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Friday, June 26, 2009

A surreal day: just the boy & me in Detroit

It was a father son vacation. Since the girls seem to get all the attention in this family, I thought it would be cool to have a father son outing. Jordan chose a Tiger's game.

I'm one of those rare people who love a nice ride with good music, daydreams, and discussions with the boy about the Tigers. He was pumped and eager to get autographs.

Coming from a small town where summer vacationers usually make a mere one or two stoplights a two minute longer wait, driving around the big city is a slight stressor. Jordan and I were going to meet up with a buddy of mine from college I hadn't seen in 20 years, but finding his place was turning into a major challenge -- like finding a needle in a haystack. And since I had lost my cell phone I couldn't call him.

Jordan was geared up with his Detroit Tiger shirt and hat on, and his Detroit Tiger backpack filled with his glove, baseball cards and a bat he wants to get signed.

He's eager and full of anticipation. "I'm going to get Verlander, Porcello and Jackson to sign my glove," he said. "So quit driving around and just park so we can get to the stadium before it's too late to get autographs."

I drove around the streets Rich directed me to and still I couldn't find his building. So, finally, Jordan said, "Dad, just pull into that parking lot right there. It's only $10. Forget about your friend."

I parked. We walked the five minute journey to the park. It was surreal walk for country folks as we walked below the towering historical buildings not knowing which one was which, only knowing Comerica Park was "that way." And as we walk up to the park you can actually see right in. It's a cool sight. Two hours before the game some folks were already sitting atop buildings outside the stadium, yet inside most seats were empty.

One guy with missing teeth walked up to us and asked if we needed tickets. I asked if he knew where there might be a pay phone, and he said, "That's funny you ask, because I don't think there are any payphones at all in downtown Detroit. You'd think there would be, hey?"

Inside the park Jordan insisted I find my pay phone on my own, because he was going to find the Tiger dugout and get some autographs. "Dad, I'll just meet you in our seats when the game starts. I can't waste time. I have to get my autographs."

I walked him to the Tiger dugout.

At the customer service desk the good folks there let me make a call to Rich for free. That impressed me. It doesn't take much to impress me. I met Rich at the gate and slid him his ticket through the a barred gate (which was unlocked by the way).

As I waited for him, I wondered if I would be able to pick him out of a crowd. Then I saw this guy walking around confused and figured that must be him. I waved.

While we were catching up behind Jordan as he was itching to get Nate Robertson's autograph, beads of sweat were dripping down my forehead as the sun was beating down on us. I had decided if this heat persisted, I was not going to make it through a three hour long game.

It was worth standing in the scorching heat, though, as Jordan eventually powered himself to the fence and hefted his glove and Sharpie for Nate Robertson to sign. Once he had it we were ordered to go to our seats.

When I ordered the tickets I had no idea our tickets were at the very top of the upper deck over third base, last row, under the awning, where there was a cool breeze as though a fan were blowing on us. We decided these Bob Euchre seats were the best seats in the entire stadium.

And when the rain started to fall in the 8th inning, every body in the stadium got wet but us. All we got was a nice cool breeze. It was great. And the game was great.

The boy was bound and determined the Tigers were going to win, and this determination reminded the dad of when he was a boy and big time Tiger fan. When I was 12 I remember willing the Tigers to many victories.

It's almost as though you JUST KNOW they are going to win. I had that feeling that my boy was going to WILL the Tigers to a victory on this night. So when the Tigers were down by three after a Cub three run homer in inning one, the dad did not fret.

Almost as though it were expected, Fernando Rodney struck out the batter and the runner was stranded on second -- the Tigers won. Jordan and I led Rich to our car, and, ironically, it turned out to be parked right across the street from Rich's pad. Was this another one of the boy's miracles. Do boys have that kind of power?

Rich walked Jordan and I around Detroit. A few beggars approached us, and one probably tried to pick my pocket as he patted me on the back saying, "That's okay, I understand." Unfortunately for him I keep my wallet in my front pocket when I'm in Detroit.

Just walking around Detroit itself is surreal. It almost seems like there is nothing in Detroit but old buildings, but Rich took us into one plain set of doors, and inside was this magnanimous and capacious indoor room with a large towering water fountain. It was the main floor of a towering office building, and, best of all, it was air conditioned.

Also inside the building was Hard Rock Cafe. It was too expensive for us to eat there, but we entered anyway just to be cool. Then we ate at a coney place I can't remember the name of. Rich said it was one of the most famous coney places in the world.

Back at Rich's we boarded an elevator that was hot, stuffy, claustrophobic and run by a hand crank. I had never seen such an ancient elevator. On the way up I vowed I would not take it on the way down. Yet Rich's loft was really cool, and even Jordan was impressed. It was a spacious pad with open windows (no screens) and a warm breeze blowing through. He had an awesome view of the city.

"As I listen to Tiger games there is a five second delay," Rich said. "So I can actually hear the cheer through the windows before I hear the announcers describing what happened on the radio. I actually can tell what each cheer is for. If someone hits a home run, I usually know it before the announcers tell us. It's really neat."

Facing one of the windows were two antique blue seats that Rich said were from the old Tiger Stadium. Jordan and I sat in them just to be cool, and checked out the view.

On the way to my brother's Jordan said, "Dad, your friend Rich turned out to be a really cool guy. We should meet him again next year."

I'll take it from that Jordan had a great time in Detroit. As soon as we were at my brothers he borrowed a Blackberry and called his mother. It was a great feeling listening to him gloat to her about all the cool things he did that day. I think it's safe to say: mission accomplished. Thanks Rich.

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