Saturday, September 02, 2006

What I did on my summer vacation…or how I met Bernie Williams (sort of)

Ask Mr. Long IslandBY MICHAEL WATT

I laugh whenever I see that commercial for Corona Beer – where a man and woman lounge by the clear blue sea with nothing but a bucket of ice-cold Coronas and the shade of a palm tree or straw hut to keep them company. I laugh because my wife Sharon and I keep saying we’re going to take one of those trips one of these days but at the rate we are going I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Not because neither of us drinks Coronas. Quite frankly, I think Sharon would learn how to chug-a-lug a six pack of Coronas while juggling three limes if it meant being able to spend a couple of days doing nothing more than tickling the tips of her toes in the cool rippling waters of the Caribbean.

But I have never really gotten the hang of this leisure thing and as a result I have never been able to embrace the concept of just laying around. (Memo to all you Grammar Nazis out there - I have tried to determine the correct usage of lay vs. lie using a variety of sources and I still don't know which is correct. I do know I am done trying).

I’m sure doing nothing is a lot of fun but I know the minute I start to relax my mind will wander toward all the work I should be doing, or that others are doing while I do nothing. It’s an Irish thing – God forbid you should enjoy yourself while someone somewhere is suffering, working or even just not enjoying themselves as much as you are.

Besides, while my family does not take what might considered “normal” vacations we do have a lot of fun. We like to center our trips around visiting different baseball parks. Since 2003 we have visited Fenway Park (Boston), Wrigley Field (Chicago), Jacobs Field (Cleveland), Petco Park (San Diego), Dodgers Stadium (Los Angeles), Angels Stadium (in Anaheim, Ca.), Rogers Centre (Toronto) and Camden Yards (Baltimore). Last week we visited Safeco Field in Seattle and AT&T Park in San Francisco.

Whenever possible once we visit the parks we create our own walking tours of the city we find ourselves in. In Boston, for instance, we walked the Freedom Trail - or whatever that thing is called up there - from one end to the other. Last summer we tried to see as much of Toronto as we could, but after a couple of hours we realized there really is nothing to see in Toronto so we just headed to the park. In Cleveland we walked to “The Jake” and came across a restaurant owned by Alice Cooper called “Alice Cooper’s Town Bar & Grill,” or something like that. It was a fun place. We were also able to walk back to our hotel after the game – try doing that from the Bronx or Queens. The only downside was pointed out by my younger son Max, who was all of nine at the time: “What kind of city doesn’t have any ice cream stores open after 10 pm,” he asked upon realizing our quest for post-game ice cream was going to go unfulfilled because, well, because there was nothing open. (I’m not picking on Cleveland here. The next day we got a GREAT tour of the Cleveland Browns stadium and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, as well as a bunch of bridges and a submarine. That really was a lot of fun.)

Now I know what you are thinking. You’re thinking, “I’m sorry, Mike, but grabbing a cheeseburger and a Sprite at Alice Cooper’s Town before a game between the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers is nice but does not even begin to compare to reclining in a lounge chair under the blue Caribbean sky next to the blue Caribbean water on the white Caribbean sand.” You’re thinking this especially if you are a woman and/or not a baseball fan. Or have an ounce of brains.

But try this on for size. While we were taking in Seattle’s Museum of Modern Music – or some such thing, I have no idea why we were there – I decided to rest my bones on a bench and check my email. My 12-year-old son Max was standing to my immediate left. After a spell I looked up from my cell phone and noticed a man standing not more than 10 feet from me. “Boy that guy looks like (Yankee outfielder) Bernie Williams,” and turned to share that thought with Max, a boy who would tattoo his arms in pinstripes if I would let him.

Judging by the drop in my son’s jaw, however, I quickly surmised that the man in question was in fact Bernie Williams, especially once I also remembered that the Yankees were in town that day for a game and that Bernie is an accomplished guitar player. Now it was my turn to drop the jaw, as I believe this was the closest I have ever come to an actual, real live current Yankee without some barrier between us.

My mind raced in circles. Should I snap his picture with my cell phone camera? Just shake his hand? Tell him thanks for all the great clutch hits and not signing with Boston way back when?

I did nothing but not in his direction, of course. I am not big on getting anyone’s autograph, nor did I care to interrupt what I assumed was a quiet afternoon away from the park for Mr. Williams. Mr. Williams. The guy is probably 10 years younger than I am and yet here I was all excited about my “Brush with Greatness.” To his credit Max went right up to him and said, “Hey Bernie.” To his credit Bernie acknowledged my son by saying hello right back, but gave us both the impression that he did not want to cause a commotion and preferred not to be recognized. We honored that and walked away, but not before my wife Sharon and my other son Alex happened by. The four of us spent the rest of the day marveling at our good fortune.

Let’s see the couple at the Caribbean top that!

Thank you for reading this column.

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