Wednesday, March 18, 2015


When I was a kid, before our family got television, there was a nearby family that already had television.  So all the kids in the neighborhood would gravitate to their house and watch television there.

In early March, California does not yet have spring.  So since I love spring – and what non-skating Canadian doesn’t – we gravitate to nearby Arizona that already has it and we catch an early spring there.

It’s what you do when you can’t wait for spring.

Two extra bonuses:  I get to visit my friend whom I have known since we were both six, and his wonderful and hospitable family.  And I get a jump, not just on spring, but on my beloved baseball as well, attending a preseason contest at Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim’s) Tempe Diablo Stadium. 

One of my friend’s grandchildren is now too teenagedly sociable to hang out with old people.  Happily, however, their eleven year-old – whom I shall call “Professor Baseball” for his PhD.-level knowledgability (plus his consummate skills as a player) remains available.  The “Professor” knows from our earlier visits that I appreciate all aspects of the game.  So when it is debated whether to arrive early to watch “Batting Practice”, he immediately chimes, “I’m sure Earl would want to go!”

The Professor was right.

The Result:

We arrive before eleven-thirty for a 1:05-scheduled ball game.

The Tempe temperature is already edging towards ninety degrees.  It appears Arizona may have skipped spring altogether and proceeded directly to “How can people live in this place?”

Not waiting to settle into our seats, “Professor Baseball” and his grandma disappear into a crowd gathered at the railing bordering right field to assault the arriving players for their autographs.  Since there is currently no action on the field – and our third base-side seats are directly facing the sun – I join “Professor Baseball” and his grandmatical guardian at the marginally less torrid destination along the rail.

Where we awaited the ballplayers. 

For over an hour.

Without water.  Because who knew we’d be awaiting the ballplayers for over an hour.

Not that there is nobody on the field.  What we observe is a passing parade of  “The (in some manner or other) Connected.” 

Among whom are:

The factota.  (The Latin plural for “factotum.”)

Which means lower echelon “helpers”, in various capacities.  I see older men, some of them in full Angels regalia, heading intently towards their posts for the execution of their duties – don’t ask me what those duties are, I have no idea.  But whatever they are, judging from their focused demeanors, these elderly factota take them extremely seriously.

I see two autographed-baseball-clutching youngsters exiting onto the field following unforgettable private audiences with the players, in the company of “connected” older family members – invariably of the male persuasion – all of them moving with the Heisenbergian awareness of being watched (and unilaterally envied)… 

By the “un-connected” gathered behind the rail. 

Including me. 

Everyone on the field proceeds with an identifiable confidence, generated by the reality that they’re on the field…

And we’re not.

Neither, by the way, are the players.  Whose arrival we have now awaited in the blistering sunshine for more than thirty minutes.

Did I mention there was no water?

My mind wanders to another waiting experience nearly fifty years ago (Yikes!) when I was living in London.  I happened to be in Leicester Square when I noticed wooden barricades being assembled in front of a large theater, and I was informed that the Her Majesty The Queen would be shortly arriving to attend a premier of a newly released movie. 

Having never seen Her Majesty in person, I decided to join the growing gallery, and wait for the Queen to show up.

I waited for twenty minutes.

And then I went home.

Standing in that sweltering sunshine, it occurred to me that I had now awaited these malingering ballplayers longer than I had awaited the exalted Queen of England.

But you don’t want to leave.  Fearing that the moment you do…

They’ll come filing onto the field, signing autographs for everybody but you.
So you wait.  Uncomplainingly, if you’re “Professor Baseball”, less so if you’re older.  From one of whose mouths I heard the words, “This is tedious!”  Wait, could that possibly have been me?  (I reran the tape in my head, and it wasn’t.) 

You start noticing things, waiting in one place for an extended period of time, little details you might otherwise overlook.  I took note of the “St. Patrick’s Day” greenness of the stadium’s outfield grass, more remarkable in the Arizona desert, where the nearby towering cacti look on going,

“How do they get water!”   

I watch cameramen scouring the rail-gathered assemblage, stopping to film babies wearing oversized baseball caps and the more photogenic of the children, avoiding anyone who might have seen Mickey Mantle in his heyday, no matter how senescently adorable.

But as our wait expanded to over an hour, the thing I became most acutely aware of, not right away, but eventually?

I had been standing on gum.

Tomorrow:  The wait continues.

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