It’s supposed to be Opening Day at Wrigley Field and I cannot stop thinking about paradise today. You know, that ideal or idyllic place or state we all have to retreat to when times are difficult. I am lucky and have a few of those spaces that are near and dear to my heart. On the 18th day without baseball, two of my paradises are squarely in the crosshairs of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While I’ll never have the home opener attendance record that Al does, this should have been my fifth home opener in a row. I imagine I would have worked a half day, cramming for an upcoming event, working furiously so I could spend a few hours at one of my favorite places on the planet with no external obligations.
I can just picture finishing up work, grabbing my baseball tote and scorecard, and walking to Wrigley Field. Smiling as I walk up Waveland, reflecting on the perfections of baseball and how I’ve never gotten used to the overwhelming beauty of seeing Wrigley Field for the first time each season. It makes me tear up as I see the grass, the players, and old friends in line.
I’m not ashamed to admit that on more than one occasion an usher has seen me on Opening Day and asked if it was my first trip to Wrigley Field. I don’t have a great poker face and I imagine the look of awe I have every Opening Day lends itself to that sense of wonder people have when they see the ballpark for the first time. I hope I never lose that feeling. And while Opening Day is delayed for 2020, I am still holding out hope that I’ll make it to my fifth home opener in a row when baseball returns this season, although I admit that looks less likely than it did a week ago.
COVID-19 has put everything into doubt for the foreseeable future and whether or not there will be an Opening Day seems like a relatively small concern in a growing public health crisis. As I write this article there are 143,243 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and 2,479 deaths. Late last night it was reported that one of the people fighting for his life is John Prine.
I’ve been singing John Prine songs as my neighbor played the guitar next to a campfire for as long as I can remember. Those summer nights with family and friends are perfect in the same way Wrigley Field is perfect. It’s a comfortable setting surrounded by the familiar. A space that is predictable in the macro sense, even if you don’t know exactly what will come next.
Prine writes beautiful music. Sometimes the songs are playful, sometimes they are serious. They are always poignant. Songs like Hello in There have provided comfort and familiarity to millions:
Prine has an extensive library of music, if you’re not familiar, I highly recommend spending some time with it in the next few days, but I keep finding myself drawn to the song that was always my favorite.
You see, much to the chagrin of my neighbors and father I used to request the same song over and over. I eventually grew out of that for the purpose of requesting songs in public, but I still have a tendency to listen to my all-time favorite songs a few times in a row when it feels right. Today, I’ll leave you with the song I wanted to listen to on loop as a child that I will certainly listen to at least a dozen times today: John Prine’s Paradise.