Humanity (and Magic) at Wrigley Field



A professional baseball game is a dandy place to experience humanity at it’s best…and it’s worst. Take the Cubs/Mets playoff game last Wednesday evening at Wrigley...


When my husband, son, and I arrived early enough to watch batting practice, the atmosphere was magical: It was a beautiful, warm evening. A soft breeze blew in from Lake Michigan. Kids (and many adults) wearing mitts vied for the attention of generous outfielders in hopes of getting a ball tossed their way. Onlookers cheered for the lucky ones. Lively organ music added an old-fashioned touch. Even the moon was adding its luster to the proceedings.


I was smitten. How fun! How family-friendly! “This really is the friendly confines,” I remarked to my husband, who gave me an indulgent smile. “I can’t believe it’s been twenty years since I’ve been to a game.” (My husband and son typically attend a couple games during the regular season.) 


Out there on the bleachers, we were surrounded by people in full Cub-fan regalia. I felt like I was peeking in the door of an exclusive club that had plenty of room for more. I was becoming more sentimental by the minute. We’d been handed a small white towel with a big blue W (aka, “the W flag”) at the gate. I had it ready to wave.


And then the game—and my education—began.


Top of the first inning:

Drunk fan behind me (DFBM): “I’m so sorry!”

“That’s okay,” I say good-naturedly, while wiping beer off my shoulder and arm. “I’ve got my towel.” My husband and I grin at each other. 


The Mets score 4 runs.


Bottom of the first inning:

DFBM: “I’m so sorry! Listen, I know exactly how you feel. If I do it again, you can beat the [stuffing] out of me.”

Since the Cubs were already down by 4 points, I laugh and say, “Listen, if the Cubs win this game you can pour beer on my head.” 

A pause. “Really?”


Top of second inning (4-0, Mets):

DFBM to his equally drunk friend (EDF): “Hammel is throwing [bleeping] meatballs.” 

DFBM to the world at large: “Get Hammel the [heck] out of there!”

Father and son (F&S) four rows back: “Let’s go Cubbies! Let’s go!” (clap-clap)


The Mets score 2 more runs.


Bottom of second inning:

DFBM: “I’m so sorry! I promise I’ll never spill beer on you again.”

I sigh. He’s sweetly contrite. My husband asks if I’d like my raincoat. “I might,” I say.

EDF to umpire: “Are you [bleeping] blind?”  (Mind you, we’re over 365 feet from home plate…)

DFBM: He’s hitting [bleeping] meatballs!

DFBM to hitter: “You [stink!]”


I listen, amazed, at these guys and many other fans around us yelling obscenities at the Mets AND the Cubs. “Why do they do that?” I ask my husband. “Why aren’t they more supportive?” He shakes his head and shrugs.


Third inning (6-0, Mets):

EDF to DFBM: “Wood came to put the fire out with his gas can.”

I think, Yay! Something positive.


Top of fourth inning (6-0, Mets):

DFBM: “I’m so sorry! I promised I’d never spill beer on you again. Listen, I owe you one.” He repeats this several times.

I wave him off. “No problem.” My husband places my W flag around my shoulders. 

F&S: “Let’s go Cubbies! Let’s go!” (clap-clap)


Bottom of the fourth inning: 

Cubs score! We all perk up. The diatribes soften.


Fifth inning (6-1, Mets):

EDF and DFBM on their way to get more beer. Hand on my shoulder. “You want one?”

“No thanks,” I say, lifting my water bottle. “I’m good.” (When they come back, we lean forward until they are settled.)


Sixth inning (6-1, Mets):

There’s an atmosphere of despondency. What happened to our winning team? (We beat the Cardinals, for Pete’s sake!)

The vitriol toward both teams increases exponentially. 


Seventh inning stretch:

The magic comes back temporarily while we sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” I pull the cloth off my shoulders and sway it back and forth like a banner of hope.


Seventh inning (6-1, Mets):

A DF (in front of us) yells at a Cub outfielder who missed a catch: “[Bleep] you and your [bleeping] glove!”

DFBM to EDF: “This is a microcosm of my life. Just bring me here and take out my heart.”


Eighth inning: Both Mets and Cubs score two runs. The energy escalates. We’re cautiously hopeful. 


Ninth inning (8-3, Mets): 

EDF is escorted out after nearly (deliberately) pouring his beverage on my son’s head. (My son had the audacity to stand up with 99% of the crowd and cheer his team, blocking EDF’s view. I had to use my mom voice on EDF, a middle-aged man.)

F&S: “Let’s. Go. Cubbies. Let’s Go! C’mon people, stand up! Let’s go, Cubbies. Let’s go!” (clap-clap)


Neither team scores. Final: Mets 8, Cubs 3. 


It was quite a night. In terms of observing the human animal, it was a rich experience. My takeaway is that there is a spectrum of fan support. I may not understand or identify with all the expressions of it, but even the most verbally-abusive fans seem loyal.


I was most impressed by the father and son who remained positive inning after inning. While they didn’t have a winning team, they showed unwavering support, sacrificing their vocal chords in support of their beloved Cubbies. In my book, that’s a home run. That’s the magic of baseball. I wish I could give them a hug and a throat lozenge. Maybe next year…











Vistas of the Heart

It’s July again, the time of year I wax rhapsodic about the sky. I love the mountainous clouds that linger on a calm day, and the intensely blue sky that fades into a softer hue near the horizon. I smile and take deep, satisfied breaths. 

We recently traveled to Arkansas for a family gathering. Indulging my nostalgia, we took the older highways through the Ozark mountains. I was reminded how gorgeous northern Arkansas is, with it’s wealth of natural beauty and expansive vistas that fall away from the edge of the road. Those vistas took me back to my childhood. On a particularly steep and winding stretch near Jasper, I looked back and exclaimed, “I remember that view!” 

My Girl Scout troop frequently went camping in state parks. We’d be driven in an old school bus by Mr. Pickett, a nice man who must have heard every campfire song ever written. We’d serenade him as we drove up into the hills, around the hairpin- and snake-curves. I thought about this as my husband navigated a tight switchback at 5 mph. Mr. Pickett must have had nerves of steel.

Seeing my hometown elicited many memories and emotions. Seeing old haunts, old friends, the parking lot next to the college chapel where our house used to be, improvements made to the college—now university—where my father taught, and the town itself that hasn’t changed much over the years…  These things forged a renewed connectedness to my past.

We buried my mother’s ashes next to my father’s grave, closing a thirty-five year gap. My mother had made the most of those years—reinventing herself after being widowed at 56. At the graveside ceremony, loved ones offered words to describe her: generous, loving, gracious, determined, kind. (Words that could equally be applied to my father.)

Under the artwork of summer sky, I reflect on the first July without my mother. She would have been 92 next week. Gazing into the vistas of my heart, I see a woman who left a legacy of love and modeled social consciousness. It is a sweet view.






Lasting Impressions

What began as lunch today, ended up as art. After finishing my salad, I realized that beet juice and olive oil had left an interesting design on the plate. A tree, perhaps? Coral?


The words lasting impressions whispered through my mind. Isn’t that how art (of any kind) touches us? It imprints us with something—leaving behind a sense of wonder, amazement, indifference, anger, or call to action. 


My family headed to Michigan over spring break to visit the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA). What a stellar museum! Our initial draw was the “Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit” exhibit. It shows preparatory drawings of Industrial murals that Rivera painted at the museum in the 1930’s, as well as Kahlo’s artistic efforts that began during that time.


Both the exhibit and the murals were fascinating. Rivera was a champion of the common worker, and managed to stay true to his principles while pleasing the wealthy industrialists who hired him. Kahlo’s work ranges from whimsical to disturbing. I sensed that she was a strong woman who wasn’t afraid to confront her inner demons.


We experienced serendipity in the form of a photography exhibit by Corine Vermeulen. This Dutch-born photographer was commissioned by the museum to show the vibrant diversity of the local communities. Young and old, rappers, students, dancers, bicycle enthusiasts, gardeners… The photographs are incredible. What really struck me was how Vermeulen captures the essence of a person. Almost no one is masked beneath a smile, but oh, how their eyes project the depths of a beautiful soul.


There are many interesting collections at the museum, and it was wonderful seeing new-to-me work by Impressionist artists I love, such as Monet, Renoir, and Mary Cassatt, and modern artists such as Dale Chihuly.


It was fun to experience the DIA with my husband and our two children, both Art + Design students. It was a sweet adventure that will stick with me a long, long time. And Detroit itself? It is a city of contrasts, with the potential to burst into bloom once again when the conditions are right. I truly hope that happens.








Mixing It Up

Routines. Patterns. Grooves. Habits. Do you find yourself in a rut because of them? I do. I find myself cooking the same meals, or walking the same route through our neighborhood, or even in a creative slump.


The antidote? Variety. Your brain will perk up and see new possibilities.


There is a quarter-mile path that circles our dog park. My natural tendency is to walk it clockwise, so I make a point of switching to counter-clockwise every couple visits. Same with routes I walk around my neighborhood. If I find myself going into default mode several days in a row, I turn the other direction. (Wookie appreciates the variety.)


I have CD’s that are my go-to music: Elaine Elias, Bebel Gilberto, Andrea Bocelli, Laura Nyro, Norah Jones…  Recently I set my stereo to “shuffle” mode, which orders the songs randomly, and it’s like hearing a new album each time. Whee!


Browsing through cookbooks and my old issues of Bon Apétit sparks my culinary creativity and reminds me that, yes, I am still a good cook who knows how to make more than roast chicken and vegetables. 


One of my goals this year is to play my instruments more, sing more, and write new songs. Since I’ve been saying that to myself for the last couple years (with marginal follow-through), I’ve made it a twenty- or thirty-minute warm-up to my daily writing session. Besides being fun, it's a great way to get the creative juices flowing.


How do you like to mix things up?


Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a banjo that needs tuning. 









If Writers Had Riders

With all the bru-ha-ha lately surrounding rock musicians and their (occasionally outrageous) contract riders, it makes me wonder: Do we writers have “special requirements” before we can settle down to the main event of writing? Does everything need to be just so before we can unleash our creativity?

For fun, I imagined what a contract for a persnickity, rock star writer might look like:  

1. White ceramic mug with WRITER MAMMA in dark blue lettering. Must work for a left-handed writer. (WRITER insists on the print facing her.) 

2. Box of PG Tips black tea, liquid non-dairy creamer, and powdered stevia.

Long-handled teaspoon for stirring. (Note: tea must be steeped exactly five minutes.)

3. Oil-filled space heater, turned on one hour prior to writing session.

4. Supply of Moleskine notebooks, no. 2 pencils (sharpened), and good-quality black ink pens (bold).

5. Ergonomic desk chair with adjustable height/tilt options. 

6. Fast computer with a pleasing screen-saver designed to stimulate creativity.

7. Morning snack: Seven (7) raw almonds, two (2) calimyra figs, and one (1) Godiva dark chocolate truffle.

8. Filtered water, room temperature.

9. Current issue of Writer’s Digest; several books on the craft of writing; dictionary; thesaurus; and Ann Lamont’s book, Bird by Bird.

10. Masseuse for neck, shoulder, and wrist massages every two hours.

11. Silence.

Did your inner-diva recognize any of these? [Cough] mine did.

What would you add to the list?