Despite the words gracing the title screen, there was no apple pie to be had this past weekend, but that didn’t make it any less American. The arrival of Independence Day weekend boasted an opportunistic array of good time revelry steeped in Patriotism and marinated in beer. As most of the local working folk had Friday off on account of the holiday, the games were able to begin at a reasonable daylight hour on July 3rd. The celebratory mood wasn’t necessarily due to the fact that if you were to cut one of our arms open, you might just find red, white and blue dripping out; rather it was the 30th birthday of my roommate…one Laura B.
Laura had originally been unaware of the festivities that awaited her on her special day, but due to a certain lack of alertness about the general nature of birthday surprises, she began the day fully cognisant of the fact that she would spend a portion of her evening at the Brooklyn Cyclones game. Aside from that, the day was a blank slate with a big baseball diamond in the middle of it.
Prior to leaving Park Slope and heading for the amusing confines of Coney Island a few of us sat on the stoop waiting for a special signal to finally head deeper into Brooklyn. Myself, Eric G, Andy, Jessica, Laura B, and Kelly R just hung out in the hot summer sun in the hopes we could take off soon. I, personally had no idea what it was that would trigger the beginning of our birthday jamboree. I assumed we were waiting for someone to show up before we could take off. I didn’t want to guess though as there was obviously some surprise that I was not privy to in the planning of the birthday event. At some point Laura inquired as to what we were waiting for. Just that moment a car in front of us pulled a U-turn and settled into a parking spot just in front of our stoop. Someone (I think Kelly) jokingly commented that the car was exactly what we were waiting for. Little did we know, but this was the actual truth.
From an open window came the words, “hey Laura.” The words were uttered by Laura’s friend Erin’s mother in the front seat. Erin, her mother, and her father exited the vehicle and proceeded to greet the party. Laura’s college friend had made the trip for the special day from the distant land of Danbury, Connecticut; a far cry from Park Slope.
Just like that we hit the road. Kelly, Laura, Erin, and I hopped aboard the 7th Avenue Q towards Coney Island. I flaunted Laura’s Brooklyn Cyclones foam fan finger the whold way down in anticipation of some dynamite Single A class baseball from some minor-league Mets. We were a joyful squad if there ever was won. Laura was glowing with anticipation at what the rest of the night held, and we were happy to be apart of it.
We got off the train at Stillwell and Surf and Kelly led the way to our first stop, a bar on the boardwalk the name of which escapes me. Upon entry Laura was greeted by a rousing ovation from her friends. Andrew M, Matt, Judy T, Maureen, Stephen, Andy, Eric, Renga, Mike H, Dan, Dan’s sister Emma, Robin, and more folks too numerous to recall them all. The merrymaking began with Coney Island lagers and Renga dispensing gift bags to party participants. Mine had a panch, a snickers, a map of Coney Island, a USA necklace and some vampire teeth. Score!
Next on the agenda was the blowing out of the birthday candles. For that portion of the afternoon/early evening we were going to need something cakey. Luckily, there were an array of cupcakes from Renga and a fantastic cookie cake, which was made by Eric.
After doing her part to extinguish the 30 flames atop soft and sweet treats; Renga made the birthday girl read the message on one of the set of cupcakes. It read, “You’re throwing out the first pitch!” Laura immediately kind of freaked out in a fun and totally natural manner. I was instantly jealous. My roommate was going to throw out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game. It’s not that I’ve ever had that dream before, but it seemed like a perfectly awesome thing to do on your birthday. I immediately wanted someone to tell me that I’d be doing the same thing in November. Alas, there is no baseball in November. Que sera sera.
This day, however, was not about me. It was about Laura. If she wasn’t in a great mood already from being surrounded by her best friends, the first pitch thing may have put her over the top. I wanted to coach her and show her how to pitch in the off-chance she needed my assistance, but then again, I’ve never been a pitcher. The closest I’ve come to being a hurler was in my ten visits to Dorney Park as a camper (and then counselor) at Camp Westmont. I used to play the speed pitch game where if you correctly guessed the speed of your third pitch; you’d win the helmet of your choice and then whilst wearing it people would repeatedly pound the top of your head repeating the mantra emblazoned in small letters on the back, “THIS IS NOT A PROTECTIVE HELMET!” Ah, Those were the days.
So anyway, after grabbing a few beers at the boardwalk bar (and a slight torrential sunshower) we went for a bit of a walk ourselves as our birthday balloon-toting birthday girl led the way. A few minutes into our stroll we lost her inside the amusment park as she split with Maureen and Laura to get a fake tattoo.
The lot of us were getting a bit worried. We were supposed to be at the Keyspan Park at 5:30pm and we had lost Laura. We didn’t want to be late to grab our tickets and we didn’t want her to be so late that they wouldn’t let her throw out the first pitch. Rather than wait for them, the majority of us headed to the park and hoped they’d be on time. We looped around to the front entrance of the stadium via the boardwalk and hung out at the entrance in front of the blood drive van. I briefly put in my vampire choppers and planned to leap unannounced into the plasma collecting vehicle demanding their entire stock, but I decided against it.
Several more fans of Baseball and Bassett met us at the front gate to the stadium; Trish, Patrick, and Brian among them. We had a full motley crew of ‘Clones fans ready to root to our heart’s content. Filing in in an orderly fashion we scanned the stadium for our seats, but first set about collecting our free hats that came with the special deal we had partaken in, not to mention the fact that it was also Jersey pillow night. This was either an all-inclusive steal or highway robbery. Our money bought us one free beer, a free hat, and a free dog; not to mention the opportunity for the afore-mentioned first pitch for our newly-minted 30-year-old [Editor’s note: actually, it was three days before she turned 30]. It didn’t really matter though. We were so completely psyched for the first pitch that all of the peripherals were gravy.
There was a brief period after picking up our snazzy new Cyclones caps that we took to our seats, but with the prospect of Laura’s minor league pitching debut at hand, we chose to line up behind home plate to get as close as we could for the big moment.
When the time came we were parked directly behind the dish. Laura was not the only one however, throwing out the first pitch. Apparently two other people had arranged for the honor. They saved the best for last though. Once the first two pitchers had gone, our excitement level was certainly palpable when the announcer was about to trumpet Laura’s name and the fact that she was celebrating her 30th birthday. One problem though, instead of announcing Laura B’s name, he announced Renga’s. The rest of the evening we congratulated Laura as if she was the other Laura celebrating her 30th year. I don’t think this got old. Despite the misidentification, Laura pounded a heater right into Pitcher Darin Gorski’s strike zone or something like that. Why the pitcher was catching, I have no idea.
Back in our seats we caught quite the outstanding amateur contest. It was a hard fought match from start to finish; the kind that really makes you appreciate our national pastime. The Brooklyn Cyclones were engaged in a hard fought battle with the Tri-City Valley Cats. We weren’t sure which three cities they were from, but we think Troy and Schenectady were involved. Whenever they were at bat I kept yelling for them to go back to Utica, Ithaca, Rome, or wherever they were from. Minor league games are fun to heckle at.
The game was tight the whole way. Both teams scored a run in the 2nd inning. Tri-City took the lead in the 6th, but the ‘Clones pulled it out in dramatic fashion in the bottom of the 9th thanks to big time hitting and ultimately the heroic bat of pinch hitter Nick Santomauro.
The vibe after leaving the game was an ecstatic one. We felt as though we had witnessed one of the more exciting games in Cyclones history and it lifted our already high spirits. On the way out, we were handed tickets to have a go at the speed pitch booth, only the radar gun was broken. It didn’t matter though, I was jonesing to throw a few pitches after Laura’s big moment. I got the lead out with a few slowballs through strike zone. It was somewhat therapeutic and a bit of an adrenaline rush at the same time. I was ready to continue partying as was the rest of the crowd.
We certainly didn’t slow down as we made our way through the site of the next day’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, past a big load of horse crap, all the way to our surfside sanctuary Beer Island. Beer Island is a beach-themed Coney Island bar that looks like it could exist in Daytona Beach or Paradise Island, save for the Port-o-john’s.
Our party found two tables to place together and the revelry continued at our Coney Island paradise. Classic rock blasted throughout our surroundings, but eventually it was eclipsed by the din of fireworks being released over the confines of Keyspan Park. The pyrotechnic splendor was visible over the horizon and we soaked in the sparks and a few more drinks before deciding it was time to head back to the neighborhood and keep it going in The Slope.
Matt, Andrew, Mike, Brian, and I headed back on the Subway and made for the Union Street abode before heading out for a night-cap with most of the rest of the crew at High Dive (a.k.a. the bar formerly known as The Lighthouse Tavern). The night didn’t end there. Some of the crowd had dispersed after finishing one or two beers, but a group of us headed back to the house to put a cap on top of our night cap. Laura and I partook in some of the Bailey’s I had acquired on my trip to England and before heading off to bed we took in some of my new DVD of The State. The last part fell out of favor very quickly as the letter “Z” seemed to be catching up with everyone.
We had partied all the way through to the Fourth of July and the next morning shouldn’t have been as easy as it was. Thankfully after plenty of rest, I was able to sidle out of bed in relative comfort, prepared for a big day of BBQ. It was around 2:40 when I started to walk towards Kishore’s to commence the celebration of this great nation’s 233rd anniversary of Independence. I figured it would take a while to grab some food and beer and walk all the way over to Fort Greene. I was partially right, but I was still the first person to arrive on site.
It was a little after 3pm. The party was supposed to start at 3. I know that my friends are usually fashionably late, but it seemed like such a shame on such a beautiful day to have to really get the party started when the sun was on the downside of it’s daily cycle. I was content to sit in the yard by myself even if no one was around to enjoy it with me. Kishore, Jeni and Pat were inside preparing food and I hung out in the garden drinking a beer and texting people. Soon enough though I was rescued from boredom by Jason and Kayvalyn, who seated themselves at the table and started the day’s conversation. Little by litle the floodgates of visitors opened: Rich, Suli, Lauren, Rosario, Ajay, Morwin, Miller with half of the population of NYC Ron Paul supporters, and so on. It was now officially a party.
The only problem with this celebration of America however, was the music. Kishore had put on a playlist of lounge-y electronica, and Indie DJ music that seemed best suited for a nighttime lounge. This was America’s day not smooth euro DJ day. Normally, I wouldn’t raise a stink about someone else’s music, since I’m more than sympathetic with the idea of wanting your own music to play at your house. Any other day, I would’ve been fine with the selections, but this was the 4th of July. It’s the day you’re supposed to hear Toby Keith, Bruce Springsteen and Boston. It’s the day to rock out, with your Red, White and Blue cock out. I tried to put on Bruce’s Born in the USA album but was quickly rebuffed after two or three songs. Ajay was supporting my efforts to patriotize the party, but the host certainly was not. I made another brief stab at things with “More Than A Feeling” but once the song ended, my mix was given the boot Toby Keith style.
The music went back to soothing, sexy lounge style for awhile and I sank into a bit of boredom. Ajay, Suli, and myself kept discussing how America had to win out musically in this party. A little while passed when I finally made a last stand stronger than that of General George Custer. My mix finally hit the airwaves and the people at the party were proud to be Americans whether or not they were born in this land.
From then on the party felt a helluva a lot more lively. The conversation seemed more sprightly and the good times rolled. I filled up on meat and beer relatively early in the night, but I kept drinking beer anyway. I didn’t get drunk, but I felt relaxed as the night skies rolled in and the music ceased being patriotic again. I didn’t mind though as the new music fit the nighttime mood just fine. We didn’t get to see any fireworks, save for the few who went inside to catch the televised explosions, but that generally seemed all right by us.
The crowd slowly dwindled down throughout the evening, there were a few unexpected arrivals as Andrea and Enisha eventually joined the crowd and subsequently left. It was rather late when we filed out. Suli, Rich, and I were among the first to arrive and some of the last to leave.
Sunday was none too productive. I think I did some reading adn some wandering, but that was about it. If there was anything momentous about the day I do not remember it. I think I went for a walk and grabbed a slice of pizza and that’s about it. I was resigned to letting any potential excitement slide by the wayside for one day. I had had enough patriotic fun for a few days. When the next weekend rolled around, I would almost certainly still be an American.