June 21, 2010

I got this card through an even-up trade with my friend Pete a few weeks ago. We were walking the length of Victory Boulevard in Staten Island. Some people climb mountains, some jump out of airplanes, some lie on beaches with umbrella-topped drinks in their hands. We walk.

We started walking down long streets in one or another of the five boroughs years ago, before I moved away from New York City. Our first excursion was to walk the length of Metropolitan Avenue from the East River in Brooklyn to its ending point at a busy intersection several miles away in Queens. It was Pete’s idea. He’s a gifted traveler, someone who can look at any map and see adventure. He promoted the idea for a while, often over beers and with a jukebox backing him, using his gift for mythologizing the world to make Metropolitan seem like it would be as fraught with uncertainty and revelations as a foray into the Forbidden Zone. In fact, speaking of the Forbidden Zone, I am fairly certain that on more than one occasion Pete hyped the potential excursion by reenacting and slightly altering the ominous exchange of dialogue near the end of Planet of the Apes, just after the loin-clothed Charlton Heston has trotted off on his horse down the beach.

Pete (as Zira): What will they find out there, Dr. Zaius?

Pete (in the oracular voice of Zaius): [Long pause] Their destiny.

This appealed to me, and I brought to that first walk my dabbling interest in spiritual privation and ritual, attempting to frame the leisure time activity as a vision quest. To that end, I decided to refrain from eating or drinking, like a young Indian brave, and I selected two cards from my shoebox of cards so that we could “bless” the journey. (Unfortunately, I don’t remember the identity of either card. This is why I am writing about Southpaw, of all things: so that life stops slipping through my fingers.) I placed one of the cards in a chain link fence at the start of Metropolitan Avenue and then saved the other card for the end. By the time we got to that end, we’d both received bad haircuts from a gray-haired Italian guy gently edging into senility, and I’d broken down and abandoned my fast and the hope for visions by eating a bagel. I jammed the second baseball card on a lamp post at the intersection where Metropolitan Avenue ended, and Pete announced our accomplishment to a couple guys manning jackhammers nearby. Without missing a beat, one of the hardhats grumbled drily, “Lewis and Clark over here.”

As the years went on, we continued exploring. We walked the length of Bedford Avenue (passing, among other things, the site of Ebbets Field, now just a parking lot with a small plaque), walked the length of Kings Highway, and walked across the Bronx from the Hudson River to City Island. A few miles into the most recent walk, down Victory Boulevard, we stopped at an arcade searching in vain for some miniature golf. We came upon a small sports card store and each bought a pack. A little while later we sat on a guardrail by the side of the road and ate sandwiches. When we were done eating we opened our packs, as if looking for a message inside a meal-ending fortune cookie. I didn’t get any cards of guys on my team, the Red Sox, and Pete didn’t get any cards of guys on his team, the Mets, but I got oft-injured Mets centerfielder Carlos Beltran. 

“Trade you,” I said. I held up Beltran.

He didn’t have any Red Sox, so I settled for Southpaw. I don’t have a particular connection to the White Sox mascot, other than that now I live in the city where he plies his trade. He’s about as bland a mascot as you could imagine. But even so, I feel like my shoebox is a little richer now, since Southpaw came to me in a trade with my friend.


(Speaking of mascots, there are a couple of them in the news of late: in Pittsburgh, the dissenting opinions of a Pierogi got squashed; and in New York, remembering the short sad tale of Dandy.)


  1. great stuff Josh! I love that sense of adventure you can get in New York, even though you aren’t going all that far. The trip down Metropolitan has some great stuff on it, including an ancient and awesome Carvel in Ridgewood and an even more ancient ice cream shop in Forest Hills that somehow survived the Carvels of the world

    Carvel: http://www.forgotten-ny.com/SLICES/ridgewood/carvel.html
    (this is a great site if you love New York and all of the crazy stuff you may never see)
    Eddie’s Sweet Shop: http://www.bridgeandtunnelclub.com/bigmap/queens/foresthills/eddies/index.htm
    (they filmed the final scene of a mediocre Zach Braff movie here)

    Now I am hungry for a Cookie Pus

  2. a friend of mine and fellow mets fan once walked the entire length of broadway on a sunday, including stopping at a harlem church to hear gospel music and eating at sylvia’s.

    i’ve really never quite understood the whole mascot thing. i mean, i get it, but i don’t get it. although i do get why they tend to get beaten up every now and then.

  3. The director’s cut of this post–which I worked on, believe it or not, for many stupid hours before giving up and just going with a relatively simple description of walking long streets–tried to essay the idea of the mascot, which really took wing in the years of my childhood with the San Diego Chicken and then the Phillie Phanatic. I can’t lie: I was the perfect age to get a kick out of those two characters, especially the Chicken. Now I find mascots to be a silly but relatively benign distraction, especially when compared to the more strident non-baseball shit erupting every second (T-shirt bazookas, blasting pulsating music, etc.). But I love Mr. Met. God bless that giant-headed fellow.

    As for mascots and the emnity toward them: I feel like I saw all I needed to see on that subject with the Blue Seats treatment directed toward the old unofficial NY Rangers mascot “The Chief” whenever things weren’t going well for the home squad. Oh, boy, did the Chief make for a good sacrificial pelting target for the angered masses. (He later was replaced in this thankless role by poor “Dancin'” Larry.)

  4. Just over two years ago I officially escaped Staten Island, the place of my birth and home for the first 22 years of my life, and ventured across the country to San Diego. It’s interesting to read of someone going over to SI to seek adventure.

  5. I would never have imagined there was (or looked for) a wiki page for Victory Blvd. I was born on Staten Island, and frequently visited and stayed with my grandparents there through my teens. But I had never thought to walk the length of Victory…

  6. Next time you are on SI you should try Amboy Rd or Hylan Blvd or Arthur Kill Rd. Each would provide its own challenges and views.

  7. My son and I saw that pierogi mascot a few weeks ago on TV and we couldn’t figure out what the hell it was supposed to be. We just laughed at how absurd it looked.

    I also grew up on SI and still go back to visit my parents and one of my brothers.

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