For almost a month now I've been telling myself I needed to get up to Central Park one of these days and witness spring in all its carefully groomed glory, but somehow the time, as it's wont to do, kept slipping away, and it was only as I disembarked from the subway at 96th Street today, en route to the 5th Annual PPMB Softball Tournament that I realized I was in fact going to set foot in Central Park at least once before full-fledged summer had arrived.
It was immediately evident, however, that I'd missed spring in its prime: while many trees were still in bloom, the majority of their blossoms had already fallen to earth, carpeting the ground with what looked uncannily like pink snow. And while leaves on most of the shrubs and trees weren't fully formed yet, they'd already gone well past that ethereal, delicate shade that you only see in the first week or two, when everything looks as though it had been lightly dipped in a lemon-lime Italian ice.
The Park was still exquisitely beautiful, as ever, and as I approached the reservoir, the sun, after several days' absence, suddenly burst into unexpected (they'd been predicted clouds and showers for the whole weekend) sight, prompting the myriad joggers, runners, strollers, and loungers to, almost as one, throw off their coats and sweaters and smile as though it were the first day of summer.
But it was not. Even in full sun, a vicious northeast wind quickly whipped away any such delusions, and also made it difficult to make myself heard on the phone when I started calling people to ask why, for the second (or third?) year in a row, I was completely unable to find the ballfield where they were playing.
I'd taken a wrong turn at the reservoir, it turned out, giving me the opportunity to savor the sights for about an hour and visit approximately 15 other ballfields before finally rolling up to the correct one, where about 40 or 45 PPMB fanatics were already embarked on their second game of the day. Well, not all of them at once; I think they limited it to 10 or 12 to a side, but there seemed to be a great deal of beer drinking and candy bar eating taking place on the sidelines, so everyone had some part to play.
Except for yours truly; as a non-ball playing, non-beer drinking, non-candy bar eating bystander I truly was a bit left out. There were plenty of conversations to be had, but unfortunately, the weather didn't create the best atmosphere for plopping oneself down behind home plate and whiling away the hours. In fact, most people stayed on their feet and kept shuffling around in what I presume was an attempt to keep their circulation going, especially once the sky clouded over and the cold set in in earnest. People lucky enough to have them pulled their hoods up; I personally was wearing two jackets and a hoodie and was still cold.
It was about that time that Frank Unlovable sidled up to me and said, "I can't deal with this Frisco weather," and while I hadn't thought of it up till then (I was thinking more along of the lines of some grim days out in London), Frank had nailed it. This was exactly the kind of San Francisco weather I'd been bitching about for years: not completely frigid, just cold, damp and miserable, with a wind that cuts right through to the bone. I thought back to numerous times I'd been abroad in Golden Gate Park in almost identical conditions, but at the time still being brainwashed by the hippie contention that "It's always beautiful here, man," I'd accepted it as the way things were supposed to be, even standing out in for hours to watch terrible bands playing terrible free concerts and thinking how lucky I was to be there.
Well, at least some element of sanity has been introduced into my life since moving to the East Coast: while accepting that sometimes New York has lousy weather, too (actually, it has lousy weather quite often), at least I now have sense enough to know when it's lousy, and concomitantly, to truly appreciate it when it's great. Which, I'm trusting, it will be just about all of the time in only a couple (few?) more weeks.
Weather gripes aside, Punk Rock Softball V was of course a smashing success. Lots of home runs were hit - I witnessed two notable ones, by Bill Moon, who had nine month old baby Ella in tow, and Rich Grech, who's expecting *triplets*, lots of spectacular catches and equally spectacular errors were made, and the mighty Chris Grivet demonstrated a skill few of us knew he had, that of JUGGLING. He also appeared to get beaned by a throw from center, but it turned out he had blocked it with his hand in the nick of time. From a distance, though, it looked as though it had landed smack in the middle of his forehead, which would have qualified it for any highlight reel of PPMB bloopers.
In past years, the softball has continued well into the evening until the last diehards and stragglers had their fill, but this year another team had reserved the field for 5 on the dot, so things ended relatively early with, no doubt again due to the weather, few complaints from the peanut gallery. Most of the "athletes" then adjourned to the Lost and Found tavern over in Greenpoint for further celebratory sessions, but I had business (and more shivering in the very un-Maylike weather) downtown. Next time I see many of them will be at the Fest in Baltimore on the last weekend of June, and if it's not blazing hot by then, somebody (most likely you) is going to hear about it.