Thursday, January 23, 2014

No. 133 – No Leaf Clover

Performer: Metallica
Songwriters: James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich
Original Release: S&M
Year: 1999
Definitive Version: None.

“When it comes to be that the soothing light at the end of your tunnel is just a freight train coming your way.” Yeah, I know what that feels like, all right. Considering I cited that line from this song in my email June 12, 2008, it should come as no surprise that No Leaf Clover is high on this here list. But the story I’m about to relate took place years before that day.

When I visited Jin on what turned out to be quite the epic visit in September 2001, as I’ve documented on several occasions, one of our activities in Los Angeles was a Dodgers game. Of course, I’m not going to say no to a baseball game when suggested, but I think Jin wanted to go herself and used me as an excuse to get out there. I’m fine with that.

The Dodgers were playing the Cardinals, but it really didn’t matter. I was just happy to be back to Dodger Stadium. It was a perfect night, and the p.a. played this song at one point before the game. Jin had mocked Metallica for playing with a symphony, but she thought No Leaf Clover sounded pretty good.

Fortunately, we had that in the aural bank, because we then endured perhaps the world’s worst rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. Let me qualify that: Carl Lewis butchered the national anthem in a way that was so bad it was good. This was so bad it was bad.

Two chick singers trying to make it big but didn’t (thank God) did the dishonors, and I’ll tell you: Bleeding Gums Murphy would have been proud of their nearly five-minute (I kid you not) rendition. I bet you didn’t know that every word in the song had multiple notes. I half-expected the Queen of Melisma, Mariah Carey, to rush the field at some point and clock the two of them with a bat and then apologize for inflicting the dreaded singing disease on the world. It would have been a nice gesture.

Anyway, the game itself was pedestrian. We sat in the lower bowl down the first-base side in right field. I brought my glove, but no foul balls came anywhere near. As the game progressed and Dodger fans dutifully left early to beat traffic, we moved closer to home plate, so we were almost behind the Dodgers dugout.

This had two purposes: The first was to see the game better. The second was that because it was fireworks night, we’d be able to see the show better.

As the last out tolled in a 7-3 Dodgers victory, I noticed that all the ushers—distinct in their Panama hats and Aloha shirts—went on the field and ringed the infield. That seemed odd; I hadn’t seen anything like that unless it was a ballpark’s finale. Why tonight?

Then I looked down the right-field line and saw fans mass behind the gate that makes up part of the right-field wall. Suddenly, it dawned on me what was happening. I turned to Jin and said, almost in disbelief: “They’re gonna let us go down on the field to watch the fireworks.”

That’s precisely what happened. The gates swung open—not only in right field but all along the first- and third-base lines—and people swarmed the outfield. Of course, Jin and I went down. Are you kidding me: Go onto the field at Dodger Stadium? Hell yes we’re doing that!

I’d been on the field of a Major League ballpark many times before, as I’ve mentioned, but this was different. This was the first time I’d done it as a fan, not a so-called member of the press, and because it was a surprise, as well as in one of the most prestigious ballparks in the country, I was thrilled beyond words.

It was great to see others felt the same way. A couple people brought their mitts and a ball so they could have a catch in the outfield at Dodger Stadium. How cool would THAT have been? The vibe was nothing but happiness.

Jin and I took off our shoes to walk around the outfield in bare feet and plopped down on the hallowed ground in center field to watch the fireworks. I kept running my hands through the grass during the fireworks display, which was spectacular—and CLOSE UP.

It had been a great visit so far. L.A. was calling me in a big way, no question about it.

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