Memories of people, places and past experiences can be triggered by many things. Sights, sounds and smells are always good for helping to send my thoughts in a million different directions. Sometimes people tease me about being able to tell when I am thinking by the smoke floating around my head. Doesn’t bother me- I am intense. When I talk about the fire that burns in the belly I am not exaggerating. It is part of who I am.
Last night I took my son to his first Clippers game. He had never been to an NBA game or down to Staples Center for that matter so he was more than a little excited about it and so was I. My first pro sporting event was a Dodgers game. It was 1974. The Dodgers played the Padres at Dodger Stadium. There were Farmer John hot dogs, a coke, peanuts and fireworks. I sat in between my dad and my grandfather.
I could write an entire post about the differences between 20th century Dodger Stadium, the organ playing for the fans and the 21st century Staples Center. I could talk about the differences in perspective between a boy who was not quite 5.5 and a father who is almost 42. That boy expected to be a professional baseball player. He took his glove with him just in case a foul ball came his way. He heard talk about Vietnam and President Ford or at least that is what he thinks he remembers among the many other things.
The father he is today looked at his own son, a bit older than 10 and felt badly that it took so long to get him to a game. Tickets cost a lot more now than they did then. But the saucer eyed boy who stood next to him made it all worthwhile.
The drive into downtown Los Angeles is a crapshoot. There are nights where it can be easy and times when it feels downright treacherous. Last night wasn’t too bad, about 25 minutes or so. Parked the car off of Olympic and Figueroa and wandered through LA Live on the way over. As we approached Staples Center I heard music and found myself thinking about a fraternity party.
It is around 1990 or so and I a junior in college. It is Saturday night but I can’t tell you what time. I am dancing with a girl from my biology class. The dance floor is packed full of people. This is good, because it means that I don’t really have to move much. I just have to sort of nod my head every now and then and move with the crowd. Â Gonna Make you Sweat is appropriate because it is hot in there, but no one cares. We have been drinking and dancing for hours.
She tosses her head and I watch her hair fly. I am lost in the moment. Hormones and energy are flowing through the room- it is electric. Â Suddenly space is created and one of the guys is dancing by himself, the crowd cheering him on. He can dance like nobody’s business and there seems to be a constant line of women trying to keep up with him.
“Dad, where are the statues?” The question pulls me back to reality. I am amazed at how you can think about a month of your life in only a minute. I point ahead and start naming the people. There is Chick Hearn, Magic Johnson, Jerry West and Wayne Gretzky. My son’s eyes grow wider and I can’t figure out if the smile on his face will cause his head to explode.
This is good.
I tell him to be careful not to get separated from me. He nods his head and moves through the crowd quickly, confidently and with purpose. I am proud of him. As we walk I am careful to look around and make sure that nothing hinky is going on.I am not worried about trouble but crowds can be funny places and I am more than his father, I am his bodyguard.
I see a group of men walking towards him. They don’t see him and I am concerned that they’ll knock him down so I take a quick step in front of him. The first guy bumps into me and I mumble excuse me towards him.
My son is floating, gliding towards the entrance. Moments pass and we stand for the National Anthem. The game starts and we cheer for the Clippers. They win and and a very happy father walks with his happy son back to the car. The car ride home is a mix of silence and happy chatter. It was a good night.