#704: Where I Was

October 26th, 2016

I sipped from the little plastic cup as the bearded man with a skinny T-shirt that either advertised a band or a beer chattered on about ABVs and IBUs.

But I wanted RBIs.

Last night, the Cubs played a World Series game, something that, like FDR addresses and Blind Willie Johnson concerts, hasn’t happened since 1945. And, like Blind Willie Johnson, the result was pretty depressing.*

As the minutes ticked down to the opening pitch and Dexter Fowler was moments away from being the first black Cub to play in the World Series — baseball wasn’t integrated during the last Cubs’ pennant — I was getting a growler filled with craft beer in prep for a watch party tonight.

As I stood in a brightly lit retail space and perused a list of beers with names like Meat Wave, Chub Step and Sunday in Saigon, the sports bar next door was a sea of blue and white, the latter both for the Cubs and the neighborhood.

I wished I were there. I wanted to be there. I felt I should be there, screaming and hollering at a wide-screen TV to watch history unfold.

Then I realized it didn’t matter. When something’s historic, you remember it no matter where you are.

Sure, it would be a better watching experience if some kind and wealthy 1,001 Chicago Afternoons fan gave me two bleacher seats to games three and four and bought me a hot dog to boot, but my point stands. History is happening. Do I need to witness every second of it, or is it enough to know it’s going on?

The true sports fan just screeched a little at the notion. Of course watch. Of course be there. Of course be a witness to history. And I was on my way to watch (I got back to the lady’s apartment in time to see the last bits of Fowler’s first at bat).

But I collect experiences. This experience, this moment of a growler and silly beer names in a brightly lit retail space after errands and editing, was mine and mine alone.

Growler filled (I went with Lagertown), I left the store. As I passed, I peeked through the sports bar’s window. It was still pre-game padding, historical reminiscences on droughts, past seasons and ’48 vs. ’08.

I walked back to the lady’s apartment on darkened, quiet streets. TVs glowed through windows and C’s and W’s hung from windows and porch flagpoles.

A young guy decked in Cubs hoodie and cap was sprinting toward me down the dark, tree-hidden sidewalk.

“It hasn’t started yet,” I said as he passed.

“Oh thank God,” he said, running toward the crowd.

 * Blind Willie Johnson’s house burned down, but, having nowhere else to go, he kept living in the ruins until he contracted either pneumonia or malaria, depending on which source you read. He was denied admittance to the hospital. His wife said it was because he was blind; others said it was because he was black. All sources agree, however, that Blind Willie Johnson had the most Blues death in history. It puts some perspective on a dang baseball game, even a 6-0 loss.

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