The Boys of Summer
Dear Susan & Mimi:
That second week of school, while you two were busy trying to foster dreams of literature in the heads of seventh and eighth graders, you’ll remember that your husbands were gone. This, then, is a reconstruction of our week.
First we drove to Cincinnati, since that’s where Scott’s from and the Reds were playing the Braves and it was almost a pennant race. Somewhere outside Louisville, Lynyrd Skynyrd fell into the CD player, and we spent a good hour playing tag with semis and guessing that Doug Schwartz, the cretin who did “audio restoration” on Nuthin’ Fancy, must’ve been a drummer, since the cymbals are louder than all three guitars and that just ain’t right.
Of course we missed an inning or so of the first game because we had to go eat ribs and I don’t own a watch. Tom Glavine got hammered — no, he wasn’t sitting with us, he was pitching — and Denny Neagle looked rocky the whole game. But Cinci won 11-3, their first victory against the Braves this season. Some jazz-damaged cover band was playing in the only open bar we found going home, so we just went home.
Of course we were late the next night, too, because the vindaloo was terrific and traffic wasn’t. Tickets were easy to get, though we sat in somebody else’s seats all night. Maddux was pretty much unhittable, and the Reds lost 8-2. At least the Rhino was open that night, so we quaffed a glass of the mighty Celebrator and called it a night.
An hour south of Chicago the Holy Modal Rounders crawled into the CD player and began cackling like feral chickens. Or, really, like two old men with heavy bottles who should never be allowed in the company of small girls, except, of course, they were just having a good time and so were we.
Of course we were late getting to New Comiskey Park, partly because Scott nipped off to see some French flick but mostly because the train took forever to get there and then it took another inning to walk around the park to Will Call. But we were seated in time for the dessert cart to come around, complete with Grand Marnier and Kahlua, and nobody scored until we got there anyway. Griffey went hitless, Rodriguez and Martinez went back-to-back, and my old hometown squad won 3-2. We finished the night at the Map Room, and that cherry-flavored New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red is every bit as charming as you said, Mimi.
I think we were playing that new Taj Mahal/Toumani Diabate disc driving up to Milwaukee, but the traffic was so snarled it’s hard to remember. It’s probably a bad omen when there’s a dead tow truck in the middle lane. Fortunately we found that beer garden Mimi turned up on the internet, and so after a delightful Hacker Pschorr hefeweizen, a La Trappe triple (on draft, both!), and some stale popcorn we wound back to our hotel.
Of course we were late arriving at County Stadium because we stopped to call our wives. But not too late. Miller’s sponsoring a new ballpark they’re building to replace County, but it seems a pity. It’s not like the Brewers are good, nor do they draw, and, besides, County has a wonderful vibe, even if the big screen shows replays exclusively in sepia and the obligatory keep-the-fans-interested scoreboard race featured four humans in sausage suits, running on the field.
We also had great seats, right behind home plate, found a delightful Paulaner hefeweizen on a beer cart, and McGwire went hitless. St. Louis still won, 4-3, and even though it didn’t matter to pretty much anybody there, this was the best-played game we saw, and the most fun. There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere.
Anyway, skipping dinner was only a problem when we got back to Chicago the next morning and I had to talk on the radio, but at least we got to Wrigley Field in time to hear a pretty good lounge singer work over “The Star Spangled Banner”. Sosa hit one out early, so everybody went home happy even though the pointless Dodgers won 8-6 and Sosa struck out with the bases loaded.
Then we went crosstown to Facets and saw Mr. Zhou, which proved to be a glorious, thoroughly idiosyncratic Chinese film, gritty and private and more personally revealing than any Asian cinema I’ve seen, which is some. Walking around talking after, we passed the line for L7 and kept walking until we found a tapas bar that happily had Bell’s Oberon on tap.
Later, just in time, a cab took us to the House of Blues, where De La Soul, Biz Markie and Common were holding court. What utter fun, a completely integrated, thoroughly joyous crowd packed tight together, all three acts sharing the microphone. Too bad y’all went with us the week before to see George Jones; he’s forgotten how to succumb to this much joy, or maybe it’s dangerous for him now.
Anyway, after that we pretty much came straight home, except for watching My Man Godfrey and stopping in Bowling Green to fill Scott’s trunk with a few well-chosen cases of beer.
Hope your week was as much fun. We missed you.