Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hoist the Colors, Indeed: Out to the Ballgame

Last weekend Jenifer and I found ourselves the lucky bearers of tickets to a Lancaster Barnstormers baseball game. 'Round here the attractions are the Reading Phillies and the Wilmington Blue Rocks, but we weren't going to pass up a chance to spend some quality time with my parents.

It's always strange returning home because I know the place better as someone who spent more time running the streets than driving them, and as an adult I rarely know where to go, what to do, where the food is. But thanks to the miracle of mailing lists, we know about and locate the funky Senorita Burrita in the up-and-coming midtown. We grab some great California Mission-style burritos and then, bellies full, in some cases really full, we hike through the stifling haze to the stadium.

Late in the game Jenifer is overheated and hungry and so I am sent to retrieve some ice cream. I scan the menu board and quickly determine that a cone is right out, considering the heat and melting point of ice cream, not to mention my extreme aversion to that messy condition Luke Danes of Stars Hollow aptly termed "jam hands."

Ah, a dish of ice cream. I have a long-standing dislike for the terminology, but the method sounds promising. There's something overly fussy about a "dish" of ice cream, and I didn't especially want to order one now and violate a dearly held conviction of my teenage years, when one of my (well-meaning) neighbors would occasionally invite me in for a dish of ice cream after I finished mowing his yard. A bowl I might have accepted, but not a dish, and in fact I didn't because I was a distance runner in those days and distance runners are crazy.

So I order this dish and in mere moments am confronted with a heaping pile of mint chocolate chip that is bursting beyond its paperboard confines; only then do I discover that a half-pint goes for 25 cents less. I've made my choice, I'm committed, but surely a half-pint is larger than a dish, I tell myself, the former having the ethos of geometry behind it, the latter signifying the forlorn remnants of an estate sale.

I pay the teenage purveyors of ice cream, judge them malevolently for assuredly having no dearly held conviction on the terminology of containers, and return to the fray. It's at this point that I realize we've reached the Act II turning point in the game, for now the Sounds & Furies are blasting in full effect: the lights are flashing, the mad organ player is pounding, Cylo the fuzzy red cow is emitting his grand moo (which is followed by a fat, enveloping bass tone that may well have been copped from the THX sound test), and no less august an American master than Yosemite Sam himself is barking at the opposing team's pitcher to "Quit stallin'!" All the stops are pulled out, folks, and the sun is setting, the carousel beyond left field is a-whirling, and by God if there isn't something close to magic in the air. It's corny, it's cheap, but there's a buzz in the crowd that isn't entirely fueled by seven-dollar beers, a fervor and a fever that's threatening to leak out and spread into the city streets like the MacGuffin in a latter-day Batman movie. Something is Happening and therefore we must Make Some Noise, or maybe it's the other way around, and I teeter between succumbing to the Chiba City hysterics of s(t)imulation and cresting a wave of myth and memory of sunlight days when I, too, played this game and dug my feet into the red dirt and tapped my bat on the dusty and scratched solidity of home plate. This must be something like America, and it's alright.

And this is to say nothing of the movie clips playing throughout the evening on the not-quite-Jumbotrons at the edge of the outfield. We are told that when the going gets tough, the tough get going and I sense the crime in never having seen Animal House; and later I recall with fondness how much I loved The Dream Team upon its release (and realize that it may well not hold up to a present-day screening). But the one that gets me is Elizabeth Swann's Saint Crispin's Day speech from the climax of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. It's a "popcorn movie," and a flawed one, but nonetheless this clip hits me where I want to be hit, and I wonder whether I'm the pregnant one, and then I can't help but laugh (at myself, too) when the pirates' hoisting of the colors cuts to the one-man cheerleading team waving the Barnstormers' standard, brandishing a plastic cutlass, and finally cannonballing into a swimming pool.

I know that I'm not alone in being affected by this stream of amusements, and I realize, maybe not consciously, that this commonality of feeling is something I haven't felt in this country in a long time. I've felt it in Europe, but it is different there and more differentiated here. Movies, baseball, ice creamheck, even Ol' Blue Eyes crooning as fireworks bloom beyond center fieldwe know these tropes, and even if the common man in the stands holds dearly a conviction on this terminology and judges me malevolently for choosing it, they signal and announce our capacity to fulfill those moments, however brief, when we rise to do our best work in the service and defense of others and ourselves. They will know what we can do! And in this moment I know that this game, this stadium, all this blessed folderol, for this community, is good.

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Blogger Tony Shoemaker said...

Soooo.... what cher sayin is that it took going to a minor league baseball game to realize that being a eurosnob is not all its cracked up to be and that being part of America is pretty awesome. Welcome to the party! ;)

11:37 PM  
Blogger Brett said...

1) Never seen ANIMAL HOUSE?

I understand each of the words individually, yet I have no freakin clue how to make sense of that sentence.


2) I say this with all the love and friendship I can fake without effort, but you remain an effete undersized wad of self-loathing Eurosnob. I bet you smoke fancy-pants imported cigarettes and hold them upside down, precious pale pinky in the air. Go riot at a "football" match, you disco-dancing Abba-loving putter of mayo onto Freedom Fries.







4) I own a vintage Wilmington Blue Rocks jersey.

No, I do not know why.

yer ever-luvin

9:33 AM  
Blogger Ryan Rasmussen said...

My good fellows,

Please won't you pardon my delay in responding to your inquiries? I pray you understand my firm policy of never communicating whilst motoring on the Vespa. For, you see, I am only lately returned from a most glorious repast. Today's spread, if you must know, featured Bavarian artesian crackers spread with the finest French goat cheese, along with a delectable organic vegetable tart, all washed down with a crisp, sparkling Ramlösa. Didn't want to overdo it before the evening's bout of croquet! (Although perhaps there's still ample time for a bit of that full-bodied and micro-brewed Polignano a'Mare. Magnifico!)

5:49 PM  
Blogger Brett said...

Kerfluffle, I say. With a heaping side order of folderal.

PS-- "artesian crackers"? What-- do they spray from the ground in a geyser of saltines? Disssss-gusting.

7:40 PM  
Anonymous Jenifer said...

Dr Kracker:

so delicious. :D best crackers since new zealand (those crackers were made by a local bakery and were incredible. i miss them!)

9:29 PM  
Blogger Ryan Rasmussen said...

Good man, B, you passed the test. However, as you must certainly already know, the lauded ARTISAN Doktor Krackers hail not from the Black Forest as originally confabulated, but from...Dallas. In fact, they are "Certified Organic by Texas Department of Agriculture." Perhaps there's something happening down there you're not telling us about? Hmm?

10:53 AM  

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