Today’s blog is written in the third person…. just because
The alarm went off at 2pm, the exact time that he set it to go off, the exact time he had planned on getting up, only now, he wanted to sleep. The urgency of the moment was no longer upon him, but his commitment remained. Reluctantly, he slid out of bed and dragged his tired body to the living room.
Twenty-seven years prior, on the same day, he dragged his tired, hungover body, out of his mother’s apartment, and headed out into the street. When he reached 3rd avenue, he bought a 16oz can of Budweiser, and despite the lack of nourishment in his system, he started the cycle all over again. His memory of the majority of that day is non-existent.
On this particular day, he quickly turned on the t.v., knowing full well what was about to happen, and still compelled to watch it unfold. In Boston’s Fenway park, Derek Jeter, the Yankee captain, was playing his last major league game. At some point in he game, he would leave the field, never to return. As the man sat on the couch, the third inning began, and as expected, Jeter took his turn at bat. The 40 year old hit a high chopper down to third base, and as he had done 11,195 times before, he ran hard to first base; the way he was taught, the way all boys should be taught. There was no throw. Jeter added another base hit to his total, rounding out to 3465, 6th place all-time. There was a moment of uncertainty as his team stared out at the aging superstar, before he finally acknowledged his manager, and walked off to thunderous applause.
And just like that… it was over…
Back home in Brooklyn, the man, himself edging past middle-age, stood and applauded inane attempt to hold back the tears welling up behind his eyes. For a moment, he thought about calling the old man, to talk about what they had just witnessed, to reminisce about the experiences that they had shared together watching the young man rise to greatness and then superstardom, but of course the old man was no longer there, and that just made the lump in his throat grow larger.
He showered quickly, met up with his girl, and headed out into the street. It was the day of the annual 3rd avenue festival in Bay Ridge. As a teenager, he would make the pilgrimage each year to celebrate the end of summer in a day of inebriation. Twenty-seven years prior, he had made the pilgrimage and wound up broken desperate the next day, no longer able to uphold the facade of happiness. He had not taken a drink since.
After that, he made the trek every year for entirely different reasons.
It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. By the time they arrived, the street was already crowded with merchants and revelers. He walked hand in hand with his mate, taking in the sights and sounds, letting his memory wander back to all the prior festivals; back through the images of girls, and bands, and friends, and fights. It was always his favorite day of the year, both before and after. Today was no different.
They met up with old friends, stopped for a moment or two to share memories, and then continued on, passing by several promising food vendors on their way. Eventually they wound up on 87th street, just as some of his best friends were about to take the stage in a makeshift rock and roll band belting out classic tunes from a by-gone era. He knew that they would ask him to sing, and normally, he would be delighted to partake, but not today. There were just too many emotions, and the confidence he needed was not in his arsenal, so he slunk away into the anonymity of the crowd, happy to be a distant fan, rather than attempt to be a shining star in an empty sky. When they called out his name, he was out of earshot, as he had planned. When he returned moments later, he was simply delighted to watch the joy and elation on the faces of his friends.
When the set was over, he congratulated his friends on a job well done, and then he was gone, heading back to whence he came as the late September sun began its decent. There were a few more friends to see, and a few more shish kebab’s to eat, and a few more ghosts to dance with.
Every one around him seemed to be having fun, but none was as happy as he. The festival was his own personal celebration of love and life, and only a select few knew of it. From time to time, she would look up at him and smile, knowing that he was exactly where he wanted to be.
When they reached the end of the festival, he was back home. In the distance, life beckoned, another night of work loomed in the hours ahead of him. Behind him was the life he lead. His past spread out in the faces of ten thousand strangers. He glanced back for a long moment and was both happy and nostalgic at the same time.
And just like that, the summer was over.
He loved the fall, because he was born in the fall.
As the noise of the celebration faded into the background, he stood tall; part man, part boy, part child. Confident on one hand, insecure on the other.
A day later, they packed up the car and headed north, to his refuge upstate, a small hamlet nestled between the Catskills and the Adirondacks. As they traveled north on the thruway, the colors of fall seemed to blossom all at once; the reds and yellows and oranges all seemed explode together as he left the city in his rearview mirror. It only took a few hours for the tension to fade from his face.
Autumn had begun…