austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

And in no time we'll be big time with the big league baseball stars

My July trip to see bunny_hugger began abnormally, with mass transit. Normally my parents drive me to the airport, but my mother had a doctor's appointment at just the time to make driving me impossible. But the appointment was in New Brunswick, and I could take the train in to Newark Airport from there and what do you know but that's an awfully convenient way to get up there. I may go that way in the future; it's near my brother and his wife's house.

We got to the train station with almost exactly enough time for me to get up to the platform and buy my ticket, presaging a perfect day of travel. At the airport I arrived with a comfortable but not excessive wait before boarding, long enough to eat something respectable. And then I got on the plane for a short flight to Cleveland, there to go to Grand Rapids. The airline runs direct flights to Grand Rapids, but letting air travellers go directly to where they want to go contradicts all rules of modern airline economy.

However, just as they were scheduled to close the doors and start rolling out, the announcement came: there were severe thunderstorms over Pennsylvania and for safety's sake were delaying the flight by an hour or two. I had a one-hour window in Cleveland to get my connection. They let us off the plane for this wait, and I hurried to the service counter ahead of most of the assembling crowd of people irritated that they would not in two hours be in Cleveland. The service counter already had multiple people ahead of me, each with sorry and horrible tales of displaced travel, some of whom had spent up to nineteen days being bumped from one flight to another.

A new customer support person, clearly just getting on duty, came in, and I explained that I was on the Cleveland flight and needed to get somewhere in lower Michigan that day. She was quite committed to putting me in Grand Rapids and was looking at side tours to Chicago or Washington, but I finally expressed how it was fine to hit Lansing, or Grand Rapids, or Detroit. ``Just get me to the lower peninsula''. While resistant to that --- she figured a connection from Detroit to Grand Rapids --- I convinced her that pretty much any Michigan city was as good as any other. She booked me for an early afternoon flight to Detroit, and gave me a meal voucher and advice to eat in this terminal (C) rather than that of my new flight (A).

I took her advice on the terminal and found one of the restaurants was a chrome-and-glass style diner. This was a good omen, surely, and I got an omelette and, it turned out, free refills on my soda. Add to that a comfortable seat and not just many books to read but also my iPad loaded up with several days' worth of audio books --- and the discovery that I could listen to nonfiction while reading fiction and keep both mostly straight --- and I had a pretty good situation.

Meanwhile I used the iPad to e-mail bunny_hugger with the changed itinerary; worried that she might have finished checking her e-mail I sent her phone a text message. Worried that she might not check her text messages since she uses her cell phone about as much as I do, I left a voice-mail message on her cell phone. Realizing this was only a transfer of one unused medium to another I called her home phone and left a message there. She might miss that too, but at least I'd done everything I could. She picked up at least one of these, though, and I think before I started text-messaging skylerbunny on the assumption he'd relay the message to her.

She did get the message, and we met up in Detroit, later than we would have liked but several hours sooner than any possible Grand Rapids route would have allowed. By the way, it never did rain in Newark, so those nasty storms were apparently not moving except to disintegrate. Also by the way if I'd gotten this flight into Detroit in the first place my parents could have given me a ride to the airport, although they'd probably have wanted me to get up early to go with them to the doctor's rather than come back home and go back up north again.

We had hopes of going to a Lansing Lugnuts minor-league baseball game, since we hadn't been to a ball game in too long, but the game was scheduled to start at 7 pm and we'd have a very tight margin to get there. Still, it wouldn't be impossible, particularly as we met up just about the earliest possible moment and we were heading west ... on the wrong highway. Not only did we miss the best exit to get to Lansing, but we also missed the second-best. In our defense, we were both very interested in each other and not so much in the Interstates of Michigan.

Nevertheless, we got to her house not just before the game started but early enough we could take the bus to the stadium and ... add in the wait in line for tickets and ... well, we didn't quite get there for the first pitch, but we weren't more than a few minutes late. We'd rather have had an extra two hours to be with each other and get to the park, but, this wasn't bad. We fetched some snacks --- particularly a complicated set of nachos overlaid with every non-meat topping that could be had --- and found our seats, nearly behind home plate.

The Lansing Lugnuts are a single A team, that lowest level of professional baseball where you can't quite get on the team just by showing up early enough the day of the game, but close. They also excel in mediocrity, hovering around a .500 average like they're worried about attracting attention. Still, they'd been on a relatively good streak, and besides, it was a fireworks night. It was also country music night, which added slightly confusing set decorations to the doors and vendor setups, and made them dress up the pictures of players on the scoreboard with cowboy and rustler motifs.

The early innings were not some of the Lugnuts' strongest performances: they gave up approximately 20 runs in the first inning, 54 in the second, 218 in the third, and so on. They made up some of that, with one run in the second and one in the fourth themselves, but overall the performance was dispiriting, except in the giddy joy that I and I alone took in exaggerating how much worse they were doing, a score imbalance that I just kept increasing the entire week while bunny_hugger put up with me.

By the fourth inning, which lasted approximately as long as the Persian Empire did, things were desperate enough that the Lugnuts had changed pitchers twice, and the elderly couple sitting to the side of us --- the man had offered bunny_hugger his padded seat cushion, several times, and I think he was trying to get her to take it as a permanent thing rather than a loan for the night --- gave up and went home, and after another inning the family with kids in front of us had given up too. I kept pointing out, hey, think what it'll be like if the Lugnuts make a comeback from 3,480 runs down, but they weren't having it.

And yet, after the fifth inning, the other team --- we never did quite figure out where they were from, but I think they were dubbed the ``Bobcats'' --- didn't score, and the Lugnuts kept managing one- and two-run innings. If the game could have gone out to fifteen innings they might well have tied it up. What had mid-game looked like an 11-1 battering was, in the end, a sad but not unspeakable 11-5 loss.

After the game as promised was a fireworks show, and a lovely show it was. It went on longer and was more dramatic, actually, than I'd expected; possibly they were burning off drafts left over from the Fourth of July. More startling to me is I gave it a try at photographing the fireworks, even though my camera is not the fastest to respond to a camera click and like many digital cameras can be a little quirky trying to focus on stuff at night. However, quite a few of the photographs came out very well, and I just have got to start posting some around here because they're worth it.

With the game and fireworks done we lingered, naturally, looking at the park and comparing it to where the Blue Claws play --- while they're in the same rank of minor league play, the Blue Claws field looks the same size; it turns out it has half the seating capacity of the Lugnuts stands, though. Also we peeked into the gift shop to see if there were entertaining enough memorabilia, but we didn't see anything worth going in for.

Though we planned initially to take the bus back, bunny_hugger wanted to show me an amusing bar with lighted-eye griffins above the bar and stained-glass window pattern behind it, and a wizard-and-dragon painting outside which marvelously evokes the Early 70s Man Did You Ever Read Tolkein school of van art, and we walked to that to admire it. We got carded on entering, a rare thing for me; and I'm curious whether the guy out front thought anything of it that we came back out minutes later having seen the spectacle of the bar and that being all we wanted, or if he didn't pay particular attention to people exiting.

After this, we continued walking, taking in the warm evening sky and noting the restaurant where we planned to eat with bunny_hugger's parents Monday. And at that point it was near enough to bunny_hugger's home that we kept on walking, into the humid night, and our proper time together.

Trivia: A Decatur Daily Review article of 1916 credits the 1866 introduction of (New York City rules) baseball to Decatur, Illinois, to the returning home for a vacation of W C Johns, a student who had been at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Source: But Didn't We Have Fun? An Informal History Of Baseball's Pioneer Era, 1843 - 1870, Peter Morris.

Currently Reading: Alpha One, Editor Robert Silverberg.


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