Airplane.

I’ve always loved airports.  Maybe that’s weird, I don’t know, but I love them.  Today I’m on my way back to Cali for my cousin’s wedding.  I’m a little giddy at the prospect of having an excuse to make my way through the full airport experience that comes along with cross country travel.  It’s the first trip I’ve taken on my own in five years and I plan on soaking up every minute of the freaking freedom. Honestly, I thought we were going to have a slew of weddings to go to over the past thirteen years since my husband and I got hitched, but  this is only the third. Most of my cousins either eloped or are not married yet, which seems weird to me. Not the eloping, the not being married. Not in like a what the heck is wrong with them weird, like a what the hell would I do with myself if I didn’t have all these people to take care off all the time weird.  I feel like I would accomplish so much if I had that kind of freedom. Man can you imagine? Deciding what I wanted to do with my evenings and weekends. Having a schedule that allowed me to take advantage of those airline deals where you can go to Hawaii for like sixty five dollars? Plus I would actually have the sixty five dollars to spend on myself!   Seriously though I would probably just waste time and money on getting my nails done and drinking a ridiculous amount of Starbucks.

Whatever I’m getting all ADD, point is this cousin is finally getting married. Which means I get to hit up Hartsfield Jackson, which for me is like an added bonus to the whole thing.  For those of you who don’t know Hartsfield Jackson is the massive international airport in Atlanta. Delta basically owns half the place. Which is funny since today is the first time I have EVER flown Delta either into or out of Atlanta.  No surprise the entire south terminal is Delta flights only. As I made my way through mid town in rush hour traffic I came to the realization that I have no idea where the parking is for the South Terminal. Nor do I know how to get into the actual terminal to the security checkpoint after I park.  The prospect of trying to figure this out induces a mild panic attack, you have to understand Atlanteans don’t do the driving so good. You’ve either got someone next to or in front of you going a nice steady five mph under the speed limit, or you’ve got the next team of stunt drivers for The Fast and the Furious cutting in and out of lanes.  Combine that with the giant pickups with camo themed bumper stickers blocking your view, the worst road engineering possible, and the hide and seek sign placement game we like to play and you’ve got driving in Atlanta in a nutshell. So here I am knowing I’ve got to bring my A game to have any chance of not missing my parking exit and having to completely recircle the airport.  The sun is totally working with me of course, if by working with me you mean blinding me despite my defensive tactics of using sunglasses and my car’s sun visor.

Victorious I eventually find a spot in the economy lot and look like a crazy parking lot paparazzi lady as I take pictures of all the parking signs anywhere near my car.  To be fair the first time I flew back into Hartsfield Jackson I couldn’t find my car and spent about an hour at ten o’clock at night walking through empty economy lots trying to find it.  Hopefully we won’t have to repeat that. I know there are no guarantees though. I mean shit like that is just kind of my MO. Pray for my safe return.

I realize that the South Terminal parking is right next to a runway.  I can smell the jet fuel as I try to hustle to the terminal. Hustling because, yah okay, I might have left the house like half an hour later than I should have, and you know, Atlanta traffic.  Planes are taxiing by and I watch them, kind of fascinated by the huge beasts, until one kicks up their engine. I feel the adrenaline shoot through me at the sound of take off, my brain actually processing that I am going to be in one of these monstrosities miles above ground in about an hour.  I said I like airports guys, I HATE flying. Like with a burning passion. I despise flying in an I have to mix psychiatric drugs with alcohol to even step foot on a plane way.  So when this stupid plane which is about to take off kicks it’s shit into gear I start to lose it.  I think I even started to walk faster to escape the horror happening on the runway, which is such a contrary reaction since I am walk towards boarding a plane.  Whatever brain, you just keep chillin up there all fercockt and shit(Yiddish lesson for the day guys). I’ve got lorazepam in my bag, I take note reminding myself to pop a pill or two (or ten) once I make it through security.

I make it into the South Terminal and decipher the signs that eventually lead me to security.  I’m regretting my shoe choice now. I’ve walked about fifteen miles and my cute strappy sandals aren’t keeping up.  Oh well, fashion bitches! They’ve got the dogs out which makes me weirdly happy. I love these security dogs. They are the goodest of boys you guys (Reddit for the win).  This is where we get to the point of why I love airports so much, no not because of the dogs. I love airports because I love watching people, and what better sample of the human population do you encounter than in an airport.  I love imagining up people’s backstories and putting them in their character category in my mind. I speculate on where their heading and what their actions say about them. I decide this one guy I keep passing in the snake like security line has got to be an athlete.  He’s tall and lean but still built, traveling light with kick ass headphones. He reminds me of my brother, therefor I have dubbed him an athlete. I see a couple of kids in line with their moms. I have to refrain from making some sort of mom power arm signal to these women.  Trust me ladies I’ve been there, solidarity. When one of the kids passes by me with his finger stuck up his nose I have to stop myself from knocking his hand away from his face. Mom instincts, they replace all social norms. I see a couple of asian girls snapping away pictures on their phones.  I text husband and ask him if he thinks I should start taking selfies from all angles while I wait in the security line. I REALLY want to but I decide I don’t want to upset fido’s bomb sniffing groove so I refrain.

I make it through security only getting minorly annoyed with the couple in front of me.  Alright, for those who do not know here is the proper security line etiquette: DO NOT take up the majority of the baggage belt by separating every bag, jacket, and electronic you own.  About three hours later I finally reach over and grab my shit.  I move quick while carrying my laptop in my arms until I make it to a bench, I will not be the slow person.  Now it’s plane train time peeps!  Hell yah! There’s nothing better than the flu infested plane train!!!  Now you can catch everyone’s germs before you even board the plane! Except I realize as I go to board this thing that I have no idea what gate I’m headed to.  I scramble to find Delta749 on the monitors and am glad to see that my gate is the first stop for the train. Less germ exposure and I can hopefully finally get some coffee.

It wasn’t really my fault per say that I was running behind schedule this morning.  I had to get kids fed, packed, and ready for school and say lengthy goodbyes before I left the house.   Husband was especially helpful today, standing in the kitchen making repeated half jokes about the plane leaving without me.  Then actually starting to panic that I was going to actually miss my flight. He panicked, not me. I’m starting to wonder what he has planned this weekend that he was that freaked out about me sticking around.  Remind kids to spy on dad. Really though, his barrage of criticisms on my time management was super helpful. I mean way more so than packing a lunch or two. Thanks sweet cheeks! Kisses! Needless to say in my rush I left my sweet sweet morning crack elixor (coffee, I’m talking about coffee guys) on the counter.  I realized it about three minutes into my drive and burst into sobs much to the amusement of the commuter next to me. They may have been taking pictures. You know what, anyone would react this way with the journey I was about to endure! Atlanta traffic and Hartsfield Jackson without caffeine. Balls.

Once I peaced out from the plane train I made it my mission to find some damn coffee, oh and water and gum.  The latter two being more easy to come by. Although the woman behind the counter at the marketplace store was probably literally half my height (homegrown amazon here) and couldn’t reach all the way over the counter.  I have the fine motor skills of a chimpanzee so it was an awkward exchange. Now it was crunch time. Coffee. I was going to start taking people down soon if I didn’t get a hit. About halfway to my gate I find a Dunkin with an acceptable line length.  I won’t have to shive other patrons in line to get my order in faster, hopefully. I bee line over cutting off a group of weary travelers on the way, I’d apologize, but I’m not sorry. Sorry.

To make my wait more bearable I watch what other people order, I wonder if they usually eat breakfasts like this or if their orders are enhanced because they’re traveling.  Now don’t get me wrong I am in no way in the shape I should be, or have been in the past, but I also am not a big donut or morning carb person. I’m thirty five guys, not twenty two.  I had a Yoplait at home, so really all I want is a damn cup of regular coffee. I notice that they are displaying a spring themed donut topped with sprinkles and a full sized candy peep.  Yah, you know those marshmallow ducklings? They put one on a donut. To each their own but I’m pretty sure I would go into diabetic ketoacidosis if I tried to eat that thing. They end up putting the cream and sweetner in my coffee themselves and it tastes like syrup instead of coffee.  I made myself drink half of it just so I was at a functioning level before I board the plane.

Sipping my cup of sugar I realized I still haven’t taken the lorazepam.  All ninja like i try to dig my prescription bottle out of my bag, then sort through all the pills to find one of the tiny white dots of wonder.  I know I’m not supposed to combine all my drugs in one bottle, but I like to travel light and I don’t like sounding like I’m walking around with a pharmacy in my backpack.  I mean I’m not selling the shit, I don’t want to share. I haven’t had alcohol yet though, it’s only eight forty five in the morning. Like I’ve said before, I have standards.  Besides I’m pretty sure they sell hard liquor on planes. I’ll get drunk after boarding.

Since a lot of the traveling I’ve done over the past few years has been for competitive sports trips, yah we’re one of those families, I’m used to traveling on base fares with the lightest luggage possible.  I learned last night that the way Delta has their base fare set is to not give you a seat assignment until you show up at the gate. Meaning I have no idea where I’m sitting and I’m one of the last people to get on the plane.  While I wait husband is texting me to annoy me about being late for the flight again. Seriously, what the fuck does he have planned??? He sends me a find my friend image showing me at the gate. I consider turning around and heading home to make sure he isn’t running a cult out of our basement.  Pretty sure middle kid would be the leader of it if he was. I decide I don’t want to know what is happening in our basement, plausible deniability and all, and stay at the gate. I’m meeting my mother in California and she is seriously about to combust with excitement. Not over me, over the whole wedding.  I’m not that exciting I promise. She is one of two people I know who don’t drink, she should. I may spike her soda at some point this weekend if she can’t calm her shit down. Right now she’s texting me asking if I’m at the gate yet, oh and also SHE CAN”T WAIT! I haven’t had enough coffee yet to deal with this level of crazy so I ignore the text and instead send one to husband asking if I should respond to her saying, “ I’m just parking but I’m so excited!!!”  She has my flight schedule, I regret that decision now. she knows when my plane leaves. I think her brain would break if I sent her that text. She doesn’t get jokes.

After basically everyone else has boarded I finally get my seat number.  I am just hoping it’s not a middle seat, I have about 40 pages I want to try and edit.   This task is going to be really difficult without being able to move my arms or if I think someone is reading my seriously crappy rough draft over my shoulder.  I get 19A, I can work with that, A is usually a window seat. I make my way brutally slowly with the heard of passengers down that tunnel thing, you know the tunnel thing… it make you go plane inside(I honestly don’t have a clue what that thing is actually called).  Some guy in front of me really needs to brush his teeth. It’s gross. I text this to husband and then ask him if I should act like one of those super friendly bubbly people and offer everyone around me a piece of gum, you know, for their popping ears!

I finally make my way down the aisle.  Businessmen who are clearly tragically optimistic that the free seat next to them will not be filled look at me with both resignation and hope in their eyes.  No worry good sirs your plight will carry on, for I have procured myself a window seat… in the exit row! Leg room baby! I send husband a selfie and say, “Guess who’s in charge if there’s an emergency????”  He texts back saying that we’re all doomed. I text the same thing to my mom, she tells me to have a nice flight and she’ll see me at the airport! I told you. She doesn’t get jokes.

I’ve gotten my Lorazepam and Caffeine fix so I’ll probably survive, for now.  I plug in my ear buds and listen to “On A Plain” because I mean, come on. I watch out the window as we taxi to the runway calmer than I would be, but still kind of jumpy.  Then that sound of the engine revving hits me and I know that’s it. There is no turning back at that point. It’s funny because even when I’ve flown sans chemical assistance I always resigned myself to the fact that after take off that’s it.  If you’re going down you’re going down. You’re stuck now bitch, hahahahaha!

Well whatever.  I guess I’ll enjoy my high, maybe get some questionable editing done and start drinking heavily if we hit turbulence.  I mean it’s a wedding weekend right? Let’s get this party started! How early is too early to order tequila?

Baseball.

It’s baseball season, and apparently I have A LOT to say about baseball.  Today alone I’ve made three attempts to write one simple blog post about the good old national pastime.  Up until now I’ve ended up with two short stories and a rambling page of baseball themed nonsense. So, yah, it might take me a while to fully work through this topic. Don’t worry I’m going to try to keep this post to just the basics.  At least my basics.

Wait!  I see the fear in your eyes, don’t run!  No need to panic, I’m not a fanatic, I promise.   You’re not going to be subjected to pages of player stats, playoff projections based on spring training standings, who’s on the DL, or who we should trade.  Nope. Trust me, I don’t care about any of that. Yes, my baseball is the same box of cracker jacks on a warm summer night game as yours, but I’ve never gotten the chance to experience a game as just a fan.  I come from a sort of baseball mafia, if you will.  My Grandfather played baseball, my father played baseball, and my brother plays baseball.  When I say “play baseball” I don’t mean they were the first baseman on their High School team senior year when they won State.  I mean middle kid and I happened to leave the TV on a network channel last night, a game came on and we ended up watching my brother face down The Braves.  Don’t ask me what team he’s on, if I tell you I’d have to kill you (mafia and pseudonym remember?).

Growing up baseball was a constant. We spent weekends at the fields practicing, or in my case fielding balls once I made it clear softball was no longer in my future.  There was always a game taking over our living room television, a running commentary of my father’s take on the mentality of the sport it’s soundtrack. The sounds of Vin Scully’s voice or the Braves Tomahawk Chop would probably put me right back in front of that set at ten years old.  For any baseball aficionados following along the family has southern roots, but we lived in Dodger territory, hence the references. The family schedule revolved around trainings and games. Eventually “vacations” were taken to tournament locations. We just kind of became…the baseball family.

This is where the story turns.  Where I start to get stuck each time I begin on the topic of baseball.  I want to explain what it’s like watching the career of a professional athlete take shape.  I want to explain the importance of the mentality of the game, and that all you couch coaches out there don’t actually have the inside understanding of what’s happening on the field.  I want to explain what I know about players relationships, many that begin as teens. I want to explain that these players were nationally ranked kids far before you ever heard their names.  I really want to explain chronic injuries and how stats don’t matter the way everyone wants them to. I never can quite get to any of this though, I think it’s because I have a more important topic I need to tackle first.

In our family baseball was never a choice.  It was a given. It was stereotypical. You had the parent that couldn’t separate his inability to make it out of the minor leagues, his fate due to lack of either will power or skill.  His failure possibly, even sadder, due to lack of confidence. Like I said, stereotypical. Although, we never did recreate that whole coming of age movie moment with the kid tearfully saying, “it’s your dream, not mine.”  There was no real rebellion, since a major league career was, in fact, my brother’s goal too. Now, there was a turning point for sure. Sometime around the beginning of my brother’s high school career it was made clear to my father that it was time for him to start stepping back.  My brother didn’t need him anymore, he had outgrown the coaching my father was able to offer. This was something I don’t think my father was ever able to fully accept, that he wasn’t needed anymore. He began trying to push himself into my brother’s world. He couldn’t let go, eventually his bleacher coaching became so disruptive he was banned from sitting near the infield at games.  He couldn’t stop himself. The situation became increasingly somber. My father somehow lost his entire identity in his son’s ability to play a game. While our family had been built on shaky ground from the get go, this codependency was the unstable fault line underneath that made our weak foundation begin to crumble. My brother got better. My father lost more control. Son would get moved to a higher level team.  Dad would get reckless. He got called up. Dad had no purpose.

Eventually the only relationship that lasted between the two were post game text messages of advice from a man who had nothing better to do but obsessively watch baseball games.  He desperately clung to a purpose by to give critiques to the players, men who were closer than he had ever been to being experts in the game. Inevitably his desperation caught up to him and created a self destructive breakdown.   This period, wrought with addiction and desperation, resulted in the whole structure of our family crashing down. We were all left to pick up the pieces from the rubble. My brother and I dealt with the instability that followed by constructing a wall blocking us from ever building over the fault again.  My brother and I on one side, my father on the other, trying to make sense of the shambles in front of him. Broken glass and mortar he had built and torn apart himself. My father was never a good man, but a few years after the dust has settled I think I may have a better understanding of how his life snowballed the way it did.  The catalyst always being a stupid game.  

The why of it all we can leave for a four hundred page case study I’ll work on writing once my novel is done.  Right now let’s just focus on the fact that a grown man lost himself so deep into the idea that the only way to succeed in life was to turn his son into a professional baseball player.  This belief was so ingrained in him that when said son no longer needed him he suffocated son. The suffocation to a point that he was pushed out of son’s life. Eventually losing his entire family and own job in the process.  I’m not kidding guys, this was the result.  All over a freaking game.

Do you understand now why it’s so hard for me to just talk about baseball?  It was a slowly burning fire in the basement of my life, eventually rising up and swallowing us all in it’s flames.  For a long time I took all this out on the game itself. I HATED baseball. To me the game symbolized everything that was wrong in my home.  I am pretty sure I didn’t watch a single baseball game from 2005-2011. Then something crazy happened. My brother had been stuck in AA for a while and wasn’t getting any younger, he had decided that this was going to be the last year he played.  He almost walked away mid season. Ironically, or maybe expectedly, the best advice that was given to him was from our father. He said to my brother what I can only imagine he wishes someone had said to him, “If you can walk away and never look back then, awesome, do it.  If you’re going to look back and wonder what if, don’t.”  My brother decided to give it the season.  In September he got called up. I went to my first game in years at Chavez Ravine, home of our childhood summers, to cheer on my little brother.  I still cry sometimes when I see him in person in the middle of a giant stadium fans of the team cheering and supporting him, because you guys I am SO FUCKING PROUD OF HIM.  He always had talent, but when you get to a certain point everyone has talent.  He achieved his goal with sheer hard work, sacrifice, and unwavering determination.  Plus a little bit of being with the right team at the right time. I used to feel like my brother achieved his goal despite my father, but I don’t anymore.  He had the chance to chase his dream because of our father, then suffered the loss of that father in the process.

I am finding now that the bitter feelings that once kept me away from the game are gone, in their place pleasant twinges of nostalgia.  Over time I think my brother and I rewrote our story regarding the game. It helps that he sees the absurdity of it all. He describes his work as, “chasing a ball around a field with other grown men.”  When I think back now to the baseball of our childhood I remember warm summer evenings at Dodger stadium with big silly foam fingers and backwards caps. I remember little league games with the smell of freshly cut grass and the sound of cheering parents.  I remember fielding batting practice in the outfield at our school with our Golden Retriever. I remember my brother’s smile when he won, I remember hours upon hours of watching him bounce a ball against a wall because he just couldn’t stop.  I remember that for him and I there was a time when it was just a game, and it was fun.

We now live in this weird existence where I can watch a recap of my brother’s day at work on ESPN.  Seriously, I have never once asked him how work is going. All I have to do is look up his hashtag on twitter, some guy with a handle like @StickAndBalls will be happy to let the whole world know how awful/amazing he thinks my bro is.  We don’t really get to see each other during the season, because even when we do meet it’s for an hour or two for breakfast and then he has to go to the field. It’s impossible to see him at the field because everyone wants a piece of him, and it’s his job to give that to them.  We still dutifully wait by his team’s dugout before the game starts, just to lend our support. We understand, but we miss him and he misses us. This won’t be forever though. Eventually it will be his son’s turn to play, or not play. He’s going to let his son decide for himself.

My kids?  They don’t love baseball, but they don’t hate it.  They think it’s totally normal to see your uncle on TV and that everyone gets to go to the players club at games, or down to the family room.  It just hit middle kid this year that he was being asked for autographs when we stood outside his hotel in San Diego. We discussed plans to meet up at the game for a few minutes (third baseline, right after BP, always) while boys with sharpies in their hands shyly murmured requests for a signature.  He couldn’t say no. My kids like the cotton candy and peanuts, they don’t love Suntrust Park, it’s too hot. They like PNC Park and Federal Street, they’re over long scoreless innings. They like wearing team tshirts, backward caps, and foam fingers. They say “oh cool” when I tell them to “look at the TV, your uncle is on it!”  Then they usually keep on walking out of the room. Yet sometimes, like last night, one of them will sit next to me and route for their uncle’s team for a few innings. They’ll talk about the plays and the calls, they know all the basics of the game but wonder about the intricacies. They’ll ask about players, some of whom I’ve known since we were only a little older than the kids are now.  Others I’ve met over the years at games, restaurants, and hotels. The rookies now look like babies to me, when did that happen? I remember always thinking how the players on TV all looked so old. I sit with them and talk, about the game, the people, and my memories for as long as they’ll listen. Eventually a commercial break will come on and they’ll wander away.

My kids may never have as much to say about baseball as I do, and that’s probably a good thing.  I have realized that I don’t want the family baseball book to close after me. I want them to remember warm summer evenings and “flossing” on the jumbotron.  I hope they someday realize how cool it is to have a player who always meets you at the third base line with a ball to toss your way. I hope they come to understand that in this rewritten version of our family this game has found a way to morph itself into a tie that binds us together, not push us apart.   It’s ten o’clock and the top of the ninth. Middle kid just sat down and asked who’s winning. Her uncle just came into the game, she’s gonna watch him close this thing down.