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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Opening Day (a tribute)

I will never forget Halloween 1991.  It was my first semester in college, and I was very much trying to find myself.  I had already had a falling out with my first roomate.  He of the book smarts, me of the not liking the books all that much.  Our dorm was clearly intended for meatheads.  All of the athletes were housed there.  In the room next to mine I struck up a friendship with a local guy who had been trying to find himself too.  He had been out of school a bit, served in the Army, and was now getting his head back on tight.  I remember his smarts and wit and vastly greater world experience than mine.  We hit it off great and on Halloween he trusted me to meet his hugh school friends and spend the night on Suscon mountain, deep Lackawanna County, PA. 

Here I was, months removed from a rather pedestrian Catholic high school life, intergating myself with virtual strangers in the cold Pennsylvania night.  Was not real sure what the plan was, but I think there were some prelimanary talks of LSD.  I think I had mentioned I was curious about what that drug might do to me.  Maybe I was just trying to look cool.  Maybe I really meant it.  Either way I think it was like a week or so after I said it that there was a tiny piece of acid on my tongue...  and I was off.  I had never gotten drunk.  I certainly never smoked weed, snorted coke, anything.  Now, as the cold air rushed in on that fall evening, my nervous system was about to get a jolt.  I kept saying I am not feeling anything for what seemed like forever.  Then, maybe a half hour in as expected, "Abbey Road" came on the tape deck.  Then "Tommy," then "Zeppelin 3."  You really can see the music I thought.  Hour after hour, trading car seats and sometimes lying on the car hood, listening. laughing, learning.  It would forever change my view of reality.  It had changed me profoundly.  And, most importantly, it introduced me to my friend Mike.

I have been thinking Mike very often these days.  I keep talking to peers and friends about whatever problems I have.  I try talking myself and others off the ledge.  Our problems are large for sure, but what of Mike?  As I watched his beloved Phillies score 3 in the 9th yesterday to beat my Astros I couldn't help but smile.  He would have loved this game.  I would have loved to watch it with him.   But Mike passed away several years ago from ALS.  He was about my age now, and he left a wonderful wife and 2 amazing young boys.  And where is the justice in that???  He could find the joy in listening to a Duane Allman solo.  I remember us debating about whether hitters rely on instinct or think about what pitch is coming.  He was so passionate about it we did not talk for years after.  His stubborness and unrelenting exhuberance drew you in.  For years he would only listen to Yes.  When you told him I like them, but can we take a break?  He bristled and said " I guess, but you have to listen to this version of Heart of the Sunrise" first.  And we would.  And it would be amazing.  And he would close his eyes and smile ear to ear.  He need not have money.  He need not have "things."  The mountains, a nice hike, music, and family and friends.

And when he realized he could not grip a baseball anymore...  we all suffered.  A healthy, joy filled man taken down in a flash.  And I miss him.  I miss his laugh.  I miss our raucous late night card games.  I miss our drug filled concerts and adventures trying to get home.  I miss the innocent times.  And I struggle with the unknowns.  Why does he have to miss a ballgame at Citizens Bank with his boys?  Why can't he and his lovely wife take another trip to a National Park?  Why him?

And, as with everything, the answers are hard to come by.  But as Spring comes in and baseball begins, I think of Mike and smile.

Your boys are 1-0 with the best staff in baseball my friend.  Hopefully you have a Steve Kimock song playing and are enjoying the view with Harry Kalas.  Since Houston is out of it already I will pull for you.   And maybe it's about time I take your boys to see them in Philly. 

2 comments:

  1. Amie (Christy's sister)April 4, 2011 at 10:41 AM

    Henry,
    Beautiful tribute! Since I am down here in Philly I too thought of Mike all weekend and how happy he would be with this weekends outcome. He is smiling ear to ear. Thanks for the wonderful memories!

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  2. Great post, thank you; even better Halloween night. Glad to read that your memory of it is like mine. If only we understood at ages eighteen and twenty that events of that sort are (would become) far and few between.
    At the risk of sounding maudlin, I wish I knew then that life would move this G.D. fast. Wish Mike were around to read your blog.

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