The Shelf of Hats

Right now Ryan and I are in the bay area chipping away at our plan of hitting all the baseball parks in the MLB. This particular trip started as a result of the expenditure of some of the $1,000 travel credit we earned on Southwest a few weeks ago for our willingness to get bumped off an oversold flight. A thousand bucks worth of flights to arrive at 5:30 rather than 2:30? Yeah, I’ll take that.

We figured that if we flew into Oakland we could hit the A’s and the Giants back to back. Judi, who was very supportive of this idea, hooked us up with her cousin and his family who live in Dublin, CA. So, free flight, free lodging (and some awesome cooking I might add!), and great company. Not too shabby.

Of course when we got to the Hertz renal car counter I turned on the upgrade negotiating skills. Our original reservation was for a Yugo or equivalent, but there was an orange Challenger with a Hemi out front. Eight of them, actually. After some back and forth, it was clear the Hemi wasn’t going to happen, so we opted for the fire engine red Mustang.

My theory on rental car upgrades is this: both our cars are paid off, they’ve got 135,00 miles respectively, and we’re saving up in the hopes to pay cash for our cars from now on, thanks to the influence of this guy.

So I pay a few extra bucks to scratch the new car itch, keep up on the latest features (they come with USB ports now!), and enjoy the admiration from strangers who have no idea it’s a rental. So there.

I had never been to the Coliseum before. It’s gritty. Even the womenfolk looked tough. We sat out in the bleachers and I wore jeans. The only thing missing was a rotisserie and some seasoning. Ryan wore shorts, which meant that our first stop after the game was to CVS to get aloe vera gel.

The A’s played the Yankees. Actually, the A’s swept the Yankees (people brought brooms in hopeful anticipation). I’ve got to hand it to the Oakland fans, especially the ones in the bleachers, who just wouldn’t accept defeat. One guy, who established himself as our yell leader, kept the whole section energized until the bitter end, long after his voice started to sound like Nick Nolte chewing on sandpaper. Another had a giant sombrero and a vuvuzela. They kept the spirit alive. I was sure they A’s were done for, but sure enough, they pulled it off in the bottom of the 12th.

Ryan was elated. He doesn’t much care for the Yankees, and it was fun to be surrounded by a bunch of crazies, who, through creative (but hardly profane) slurs and mocking references to the New Yorker’s accent, loved to watch them go down.

We got him the official A’s hat (well, the road hat, since they were out of the home hat in every head size except “Egg” or larger).  The tradition is to get a hat at every stadium we visit. We attached a shelf to a wall in his room where each hat is placed. After tonight the grand total will be eight.

Each hat represents a story. Each hat reminds us both of moments that can never be taken from us. A few rain-delayed games, a few extra innings, a few like yesterday baking in the sun. Conversations about life, sports, the uniqueness of cities and ballparks. A little childhood wonder, a little adult nostalgia along the way. Hopefully its all forming the substance of a lifelong relationship.

So the Shelf of Hats continues to grow. As I see it, it’s evidence that there’s a boy who is important to his father. It’s a testimony to the fact that in this crazy life of ours we’re trying to put the “big rocks” in the jar, throwing off the urgent for the important, and enjoying the journey of being father and son.

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