Good evening, all ‘ye seekers of daylight, sun and other lofty pursuits.
And welcome to the half-time show!
Look at the calendar, gang; we have reached Countdown Day 15 and are
officially halfway home!!
I hope I tell each of you enough what a kick it is for me to share all these musings with you. Yeah, I know we’re all over the map with this stuff, but hopefully that’s part of the fun.
And speaking of maps, let’s head over to the City of Big Shoulders for an erstwhile tale of a baseball game, a backpack, a pair of Adidas Marathon Trainers and, oh yeah, a footbridge.
I love baseball.
Even with all the bloated salaries, threats of strikes and work stoppages – even with all of its warts – I still love the game like I did when I was a little kid.
On second thought, that’s a lie; the truth is that I love it even more now.
My late grandfather, a diehard Brooklyn Dodgers fan since before the outbreak of World War I, loved it, too. So much so, that in 1957, when his beloved Dodgers headed west to Los Angeles, he was simply heartbroken.
But just five years later, Major League Baseball decided to expand the field of then-18 teams, adding the Houston Colt 45s (renamed the Astros in 1965) to the American League and the New York Mets to the National League.
Despite the fact that the Mets went on to set records for futility that will surely never be broken, my grandfather was joyous. National League baseball was back in New York, and pretty soon he’d have a grandson with whom he could share his love for the game.
In the years since, although I’m convinced that my lifelong fandom may have permanently damaged my stomach lining (definitely more than a few less-than-successful campaigns over the years!), hope still springs eternal every February when pitchers and catchers
report to camp.
And across those many years, I’ve visited stadiums all over the country, following my beloved (yet often maddening) baseball club from Queens, NY.
So, some years ago, when I finally got a chance to see a game on the hallowed ground of Wrigley Field, how could I possibly say no?
Chicago, July 15, 1999
The game was on a Friday, and I’d only gotten the tickets two days prior. With my wife back home, seven+ months pregnant with our older daughter and unable to travel, I reached out to a buddy to see if he could hop a plane and join me at Wrigley.
He was all gung ho about the game, but at the 11th hour, he had to bail. And soon, it became clear that I was going to be a solo act.
It didn’t bother me too much, though, and I decided that after the game, I would make plans to run back into the downtown area, via the storied Lake Shore Drive.
After the Mets had managed to hold off a late-inning rally by the hometown Cubs, I readied myself for my trek downtown. I’d packed a bag with some running gear, some extra water, and I added a tiny T-shirt for my new baby who was due before the end of the summer.
I found a place near the stadium where I could change into my running clothes. (Truth be told, I ended up changing in the men’s room of a White Hen Pantry, sort of like Chicago’s
version of 7-11.)
As I made my way down towards the scenic drive, I could hear the whir of the traffic. Having finally gotten to see my first-ever game at the famous Wrigley Field, I was now poised to check another must-do off of the proverbial bucket list.
And what follows is probably – no, is definitely – the single dumbest thing I have ever done in my entire life.
It was just after 6pm when I got to the shoulder of the famous scenic highway, toting my backpack that included the T-shirt for my then-unborn daughter.
It was then that I realized that I was on the wrong side of the divided highway. I needed to go south towards downtown. Hmm, what to do?…
I hadn’t come all the way down here to go back towards Wrigleyville (the scenic neighborhood around the ballpark) and just take the train back to my hotel. I mean I planned this, right?
Either it was the heat of the day (the temperature at first pitch was well north of 90 degrees), or the notion that you should do things that you say you’re ‘gonna do or, more likely, that it’s very easy to reach record levels of stupidity without having to try very hard.
(Anyone for door #3?)
With my backpack securely fastened, I tried to time my run. (Genius, huh? I mean how the hell do you “time” a run across a heavily trafficked highway?!)
And besides, I can’t be the only one to have ever tried this? Plenty of people want to walk/run down this famous strip, right? Why not me??
I got about halfway across, when I realized I was not going to be able to turn around and try again. (Imagine the look on the faces of some of the car drivers – plus their passengers – zipping by. Yeah, I had to imagine that, too!)
A few horns blared, and more than a few people yelled in panicked disbelief, as I sprinted for the far side. Another ten feet, maybe, and I’d make it all the way across.
Once I arrived safely on the other side, I did get a chance to see some of the faces in those passing cars. As you might guess, they ran through the full gamut of expressions and emotions.
(Somehow I think Gary Larson of “Far Side” fame could have kept himself very busy writing captions to go with my consummate act of idiocy. Don’t ‘ya think?)
Now some 20+ years in the rearview, I am reminded of my very good fortune. (And of course, I also point to that day in mid July as the day I left my brains back at the ballpark. Amazing the things we’ll do when we don’t think about the consequences.)
Shortly after I somehow traversed Chicago’s famous Lake Shore Drive (by some act of God, not made more famous by yours truly being flattened on it), I decided that I should complete the plan and run downtown.
And it was then that I saw a footbridge that traversed the highway, only about 100 meters or so to the south of where I tried to run across. I guess it would have been smart to look around when I first arrived, huh?
It’s cliche to say ‘ya can’t make it up. But ‘ya can’t.
OK, sports fans. No more mad dashes for this old man for a while.
And again, happy halfway point to you all.