Number 89

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04/06/2010

Neighborhood: Staten Island

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Walking toward the Staten Island Ferry on my way to work, I noticed a boat departing, when it should have been arriving. Being in the exact spot it would normally be, but headed in the wrong direction, it was, at first, disorienting. I checked my watch: 2:53. “This is not good,” I thought. Making my way down the ramp, I encountered throngs of pinstriped Yankees fans, coming from the opposite direction, and was suddenly struck with the realization that the Yankees parade -- celebrating their World Series victory -- was today. At the foot of the terminal, a young couple, both wearing Yankees jerseys, made out as I took the steps two at a time.

Inside the terminal, the usual afternoon crowd, shift workers and tourists, waited for the door to open. I moved into place between the two giant aquariums. An announcement sounded: “The three o’clock ferry is approximately ten minutes late due to unusually heavy foot traffic at the Whitehall Terminal.” Now I was going to be late for work because of the Yankees. The final indignity, in a season rife with indignities, for a Mets fan. Backing off, I turned to the aquarium at my left, as the large white fish, anthropomorphized so that its face appeared somewhat distraught, stared at me.

Sports Illustrated picked the Mets to win it all -- I know all about the curse. It was over by the All-Star break. And then -- The Horror! -- a Yankees/Phillies World Series. I wasn’t even going to watch, I told everyone who asked. I didn’t care who won. Or, more precisely, couldn’t bare to see either win. Then last week, my play, “Avoid Direct Sunlight,” was produced at The American Theatre of Actors, and after Wednesday’s Opening Night, my friend Brandon and I, looking for someplace to talk about the show, and catch up, ended up at the Cosmic Diner, and Game One was on the TV mounted on the wall. When I saw the Yankees were down 2-0 in the sixth, my reaction was, “Yeah!” Who was I kidding? As much as I despised the rival Phillies, I couldn’t root for the Yankees. As we ate, passersby would regularly gather at the window to catch a glimpse of the action on the screen. By the time our waiter, who’d grown old during his eternal shift, had brought us the check, the Yankees were down 6-0. When I got to the ferry, I checked the score on my phone, and was relieved to see that the final was 6-1. No pie tonight, I thought. Over the next week, I caught snatches of the game here and there. Pitch by Pitch on MLB.com, while waiting for the boat in the Whitehall Terminal on my way home from the theater. The Jumbotron in Times Square, which made Pedro’s curve appear to break like a whiffle ball. A bar on 8th Avenue on Halloween, where Dean -- who’d come to the show that night -- and I anxiously waited out the A-Rod home-run video review with three cheerleader slasher victims. When the call was overturned, and A-Rod awarded a home-run, the bloody cheerleaders cheered.

The PA system sounded again, announcing that the boat was approaching the dock, and would be loading shortly. Yankees fans flooded the perimeter of the terminal. Hundreds of them. Thousands. All wearing jerseys. Carrying banners. Even inside the holding chamber, chants of “Let’s go Yankees!” and “Twen-ty-seven!” filled the air. Someone clanged a pot, or, at least, had an electronic device that simulated the sound of a pot being clanged -- that’s more what it sounded like. In a Proustian moment, I was suddenly overcome by nostalgia. When the Yankees won the World Series in ’78, I was a sophomore at Curtis High School on Staten Island. The day of the championship parade... I was in the school library... I don’t know what I was doing in the library. Was it a scheduled library period? Was there such a thing as a scheduled library period? Whatever. I was in the library. And Angela Benn -- I can still picture her in faded jeans and ski jacket with orange and brown chevrons at the collar -- asked if I wanted to cut school and go to the parade. And I said no. (I should confess, I had a crush on Angie, the depths of which led me, after she commented on how she liked my T-shirt featuring an iron-on Siberian Husky, along with “Sarge,” the name of the family Siberian Husky, to change out of it during gym, and present it to her that afternoon.) Everyone’s got regrets. Two or three that wake you in the middle of the night, shirt damp. And then a longer list, that seem to come out of nowhere, like catching a glimpse of someone in a crowd that you think you recognize from your past. This would be, like, number 89 on my list.»

Number 89
Photo by Patrick Kiteley

The door finally opened, twenty minutes late, and the crowd pushed forward. The man next to me said, “Did the Yankees win it today?” I offered up a sideways glance, to discover an aging biker in a scarred black leather motorcycle jacket and bandana, from which hung a grey ponytail. His face, though weathered, was kind. Like he’d found peace through sobriety. “They won on Wednesday,” I said. He looked confused. “Today was the parade.” This made sense of the world for him, and his expression was overcome with joy. He explained how his TV had broken just prior to the World Series. When I commiserated with him, he said, “I don’t care that I didn’t see it. Just as long as they won!” Emphasis on “they.” The Yankees. Heads turned as a fight broke out by the entrance, and when I turned back, the amorphous crowd had shifted as it squeezed through the door, and the kind biker was gone.

Settling into my regular seat on the top deck of the boat, I put on my headphones, and took out my play to work on the rewrite. As we approached Manhattan, I packed up my bag and made my way to the lower deck, so that I could exit ahead of the crowd. I negotiated the mob of Yankees fans milling about in front of the terminal, and hurried down to the subway and, dodging a man with a guide book, oblivious that the doors were about to close in his face, jumped on the 1 Train just before it pulled out of the station. We arrived at Chambers simultaneously as the 2 express, and I scurried across the platform and squeezed in, and got to Times Square just a few minutes late for work.

This summer, Tom Diriwachter has a one-act play, "Pests," in The Drafts at Horse Trade 10 Minute Play Festival, as well as a new full-length play, "Age Out," at Theater For the New City.
 

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