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It was the summer of 2006.  I was on a two week business trip to Quincy Massachusetts with a free weekend in between that I decided to use as an opportunity to sight see around and about the historic city of Boston.

As I plotted my trip, one destination was a must.  Fenway Park. I’ve got a thing for ballparks and stadiums and Fenway, with its iconic “Green Monster” wall that spans left field was a must.

There was a game that day, but it was 90 degrees outside, ticket prices would be exorbitant and I didn’t want to spend my only day in Beantown watching a ball game I really didn’t care about.  I would be satisfied with taking a lap around the park and catching just a glimpse of the field.

I took the T (as the locals call their train transport) and ended up at Fenway well before game time.  I bought a Red Sox Tee at a souvenir shop and walked around the historic park.  Nowhere could I catch a spot to view the actual playing field as brick walls encased the park.

As I turned left off Yawkey Way to Van Ness Street, there seemed to be a gap in the park and while there was an opening, the actual field of play was not in view.   I had a Kodak disposable camera.  This was before cell phones came standard with cameras.  2006.  The good old days.

I implored anyone inside the park to let me in for 5 minutes or at the very least, take my camera to snap a shot of the field.  I told them I came all the way from Chicago just to see the Monster. The only interest I received was from a local policeman who soon approached me.  I extended the same plea to him, but all the constable said was, “Move along, sir.”

A stranger in a strange town, I did as directed and satisfied my trip to Fenway with a T-shirt, and a bottle of “Wicked Cold” water I bought from a street vendor on Lansdowne Street just behind the “Green Monster.”   I only saw “The Monster” from the back side.

Yesterday, June 20, 2017, I took a tour of Wrigley Field with my wife and some out of town guests.  What better site to show Chicago to the visitors than a trip to the iconic ball yard the year after the Cubs first World Series title in 108 years.

My back was sore and my knees were aching and we lagged behind the tour group as we moved from the right field bleachers to the left field upper deck grandstands.

“Excuse me, excuse me sir,” said a fellow peeping through the gates in the right field corner as I took a turn to head up the stairs.

Normally, I ignore this stuff, but I stopped and said, “Yeah, I’m just on a tour here.”

He said to me as he extended his cell phone through the gated barrier, “I ‘m from New York and came by just to see the inside of Wrigley Field. Can you take my phone and get some pictures for me at least?”

Eleven years later and it just took a second for the serendipity of the moment to reach me.

“Absolutely,” I replied.

I took the phone, handed it to my wife who had observed the side gate to the inside of the field was open and said, “Go snap a whole bunch of pics for this guy.”

She did.  She didn’t ask why, she clicked away.  After 26 years, I still love this girl.

I handed back the phone to the New Yorker and my wife and I moved along to catch up with the tour group.

Some may call it a fortuitous moment for the New Yorker. Some may call it Karma. I prefer to see it as serendipitous.  Somewhere in New York this weekend, a guy is showing photos of his visit to Wrigley Field that have the green field, the ivy and the monster center field scoreboard.  My wicked cold water botte is long gone.

I was happy to accommodate this fellow’s request and show the friendliness of Chicagoans.  After all, Ernie Banks said, these are the “Friendly Confines.”

And, I share this tale because sometimes a special moment happens that merits mention.

img_3046It started off simply enough. I was on my way to a Super Bowl party and called the host to see if they needed anything.

“Glad you called. Turns out we got a bunch of cheese, but no crackers.”

“I’m on it,” I replied. “I’ll bring some crackers.”

Simple enough it seemed. There were two minor hitches it turned out.

First, the entire town was at the local grocery store picking up last minute items, wings, pizza, chips and beer, lots and lots of beer.

Second, there was nearly an entire aisle of the store devoted to crackers. See cover photo. Who knew?
There were more than just Triscuits, Wheat Thins, Ritz and good old fashioned Saltines.

There were toasted crackers, water crackers, baked crackers, wheat crackers, wheat free crackers, rice crackers, matzo crackers, ground pepper crackers, whole grain crackers, no grain crackers, pretzel crackers and pita crackers.

Then the aberration crackers, Chikin in a basket, Cheeze its, Cheese Nips, Goldfish Crackers, Animal Crackers, Oyster Crackers and Graham Crackers.

I quickly ruled out the Graham family of crackers but my mind was boggled at the selection.

I called the host. “Hey, uh, I’m having trouble finding the crackers,” I lied.

“Not to worry,” he replied. “Just pick up some brew. Billy Bob bopped by with a big box of crackers. That’s what he does. He was just late. Cracker Billy is always good for the crackers on Super Bowl Sunday. “

Now, “Cracker Billy” was a term of endearment for our southern friend. He took the nickname as a source of pride for his long time roots in the Georgia south.

Indeed, before the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1965, the minor league baseball team of the Southern Association was actually called the Atlanta Crackers. The Negro League team was likewise known as the Atlanta Black Crackers. (This is not to be confused with the Chiropractic Society of Atlanta known as the Atlanta Back Crackers. OK, I made that one up. The other names are entirely true.)

In any event, the term “Cracker” as applied to a group of people is tricky. Some, like Billy Bob find it OK. Others find the term offensive. Polly may wanna cracker, but Polly don’t want you to call her a cracker if you get my drift. So, it’s wise to stay away from the term.

So, I was looking in the craft beer aisle which was JUST as mind boggling as the cracker aisle. And there I saw it. Florida Cracker Belgian-style White Ale.

img_3048

Crackers and beer all in a can. Doesn’t get any better. Billy Bob loved it.

img_3027Wedwand comes alive again tonight.

OK I’m totally freaked at four things.

ONE: It’s 2017. I have things in my refrigerator with an expiration date marked “0417Beelzebubgobad” and I’m thinking “well that mustard is good for a few more years” when BANG it hits me. It IS 2017! I gotta be eating more hot dogs and brats cause damn, its 2017! That mustard’s going bad.

TWO: Groundhog Day is this week. Thursday as a matter of fact. I haven’t done ANY shopping at all yet.

THREE: Going into this year’s baseball season, the Chicago Cubs are the defending World Champions! Hell yeah they are. Never gets old.

FOUR: The President of America is a former Game Show host. Now I don’t exactly recollect how Alex Trebek got to this office, but it’s a fair assumption that the electorate prefers responses in the form of a question than actual answers.

That said. There’s required homework to continue further. Back to a simpler time. 1968.

You must watch this video. Tommy Boyce. Bobby Hart. “I wonder what she’s doing tonight.”

Great song, obvious lip synch. Odd ruffled sleeves. Orange and Green velvet suits. The tambourine gets dropped unceremoniously at 20 seconds. Not a trumpet to be seen in the brass interlude.

Simpler times. Yet struggles existed. Maybe they weren’t so simple. 1968 was a rough year. Maybe ruffled sleeves weren’t the answer.

The past seems simpler since we lived through it and survived. But it wasn’t all that simple when it was “going down”. Stop children what’s that sound.

These days we perceive as harder times, yet struggles still exist, not unlike struggles survived in the past. I wonder what we’re doing tonight. Whatever it is …

We will survive.

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