Listening to John Benedeck practice the organ last Friday at Wrigley Field was easily one of the best hours I’ve had in months. I was talking about it with my friend Ken Schultz who wished he had been there, so earlier this week we made tentative plans to show up at Wrigley Field on Friday on the off chance that it might happen again. We were in luck, but before I get into yesterday evening’s concert I want to talk about how momentous of an occasion this was for both of us.
Ken and I both live alone a little less than three miles away from each other. He was the last person I hung out with before Chicago’s stay at home order went into effect, and we had plans to hang out the next week that both of us agreed had to be cancelled. We just couldn’t figure out how to eat dinner safely together in March. Yesterday’s planned meet up isn’t the first time I’ve seen friends during the pandemic, but it is the first time either of us made plans to see another person in advance and I cannot stress enough how many elements of this had to come together for us to agree to it.
It helped that we both know each of us have been basically quarantined and social distancing for over 70 days. It helped that we both wear masks if someone is going to be closer than six feet away. It helps that we could enjoy the music at Wrigley Field outside, in the open air.
Who am I even kidding here, “help” is the wrong word. All of those things were essential for both of us to agree to this outing, and even with those precautions there were a couple of moments while we were walking around Wrigley Field where other people encroached on our space in ways that made both of us nervous. Although I will say, as we were just seated on the sidewalk listening like this group across from us, it felt like a pretty safe environment:
There were maybe 20 of us total near Ballhawk Corner and we were pretty evenly dispersed into smaller groups that were each social distancing as necessary from people who weren’t part of their core crew. That was indicative of the environment all around Wrigley Field with one exception I’ll get to towards the end. The police were doing laps around the field on bikes to make sure people stayed apart and safe. At no point in time did I even see them approach anyone to put on a mask or move further apart:
Would it technically be safer to never leave the house and never see anyone? Yes, but as I wrote last week in my entry about quarantine fatigue, the mental health benefits of being outside in the sun with friends listening to the sounds of the friendly confines while being as safe as possible seemed worth the slightly elevated risk:
If you look closely at the picture above you might see a familiar face. Cubs bullpen catcher Chad Noble joined us to listen to the Lowrey Organ on Friday. Turns out fans aren’t the only ones missing even the hint of baseball.
Benedeck’s set list was on point and the thing that stood out to me above anything was fans stopping to applaud after every song. During baseball games the organ is sort of in the background. While it’s appreciated and essential, it isn’t applauded. In some ways it’s like all of the grocery store and frontline workers many in society are taking the time to applaud during the pandemic. People who had been in the background, contributing something we are finally truly appreciating in a moment of crisis. I hope we all keep that sense of appreciation when this is over.
The organ was a bit quieter yesterday but still brought a ton of joy as you can see from this short video of the baseball classic “Sweet Caroline” - lightly edited by fans at Ballhawk Corner to include the phrases “not touching hands, not touching you.” And it’s true, there was no touching, but there were a handful of people together, happy and appreciative for an hour on Friday night [VIDEO].
Even with the gorgeous weather on Friday afternoon, fans were generally responsible. The biggest hint of concern I had the entire evening came about 15 minutes after Benedeck’s practice ended. As Ken and I took a final lap around Wrigley Field before he headed home we approached the corner of Waveland and Sheffield where a post-practice crowd had gathered near Murphy’s Bleachers. It was a sober reminder that as society reopens we are all going to have to remain vigilant about social distancing - even when the sun is out and the organ is playing at Wrigley Field.