Thursday, July 29, 2010

Rooting for the Overdog

At the Cleveland Indians vs. New York Yankees game a few nights ago (in Cleveland’s stunningly comfortable and picturesque Progressive Field), something weird was happening. A critical mass of ticket-holders was pro-Yankees (and not shy about it). In and around our section, at the concession stands, in the bathrooms – it was a sea of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez shirts and jerseys. I thought I had successfully fled New York for a few days, yet here I was, in a cleaner, cheaper, and more civilized version of the Bronx.

What was all that about? When did supporting the home team become passé? This is the first regular-season sporting event I’ve been to where the away-team fans managed to almost really stick it to the home crowd. The delightful couple sitting next to us had trekked to Cleveland from Paterson, New Jersey for this game (and hopefully for something else, too), so they had a good excuse for their Yankee fanaticism. And there had to have been other New York-area natives or visitors in the mix. But what about all of the others who sided with the boys from out of town? Those “Here We Go, Yankees” and “De-rek Je-ter” crowd cheers were largely intoned with distinctly Midwestern twangs.

From what I’ve heard, the Cleveland Indians aren’t considered to be all that this year. Is that what drives this many locals to vociferously betray their own for another team that already has so much? The Indians seriously can’t be that bad if they only lost to the Yankees (last year’s World Series champs, featuring powerhouses like Rodriguez who’s just one big swing away from a history-making 600th homerun) by one run, and then beat the Yankees by three runs the following night; but they don’t currently have a Jeter or an A-Rod to boast of. In the coming seasons, if the Indians eventually become the hot team with a couple of major star players added to their starting lineup, will these Yankees-yodeling Clevelanders change chants? My money’s majorly on it.

Fair-weather fans can’t be trusted. What happens inside the gates of the ballpark doesn’t necessarily stay there – disloyalty is transferable as hell and could be coming to an arena near you.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Revisiting the Rubric of Road Rage

There’s a fresh black-and-blue mark on one of my legs. I’ve had worse, but this one’s still pretty dark, deep, and disappointing. The kind of bruise people get after they’ve been beaten.

No doubt, I have been kicked and slapped around. But I don’t have just one abuser - I’m up against a whole town of them. It’s so much harder to fend off a hulking, densely-knit posse than just one, isolated aggressor.

One of the many urban legends about New York is that its people walk fast. Where in New York is this? Can I be taken there? Was this a pre-gentrification phenomenon? Because I’ve lived around and can attest that people in other cities can and do habitually walk faster. I would bet my tambourine that my best friend (who’s never lived outside of Northern Ohio) could easily out-walk any supposed fastest walker on the island of Manhattan.

I walk often, usually fast and furiously. Hardly anyone else in the New York metropolitan area seems interested in keeping up. I’m a helmetless American football player walking down these mean streets, with the scrapes and bruises to show for it – it’s like a scrimmage out there, darting around trying to get past and squeeze through. I must have gotten this latest war wound when I banged up against that heavy, steel guard railing as I melodramatically escaped a sidewalk traffic jam to walk alongside the cars and buses in the relative serenity of the street.

I’m not against the act of walking slowly – those keen on stopping and smelling the roses should go for it. I don’t want to interfere with someone else’s pace or space –but, in the name of reciprocity (among other principles), I don’t appreciate someone else interfering with mine. Please don’t force me to smell the roses with you, at the place and hour of your choosing. If you decide to walk slowly, you don’t belong in the main line of traffic. Step out of the way, move off to the fringes, let others do their thing.

The socially-unconcerned slow walkers are out-disgraced only by the erratic walkers. Here’s a public service announcement for this crowd: please glance around before coming to a sudden, inexplicable stop – that way, the person trying to respectably get through her day directly behind you won’t crash into you and the sharp buckle on your questionably authentic handbag. If you want to text or try to play Mafia Wars on your BlackBerry or thumb through the free newspaper they hand out in subway stations while you walk, do remove your ass from the main stream and at least occasionally keep your eyes on the road, instead of zigzagging your way through center court.

It’s not just the tourists who traipse about so mindlessly, although they’re chief contributors to the epidemic (as well as convenient scapegoats). The people who live here year-round are just as much to blame, if not more so, as you’d think they’d know better. I’m talking about the people who aren’t runway models, but they would like to be, and this is the only shot they’ve got. Sixth Avenue is the sole stage they’ll ever work and they cling to it. They pseudo-imperiously strut about, often ostentatiously dressed, solo or in small groups, blocking everything and everyone, looking around every now and then to confirm they’re being noticed. Their sashaying has gotten me late for meetings, appointments, and bachelorette parties. Slow walkers have made me narrowly miss trains, stop lights, elevators, and potential opportunities.

On an island this small, that’s filled with this many people, all forms of gridlock are inevitable. But there doesn’t have to be nearly this much of it. When you’re in a major city, during rush hour, on a street filled with office buildings, and there are a shitload of people to every side of you and not too much available physical space to play with, think of yourself as a car and the sidewalk as a high-stakes turnpike – walk defensively, not offensively. I beg of you.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Step Off, Gideons - Now and Ever Unto Ages of Ages

When I was in a hotel room over 4th of July weekend, I opened a bedside drawer looking for a local phone book, so I could check whether there was a T.J. Maxx anywhere nearby. I found the phone book, but that wasn’t all that was waiting, lurking, for me in there. I gasped as I stared down at the front cover of the Holy Bible.

What was it doing in there? I never asked for one. Taking out a room in a chain hotel is an inherently secular act. I come to these hotels to sleep and hopefully eat an unlimited complimentary continental breakfast – not to be “saved” via someone else’s markedly different interpretation of salvation.

Fourth of July weekend 2010 wasn’t the first time I’d been subjected to this. I vaguely remember being on a couple of childhood family vacations, idly messing around in our hotel room’s drawers, and stumbling upon the same scene. I let it roll off my back much more easily back then but, even as a child, I recognized the violation. I also remember being struck by the way these texts were just quietly snuck into the drawers – as if they know they’re doing something wrong.

Who is “they”? The masterminds behind this set-up are the Gideons International – a “nondenominational evangelical group run by businessmen.” My Google search revealed that they’ve been running this game since 1908. A 2008 article about them in the Knoxville News Sentinel reports that: “The group only allows for evangelical business and professional men to hand out Scripture to its targeted groups, although Gideons allow their wives to hand out Scripture as well in health care settings and in prisons for women.” These are the people who are supposed to be my saviors?

How and why is the hotel industry getting away with this? It’s just because they don’t get any public funding? Even if they’re playing the privatization card, what compels them to continue lying down and taking it? What’s in it for Best Western – are they getting paid to submit? There’s really not one progressive, independent thinker at the helm of any of these hotels/motels?

Know this: the Gideon cabal wouldn’t be able to pull any similar fast ones on me. If one of these businessmen asked me to post a psalm on this blog (or would they dispatch one of their wives for such a gig, since it’s a female-owned site?), they’d be kindly dismissed, and none of their prayers to get me to change my mind would ever fly. I wouldn’t care if all of the other bloggers were doing it.

Percentage-wise, how many guests curl up with these drawer Bibles during their stays? Wouldn’t the really hard-core Christians bring their own? Or shouldn’t they have the bulk of the Good Book’s content internalized by now? Or is it that these Gideons are just praying (or preying) upon the uber-vulnerable heathens who are passing through these rooms? Are these emotionally at-risk people one of their pet “targeted groups”? I think and care about these “lost” populations, too – namely, within the context of improving some of the social conditions that have contributed to their straits. I might publicly air my views on the way I think this world should be, but I don’t know that I would ever resort to rank, guerilla proselytization.

There’s some hope for me and my kind, as I’ve also learned (thanks, Google! You’re the one that keeps saving me) that it’s possible to request a Bible-free room. I’m all over it. It’s now going to be all: “Hi Best Western, please hook me up with a king-sized bed and some religious freedom.”