Thursday, September 29, 2005
Baseball, Baby, and Bush
End-of-season baseball fever has gripped Boston hard. Tuesday night it took me an hour and twenty-five minutes to make a trip that should take fifteen to twenty at the most. I was on my way from MIT to the host house for this month's gay book club meeting and the problem was that, as the crow flies, Fenway Park was directly in my path. Unexpectedly, there was a double header Tuesday due to Monday night's rainout. So, as one huge crowd was leaving Fenway, another huge crowd was coming to Fenway for the evening game, just as Boston’s entire work force was trying to go home at the end of the work day. The regular season ends with a three-game series this weekend between traditional rivals-to-the-death Yankees and Red Sox, so Boston should be tied up just about completely on both Saturday and Sunday.
The "new" Red Sox owners have galvanized the city, first by actually fielding a team that broke the "curse," and then by making the firm decision NOT to move the team to some anonymous concrete stadium in the boonies somewhere outside the city. They’ve been making some carefully designed changes to increase the seating capacity at Fenway by something like 5000, while moving offices out of the ball park into surrounding buildings. In the vacated space they’ve developed more public services including child care and decent rest rooms. They've also started holding regular fan family events, an innovation that's going over extremely well. Fenway will always be one of the smallest parks in baseball, but the fan base has been expanding due to their outreach.
For residents of the Fenway area, these changes are a mixed blessing. There's a severe lack of parking in the area and traffic coming into and out of the Fens is cramped into a very few main streets. Worse, developers have bought up virtually all the existing two and three storey commercial buildings, demolished them and putting up monster high rises. One of these buildings will house several floors of shopping, several more of offices and then a residential tower many of whose units will look down right into the ball park. Long-time residents of the area fear being priced out of their apartments or being displaced when their buildings are demolished to make way for bigger, more expensive structures.
I'm very happy the decision was made to stick with the old century plus old ball park. Cities like Baltimore put up new parks consciously trying to recreate the old ball park feel. But Fenway IS a genuine old-style urban baseball park and staying with it is typical of Boston's respect for tradition and authenticity. My older daughter and I spent many happy afternoons and evenings in the grandstand behind right field. The dynamic in Fenway is very special, sort of like a gathering of an entire New England city in the middle of which a baseball game just happens to be going on.
My new cousin Neil Michael, about four hours old
Boston's weather was extraordinary yesterday, crystal clear with a deep and intense blue sky. Atmospheric pressure was invigorating and I thought of the poem Fritz learned as a grammar school student about "October’s bright blue weather"—four days early and very welcome.
I got a new relative yesterday as well. Neil Michael was born three weeks early in Pittsburgh, his first name in honor of Neil Armstrong since both his parents had wanted to be astronauts; his middle name in honor of his paternal grandmother whose first name is Michael. Although he's just over four pounds, he's full term in his development, and everybody's doing well.
I don't think I’m a vengeful person but watching the roof cave in on the Bush administration isn't doing my mood any harm at all. The indictment of Tom DeLay and the continuing investigation of Bill Frist combined with the worsening situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, the hurricane response disaster, the energy supply and pricing situation, the unimaginable amounts of debt Bush is racking up, and poll numbers indicating that Americans are finally catching on to the truth will, I hope, begin to break Republican control of Congress starting with the 2006 elections. I don’t look at life through rose colored glasses: the prosecutor who's taking on DeLay claims to have brought four times as many Democrats to trial as Republicans. But given the choice, I'll take corruption with enlightened social and financial policy over corruption with a rapacious environmental philosophy; a reactionary, theocratic social and political philosophy; and arrogant incompetence any day.
And congratulations on the new nephew!
As for Fenway, I've not been in ages. I used to live in the Fenway during my college days. I'm actually excited about the new developments that are taking place in that area (and rather annoyed at the Red Sox owners for prohibiting so much of the development because they don't want "views" disturbed or they don't want condo owners being able to view the field.
However, I do think the area between Boylston and Brookline Ave have been in a sad state for too many years. There should not be single-story free standing McDonald's and Burger Kings in this area. The city's plans to redevelop that stretch of Boylston Street with urban scale buildings will definitely improve things (IMO).
I swear, they seem to run fewer trains on the game days!