Proof of Life: New York, It’s Yankees And The American Dream

Like a good perfume smells better on Penelope Cruz, championships, perhaps, are best celebrated at baseball’s cathedral.

They are now a 27 time World Champion. Whether you love them or hate them, you’re a capitalist or a socialist; the Yankees should be respected by every American because they are synonymous with winning and excellence.

By no means are the Yankees a model of perfection, however; but do you think you get to the top in America and stay there by shining everyone’s shoes without subsequently tying the laces together? Not only did they fire Joe Torre, but also proceeded to remind him on his way out that there was always a TV gig waiting for him on the franchise owned and operated YES Network. Now that’s the sound of the door hitting you on your way out. While I love Torre as much as the next guy, last I checked the future hall of fame manager is probably going to make a lot more money with the Dodgers than you or I would in 10 lifetimes. And don’t put too much stock into the “Evil Empire” propaganda. It was the Red Sox who decided Willie Mays wasn’t worth a tryout because it was raining and didn’t even hire a black man to play ball full time until after the Boston Bruins-a hockey team-did so. True Story.

In brief, here’s a taste from my vantage point on Wednesday evening, amongst a Bronx party like it was 1999…

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7:00 pm: I’m walking to Grand Central Station via 42nd street with Bryant Park at my immediate right. In the park’s background was the sweetest sight my eyes laid on all day-at a projected 150 yards away, the automatic pilot thankfully malfunctions as I marvel at a blue and white-lit Empire State Building. For those of us living in this town whom are blessed to be green enough to, on occasion, appreciate the paragons, this was the definition of a stop and pinch yourself moment. The only thing missing in this backdrop was the Bat Signal itself.

7:15 pm: Waiting for the Bronx bound #4 train at Grand Central station. In the words of Carly Simon: Anticipation is making me wait. I’m excited for the opportunity to be a part of a cultural phenomenon.

7:35 pm: Circus clowns in a slug bug had nothing on this train car. You know how toothpicks sometimes come in a plastic cylinder shaped tube by the hundreds? You have to grab the tweezers from the medicine cabinet just to get the first toothpick out. That was my ride to Yankee Stadium. Only Raymond Babbitt could have come close to estimating just how many people were actually crammed into the car. I could only guess it was something comparable to a mid-town morning rush hour ride squared to the fifth power.

(And in this week’s installment of the popular “Irony is also a Funny Thing” segment: Leave it to the fattest guy on the sub car, who during one of the stops along the way, in typical New Yorker fashion quibbles, “It’s a nice view out there. Why don’t some of you get off and check it out.”)

8:00 pm: Fathers, sons and daughters are still lobbying for tickets for the sold out event. A recorded Mary J. Blidge could be heard singing the national anthem. The DirecTv blimp is seemingly a stone’s throw above us. A mile of media vans equipped with large satellite dishes line the streets. This was my second “pinch me” moment within an hour. Ron Burgundy would describe this event as, “kind of a big deal.”

8:30 pm: My party and I finally make our way to the big screen television section at “The Dugout” directly across the street from the ballpark.

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It was the Animal House Toga Party all over again: only Yankee jerseys posed as the event garb, everyone was John Belushi, and a one man band that goes by the name of “Godzilla” performed heroically in place of Otis Day & The Knights. Hideki Matsui** slugged an early two-run “Shama-lama-ding-dong” over the right field fence off of Pedro Martinez, and the Bronx Bombers never looked back.

**Matsui is a free agent at the end of the season. Before Wednesday night, he was perhaps better known around baseball for his exceptionally abundant collection of pornography. Now that he can go into the off-season with a very friendly bidding tag of “World Series MVP,” that could leave a general manager no choice but to throw enough scrill in Godzilla’s way to actually buy Jenna Jameson herself.

8:45 pm: The best fandom chant that modern day sport has to offer is heard-in a synchronization nonetheless-when Yankee catcher Jorge (pronounced Hore-Hay) Posada steps to the plate. All together now (x20): HIP, HIP, HORE-HAY!

(To say New York sports fans are the most sophisticated in sports is a misconception. Every time a Yankee bat hit the ball, even when the ball flared out of play, the fans blew up in chorus likeable to the way Seattle fans at Safeco field do when Ken Griffey Jr. hits a home run. Maybe I’ll give them the “caught in the moment” pass this time around.)

Maybe this was the kind of primitive hoopla that would have had an evangelical like Ned Flanders think twice about the theory of evolution after all.

Either way, this was definitely a senior thesis goldmine for current sociology majors. (Picture below is case in point).

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This guy thought Yankee fans would be throwing toilets from the mezzanine after the game was over.

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I didn’t go to the Bronx in search of the American Dream on Wednesday night. The quagmire itself just played out in front of me, while surrendering my psyche for the next three days trying to do my best to (re)define it. You could even say the whispering devil inhibited my left shoulder, and a hymning angel floated about my right side. The Devil said that this is good for the city, which is currently under the spell of an unemployment rate that is being oft mentioned in the same sentence as the Great Depression. Parties and parades will be had. Shirts, jerseys, DVD’s, Hats, newspapers and any and all Yankee paraphernalia will be consumed by all and make people happy again. Pleasure for all!

The angel said we are all God’s children. The black, the white, the brown, the privileged, the underprivileged, the whores, the virgins, the young, the old, the gay, the straight, the moderately smart, and the very, very stupid to come together for one common purpose: to cheer for someone else’s success (albeit vicariously) and to enjoy each other’s company in the process.

I had a few beers while hanging at the aforementioned bar/frat house, and I remember thinking, “I can’t even feel this. I am already intoxicated from spirits in the air.”

But that’s the big part of the Yankees essence that-in one true way-takes on the personality of New York City itself: It gives just enough power and opportunity to the little guy to make he/she feel important. Like you are part of something bigger.

The American Dream, unlike the on-field success of the New York Yankees, does not come and go. The American Dream, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. It’s not something you can hold in your hand, but every once in a while we experience grand events like these that remind us why this is still hope for America. Even as a self-admitted cynic of the average sport fan-or average American for that matter-what I saw on the streets surrounding Yankee Stadium was The American Dream (and it did have the feeling I assume I would have encountering a sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster, or an entry level job offer at a major media outlet).

We flexed our freedom muscles that night. Even more, I saw thousands of people in the same vicinity, but saw nothing to scoff at. The Forefathers would be proud. Strangers were high-fiving each other. I heard at least, get this, five male New Yorkers say, “excuse me,” after bumping into someone else. I saw another two males acting chivalrous towards females. Hobos had dollar bills in their collection hats as opposed to corroded pennies. According to various local news reports the following morning, the only arrests that were made involved fans jumping on top of taxi cabs-and that may as well happen everyday.

This majestic night in the Bronx, using sports as its platform, showed us what sports can do that a relaxing Sunday at the Brooklyn Flea Market can’t: Sports in America still has the unmatched capability to connect all the dots that form society.

As long as we are capable of doing just that, then maybe the USA is not a dynasty that will ultimately crumble after all.

Because the only thing prettier than seeing LeBron James power his way to the basket en route to a powerful slam dunk, is seeing an abundance of civilians come together to form one giant smile.

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Halloween ’09: Tuna Reigns Supreme

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"Well there's something you don't see everyday!" - Bill Murray as Dr. Peter Venkman in the feature film, Ghostbusters.

“Around and around we go, forever seeking the lost axis, the big equalizer that Santa Claus took with him when he died.” – Hunter S. Thompson

When people ask me what I did to celebrate Halloween, as a resident of New York City, I tell them I rode the subway for more than an hour.**

The end of every month for me is scary. The final day of October was punctuated with Halloween, which has come and gone, and along with it, $700 more towards rent and transportation for the month succeeding.

With my New York State food stamp application still at large, needless to say, I could not afford to “go out” on the holiday formerly centered around children. I actually overheard a young lady on the street say this on her cell phone yesterday: “I have a favor to ask you…Can I borrow, like, $40 for Jack and Macy’s costumes? It’s just that I spent $170 on my (10 square inch) costume and I want to go to Rick and Andrea’s party.”

Forget that catchy ad campaign-America is not running on Dunkin’ (Donuts). America is runnin’ on Prozac, martinis, Bud Light Lime, 18% interest rates and the clap. Then ice that cake with the one evening holiday that has made it socially acceptable to not only drink as much but wear Whatever You Want (not to mention throw your kids under the baby sitter bus), and a living nightmare is created.

For a majority of adults, Halloween has undoubtedly replaced Christmas, Thanksgiving, or New Years as our favorite holiday. That singular, anticipatory feeling that once caused us to lose sleep knowing Santa was going to make our year the following morning has reinvented itself in the name of Captain Jack Sparrow. We yearn to relive our childhood from time to time, and Halloween is an adult friendly holiday that allows us to act the way we did when it was normal to crap our pants.

The evolution of the artful holiday of Halloween: from trick or treating with Mom and Dad to putting on a disguise and putting down some Jager Bombs! with a pirate hooker.

Every adult with a credit card goes ape shit for this holiday, talking about their costume and plans faster than a nose guard ordering at a Wendy’s counter. For me, when I can afford it, it’s just a great excuse to throw on a football jersey and watch the firework display with my friends from the CPA over a pitcher or two of Sam Adams.

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This is what I wanted to wear...

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...but a simple football jersey will suffice.

Here’s what I still like about Halloween:

Creativity-Though finding a Halloween costume that makes you look twice (sex appeal aside) is few and far between.

Candles and Candy Corns-What I really love about Halloween is the abundance of cheap thrills, most notably, scary movies, candy, pumpkin carving & other art decor, and of course, “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror” television program.

The Originals-While it may be a contrast from the former, I always respect the guy or gal who is willing to dress up and celebrate one of the original monsters, i.e.; Dracula, Frankenstein or his wife, a classic witch, a skeleton, a mummy, a devil or the Wolf Man. You simply cannot enjoy the essence of Halloween without the influence of the original icons. They paved the way for the influx of the Elvira variations we see today.

A temporary identity– It’s not for everyone, though. For example, I’m a writer who happens to work as a janitor full time in order to pay the bills. Pretending to be someone I’m not for 40 hours a week is what I currently do for a living. However, if I had a date for the evening, once again, it’s a great excuse to wear a football or baseball jersey. If that’s not scary enough for you, then obviously you’ve never sat in the bleacher seats at Yankee stadium.

Here’s what I don’t like about Halloween:

Adults over kids-You may think I’m needlessly flashing my high beams here, but there are adults out there who, in the line of self-absorption, will cut in front of the little devils and ninjas. I’m willing to bet money that there is a mom, pop or two out there that had to use their last quarter this morning to inform their 12 year old that he or she would be on their own for dinner on Sunday night, to be sure to set the clocks back an hour, and to put the clothes in the drier.

Tobin Bell, star of the popular horror film series “Saw”, is a baseball coach. And according to Sports Illustrated, on occasion, he has obliged the children with his “Jigsaw” voice in order to get them to do what he wants.

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Homer once sold his soul to the devil for a doughnut, while the mysterious lady I rode next to on the subway might as well have traded her cat in for a tunabagel.

**At last, its not what I did to celebrate Halloween, by riding the subway, its who I saw: A round old lady who talked like a Tele Tubby, carrying a small plastic animal traveling case (seemingly for a cat or small dog). She cooed at the compartment on her lap, after all, the animal was probably nervous. I know I was. Five minutes later, she pulled out a Dunkin’ Donuts tuna fish on a bagel from the same case. I don’t know which part of this situation was scariest. After seeing that I purposely missed my stop and hung around for another four stops until I had clear, visual evidence that there was or wasn’t an animal in there after all. The old lady finished the tuna fish bagel without sending any back to the cage. That’s when I knew the answer: no cat lover would withhold a bite of tuna from her beloved feline. She was indeed treating the tuna bagel as if it was a pet.

On Sunday, she will have a stomach ache. On Monday, I’ll be a janitor. Live Goes On.