Thursday, October 18, 2012

Buckle Up!

The backdrop of an unfortunate end to an improbable post season run by the Baltimore Orioles seems ideal for the recounting of a trip to Camden Yards to take in the final home game of the season for the birds. 

I was fortunate enough to make the journey to baseball's "mecca" with my good friend and bird of a feather, Chris Carey (the originator of the above quotes) and Rich Arleo, very much not a fan of the black and orange, who displayed his displeasure with a bold showing of New York team pride. Rich donned his Yankee cap, which is pretty much expected for any and every sojourn we make together, and took his fandom to the next level when he wore his Mark Sanchez New York Jets jersey. Considering there are places in New York where you couldn't get away with wearing that jersey, he was making a bold statement, indeed.

Promptly upon entering the car, Chris made sure to tell us both to "Buckle Up" as this was the new slogan for the Orioles as they came down the stretch of meaningful October baseball. This comment was expected (if he didn't say it, I would have), but we resolved to try and use the phrase ten times before getting to Baltimore, with the only catch being that we didn't want to force the issue and say it for the heck of it. The gauntlet was laid down.

Almost equally as promptly, Chris packed a lip, citing that it was his way of coping with long drives and minutes later Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" popped on the radio. For but a moment we questioned whether or not we wanted to venture such an intense tune so early in the morning. We came to the conclusion that if it wasn't too early for chewing tobacco, it wasn't too early for Phil Collins. The track appeared to set the tone for the entire day. We made the right choice.

Not the best roots to lay for a story per se, but Chris made unbelievable time getting there and back; incredibly impressive. At one point during the ride in, we spied a massive bird of some sort chilling in a cage in the passenger seat just watching the traffic glide by. Consequent Birdland jokes were traded and after imagining the bird saying buckle up to its driver, we were all the more closer to both the great state of Maryland and our "BUCKle Up" goal. As we pulled into the city, we caught a glimpse of a perhaps inevitable traffic sign reading, "Buckle up for safety" and, while not the most creative of endings, considered our "buckle" goal reached. 

Stating the obvious here, but as questionable as the outter parts of the city may be, the Inner Harbor area of Baltimore is really a pretty special place that definitely has it's own distinct feel. I equated it, perhaps not quite eloquently enough, to having a Down Port kind of atmosphere with a big city activities list. There's a little of everything there, including a life-sized robot in the image of the tallest man in the history of the world that can rise from a seated position very, very quickly. More about Baltimore's extra curriculars in a bit.

The park itself is nothing short of incredible. If you haven't seen it, be sure you do at some point. I mean, there's that old time feel that I guess every ball park has to an extent, just because it's the nature of the game to take you back in time to something perennial, in a sense, but Camden Yards' brick construction right in the middle of a very populous city really takes the feeling to the next level. Even the vibe at the park was something special. You could tell that A. We weren't in New York and B. The Oriole fans were still a bit unused to being on the winning end of a baseball game. Even the people who stopped to heckle Rich a bit for his attire did all but apologize for it afterwards. (Including the guy who Tebowed in front him.) This truly was a team and fan base that was just happy to be here. One of my favorite shirts I saw while at the park seemed to sum up the attitude of park and its people perfectly as it combined the name of Oriole third baseman, Manny Machado, with a popular "Lion King phrase to say "Hakunamachado." No worries, indeed, what a scene.

One of the other great aspects of this trip was the fact that a few friends from York were also at the game. Lord Baltimore himself (and his peach shorts) took the time to dwell amongst his masses, taking in the game with the lovely Lauren. As if things couldn't get any better, Greg "Poppyseed" Sullivan and Emmie were also in attendance and fortunately, Rich, Chris, and I were able to go sit with them after learning there were some open seats in their section. This move proved most helpful, as we were initially seated next to a nice enough family, but a family with two young kids with them that were clearly more interested in reading books than watching the game. It wasn't exactly conducive to the kind of baseball atmosphere we wanted, so we were relieved Emmie and the Seed swooped in with the seating arrangements.

While not nearly the sore thumb Rich was, Emmie was dressed in neutral colors as a sign of support for the Red Sox. Needless to say, she had a long day as the O's pounced on the Sox like bird seed and pretty much never looked back. At one point, while the Yankees were down large to the Jays and the Jets were in the process of being shut out by the Niners, Rich, sandwiched between Chris and myself proclaimed, "This is my hell." At which point, I told him to "buck up". We didn't exactly make that day easy on him, but considering the Yanks came back and won that day, it's hard to regret it.

After the game, the announcer at the park notified us that the Angels were in the final inning of their game, which, if lost, would clinch a postseason berth for the Orioles. They threw the game up on the big screen and fans and players alike lingered on the field and in the stands respectively to see how it would all pan out. The buzz in the place was electric. Even Rich admitted that this moment had the potential to be really cool. Sadly, the Angels pulled it out and while the O's did clinch later that night, we didn't get to witness and partake in the celebration. Hard to be too upset about it, though, following the victory.

After the game we toiled around the harbor for a while and grabbed a bite to eat with Greg and Emmie. As we walked through the harbor, I noticed a replica pirate ship that I suppose they used for tours or something. I thought it was awesome, until I realized that the cannons actually worked. The thought of midday cannon fire and pillaging is a little alarming, but these cannons only shot water at those on land. To be fair, These guns didn't reach very far inland, but even so, I have to say if I was just strolling around enjoying the day and I was nailed with a water cannon, I don't think I'd take it very well. After it was clear we were out of shot range, we saw a street performer doing her thing. Towards the end of the show, she tried to mount a huge unicycle after turning on the entirely appropriate Rocky theme song. She messed up the first time, but played it off well, stretching and restarting the song. She had played it off like it was a gag. She messed up the second time and grabbed a drink of water and restarted the song. Again, really over selling it like it's all part of her schtick. She screwed up the third time and does more the same, which you expect because of the comedic rule of three. She screws up a fourth time and even then you think it's a part of the gag because she wants to stick it to the know-it-all in the front row referencing the comedic rule of three (namely, me). But then she fails to mount it for a fifth time and doesn't take the time to restart the song. At that point the crowd realizes it's not part of the act and it gets really tense really quickly. The crowd got pretty silent and the theme song now seems like cruel irony. It was awkward because they call it a unicycle for a reason, there's not much someone else can do to help you out. After about eight tries, she finally got up and the crowd erupted nearly as passionately as after the O's win.

Greg and Emmie left after the meal, leaving Chris, Rich and I to wander about ourselves. For a while we were just walking and talking and what have you, until I realized we were walking away from any sort of tourist area and were entering something akin to the dark forest of Legends of the Hidden Temple lore, except there were no trees and no talking rock. Whether or not there were Mayan temple guards lurking about...I'll never know. The comedy of this moment is tough to describe, but we very nearly wander aimlessly into a much less friendly area of Baltimore.

Later that evening, we met up with Nick (Lord) and shot some pool and played some ping pong. It got pretty intense and I think we all wound up sweating a little more than we'd like to admit. It was a great casual hang out to put the cherry on the day. Great to catch up and share old times with Nick and I'm glad Chris and Rich were there to share it with me. The trip was unforgettable and I'm thrilled to know that the Buck Truck is poised to bring Baltimore baseball back to its winning ways. *flaps arms like wings* See you next season.

Song of the Day: Conventioneers-Barenaked Ladies
Jazz Song of the Day: Raju- John McLaughlin

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