Tagged: memories

The Miniature Van

People don’t remember that twenty years ago the first minivans had two bench seats.  And just one sliding door.  And no TV screens.  Worse yet, the speed limits were slower.  Road trips, coast-to-coast family vacations took longer.  It was quite miserable having to spend time with your family.

Only then came bucket seats.  And CD players.  And space.  And younger brothers.  Soon, everyone sat in their own seat.

But there were occasionally short moments, usually right after a sack lunch at a rest area, when the trip would become bearable.  And in those moments, the family played car games that involved talking to each other.  Single words became phrases and phrases became conversations.  Conversations, of course, became love.  And love blossomed into memories.

A simple, yet fun, way to prolong the sugar high was a game where players had to name cities which began with the last letter of the previous city.  Bismark, led to Kansas City, which led to Yorkshire, to Edmonton and so on and so forth.

Anyone who has played this game can remember that after a few rounds, everyone seemed always to get stuck on cities that ended in “y”.  Not the youngest brother.  Receiving New York City, he quickly returned Yukon.  Oklahoma City became Yonkers, and Sioux City led to Yorba Linda.  Wait, what?  Yorba Linda?  How did Sam know Yorba Linda?

As one, father, mother, sister, and brother all turned back to see how he was doing it.

Looking up towards the silence, young Sam feigned ignorance to the rules of the game as he closed the giant road atlas and its alphabetical index.

That reminds me.  The first minivans didn’t have GPS either.

Skateland

“I just don’t want to do the sock hop.  I want to skate,” the boy declared.

The minivan door opened wide.  Rushing to the plain brown building simply labeled “Skateland”, the children  realized their hurry was wasted as they needed their mom’s money to make it past the gatekeeper.

Blue and red slushy mix marked the snack bar as a the smell of un-buttered popcorn and warm feet invaded their nostrils.  Looking to see if pizza was an option, he nearly ran into a girl struggling to roll on the carpet.

“Yes!  They have it.”

Pretending not to notice it, he was glad the couple’s skate was happening now.  That meant he had time to focus on getting the right fit, and also time enough to check out the newest ABEC bearings for sale.

As I’ll Make Love to You faded into Thriller, his body drifted towards the rink.  Almost falling, he cursed the carpet.  Almost falling, he cursed the silky floor.  Almost falling, he cursed his skates.

First stop, the DJ.

“What’s up kid?”

“Um.  Could you play Hanging Tough, by New Kids on the Block?”

“We just played it a little bit ago.”

“Oh.”

“I’ll see what I can do, though.  Anything else?”

“Um.  Ice Ice Baby, by Vanilla Ice?”

“Just played that too.”

“Okay.  Never mind.”

Undeterred, he zoomed along the far wall, scanning the rink for his friends.  A tap on the right shoulder warned him they were passing on his left.  Catching up, he hoped that his speed and skill impressed any interested girls as the still air became a pleasant breeze.

Being told “five more minutes!” earlier than desired, he skated out his remaining time just fast enough to not get yelled at by the dude in the zebra stripes.  Returning to the benches, he was amazed–just like every visit–how light his tennis shoes were.

“Feel’s like I’m still skating, only lighter,” he professed to the others.

As the they walked out the door, the boys chattered excitedly that they just saw the cutest girl of the day walking in.

“Man!  That always happens.”

The Father of Second Base?

For all the information, misinformation, and controversy surrounding the origin of the game of baseball, one piece of trivia is rarely mentioned.  Whether Abner Doubleday or Alexander Cartwright should be credited as the father of America’s pastime, it seems to me that the more pressing question–the question that nobody is asking–is, “Where would the game of baseball be without second base?”

What you have to understand is baseball began as a competition, similar to cricket, which involved balls and bats and home plate and base.  Initially, there were not four bases, mind you, just one.  The player would hit the ball and run back and forth between two points in space–home plate and base.  What most people don’t bother wondering about is how home plate and this single base (just called ‘base’ as there wasn’t, at that time, another base which necessitated the distinctions “first” and “second”) multiplied into the modern baseball diamond comprised of home plate, first base, second base and third base.

As you are no doubt realizing, the addition of a second base was no trivial matter.  Without adding a second base, there would have never been a reason to add a third base, and without third base, there is no baseball diamond.  So, we must ask how second base came to be.  More to the point, we should want to know who to credit for the addition of a second base.  As fate would have it, it was none other than than “father of American music” himself–Stephen Foster.

Having recently penned such classics as “Oh, Susanna” and “Camptown Races”, Foster was a veritable celebrity.  He was the man of the hour in the mid-1800s.  And he happened to be a bit of a sports nut.  No one knows for certain how it happened, but after some light reflection it should be no surprise to anyone that Foster, who became known for writing songs with special emphasis on the refrain, was the man who suggested adding another base to the playing field.  After all, it was the addition of second base that gave baseball what some might call musicality.

Think about it.  A game where men simply run back and forth between two designated spots offers no real distinguishing excitement, no real flow.  But, as we all know and love, if a player makes it to second base on the diamond of today, he is in “scoring” position.  Reaching scoring position, then, is similar to the unique characteristic of Foster’s own music.  That being, the emphasis on the refrain.  As a verse of Foster’s music concludes, everyone knows the refrain is coming, and still everyone can’t wait for it to happen.  Regardless the amount of listeners singing the verses, everyone in earshot contributes their own voice to “Oh, Susanna, oh don’t you cry for me!”  Is it not the same when the runner reaches second base?  Maybe the inning is dragging on, maybe it seems all hope is lost, maybe you are lost in thought trying to remember when they stop serving beer–it doesn’t matter.  The minute the runner makes it to second, he might score a run.  And if he does, his crossing home plate triggers another batter and extends the offensive strike; in other words, it acts as a refrain.  Is there anyone who would attempt to argue that there is any quantifiable difference between crowds cheering upon their team scoring a run and crowds singing “Oh, Susanna, oh don’t you cry for me.  Well I come from Alabama with my banjo on my knee”?

I don’t know why I feel its important to bring this to your attention.  Not forgetting the little man is just in my nature.  Blame my dad.  The point is, next time you’re feeling a profound love of the game, toss some of it to Stephen Foster; for who knows where America’s pastime would be if it wasn’t for the “father of American music.”

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Happy Birthday Dad.  Thanks for the memories.