As promised, I left town to attend the very excellent wedding of my pals Pete and Lei Ann, up in Boston. The whole thing simply could not have been better--there was simply a massive turnout of Lei Ann's relatives, from as far away as Hawaii and the Philippines, and lots of Pete's and my pals from college. The whole thing was a real treat, working on the tux squad with old and new friends.
We started off on Friday, with a dinner for family and friends that coincided with Yanks/Red Sox, David Wells against Aaron Small. Small's dream season continues, but largely due to great run support. Small survived a three run breakout in the second inning, thanks to home runs from Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez, and some overall sloppy play by the Sox in an 8-4 victory. Not that I knew any of this as it happened. The only piece of the game I saw was the pitching change when the removed Small in the 7th inning--I saw this and the score while passing by a bar on my way from the party to our next stop of the evening.
On Saturday, I was in the church, trying to make sure that the groom didn't see the bride at the start time of game 2, Curt Schilling vs. Shawn Chacon. By the time I was unrolling some sort of white carpet for the Bride's entrance--don't ask--Schilling had done his best to prove me wrong, wrong, wrong for what I wrote in my recent Notebook piece about him. The Schill cruised through eight innings, yielding only two runs and striking out six. Meanwhile, the Red Sox made Chacon their girlfriend, popping him for five runs in three innings of work. Alois finally came out of the bullpen, but only for a surrogate start, pitching 5 2/3 innings in a 9-2 loss. I caught the score sometime between the photo session (now ingrained into my memory: "keep your weight on your back foot," and "fingers don't photograph well") and the coolest reception ever.
Today, it was back on the road before game time, with little hope to make it to New York before it was all over. So, for the first time in ages, I experienced the Yanks on radio, starting with Red Sox-side coverage in Mass and Northern Connecticut, shifting over to Sterling and Suzyn Waldman for the later innings. I'll admit that I enjoyed the Sox coverage better, even though they seemed to have a harder time doing the simple stuff--like telling us the score. We were with the Sox broadcasters when Kevin Youkilis collected the Sox first hit of the day, "[Randy] Johnson just screamed out something I can't repeat on seeing he gave up a Texas League hit."
Turns out he should have been upset, his stuff was that good.
Another interesting tidbit from the Boston radio crew:
Color guy: Johnson's into photography, that's his hobby.
Play-by-Play guy: ...You'd think that being a photographer, he wouldn't push around camera men...
Color guy: Maybe he's into still lifes.
The Boston guys also trilled with glee as Tim Wakefield racked up strikeout after strikeout, completely confounding the Yankee lineup, and at one point stranding Bubba Crosby at third after a one-out triple.
By comparison, the Yankees broadcast was rather dreary, although less homeristic than I expected, given the regular abuse this radio team suffers. They didn't seem to slight any of the Boston players, and indeed were extremely impressed by Wakefield's start. However, Waldman is hideously underutilized in that booth, contributing little other than reading live spots (game-context radio ads). Aside from that, Sterling's voice steam-rolled over hers, on what sounded like a microphone that was set at times and a half the volume of Waldman's. Not fun.
Anyway, the Unit, Tom Gordon, and Mariano Rivera combined to make Jason Giambi's homer off Wakefield stand up for a 1-0 win, after a bunch of unnecessary excitement in the 8th and 9th innings. Overall, the Yanks took two out of three from the Sox at home, leaving the weekend three games behind Boston. At the same time, they lose ground to the Indians, and are now 1.5 games back of the Wild Card.
One of the downsides of this beautiful weekend was that the weather itself reminded me of tragedy of four years ago. In Boston, Pete and Lei Ann's wedding was blessed with gorgeous weather--warm but brisk, clear and sunny, with a "high sky" of clear blue with only the slightest wisps of clouds. Exactly the same weather as there was in New York on September 11, 2001.
The weather took me back to that day--the hushed streets and quiet foot traffic, looking to give blood, and all the while not knowing that there weren't enough survivors to need a pint of my A positive. The blood banks kept turning us away.
The memory has had me on edge all day, particularly hearing the moment of silence during the 7th inning stretch of the Yankee game. Four years after the terrorist attacks, and nothing has improved. Nothing has been built at the WTC site. We haven't even started to fill up the sky over the Big Empty, instead taking four years to select an ugly, unorthodox, design, quarrel with the landlord over the ugly design, only to make it more conventional, then scrapping it for a mediocre but completely conventional design, built on top of a "super safe" steel box.
After the September 11 attacks happened, there was a hopefulness that fell into place after the attacks. While people feared terrorism, it also energized and galvanized them. There was a feeling of resolve and enthusiasm in the American landscape. People were ready to do anything to make a difference against the type of terrorism that had killed so many people in the Towers and at the Pentagon, and you had the feeling that all anyone had to do was point us in the right direction and we'd surge to the cause--riveting war planes together, conserving fuel, translating Farsi--whatever we could do to help out.
Four years later, that enthusiasm has been wasted. No one pointed us in any direction, and life continued as normal. For a while, there was a great feeling of community, at least in New York. I still remember cheering fire trucks as they rumbled down the street: a strange combination of "thank you" and "condolences on your losses."
Compare that with what has gone on in New Orleans over the last few weeks. The community broke down under the pressure of rising water, and set upon each other with guns. Is this an aberration, or the future?
As day faded into night, the "Pillars of Light" came on, towering over lower Manhattan. That memorial--still far more simple and effective than all the fancy video screens and reflecting pools that have been planned, but not built, at Ground Zero. Hit me like a gut punch. I can't believe it's been four years. I can't believe how little progress we've made.