Writer’s Block: On Base

The first time I got to "First Base" was in eigth grade and the young lass’ name was Laquisha Watkins. The location was the eigth grade coat room on the 4th floor of Notre Dame de Chicago Elementary School. An institution which is no longer there. I was Latino, she was Black; I was in 8th grade, she was in 7th – there were so many taboo elements to this relationship that it made for a thrilling after school drama.

It was early spring day in 1988. I was hanging out in the 8th grade class room re-organizing my desk, as I often did, when three young girls from the 7th grade tried to get my attention. They teased, they scremed, they giggled and eventually I walked out of the 8th grade classroom to see what the fuss was about. According to them, there was "something" in the coat room and they were afraid to see what it was. At 5’2” (my then and current height), I was an eight grader ready to face this "something" so that I can show the 7th grade girls that I wasn’t afraid of a little action. Little did I know…

I poked my head into the dark coat room and was pushed in from behind. The large wooder door closed behind me. As my eyes attempted to adjust in the dark, I felt someone grab my face and begin to kiss me. My first (of many) awkward moments with the opposite sex had been initiated. After what seemed like minutes (but most likely just seconds) we emerged from the coat room like Boof and Scott in Teen wolf (remember that!) but there was, fortunately, not a room of our peers there to cheer us on.

This relationship continued through the end of the spring semester and then ended at the end of the school year. It was the final year for Notre Dame Academy so we were all caught up with the attempt to save it from closure by the archdiocese. We were unsuccessful and the following year, the school, including the infamous coat room met the wrecking ball and is now just another parking lot on the south side of Chicago.

USA…USA…USA

As most of my friends know…I love the Olympics. In 1996, when the Olympics were on one channel, I recorded every single hour of them. It took me 19 6-hour VHS tapes but I did it. I love watching the major team sports that we have the privilege of seeing year around but I especially love watching the obscure sports that we only get to see if every four years like air-pistol firing, dressage, and team handball. I get a great joy of watching a bar full of people cheering on swimmers and gymnasts on screens that would normally have non-Olympic baseball (we will miss you in London!) and basketball (Go Redeem Team!). Despite my Mexican-American background which I am proud of, I am 100 percent American and love the opportunity to support my country in its athletic conquests.

One thing, however, that has always bothered me is our uninspired and unoriginal chants. Regardless of the event in which the US is competing in, the only chants you’re likely to hear are "U-S-A…U-S-A…U-S-A…". And you’ll hear it for the whole event. Really? This is all we can do? It kills me to hear the many other <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWK4QjOv0QA&quot; target="_new">chants</a> and <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obRm4bBfRFw&quot; target="_new">songs</a> that the other nations have and all we can do is repeat the abbreviation of our country over and over.

This really came to light for me when I went to see the US play Mexico in Phoenix, Arizona during the World Baseball Classic in 2006. I proudly wore my USA jersey and saw the US beat Mexico but I was almost put to sleep by our monotonous and uncreative chanting. The Mexicans came out with all sorts of counter chants that resonated vibrantly throughout the stadium and all we could do is raise the volume and annunciation of our hypnotic drone. Some guys even resorted to saying, "Mexicans, go home!". Really?

As the US gets more and more challenged on the international athletic stage, we, as fans have an obligation to uphold. I hope that we can meet the challenge by drowning out our competition with chants that not only handicap their attempts but also encourage and motivate our teams. As a person who has lived most of his life in Chicago and Boston, I know that amazing feeling of singing "Kiss Him Goodbye" when a pitcher is taken out of a game at White Sox park or the mandatory singing of "Sweet Caroline" at Fenway. I hope that we can bring some of that same creative and electric enthusiasm to the international stage.

Answer to question – What’s the most romantic thing you have done for someone?

4 years ago, when my ex-girlfriend turned 27, I threw her what I
consider to be one of the funnest surprise birthday parties ever. Her
Birthday is on July 12th but my scheming and planning started on a
chilly night in January, a full 6 months before her birthday. I
finished reading a chapter in "A Cook’s Tour" by Anthony Bourdain (one
of my favorite books) and I looked over to her and said, "I know what
we’re doing for your birthday". This thought lay dormant until June of
that year when it was time to get the wheels in motion.

I
revealed to her that I needed the names of 17 close friends who she
would like to invite to her birthday party. The party would have to be
limited to 20 people with the final 3 spots being taken up by me, her,
and my youngest brother who was living with me at the time. Some of the
people she invited included ImprovBoston favorites Don Schuerman, Elyse
Becker, Eddie Mejia, Michelle McNulty, Mosie McNally, Paula Garcia and
Matt Tortora. She had no idea what was coming but it was great to hear
her guess…her strongest intuition was that we were going to watch a
sporting event in a rented out luxury box. The festivities were to
begin at 6pm. She would be picking me up at 5:30 and she, myself, my
brother, and her roommate would drive together to the party.

By
6pm, we were at Taberna del Haro in Brookline, MA. A quaint Tapas place
on Beacon Street. slowly, people started to arrive all dressed up and
we all set around our 20 person table eating, having drinks, etc. I
made it clear to everyone that we needed to leave by 7pm so by 6:50
everyone started to finish up our seafood heavy dishes accompanied by a
sweet white wine. The abbreviated stay confused my girlfriend even more
as she realized that this was not the entire surprise. We all got up
from the table and walked outside as we discussed who would be driving
who to the next meeting point. As we exited Taberna del Haro, my
girlfriend hugged her friends in joy while "California Love" by 2Pac
was blaring with a heavy bass beat in the background. This reminded her
of her year in California doing JVC work. Through the hugging and her
slightly buzzed haze, her friends casually turned her around to reveal
what was the next part of her gift.

"California Love" was
pumping from a stretch Hummer Limo featuring the lazers, a fog machine,
a fireplace, a playstation 2, a DVD player, and a fully stocked bar.
Her jaw nearly dropped as the wide open door welcomed her in to her
mobile playground. We all piled in and the rolling party continued.

The
rest of the night became a gluttonous, drunken mess. The theme of the
night, inspired by the book I was reading 6 months earlier, was Tapas
bar hopping. We continued to Atasca in Brighton on Commonwealth Ave.
and had a Bread heavy assortment of Tapas. Third on the list was Dali
in Cambridge, MA which welcomed us with some cheese and pork based
tapas and batting clean-up was the no-longer existent Sophia’s in
Boston, MA right behind Fenway park which served us Calamari tacos to
go with the homemade cakes that my girlfriend’s roommate made for her.
We were beyond stuffed. The goal was to burn most of the calories on
the dance floor since it was Salsa night at Sophia’s but we were all
barely able to roll ourselves out of there so we had to pass.

The
night went much better than expected and everyone had a great time. I,
personally, had a great time organizing the event and figuring out the
line-up of Tapas with the head chefs of each restaurant. Other than the
actual night itself, that was one of the highlights for me. Perhaps I
missed my calling as a party organizer.

It was a great night and
one that we will never forget. I hope that one day I can be re-inspired
to put together a night of that magnitude again.

Love on the Red Line

This happened on the Red Line in Boston today.

i got on at Kendall Square. A really cute girl and kinda cute guy are standing next to each other on a crowded train going from Cambridge into Boston. It’s obvious that they don’t know each other. I happen to be the next closest person. The guy is reading a copy of the Metro which the girl is obviously reading over his right arm.

In between the Charles/MGH stop and Park Street, he casually hands his now finished copy of the Metro over to this girl. She was slightly stunned but very happy. She smiled at him, batted her eyes and looked at him. The Game was on.

As we pulled into Park Street, the following exchange happened:

Girl: (obviously flirting) Anything worth reading?

Guy: (pause) There’s some news about the Treasury. Oh, I didn’t get to read that (points to article about killings in South Africa).

Ooomph. What a mood breaker. At about this time, I think he realizes what’s happening so he re-engages her. We are now departing Park Street and going to Downtown Crossing. He talks about something in the Entertainment section which she finds humorous. They giggle…

Girl: (obviously flirting) This is my stop…

Guy: Mine too

They step out of the T together. Smile and then awkwardly go in opposite directions. She goes up a set of stairs that go street level, he walks towards the Green line. The Train starts to pull away as I see both of them continue down their seperate paths. The whole time I could only think about what could’ve been…

 

…probably a short-term relationship with more awkward conversations.