Friday, October 10, 2008

Memories of '93

In October of 1993, I was a graduate student, living in Jamaica Plain and studying (if that's the right word for it) at Boston College. The house I was living in belonged to my cousin, who was out of town doing a PhD in Nursing, but Jamaica Plain was on the far side of the city where the liberal arts majors dursn't go, and so I was pretty well isolated from the on-campus social life. This wasn't really a surprise; after all, I was the guy who brought a 900 page paperback with a skeleton on the cover to our initial MA meeting, and since then I'd been branded the weirdo, the heretic, the geek. It didn't help that I'd actually gotten academic publication accepted in an accredited, albeit weirdo-targeted journal, namely, Lovecraft Studies. But mostly, it was just me.

Besides, a lot of my friends from the undergraduate days at Wesleyan had moved up to Boston, chief among them a pair of fellow baseball fanatics who were as different as could be. James lived down in Brighton, much closer to my classmates than I did, and inhabited a basement-floor apartment that looked out on the tires and broken beer bottles of his neighbors. Well over six feet tall, bearded, and congenial in a "I'll buy you a beer until you fuck with me, and then I'll beat you to death with your own feet" sort of way, James looked like the result of Ian Anderson-Reggie White slash fic, and I mean that in the best and most manfully affectionate way. The dude was just big, but he had to be; while waiting on law school, he was working in a home for emotionally disturbed children, and on occasion they'd get a little...rambunctious. He was also ferociously intelligent, extremely well-read, and really, really good at handling a giant foam broadsword (don't ask).

The other member of our little cabal was Aaron, who was diametrically opposed to James in most ways. Like me, a Phillies fan, Aaron had graduated from our shared alma mater with a degree in economics, and he was working at a research firm before his eventual plunge into Princeton. He played centerfield in our pickup softball games, dug The Who like nobody's business, and was the analytical, cautious counterweight to James' relentless enthusiasm and my "What the hell?" curiosity. Aaron also had an apartment in the Brighton area, albeit a newer, nicer, more modern one on a higher floor. It was airy and roomy and well-laid-out, so naturally whenever we got together to watch a game, we'd do it at James'.

There were a couple of reasons for this. One, James got the best TV reception. Two, his place simply reeked of ineffable guy-ness. His vintage fridge was made for a door full of beer bottles and a stacked shelf of pizza boxes; his couch sagged appropriately, and he did indeed have an aging La-Z-Boy from which he could survey the room magisterially.

Also, he was right across the street from a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant called Hoy Hing. Now, I have no idea if Hoy Hing is still in existence, and if it is whether it's still under the same management, but in 1993 it was the single greatest Chinese restaurant on the planet. Was it good? God only knows, but it was right, absolutely perfect for a bunch of guys pooling their meager cash to get a pile o' munchies to go with the beer and the game. The boneless ribs, in particular, were a heart attack in a carton, but they were good beyond compare, particularly when washed down with a Cider Jack or a Sam Adams.

And so that was our ritual. We'd get together, stroll across the street for Hoy Hing, then sit back and watch the game. Sometimes it was football, sometimes it was baseball. In the fall of 1993, it was the Phillies and the Braves in the NLCS. Screw grad school and coursework; before each game, we'd meet up, load up, and settle in.

Well, they would. I'd get banished to the next room, because I was, and I quote, "a jinx." Oh, they were very kind about it. I'd be set up with a beer, some Chinese food (though not the boneless ribs), and a comfy chair, and they'd turn up the volume on the television loud enough that I could hear it through the wall. And, after each pitch, either Aaron or James would stick his head in to let me know what happened. It ran something like this:

*sound of cheering*
*Aaron leans into the doorway* "Aw, man, you should have seen that! Roger Mason just blew a 93 mph fastball right by Mark Lemke!"
"Whoops, next pitch is coming. Gotta go."

Repeat that for every pitch of the LCS, give or take. And so my memories of the last time the Phillies went to the LCS, of their epic struggle against the relentless Braves machine that overtook the desperately struggling Giants, of their last postseason series victory, consist of sitting in the next room and waiting for the updates on every pitch.

Willingly, of course, because I was a jinx, and if sitting in the next room was what it took for the Phillies to win, then, by God and Bake McBride's 'fro, then I was going to do it. For honor, for friendship, for the Phillies, and for the crazy idea that the three of us had that it would somehow help.

I wouldn't trade the memories for the world.
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