1976, 1996, 2006, 7 Train, Adulthood, Coming-of-Age, Dwight Gooden, Escapism, Growing Up, Independence Day, July 4th, Lee Iacocca, Manhood, Metro-North, Mets, New York Mets, Nolan Ryan, Peace, Shea Stadium, Siblings, Statue of Liberty, Subway, Technisort
For me, the 6’s are ’76, ’86, ’96, and ’06. For 2016, all I’ve done today is make BBQ chicken legs and thigh (after an hour of so of marinating), corn on the cob, mac and cheese, and New York Style blondies with chocolate chips and walnuts. It’s a rainy 240th anniversary of America’s independence from the United Kingdom of Great Britain, England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. About as dreary the Mid-Atlantic and the nation, really, can be during an election cycle.
It wasn’t that way for most of my on-the-6 Independence Days. I’ve talked about my first one, the bicentennial of 1976, the summer of “baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet.” That Saturday down in a ship and fireworks smoked filled New York Harbor, followed a train ride with my inebriated father to New Haven. I slept more peacefully on that train ride than I probably did at home. At least, until the conductor woke us up to let us know we were in Connecticut. We were lucky the trains in and out of New York were free that day.
Independence Day/Week 1996 was pretty good, if not as meandering. Me and my future spouse Angelia went to Point State Park in Downtown Pittsburgh to watch the fireworks. For all of the issues that po-dunk Pittsburgh has, bad fireworks shows weren’t one of them. I needed the break, after a spring of turmoil with my advisor Joe Trotter and weeks revised my then 430-page dissertation (I would end up writing seventy-five pages [net] that month while doing a second set of revisions). It rained that afternoon and early evening, but it cleared up at 8 pm, just in time for some excellent fireworks. We perched ourselves where we could see sparkles and artwork over the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers.
Tuesday, July 4th of ’06 wasn’t memorable. It was my first summer working on Boy @ The Window, and I had already began planning my escape from AED and the daily grind of nonprofit work and raising money. I think we had my sister-in-law over. I made some ribs and chicken, bought dinner rolls and macaroni salad, and talked mostly about my then nearly three-year-old son and his potty training woes. Ah, the boring stability of a more typical middle-class American life!
Of all my Independence Days — on a “6” year or not — one stands out over all the rest. Friday, July 4, 1986. It was the grand re-opening of the Statue of Liberty, courtesy of one-time Chrysler head Lee Iacocca and The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, which had raised hundreds of millions to restore both symbols of American inclusion (via European immigrants, at least) and American freedom to museum-quality glory. My Mom, my idiot stepfather Maurice, and my younger siblings Sarai and Eri went down to Battery Park by Subway and Bee-Line bus to see the grand ships and fireworks for that celebration of the Statue of Liberty at 100 years old.
Not so for me and the rest of us. I took me, my older brother Darren, and my then near-seven year-old brother Maurice and nearly five year-old brother Yiscoc to Shea Stadium to watch the Mets play. It was either a 1:05 pm or 1:35 pm start, I don’t remember. What I do remember, though, is that was a beautiful eighty-five degree afternoon, beautiful because it wasn’t particularly humid, and there were no storm clouds to be found that Friday. Dwight Gooden was on the mound for the Mets, starting against the all-time great Nolan Ryan. It was built up to be a duel, and it was.
Keith Hernandez drove in a run in the first, and that was it until the top of the seventh inning, when Dr. K gave up a home run to Kevin Bass. Other than that, fly balls, walks, double-plays, and strikeouts were the order of the day. Lenny Dykstra drove in the game-winning run with a double to right-center field at the bottom of the seventh inning off of a reliever, as Ryan was out after beginning the bottom of the sixth giving up a walk and a hit. Despite giving up five walks and only striking out four, Gooden got a complete-game win, and 30,000 saw the Mets go to 54-21, well on their way toward their World Series title for 1986.
That was already a good day. But it so much better with three of my brothers there, away from 616 and Mount Vernon, hanging out, without an adult to supervise, or rather, abuse us in some way. It was one of the first times I actually felt like a responsible adult. I took the four of us down to the city on Metro-North at the Pelham stop, rode into grimy Grand Central, took the Shuttle train to Times Square, and then the 7 Subway to Shea. Maurice and Yiscoc were so enamored with the trains and the city that it seemed all they did was stare at skyscrapers and out of train windows when we weren’t at the game. Darren, though mostly quiet, at least wasn’t staring off into space plotting some revenge on me for my “5” on the AP US History Exam while doing the Wave.
It was so cheap to do what we did that day. The four upper-deck, left-of-home plate tickets we bought cost $4 each, but each hot dog was $3, and the sodas were $2. apiece Given my $3.40-per-hour job with Technisort, though, the $50 excursion wasn’t so cheap that I wasn’t thinking about sneaking a Sabrett hot dog from a street vendor in before we got to the stadium. To be sure, the hot dogs at Shea were better than my usual fare on the street or at Gray’s Papaya.
It was probably the best day I had during my Boy @ The Window years. I was with innocent family members, watching my favorite team and one of my favorite players. I was lost in the humongous human mob of New York on a double-whammy of an Independence Day weekend. I slept well that evening, knowing that I’d drawn a 10 am-2 pm shift that Saturday. I planned on buying a new Walkman at the Cross County Mall that Saturday afternoon. A normal weekend for many sixteen-year-olds was a small eye-wall in the chaotic hurricane that was my life back then.