Opening Fenway; not 'that'Fenway.
An Effort to be First in Line. Thwarted by the Fire Department
Copyright 2013 Franklyn E. Dailey Jr. (Some of this moves the action into the 21st Century)
I set out to open Fenway. No, not that place where the $685-million baseball club and Big Papi play. I'm referring to our own Fenway, immediately accessible to my town of Wilbraham, Massachusetts, at a point where five other local towns and the city of Springfield meet. No, I have no interest in competing with that generation who 'camp out' all night at Best Buy to be first to buy the latest Steve Jobs cell phone or Apple Computer. But getting my picture in the local paper or on TV, that would be OK.
I have been to see the Red Sox play. I have been to see the Atlanta Braves play. There are times when going to the 'really big' event is appealing just because the spectacle will surely be interesting. But once there, you're competing with 40,000 or even 50,000 'fans.' We all need to have a local place to go where the people are just as interesting if not as numerous. Maybe a stand where hot dogs or ice cream are sold. A place where the 'draw' is some simple participation like pitch and putt, or miniature golf, or a little 'par 3' golf course. Well, that is the Fenway of this little story. Not Disneyland or Six Flags or Yankee Stadium. And for this trip, no nerve wracking Interstate or TSA to contend with. Just my old two-wheel bike and polite drivers..
I have already been able to bike for some weeks, as winter has melted into spring. To a New Englander, this day was special, 65-degrees, and a bright, uninterrupted sun. I did not take a water bottle but I should have.
I pedaled to Sampsons Funeral Home at the corner of Wilbraham and Tinkham Roads, and turned east by south onto Tinkham. I made a short visit in Gate of Heaven Cemetery and looked up some old friends. At last count, I have 42 there. (Since writing this a few years ago, Peg and I have invested in our own plot.) Then, I continued east to our town line at the top of the hill to Stony Hill Road, where I turned right. I stayed on that narrow speedway until I got to Longmeadow Street, taking the first exit to the right, Longmeadow Street. My route continued westward until I rounded the curve past the Brookside Cemetery (another favorite), to the Allen Street four-way stop. One more right toward Springfield, and I arrived at the entrance to Fenway, on the right. Maybe six miles at the most. Readers can skip that paragraph, but, now I tell you!
The golfers were already there as I knew they would be. The driving range was almost full. The par three was open but miniature golf was still closed and I did not see anyone on 'pitch and put.' No mind. I had no interest in opening any of those leisure time operations, lacking skill completely with a driver and putter, though I could pitch a bit. I was there to open the soft serve!
Alas! The lady dispensing golf balls and clubs told me that I was too early. There died my newsy article headline, "I Opened Fenway." Maybe I could still win the honors. "When will the food stand open, I asked?" "Hard to say," was the answer." "Need several good days in a row and haven't had that yet." I tried putting words in her mouth. "Could we say, on or about April First?" (No funny game about April Fools Day going on here; I'm serious.) "Well yes," she responded, "we could say that."
On reflection, I had not made much progress wheedling a guaranteed date from the proprietress and let's be real, the way things are going this winter we could have four or five opening day options before April 1. I will just have to stay with it, watch carefully the Weather Channel each day, and make a dash on my bike on the likely day, so that I can proclaim, "I Opened Fenway."
I almost made it about five years ago. Again, I was on the bike. I arrived in a dead heat with the local Fire Department, resplendent in fresh uniforms, in their bright red truck. The girl at the counter that day pleaded with her eyes for me to let them be first. She said in a low voice, "They might have to go to a fire, you know." Well, of course, I know.
They went first. It took awhile for her to dispense all those large cones for the five-man crew. Goodwill, at work. I finally asked for my "small black-and-white, please." I remember, because that was the first year I received no change from my dollar. I am allergic to chocolate but that thin stripe of chocolate is just enough to give me the "upper" without getting me sick. Whoever, or whomever, invented Fenway's brand of soft serve deserves commemoration somewhere.
The fire truck guys were still there when I left. No fires, I guess. Or at least, no fire they could not catch up with.
Back I went, right by the Brookside Cemetery. My thoughts often go back to that Cemetery. It was always fenced and locked, so I was never able to go in and visit graves. I said one of those "passing by" prayers which are probably not quite as good as the "stopping by" kind.
The street I live on is also called Brookside. I have a special affinity for that name. Once, years ago, I was in charge of an electronics research laboratory in Rochester, New York. One of the engineers and I occasionally left early on nice days to play tennis. There were four public courts on one corner of the campus of the Eastman Rochester Music School. My tennis partner and I invented a nickname for those courts, The Brookside Tennis Club.
That is the answer we gave our laboratory associates when they asked us where we played. It seemed to satisfy them.
Now, Weather Channel, don't let me down. A lot is riding on this.