“Don't give me pills! I already have plenty!
“This is not pills. Read it!”
“It says, 'Take a vacation from my problems.'”
“I give you permission to take a vacation from your problems.”
“Not a vacation from your work, not a vacation from daily life…”
“But a vacation from my problems.”
—Dr. Leo Marvin's prescription for Bob Wiley, What About Bob?
It wasn't intended to be a break from the Mets. Actually, that's always the worst part, the separation pains. I couldn't even leave them behind practically until the FAA demanded I do so. There I was, sitting at LaGuardia, Gate B3, careful to find a window for the first inning on Thursday afternoon. Perfect reception. Imperfect results almost immediately. It was 2-0 Phillies as boarding was beginning.
It was 10-9 Mets when I landed. I fiddled with the Web function on my presumably ancient (three whole years old) Sprint PCS phone. As we wandered through the terminal of a mostly unfamiliar airport toward a completely unfamiliar van service, I barely looked up. It's 10-9? And we were down 5-0? And he has HOW MANY home runs against us now? I'm not that swift with anything that isn't a simple telephone call, so it was all just a big blur of Burrell on my cell.
We get in the van to take us to our downtown destination. I'm focused on the little numbers and notations that are indicating it is no longer 10-9. It is now 10-10. Billy has thrown like 40 pitches. How long has he been in? Everybody's stealing. Oh crap. The winning run is on. The Mets have finally decided to score runs but neglected to keep from allowing them. What happened to El Duque?
C Utley, the screen reported, singled to right. T Iguchi scored. NYM 10 PHI 11.
I grumbled softly about the result as we sped up the Interstate. I had kept Stephanie informed of every development that I could refresh, knowing full well she was absorbing maybe 20% of what I was prattling on about, processing half of that. I know she doesn't care about Met details, but I always offer her the service (besides, it makes me feel I'm watching the game…or the data with somebody). Anyway, she was playing with her iPod while in the row ahead of us, an old lady who wasn't nearly as loaded with taciturn wisdom as she fancied herself explained she and her husband were in town for a World War II reunion of some sort. The husband, the actual veteran, didn't say much. The driver didn't shut up. He was very intent on playing tour guide.
He was so intent on pointing out the joys of the local art museum and casino and, yes, ballpark, that he was apparently oblivious to the construction all around him on his city's major artery. For while he talked and the old lady yammered and my wife Podded and I stewed over a four-game sweep and a two-game lead, it was left to our emissary from The Greatest Generation to be a hero once more and point out forcefully yet calmly to the driver that you're about to run into that barricade in front of you.
The driver did a quick right swerve. “I didn't see that,” he admitted. Neither did the rest of us who hadn't seen action in The Big One. Like the Mets most of the week, we didn't hit anything. But it was close.
What's wrong with Wagner? I kept wondering.
Unharmed by this closest of calls — I didn't realize how close it was until Stephanie painted the word picture later — I continued to click away at my Sprint, looking for bits and pieces of information that would describe if not explain how the hell we lost 10 to 11, how a seven-game lead had become two, how, how, how? Right out of the van, into the hotel, through check-in, up the elevator and into the room. Wha' hoppen'?
Our hotel's cable system was sadly lacking. ESPN yes, but no Deuce, no News. No telling when video of the Mets and Phillies was going to come up. SportsCenter? When's SportsCenter on again? When would that be in this time zone?
Then, epiphany. I'm on vacation. I'm somewhere else. We didn't come here to sweat the Mets. We're here because people go on vacation and sometimes forget about their — not problems, because if my team's my biggest problem, then I've got no problems, not really…but maybe sometimes you have to unobsess on something that you are normally wrapped up in a little too tight.
The Mets lost a crusher. Let's go take a walk and find some dinner.
And that was how I conducted myself on our trip to Milwaukee, just completed. I didn't forget about the Mets. I wore my black and blue Mets cap, three different Mets t-shirts (including the most beloved if unintentionally elusive Mets t-shirt ever manufactured on a limited basis) and participated in recurring patter with Milwaukeeans who wanted to know what we New Yorkers were doing in, as one store clerk put it, “One Horse Town, Wisconsin,” but I otherwise took a vacation from my team.
Even as I craned my neck left at the out-of-town scoreboard at Miller Park on Friday night (resenting that I had to follow what was happening at Dolphin Stadium every bit as closely as what I was monitoring from Turner Field)…even as I noodged the fellow with the BlackBerry — a Shea season ticket holder also on a ballpark expedition, if you can believe it — for John Maine specifics…even as I heartily applauded the visiting Xavier Nady and the late Warren Spahn when their names were invoked by the PA…even as I flipped my phone back on Saturday afternoon to see what was going on in the Fox broadcast I could have insisted on sitting in the room to watch but didn't…even as I sat on an efficient Milwaukee County Transit System bus and shook my head over six innings and one hit…even as I revived my college-era habit of grabbing the sports section first thing in the morning and poring over every line of the boxscore…even as I carried myself as a Mets fan in full, I took two entire games — against Atlanta in the heat of a division race — off.
It was kind of nice. And it went on just long enough.
Today we flew back into LaGuardia. A van picked us up. Without prompting, WFAN was turned on; 1-1 in the second, according to Howie Rose. “Music to my ears,” I told the driver, a professional who could talk and watch the road simultaneously. He and I spent the ensuing ride deconstructing the bullpen, signing Santana to a long-term contract and hating on the Braves and Phillies with comparable fervor.
It was kind of nicer.
Let me be the 40 gazillionth or so person to note that while it can be good to go away, it's even nicer to come home, especially to…
…and most delightfully THIS!
Sometimes you get away from the Mets. The Mets never, ever get away from you.