

“Yeah, but you really just have to catch the grounder. You can’t just let that grounder go.”

“Yeah, but that was one run. What about the other ones? What about Familia?”

“Nah, nah, nah. It was Clippard, when he walked those two guys.”

A third man agreed.

“And besides, we would not be here without Murphy.”

A big sigh is heaved.

“Yeah. But maaaaan. Murphy.”

“Those Royals are feisty, though.”

“They’re soooo fuckin’ feisty.”

The talk stops. The tallest guy in the group looks at me. I quickly avert my eyes. Only a sliver of the Royals Y peeks though my jacket and my bag, which is on my lap, covers most of it. Does he know?

He knows. He lowers his voice, looks at his friends, and gestures towards me with his chin. I hear him mutter as the group gets off at Smith and 9th.

“I bet she’s happy.”

F_royals

Happy

 

 

 

 

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WORLD SERIES GAME 3: High and Inside, Down and Out

foleys

Enemy territory! (photo by John Murphy)

Adam and I were supposed to meet at Foley’s, where we saw the first game of the ALCS, which already seems like a million years ago. It was a place where there were so many Royals fans, where I felt I had allies, where Paul Rudd and Jon Hamm were photographed sitting at the bar together. Did I recall seeing any Mets memorabilia on their walls all those weeks ago? No. But was I looking for any Mets memorabilia at the time? No. Should I now be surprised to see a giant Mets flag hanging outside? I guess not. I’m not sure why I didn’t see being surrounded by Mets fans as an inevitability here in New York City, but it certainly wasn’t part of my plans.

I got to Foley’s before Adam and it was packed, a sea of orange and blue and elbows and knees. My being stopped at the door had nothing to do with my Royals shirt, which was ensconced in several layers of sweaters.

“No room,” said the bouncer. “Gotta get on the waiting list.”

There was another Irish bar down the block that was less of a mosh pit and Adam and I squeezed through the Mets fans to back where we found a table.

And so here we are, in the belly of the beast. It’s the top of the second inning and the first thing I see is Escobar stealing second base. There is a unanimous grumble erupting from the Mets fans. It sounds like the stomachache of a sleeping dragon. I let my cheers bubble in fizz in my own belly and am so, so glad that one of the few things Mets and Royals fans have in common is their blue shirts.

Adam and I give each other conspiratorial smiles. The score is 3 – 2.

Due to all the necessary bar hopping we apparently missed one of the most exciting moments of the game—with Escobar, instead of the pitcher, being at the receiving end of some more first at-bat drama. Replays show him nearly losing his head to a 98 mph fastball from Noah Syndergaard that came high and inside.

Ahead of the game Syndergaard, who seems to be living up to his Viking moniker, had been hinting that he had “a few tricks up his sleeve.”As a baseball neophyte I had no idea what that could possibly mean. Will he be using a lazer pen to distract batters? Will he have pine tar up his sleeve? Did he choreograph a dance to rival Johnny Cueto’s shimmy?

It turned out what Syndergaard had in mind was a lot more boring than anything I could have come up with. A “statement pitch” is what the commentators called it. Luckily the statement didn’t cave in Escobar’s head.

escober high and inside

Splits better than a spatter!

The Royals stay up, but only briefly. After a two-run homerun by Granderson in the Mets lead 4 – 3, and now, in the fourth inning, they have two men on base and no outs.

Anyone who saw Ventura pitch in the World Series last year knows what he is capable of. His stellar pitching in the World Series last year helped keep the Royals alive to reach Game 7. But his great pitching performances last year were at home, and now he’s pitching in front of 44,781 World Series starved Mets fans—and every other one of them seems to be a famous person. This is on top of the fact that Billy Freaking Joel sang the national anthem.

“Hey look, it’s Seinfeld!” Says Adam. “Oh! And Chris Rock!”

Fucking great!

Ventura is pulled from the game after another guy singles and scores in a runner. Now the Mets lead 5 – 3, and the Royals bullpen must carry the game on their shoulders again. Duffy got the Royals out of the fourth inning and Hochevar pitches a clean fifth inning, and now we’re at the bottom of the sixth.

Much is said of the Royals’ vaunted bullpen, but no one talks about the guy who is up to pitch next: Franklin Morales. The last time this guy pitched was in the 14 – 2 blowout that the Royals won in Toronto, and before that was the 11 – 8 blowout the Blue Jays won in Toronto. He’s the guy that comes out when the Royals are either losing really hard or winning really hard. He’s not a changer of fate. He is the wood pulp in your parmesan, the yoga mat fiber in your Subway sandwich. He’s the guy you put in when you need to get through a full game and the outcome has already been determined. Even though the game is tight by Kansas City standards and there’s still lots of it left, I feel like Yost has conceded the whole thing when Morales comes to the mound.

In a way I get it, you don’t want to give the Mets too many looks at your game-changing pitchers. But this is also the World Series! You never know how things are going to turn out! You really, really don’t know if Cueto is going to pitch an entire, nearly scoreless game again, and you really, really don’t know how Volquez is going to pitch after his dad died. And you don’t know if the Dark Knight or the DeGrominator will start pitching like the playthings of the gods that everyone says they are. And do we really want to find out?

The inning starts decently enough with Morales getting the first batter out, but Lagares, the author of the epic battle against Herrera in Game 1 that turned the game briefly in the Mets favor, delivers a single. Up next is Flores, whom Morales promptly hits with the baseball. The Mets fans around me are booing and hissing, but soon they are cheering because some random pinch hitter singles, scoring in Lagares. And the bleeding does not stop. Granderson hits a liner towards Morales, who scoops it deftly enough, but doesn’t know what to do next. He can’t seem to get rid of the ball. He stares at Flores, halting him at third, but then pivots his body from second to third and back again, kind of like a basketball player trying to shake the defense and even more like someone who has forgotten who they are, where they are, what they are supposed to be doing and how to breathe. He could have helped turn a double play, but instead the ball never leaves his hand.

“Yikes,” says Adam.

“Oh man.” I almost bury my face in my hands, but one who is in the belly of the beast must keep her sorrows to herself. The whole thing is entertaining for the Mets fans, though.

“It’s like the Three Stooges!” I hear someone say.

While I think forcing Morales to buckle down and scrape his way out of the inning in front of a hostile crowd would be a good character building experience, Yost is not in the habit of torturing his players and brings out Herrera to pick up the broken pieces, which is in itself a different kind of torture. Herrera is not good at dealing with other people’s messes. He’s great at keeping the bases clean during his innings, but dealing with inherited runners is not his forte. I’m not nervous though. The Mets already have this game in the bag. I have truly accepted it, and I know I’m not lying to myself because I order an entire shepherd’s pie and eat it without any help from Adam even though he offers it once or twice or three times.

captain america

The Captain and Crew. (I am not responsible for this great photo-shopping job!)

Next up at bat is David Wright, Captain America, longstanding hero to Mets fans. He had a hard time against the Royals pitchers’ fastballs in the first couple games, but tonight has been his big night. He hit a two-run homerun in the first inning, and now he has another chance to perform in front of an adoring audience.

And perform he does, hitting a single to center field. Two runs score. The crowd’s eruption of joy ricochets off the walls and pummels my soul. I hope my sigh of resignation is interpreted as a sigh of relief.

“Hey, it’s only the sixth inning!”  Adam says.

“Yeah. Whatever. We don’t need to win this one.”

The inning comes to a merciful end after Herrera gets Cespedes to fly out and Duda to strike out, there is no offensive action from the Royals.

“Hey, there’s still six outs left!” says Adam after that the seventh inning ends with more of nothing.

But six outs turns into three, which turns into none, which turns into a Mets victory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WORLD SERIES GAME ONE: Behind Enemy Lines

daily news

Last year my fellow Royals fans and I spent the World Series exchanging high-fives in bars with baseball fans throughout the five boroughs. They came in many hats and with varied allegiances from the Yankees and the Red Sox to the White Sox and the Cubs. They were excited to see a new face in the postseason and an underdog is easy to cheer for. This year is not a World Series of bar-hopping, but a World Series of hiding out in other people’s homes and staying away from mine. While some Yankees fans are not cheering for the Mets my roomies, all native New Yorkers, don’t have a problem throwing in the towel for another hometown team.

The colors of the Halloween season this year are orange and blue and those are the colors that have painted this town from the light-strung stoops of Katie and Colin’s neighborhood in Carroll Gardens to the top of the Empire State Building. Before I head to their apartment I go to a nearby grocery store to buy beer. A dozen Mets fan with the same idea wait in line with me.

My family wonders what it’s like to be entrenched behind enemy lines. My dad asks me if I have conflicting loyalties, and I assure him that I sure do not. My mother implores me not to advertise my Royals fandom. My sister Ellen, in Portland, tells me to be careful. Beanie, the most provocative member of my family, is all the way in Belgium right now and is thus mute on the subject—though I’m sure she wouldn’t be against me tattooing my face with the Royals colors.

I’m not sure what to do, but luckily the weather leaves me no choice but to button up and hide my shirt. Besides, there is less glee in showing my colors to fans who have experienced a parallel trajectory of suffering in the past three decades.

Ever since the Royals won the pennant I’ve been undercover, especially on the train. The Mets fans have brought out their hats and their jerseys and on the subways they grip the poles with a renewed sense of purpose. Instead of ignoring each other New Yorkers are looking at each other (but never too long) with a sense of solidarity.

At the office I’m greeted with a life-size poster of Duda taped to my coworker’s cubicle and the doorman who steadfastly wished the Royals well during the pennant has now taken to hollering “GO METS” at me. At least one college friend, a native New Yorker, has suggested that I move back home.

Shit has gotten serious. But to the Mets fans’ credit no one has yet called for local stations to ban Lorde’s Royals, and no one has been as outwardly venomous as the Giants and Cardinals fans I encountered earlier in the postseason. And my barista still makes me coffee.

friendlyfoes1

Friendly foes!

He was crestfallen and confused at seeing my Royals shirt. But why? He wanted to know.I wondered if he would tell me to go back to Missouri, but instead he took a deep breath and wished me luck.

“May the best team win,” he said.

“Let’s shake on that.”

And we did. And then he made me an Americano.

That was all earlier today, when I was sure we’d be the no-contest winners of not only the series, but this game. Earlier today I wanted to apologize preemptively to all the Mets fans who would be heartbroken at the end of the series. We are just destined to win it. But now there is no bravado, no swagger anymore. We’re not looking for a winning run right now, we are looking for the tying run.

The game started in an epic and bizarre fashion with an inside-the-park home run from Escobar. It was the Royals’ first at bat,  Matt Harvey’s first pitch of the series, and the first inside-the-parker to happen during a World Series since  1929.

Alcides-Escobar-inside-the-park-homer-world-series

 

Then the Mets chipped away at Edinson Volquez and we felt bad for him for that, and then felt even worse for him when it was announced after he left in the sixth inning that his father died that day and that his family was heading towards the Dominican Republic with the game still underway. And then I wondered if it right for us to continue watching this game, for us to even care. I mean, it’s just a game! But it must be so much more because so many people care, right? And if it’s not just a game, then what is it?

Well, all I knew was that it was something I was going to keep watching. But there were so many moments when we were challenged and even forced to look away: a blackout in the fourth that lasted four minutes, and then there was Eric Hosmer’s error in the eighth inning.

The blackout wasn’t so bad, especially since we got a reprieve from Joe Buck.While I sat on the couch twiddling my thumbs Katie and Colin start pulling things from the oven and soon we are eating cookies and drinking beer, wondering if we’re going to have to hide ourselves away like a bunch of lepers for this whole World Series.

The beer stopped being recreational in the eighth inning. After a nine-pitch at-bat, with two men already out, the Mets’ Juan Lagares singled off of Herrera. It was an epic at-bat. A heroic one if you’re a Mets fan, a grievous one for Royals fans because Lagares stole second base in no time and then made it home when Hosmer missed a grounder that Flores sent to first base (At least it wasn’t a two-run home run!). Hosmer, owner of great hands (commentators’ words, not mine), three Gold Gloves and a hairdo replicated by grade schoolers throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area, has made an error on a an innocuous grounder. The ball was so close, inches from his glove, and then so quickly gets so far away. And then we learned who Bill Buckner was—the Red Sox first baseman who let a grounder get away from him, thus allowing the go-ahead run in the World Series. The Red Sox went on to lose the World Series to…the Mets.

The eighth inning seemed like it would yield something for the Royals too. There were  two men down and two whole runners got on base with Mets reliever Tyler Clippard of the aviator goggles pitching. And then Terry Collins decided to swap him for Juerys Familia, the fearsome closer who hasn’t blown a save since July.

It’s okay, he’s not Madison Bumgarner, we tell each other.

But it was quickly not okay because Moustakas grounded out to end the inning.

And now it’s the top of the ninth and Familia is pitching again. The first batter Familia faces is Salvy, who hits a blooper that doesn’t make it past the infield.

Okay, two outs to work with. Now comes Alex Gordon. It’s a different game, a different ninth inning, but it feels uncomfortably similar to Game 7 last year. Since then Alex Gordon has existed in two different realities. One is the Here and Now, Tuesday October 27, 2015. The other reality is in a parallel universe. Sure, he’s at Kauffman Stadium and it’s the ninth inning but he’s not at home plate, Jeurys Familia is not pitching, and Salvy did not just bat. Instead Alex Gordon is standing on third base waiting to score. He’s been there since October 29th of last year.

The Here-and-Now Alex Gordon wields the bat, shifting his weight from foot to foot with his batter’s cadence. With his beard and wad of pink gum he is half lumberjack, half little leaguer. There is the usual smear of pine tar on his helmet, like the remnants of a fresh, well-aimed cow pie.

It is only the first game, there’s many games to go, but the first game controls the tempo of the series. Rally now or never. We hold our breaths. The first pitch Gordon meets from Familia is a ball. Then he fouls off the second pitch. The third pitch he meets with a mighty smack.

alex-gordon-home-run-world-series-kansas-city-royals

AG goes home

You know those people who always seem to know when a hit is a home run?  You hear them at the games—their whoop or groan always precede the stadium’s collective whoop or groan.  Some of the early whoopers and groaners are just the excitable sort, but others whoop and groan early because they know. They are fluent to the sounds of baseball. Zack and Muneesh are these such people.

But how do you even know? I’ve asked them on several occasions.

The sound, many will say. That’s the most important thing. It’s something I don’t think I’ve understood until now. A home run sounds like an exclamation point.

Katie, Colin and I stand upon hearing the smack. We look at Gordon, who looks up at the ball, which the cameras don’t seem to have found yet. His eyes are wide, like he just saw Haley’s Comet. Now we wait. The disappointment of last year and the hopes and dreams of this year are all compressed into the millisecond it takes for the ball to reach its apex and crash behind the outfield wall and through a wormhole. In that parallel universe, Alex Gordon perks up (the waiting has made him despondent), and starts trotting home. Here on this planet he is rounding the bases.

Alex Gordon has sent himself home, and the Royals and their fans are sent into a frenzy. We’ve been waiting a whole year for this to happen, after all. Replays focus on Hosmer, who is now off the hook. His eyes are wild and wide and he celebrates in every way possible. He is jumping, he is doubled over with joy, he might kiss the ground, no, he is back up, hugging everyone within arms-length. Jeremy Guthrie happens to be standing next to him, and receives a mighty tug on his sweatshirt.

hug

The happiest guy

I am tugging at my own shirt, and Katie, Colin and I tugging at each other and our leaps and bounds add some percussion to the soundtrack of the downstairs neighbors’ lives.

TWELFTH INNING

Okay, so far this game has gone through ten pitchers in eleven innings. Hochevar had a clean inning, Wade Davis struck out the side, and Madson pitched out of danger in the eleventh inning. The game is now a pitching duel between the Royals’ Chris Young and the Mets’ Bartolo Colon. Height versus mass. 81 mile-per-hour fastballs that are optical illusions versus well-placed bullets. Young looks like gumby, and Katie and Colin call Colon the pitching potato. He sure looks like one. Young could have been picked off the bench of a Division III college basketball team and Colon, with forearms the size of tree trunks, looks like he was snagged directly from the streets of Queens—from behind the counter of a pizza parlor, whisked from a construction site, or recruited from behind the wheel of a mafia getaway car. Young strikes out the side, and Colon pitches out of trouble—not batting an eye after loading the bases when he intentionally walks Hosmer. My dad texts to say that it was a ballsy performance—pun intended!

On a different note, Alex Rodriguez is now commenting on the game, to the almost certain dismay of Mets fans and anyone else who doesn’t want to hear from a juicer.

young and colon

A pitchers’ duel (photoshopping intentionally horrible)!

THIRTEENTH INNING

Nothing. Nothing is happening this inning, except that Katie and Colin have already packed their lunches for tomorrow and are now brushing their teeth. My mom texts that this is madness and she’s going to bed. Ellen texts that there’s sure a lot of Mets fans in Portland. I remember Beanie is in Belgium. Why is she in Belgium during the World Series?

FOURTEENTH INNING

Chris Young is in cruise control and the Mets batters go softly in the top of the fourteenth. The top of the fourteenth. Yep, that’s what inning we’re in, which merits another seventh inning stretch. Kauffman Stadium is as packed as it was in the first inning. Time reveals itself to be a beast that we have no control over. It’s running in circles, eating its own tail. The score is as even as it was in the first; it’s not the end if the game, it’s just the beginning. Two more outs for a Mets victory turns into a game that could last forever. Chris Young, like the starting pitcher that he is, is pitching like he’s planning to pitch a whole new game and Colon does not seem to be tiring either. The Royals have already proven that they could play baseball for days. The extra innings, where you don’t get second chances, is where the Royals find their Zen. I don’t get it.

Katie, Colin and I have stopped talking. If the Royals want to go on forever, we will go on with them, but without words. We have none. They have become as meaningless as time. We are slack of jaw and sunken of eye.

Here comes Escobar again. What is this, his twentieth at-bat? C’mon Escobar. Another inside the park home run! Please. Or a conventional one. I don’t care. Can you just please?

Escobar does not hit the first pitch, or even the second pitch. He fouls off another three pitches and hits the sixth. The ball bounces obligingly into David Wright’s glove.

But David Wright’s glove does not want ball! It spits ball out! Wright still gathers ball and sends it sailing towards first, and it looks like Escobar will be out. But! Wait! Wright’s throw is too far from Duda. Doubtful Duda must leave bag to catch ball and Escobar is safe.

Yay. Earlier, we cheered uproariously in the twelfth inning when the bases were loaded, and then quickly remembered that some people in this city were not watching baseball and might want to sleep. We stifled our cheers again when Moustakas got a single in the thirteenth inning.

But fourteen innings in, our tone is more sober and business-like. No stifling needed.

Okay, great. Awesome. You can do this. Keep the line moving. Move that line.

 Zobrist is up next.

Can you please get a home run right now, Ben Zobrist? You got this Benny Z.

 Zobrist does not get a home run, but he does get a single that sends Escobar all the way to third with no men out.

Okay! Great! Well done! 

 We are now standing again, but with the loose limbs of people drunk on tiredness. The commentators, who have spent the past couple of innings talking about how Colon could go on forever are now singing a more somber tune: “And now Colon is in a jam.”

And now Cain is up. Colon wants no part of Cain, wants to give him no part of any baseball. He walks him. And now Colon’s jam is jammier because the next batter is Hosmer. He’s hungry for victory, but also for redemption.

When people get hungry for victory and redemption, they tend to try to outdo themselves. We hope Hosmer takes an easy-does-it approach.

Just keep that line moving!

 First he takes a ball, then fouls off the next two pitches. Then another ball. And the next he does not take easy. He offers it a mighty whack. It does not sound like an exclamation point but it sails far—into Granderson’s glove, but far nonetheless, far enough for Escobar to tag up and tear his way towards home.

Granderson’s throw home is quite spectacular and Escobar would have been out if it were even a foot closer, and if Escobar had been just a little bit slower. But as it is, Escobar is fast and the throw is long but short. He slides home, adding an extra embellishment of victory dirt onto his uniform. The Royals storm onto the field and into each other, a mosh pit of brotherly love.

We are all tired, but we still have strength to jump and hug and rejoice quietly, emitting muffled hollers of mirth. And then I quietly head downstairs, buttoning my jacket before I head out into a joyless Mudville, a city that is just getting to know the Royals. Joe Buck, though I still begrudge him for turning last year’s World Series into a long-running monologue about Madison Bumgarner, summed it up best: Kansas City is Comeback City.

game one yay

yay

I am a Royals fan living in New York City. If anyone wonders why I didn’t post anything in October, there’s your answer. The following entries detail the experience of watching the postseason far away from my hometown, in a much different place where fans from all over this huge country converge. Immigrants proudly display flags of their home countries in their windows and dwellings, but during the postseason, signs of national migrants’ provenance appear on heads and hearts in the form of caps and shirts. Giants fans scowl at Dodgers fans as Yankee stadium looms in the distance–it’s always looming, literally and figuratively. You can see it from the plane as you leave the city for wherever you’re from, and again when you come back. Meanwhile, in stretches of Brooklyn and Queens, and especially on the 7 train to Jackson Heights when you need to eat momos, you’re reminded that, hello, the Mets are here, too! I see lots of Orioles fans, Phillies fans, and yes, even Red Sox fans. There are not many Royals fans here, but the postseason as an expat is never a lonely experience, just a different one.* 

*Disclaimer: These posts might contain cliche images of athletes. Writing about sports means I have to deal with levels of kitsch I am not used to accommodating. I’m sorry. Also, I’ll get back to my Craigslist stories after this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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