I woke on Friday morning with a glorious premonition: Waves of hot coffee flowing through the streets of America, scalding and scorching the unjust and unkind, the detritus of their wasted existences evaporating out of the dark river into the deepest black of the universe, and all that remained filtering — like fresh water into the Atlantic — into my mouth. Let me swallow the souls of the guilty! Let me feed on their sins and their greed!
Sometimes I get into those moods. I like those moods, don’t get me wrong; if we all rooted out real evil at the source, we’d all have a little easier of a time getting to sleep at night, I think. But I also like the moods where I take a break, sip the coffee down smooth instead of inhaling it like Oglogoth, son of H’gheghmenoth sucks up the souls of the predatory moneylenders, and catch up on a good book or take in the local scenery of whatever strange new world into which I driven my duct-taped rental car.
So here I report to you from beautiful Lakeville, Massachusetts, a town of about 10,000 folks tucked in the southwestern end of Plymouth County. I’ve found Wi-Fi in a beautiful stone building that a few enterprising residents have turned into a cozy book cafe; the coffee here costs about two bucks for a small hot one, the stacks stand full of classics and well-known series, and you can sit in just about any couch or chair here and find yourself not wanting to get back on your own two feet. I like a place like this most of all. You don’t get a business like this in New York City for the most part. Barnes & Noble used to have the comfy seats and outlets and Wi-Fi that would work, but they took it all away in an effort to chase out the homeless. It hasn’t worked. Let me tell you, Fred — a guy I know who often camps out in front of the Union Square store selling his own books for spare change — has never been happy about that change, and I agree with him. Local bookstores forever. Support your warm and wonderful hometown book cafe today. Big ups to the late Thanks A Latte, the coffee nook in Manlius, New York that made a sleepy little shopping plaza come alive.
Last night I went to my first Fenway Park game, in which the Boston Red Sox put up a lukewarm fight against the Los Angeles Dodgers, falling 11-2 after nine innings of foul ball filled play. I now own a hat that says Fenway Park underneath the Citgo triangle, because I’ll damn myself if I ever own or wear a hat with a team logo or name other than that of the New York Mets. But I love Fenway; aside from Wrigley, no other ballpark comes close to its history, its magnificence, its culture, and its ties to its home city. Yankee Stadium? Forget it; that original park opened well after Fenway, and the new one has too much glitz and glamour. I hate to say it, but Citi Field suffers from that same modernized soullessness. I understand you have to keep a place up with the times, but Fenway has done that while preserving what has made it a classic venue for sport for over a century. Plus, if anyone ever comes up with new plans to take down Fenway and build something else, the city of Boston will break their legs, and so will I. (I’ll agree with anyone who says that they shouldn’t have rebuilt Yankee Stadium. I’ll bash the team all I want, but I’ll have a soft spot in my heart for looking at the old park during my trips to the city as a kid.)
This sort of wistful thinking leads to my ire for the Dodgers. I understand that baseball has its ways, and the business sometimes demands that teams travel from one place to another in order to survive. (Hell, I feel for Cleveland sometimes. When the Browns will the Super Bowl, the state of Ohio will separate from the United States and shoot into the sky.) And I never grew up to watch the Dodgers play baseball in Brooklyn; my parents didn’t even come around until a few years after they split for the West. But I live now right near Prospect Park, and sometimes I take a run over to the park’s east side, and I see the housing project that they’ve built atop the ruins of Ebbets Field, and I think about the fact that they built a new field for the Mets not in Brooklyn where a glorious stadium used to stand, but in a godforsaken corner of deep Queens like an afterthought. Then they tore down that stadium and built another one on top of it, and while Citi Field has some of the old touches that Ebbets used to have, part of me feels like it should stand tall and welcoming in the heart of Brooklyn, rather than alone and almost desolate near the Nassau County line. So my anger doesn’t belong to the Dodgers, I guess; it should belong to Robert Moses and Walter O’Malley whose spat in the middle of the 20th century led to what we New York non-Yankees fans must now call home for our baseball.
But I tell you, while I watched the Dodgers’ Justin Turner slug a home run over the Green Monster, I wanted to yell: “You belong in Brooklyn!” Ebbets Field would have been the second-oldest ballpark still standing, if the Dodgers had remained in it. Can you imagine Brooklyn’s own version of all the weird quirks that Fenway has to offer? That’s why I love Fenway, even if my relationship with the Red Sox remains supportive in order to honor my fiancee’s love for her home team. I sat in the bleachers and looked out over the history of that place, and wondered if I could have had a ball park like that where I grew up, or where I live now, so that I can feel like a part of something historic. I suppose, though, that you have to think of the Ship of Theseus. If you rebuild something so much — even from the ground up — and keep calling it by its old name, does it still retain its old identity? Can the Mets feel like the Dodgers? Can Citi Field feel like Ebbets Field? If they ever sneak around the Boston faithful in the dead of night to tear down Fenway — turn around three times and spit — will Red Sox fans come to find refuge in a new home?
While writing this, I had to relocate from the cozy book cafe — which was closing — to a nearby Dunkin’, which feels like the most New England thing I can imagine. I’ll head back to New York and my visions of usurping the gluttonous in rivers of dark roast in a bit; hope you all have the lights on over there. +