Sunday’s are for sleeping late, but not this Sunday. It was road trip time with my friend Bob. So, I was up before the crack of 8:00!
OK – I know that’s sleeping in for most people. Remember, I live in the east, but operate on Hawaiian time.
We stopped for a quick container of coffee, dropped my car off at New Haven’s Union Station and headed eastward on the Connecticut Turnpike. Because the Turnpike is also I-95, this east-west route has signs referring to north and south.
It still drives me nuts!
Saturday night late, I had received this cryptic little email from another Bob friend, in Florida.
78° for a dewpoint temperature represents Calcutta-like steam. It was very warm and very sticky Saturday night and nothing, except the Sun beaming down, had changed by Sunday morning.
With a Google generated map and directions in hand, we headed toward Somerset, MA and WSAR, scene of one of Bob’s earliest jobs and my first. There was never any thought that 36 years after my last time there, WSAR had moved. In fact, the only question was, how much was still the same?
In a poetic, romantic world, I’d now tell you about all the memories that rushed back to me as we drove up. The truth is, I could only vaguely make a connection. That surprised me.
The building is the same. It’s at the end of Home Street, on the edge of a neighborhood of modest homes. Beyond WSAR’s field of towers, a huge power plant poked out through the very thick haze.
Amazingly, someone was at the station. We think he was the manager of what now is a little mom and pop two station facility. WSAR is news, talk and sports. Its sister station, formerly WALE is all Portuguese.
The inside of the building had been changed, as you might expect after all this time. The man at the station told us to walk around and take a look.
We didn’t stay long.
I think Bob got more out of this than I did. I wish I would have made more of a connection with my past. Working at WSAR was such a seminal moment in my professional life.
Heading north, we stopped at a mall in Taunton for breakfast/lunch and then proceeded to Boston. It was very hazy. Nothing about the Boston skyline that was distinct. Everything was sort of placed within the murkiness.
We maneuvered up Storrow Drive, off at Arlington Street and then across Back Bay to a garage under the Prudential Center. I thought it would be a good idea to park at the Pru and then take the subway¹ to Fenway.
We got to the platform only to see signs cautioning that no dollar bills would be accepted on the train. The three token machines were not working. There was no token clerk. What to do?
We popped back up at street level and walked into the Colonnade Hotel. Most business are bothered by subway change seekers and I understand why. But, we really needed the change, so I did everything I could to look like a touristy hotel guest. Having my camera slung over my shoulder didn’t hurt.
Oh, by the way… contrary to the many posted signs, you can use dollar bills on the subway. The driver puts them in a slot on the side of the change machine. I have no idea what happens to them at the end of the run.
It didn’t take long to get to Fenway. It is just beyond the Mass Pike, a few blocks from Kenmore Square. The neighborhood looks like it was industrial – the buildings have that kind of feel.
Crowds of happy people (the Red Sox are in first, after all) were heading toward the stadium.
Immediately, I began to sense a different vibe than I had felt at Yankee Stadium. Maybe it was the fact you could see the stadium as you approached it or the banners on its brick exterior? Maybe it was the cluster of stores across the street?
Whatever it was, it was not Yankee Stadium. Since Yankee Stadium was a disappointment, this was a good thing.
We found a man selling tickets and lucked into great seats. The luck wasn’t the site lines or distance from home plate – both of those were what we expected and quite good. The luck was being under cover in the grandstand, as you shall see.
We walked through a security screening and into a throng of people moving past the concession stands. It felt good. I don’t know why. It felt right. It was old and cramped but totally appropriate in a way Yankee Stadium was not.
We walked into the stands and gazed at the stadium. It’s a gem. The stadium has a small feel to it. And, I guess next to a 50-60,000 seat park, it is. Our seats were up the first base line, directly opposite from the green monster.
I was pleased to see restraint in the advertising signs on that big, green wall. They were all green and white. They fit in.
The first inning was rocky for the Red Sox. They finally retired the White Sox without a run, but it was obvious Matt Clement wasn’t throwing his best stuff.
There would be plenty of time to think about that, because as the first half inning ended, the heavens open, accompanied by deep throated thunder.
How glad was I, at this moment, that our seats were under cover? We watched as most of the lower deck and other exposed seats cleared out.
Within a few seconds the players and umps had left the field and the grounds crew was in charge, covering the base cutout and pitcher’s mound and unrolling the tarp.
This is something I had seen on TV, but never in person. The tarp is immense, covering the entire infield and skinned areas of the field. It went on quickly.
As a meteorologist (Wow, I can now refer to myself that way), I was concerned that they were placing themselves in harm’s way during the storm. You would expect a lightning strike to hit a light tower or other taller structure… but it could easily strike someone on the field, or in the stands, I guess.
It rained as hard as I’ve ever seen. Sheets of rain poured down. Most people moved to shelter. Others, resigned to getting soaked, stayed where the were.
At one point, security guards on the field were issued yellow slickers. By this time they were already soaked to the bone. I tried to figure out the value of this late move? By this point, the slickers were just holding in the moisture already there.
The rains stopped and the crew came back to remove the tarp. Now, what was heavy was heavier. The tarp was loaded with water.
By folding the tarp over itself and moving back and forth, the grounds crew was able to deposit most of the water just beyond the base paths in shallow right field. Then a groundskeeper reached down and began pulling plugs from the turf, opening drains to carry the water away.
This was nearly as good a show as the game!
Play resumed, but it wasn’t to be the Red Sox day. They were getting pummeled by Chicago. And then, it began to rain again.
We stayed a while and then, remembering there was a 6:40 train to Connecticut or a three hour wait until the one after that at 9:40, we left. Bob got off near his car and I continued, first on the Green Line and then the Red Line to South Station.
South Station is open and airy with kiosks for food, books and magazines. The ceiling and walls are largely populated by ads for Apple’s iPod. As much as I thought the green and white ads at Fenway were appropriate, I felt this was not… and I’m an iPod fan.
I went to a ticket machine to pay my way but all it wanted to sell me was a ticket at 9:40. I moved to a real person behind the counter. He gave me the bad news. The 6:40 train was sold out!
This wasn’t good. But, there was nothing I could do, yet. I got a salad, sat between a woman and her loud toddler son and a homeless person who seemed to be nodding off, and had dinner.
As train time approached, I moved toward the platform. Maybe there was someone based in New Haven on this train? Maybe I could talk my way on?
I ran into a conductor. He was from Boston, there was no doubt from his accent. I told him my plight and he said, “Don’t worry, you can sit in the Club Car.”
Easier said than done. He went to work on the train as I waited for the platform to be opened for passengers. When it finally was, my ticket was for the wrong train. They wouldn’t let me pass to get to the Club Car.
I began to panic. I was tired, extremely sweaty and I imagine quite pungent. I didn’t want to spend the next three hours at South Station.
I did something I have promised myself never to do. I took out my business card, handed it to one of the security people and asked her to ask one of the crew members (who all, except for the Club Car conductor were from New Haven) if they could help me.
Maybe I’m justifying what I’ve already done, but I thought I worded my request in such a way that it didn’t go over my imaginary line. It wasn’t a, “Don’t you know who I am” request. Well, it didn’t seem like one at the time.
As it turns out, a very nice conductor traveling with his family took mercy on me. He got me past security and onto the train. And, during the course of the trip I got to meet everyone who was “working on the railroad, all the livelong day.”
Here’s the more amazing corollary to this story. The sold out train couldn’t have been more than half full! Why did Amtrak think it was full and refuse to sell tickets? I have no idea. I would guess I wasn’t the only one prepared to spend another three hours in Boston… and some people probably did.
So, there’s the Boston trip… except for one little thing. As it turns out, after we left, the Red Sox waited and waited and waited and finally postponed the game. My two tickets are eligible to be replaced with tickets for another game.
I’m looking forward to returning to Fenway.
¹ – I guess it officially fits the definition of subway, but Boston’s Green Line is just trolleys in a tube with some of the ugliest, dingiest stations ever seen by man. I have no doubt I was safe and never felt otherwise. It was just the subway time forgot.