This place echoes a lot, recently. When we got this place so many years ago it was brand-spankin’ new, shining like a new dime, like everything on the internet was back then. It was like they had built millions and millions and millions of units of fully-modular customize-everything-you-like squat housing and we’d found our little place and we built it and decorated it and it was ours. And we put up our Jay Bruce posters and we built a fully-stocked bar in the basement and we put in a firehouse pole and we had the time of our lives.
As a man in my mid-twenties with the naivete of a kid half that who had never had anything of his own outside his premium bespoke student loan debts, it became the only place where I ever felt like home. We created a pidgin language of in-jokes and memes and references and so on. I’d been a goof-off my whole life and it was the first place where a handful of people were delighted to goof around with me. If it had been anywhere else but the internet I might have properly understood that what I had here was some friends. But as it was and continues to be, I’m always to last to understand what the hell is going on.
Everyone wanted to be special here. We spent most of the time trying our hardest to crack each other up. It was gauche to adulate in the reception of recs, and I didn’t understand it as such back then (always the last to know) but it was first real praise I had received in my life for anything I cared at all about. I mean, my parents were approving when I got good grades and didn’t get in trouble at school, but I never got any guidance or encouragement towards anything. There are plenty of reasons why (and true to form I’m only now coming around on them) but suffice to say that at the very least I forgive myself for not recognizing it as such in the moment.
As Fat Vegas Alan is fond of saying of this place, it was never about the baseball. It was a group of folks who, in a magical moment of spacetime, were able to find each other across the information superhighway and built a little place of our own beneath the overpass. And we could say all the cuss words we wanted and we could drink into the night and the game was always on (unless it wasn’t) and it wasn’t ever really about the baseball (unless it was). Whatever it was, it was ours.
Nowadays it seems like every inch of this whole limitless internet has been colonized by the jackals. Most of my hangout time is spent at Twitter or Instagrams, but neither of them are any good. I’ve made a point to come back around here more often, but it’s different. I built this totally wicked sand castle over here once and I feel like such a fool coming back and expecting it to be where I left it. A fool who wastes his life, god rest his guts.
It’s still the same place (mostly), and I still know most everybody here when I come around, but man we used to blowout game threads for a late August matchup with the fourth-place Rockies and we’d need three or four threads to hold it because the servers couldn’t refresh the page with 200 comments and a dozen stupid gifs. And then there’d be another 150+ comments in the recap thread when you checked in the next morning. I was a bookstore manager doing nothing all day and making $30k (with a student loan debt thrice that) so I couldn’t go out to an actual bar, you know? This place had no cover charge and the crowd liked my dumb jokes.
I want to write more, and I miss writing. I’ve tried a handful of times in the last few years to make more of a habit of it, but it never sticks. The alchemy ain’t right. Back then I had a mix of borderline alcoholism and too much time on my hands, but now I don’t hardly drink at all and I’m in bed by the fourth inning. Having kids changes things, man.
I look at my kids now and let me tell you there is no more overwhelming feeling than the feeling of pride a parent has is watching their child succeed and excel. Your Friend The Vole came out with me yesterday to watch my oldest’s ball game. And I was telling him about this, this parental pride thing. Because I’m watching my boy out there and good lord it’s like watching Martin Short play center field in the body of Ken Griffey Jr. He hits the ball as hard as the diesel kids with 25 lbs over him. His run is long and graceful, taking the distance from second to third in what seems impossibly like five or six strides. And he misses two of every three balls hit to him because he’s too busy spazzing and making fart noises with the kid standing on second base. And I’m not so dumb anymore that I don’t miss big important things. Trying, anyway.