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Bananas in the Bronx: Episode IV

03 May

So here’s how my Saturday started. With me wondering what time it was (10:30am) and where my Advil were hiding. This is not typical for me. Then again, neither is drinking copious amounts of beer and staying up until 5:15am. It was a very long, but fun night. Let’s just say there were McNuggets eaten at 4:55am. Yeah. So, there’s that. After drinking a glass of water, taking 2 Advil, and setting my alarm for an additional 30 minute cat nap, I was ready to get in the shower and face the day. And by face the day, I mean call the front desk and beg them to let me stay an additional 30 minutes since I stepped out of the shower right on the nose of check-out time. But that’s okay, because the plan was to meet at Kris’s apartment at 1:30. That gave me plenty of time to grab a sandwich downstairs in Grand Central (yummy panini) and make my way via subway (my favorite uptown 6) to the 7-11 near Kris’s apartment. Yeah, that’s how much I need a fountain coke in the morning. I have in the notes section of my phone the location of two 7-11′s within 10 blocks of her apartment. On this Saturday morning that Big Gulp tasted particularly sweet. So now I’ve got food, a fountain Coca-Cola, the weather is stupendously beautiful, and it seems like everything is coming up roses.

Because today’s the day. Saturday is the crown jewel in my annual New York weekend. It is the reason said trip occurs in Spring. Because it is on Saturday that me & the crew take in a Yankees game. Day drinking in the bleachers of Yankee Stadium. Does it get more American than that? This all started four years ago. I was planning a trip to New York and wanted to take in a Yankees game. It fell to deciding which of my NYC-area friends might be most interested in catching a baseball game. Um, could this be any more of a no-brainer? How about the girl who blogs about the Yankees under the nom de plume Crazy Yankee Chick? If you’re interested in the Yankees, or just baseball commentary in general, you should check out her blog at http://crazyyankeechick.com, it is after all a Top 50 MLB blog. The girl’s got the stuff. As a side note, there is nothing funnier to me than watching some boy try to pick her up by talking about baseball because she’s in the bar wearing a Yankees cap instead of stilettos & a tube top. She’s always vastly more knowledgeable and more than happy to call bullshit on their posturing. It’s amusing to watch them storm away under a cloud of humiliation. And then there’s the guy last year who introduced himself to her as Lenny and she said, “Like Lenny Dykstra?” As he stared at her blankly and said, “Who’s that?” I felt like just saying, “Go ahead and move along, dude. If you don’t know enough baseball to know the name Lenny Dysktra, and your name is Lenny, you should just move along.” But I digress… We were talking about how the crew got together. In 2009 I asked Kris if she wanted to go to a game when I came to town. I had gone on StubHub and gotten 4 left-field bleacher seats, now with 2 of them accounted for, we needed to round out the crew. Kris’s slightly younger sister, Lauren, was the obvious choice. Not only is she loads of fun with her effortless cool and her sarcastic mouth, but she’s a rabid Yankees fan, too. As evidenced by her running into Nick Swisher at Dorrian’s after that first game we went to together in 2009 and telling him she was surprised he was the only Yankee not picked up in her fantasy league. You gotta be a fan to pull that sentence together. So now we’ve got me, Kris, and Laur, with one more ticket unaccounted for. I figure, they’ve got to have some other friend who wants to go, someone who really appreciates the Yankees, and that’s how Keith came to round out our merry crew. I’m not gonna lie, when they told me that one of the bartenders from their favorite bar was joining us, I had my doubts. When I found out that he was like 20 years older than them, trepidation did not begin to cover it. But then I met Keith and grew to love him as much as they do. He’d lay down in front of a train for those girls. And I dig that about him. As overexcited, foul-mouthed, and generally crazy as he is, he takes care of them. Like some inappropriate favorite uncle. And he is the perfect addition and counterpoint. Together we’re like a dysfunctional family. Or a comedy team. Never a dull moment. For us, or the people around us. Like in 2010, Yankees Game: The Sequel, when Kris & Lauren put up the jumbotron message welcoming us all to the stadium and we nearly died of laughter (no, literally: tears, chest pains, and all) while Keith sat very still, scratched his head and said, “What the f%#$ was that?!”

So, now it’s 2012 and it’s time for Episode IV. I can’t believe we’ve been doing this for four years. And each year is just as great as the last. It’s always something different, but wonderful in it’s own way. This seemed to be our year of overcoming adversity. If I had been paying closer attention, I might have recognized the sign when we got separated at the subway station. Saturday happened to be one of those days when construction was forcing a train that normally runs on a lower track to run on an upper track. Easy enough, but when Kris & Laur went back up the steps, Keith & I somehow lost them in the crowd. At this point I realize that I have to stay with Keith no matter what. And Keith is grumbling and ranting while the train is barreling into the station, and we’re doing the do we or don’t we hop on this train, where the heck are they dance, and that’s when I spot them. Which is especially good since Kris was holding all our tickets in her purse. We manage to pile into the subway car together and we’re on our way. Crisis averted. And we revel in the beautiful weather, doffing our jackets, starting to feel the energy of the crowd. Get a good laugh out of the cops descending on the moron who throws the trash can lid onto the sidewalk practically in front of the stadium NYPD sub-station. We get through the gates and collect our “Yankees Beach Wallet.” Yep, it’s one of those hand-out days at the stadium and today we got a plastic case that snaps shut to be waterproof. It’s got the Yankees symbol on one side & Disney Cruise Lines on the other. (Cross-promotion because apparently Disney is now sending cruise ships out of NYC) Well, Keith immediately starts coming up with wildly inappropriate, but highly imaginative uses for said waterproof case. And we’re looking around to be sure there aren’t any kids around us. When Keith spots Mickey Mouse standing at home plate and gets crazy excited by the idea that MM is in the house. And we’re cracking up because for a 51 year old guy he’s kind of a child, and it seems like we’re already off and running for another bananas weekend. Until it all comes crashing down.

Because apparently there is a new regulation in place this year in Yankee Stadium that only affects those in the bleachers. ONE BEER PER PERSON. Say it ain’t so, Joe. Yes, it used to be that you could get two beers per person, per transaction.

Thus the way our bucket’o'brews concept was born. The very first year, Lauren & I purchased a souvenir bucket of popcorn and immediately dumped said popcorn in the trash. Then we individually scrounged for cups of ice with which we then filled the bucket. Keith getting props for securing an entire bag of ice by gesturing to Kris’s massive, post-ACL surgery brace. Then in a single fell swoop we each purchased our two beer limit and put them to cool on ice. We replenished as needed, and that’s how we had ice cold beer into the 9th inning, well past the 7th inning last call. We’ve done this every year. It gets trickier to procure the necessary ice, but with the two beer per person limit it was easy to stock the bucket without missing too much baseball. Plus we had the fun of hearing other bleacher occupants ordering “the bucket of beer” and getting a blank look for their efforts. We’re innovators!!

But this was not destined to be the year of the bucket. This was the year of ONE BEER PER PERSON. Well, being the innovator that he is, Keith was not going to take this lying down. Muttering under his breath he took off into the bowels of the stadium. To be honest, I wasn’t sure when we might see him again. But he resurfaced approximately a full inning later carrying a small cardboard box. When he gets to the seat he’s still muttering, “No one’s going to tell me that I can only have one beer per person.” And he proceeds to unpack from the box & his person a total of 6 beers. We’re, of course, laughing hysterically. At which point he turns and like a warrior returning triumphant from the field of battle addresses the crowd assembled in the bleachers: “NO ONE’S going to tell ME that I can only have ONE BEER per person!!” And the crowd goes wild. But this campaign has taken too much out of Keith and despite our desperate need for the bucket to keep his plunder cool, he doesn’t have the heart or the energy to strike out again in search of ice, so we’ll just have to drink fast, or keep our distaste for warm beer to ourselves.

Sometime shortly after this, we notice that there are two pigeons hanging out in center field. I mean, like really spending some time, perhaps considering building a nest. Everyone’s starting to comment on how strange it is that these birds are standing so close to the center fielder and wondering what they’ll do if he has to make a break for the ball. Then Keith asks, in all seriousness, “Do you think those birds know what’s going on?” To which we once again dissolve into laughter. So he continues, “I don’t mean in a there’s-two-outs-and-a-runner-on-third kind of way. I just mean do you think they realize there’s like a million people watching them eat grass?” Laughing too hard to give him any kind of answer we just nod sagely. And then we see on the jumbotron the people who got their seats upgraded from the bleachers to field level. In a stunning display of irony, it’s the guy who almost got arrested prior to the game for throwing the trash can lid. Amazing. This does nothing good for Keith’s mood that this moron is now sitting pretty. But I should also mention the girl sitting next to me, the one wearing the Nick Swisher jersey over her polo, who says she’s a huge Yankees fan, and then turns to her husband and asks, as she attempts to check-in on Facebook, “Are we in the left field or right field bleachers?” Um, yeah. Clearly a huge baseball fan. Maybe she just meant she has a huge crush on Nick Swisher. Same difference.

As for baseball, it was an ugly game. Garcia doesn’t seem to understand that standing on the mound means you’re a pitcher and you’re supposed to throw pitches the other guys can’t hit. The game went by way too fast. Guess that’s what happens when your team goes three up, three down. Meanwhile the Tigers just kept hitting multi-run dings. Doesn’t take long for a team to get way ahead like that. And then the Yankees started revving up in the 9th inning. It seemed like maybe the magic was there. They started closing the gap, but the deficit was just too large and the door slammed shut on a 7-5 Yankees loss. Hmmm. Well, we’ve been at this for 4 years. Our win-loss ratio goes like this L-W-W-L. Now I will say, that singing a rousing chorus of “We Are the Champions” on the return subway last year was pretty damn fun. But in 2009, the first L, the Yanks took it all, so we’re not going to cry a river over an April loss.

This year the subway crowds were immense & Keith, still clearly upset over stadium regulations, was not going to wait. This is how we found ourselves following some guy two blocks from the stadium to his car. Now, it was a real licensed Town Car, but it all still felt a little sketchy. But, after a rather speedy ride, we were back at Dorrian’s. Here’s where I’m leaving something out. See, Keith & I had a bit of a verbal altercation. But he apologized later and all is forgiven. And while I didn’t actually enjoy that experience, in retrospect, I did. Because it means we’re all really friends. Kris & Laur jumped to my defense. Keith later apologized and I was genuinely able to forgive him. We are past the point of politeness, that false kind bred by being uncertain of other people. We know each other. We love each other. Sometimes we’re going to fight and argue and be our real, cranky selves with one another. I dig that. It’s every bit as much a hallmark of true friendship as taking care of one another is. This is my Yankees crew. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Well, the rest of the night rolled out a lot like Friday night, but we added Lauren to our merry band. A happy addition. Once again in search of entertainment beyond the standing in one place ridiculing drunk girls that Dorrian’s is especially good for, we wandered down to a place called The Bullpen. And that is how we found ourselves at 3:00am playing beer pong against a boy named Dan (?) who had a smurf tattooed on his hip/upper butt cheek. Then Laur went home – perhaps her departure spurred on by Dan revealing his ink? And Kris & I made our way back to her apartment, where we went up on the roof. I love the city at night. And it was really cool to think about all the people, all the lights that were still or already on. But it was more than time to be asleep, as I was once again seeing 5:00am from the backside. But I was happy, oh so happy.

Another successful outing to the Bronx. And it may have been a loss for the New York Yankees, but it was a win for me.

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© 2010 Krista Lindsey Willim