Season 12

“Alright, it’s the row behind us” I said matter of factly.

“What?” replied JJ

“It’s the row behind us” I said again after surveying, over and across, the row in front of us and then doing the same with the row we were in and then…

“…It’s the row behind us”

“For what?”

“For me to go across and grab our first round”


“Because they’re Pirates fans” In our 11 seasons of catching at least one game, at Shea Stadium and now Citi Field in Queens, there have always been, inevitably, Pirate fans sitting close. “They already like me”

I hate sitting in the middle of a row at a ballgame as, eventually, you will need to Bugs Bunny ‘Pardon me, excuse me, pardon me’ across an aisle of people but in this case I was wearing my Buccos jersey. It was, thus, a much easier momentary imposition I thought.

JJ and I (Jeremiah Johnsen is his name, not to be confused with the beard and living off the land) had fast become friends at Cumulus Radio in Poughkeepsie NY back in ’05 while I was doing an overnight shift and then a morning show when we thought it would be a fine idea to take our respective ballteam fandoms down to New York City for a Pirates/Mets game along with my morning show co-host, Reno and our producer, Beast. So the following Spring, right around the time my morning show tenure was about to come to a premature end, we did just that. I didn’t know the end of that morning show for me was coming but I somehow felt it in my shoes (yeh, I can kick a chair on occasion), when it was decided in the dreaded ‘upstairs’ I wasn’t funny anymore and was instead replaced by someone far less so but far more expensive in more ways than one. That decision would eventually come with a bite. I’ve never held many grudges in my life but that karma bite has always been remembered fondly and that first game was as good a night as any to remember that wonderful morning crew together as we sat just a few rows from God at old Shea watching that first game while bonding and joking with some girls doing their own night together who didn’t realize, or didn’t care how old I was. I thank you ladies for that by the way… and yes, there were Pirate fans nearby.

One of my greatest joys has always been a ballgame, win or lose, wherever I was, checking off 6 different pro stadiums in my time and though I’ve been on the losing side more often than not it hasn’t really mattered in the end. All that has mattered is the green expanse, the rush of walking the stairs, entering the concourse, ticket in hand, to the orderly confusion of favorite player jerseys/t-shirts and caps worn by dads and sons and daughters and moms who need to guide dad forward while he’s distracted, as I have always been, at the smells of dogs, burgers, pretzels, things with powdered sugar and the excited greeting of that expanse…the rush of that smack, the bat, the ball in the glove, the holler of the ump and the seeming hugeness of the same small game you played as a child, ‘There it is again…’ I thought ‘…and it never gets old’ the smack of looking out over that lush of grown up kids running their dreams to their positions and me living it with them with a beer, a dog, a glove and time paused. You know, I’ve felt old now in too many places and at too many times in the last number of years to remember but I’ve never felt old at a baseball game.

I was even reminded of that thought after I did that Bugs Bunnying across that row of Pirate fans behind us this night while making my way to one of the snack bars for that first round when I was stopped by some Mets fans, the type of guys that try to make you feel at home while making fun to your face, especially that ONE guy, the smug one, the one that still finds it some sort of inside joke to wear the #69 in his over 35 softball league. I had my glove with me, as I have always have had my glove with me since my first game when I was 13.

“Dude! Pirates fan! Do you really have your glove with you?!” with the expected laughs from his buddies.

“Of course I do. Where’s yours?”

Another guy “How much you wanna bet on tonight? How about a hundred?”

“No, I’m good my friend”

That ONE guy “How much for that glove?”

“Do you still have the same glove you’ve owned most of your life with you today? How do you not bring your glove to the ballpark?” I asked.

We laughed as I walked away feeling the other laughs at my back drifting behind me.

Not surprisingly, as JJ and I and good friend Brian (who has been joining us going on 5 seasons now) left our seats to make our way to a centerfield vantage in the later innings, I ran into that ONE guy one more time, cheeks flushed, spending his time at a concourse bar hitting on some poor girl, the ballpark now a mere drinking hole.

“Hey, It’s the Pirate fan with the glove”

“And it’s you without one. Never forget what it’s like to bring your glove to a game dude. Be good”

Then it was a fist bump with a guy in a Stargell jersey and off to centerfield for some ice cream. Comfort food. My Buccos were down 10-0 and I was hoping that ice cream would come with a hug.


I had a press pass in my later years at WDVE in Pittsburgh starting in ‘93, the year the Bucs stopped being baseball relevant (something that would continue for 20 more), when all the players left and the fans with them, well, the ones unlike me. I was still there and I gloried in my Charlie Golden Ticket of a free pass to the expanse anytime I wished or when I was there to get sad losing sound bites from Jim Leyland or disinterested players for the morning show. People still needed to hear the trainwreck right? Me? I got to sit in the press box after waving that ticket at security through the press entrance to fellas that would eventually just smile and nod me through, no pass needed. Though the club was a losing one, in a city that seemed to baseball die after ’92 (I swear Pittsburgh took that harder than any Steelers failure), I was allowed access to that press box and the clubhouse and even to the ’94 All Star Game. For a guy who grew up in NY but bled Black N Gold courtesy of my grandad how could you ask for more? Other than winning? You couldn’t and I surely did not when I would walk in on a Friday or Saturday night, unencumbered with the obligation of a girlfriend or others, no sound bites needed for the weekend, and grab a beer and couple of dogs to make my way to the 600 section of old Three Rivers Stadium, feet up in the front row. Bring me bad baseball with sauerkraut and mustard. Now that was living.


In the grand scheme 12 seasons is a blip, it doesn’t even garner a flicker, but it’s been one fifth of my life, MY life. One that is only mine for this short stay but it’s been pretty big. Past days spent with Jagger (Maria’s son) and days spent with he and her, so pretty in a ballcap, days spent with my sis, her Buck and my nephews who are now stuck with the Bucs courtesy of Uncle Steve, a day spent with Johnny, when he was still feeling out his relationship with one of Meg’s daughters, the day in the rain where Beck and Buck and I moved, drenched, to the hitter’s eye seats in centerfield and days spent with JJ on a Sunday if we had a weekend series, getting there at 11a after the night game we caught to grill dogs, burgers and braut in a soon not to be lonely parking lot in the sun, to the game where I just missed a HR ball from Cutch


and to that scheduled doubleheader in ’77, with me decked out in my homemade John Candelaria jersey, the one that would have me noticed at the mad filing out after game 2 by his parents somehow amid that exiting rush, as proud as any parents of their child who, grown now, inspired that homemade jersey of a 13 year old from the suburbs who lived his 13 year old dreams by meeting John himself at the players entrance as they directed me and dad there to display their pride in the form of me. I even got a chance to meet John Candelaria recently and recount that story to a big smile, laugh, a handshake and an autograph on the weathered Pirates batting helmet I got that day almost 40 years ago. This was courtesy of JJ. Thank you for that my friend. The bond of ball.

Though I didn’t really expect a victory on this night with the Pirates pitching scuffling so badly it didn’t matter. I was at the expanse. At the lush. It was season 12 of days and nights at a ballgame and time to be well spent.

52 – A Work in Progress

I recently took a weekend off and did something.  Now mind you, that sentence is a touch foreign. I haven’t taken a weekend off to do something since the last time I did and that was, well, that was never it seems. But it was also a stinging reminder of all the weekends where I should have, with loved ones in tow but didn’t. A bad I can never un not do. But this particular weekend I did and I gotta tell ya, I felt a rush of actual living from it and it was something that I had to do at this point in my life for just that reason. I went to visit my old, and best, roommate, Tom. He the teacher of 20 years and his life were holding a Poet Con. A coming together of poets and expression and friends. He asked if I would be interested in joining, witnessing  and maybe actually do a bit of that coming together.

Sitting on a train to Norfolk from Poughkeepsie (a couple of them with a Penn Station hub) for just short of 12 hours I was slapped with a reminder of me. I enjoyed the solitude of those trains with a Neil Gaiman book this day, and a packed lunch and could have easily continued to stops beyond, or as long as my sandwich held out to the next sandwich, yet the promise of meeting new folks and sharing poetry had me get off where I should.  How to mix solitude with connection, a conundrum I’ve been trying to master for a lifetime.  

Ya know, I don’t remember exactly when Tom (JT) and I weren’t sharing a place together back at WVU and before then. I know when it had to be, after Tom was done with the masters and I stayed on in Morgantown, after not being done with mine, at the college radio station while trying to catch on at WDVE in Pittsburgh, I just don’t remember exactly when.  I don’t really recall moving out, the whole packing and steps and lugging shit down them to say goodbye to that two bedroom place that started with pizza and fleas. Fleas hopping above that exhaustedly happy post move-in pizza suddenly profiled in the light of the TV as they sprang up and down in an almost circus of flight just minus tiny top hats from the carpet that seemingly had been home to a flead cat or dog before us. The necessary bombing of the place took a bit of the sheen of new place excitement out of the move but it settled and we lived even with the eventual ants who apparently just laugh off flea bombs. 
We had been roommates for so long and so well that I think my memories just kind of skipped straight to wherever I was next, wherever the next bed and stuff was. There were quite a few.
It started with our last year of college at Waynesburg where I stayed on for a fifth as the Resident Director of a Dorm, something that was requested of me, while needing to take just a couple of classes. Tom and I had already decided to find a place together for that year and when the school asked of the RD position I told them it had to come with a roommate. They agreed and it was the length of four dorm rooms connected and a slew of mattresses ‘procured ‘ from the unused floor above us. My bed was four of them, on the floor, stacked two on two. A Jerry rigged luxury King Bed of sorts that was only missing waved palms and dropped grapes. I still live with my bed on the floor, never quite comfortable in one as it’s supposed to be… it’s nice that there’s nowhere for monsters to hide. That’s a good thing right?

After that it seems something of a blur.  A succession of roomates and places and beds and girlfriends and mistakes, misfires, actual fires a lost dear cat (the first of many) and its upending, radio jobs that were good, some that were just dollars and time backwards, a wedding, an ex and a direction that never really was. Just one that always kept a roof and new cat food.

That has continued as I approach my 52ndbirthday, a roof and cat food after a new ex of eight years two years gone now and the house we shared with skin and fur and memories of good and an eventual slow creep of bad. I wonder every day how I got here, what I missed along the way and how I can possibly make my last shot at a life that won’t just be one of walking, breathing poorly and limping to the end but one that I might still be proud of amidst my many failures.

Shit, that’s something.
Today I finished a weeklong set of three triple header lacrosse state playoff lacrosse matches that led to three teams being crowned State Champs in an almost drunken haze of joy countered with the hangover of loss and tears from the seconds. I watched intently from my sideline gig for Time Warner Cable Sports and their broadcast of the games (an envious vantage for the moms, dad’s, sisters and brothers and others that were imploring their kids from the stands I’m sure) teams of High School players doing what they do with the spark flash of youth and it was mesmerizing.  I watched a game I don’t know but have come to admire as I enjoyed this envious vantage while figuring out as many intricacies of the game as I possibly could. Who knew, thought the newbie, what sticks out meant after a shot on goal racing to the out? It’s something I could have played, I think, if I weren’t so baseball centric in my same days.

But there was something.

I found myself with small foot to foot rocking and tiny anxious lunges at whatever action was happening for whichever team I had silently decided were mine. Most importantly though, I breathed. While keeping my head in the game for my job of the day I couldn’t help but note that, God, yes, I was indeed breathing, taking in the day’s big heat and wanting to do nothing more than to jog, break out a ball and glove and look for mom and dad sunglassed proud on a blanket or bike ride to grab a sweat in my own spot, maybe on trail in the woods, with camera in hand, or a fast walk somewhere in the sun.

When the games were done and the day was the same I made way out to the now silent parking lot, so raucus earlier with the horn honks of victory and special meals from moms for son victors when they got home, and sat leg out in my car, windows open to a welcome breeze, spent, after letting that wavy heat drift breeze away and my stink sweat go with it. It was just me and one last survivor. A guy and his camera slowly working his day up the long parking lot to its end of the same leg out at his car or something similarly paused in the quiet of breeze.

My little square squeezy cooler holds just a few cans with a plastic block of freeze in the middle. Its long lost freeze now, after a day in the car’s sun, was still cool enough for the soda waters I kept there to get me home after the hot. He took the one I offered on his walk and found his day end spot, on a small wall further up the lot as did I with my leg out in the front seat, tilted back just a little extra. Man, what a day to breathe and, for a quick moment, I found the answer to that joining of solitude and its companion.