This week’s installment tells you a little bit more about the lonely life of our main character, Joe. Much of what you see about the businesses and surroundings in this story are taken from my actual upbringing in upstate New York. We are learning a bit about what will motivate Joe to take the actions that he does in the coming chapters.
I hope you enjoy this week’s installment of Extra Innings. I welcome your feedback. You can catch up and read Part 1 HERE.
For lunch, Joe found himself driving to the north side of town. He felt like having a good hot dog and the best in town were at Harry’s, a small 75 year-old institution that made it’s own mustard and served Hoffman Hot Dogs and Coneys brought in from Syracuse, NY. The same dogs were served at Maxwell Stadium which happened to be across the street from Harry’s. Joe took a seat in a window booth where he could see the soon to be demolished stadium.The last season in Maxwell had ended in grand fashion for the Chiefs a month earlier. The Chiefs wore throwback uniforms dating to the 1940’s and a souvenir miniature bat with the inscription “Maxwell Stadium, 1945-2013” was engraved on the side. Joe looked at the lonely stadium and the trucks from West-Penn Salvage parked in the lot ready to haul away the nostalgic treasure so it could be transformed into worthless garbage, or worse, reused for some non-baseball purpose without a proper burial.
“It’s kind of sad, isn’t it Joe?”
Joe quickly returned from his daydream and turned to see Harry Schmidt, III, the third generation owner of Harry’s standing by his booth.
“It is sad, but I guess change is something we can’t avoid.”
“This change will be one that I can do without. The new stadium is going to have restaurants that will be open even when there are no games. I don’t need the competition.”
Joe looked around the crowded restaurant and couldn’t imagine that Harry could be worried. Harry must have sensed what Joe was thinking.
“Sure business is good now, but with new stadiums come younger, more health-conscious people. I’m not going to start serving tofu dogs to please them.”
“Are you really worried? This place has been here for 75 years.”
“Times change, Joe. One good thing is that those goombas who are building the new stadium are using their own store brand hot dogs.”
“Well that should help.”
“You would think so, but it’s going to cost me more for Hoffman’s to ship them to me since the demand from the stadium won’t be there anymore.”
Joe looked again at the trucks in the stadium lot.
“It looks like their getting ready to start demolition.”
“Not for a few days. They’re just waiting for equipment to get here and then the salvage team needs a day to go through and see what can be dismantled and sold. Then the place gets demolished. They sell stuff like fixtures and signs to those theme restaurants like J.J. McChuckles and P.F. Chumps to hang up for decorations. Then they pick stuff they can sell for scrap before it’s time to smash and haul.”
“You sound excited about it.”
“What I’m excited about is feeding all of the workers during the process.”
“That should be a nice bump in business.”
“Unfortunately, it will be all too brief.”
Harry wandered off to chat with some other customers. Joe looked at the equipment that was poised to demolish so many of his precious memories for another minute or two and then discarded his trash from lunch and headed back to the office.
Once he returned to the office, he completed the final three hours of work that he needed to complete for Healthway and delivered it to Johnny Provenza. He then started surfing the Internet.
There was a small Wikipedia article about Maxwell Stadium. It talked mostly about Colonel Franklin Maxwell, the park’s namesake, who was a pilot during World War II and had received numerous military accolades. The land and the stadium, as well as the Chiefs themselves, were owned by a company called NYPen. A quick search revealed that NYPen was a subsidiary of Lackawana Specialty Services, the very same company that would own and name the new stadium after it’s Price Choice Supermarket subsidiary.
Joe then looked up the demolition company, West-Penn Salvage. Sure enough, another subsidiary of LSS. This whole venture certainly is incestuous. LSS is paying itself to demolish its own stadium to make way for its new one. Joe decided at that moment that a call to West-Penn Salvage was the place to start as he attempted to salvage his own memories and obtain some small piece of Maxwell Stadium before it was torn down.
Joe dialed the number on the web site and was greeted by a recorded message telling him how important his call was followed by bad elevator jazz music that sounded even worse through the small speaker in his phone receiver. After about three minutes, a female voice answered and proclaimed, “Lackawana Specialty Services. How may I direct your call?”
“I’d like to speak to someone about the demolition of Maxwell Stadium in Langerton.”
“Let me transfer you to the appropriate department.”
More bad jazz and then another voice.
“West-Penn Salvage, may I help you?”
“I’d like to speak to someone about the ‘artifacts’ from the demolition of Maxwell Stadium in Langerton.”
“Are you from one of the approved artifact bidding companies or from one of the construction contractors?”
“Actually, I’m not from either. I’m just a private citizen and a Chief’s fan and was wondering if there is any chance of getting my hands on any signs or maybe a seat from the old stadium.”
“I’m sorry sir, but all of the salvage materials have been earmarked for sale, re-purposing, or disposal. If you’re not from an approved bidder, I can’t help you with this.”
“That’s OK,” Joe said feeling deflated. “I thought it was worth a shot.”
“Is there anything else I can help you with, sir,” the human/robotic voice replied.”
“No. I suppose not. Thank you.”
As the line disconnected, Joe felt depression wash over him. Part of his brain told him that this was silly and that he should just get over it and move on. Another part of him felt that a part of his life was ended. So many memories, not just of baseball, but of a simpler time when he bonded with his family and was truly happy. He hadn’t been truly happy in a while. This latest event was just the capping off of a string of unpleasantness over the past 10 years. He couldn’t allow himself to dwell on that, however, or it would render him useless until the depression passed.
Surprisingly, the office had emptied out while Joe was on his ill-fated sleuthing mission to obtain a nostalgic artifact. It was time to go home.
Home was not the most exciting place since his divorce ten years beforehand. Joe had married his high-school sweetheart while he was still in college. Together they scrimped and saved as he worked his way up the corporate ladder and she worked hard as an underpaid high school teacher. They bought a great house on an acre of land that was suitable for the starting and growth of a family. They were not able to conceive right away, however, or ever for that matter until one day about eleven years ago when Joe discovered that his wife was pregnant. He was ecstatic right up until the time he found out that it was the high school basketball coach that had the right to be ecstatic. The child was his and not Joe’s. There was never talk of working it out. Joe’s wife had become bored with their life and had sought outside ‘activities’ to stem her boredom. She had no problem, however, taking half of what they had earned together including the house which she now lived in with the father of her child. Joe had taken it hard, but had not put up much of a fight.
Now, his home was a two bedroom town house that was not too far from the office. It was sparsely furnished and portrayed little of his personality. The only extravagance was a 60 inch flat screen TV in what could be called a man-cave that Joe had set up in his spare bedroom. The walls were covered with Chiefs and New York Yankees memorabilia. It was a shrine to the sport and the teams that he loved and was where he spent most of his leisure time.
Joe stopped by his favorite Italian restaurant, Dominick’s, for some takeout veal Parmesan and garlic pizza. He went home, sat in his man cave and ate his dinner while he watched ESPN to catch up on the latest sports. As he did every night, he switched over to the Fox station at 10 PM and watched the local news. It just so happened that Fox was featuring a story on Maxwell Stadium and its impending demolition. The reporter, who looked to Joe like she was about fourteen years old stood in front of Maxwell and recited facts and dates in a highly-trained monotone.”
…”the stadium, named after World War II hero Franklin Maxwell, will be torn down beginning on Thursday. This will make way for the state of the art Price Choice stadium that should be ready for opening day in March.”
The reporter droned on about the cost of the new stadium and an architect’s rendering of the new stadium was flashed on the screen. The reality of the story hit Joe and he started to sink into a state of depression once again. Even though it was 10:30, he called his brother Mike.
“Joe, is everything OK?”
“No, well, yes, I mean, there’s no emergency. It’s just that I… I saw a story on Fox about the stadium and I just started thinking…”
Joe stammered through telling his brother about his conversation with Harry Schmidt and his call to LSS.
You actually called them?”
“I did. It obviously was a waste of time.”
“Joe, you need to let this go. I mean, I know that the team and the stadium are important to you, but your getting a little obsessed. Why are you trying to hold on to the past?”
“Because the past was a lot better than the present and, from what I can see, the future.”
“Are we still talking about baseball? You know, you need to move on. Not just from the stadium, but in your personal life. It’s been ten years. Besides the dates that I’ve set you up on, how many dates have you been on since the divorce?”
“I don’t know, maybe a few. But what does that have to do with the stadium?”
“I think it has a lot to do with it. I think it’s pushing you closer to the edge.”
“The edge of what? Now you’re talking nonsense.”
“Am I? Joe, you’re still relatively young. You’ve got a good job. You aren’t that ugly. Why do you want to be alone. You don’t want to grow old and be alone. Nobody deserves that.”
“I’m not alone. I have work, I have you, I have…”
Joe struggled to think of other things that he had in his life.
“See what I mean. You need to get a life Joey and stop living in the past.”
“I know. I just thought that this one thing would…”
“Let it go. The stadium is being torn down. Out with the old, in with the new. You could learn something from that.”
“You’re probably right, Mikey. I’m sorry I bothered you.”
“You never bother me. I’m just trying to talk some sense into you. Why don’t you come over for dinner this weekend?”
“Maybe I will. Thanks.”
“Take care little brother.”
They hung up and Joe got ready for bed and crawled under the covers. He had a fitful night of non-sleep. He was plagued by dreams of being alone, and one particularly vivid dream in which his childhood home was being torn down with all of his family inside. This dream jarred him awake. Slowly he deemed the dream ridiculous. His childhood home had already been torn down 20 years early to make room for the nearby medical center’s expansion. His only other family beside his brother Mike were his mom and dad and they had both passed away.