Sunday, November 11, 2007

Go Ahead And Get Your Coffee, This Here's A Long One

When we moved to Hawaii from California this summer it was with the full knowledge that we would be leaving behind some things we hold dear and true.

Yes, our families and friends top that list. Of course.

But other things, like Target, In-n-Out, and Trader Joe's, we realized, could soon be replaced with island equivalents (or near substitutes).

So now we have Price Busters, Yummy Korean BBQ, and Don Quijote. (I'm still swooning from my first visit to that last one, by the way.)

What threatened to become more of a Substantial Loss, however, was not having baseball in our lives. Particularly not watching the Dodgers. And particularly not going to live games.

So you can imagine my glee when I realized that Dodger games were still easily viewed on TV here in Honolulu. (I know, I know, Hawaii's still the United States, but you can't count on catching a Dodgers home game when you're in New York, right? And 3,000+ miles in the opposite direction doesn't really make them the "local" team now, does it?)

I was still able to sing out with a "Goodnight, Vin!" to Vin Scully after he sent out his signature "Goodnight, Everybody!" at the conclusion of each Dodger telecast. All was right in the world.

(And let me just say here and now for all time and eternity that there are few things that sound more like HOME to me than the sound of Vin Scully calling a Dodgers baseball game. I'm so gonna collapse on the day that gentleman passes on.)

Then things took a really cool turn when our friends told us they had some extra tickets to see the boys of the Hawaii Winter Baseball League do their stuff on a warm, summery night -- in mid-October.

So we went. And had a fantastic time watching live baseball.

It was, in a word, CHARMING.

As we pulled into the parking lot of Waipahu's Hans L'Orange Field, a group of about 8-10 people, most sitting in beach chairs, waved hello to us. They weren't there to charge us for parking. They weren't there to search our bags for stashed sodas and candy. They appeared to be the neighborhood welcoming committee. To make sure we felt welcome. So we smiled and waved back.

Here's a shot of Finney, just before the game, as we tailgated in a grassy parking lot under the shade of a tropical tree as the sun set. Finn's showing us his best pitcher's mound stink-eye.

Just after the teams (the Waikiki Beach Boys and the Honolulu Sharks) respectfully assembled for the national anthem, warbled roughly by somebody's off-key uncle, we went inside.

Although it was unassigned, bleacher-style seating, we got to sit right behind home plate. The shot below was taken from my seat using my regular 18-55 mm lens (not my zoom). We could see -- and hear -- everything. And if I had insults to hurl at the ump, or a funny one-liner to share with the catcher, I could have done so without issue.

But it was a quiet crowd. A subdued crowd. A crowd that didn't do much when someone drove a well-placed single and and earned first base. And nobody heckled anybody -- the ump or otherwise. Honestly, I've heard more of a ruckus at any given Little League game or AYSO match on the mainland. But here? Here, everyone seemed downright mellow.

One of the things I found so spectacular, though, was that they employed a traditional baseball organ (or a pretty damn convincing recorded facsimile) to try to rev up the crowd with cheers. And a dulcet-toned announcer made game-related announcements over the PA throughout the evening. They even had those little plastic noodle things that my children repeatedly and annoyingly slapped together and at each other until they mysteriously fell in between the slats of the rows, tucked tightly under my purse.

In between each inning people chosen randomly from the crowd were able to participate in little races and games for prizes and souvenirs, all the while playing straight man to the team's zany mascot -- "Major Mynah: The Major Bird of the Mynah League," who also made the rounds to pose with all the willing kids... well as those who were mostly willing.

Another thing I thought was just peachy keen was that, instead of having the "#1" foam index finger souvenirs that many baseball teams do, the Hawaii teams had "hang loose" hands, in the Shaka pose.

One of my favorite anecdotes from the evening, though, one that I'm sure I'll keep tucked away for a long, long time, occurred during my trip to retrieve grub for everyone from the Nathan's hot dog vendor. Seeing as it was the only hot dog vendor at the event, this little cart did a brisk business throughout the night. Lines were long and steady, but service was pleasant and appreciative. Very Hawaii.

But the guy in the yellow shirt who doled out the dogs throughout the night did so with such meticulous and methodical care that a simple errand to fetch snacks left me humbled by the God of Little Things.

With gloved hands (his female, bespectacled assistant handled all the cash), he took each hot dog order individually.

Me: "Hi! I need seven dogs, please."

Him: Sideways glance. Pause. Reaches into plastic bun bag, gathers bun, opens bun. Retrieves hot dog from hot water vat using tongs. Puts down tongs.

"What would you like on the first one?"

Me: (Pregnant lady in our party must be served first. It's the universal law.) "Everything but onions."

Him: Picks up mustard, slowly decorates hot dog with mustard. Puts mustard down. Picks up ketchup, slowly decorates parallel strip of hot dog with ketchup. Puts ketchup down. Picks up relish, slowly adds relish to the center strip of hot dog. Puts relish down. Hands me the decorated dog in a little paper hot dog tray.

"And on the next one?"

I'm not sure if he was down to his last three bottles of condiments for the night or not, but this proprietor protected his ketchup, mustard and relish bottles like he was the last living Heinz heir protecting the 57 sauce recipe. Condiments, clearly, were not to be touched and abused by the public.
This wasn't Costco.

So, dog by seven dogs, I barked (sorry) out my individual condiment requests, trying to keep straight the particular tastes of everyone in our group. By the time I got to the last dog, mine, I had him litter jalapenos on the damn thing just because nobody had requested any yet and I felt we needed a grand finale to the show. (And because I love them so.)

Delicately, and with the same metered speed he employed while approaching the first dog in the order, he placed four sliced jalapenos, one by one, on my perfect, live-baseball-in-a-stadium-on-a-warm-Saturday-night hot dog.

And it was god.
I mean, it was good.

By the time the top of the sixth inning rolled around the kids were spent and ready for bed, so we said our goodbyes and headed back to the car -- I'm still curious as to whether or not the remaining fans did the traditional seventh-inning stretch or not, something we'll have to save for next time -- and as we left the parking lot the welcoming committee, still having a great time in their beach chairs, smiled and waved goodbye to us.

And we smiled and waved back.


Shannon said...

What fun! And the hot dogs sound delicious.

Nancy @ World Wide Rolves said...

The foam fingers are awesome!

Sounds like a great night.

Paul Gallagher said...


You mentioned a pregnant lady in your party at the baseball game, friend or is it good news for y'all?

Paul in CO

KarinGal said...

Hi Paul,
The pregnant lady was another woman in our party.
No more munchkins for us, I'm afraid. I mean, "Triple Duty Diary" doesn't really have the same ring to it, now does it? :)