Earlier this spring, my wife Emily and I visited her sister in Albuturkey, New Mexico. Even though the climate was dry and cool I have never experienced such oppresive heat from the sun, which was the hottest in the late afternoon. The sun was omni-present. Even when it was slightly overcast you could feel it. One day, we were at a used bookstore and the guy who ran the place told us that when native New Mexicans leave the state they go into shock because of the lack of sun.
In New York, you learn to savor the sun because it comes to us as fractured light, in bits and pieces. Native New Yorkers know where the sun will be, at what time of day, during each time of year. The sun is more precious here which makes you appreciate it all the more. But it’s not only the sun. Being in New York, all you need to do is look up and pay attention and you will see the most stunning sights. For instance, a few weeks ago, I met Richard Lederer and his son Joe outside of their hotel on 42nd street and 3rd avenue. As I waited, I happen to look up and saw, through a crack in the awning, a gorgeous view of the Chrysler Building. Of course, I’d never seen it from that perspective before, and it is likely that I’ll never see it from there again.
I feel the same way going to games at the Stadium. Although I have sat in the same seats more than once and I’ve been to many sections in the park over the years, I certainly haven’t been to all of them. Not nearly. Each seat offers you a distinct perspective that makes the game fresh and new. Last night, I was at the game, and enjoyed the view from some very cushy seats, about twenty rows deep behind first base. When hard ground balls skipped foul up the first base line you could hear them woosh along the grass; when Kevin Millar caught a line drive, we heard a loud WHAP, and when Derek Jeter was hit in the hand, a resounding crack.
It was drizzling when I arrived, after raining for most of the day, but as the Yankees took the field in the top of the first inning, you could see the warm orange-yellow light of the sun, splashed over the top rows of the upper deck in right field and off the top of the criminal courts building. Looking straight ahead, just to the left of the left field bleachers, the sun glared off the gold lettering of the new Yankee Stadium.
Before the first pitch, a handful of Yankee players ran sprints and stretched in right field. The players lined up for brief ceremony that had something to do with the armed forces. As they fell into line, just before the moment of silence began, Alex Rodriguez was flanked by Robinson Cano (to his left) and Melky Cabrera. Rodriguez playfully slapped Cano in the ass with his mitt and then, more forcefully snapped Cabrera in the ass, almost causing Cabrera to jump. As the moment of silence was observed, a cameraman crouched in front of the line of players. Jeter and Rodriugez and Cano rocked side to side. Jason Giambi had his head down. Then, there was Hideki Matsui, who was perfectly still, almost like a statue. It reminded me of what the great critic James Agee once said about Buster Keaton when he wrote that the great stone face had a "mulish imperturbability." A stubborn calm.
The game was a dud. When Mike Mussina shook off Jose Molina on a 3-0 count with the bases loaded, you just knew it was going to be a short night for him (as fate would have it, only one of his runs was earned). Still, from where I was sitting, it was a gorgeous dud. Sure, the fans around us were mostly made up of executives with their spoiled kids, who acted like first rate schrnorrer’s, yelping for balls and autographs from the players. But the rain kept the crowds away, so it wasn’t packed. It was lovely, in fact. I predicted an Alex Rodriguez home run (a "meaningless" home run, according to George King in the Post), and even got to see Mariano pitch an inning. There were some great sounding hits early from the Orioles, but the last two batters that faced Rivera, um, their hits didn’t sound so crisp.
I jumped in a gypsy cab after the game. A Dominican dude who lives about ten blocks from the Stadium drove me home. We talked about what was wrong with the Yankees and then got around to Manny and Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez. As we drove to the Major Degan I looked out of the back window. The lights from the Stadium were brilliant, and a deep, mellow, orange-yellow full moon, rested low in the sky between the park and the new stadium. I almost gasped the view was so brilliant. And then, just before I could really take it in, it was gone, obstructed by trees.
Then we were on the highway. The cabbie has lived in New York for fourteen years and has a wife and a five-year-old son. He can walk to the Stadium but plans to leave the city soon. Too dangerous where he’s at, too many hot spots, too much drug dealing. He’s going to Cleveland where he’s got a brother and cousin. He’s leaving in August and won’t be around next spring for the opening of the new stadium.