As an adult, I’ve only lived in two cities. And here, now, in the one I’ve truly called home for almost all that time, I’m thinking about the other, where I’ll be next week.
New York. New York is on my mind. New York is always on my mind on some level, but my increasing dissatisfaction with Seattle and my impending visit have combined into a cacophony of longing, a strange occurrence, considering the overwhelming mediocrity of months I spend there.
But, while they averaged out to mediocre, the highs and lows of those months were both great. Moments happened there that could only have happened there. Victories that only New York could provide.
My cousin’s turning 21 tomorrow, and I’ve been thinking about my own experience with that milestone1. When the clock struck midnight for me, I was already in a bar with the other three interns from the magazine were I was working. Special, yet underwhelming. But, the next evening, the actual evening of my 21st, my team won.
For years, I’d said that my goal was to attend a game at each of the 30 Major League Baseball stadiums, but also, that I wouldn’t go to Yankee Stadium until either a) George Steinbrenner died, or b) they had firm plans to tear it down. I was going to stick with it, too, except when I discovered that my beloved Red Sox would be playing the Yankees there on my birthday, I couldn’t not go.
So, I went, leaving Manhattan for the first time in the two weeks since I’d arrived. Bought a scalped ticket online, and braved the terrifyingly steep upper decks of the Toilet with a Red Sox hat and weeks-old Manny Ramirez jersey, alone. It was a warm night, and showers were in the forecast, enough to delay, but not postpone, the game. Fortunately, I was high enough to be under an awning. Unfortunately, I was high enough to be in some of the cheapest seats.
I endured taunts as the Red Sox took a lead into an hour-plus rain delay, enough to clear out the expensive seats, which sent many from my section further down, giving me room to breathe once more. It was on the Stadium scoreboard that I learned Barry Bonds had hit his 700th career home run, a fact which summoned a smattering of boos from the crowd, which were long forgotten by the time that Mariano Rivera came on in the ninth to protect a 2-1 lead.
I remained confident.
It was my birthday, and the game remained close. Earlier in the season, Rivera had proven fallible. And this night, he would reprove it in a manner that, re-reading the box score, now seems to almost foreshadow the beginning of the Yankees’ grand collapse months later. Walk. Pinch-runner Dave Roberts steals second. And so on.
The Sox scratched across two runs, taking a lead into the bottom of the inning, when, between every pitch, I would glance at the clock, making sure there were enough minutes left in my birthday to ensure the victory. When the final pitch remained in Jason Varitek’s mitt at 11:51pm, I was giddy.
Leaving the Stadium, walking to the subway, I got out my Napster-branded mp3 player and looked for a song appropriate for the mood, settling ultimately on The Killers’ “Smile Like You Mean It.” But, as I made my way home to Manhattan—home to Manhattan!—I didn’t have to smile like I meant it.
For once, I truly did.