High Desert Blues

Bongwater: You use that line over there? Once we cross it, our innocence is gone, and it is never coming back.

Me: That is the line of a handicapped parking space.

BW: Allow me my metaphor, Thaddeus. I listened to all your bullshit about the Mormon Rocks on the way up here. We are going to a park that has no video scoreboard. The stadium is a giant cinder block. If we are lucky, the smoke from the wildfire will block the high tension power lines. We could still go to Vegas now. Once we cross that line, there is no turning back. What is it going to be?

Me: Is this some more blood brothers to the end fantasies? They have new beer gardens. Let’s roll.

False advertising: There are no new beer gardens, just dirty tables reserved for groups that won’t be coming here today. Modelo is not being sold today, although the advertisement announced there would be a Modelo Party Porch. Maybe one hundred people are in the stadium at this time. Our main concern is finding a bathroom, but it does not seem like restroom markers are in the operating budget.

We walk to the Diamond Club, figuring there has to be bathrooms there, and maybe there are, but we immediately turn away after we open the door to the cinder block hut because the smell of death is so strong. The room is filled with old people, obviously some sort of holding area before they cross over to the other side. We calmly retrace our steps because we’ve seen so many fucked up things in the Cal League that St. Peter’s Waiting room doesn’t phase us.

The bathroom is enormous, ten times the size of the team shop, which is just a closet. It is somewhat clean – no one has shat on the floor yet today. Someone is moaning in one of the stalls though, and once again, we feel Death’s presence. However, if Death is going to take us, we are emptying out bladders first.

Things start to look up when we see a Goose Island Brewery tent, but those taps are closed today. It seems the only beer we are drinking today are 25 ounce Budweiser products, no doubt the baseball gods punishing us because Whiskey Jack is wearing a Budweiser baseball jersey because he has the fashion sense of a Philistine. We can purchase “Eat Your Opponent’s Chicken Tenders”, which don’t sound too appetizing because the JetHawks are the opponents. Mexican music is reverberating throughout the concourse in honor of Domingos Latinos’ Day, which is fine, but as of now, there are no Mexicans in the park besides the Bat Boy, just jittery white people. Bongwater shouts for some Skynard, and receives vacant stares from the other patrons.

As we find our way to our seats and see the splotchy grass in the outfield, I realize that I have seen pictures of better parks in prisons. The luxury boxes here appear to be self-parody – a few seats walled off by cinder blocks and a door. The Bat Boy’s pants are bloused above his knees and his jersey is at least four sizes to big. He looks like a Latin Eddie Gaedel. The PA dude announces, “You and Me will be singing the National Anthem, and commences singing. Along the way he goes silent so the fans can fill in the gaps. Whiskey Jack looks at me and says, “You brought us to one fucked up place.”

Outside the outfield fence, cars have arrived, and people are jumping out of them to set up umbrellas and tables. Coolers come out as the High Desert’s version of the Knothole Gang settle in for the first pitch. “We should be with those people,” Bongwater says. “I bet they have weed.”

A twelve year old vendor is walking through the empty stands because child labor laws obviously don’t apply here. As he approaches, I see he is filthy, and selling balloon figures for a dollar.

Me: How many of those do you think you are going to sell today?

Him: Maybe five. Probably three.

Me: Why do you do it? You aren’t making any money.

Him: My mom runs the face painting stand. The Mavericks let me work the stands. We don’t have much money since Dad left.

I give him a ten dollar bill, tell him I don’t want any balloons, and to have a good day. The kid is shocked, mumbles thank you, and moves on. After the kids is out of earshot, Bongwater tells me I got played.

Me: Your lack of faith in humanity is depressing.

BW: Would you have given a kid from Berdoo money like that? Hell no.

Perhaps Bongwater is correct. I don’t have time to dwell on it as people are yelling at us.

Strangers: You are not from around here!

BW: Damn straight. We have all of our teeth.

Strangers: Ooh, aren’t you special! All of your teeth!

Things start to escalate, then a towering dude with a Texas Rangers insignia on his black polo shirt makes the scene. I squint and see it is a Mavs’ shirt. Towering Dude knows how to placate the denizens. Goddamn, this is an affable chap (later we will find out his the GM), and even I am getting caught up in his spiel, then I notice his Iron Cross tattoo on his calf, and think, “This dude is going to try to eat us later.”

An unintelligible promotion between innings gets Bongwater rolling about a promotion the 66ers should do:

Bongwater: They should have White Flight Night. White people sit in certain sections named after certain San Bernardino neighborhoods: Del Rosa, Arrowhead, North Park, Marshal, Valencia, Verdemont… Then let the minorities in and have them move from section to section, and watch the white people flee. Eventually, they will get to the outfield, which will be filled with the Klan. The white people feeling will either have to turn and meet the minorities or join the Klan.

Me: What is the point?

BW: History, man. It is like those Civil War enactments.

Rock Stoner: That is the dumbest thing I have ever herd.

BW: Needs more hobos, doesn’t it?

Rock Stoner: No, those white people would just move to Highland.

Around the fifth inning we take a walk around the stadium because the score is 12-1. We go into the Team Store, which has no Mavs’ merchandise, just Rangers’ stuff. The lady running the shop says all the Mavs’ merchandise was shipped to the wrong city, which sounds like typical minor league bullshit – the team needed the gate receipts from the first weekend to pay the deposit on their merchandise. We wish her the best and move on.

When we go back to our seats, some shade seekers are now in our section. Immediately, chirping from six rows behind us starts as we sit down:

Old Men: There goes out view of home plate! You know what I call that pitch? A hat pitch! A big hat pitch because we can’t see anything else.

Whiskey Jack: Would you passive aggressive gentlemen like us to move?

Old Men (sarcastically): Not at all. You are fine right there.

Whiskey Jack: Great! I would have moved if you asked me, but not now.

Old Men: Are you dumb, Boy?

Me: How are we possibly blocking you view?

Old Men: Your aren’t. It is the principle of you sitting in front of us. This place is empty.

Me: These are our seats. You guys haven’t been there all game.

Old Men: We moved to get in the shade.

Me: Guess you should have snagged better seats, fellas. Or at least been cordial.

And then I get hit in the head with a half eaten churro, and before I can respond, Iron Cross Calf is there with his soothing voice, and the old people anger disappears. Iron Cross Calf wants to know if he can get me anything, and I tell him I want to know about the face painting family, and he says, “Oh, that is a sad story,” and I cut him off, saying that is all I need to know. A little bit later, we get up to leave because this place sets minor league ball back thirty years. On the way out, we pass the face painting table, and Bongwater gives the mom a wad of cash. No one says anything until we get to the car.

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