I was up at 6:00, got Jack up at 6:45, and we were on the road by 7:10 with Jack’s “Everything Mega” mix blasting out The Grateful Dead, Rolling Stones, and in what felt like minutes we’d bounded across Pennsylvania and were pulling into the lot in Pittsburgh, and then a block later we were among joyous people decked out in all manners of Pirates gear (and some Mets too), then we were through the gates and into the masterpiece of ballparks with views of yellow bridgespans and the cityscape and hillsides crowded with houses and trees where we slurped down greasy pierogis, gave the usher a $5 tip, and were soon joined by our old friends Avi and Solomon Cover to sit right at field level third base and chatter away as we watched a terrific game all the way to the last pitch then shuffling out to cars to city streets to Interstate 80 to Cover’s backyard for burgers and laughing and Avi and I split three pints and a sneak run to Jeni’s Ice Cream and somehow still in bed by 10:00, and then up again, quick shower, quick food run, and off for Chicago just flashing across the miles to our hotel nestled deep in the heart of Chinatown where we quickly threw our stuff in the room and then off and apace, striding through Chicago, so thrilled to be there, pointing out every detail of the city to each other until finally across the wide lot, wait at the gate, and then into a genuinely under-appreciated and unfairly-maligned Guaranteed Rate Field with its black steel framing and its unpretentious crowds, where we had great seats already, but for batting practice we sat in the right field section with counters and real chairs and our own waitress named Terry who let us open a tab and we never left, and I could smell grilled Chicago sausages and these four guys were chattering away behind us and my newly 18-year-old son was next to me and I was drinking a beer and I texted Shani: “I am in Nirvana”, and she texted me back to let me know that Alex said you can’t be in Nirvana, you have to achieveNirvana, so I texted back: “At the top of the 2nd inning on my son’s 18th birthday at Guaranteed Rate Field, I achieved Nirvana” and it was true, in fact, I continued to achieve Nirvana up until the final out and all the way through our walk back to the hotel and even that evening as we wandered Chinatown, went through a dingy doorway, up a shining escalator to discover a dim-sum palace for a tremendous dinner of shrimp dumplings and pork buns and mango pudding and still back and in bed by 10:00 to be up for a few work meetings and then out the door to the parking garage where Jack took it straight north in six lanes of roaring traffic and Everything Mega put on Hot for Teacher and we both air-guitared like meth addicts and soon we were at our hotel in Milwaukee, which was only 2 miles from the park, we could literally see it from our hotel window, but it was 2 miles of industrial boredom so we went to find a cab and instead the baseball gods put two electric scooters right there at the taxi stand and we were OFF, buzzing across lots and sidewalks, all the way to the gates of the marvel of engineering that is American Family Field, here, look at this photo…
…which doesn’t do it justice, but we sat and were tired and hot and kinda hitting a wall until the baseball gods sent a breeze that brought a cold front that brought a 15 degree drop in temperature, and I brought back two bratwurst, a Pepsi for Jack, and a Leinenkugel for me (not my usual style, but Good Lord delicious), which brought us back into the state of pure gratitude that only comes from riding the arc of a full 9-inning journey that ended with us energized and appreciative, so we found two more scooters and rattled through Milwaukee to the “Deer District” packed with Bucks fans ready for Game 6, then finally a Lyft back to the hotel where we watched the NBA finals while Jack did 270 push-ups and when the Bucks won we could see fireworks from our 19th floor window and still, with all that, we got to bed by 11:00 to be up and on the road by 7:00, staring 13 hours and 49 minutes of driving right in the mouth, so I took the first shift and got us on the other side of Chicago, then Jack took us across Indiana and Ohio, ripping at a healthy 81 MPH while I took conference calls and literally presented creative concepts to a client from the passenger seat, but then Jack started to feel the drag so I took over only stopping to gas and piss and grab food quick and in no time were on the Schuylkill through Philly, across the Walt, and pulling into the driveway.
At one point, as we were walking back from Guaranteed Rate Field, Jack emphatically pronounced: “We are good at this.”
And he’s right. Both for road trips and ballparks we execute perfectly. We road trip so efficiently that 13 hours seems easy, almost matter of fact – and we took in every second. As for ballparks, we know how to get there, how to navigate, how to flow with the crowds and the game itself, how to drift out and exit without the slightest bit of strain. It’s all leisure, all float, all immersion in magic water. It seems almost impossible that in a single day we can drive 5 hours, spend 5+ hours in a ballpark, and still have time to leisurely explore the city and find a dim-sum dinner adventure. But we’re that fluid, that proficient – as Jack said, we’re that good.
The conversation stayed easy. There was no weight between us, only lockstep. When we drove to Spring Training a few years ago, Jack pumped me for information about the year I lived in my car and the year Shani and I travelled the globe. He literally made me go through every day and every location.
But now he knows everything, I suppose. I still have a few stories to tell, but the big ones are covered.
There wasn’t a deep talk. There wasn’t an opening of hearts and exchange of life outlook to bring us closer. But then again, maybe we can’t get any closer. Maybe our hearts are as open as hearts can get. I think mine is. Maybe there’s not much more that needs to be said.
He’s spent the past 18 years as part of an ensemble cast, and now he’s ready to have his own spinoff. He’s ready to be the title character. He’s ready to be the protagonist with a whole new supporting cast around him.
I’m ready too.
The whole dynamic of the house will change. Shani and I will have less to consider and track and think about. More freedom; less responsibility. It’s the start of a new time of our lives as a couple.
Yes, I’m ready. But I still get sad thinking about it.
And then I think about baseball.
Because for a decade it’s been our space together. Each year he and I have gone to 4-6 ballgames. We’ve watched batting practice, commented on plays, ate ballpark food. We’ve marveled, evaluated, critiqued, and above all, appreciated. It’s been an alternate world that we would step into – a world we knew exactly how to navigate, how to explore. A world where we noticed and relished every detail. My great God, what a blessing every minute has been. Every minute.
Yes, Jack is leaving.
Yes, my son is going off and he will not be back. Things will never again be the way they are now.
But while he may be leaving…
That world of ours isn’t going anywhere.
I think we’re gonna do Florida next year.