The Margarita Man


                The vendor’s growling bellow seemed to rise from the balls of his feet, through his belly, which swallowed his belt and cast an impressive shadow on his shoes, and up every inch of his long throat.

                His voice reached to the top deck at the U.S. Cellular Field where the World Champion Chicago White Sox play – as he traipsed down the concrete steps toward the bottom of the stadium, then back up again, then over to the next row. It was quite an impressive display, giving new meaning to the idea of “throwing your voice.” We heard him coming our way from several aisles over and my wife ordered one of the frozen treats when he eventually settled in our area.
               We sat in the sixth row from the rail, no more than thirty feet from Sox Left Fielder and blossoming superstar Carlos Lee. A big man, as outfielders tend to be, Lee was better known for hitting long, screaming home runs than for his glove work. Yet he was having an exceptionally good early season both at the plate and in the field.
                 And there we were. Bathed in bright, warm late spring sunshine, I sat with my two daughters and wife, ready to enjoy the game against the Oakland A’s. The girls, about 5 and 7 years old had “bought” the tickets to the game as my Father’s Day gift. Well, I actually got the tickets gratis from a business associate. And the girls did not have revenues significant enough to buy me a souvenir. And I even had to pay for parking.
         Still, we were together at a baseball game. A real Norman Rockwell moment if ever there was one.
          And what a game it was! The Sox and A’s both played well. Lots of scoring. A couple home runs followed by the obligatory fireworks that announce all home team homers to the surrounding neighborhoods. And some stellar defense by Lee, including a running, diving catch that sent him sliding across the warning track pea gravel and crashing into the outfield wall below us. He was so close that we could practically reach out and help him back to his feet.
           Wow! This is any baseball fan’s dream – to see his team play well against a solid opponent, to be able to share that moment with his children, to infuse them with the love of the game that has carried America over and through so many peaks and valleys in its 150-plus year history. The pride! The excitement! The unadulterated joy!
           And then…
           I turned to my wife to see her reaction to Lee’s amazing play. Hoping to see the awe in my eye sparkling back from hers. Instead I saw her head lowered to the cross stitch pattern in her lap. And in her hand a cross stitch needle and thread poking meticulously through the material, creating an outline of something…I have no idea what it was, but it sure wasn’t a picture of anything having to do with BASEBALL!
         “Did you see that play?!” I nearly shouted, incredulity overwhelming my self-control.
         “What play?”
          I stared at her, expecting a half smile, or a cracked voice -- some sign that she was only teasing me. Nothing.
          “THAT play! Right there in front of us!” I jabbed emphatically to left field where Carlos Lee stood, fifty feet away, brushing the red dust from his uniform.
          “Oh. No.” She couldn’t have been more nonchalant – or disinterested -- if her middle name were Cucumber. Nearly apoplectic, I turned back to the game. The inning ended without any
damage to the Sox, and the teams changed positions on the field.
           Seconds later, my wife’s cell phone rang.
          “Hello? Hey, how are you? Oh no, I’m not busy. We’re here at the Sox game. “My wife turned to me. “What quarter is it?”
         “Baseball doesn’t have quarters, it has innings! And we’re in the 6 th inning!” Both my volume and my temper were running dangerously hot. She returned to her phone and continued chatting about who knows what. Then she turned back to me. “Who are we playing?”
          My head felt like Mt. Vesuvius, just before it spewed death over thousands of the
most unlucky Italians in history.
           “Are you KIDDING? It’s the Oakland A’s! They’re right there!” I pointed again to left field to where a giant African American man stood wearing a lime green, lemon yellow and white uniform with a big “A-apostrophe-S” on his chest and hat.
           “Oh, Ok.” She turned to her phone. “The Oakland A’s, I guess…”
            My blood boiled faster with each non-baseball-related chuckle and reference to stitching, work, the weather – anything but the fantastic game happening right in front of us.
            Finally, I resigned myself to enjoying the afternoon with my daughters. They were well on their way to becoming hard-core baseball (and most especially, White Sox) fans, just like their dad. Years later, we still make a point to go to several baseball games together each season. But not my wife. We have never wasted another baseball dollar on her. And she doesn’t mind at all.
          To this day, when we talk about that epic game, that highlight of my young fatherhood, that pinnacle of Family Time, my wife, with face straight as a razor, says that her favorite part of the whole day, was the Margarita Man.

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