Take me out to the ball game.
My father is in town, and friends have invited us along to a baseball game. (Actually, they invited my father, and I tagged along). They have Diamond Club seats, behind home base. These seats entitle you to a) choice parking in the parking garage, b) buffet dinner in the club, and c) free snacks delivered to your seat during the game. Oh, and d) a really close-up view of the action. Invitations are rare, and enthusiastically accepted without hesitation. We get there around dinnertime, and head into the club to meet our friends for a somewhat indifferent dinner; stainless-steel chafing dishes filled with tired Chinese noodles and fried rice and cashew chicken and stir-fried prawns. (Sometimes there is prime rib or sushi, but not tonight). There are platters of canapés and salads and slices of fruit and cakes and pies and cookies. There are pretzels and popcorn and peanuts in their shells and sticks of cotton candy wrapped in plastic; a soft-serve ice cream machine dispenses vanilla ice cream into little plastic baseball caps emblazoned with the Mariners logo.
Silence falls over the bustling dining room: it's time for the national anthem, which causes everyone to stand up and listen to the music filling the room. Time for the game to begin. People begin to gather their belongings and head towards their seats in the rows behind home base. It is a beautiful day, the roof of the stadium is open to the blue sky. I think back to the old Kingdome and the memories there, of walking up the wide ramp that spiraled around the outside of that old concrete stadium with its blue-painted dome. (When we were very young our school choir once sang before a game; I remember walking up that ramp as M. told me how her fish-sandwich dinner had given her the strength to climb "the great Mt. Dome!"). In those days we used to go to Chinatown for a dinner of beef noodles before a game. Now there is a new stadium with a retractable roof, private suites, and a basement club for people who are willing to spend hundreds of dollars per game to sit behind home plate and drink free beer and eat free food.
But the game has begun, so I leave the past and the memories behind to sit back with my (free) popcorn and (free) bottled water, and I am happy. Happy that it is a beautiful day, that my father is in town for a short visit, that the Mariners are winning. Someone hits a grand slam and a roar of joy fills the stadium, and this is the beautiful thing about baseball. The crowd becomes as one giant, living, breathing organism; the sea of people that surrounds every side of the field becomes one great, collective mass of joy. This is what I love about baseball, this sensation of being swept along with everyone around me, across the field, up above, to every side, the feeling of being one of thousands. And there are hot dogs. It isn't a baseball game without a hot dog, and some time around the seventh inning I feel the pangs of longing for one, which appears quickly in a cardboard dish. And the happiness is complete: a beautiful day, a winning game, blue sky and popcorn, and a hot dog.