Dienstag, 7. Februar 2012

82.) May 1906, Montego Bay, A day in a park

My train arrived at Montego Bay Central at 2.30 pm. It was only ten minutes late and I had one hour left before the start of the game. Most of us know Montego Bay as 'the Golden City' and when you approach the city by train you cannot help  finding it a very  fitting moniker. There are lots of yellow and white buildings rimming the beachfront and spreading out  from the sea inwards through the narrow gap between Long Hill and Green Pond (only heaven knows why a mountain had been named so). These two steep, wooded hills seem to guard the entrance to the city, or they used to when it was a small town. Now Montego Bay has a population of over 100,000 and is rapidly filling up the land beyond said mountains.
A lovely city it is, but when you head eastward from Central to the Mount Salem section you become aware of the grimmer side of Montego Bay with four or five-storey houses lining the streets. The bulidings are mostly in bad repair, dark, and with broken windows, that seemed like mournful eyes to me. But the streets were full of people, lots of families, children everywhere, and they, the people that lived here were in the same sorry state, impoverished and somewhat lethargic. Later I learned that only a couple of years ago this neighborhood, called East City, was very respectable one. Middle class people residing in those same houses, but by and by house ownwership changed and the new landlords found it more profitable to fill the houses with twice as many low income people, collect the same rent and save on the maintenance work.
Montego Bay has two senior league ballgame clubs; the Blue Sox in the Blue League and the Pirates in the Red League. Curiously both clubs' ballparks are within a quarter mile in Mount Salem which borders the East City section. Today's game was at Pirate Park, home of , (you guessed it!), the Pirates. It is the lesser of the two clubs, because Blue people outnumber the Reds in this city by about two to one. The Red-Blue conflict may haves mellowed in every day life during the last decades, but regarding the ballgame it is very much alive. Neither club has won any championship, but the little Pirates, for some reason, have been the better ballclub in most years since league play started in 1890.
Pirate Park, some Monteagans say, is to be either loved or loathed. There is a general shabbyness and carelessness in this place. Weed growing in the pavement cracks, garbage left between the seats from yesterday's game, broken benches, little things like that may annoy you when you watch a game here. For my part I have always liked the place and the today's game promised to be a good one. I happened to sit next to a gentleman, some 70 years old and dark-skinned and during the game we chatted a little about Pirate Park and the Pirates ballclub.
     'I go to every Pirate game, son. I'm retired with lots of time on hand. It's a disease, an incurable one and when the Pirates are out of town I even go to Sox game now and then or take the trip to Lucea to watch the Maroons.'
He was accompanied by two ladies of the same age, one was his wife, the other her sister, as it turned out. They remained silent, while their male companion was quite talkative.
'There is one thing about the Pirates you've got to comprehend, son. It's all about the team. Name the best Pirate player ever, tell me one single name now! You hesitate? That's because there isn't any! Good players are send away and good young ones are picked up to replace them, every year the same and still we've got a respectable team here every season, it's like a miracle. The Sox burn their money and we got the wins. Funny isn't it? It amuses me to no end!'
Then he laughed which could easily be taken as  coughing though.
Today game was against the Mandeville Railroaders. As everywhere the Railwaymen had a sizable number of supporters in this park. Railway workers  all over New America felt a strong affinity to the team and came to support them wherever they played. They were easily recognizable by their gray caps, that were frantically waved when the team entered the playing field or scored a run.
The Pirates had a wonderful April, winning 17 games while losing only 9 and finding themselves in first place ('Wont last, son, trust me!' my neigbor warned me). And on this Wednesday afternoon an excellent crowd of 8323 was at hand. The grandstands were almost filled, as the park officially seats 10,000 patrons. They saw a neatly played game that the Pirates won 6-3. Spanky Nelson, the Pirate starting pitcher threw a clever game striking out 10 in eight innings, he gave up only 4 hits, alas 3 of them were homeruns. As a player I sometimes wondered if the Montego Bay fans cared about winning at all. The spectators' mood appeared to not change noticebly, win or lose.
When I mentioned this to my neighbor, he smiled: 'We don't want to finish last, that's all, that makes us happy and you want to be happy for the rest of your life, the Sox, they're happy if they win and therefore are the miserablest bunch you can imagine, understand me, son?'
I honestly tried to understand. Life, happiness, the ballgame, losing and winning, all this belongs together in a way that is more mysterious than you would conventionally assume.
 And I'm still trying.

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