Tag Archives: childhood memories

An Ode To The Coliseum

“As a friend once said to me about getting old: what a strange thing to happen to a little boy.”–Paul Auster

The soon-to-be-extinct “piss trough.”

My grandfather took me to my first baseball game at the tender age of 10. There was no literal hand-holding, strategic explanations, or silver-spoon procurement. That just wasn’t his style. If I wanted to figure out the game I had to do it myself. If I wanted some food, well, here’s some money and go fetch it. There was Darwinian Law in effect here, and as far as I know, no child had ever been abducted at a baseball game. The law of averages were on my side, however, as I was left to my own devices, fortuitously discovering a piece to the puzzle while creating soon-to-be-clouded, timeworn memories in that long-ago foreign land known as the 1980’s. 

There was very little small talk and every so often the solitude would be broken by the snap of a Bic lighter touching a Marlboro cigarette. This was a time before the fancy new novelty stadiums with their retractable roof, craft beer, gourmet food, and yuppies making corporate deals in skyboxes. One afternoon a woman was nailed in the head by a foul ball and a group of freedom-loving, scurrying, rat-children (who would hang around the opposing bullpen before games to brutally heckle the starting pitcher while the ushers smiled with approval) gathered around what resembled a murder scene. She was battered and bloodied in the aisle, and it looked as if she had been shot in the forehead. There’s nothing to see here, said her husband. 

When I eventually had to go to the bathroom I was astonished as men were herded in like cattle to a room that smelled like beer, cigarettes, and vomit, all the while whipping out their dongs publicly to pee in what can only be described as a “large rectangular sink.” I would rather die than make a side-glance. Your very life depended on staring at that tiny pin fragment of wall in front of you. You had to embrace yourself in the warmth of your own microcosm for a moment before the vigorous shake, shiver, and hasty exit. Never acknowledge another’s hose/existence while in this slippery and pungent world that seemed to encapsulate the sporting event as a proletarian undertaking.

I’m going to miss the Oakland Mausoleum when it’s gone. It’s exactly what I look for in a baseball stadium. A classic feeling, a potent memory, and a working-class nostalgia. A piss trough in a dirty bathroom, hustlers selling unlicensed knockoffs in the parking lot, a hotdog on a stale bun, overpriced Budweiser, the faint smell of marijuana, broken plastic seats, and a field open to the high blue sky and blazing Northern California sun. 

Just as my grandfather used to watch games.

Time Keeps on Slippin’…Into the Future

I guess ice cream sandwiches seemed more important.

All it takes is one minor “insignificant” thing to enter labyrinthine corridors that lead to dreams, memories, and fantasies…and watching the 1988 ALCS Game 3 on youtube was the meager catalyst that jolted the brain and shook free a few locked away memories that slowly clambered to the surface. Memories of childhood often walk that fine line of the unholy hybrid of the fictional and the real, and the rusty time capsule had been jarred open rather coarsely with a crowbar whether I liked it or not. The antique contents were tender reminders of budding times when you accepted the mysteries of oneself because there was no mystery to contemplate, you just are.

Tim C. was a boy who lived in my neighborhood and I remember watching the 1988 ALCS at his house, although the details tend to get foggy like a faded photocopy. (One detail that isn’t foggy is the Red Sox holding a 5-0 lead that ended in an eventual 10-6 loss) We would get bored and go outside to toss the football and once even walked to the store to get a soda, ice cream sandwiches, and baseball cards. I remember there were a considerable amount of commercials for the upcoming presidential election between George Bush and Michael Dukakis, but we didn’t care in the slightest who won–someone would probably punch you in the stomach at that age if you dared to talk about such nonsense. Besides, there were bigger debates like–who was hotter: Samantha Fox or the red-headed vixen dry-humping two Jaguars in the Whitesnake video? 

Her hit was, “Touch Me (I Want Your Body)”

Tim’s parents were never around, (they were notorious barflies) so his house was a bit on the grungy side, and damned if I can remember him ever offering me anything to eat or drink. He was an early example of the vulgar inequities of life–with his family being dirt poor–but he was a good athlete and wasn’t averse to getting into a fistfight with older boys so he was almost admired around the neighborhood. For reasons that elude me, I also remember that he had a poster of Led Zepplin’s Houses Of The Holy in his room, and I would often stare at the cryptic image of naked, golden-haired children crawling around an apocalyptic landscape in wonderment. This image resonated and unearthed murky, neolithic repressed memories perhaps representing a past and an ancient life long forgotten in an odd feeling of soul transference. Silly, I know.

After elementary school, we sort of outgrew each other, as boys tend to do, and friends seem to be transitory as you cultivate life as a 13-year-old. Forever gone was the world of battered bicycles, black eyes, and skinned knees. We would give each other knowing glances in the hallway but were worlds apart as growing teenagers. Tim, being far more mature than I, was already into heavy metal and girls, and I was sort of still trying to figure things out at this vulnerable age, albeit awkwardly while wearing Bugle Boy jeans, multi-color fluorescent t-shirts, and listening to generic pop music on a transistor radio covered with stickers.

Tim died in a car accident not long after graduating high school–something I didn’t find out about until years after the incident as I had already moved 500 miles away from our tiny little culture(less) vacuum. The driver was drunk, killing his wife as well as 19-year-old passenger Tim–who left this cruel world forever as a teenager and absorbed into the soil that constitutes a past.