Yesterday, I'm walking to the post office to mail off my taxes when I'm hit with a sudden urge to go find a corner store somewhere and buy some baseball cards. This is quite odd, since I don't think I've had a desire to buy baseball cards for decades. And not only that, corner stores don't sell baseball cards anymore.
I think it's the weather. It's a sunny afternoon, and there's a slight breeze that changes the air from being slightly too warm to slighly too cool. In Newark, CA, where I grew up, this was the prevailing weather pattern. The sun would warm up the air all morning, but every day at about 2 or 3pm, a breeze would come in and cool everything off to a tolerable temperature.
Alameda, where I live now, has a much cooler and foggier climate, so this kind of weather is less common up here. The sun, the wind, and the temperature combined with being out for a walk must have dug up some deep memory from my childhood and brought it up to the surface.
When I was a kid, when I'd get my allowance, I'd often taken an after-school walk with some friends from my house to the local 7-11 store, and spend my loot. I'd spend it mostly on candy, Slurpees, and baseball cards.
I always bought a Slurpee if they had special plastic cups. I remember one series had superheroes, and there were others with football and baseball players, too. Man, I loved those cups. I had them stacked from floor to ceiling in my closet.
If there wasn't a special cup, I'd often skip the Slurpee and just buy packs of baseball cards. Collecting was a game; you'd try to get every card with your favorite player on it (mine was Reggie), then you try to get every player on your favorite team, and then you try to get the other cards you didn't have yet. If you got duplicate cards, you'd trade them to your friends for cards you needed.
I remember in 1974, by June I had collected every A's player except one: Blue Moon Odom. My friend Kevin had the only one I'd seen, and man, I eyed that card with envy. But I could never find another one. Finally, as the season was almost over, Kevin got another Blue Moon Odom card, and traded him to me. At last, Blue Moon, you are mine!
Back to the future: Blue Moon is missing again. I got rid of all those Slurpee cups, and most of my cards, when I moved to Sweden when I was 13. I suppose I could just go online now and buy the entire set in a box. But that just seems like cheating to me. You gotta chew the chewing gum and slurp the Slurpees, or it doesn't count.
On my way home from the post office, I walk past the apartment building which once housed the likes of me and Dontrelle Willis. The building has new paint job. I don't think it had been painted since I moved out in 1989. The strike zone which had been drawn onto the wall by Dontrelle and his buddies is now gone.
I keep walking. A block away now, at Willie Stargell Field, another generation of young baseball players are taking batting practice. The pinging sound of aluminum bats floats up into the air, lands gently in my ear, and becomes a memory. I am home.