Saturday, October 24, 2009

Damn Yankees

"Tonight we feast like the Romans,” I said to my dad.

He and I were headed to Long Island. There’s a restaurant off Hempstead Turnpike named Colony Diner, which looks like all other diners—chrome siding, lots of windows, and jukeboxes at the booths. But this is no ordinary diner.

My family used to take annual trips to New York to visit relatives and my grandparents’ gravesite. We would hit all the attractions—The World Trade Center Towers, Empire State Building, United Nations, Jewish delicatessen in Brooklyn, bagel and cookie bakery—but Colony Diner eclipsed them all.

The last time I had been was in 2000, a month before being diagnosed with my first cancer. Each year that I didn’t go, Colony’s prestige grew. In my mind the plate of roast beef drenched in au jus became a tableful. The matzo ball became the size of my fist. The tall slice of strawberry shortcake became the size of my head.

My dad and I hit terrible traffic, and the normally five-hour trip turned into seven-and-a-half. My dad and I discussed Colony on the way. Would we even be able to finish all our food? Was it going to be the best meal ever? Would the Jose Canseco-lookalike still be working there after all these years?

When we finally arrived, we sat at a large, plump, red booth. We ordered cherry Cokes, which at Colony amounts to about half Coke and half grenadine. Our challah bread and sesame sticks arrived. Then came the matzo ball soup. The main course followed.

My dad ordered half a roast chicken, apple stuffing, a baked potato and broccoli. He left some of the stuffing so that he’d have room for dessert. I came to gorge and that’s exactly what I did: a large, round plate with stacks of medium roast beef lying in a pool of au jus. A baked potato smothered in butter. A bowl of steamed broccoli. A second cherry Coke. There was just enough room for my slice of strawberry shortcake with mounds of whipped cream. Little had changed over the last nine years.

The next night I outdid myself: a 20-ounce prime rib topped with frizzled onion straws, corn on the cob, a plate of French fries, matzo ball soup, two cherry Cokes, challah bread, and the second largest slice of chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten (after a $15 slice at The Palm in Vegas). I certainly wasn’t feeling tip-top while watching the USC-Ohio State game later that evening.


It’s surprising that after having visited New York some 10-15 times in my life, I’d never been to old Yankee Stadium.
Old Yankee Stadium before demolition

I wasn’t going to allow that to happen with the new $1.5 billion coliseum. New Yankee Stadium looks like a castle from the outside, with “Yankee Stadium” inscribed in gold-colored letters. The inside looked like a monument to past Yankee greats with banners drooping from the ceiling. We took the elevator to the upper level, where the field looked immaculate and the high definition scoreboard bigger than I’d ever seen (though, it may not compare to Jerry’s Dome in Texas). We walked past Nathan’s hot dog and New York-style pizza stands.
Brand new Yankee Stadium
Brand new Yankee Stadium
Brand new Yankee Stadium
Brand new Yankee Stadium
Brand new Yankee Stadium giant scoreboard
Brand new Yankee Stadium
Brand new Yankee Stadium Memorial Park

We saw my Baltimore Orioles beat the Yankees on a cool, wet afternoon. Brian Roberts hit a grand slam and I stood and cheered wildly in the midst of silent New Yorkers.

I was happy with the outcome of the game, but something didn’t quite feel right. It brought back memories of my one autumn with the Yankees back in 2000 when they comforted me during my first month with cancer. I couldn’t help but root for Derek Jeter the day after he surpassed Lou Gehrig for the most hits in Yankee history, as the former public address announcer, Bob Sheppard, proclaimed, “Shortstop...Number 2...Derek Jeter...Number 2.”

My brain knows that I hate the Yankees. But deep inside of me, all the way down in my appendix I think, I didn’t forget that autumn many years back. It felt like an infection, spreading to my gallbladder and igniting my gallstones. My umbilical cord-donated white cells tried to beat back and kill the infection, but they could only contain it, sort of like Valtrex and herpes.

I hate the Yankees, with their unchecked spending, enormous fair-weather fan base, and constant winning. I hate the Yankees, I hate the Yankees, I hate the Yankees…

But, while Jeter, Pettitte, Posada and Rivera are still playing, there will always be a chance that the infection picks up its pace and spreads throughout my bloodstream. My first-grade immune system can only fight it off for so long.

After all, I hate the damn Yankees.


Postscript: Have you ever seen a better mullet?
Man with mullet at Yankee Stadium