Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Hot Dog

Nick Markakis of the Baltimore Orioles is my favorite baseball player.

Three years ago, I went to see the Mets play the Orioles at Shea Stadium with Fat Ed, his girlfriend and the girl I was dating at the time. I went to Shea a lot that year. This was a monumental waste of money. I didn’t think so at the time, but now I think all sports are a monumental waste of money.

Spending money on sports is like fighting over sports. This, too, is a monumental waste of time. I said something bad about Derek Jeter once at a Yankee game, and a guy wearing a Derek Jeter jersey wanted to fight me. I asked him if he expected Derek Jeter to run into the stands and defend him if I started winning the fight. He told me I wouldn’t win the fight. I told him I would. And so on.

Anyway, I was really drunk that night – the Markakis one. We’d been drinking in the parking lot, and back then, when I had money to burn (through), I didn’t mind buying 12-15 aluminum Bud bottles at a baseball game. I used to need a barback at baseball games. That’s how bad it was.

This was Greek-American night at Shea. I remember back in the 80’s when Mayor Koch used to go to ethnic celebrations in New York and proclaim, “I’m Italian!” or “I’m Puerto Rican!” or “I’m Haitian!” and the crowd would go nuts even though New York stunk of urine everywhere you went and girls from Kansas couldn’t ride the subway at three in the morning like they do now. Mayor Koch went on the radio for a while and called himself “The Voice of Reason.” This is what you call irony.

At the St. Patrick’s Day parade one year when I was a kid, he was wearing an Aran sweater and Scally cap, and he was carrying a shillelagh. He grabbed a microphone and yelled, “I’m Irish!” This was strange to me because I thought he was Jewish. I knew he was Jewish for a fact because my family wouldn’t let us forget it.

I took the train that night because I knew I’d be drinking. The entrance to the Long Island Railroad platform was across Roosevelt Avenue from the old Shea. This was very much a ghetto operation. You’d dodge cars to get across Roosevelt, then cut through – it only seemed like this, but if you’ve been there, you’ll know what I mean – a hole in a chain link fence to get to the bottom of the steps. There was usually a giant hot dog truck on your right. We’ll get to that momentarily.

That night, I was halfway up the stairs to the LIRR gangplank when I dropped my phone. It clankity-clanked all the way to the bottom, opened up, and launched the battery somewhere into the dark. I staggered around collecting parts, and then decided I needed a hot dog.

“Where do I know you from?” asked the hot dog guy. “You look really familiar.”

“I don’t know,” I slurred. “Do you go to (club I used to work at)?”

“Yeah! Fuck! You’re the guy at the door!”


“You want a beer?” he asked.

“Nah, man. I’m good. I don’t wanna spend any more money tonight.”

“No, I got a cooler back here. These are mine. Take one.”

“Okay,” I said.

So, I’m standing there talking to this guy about God-knows-what when three guys walk up to the hot dog truck. Two of them were wearing Orioles jerseys. There was an elderly guy, a middle aged guy and a young guy wearing a dress shirt and slacks. The two older guys’ jerseys said Markakis on the back.

I knew Nick Markakis existed for two reasons. First, it was Greek-American night, so the whole Astoria contingent had given him a big hand every time he came to the plate. He’d also made a really nice diving catch late in the game.

“Hey,” I said, “lemme ask you guys a question.” I’m a talkative drunk. “Why are you wearing Markakis jerseys?”

“Because,” replied the middle aged guy, “I’m his father, and this is his grandfather, and this is Nick.”

Markakis was a nice guy. I talked to him for a while. I told him he’d made a nice catch. He told me he was from Long Island and that most of his family still lived there. That much, I remember.

Who knows what the fuck else I said?

I root for the guy now.