I’m surprised to find myself sitting at a bar alone watching the World Series. It’s not any old bar, though—it’s the Cask ‘n Flagon right across the street from Fenway Park. I’d wanted to go to Trader Joe’s tonight, but the one I frequent in Back Bay is on the way to Fenway Park on the Green Line. When I tried to shop there last week, I found myself smashed in a subway car with a hundred or so happy Red Sox fans—that is, after I made it onto a train. The first two that came by couldn’t pack even one more person in.
So tonight I decided to join them. I’d ride the jovial wave to the ballpark, take a few pictures in the streets, and watch the game at the Cask ‘n Flagon with other people who didn’t have tickets. I could catch Trader Joe’s on the way back, probably around the 7th inning, and finish the game at home with my cat.
Watching sporting events isn’t exactly my thing. I like to work out, but I’ve never been an athlete by any stretch of the word. When people ask me what sport I played in high school, I say, “piano”. In many ways, however, I live a Forrest Gump-type existence, and major sporting events seem to fall under my particular Gump umbrella. I moved to France in 1998 just in time for them to win the World Cup, and I partied in the streets with several hundred thousand fans. Another time in Paris, Ray and I happened to be strolling by the Arc de Triomphe, and we wondered why there were so many people hanging out. We walked over to see Lance Armstrong win the Tour de France.
The Gumpness has continued somewhat in Boston. The weekend after we moved here, Boston had one of the worst blizzards on record, and a few months later I found myself uncomfortably close to the finish line of the Boston Marathon. For tonight, however, I’m hoping to be a good luck charm for the Red Sox in the World Series.
Before trying to get into the Cask ‘n Flagon, I took a bunch of pictures outside the ballpark, and while trying to get a picture of a Monster sign, I stepped into Lansdowne, the street that runs on the north side of Fenway. Oblivious of the curb, I fell to the ground and sprained my ankle. (My camera was okay.) Three Sox fans rushed to my rescue, and we were all relieved when I could stand up. I decided it was time to find a place to watch the game and sent them on their way through the hallowed gates.
I had to fight for my seat at the bar. The hostess told me there was at least a 1½-hour wait for a table and no one was leaving, and that I’d have better luck at the bar. One look at the bar told me that was a hopeless proposition—it was already 3-deep of people pushing up to order drinks. A few minutes of loitering—trying to look cheery, like I was enjoying the pregame commercials blaring from every TV—and I discovered within the throng an abandoned barstool, schools of sports fans swimming around it as they made their way closer and closer to the bar. I shouldered through to the barstool and put my arm around its back as if greeting an old friend. From there, I sort of danced with it, maneuvering it across the floor and through red shirts and caps and jackets emblazoned in blue Bs. I’d eyeballed a line leading to a slight gap at the bar where people were ordering, so I just kind of queued up with my new barstool friend. When I finally made it to the bar, I scooted the stool up to the bar, slid my butt onto it, and asked for a menu.
I’m normally a pretty good alone person. I don’t mind going to movies or restaurants by myself—all the better to catch up on some reading. I enjoy being a fly on the wall, but this was a new one for me, and it felt odd to sit alone among the boisterous fans. Everyone was having such an animated time, and I wasn’t sure what to do. I’m not one to miss a happening, though, so I pulled out my journal and jotted notes in it so it would look like I had a purpose.
The Red Sox phenomenon took me a little by surprise when we first moved to Boston. Like I said, I’m not really a sports enthusiast, and the closest I’ve ever gotten to caring about baseball was when I lived in Arizona and the office gang played hooky from work to watch spring training games in March. Why would I care about the Red Sox?
It’s catching, though, once one is a resident of Boston. We were lucky enough to get free tickets—last-minute flukes—to two Red Sox games during the season, and I laugh now when I recall that we debated about whether or not to take them. How could we have known that the games would be so fun? Traditions abound, from the Green Monster to the Fenway Frank, and everyone seemed to be in such a good mood within the legendary wooden ballpark. (It helped that the Sox won 20-4 at the first game we attended.) I’d elbowed Ray in the 8th inning: Hey, I think they’re going to sing Sweet Caroline now. They always sing it at Red Sox games. He said: How do you know these kinds of things? I shrugged my shoulders and said: It’s the Hermione in me, I guess. It’s a bummer that they don’t sing Sweet Caroline here in the bar or show it—or Take Me out to the Ballgame—on TV. It’s my favorite part of the whole experience.
The guy next to me at the bar asks if I’m ‘with’ somebody, and I explain that my husband is on a business trip. No, he says, pointing to my journal. I mean like with a magazine or something. You’re from out of town.
How did you know…? I ask, even while guessing the answer. I don’t have the accent—the accent I’m starting to appreciate, in fact starting to really love. The Boston accent is addicting, and I’m starting to hear it coming out of my own mouth. Ray and I regularly practice the new mantra we borrowed from the SNL skit mocking Argo, Affleck, and Ahmadinejad: “…pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd, pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd…”
The guy behind me waiting to order remarks about my drinking a stout and eating fish and chips. (I hope he hasn’t been waiting since I sat down.) I’m a little confused, and he explains that it’s a Boston thing, the stout and fish and chips, me being from out of town—again, someone catching my lack of accent and noting my foreignness, though in the friendliest of ways. Apparently I need more practice with the accent. I thought about making a smartass comment about how fish and chips wasn’t all that exotic, that we even have it in Ohio where I’m from, but instead I sigh, noting the time and raising my glass in a toast to Ray, who at that moment was drinking a Guinness in Ireland with his business associates. (I know this because of instantaneous Facebook statuses.)
I finish my food by the 7th after a disastrous double steal by the Cardinals, and my ankle’s starting to ache, hanging as it is off the stool—I hope I can get up. It doesn’t look like I’ll make it to Trader Joe’s, but more importantly, I wonder if I have finally earned some sports-related bragging rights. Like…does a sprained ankle count as a sports injury if I got it at Fenway Park?