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Meeting Old Gator

Mar 8, 2010, 2:20 PM EDT

Gator Car.JPGAnyone who spends any time in the comments around here knows Old Gator.  He of the “Feesh,” “Macondo,” and the “horse meat and Velveeta sandwiches.”  I know he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but as commenters go I love him. He’s smart. He stirs up trouble. He throws bombs once in a while.  All kinds of great fun.  He also lives in Miami, so we arranged to meet up when I landed on Saturday.

Gator suggested a Cuban place near Little Havana. Good suggestion!  I had the ropa vieja and picked from a bunch of appetizers he ordered in Spanish.  I sometimes like to think that I can roughly follow people speaking Spanish, but I really can’t. At least when Cuban accents are involved and the Spanish speakers in question aren’t slowing it down for the dumb people from Ohio who aren’t exposed to it every day.  First thing Gator said to me when I sat down? “How’s it feel being in a foreign land?”  My answer: I like it, actually. At the risk of sounding all free-to-be-you-and-me about it, anyplace that doesn’t have some freakin’ diversity to it gets pretty boring pretty fast.  I don’t think I’d live in Little Havana if I moved to Miami some day, but I like that it’s there and lament just how homogeneous the Midwest can be.

After a couple hours of coffee, baseball talk, and Gator telling me three truly, truly awesome jokes that would get me fired in five seconds if I shared them here, I followed him a couple of miles east into the heart of Little Havana, where he wanted to show me something (the above pic is what it looks like to follow Old Gator through traffic).  The site where Jeffrey Loria’s monument to himself — the new Marlins’ ballpark — is being built.

Marlins ballpark construction.jpgThe overwhelming impression I got from it?  If anyone actually shows up to that ballpark, the traffic is going to be a nightmare.  It’s really right in the middle of — or at least on the edge of — a neighborhood consisting of small blocks, side streets, houses and two-story apartment buildings. Unlike other neighborhood ballparks like Yankee Stadium and Wrigley Field, there is no mass transit to speak of.  There’s a freeway that runs nearby, but it’s an elevated affair, with little, curvy offramps that are not at all prepared to deal with heavy traffic flow.  Yes, they used to play football games there — it’s on the site of the old Orange Bowl — but there’s a big difference between throwing tens of thousands of cars into the area eight or ten times a year on the weekend and doing so 81 times a year any day of the week.  If they have a plan to deal with all that traffic, god love ’em, but it’s really hard to picture it from the way things look right now.

After scoping the construction site Gator and I sat in his car for a while and shot the breeze about baseball.  While a Feesh fan now, he was a Mets guy going back to the 60s, and had season tickets in Shea Stadium for years. He saw Willie Mays there in 1973. He watched Tom Seaver pitch and watched him get shipped out of town. He watched the ball go through Bill Buckner’s legs from a couple dozen yards away.  For all of Gator’s tangents and diversions in the comments section, the man is a baseball fan through and through, and a passionate and knowledgeable one at that.

After a bit we went our separate ways, as I had to get on the freeway up to Port St. Lucie. But before I left, he gave me two cds — the Cowboy Junkies’ “Pale Sun and Crescent Moon,” and an album called “Discount Fireworks” by a group called Over the Rhine, which, while they’re from Ohio too, I’ve never heard of (Gator was going to see them live that night).  He also gave me two books: a collection of criticism he edited about both the novel and the movie “No Country for Old Men” — Gator is more or less our nation’s foremost Cormac McCarthy expert — and a book called “Liberty Street: Encounters at Ground Zero” by Peter Josyph, who happens to be a friend of Gator’s.  I look forward to reading them both.

Two lessons here. First, it’s really awesome meeting readers, so maybe we’ll have to do some HBT meet-ups at some point. Second, while the awesomeness of meeting readers doesn’t depend on them giving me gifts, I ain’t gonna sneeze at ’em either.

With that my spring training dispatches are done for the day. Aaron and the guys will be checking in with other baseball news as usual, of course, but I have to get on the road to Fort Meyers, where I’ll be catching the Twins on Tuesday and the Red Sox on Wednesday.

Later Gators. 

  1. Kid Charlemagne - Mar 8, 2010 at 2:27 PM

    Is Old Gator’s license plate sharpied out in real life too? ‘Cause I would totally buy that.

  2. Ellison Gayheart - Mar 8, 2010 at 2:33 PM

    In this time of war and recession, it’s heartwarming to read about two men being in love.
    Have you fellas set the date yet?
    And let us know when your wedding day is, I have some pink condoms for you both!

  3. YankeesfanLen - Mar 8, 2010 at 2:36 PM

    How did I intrinsically know Old Gator drove a Grand Marquis (possibly de Sade edition, to quote an old Brock Yates joke)?
    Knew the minute you mentioned the Miami arrival who would be your “mystery guest”. Three down and seven to go, Miss Kilgallon.

  4. Jonny5 - Mar 8, 2010 at 2:36 PM

    Wow! Old Gator drives the exact opposite of what I expected. I’m suprised the liberal propaganda actually sticks to the overly fuel hungry gran marquis! Wow! And It’s even the same exact color and style as my mother in laws is. That’s a “horse meat and velveeta eaters car” if I ever saw one. Gator, are you secretly an in the closet cheesesteak phanatic? I may be onto something???????

  5. Ryan - Mar 8, 2010 at 2:37 PM

    I have to say it’s fitting to see that Gator drives an old-man-mobile. Rock and roll!

  6. YX - Mar 8, 2010 at 2:43 PM

    The traffic probably is not worse than Fenway.

  7. Old Gator - Mar 8, 2010 at 2:46 PM

    Did you seriously think that I would drive my Toyota Prion into Little Havana?

  8. Jick - Mar 8, 2010 at 2:48 PM

    Curses. I thought it would be a 1992 Buick Crown Regal.

  9. motherscratcher - Mar 8, 2010 at 2:51 PM

    Was one of those jokes the one about the hooker with dysentery?
    On an unrelated note, I recently finished “The Road.” After spending a few days in a dark corner of my basement curled up and weeping quietly to myself I emerged refreshed just in time for the start of spring training. I feel I’m now properly prepared for what surely awaits me this season as an Indians fan.

  10. Grant - Mar 8, 2010 at 2:57 PM

    I don’t know if he cares, and I certainly don’t have any use for the information (other than to satisfy my curiosity that I could figure it out), but it was really easy to figure out Gator’s real name from the clues you dropped, Craig. All I needed was access to a university library catalog and Google. I bet you could do it just with Google, too.

  11. Old Gator - Mar 8, 2010 at 3:01 PM

    What a coincidence. Got a book on The Road coming out next year too. Hang in there. You’ve got at least two years before Yellowstone blows.
    And there is little truth to the rumor that I’m collecting all my comments here for a sort of baseball book. But nowadays, it takes very little truth, you know?

  12. Old Gator - Mar 8, 2010 at 3:12 PM

    Rock and roll indeed. You should hear the sound system in that thing. There’s always method to my madness, even if it has fractal contours from time to time.
    Incidentally, before you call me a “liberal propagandist,” run back through the archives and find me one nice thing I’ve said about the Democrats since I started posting here. Good luck. Fact is, I am an equal opportunity gadfly. If it is elected or appointed, I’ve got it in my crosshairs.
    The only exception I would have ever made to this sustaining egalitarian principle was if Mary Carey got elected in California.

  13. Joey B - Mar 8, 2010 at 3:12 PM

    “Yes, they used to play football games there — it’s on the site of the old Orange Bowl — but there’s a big difference between throwing tens of thousands of cars into the area eight or ten times a year on the weekend and doing so 81 times a year any day of the week.”
    Back when they converting Yonkers Raceway from a racetrack to a Racino, the locals were complaining about the traffic. My immediate thought was that, in its hayday, Yonkers Raceway probably handled 35,000 people, mostly in cars, in about a 15-30 minute timespan. Now people are complaining about a couple of thousand cars spread out over 12 hours or so??? It was like no one thought it through.
    My guess is that if the Orange Bowl could handle 75,000 or so for the Dolphins, they can probably handle 30,000 for the Marlins.
    ps-Nice to know Gator drives a gas-guzzler. I used to work with a liberal. She always used 2 styrofoam cups at a time, and always got two new ones when she needed a re-fill, and she had a lot of re-fills.

  14. Old Gator - Mar 8, 2010 at 3:37 PM

    Don’t worry. My nom de plume is more than just a name. It’s one of my multiple personalities. Some would call that a disorder but it’s the only way I can keep organized. And anyway, if you called me by one of my other names when I’m operating out of this particular cerebral hologram, I wouldn’t know who you were talking to.

  15. Paulk - Mar 8, 2010 at 3:42 PM

    Just wanted to note the rather nice music selections gifted to Craig by Mr. Gator. Gotta love Margo’s smoky voice, and OTR keeps getting better with age.

  16. Joe L - Mar 8, 2010 at 3:46 PM

    Have you read “Blood Meridian?” Because it makes The Road like a beach romance. Brilliantly written; so brilliantly written the brilliance is almost terrifying. The ending is fall-out-of-your-seat amazing, and perfect. But it’s also unblinkingly violent as to be almost unbelievable.
    Gator – in your opinion, his best book? If not, please enlighten!

  17. smsetnor - Mar 8, 2010 at 3:51 PM

    HBT readers should meet up at Turner. For multiple reasons. Reason #1, I wouldn’t have to drive anywhere. Reason #2, Craig is a fan. Reason #3, I’ll be runnign the Home Depot Tool Race as the Paintbrush all year. I need fans. Ones with a sign. This is my dream.

  18. Ben - Mar 8, 2010 at 3:53 PM

    The hemispheres of my brain fused when you mentioned the Over the Rhine CD. One of the criminally best-kept secrets in music, though I suppose I’m glad to get to see them in small clubs. Not the record I would have chosen – I’d go for Good Dog Bad Dog or the epic Ohio – but I hope you find it to your liking.

  19. BC - Mar 8, 2010 at 3:56 PM

    Love that ride, man. Makes my Honda Insight look like a children’s toy. What do you get, 13 or 14 miles to the gallon.
    And is there a hottub installed in the trunk?

  20. Tim Hudson - Mar 8, 2010 at 3:59 PM

    it just adds to the legend…

  21. Jonny5 - Mar 8, 2010 at 4:07 PM

    This is true. They may mistake it for a pinata!

  22. Old Gator - Mar 8, 2010 at 4:29 PM

    Think again about the traffic. The new stadium eats up a few of the smaller local streets, which will force more traffic onto NW 7th Street – aside from which on game day at the Orange Bowl, you sometimes took hours, literally hours, to get off the ramps from the Dolphin Expressway and filter into the neighborhood and find a nice little house renting out its driveway for parking. If you weren’t going to the games, you avoided the area like the plague. The area was famous for being a nightmare for traffic and parking during UM games in the school’s heyday. Some people paid local homeowners a seasonal fee to use their driveways or front lawns to park. Madness. I took to coming in from the Flagler Street side hours before the game and tailgating with the locals, and leaving ahead of the end of the game (along with a lot of others) or be trapped north of Flagler Street for yonks while the gendarmerie made an ever bigger mess out of the traffic flow with each misperceived wave of a claw.
    But, the key phrase was: if anybody goes to the games. They will at first out of curiosity. Then it’ll be business as usual unless Scrooge McLoria shows a willingness to invest his supposed new cash flows back into his team and hang on long enough to build a tradition and a fan base. Won’t happen overnight. But if he can’t stick with it, this stadium will be every bit as empty as Joepropdolsharklife Stadium – if not more so.
    FYI properly tuned and aligned, the ol’ land yacht – which has the “small” six, since its original owner, my 75-year-old at the time mother, was scared shitless of acceleration – does 21-22 highway and sometimes better if I drive at the speed limit. It ain’t no Hummer and it surely isn’t an SUV. And it’s got an awesome sound system I put in there since what handled Benny Goodman wouldn’t necessarily handle Jerry Garcia. It’s a great safe sturdy machine for my 16-year-old to learn to drive in. And…this is for all you righties who don’t think you should be paying income taxes…since I inherited it, it was free.

  23. ralphdibny - Mar 8, 2010 at 4:42 PM

    Best Cormac (and by best I mean creepiest) has gotta be Child of God. Though you can’t go wrong with any of the early Smoky Mtn. novels.

  24. Old Gator - Mar 8, 2010 at 4:43 PM

    In my and a lot of other opinions (I cringe at the “foremost expert” tag – I’m a second-generation McCarthy critic; Wade Hall, Vereen Bell, Tom Young Jr., Chip Arnold and Dianne Luce were the first a good five to ten years before me), yeah, Blood Meridian is his masterpiece still. And I agree that the writing is terrifyingly brilliant, and if the story weren’t terrifying the language alone would be enough to scare you. There’s nothing else like it in American fiction except maybe Moby Dick. And nothing remotely like Judge Holden in any book, except maybe John Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost. Next to him, Captain Ahab or even Magua are like David Samson to Jeffrey Loria. If I had to pick a number two or allow for the possibility that one of his others was maybe as good, I’d have to say Suttree – which stands, by the way, a much better chance of being made into a film than Blood Meridian does. With Kurosawa, Peckinpah and Kubrick all gone, I don’t think anyone alive that I know of could handle Blood Meridian as a film. It would take a giant. We ain’t got none left. I don’t even think the Coen Brothers could handle it. And what studio would allow it the three and a half hours running time it would minimally need? Three showings a day? Fat chance. Maybe that’s a blessing; I’m still nauseous from what Harvey Weinstein did to All the Pretty Horses.
    We now return you to your regularly scheduled baseball blog.

  25. Old Gator - Mar 8, 2010 at 4:50 PM

    No argument on creepiest. Another almost effortless exercise in brilliant language by the Master. Just that first sentence alone….ah well. Rumors of a movie of this one too. For the Lester (“a child of God like yourself perhaps”) Ballard in all of us. I once heard a jingle – a theme song for a hallucinated Child of God television series called “Where’s Lester?” and the refrain was, “He’s just like you and me!”
    But you had to be there.
    Watch out for the special issue of Appalachian Heritage in January of 2011 on McCarthy’s Appalachian novels and plays.

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