At the same time, I've been reliving traumas I had put in mental boxes as a consequence of the fact that A) Skylar is leaving the JCC pre-school after four years there; B) the Athens Olympics begin the same week and I have, as noted in a previous entry, been thrust back into my confusion as a four-year-old watching the Munich Olympics in 1972; C) reading the 9/11 Commission's report, wondering about our return to "orange" alert status, and seeing that the FBI has targeted someone new in the anthrax case has made me revisit the dark places of September and October, 2001.
When I think of 2001, of course, I also think of Barry. Following his pursuit of the home-run record after MLB resumed playing seemed, paradoxically, like the most normal thing happening. Unfortunately, though, that trajectory leads me, despite the resistance of my unconscious, to the topic of 2002 and another one of those boxed-up traumas.
October 26th, 2002 was slated to be a very special day in the Nicolini-Bertsch household. My parents were visiting. And the usual double-whammy of Skylar's birthday and our wedding anniversary was enhanced because I had missed the previous October 26th during my short, strange trip to Europe -- more on that in a future entry -- to attend an academic conference.
After the day's birthday festivities, I drove to the Wild Oats at Swan and Skyline -- now closed because of AJ's -- and bought lamb with which to make my wondrous burgers of lamb and beef with feta melted in the middle. I distinctly recall hearing the pre-game show as I got back into the car. Upon my return home, I was able to control my sports-related tension by focusing on the task of burger-making. But I still saw Shawon Dunston's improbable home run and watched Russ Ortiz pitch better than I'd expected. By the time Barry had jacked a homer off the mysteriously invincible F-Rod, everyone else was done eating. But I was sitting at the table still, afraid to move, incrementally polishing off my delicious creations. And then the phone rang.
It was Skylar's friend Andrew's mom. She had a question about the birthday party we were hosting the next day. Something told me I shouldn't have answered. She and her husband were recent transplants from Berkeley.
"You're watching the game right? Looks like the Giants have this one wrapped up."
Both my father and I -- the rational among you will mock us -- have a finely honed approach to sporting events our favorite teams are playing in. We refuse to get hopeful. We say that the guy on our team is going to miss the free throw. We fret. And we never, ever forget Yogi Berra's most famous adage: "It's not over till it's over."
As Andrew's mother talked about her excitement, the clouds of possibility in my mind parted to reveal the star-crossed heavens. At that moment, even though the score was still 5-0, I knew with sickening clarity that the dream had died.
The rest of the game was an excruciating anti-climax, as everything that could go wrong did and I sat there, barely able to contain my inner torment. When the horror was finally over, Kim kindly offered to let me set up the Thomas train track with her. Like a child getting over a meltdown, I allowed myself to be distracted. I don't think she's ever been more understanding of my feelings.
That night, when I finally sat down at the computer, I read Steven's response to the game. It was a parable worthy of Kafka:
Saturday, October 26, 2002I always tell Steven he writes the best obituaries.
There was a woman I knew long ago named Debi. I met her when I lived with my brother in Capitola, and we got to be better friends later when I moved to Bloomington, Indiana for a year ... she lived there, too. After coming back to California to go to school, I returned to Bloomington for about a month in December of '72. A bunch of us stayed with friends Greg and Sandy, who had a pretty big house. Debi and I and another guy named David would sleep in the living room; my ex-girlfriend Pat had her own room; and, of course, Greg and Sandy had their own bedroom.
Debi was an interesting person, but she was also quite probably clinically insane. This meant that sometimes she was kinda off in another world, but it also meant sometimes she said just the thing that everyone was thinking, when the rest of us were silent out of some notion of social propriety.
I can still remember, some 30 years later, an evening when we'd all had a fine time getting fucked up and doing whatever it was we did back then. Greg and Sandy headed off to bed. As they closed the bedroom door, Debi looked after them with longing and said, "just once, I'd like to be on the other side of that door."
I thought of Debi tonight, as I watched the Giants blow the World Series.