Very Superstitious

I’ve been avoiding writing about anything baseball recently on this blog because as logical and as rational as I think I am, some ridiculous baseball superstitions have rubbed off on me. I know it’s stupid and absurd but whatever. The Rays went into a downward tailspin when I started writing thoughts about baseball on this blog. I then started writing about whatever was on my mind and the Rays began to win again. So, I did what any good fan would do–maintain the same routine lest I inadvertently jinx my team. Now, it appears that the season is over so my avoidance of blogging about the Rays was for naught. They are now 3 games back for the wild card with only 4 days left of the season. The probability of being in the post season is now a little over 4%. It’s ok though. The Rays have made themselves relevant the last couple of weeks. That is all a fan can ask for, to have their team play meaningful games in September. Nevertheless, I’m sad that BJ Upton won’t get to the post season with the Rays one last time. I’ll miss him gliding effortlessly like a graceful gazelle in the cavernous Tropicana center field, making Say Hey type basket catches. He’s a good kid.

 

Some Like It Hot

Someone asked me the other day what was my favorite movie of all time. It was a really hard question. I could list a bunch depending on my mood–The Princess Bride, The Matrix (the first one–the others were awful, just awful and I choose to pretend they don’t exist), My Dog Skip, The Empire Strikes Back, Goodfellas, The Incredibles, Team America: World Police, Bull Durham, WALL-E. Since I had to pick one according to the premise of the question, I chose Some Like It Hot.

My dad took me to see this movie when I was 10 years old. It was a single screen movie theater on the Upper West Side that played old movies. A double feature was playing, some James Bond movie with Sean Connery (dad loved Bond) and Some Like It Hot. The Bond movies were fine; I didn’t mind going. Dad took me to see quite a few of them, but even I knew as a kid that most of the premise was ridiculous. Then Some Like It Hot started. “But daddy,” I whined. “This movie is black and white. Let’s go!” He told me to give it a chance. It’s a funny movie, he said. “You’ll like it.” I can’t remember what I said, but it was probably something articulate along the lines of hrmph. The first scenes were kind of scary for a 10 year old girl in the 1980s. Kids were a little more innocent back then, and I was as sheltered as a kid could be in NYC. There were gangsters and bullets. Men died. It was the realistic kind of violence that happened in NYC, not the elaborate and improbable Bond violence. It gets better, dad whispered. Well, at least Tony Curtis was good-looking. I focused on that until Curtis and Lemmon dressed up as women, arrived at the train station, and the movie was suddenly in color to me. Most men will also remember that scene as the one in which Sugar Kane Kowalczyk was introduced. Marilyn Monroe was never funnier or more vulnerable, and yes, she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. I remember thinking I wanted to grow up to look just like her. Thankfully as an adult, I realized that dark olive skin and platinum blonde hair don’t mix well so that idea was nixed. While a lot of the humor was of the slapstick variety, perfect for a kid, upon subsequent more-than-I-can-count viewings, I realized how many truths about relationships, men, women, and gender identity the movie held. My loyalties also shifted from Curtis to Lemmon. Curtis was the slick, smooth talking ladies’ man. Lemmon was sweet, adorable, and very funny. Joe E. Brown as Osgood Fielding III provided a lot of the comic relief, as his oblivious older playboy is unaware that his intended paramour is a man in drag. It must have been quite risque for its time since it’s still risque today. This was Billy Wilder‘s best movie. Without giving away too much, it also has the best last line of any movie: “Nobody’s perfect.” If you’ve never seen it, check it out.

Woman v. Nature

Our next door neighbor is an older lady who loves the natural Florida look. Unfortunately, it was causing our fence to tilt, and was making our already small yard even smaller. I brought out the hedger,  my shades, and went to work. Growing up in NYC, I didn’t have a yard. My yard was Central Park. I didn’t learn how to operate a lawn mower until I was in my 20’s. Now, I love yardwork. There’s nothing like being outdoors and working up a good sweat. The sense of accomplishment is visceral. Shockingly, I did not chop off a finger and except for a couple of mosquito bites, I am no worse for the wear.

Woman v. Nature, Part I:

Woman v. Nature, Part Deux:

Suck It, Weeds:

Mission Accomplished.

Cranky Sunday

I’m kinda cranky tonight. My daughter was a royal pain in the ass today, and I’m tired. Tonight, she was every bit of her three year old self. She’s a pretty little thing, and she knows it, which can make her quite the little diva. I’m fairly low maintenance, and it is odd to have a daughter who is such a princess in every sense of the word. What finally got her to relax tonight was a fart. In the middle of her tantrum, she let out a rip roaring fart, and I started laughing. Yes, I’m mother of the year, laughing at my little girl’s fart. But then, she started laughing with me. She threw her arms around my neck and hugged me, and everything was okay. She can be a total sweetheart when she wants to be.

Let’s Go Rays!

In addition, the Rays lost two out of three to the Yankees after being swept last week by the Orioles, and that isn’t improving my mood any. When I was a kid, my cousin would say that she could tell if the Mets won or lost that day just by the expression on my face (I was a Mets fan as a kid). I’m not that bad now, but it’s on my mind. The Rays are now four back for the second Wild Card spot. Safe to say, the season is pretty much over. I can’t see this team going to the playoffs, and the way they’re playing, they don’t deserve it. Their pitching is fantastic, and David Price has a good chance to win the Cy Young, but their offense, which has been anemic for the past few years, is horrendous. It’s so anemic, that if they were my patient in the even hospital, I would ask the doctor if a blood transfusion is in order. Their team leader in batting average among regulars is Ben Zobrist, at a whopping .265. Sabermaticians would tell you that batting average doesn’t matter. Fine. Their team OPS is a pathetic .699. Ugh, I wasn’t going to talk about baseball tonight. Too late.

The Baseball Gene

My father died last year at the age of 63. His cause of death was glioblastoma multiforme, a long, ugly name for brain tumor. It was same type of tumor that killed two of the greats, Gary Carter and Tug McGraw.

My dad and I always had a special bond. I looked like him, and I had a softened version of his personality. My dad never had a boy, so I was the one he played catch with. I was the one who debated with him on politics and history, baseball and the environment. He was a man of passion and opinion, earnest and sincere. He didn’t know the meaning of the word cynicism. In that way, my dad and I differed. I am a little more jaded than he was. His politics ran ultra-liberal and although I definitely lean to the left, I’m more moderate. He thought Democrats were too conservative. In spite of his personality traits, everyone liked my dad, even people much more conservative than him. He was respectful of differences, so even people didn’t agree with him, they respected his opinions.

My dad changed his team allegiances almost every year, depending on which team had the most Dominican players. Initially, his favorite team was the Los Angeles Dodgers because they integrated first, but that all changed once the Dominicans came on strong. Having been born in the Dominican Republic, where baseball is as much a religion as it is in the US, my dad was a devout fan of the game. I would tease my dad and say, “Do you look at the roster and count all the players to see which team has the most Dominicans?” LIke I said, for a period of time, it was the Dodgers. Toronto for a while had the most so the Jays were his team. As he grew older, his reasoning for cheering on a team became more nuanced. He became a Rays fan too, from afar in NY. He liked their style and how much they did with so little resources. He also liked Joe Maddon. My dad always liked intellectuals and Maddon is as much as any baseball manager there ever was. When my dad moved from NYC to Tampa Bay to retire, he already had his tan and blue Rays cap and t-shirt ready. I still have the cap. I have worn a couple of times since his death to Tropicana Field, but so far, it’s been a pretty unlucky cap. 0-2. I don’t wear it to the games anymore.

When my dad moved, he lived with my husband, daughter, and me for almost a year. During that year, I got to learn a lot more about my dad. My parents divorced when I was young, and there was a lot I didn’t know about Dad’s upbringing. His mother died when I was 2 years old in the Dominican Republic. I don’t remember her at all and I didn’t know much about her other than my mother hated her. My dad told me stories of how she would take him on bus trips all over the Dominican Republic to watch baseball games during the winter leagues–games to see Juan Marichal and other baseball greats. These buses weren’t the relatively luxurious Greyhound buses. Heck, they weren’t even NYC MTA buses. These buses were 1950s, rickety, non-airconditioned , and duct taped. They would sleep on relative’s floors when there was no space. My grandmother wasn’t taking my father to all these games for his sake. My grandmother, unbeknownst to me, was also a huge fan of baseball. I smiled when my dad told me these stories. I come from a line of women who loved baseball. I didn’t know there was a baseball gene.

Hey

To know me, you need to know that I am a huge baseball fan. I started loving the game when my dad took me to my first game at Shea Stadium in 1981. The Mets were (are?) pretty pathetic, and I took pity on them for having no fans. Yankees fans were arrogant and cruel. Having a soft spot for underdogs and hard luck cases, I became a huge fan. I played catch with my dad in the park with the free promo glove I received from the Mets. I marked all their wins and losses in the Mets promo calendar. Back then, there was no Internet to instantly look up a game. I dreamed of being the first female in the Major Leagues. As I grew up and my tastes evolved, I dreamed of being Ron Darling‘s wife.

In 1998, I moved to Tampa Bay. To be honest, by that time, I was out of love with baseball. The strike in 1994 soured me to the game. It was a fight between greedy players and even greedier owners. The movie, A Bronx Tale, made an impression on me. I can’t remember the exact quote, but I remember something the character of Sonny said. “The baseball players don’t care about you. Why care about them?” Or something like that. It was true. The home run derbies between Maguire and Sosa that drew people back to the game did nothing for me. This chick was not a fan of the long ball. A good pitchers’ duel gets me every time. Hard to get. That’s what I like.

Coincidentally, 1998 was also the first year of a new baseball team, the Devil Rays. They were so incompetent, they even made the Mets look good. I didn’t like them initially. The stadium was a dome–sacrilege! Baseball is supposed to be played outdoors in the elements. Tropicana Field had all the charm of a warehouse, and the fans were so very quiet. I felt like I was at a tennis match. Shhhhhhh…. be very quiet. They’re trying to play baseball. And those uniforms. Good lord.

All the games were on television, and during the long summer months when nothing was on television, I started watching them. At first, I just watched disinterested in the outcome. Over time, I found myself actually wanting this poor little team to succeed. They reminded me so much of my first love, the Mets: few fans, always under the Yankees’ shadow, and sorely lacking in the win column. The game was pretty much as I remembered it. The designated hitter rule took a little getting used to, but I could see the practicality of it, even if the purist in me thinks it dilutes the game. The game is not about whether the players cared about me on a personal level. It is about what the game gave me. Its beautiful symmetry, the languid pace. The players come and go, but the game stays the same, for better or for worse. Baseball, I was back.

In 2008, the most startling thing happened. This sad little team began to win. And it felt good.