Stealing Home Base in Hanoi: Baseball Joey

Like some strange old kid with a grey beard he rode the train on Sundays to Atlantic Avenue but unlike any kid he went to pick up his medications. His mind was never quite right since Vietnam. Joey lived in the projects off Ave. W for the past thirty-five years. His hearing was partially blown during a V.C. grenade attack while out on patrol. As Joey spoke his voice had a tendency to rise to alarming levels but he was harmless. He had a real bad form of P.T.S.D., which gave him a jittery nervous twitch. He rubbed his head a lot and looked at the floor after saying something. He was completely calm and stable most of the time. Through his face you knew that he along with a generation of fellas got left behind in those jungles holding onto a whole world of shit. His smile was warm but it never really could hide the scars of war.
He loved talking baseball. Since he had come back home to Brooklyn so many years ago it was the last thing for him that made any sense in America anymore. He held on so tightly to that piece of his youth. It gave him something to focus on and it was its own sort of therapy. He could watch game after game season after season. He organized stats and kept records tracking teams and player careers. He was a walking talking functionally dysfunctional library of baseball. Through the years of doing this he had regained some piece of his humanity. It’s how he was able to connect with people. It eased his mind and kept the nightmares away. It brought a smile to his face and when he got to talk about a game or a player there was no stopping him. His excitement couldn’t be contained and some people got nervous over his explosive joys. But it was only Joey it was only baseball. It was his salvation, the saving grace for an old man who had found heaven and hell on Earth.


Brooklyn Summer

It all took place in his backyard, everything. When the sun came back breaking the long cold silence of winter effectually ending our suffering it was finally time for good times and grand times. This certainly included the barbecue. Aaron’s place had unofficially become the hang spot, a base for multiple operations and happenings for the Fort Green patriots and for those willing to make a trek up the hill. Most of the regulars seem to live a step or two away and walk here. Foot power is New York’s real steam, its real driving engine.
We’ve done everything from survive a rapture to watch movies and basketball projected onto a queen sized sheet stretched like hide on a fence. We’ve grilled all sorts of edible goodness and tipped back everything drinkable. The sun shines down brightly from above in the early hours of summer and the yard, part urban garden, shed, patio, is a lovely site to see. It is inviting without any pretension. The signature celebrated earthiness of the space is set off by the massive walls of the Presbyterian Church next door. The old brick walls and stained glass windows cast long dark shadows in the early afternoon. With Aaron’s building working in tandem with the holy, it sets an interesting scene, reminiscent of Shawshank Redemption. We could however not be further from prison while we bask in the warm glows of grilled corn and freedom.
Beer bottles and ash trays are their own flowers in this tiny microcosm in Brooklyn. There again are the actual flowers and tall grasses. The new additions to this Eden are the bamboo shoots that we all watch grow and progress on their journey towards the sun. We watch them with the same attention and eagerness we give to the wings and burgers sizzling nearby. This has become an escape, our dreamland where we can relax and re-absorb life. I thank the Blacks for this haven. This is our new but familiar corner of the world.