My first attempt at starting an unauthorized Kickball League for The Homeless in Manchester was a tad fruitless (to say the very least), but not without a high degree of verbal gems to lick and consider in the days ahead.
For months now, I’ve been driving past Brownstein Park off Hanover Street where a large swath of separate groups of homeless people (we have a cool name for every other group in this country, can we not tag this group with a cooler name?) gather during the warm months to sleep, boot, snack and hang out in the shade under the maple trees waiting for the shelters and meals to open back up.
I see this and immediately start thinking of kickball and how fun it might be to gather these folks and see if they want to run around, sweat a bit, compete, feel that blessed touch of teamwork and togetherness.
I don’t know, I get these ideas in my head and can’t get rid of them until I jackhammer them out of my system and I just do it. Or at least, try to do it. One of my many issues.
So I did. I pulled over my brand new used car, an ’05 Buick Lacrosse (think of your grandparents) that rides like jelly, and pondered for a few minutes my imminent proposal to a slew of strangers. I felt that churning in my belly that I get before I say, “Ok, fuck it, let’s do this thing.”
Out the car I went where I approached a group of four people, two of which were zonked out in the grass looking, well, less than alive. There were other groups there, too. Plenty enough people for a game of kickball. But I got the attention of this cat named “Harry” as I carried my big red kickball under my arm with four bases and said, “Might sound weird, guys, but anyone want to play kickball?”
“You smell like a cop,” Harry said, wearing a West High School jacket and torn-up pair of black sneakers and sweats.
“Not a cop,” I told him. “About as far from a cop as you could imagine.”
If I had a buck for every time I was mistaken for a cop, I’d have a pocket full of bucks.
Then, usually, they smell my pungent scent and quickly realize, this guy is no cop!
“So why you asking us to play kickball?” Harry asked.
“I have no idea,” I explained. “I just do shit like this.”
Harry was kind of into the idea, but he had his own issues with how this would all go down.
“First,” Harry said,” You need to call the Parks Department and tell them to get down here and cut this grass. I’m not playing until they do because I don’t want to catch a toe running the bases.”
“Ok,” I said. “Valid thought. I’ll see what I can do,” knowing I could do nothing.
I threw Harry the ball and he took it, flipped it ahead of him and launched the ball with a heavy kick into what would be center field.
“That’s a double,” is all Harry said.
“Ok,” I said, “Nice kick.” And I ran out to get the ball, throwing it back in to Harry.
“What size sneaker you got on?” Harry then asked as he readied himself for another kick.
“Size 11,” I said.
“I’ll need a new pair of sneakers to play,” he said. “I wear 11s”
I considered giving him my black Nikes that I was wearing, knowing I had a pair of golf cleats in the trunk of my car. But how would I look walking into a neurologist’s office 20 minutes from now, trying to sell them on the company I work for services dressed like I was on the 5th hole of a public course?
Harry scooped the ball back up and launched it again with a single power kick into left-field this time, or what would be left field.
“Probably another double,” Harry said with a fair amount of cockiness, this time, though, he was running away across the park, heading toward some pickup truck parked on the side of the road.
“What about the kickball game, Harry? We doing this thing?” I shouted
Harry yelled from inside the cab of the truck, “Not until you get a regulation kickball. I’m not playing unless it’s regulation.”
Fair enough, Harry. I’ll be back.
Then, we kick it!