Why I still love Wrigley Field

IMG_0522

The first thing I noticed was the smell: a pungent, rich aroma that was a combination of hotdogs, warm beer, just a whiff of grass,  and that hard to define smell from old wooden seats and concrete. Vendors hawked programs, drinks and food.  There were new sounds I’d never heard before; the sharp crack of a bat hitting a ball, the roar of a crowd yelling in one voice, the voices of those lone individuals providing their own commentary to the ball game.  The organ, playing a signature tune for each batter.  The chatter from players, wafting its way up to us in the seats.

IMG_0544

It was my first ball game, and where I fell in love with baseball, the Chicago Cubs,  and Wrigley Field.  This was way back, so long ago that people wore street clothes to games.  The game was so much quieter than today.  The only music was from the organ. The scoreboard was out in center field.  It was low-tech and simple, no lights, instant replay, or fancy graphics.  Inning scores were updated by a person inside the scoreboard manually sliding out the numbers, much like changing storm windows.  The “thwack” sound of each inning’s score being slid into place was audible.  There were no signs or advertisements at Wrigley, just green vines and brick walls.  And a team that was consistently in the cellar of the National League.

That was 1960.  A decade later, when I was in high school, I went to many games with my best friend.  All the games were held during the day, and bleacher prices were cheap; they hadn’t yet been turned into yuppie status symbols.  We’d get there early to watch batting practice, cheering whenever we saw Ernie Banks or Ron Santo.  Ernie, known as Mr. Cub, always made time to go and talk with fans, especially kids, and usually had to be pulled away by the coach when it was his turn for batting practice.  We cheered the team on during the great 1969 season, confident that we’d be back in the fall to watch them during the World Series.  Instead, we got to see them tank during August and fall to the Mets.

Later, things changed somewhat.  The 1980s brought in cable TV and an influx of new fans.  Suddenly the Cubs were hip, and those cheap bleacher seats became pricey.  The unthinkable happened – lights were added.  By this time, I was still a fan, but now located in Wisconsin and watching the games on TV.  I’d also started rooting for the Brewers, an American League team, and got to watch an actual World Series with them in 1982.  In 1984, the Cubs finally had another great team, this time anchored by Ryne Sandberg. I was certain that this would be their year, but of course, they lost. During that final game the cable went out, and I listened to the last sad innings over the radio.  The 80s closed out with another good team, another summer of anticipation and hopes, another season ending in despair.

I was still a fan but bruised; older, wiser and expecting pain as my lot in life.  The decade of the 90s came and went and the Cubs were, well, still the Cubs.  A few close calls, but never making it to the World Series.  The millennium came, and the Cubs still continued.  My personal endpoint happened in 2003 with the loss to the Marlins, and the fan interference that I still can’t bring myself to say out loud. By now I was a divorced empty nester, watching the game with a neighbor who was also a Cubs fan.  We sat in disbelief as a fan reached out and snatched the ball away, and then as the Cubs proceeded to lose when they were 2 outs away from the World Series.  Two outs.  TWO OUTS.

That was the end of my time with the Cubs.  I think of them now as that bad boyfriend who always manages to sweet-talk his way back into your heart no matter how many times he screws you over.  I’m done with them now; no more will they seduce me with hopes of this year, really, it’s a good team.  I wish them well, but I’ve moved on.

But Wrigley Field; oh, that gorgeous place, redolent with 100 years of games and ivy; it’s what baseball is and was always meant to be.  It’s the reason a 6-year-old became a life-long fan of the game.  And it’s still just as wonderful as it ever was.  Happy birthday, Wrigley Field.  I no longer root for the Cubs, but I still love their home field.

Advertisements

Chapter 4: Dating – or how to ruin your mood in a few easy steps 

It’s been almost a year and a half, and I’ve made it through that early period where hope was hard to find and just climbing out of bed was a major accomplishment. I am a survivor. The pain is easing, and I’m starting to feel better; in fact, I was feeling pretty darn good.

stuart_smalley-7943

So, there I was at the start of 2014, finally feeling whole again. Realizing that I was tired of being alone, that I wanted more. It was time to move forward and start facing the next step in life: reentering the world of dating. I was ready, and fully expected that within a few days the phone would start ringing with invitations and offers. Except that… it didn’t.

On to plan B.

Back in late January, I located a few pictures that didn’t include Rick, wrote my dating profile and hit the upload button to an online dating service. Which means, it’s time for another chapter in the Guide for the Recently Widowed, where in my role as guide to all things widow, I will enlighten you on the wonderful world of online dating.

After joining the site I felt great. I was taking control of my life, choosing a new direction, being active instead of reactive. I was on top of the world.

kingoftheworld

I had a fantasy, one so dangerous I tried my best to keep it under lock and key. There would be an email or two, then a decision to meet. There would be instant rapport, that sparkly thing that happens when you are attracted to someone and it’s reciprocated. We’d talk and it would be a great conversation, and at the end, there would be that wonderful feeling that happens when you totally click with someone. We’d move forward slowly, but there would be constant, steady movement forward.

That didn’t happen, of course.

Here’s what has.

Right off the bat, I started receiving winks and nudges or whatever the hell they call them. Mostly these were from men that were hundreds of miles away, despite my stating I wasn’t interested in a long-distance relationship. Some contained messages that were a bit creepy.   Others were just sadly off.

I started viewing profiles, and realized there is money to be made in helping people write these. It’s not that dissimilar to a job interview. A few hints, Mr. and Ms. Widow, on what not to do in your online dating profile:

— Don’t put in pictures where you’re topless (this is addressed to Mr. Widow). Especially when sporting a beer gut.
— Nothing says “I’m stupid and lazy” like a profile rife with misspellings, typos and incorrect word usage. If you don’t get the difference between they’re, their and there, have a friend proof read your profile.
— We’re all adults here, so the expectation of a physical aspect to a relationship is completely rational. But don’t start the conversation with it. That’s just not right.
— Pathetic loneliness or seething anger are not real attractive.

There were the men I contacted who were not interested in me, and vice versa. There were the email exchanges that were creepy or just plain hostile. There was the in-person meeting that was pleasant but completely devoid of interest.

And then… there was the one perfect, wonderful meeting that totally met the fantasy.  He was intelligent, and attractive, and we talked and talked.  At the end we both expressed interest in meeting again.  I left excited, looking forward to what might happen.  Instead, it seemed to lead nowhere.  A few weeks in I realized I was the one initiating all contacts, and decided it was time to ask why.  Then we had another great date; a wonderful conversation where we talked about the hesitation and reticence. His  final words to me were “I’ll call you”.  And that was it.  No more calls, no emails, not even a text.  Yeah, dating sure is fun.

And all that positive feeling of taking charge, of making decisions and restarting my life, of being able to look forward to the future… was gone. Completely, utterly, totally, kaput.

tina-fey-internet-quote-gifBut still, I’d rather be trying and losing than doing nothing. So I’m back in, reviewing those profiles, still hoping for some success.  Or at least a decent date.   And keep in mind, Mr. and Ms. Widow, we will make it through.