Thursday, May 19, 2005

A Trip to the City

Okay, I know. . . I didn't post a "Prayer to Start the Week" this week. But it wasn't because I didn't try.

Actually, I put together this really great post about Soren Kierkegaard (trust me, it was one of the better things I've written) that concluded with one of his prayers. But then, I couldn't leave well enough alone.

Sitting back to see that all I had created was very good, I thought, "But wouldn't it be even better if the statements of Soren were in block quotes? You know, set off from the rest of the text?" And that's when the trouble began.

By the time I had managed to turn the text into a jumbled mess, I abandoned all hope in prayer and wound up sort of cussing instead; in that Christian kind of way.

That said, all prayer has been suspended until further notice. Now I want to talk about that other main plank of real religion: Major League Baseball.

My son Benjamin and I had been looking forward to last Friday for a long time. Every so often we'd have to open my sock drawer and just look at the tickets.

"Shea Stadium . . . New York METS vs. St. Louis CARDINALS . . . Friday, May 13, 2005. . . . 7:10 PM"

Starting last year, we began a tradition of seeing our beloved Cardinals play in Queens, the Bronx, or Boston at least once every season. Last Friday was our first and probably only chance this year. That morning we strapped ourselves into my 1991 Toyota pickup and headed for Flushing, Queens, New York.

Now, I would never dream of driving into Manhattan. But a trip to Shea Stadium is a different matter. Driving from Connecticut into Queens isn't too bad. I learned a few years ago that if you get to the Stadium mid-day, you can park in the South parking lot--between Shea and the Arthur Ashe Tennis Center, home of the U.S. Open--for $3.00, which in New York feels like stealing. What's more, from the south parking lot it's just a few steps over and up to the subway platform.

When I first moved to Connecticut twelve years ago, subway rides in New York were only 75 cents. But since then, it's gradually gone up to $2.00. If you're going to be in and around the city for a day or two, it makes sense to buy a Metro Card with more than one ride's credit and get the price break. Ben and I would be there for only two subway trips, so we wound up buying the single-ride passes. (By the way, what used to be the best transportation deal in New York, the 50-cent ferry to Staten Island, taking you right past the Statue of Liberty, has been made even better. Now it's free).

From the Shea Stadium subway station, we took the inbound Number 7 train. It's a long ride into Manhattan (20 minutes or more) with lots of stations along the way. But it's a good way to get a glimpse of what daily life is like for a lot of the residents of that part of Queens. By my guess-timate, most of the riders on our train were either Hispanic or Chinese people. Some of them were clearly on their way to work in Manhattan, going to jobs that pay better than what they'd be able to earn in the neighborhoods where they live.

Going into the city on the 7 train, the last three stops are Grand Central, 5th Avenue, and Times Square. Pretty good options. We've seen Grand Central many times and decided to stay on the train all the way to Times Square, the end of the line and the beginning of a rush.

Marching up to ground level and stepping out onto the sun-lit sidewalk always brings for me a feeling I can hardly describe. Yeah, the faces of most of the people around me speak the assurance that if I did this everyday, it would cease to seem so special. But to me, it's still foreign and fun. Immediately the sights, sounds, and smells--some not so good--of Manhattan are all around me.

Once above ground, Ben and I walked over to one of our city destinations, the ESPN Zone at the south end of Times Square. Coming in the front door, we immediately looked to our left to experience again that great baseball-card mosaic in which you see the face of Babe Ruth. (I know, hard to imagine, but go check it out yourself). Then it was up to the fifth floor, home to a sports-game arcade that you have to see and play in to really appreciate. It was a complete experience once Ben had struck out a life-sized video image of Barry Bonds. I absolutely love watching my son put his big heart into something. It's pure joy.

From there, we thought about walking over for something to eat at Hamburger Harry's (145 W. 45th St), which should also be on a list of things you gotta do sometime. But we really weren't that hungry and wound up at the huge Modell's Sporting Goods on West 42nd Street. We bought a pair of sunglasses for him and new Cardinal shirt for me, and strolled about the streets for a while.

Soon it was time for us to jump on an express train back to Shea. I like the way the guy on the train PA says, "Ex-press. Exxxx- SPRESS." He likes the way he says it too.

We made it in time to see batting practice, and then took in a pitcher's duel of a game between Jason Marquis of the Cardinals and future-Hall-of-Famer Tom Glavine pitching for the Mets and looking that night like he was ten years younger.

It was a great performance by both pitchers, the game being decided in favor of the Mets by one Cliff Floyd, who belted two solo homeruns. What a terrific hitter. The final score, 2-0 Mets, the only loss for the Cardinals during their three-game series at Shea.

On the way home, Ben and I picked up my daughter, Chloe, at Rocky Hill, Connecticut. She'd been at a cast party for her all-school production of "Guys and Dolls." The three of us made it home well after midnight. The Cardinals hadn't come out on top. But most everything else that day had been wonderful.


Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

I like your blog today, Frank. Very entertaining (and informative).

And, I DID miss your prayer for the week Monday. I had to laugh when I read about your experiences trying to write it, though, because I experienced the exact same thing the other day while working on my current post and ended up spending literally hours on it! I have the time to do that, but most people don't, so I don't know how others manage so well to have their blogs looking all fancy and stuff. I haven't figured it out yet, myself.

Your trip with your son was neat. When I was a little kid we lived in St. Louis and I can remember going to Cardinals games with my dad. Lots of fun.

And Tom and I have been to ESPN Zone in Baltimore at the inner harbor, which was the neatest place. It had a huge bust of Vince Lombardi made entirely of cheddar cheese in a special refrigerated display case! (I know - a little much!) Tom HAD to get an ESPN Zone shirt and cap on sale, of course, although he didn't play any games.

Steve Duer said...

What a neat day. There is something special about watching anything through the eyes of our children.