Spring training journal – day six – March 29, 2002…

Best line of the day, so far, was uttered by a guy on the #41 bus taking me back to the center of town after watching the Brewers eke one out in the 10th inning against the D-backs. Someone else said something about how odd it was to have summer weather in March. This guy replies with, �Here in Phoenix we have spring in December, summer starts in March and then come July we have an entirely new season no one else has that we natives call FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKK!!!!�

I suppose you probably had to be there.

Today was a gorgeous day by my standards. 88 degrees and a nice breeze blowing in from the southwest. Not bad weather wise. I could probably adjust and live here, but there are just too many things about this place that, for lack of a better term, are just plain dysfunctional. It�s obvious, for instance, that Phoenix does no better job at city planning and maintenance than say Oakland or even San Francisco. So much of this city reminds me of Los Angeles. The air is a lot cleaner, but the relentless sprawl and the untidy nature of so many things gives me that same sense of the blahs that I get whenever I�m in LA.

Maybe it�s the rain-free climate that lends itself to folks never washing anything, or patching holes in walls or roofs. When the only part of nature you�re trying to keep out is the heat you might get sloppy about such things, I guess.

The other place Phoenix reminds me of is Las Vegas. The virus-like growth is one common trait between the two cities. Another is the way they transform when the sun goes down. Vegas has this way of looking just dazzling at night, which is when all the gigantic special lighting effects make all the cheap facades look not only real, but better than real. Phoenix too is a place where crafty and clever architectural lighting turn the squat and mundane exteriors of all these tilt-up buildings into triumphant and impressive monuments. The street lighting as well actually makes the puny sidewalks barely wide enough to keep you from striding into traffic look like substantial paths you could actually use to get from place to place.

Another good unsolicited comment today came from a kid, probably about 17 years old, sitting next to me on the #3 bus. A very wobbly and unkempt man had just stumbled on board and made his tentative way to the rear seats. The young man to my left let out a deep sigh as the wobbly guy passed us and said, very seriously, �Just once I�d like to get on a bus in this town with no drunks on it. Just once.� He let out another sigh and followed with, � I have never lived in a place with so many drunks before.�

Maybe that�s a part of what I sense is wrong with Phoenix. There really are a surprising number of street people in Phoenix. Not that homeless, wandering loonies and drunks are anything new if you�ve lived in the SF Bay Area. We�ve got tons. Definitely more than you can shake a stick at. But these people here are different. They lack the spunk and liveliness of their counterparts in SF, Oakland and Berkeley. They also frequently lack shoes or more than one layer of clothing. You also don�t see them hauling large amounts of their possessions around with them in shopping carts. Overall I get the sense that the homeless, the transients, the drunks and the bums here have given up on life. They�re just wandering around, waiting for the right place to lie down and die.

Phoenix does have a remarkable public library though. It certainly puts the SF Public Library to shame.

Today�s game at Maryvale Stadium was the best so far. It had a down to the wire extra inning comeback win from the Brewers, sausage races, home runs from Luis Gonzalez and Matt Kata, terrific seats right behind home plate, good weather and a personal encounter with one of my baseball heroes.

First, the ballpark�
Maryvale Baseball Park is just plain pretty. It looks inviting the minute you walk up to the gate, and as far as I could tell, all the seats actually face home plate. It wasn�t huge like the Giants� park in Scottsdale and actually may even be smaller than the A�s facility. I spent a little over half the game in my seat and the rest lounging on the lawn next to the home bullpen on the first base line.

My only knocks on Maryvale Baseball Park have to do with getting there, the food and the gift shop. There is but one gift shop and one souvenir stand in the park. Neither one of them had much worth looking at. This may be part of the financial problems with the Brewers. They don�t seem to know how to market and sell the team identity to the fans. I�m not a Brewers fan, and I may have been only one of two non-employees in the ballpark wearing a Brewers cap. Of course considering that Bud Selig is the owner of the team (honestly, does anyone believe that malarkey about Bud putting the team into a trust managed by his daughter?) one shouldn�t be surprised. Bud has demonstrated time and again that he doesn�t have a clue how to market professional baseball itself, so why should he be any better at marketing his team?

The food�
At Phoenix Muni they grill the dogs. At Tempe Diablo � grilled dogs. Scottsdale Stadium� grilled dogs and grilled brats. So, what do I expect at Maryvale, the spring training home of a team that is so into their wieners that they race giant novelty sausages at every home game during the 7th inning stretch? Well, obviously you expect impeccably grilled dogs. What you get is a boiled weeny in a soggy bun no less. It�s a sign from the baseball gods that selling the Brewers is the right thing to do for the Seligs. Not only can�t they figure out a way to fill a gift shop with at least some interesting caps and t-shirts, but they befoul perfectly good weenies by boiling them.

The location�
Someone from the Supersuckers list sent me a cautionary email about going out to Maryvale. I was supposed to be awed by the squalor and frightened by street toughs. I�m fairly sure this well-meaning person has never set foot in east Oakland. To be honest, I�ve seen worst squalor on the west end of Alameda. And the Maryvale street toughs would probably find the kids who hang out at 924 Gilman intimidating.

So, no, I was not alarmed or afraid of anything I found there. I was, however, awed by the unbelievably long fucking bus ride I had to take getting to and from the park. I spent nearly two hours of my life on the bus going from the Central Station out to Maryvale. Eeegads! And my friend on the earlier bus would have sighed himself catatonic at the number of drunks who staggered on and off of that bus.

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