Yesterday, I told a story I’ve told too many times before, because that’s sometimes the quickest way to a laugh.
Seven years later, the idea of “Tears in Heaven” as at-bat music remains one of my most inspired, one of those ideas so deliberately terrible that it loops back around to brilliant. But it’s an idea that’s inexorably linked with a particular era, the days of Ichiro in right field and the Oscar Wildes playing on Queen Anne. The days when it seemed like anyone in Seattle holding a bat and wearing a hat or shirt matching mine (save the aforementioned savant) was the definition of futility, as though they were following my example.
I told that tale, of how we couldn’t top “Tears in Heaven” for sheer bummer status. And I recalled how, a few years later, “Layla” played off my sister’s iPod as she prepared to cut the cake at her wedding, and how when I asked her if she knew what that song was about, she replied “Not everybody thinks about these things like you do.”
“Layla” is famous for this, I thought. Sure, a discussion of that backstory is the beginning of my favorite section of one of my favorite books, but this was one of those things that I thought everybody knew. Maybe she did know, and forgot. Maybe she knew, and chose to ignore it. Maybe she didn’t know at all.
When you’ve just become someone’s wife, does it matter how Clapton felt decades earlier?
A few months before my sister’s wedding, a gal made me a mix CD for our second date, which happened to be on Valentine’s Day1. One of the tracks featured a familiar-sounding voice, and when I checked the handwritten track listing, sure enough, the voice belonged to Liela Moss, singer of the Duke Spirit, who released one of my favorite albums of 2008. I somehow hadn’t realized the band had a new album out, and took its inclusion on the disc as a sign.
It wasn’t one.
Later that year, the Oscar Wildes would play their final season, and for all the talk we’d had about at-bat music, we never followed through. “The Step and the Walk” was never blasted from a stereo as I walked to the plate, ready to once again struggle to hit the ball out of the infield. I never impressed my opponents with my song selection before deflating my team with my bat.
My team’s gear is still in my storage unit, two bags gathering dirt from the garage because of the slim chance someone will ask for them back one day. But I told another story yesterday, one about avoiding a party a few weeks ago because I thought a few of those former teammates might be there. So the odds are slim, and getting ever slimmer. And I’m certain that’s for the best.
I’m going to a Mariners game tomorrow, somehow, only my second of the season, despite it being well past the halfway mark2. Our seats are a section or so from where I had that brilliant idea all those years ago, where a long-suffering Mariners fan and I imagined the team in the World Series, an Ichiro swing away from winning it.
But here we are, seven years later. Ichiro’s been wearing another uniform for more than half that time, a once-unthinkable thought. Ken Griffey, Jr., then enjoying a victory lap in the city where it all started, has now been retired long enough to be entering the Hall of Fame next weekend. The Mariners have baseball’s longest active streak of not making the playoffs, having really only come close once.
I was reminded of “The Step and the Walk” today, the first time I’d thought of it in a while. Back then, it was often on my mind or in my ears. Turns out, after all this time, its swagger still endures. Unfortunately, so does the Mariners’ sorrow.