DFA: A BLOG ABOUT LIFE ON THE BASEBALL MARGINS: January 30, 2008
DFA, chapter 9: Living on the Yankee Dollar
When I got inside the airline terminal, you were probably expecting me to book the first flight to Miami and then head to my home in Sarasota. I intended to do that, too.
But I didn’t, and here’s why: In an earlier post, I said that I didn’t have a steady girlfriend. That’s not exactly true. I mean, it’s both true and false, like a pitch on the black. The reality depends on who’s on the mound, who’s in the batter’s box and the fat guy behind the plate. (Question: Why are so many authority figures, like politicians, cops and umps, so fat? Question #2: Why are both cops and umps called “the men in blue”? Whoever answers both questions right wins a pair of tickets to a game at, uh, whatever team I play for next – if I play anywhere at all.)
Where was I? Oh, yeah. The reality as I see it is that I do have a girlfriend. She’s crazy about me, sings my praises at the drop of a curve and yet disappears for months at a time and almost never wants to see me. One time I didn’t hear from her for a year, then she called me up and acted as if she’d seen me yesterday and that time and space didn’t exist in her world.
Her name is Kara. She lives in Manhattan. And I was stuck on her for no good reason and a thousand bad ones.
Her real name was Karen, but she thought that made her “sound like a lesbian,” which I never understood. I met her on a road trip a couple years ago when I was with the Tri-City ValleyCats (I know, gag me with the resin bag) and we came down from Troy, N.Y. (where we played in Joe Bruno Stadium, a.k.a. “the Joe”) to play the Brooklyn Cyclones. After the game, a bunch of the guys went to some Manhattan strip club, but I had no interest in blowing my paycheck on some coked-out, half-silicone, groin-grinding Guatemalan Tiffany. Hell, I would’ve worn my cup before I went in.
Besides the girlettes and the sleazy, drooling ape-men in their Italian suits smoking Cuban cigars and the throbbing gay-robot music and the whole atmosphere of a Mafioso cave, another reason I skipped the strip joints – and any other kind of club – is that I don’t drink, smoke or like loud music. Like I wrote at the beginning of the Blog Monster, I prefer New Age music to hip-hop. (Go ahead and diss.)
In fact, the only thing worse than spending hours in dark, noisy clubs with names like Pacha where you have to scream your “lines” to be heard by the woman who’s screaming her lines back at you would be … I don’t know …being married to Bruce Froemming.
So I tend to socialize with my teammates only enough to avoid antagonizing them or being labeled an oddball. That kind of rep quickly filters up to the FO and soon everybody in baseball thinks you’re a “head case.” (A “head case” is anybody who reads a book, thinks for himself and isn’t either a party animal or a Christian.)
And the chicks who hang around minor league parks – well, like I said at the beginning of this blog, you don’t want to run that beef. That’s Mad Cow beef. So I tried meeting women on the Internet.
That’s where I met Kara – on a site called Craig’s List, which was a kind of clearing house for the back of humanity’s garage, someplace where you could find a job, a room, a pet, an old pair of socks and a new form of Chlamydia. I answered this ad that read, “Are you above average?” and had a photo of this beautiful, exotic woman (she was half-Irish, half-Korean). Since I was hitting .256 at the time, and the league was hitting .255, I figured I might just squeak by.
She responded to my email, said that I didn’t sound like a typical jock, asked me what I was doing in New York, and when I told her “I was chased out of Venezuela by gamblers” she shot back a text message, “I have to meet you.” We agreed to meet at an Armenian restaurant in someplace called DUMBO, which I wasn’t sure if it was in Brooklyn or Manhattan. She was an hour late and when she got to the restaurant she pretended not to recognize me. That was her idea of a joke.
I should’ve walked away then and there. She invited me up to her place, then accused me of being a stalker, swore everlasting devotion yet stood me up almost every time we made a date, flashed her p---y at me, then threatened to leave me forever if I so much as kissed her. She was so insanely insane, so impossibly impossible that if there was a Hall of Fame for Psycho Chicks, she’d have her own wing.
Yet on some level we understood each other. She was a military brat herself, her father a GI who took her mom out of Korea and kept shuttling her around from base to base along the greater 48. Also she was an artist, and so was used to always being misunderstood, the odd one out. She wasn’t impressed that I was ballplayer. She knew nothing about baseball, just like I knew nothing of installations; at first I thought she had a day gig as a plumber or something – but liked me for who I was. Even if I didn’t know myself.
Sure, she was loony and as unstable as a termite-eaten bleacher. And yeah, she wouldn’t sleep with me because then I’d be just like all the other guys and she wouldn’t respect me in the morning. And as much as I knew she couldn’t help me figure out where to go and what to do after Venezuela any more than Doug Mirabelli’s knuckleball mitt, when I went to the Aeropostal ticket counter and the clerk asked me my destination, I said, “New York City.”
I had five hundred bucks and two changes of warm-weather clothes. It was mid-January, and when I stepped out of Kennedy Airport, I was met by a rain so cold and leaden it felt like one of those Norse gods was shooting ice pellets at the world.
I decided to call Kara from the airport. In not even a ring’s worth of time, I heard a female robot say, “The party who you are trying to call cannot be reached at this time.” I tried a couple of more times but got the same robot refrain.
I got into a cab and told the cabbie to take me to Suffolk Street on the Lower East Side, where Kara lived. I watched the city’s lights smeared through the windshield while the cabbie spoke Indian on his cell. After a ten-hour flight – the longest I’d ever taken – I was in that bleary state of hyper-alertness, so when the cab had finished snaking through the city and got to Suffolk Street, I remembered to keep the cabbie waiting while I rang Kara’s bell. No response. I tried calling her once more and got the robot, then got back in the cab and told the cabbie to take me to a cheap hotel.
He drove me to the Martha Washington, an old building whose entrance was wedged in between a bunch of Indian shops and restaurants. After I paid the cabbie, I went inside to check on the vacancy situation. The paint was smudged and peeling off the walls, and the carpet was grimy and reminded me an old maroon velour bathrobe I used to have. The desk clerk, a young black man with his hair in a Rasta doo-rag, sat behind an iron grill listening to a guy on the radio with a West Indian accent talk about “Pan-African unity” and trash whitey. The only vacancy they had came with a public bathroom. I booked it.
I was starving and before I went up to my room, I went next door to this all-night curry joint where all the turbaned cabbies hung out between fares. My cabbie was there, but he didn’t give me so much as a nod.
I ordered the green and took it up with me to my room on the eighth floor on the groaning, screeching elevator that moved like a fat man trying to squeeze through a narrow doorway. On a table in my room was some hotel stationery that had “Exclusively for Women” written across the top. Later that night when I woke up to pee and padded down the hall and opened the bathroom door, I was met by an elderly woman wearing a threadbare sweater who looked at me perfectly natural and asked, “Are you here to fix the toilet?”
I found a plunger and got the toilet to flush. In the city that never sleeps.
Baseball update: Tiburones 6, Leones 4. Tiburones win the Venezuelan championship series!