The Thrill of the Grass

“There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” Robert Kennedy.

A few days ago, I attended my first baseball game of the season. It was a spontaneous spur-of-the-monent kind of thing. That’s often the best way to attend a ball game. You wake up one day, the weather seems right, you phone or get phoned by someone who suggests a game and you’re off. It felt great to be back in the old ballpark, and it was a double-header to boot. The previous night’s game was rained out, so we got a toofer. (In our team’s league, double header’s are seven inning affairs, so not quite two full games, but way more baseball that one would normally expect). It didn’t even matter that the home team, our team, lost both games. It was the being there that was important: the sights, sounds, and smells of the ball park.

And the grass. That green grass. The thrill of the grass, as W.P. Kinsella put it. My friend and I are kindred spirits when it comes to baseball. Sure, we like stats as much as the next guy, but it’s the poetry of the game, the history, the tradition, the unspoken rules and code that appeal to us more than anything else. The idea that foul lines diverge into infinity, and that we are always standing in a ballpark, somewhere, somehow. In fact, we are always standing in all ballparks, at all times, if you think about it.

Think about it.

Woah.

Back to my storyt: It wasn’t long before I saw another familiar face: my cousin Aiden. His Dad, Cal, was my first cousin. I think I may have mentioned him once or twice in these posts. He was my favourite cousin, period. At family gatherings I always tried to sit next to him, to get his attention, to hang out with him. And he was always great with me, even though he was 15 years older. He was the one who introduced me to the best band in the world, U2, when I was in grade 7, so I owe him that in the very least. He was one of those guys who was always interested in hearing what was going on with you, and always had something interesting to contribute. He always had a joke or a wry observation about the way of the world, I think I got a lot of my love of humour from hanging around him.

So here was his son, Aiden, selling beer at the ballpark.

Beer.

Is it even possible that Aiden was old enough to sell beer? I guess he’s 18 now, and I felt old. It didn’t escape me that I am the same age now (39) that Cal was when he died., killed in a car accident 15 years ago. Tempus Fugit, as my grade 10 english teacher used to remind us.

We had a little chat, and I really wanted to buy a beer from my cuz, but it was kind of a chilly night and I didn’t really feel like anything right then, so he moved on to do his rounds. Maybe I’d catch him later.

One of the nice things about our ballpark is that local and chain businesses are allowed to rent concession space in the park. You can get generic hotdogs and hamburgers, sure, but if you feel like a slice of Boston Pizza, or a donut from Robin’s Donuts, or something from Salisbury House, those things are available to you.

And Arby’s.

Regular readers of this blog will know of my possibly unnatural love of Arby’s, and what a major role it has played in my life so far, and so having the ability to chomp on a Beef ‘n Cheddar or some curly fries while sitting out and watching a little baseball may not be heaven, but it’s close enough, am I right?

So before too long, my friend and I decided to take a little stroll along the concourse and get a couple of Beef ‘n Cheddars to take back to our seats. I wasn’t really thinking, and had already eaten a Beef Dip at a nearby pub before the game, but that wasn’t going to stop me.

As we made our way around the park, we noticed a few new concessions; one of which was “Taco Time”. It seemed like a pretty decent addition to the line up, but for some reason it wasn’t open. The big metal sliding door was all the way down, and we took a picture of my friend standing by the “Please Place Order Here” sign. It was just a bit of fun, and we were going to tweet the pic with a line saying something like, “Those Tacos are sure taking a LONG time” or something like that. Just some fun, right?

photo 2[1]

We well almost got the end of the concessions, when we both had the same thought.

“Where is the Arby’s?”

We retraced our steps, and came to the horrible conclusion that Taco Time took over Arby’s spot! If you looked closely, you could almost make out the chipped paint where the Arby’s sign used to hang, partially covered up by the new Taco Time signage. And to add insult to injury, the bloody Taco Time wasn’t even open. Not only were we denied Beef ‘n Cheddars, an important part of our ballpark experience, but it was replaced with nothing. Just a shuttered kiosk.

The sad reality sets in.

The sad reality sets in.

The final insult was on the side door of the former Arby’s, current Taco Time. You could clearly make out the outline of Mitt, Arby’s oven mitt mascot. It was almost like a chalk outline around a murder victim, but the real victims here were the enthusiasts of slow roasted, freshly sliced roast beef within fresh onion buns and delectable cheese sauce.

Mitt without his binders full of women.

So long, Mitt!

I’ve been known to exaggerate on here, but I am not lying when I say that we were both in some form of mild shock.

Crime Scene

Crime Scene

“First St. James, now this.”

There was even a bit of crazy talk of leaving the game and driving to Transcona to the last remaining stand-alone Arby’s to satisfy our cravings. Instead, we made our way back to our seats, and en route we bumped into my cousin, Aiden, again.

“Aiden. The Arby’s is gone. What happened?”

He looked solemn and said, “You know a lot of people have been asking about that.”

“Really???”

“No, you’re the first. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever even had anything from there.”

This news fell hard upon the first disappointment. I could only imagine what his father would have said.

“Look Aiden, Arby’s was wonderful. You could get these delicious Beef ‘n Cheddar sandwiches….” and I went on to describle the different things you could get there, like I was a sales rep, or maybe just a deranged, low-end foodie.

“You know, that does sound pretty good. I think maybe I had the curly fries from there one time,” but I could tell he was only humouring us.

What is it about Arby’s that has caused it to languish where other fast food chains flourish? My friend and I talked about this a few days later, and we’ve decided that they haven’t diversified enough. McDonalds and Burger King still sling burgers, of course,  but you can get chicken nuggets, or even terrible salads if that’s your game. Arby’s? Well, if you’re not into Beef ‘n Cheddars, you probably won’t be headed there, will you? I mean, if you have a picky eater in your group, chances are that picky eater wouldn’t find anything to their liking. It’s a sad, hard truth.

I ended up going to the regular concessions, resigning myself to a generic hotdog. On their menu, however, was pulled pork on a bun.

“Well, that sounds promising!” I said to myself. But the person behind the counter told me they were all out of pork.

“We can make it with turkey,” she said helpfully.

“Sure, why not? What do I have to lose?”

So I had pulled turkey on a bun, and returned to the action of the game. I wasn’t at all surprised to see that in that short time it took us to look for Arbys, see it was gone, complained about it and found secondary food, the visiting team scored 5 runs on us and went on to win not only the game but the series.

It was as if the baseball gods were in sympathy with the roast beef gods, and why not? Anything can happen in baseball.

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