Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Double Technical

The car was silent as I drive north on the New York State Thruway and pass under the George Washington Bridge. It has been silent since we dropped our friends off at their apartment on 20th Street and First Ave. I keep glancing over at my son, hand tucked under chin and slumped down in the passenger seat. A giant frown engulfs his whole face. It has been an up and down day emotionally. 

The day started like any typical Sunday morning when my son rose from his bed with anticipation of a great day. It was one of those days kids build up in their heads so high that sometimes it can be too towering. The morning was occupied with Sportscenter, then a stint on the Wii, then a heaping bowl of cereal. All morning my son is trying to speed up the time until we need to leave for the City. My son gets dressed for his big 3pm basketball game and I remind him to grab another shirt to change into when we visit Madison Square Garden to cheer the Knicks as they take on the Pacers. I was able to secure four seats and we invited a friend and his mom to join us. After a quick trip to Target and sell a bicycle we put on Craigslist, we had money in our pocket and were on our way into the city. As we drove my son sang along with songs on the radio and we chattered about basketball, sneakers and his scores on NBA Elite while we ate turkey sandwiches. A quick swing by my office to pick up the tickets and a stack of food coupons and we are back in the car, cruising down Park Ave towards 14th street. I find my usual spot right off First Ave and we walk towards the gym.

I take a seat on the edge of the court while my son greets his friend, the one joining us for the Knicks game. They are both grinning ear to ear as they tell the Basketball Director about going to the Garden, which he responds in a straight face asking "where's my ticket?". Both kids silent, but then the Directors cracks a smile and replies "Have a great time!" 

After warm ups, the game is about to start. Quickly the team is down by five when the coach calls time out. The defense is lax and the players are not calling out who they are guarding. My son is really focused and playing good man to man D and early on gets a couple of steals and rebounds. His friend is also playing well, hitting a few layups and the team offensively is getting good looks. But even with my son playing monster defense, the other team is fast and is shooting at a very high percentage. Five turns into nine as the first half buzzer sounds. The second half starts out like the first, the other team is fast up the court and getting good looks at the basket. My son grabs another rebound and pounds his body through the crowd and passes to his friend who lays up the ball for two, but their team cannot seem to get any closer than five as the second half buzzer sounds and the game is over. Even as passionate as the boys can get after a loss, the thought of now heading over to the Garden to see the Knicks could not bring them down. They tease the Director one last time before hitting the staircase and out into the street towards the car. I drive the fifteen blocks while the kids change their shirts and sneakers in the car and park on 27th Street between Sixth and Seventh, a few blocks away from the world's most famous arena. 

We enter the Garden concourse, both kids pointing at the giant pictures of the players that line the entrance. I snap a few pictures of the boys as they take turns proudly wearing the Cat in the Hat style Knicks hat my son brought with him. I already pre-warned my son regarding souvenirs but both boys can't help themselves upon seeing the swag laid out on tables and pinned to back drops as the pass through the doors towards the turnstiles. I explain again to my son how overpriced things are here and proclaim Models sells the same stuff for half the price as we scurry past. We are on the verge of altitude sickness as we ascend escalator after escalator until we reach the upper most section of the Garden. At last we reach our seats in section 418 row C, and sit down, the two boys together, the friend's mom and me. Down hill here we come.

I go down two levels and get online for pizza at the food court. My orders are to get three pizzas, two nachos, two popcorns, a couple of hot dogs, four drinks. I am waiting for the pizzas as I construct my carrying apparatus made up of two big trays, and three cardboard drink holders. After getting all the food, I take the escalator back up the two flights while people clear a path for me like I was carrying a tray of cacti. The kids are eating their nachos when it is time to stand for the national anthem. As we stand, the friend balances his nachos on the arm of the empty seat next to him. A minute into the song I hear a faint crash sound and look over as I see both boys in a tizzy. As the anthem was playing, the full box of nachos tips over, spraying chips everywhere and plastering the seat with a bucket of melted sticky cheese. Just as the friend cleared the seat of nachos and used his hand to scrape the hot cheese from the seat, two young adults enter the aisle, excuse themselves past us and stop at the seats marked 9 and 10, 9 being the cheesy one. Quickly the mom takes her son out of the section to clean off. The new arrivals seemed unfazed by the crunchy floor and cheesy smell and sat down, none the wiser. After the flashy introductions of the players, the mom and friend rejoin us just in time for the tip off. 

I sensed early on that the game was not going to be an easy one. It only took a few minutes into the game for the Knicks to be down by ten. It reminded me of my son's game I watched only a few hours earlier. Ten turned into thirteen then into fifteen, the Knicks struggling for shots, playing little defense and the Pacers shooting a high percentage. The boys tried their hardest to rally their team but the Knicks did not respond with much enthusiasm. During the middle of the third quarter, I though I would try to cheer up the boys with ice cream and announce I would make another trip to the concession stand, where upon my son makes this prediction, "By the time you get back, the Knicks will probably be down by twenty". As I return holding three Hagen Daz bars, my son is frowning and pointing at the scoreboard. "I told you so.." he mumbles as I hand him a bar. The boys eat in silence as their team is falling farther behind and time is short. With ten minutes to go I watch my son descend deeper and deeper into a funk. The anticipation of the great day has washed away and the realization of the weekend being over has left him worn out and frayed at the edges. I ask him a few times if he is ok, which creates more tension in his voice. I lean into the mom and whisper, "Lets start to make our way out." She agrees and we tell the boys its time to go. We are walking towards the escalator when the grumblings of a visit to the gift shop start to rear its ugly head. I look at the mom and kind of motion the universal parent sign for "ignore, ignore, ignore" and I think she got the hint because we hit the now stationary escalator like the place was on fire. The walk back to the car was a slow and chilly one as while the mom was trying her best to not end the day on a total downer, I knew better than to attempt light chatter and lame jokes. Though it was a clear night, there were dark clouds over us. 

Happy to see the car still in one piece on the dark lonely street, we pile in and make our way across town. We say our goodbyes at the drop off point and I proceed onto the on ramp of the FDR. I ask my son if he enjoyed the day with his friend (not mentioning anything regarding basketball) and he musters up a few grunts and groans. I then ask him what is bothering him (big mistake) which brings the whimpering reply, "I don't want to go to school tomorrow...". "Well.." I say, "...It's ok to be sore and grumpy about it tonight, you had a frustrating day, get it all out of your system now and tomorrow you will feel better." Silence fills the air for most of the trip back. I try one last time to break the silence by putting on the radio, turn to Sirius Sports, and ask my son if he wants to hear who got seeded where for the NCAA Basketball Tournament, where upon he whines "I don't care."

I park the car and grab the stuff from the trunk. My son gets out and lumbers towards our apartment, shoulders down and hands buried in his pockets. It's 9:30 pm and the lost of the hour due to daylight savings time is not helping matters. I unlock the door and we take our shoes off and hang up our jackets. My son takes a quick shower, brushes his teeth, get in his pajamas and falls into bed. I give him a hug goodnight and turn off the light.
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