Thursday, February 7, 2013

No. 483 – The Downeaster ‘Alexa’

Performer: Billy Joel
Songwriter: Billy Joel
Original Release: Storm Front
Year: 1989
Definitive Version: Live at Yankee Stadium, 1990

In 1991, Dave and I had become such great friends that we decided to take a vacation together—long before any marketing flack thought of the term mancation. Dave is from Long Island, so that made, say, an East Coast baseball road trip not only doable but easy.

Dave sold the trip to the missus (and work, I think) as a work trip, and in fact, he got at least one story for The Journal out of it. (So did I.) We also invited John to photograph everything. This would end up being an important detail later.

Because it was new, and I wanted to put some miles on it, we took my car and left as early as we could given my vampire shift. I took the first shift through Michigan and Ohio while I was the most awake and the most aware of my surroundings. The 12-hour drive to NYC was fairly uneventful, although I remember stumping Dave and John on 20 questions with Secretariat.

Based on the schedule, the road trip was going to center mostly around New York, as you might imagine, but we also were going to swing down to Baltimore and up to Boston. The order would be: Mets, O’s, Yankees, Red Sox.

Because it was a work trip, Dave made sure to procure press passes for everyone. John would be able to wander around the stadium and shoot pics, and Dave and I would be on the field during b.p. and then up in the press box for the game. It was a total scam.

The first day, however, wasn’t a “work” game but an actual game game with Dave’s family. The Mets won fairly easily, whipping the Dodgers 9-4, but two things were notable about that particular game. First, that would be the last time Dave would see his favorite team, the Mets, win a ballgame in person for 17 years. Second, it was beastly hot.

Our seats were in the upper deck, under the overhang at Shea, which provided shade, thank goodness, but no air circulation whatsoever. It was so hot that by the fifth inning, all I could think about was the above-ground pool that Dave’s family had in their Mass Park home. Only 12 outs to go, and I’d be drenched. Ah, only nine outs to go …

The next day we went back as supposed working members of the press. Dave even procured a pass for his brother, John the Younger. It was cool to be down on the field—not just because it was much cooler temperature-wise. I’d already done that the year before in Chicago, but it still was a big deal—particularly for Dave, as you might imagine. I thought it would be like me being on the field at Riverfront Stadium: so much personal history. (I never got on the field at Riverfront, alas.)

The day after that was an off day. John the Elder went into Manhattan to visit his aunt, who lived there, and Dave, JY and I went to a waterpark out near the tip of Long Island. I had done water slides before, in Houston, but I’d never done a full-blown waterpark before, and it was a blast.

On the drive back to the home base, we stopped for dinner at a fresh fish place that looked like a hole in the wall, and Dave gave me a taste of the local pop culture—driving past the Amityville Horror house. It no longer had the evil-eye pie-piece third-story windows, and what struck me most about it was how close it was to the neighboring houses on either side. The houses couldn’t have been more than 10 feet apart.

Next stop: Baltimore.

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