Friday, March 11, 2005

Opening Day

When I was in graduate school, I walked about the campus partially and somewhat perpetually buzzed, for I was in Vermont. I don't ski and I don't wear flannel, and there is little else to in Vermont except matriculate, especially by the time the straps of one's Obi-Wan Kenobi backpack have ripped away.

Vermont is a skinny state, but it's wide with snow and clapboard and poets who actually say such things as "ethereal" and "continuums" and "proletariat." There are quaint hinged signs at the gas stations; there are starched little churches on the corners; there are lots of low-flow toilets and there is no room for baseball.

Even in winter, I sensed its absence. I cannot trust a place, somehow, which does not blast its farm team allegiances. Back in Ohio, you know the boundaries; you know what will get you a free beer and what will get you killed. Pete Rose should be in the Hall. Jerry Springer should be shot. These fundamentals did me little good in Vermont--the campus bookstore sold frisbees and Proust in paperback as NPR played in the background, but nobody knew when the catchers and pitchers were slated to report for spring training. Lovely snowfall, nice maple syrup, no BP.

The snowdrifts around the cars were so high that when you backed out of your parking space, the imprint of the license plate was left behind in the snow in this place where New York City is deferentially referred to as "the city" as though no other ever existed. Boston was a brief train ride off in that astonishing way New England has of placing one major destination practically on top of another. And yet there was no charmingly doomed dedication to the Sox here, no awed recantings of Yankee heroics in the bottom of the ninth in Game Six.

I cannot imagine how they do without it up there. No peanuts flung across rows, no baselines straight and forever on the dirt, no beery calls from the upper deck. In Vermont the leaves rustle and cars crunch across gravel roads, but the quick thwack of the ball in the catcher's glove and the kick of a double on the sweet spot are missing. The absence is deafening.

Glory to Vermont, headboard of the nation's cradle and yet bereft of the national pastime. Odd, that a state so replete in trees should be so devoid of bats. In those days I wasn't sure what I'd be doing or how I'd get paid doing it when I got there, but I knew that wherever it was, there would be dugouts.

twenty-two days to go at: blondechampagne@hotmail.com

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