Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A day in New York in May.

Yesterday afternoon I was on an uptown C-train clacking our way hence when we stopped at West 4th Street. On stepped three ball players from Landmark High School clad in their baseball garb and wearing their caps and gloves and raring to go.

A little bit of my childhood from 40 years ago got on the train with them.

Back in the crazy early 70s, my team would come into Manhattan twice or three times a season to play city schools in Central Park. Our beaten yellow school bus would clatter to a diesel stop in front of the Museum of Natural History and in short order two dozen boys or so would spill out of the conveyance, dressed in our double-knits and armed with duffle bags jammed with wooden bats, battling helmets and the tools of ignorance.

I'm not sure if Central Park West was still cobblestone back then, but I remember the sharp sound of our spikes on the surface of the road and on the asphalt paths leading up to the playing fields at 81st Street. We would kick at the surface hoping our metal spikes would spark like a dragging muffler from an old Checker cab.

Central Park was not back then the well-manicured oasis of green it has become. The fields were dusty, dirty and rutted with tire marks left over from a wet winter. The chain-link back-stops looked like a migrant worker's shack and the few park denizens who would congregate to watch our games were less-than-savory. Once while I was playing a short left field, I was offered drugs by a couple of sports-loving pushers. I told them their reefer was an interference to the game, and besides I had no pockets and no money.

The boys held onto the stainless steel straps of the train and stretched their arms in preparation for their upcoming exertions. They looked tough and ready. They looked strong and determined. I could almost hear them cry in their Spanish "lo tengo," as they circled under a lazy flyball.

Like I did, they got out as I expected at 81st Street. That's the stop closest to the ballfields of the Great Lawn.

I thought for more than a second or two about not running to catch the crosstown bus and making my way home. I thought maybe I'd follow the Landmark High stalwarts and watch their game and even, if I felt it, root them on to victory.

It was a beautiful day yesterday, sunny and in the low 70s, and I probably could have avoided my afternoon's tasks without too much strain. But I had freelance work to do and wanted to send it in, as promised, by the end of the day which I did.

I'll never know, now, who won the game.

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