My buddy Chris Pitzen got his mitts on tickets to the Cubs game Monday night, and took me along. It was terrific to be inside old Wrigley Field for the first time since 2019. Wrigley was what lured me to Chicago after all, so it’s strange to live any whole year in Chicago without going to at least one ball game, even if the ticket prices have gone up a thousand percent since I saw my first game in 1992.
I’ve written here recently about my determination not to become an old gaffer who’s constantly telling you how Wrigley Field and everything else used to be better, back in the day. I should be happy I experienced those days, and leave it at that.
So I didn’t take umbrage at my discovery that you can’t use cash anymore at Wrigley, even for a sack of peanuts. And I only briefly raised my eyebrows at Pitzen’s pointing out that the place now has reverse ATM machines into which you put in cash and out of which you get a debit card. Nor did I grumble (to anyone but Pitzen, between his muttering about the dude sitting to his left, putting ketchup on his hotdog), about the imbecilic “cup snake” competition going on between the right- and left-field the bleachers. Hey, the bleachers never were a habitat for keen baseball minds.
And I certainly didn’t whine about the beer prices, though I did point out later that I drank $50 worth of beer and rode my motorcycle home and the riding was far less irresponsible than the spending.
But the music, between innings. The incessant, insistent, loud ’70s and ’80s rock, a double offense: 1. Forcing me to shout to Pitzen in the next seat, and strain to hear his replies. 2. Drowning out the sweetest sound in America: the murmur of a baseball crowd, with an occasional remark by the organist. (Who is the Cubs new organist, Ray Manzarek?) To me, playing rock music here is exactly like playing it in a library, or in a classroom, or in a city park—or anywhere else where people go in order to think, and quietly talk.
I kept trying to figure out who I could talk to about this, who could make even a cynical business case for turning a beautiful ballpark into the world’s noisiest beer garden. The only purpose I can think of is sinister, and reminds me of e.e. cummings’ quote about how hard it is to be oneself in “a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else.” Everybody else—37,000 people, mindlessly humming the guitar cords of Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine.”
I am so, so sick of classic rock. My daughter Scout plays it when I’m in the car, out of deference to me. She loves these songs—Led Zepplin, Van Morrison, Simon and Garfunkel, Queen, the Eagles—and I like that she does. When she was about eight, I turned out all the lights and played “Stairway to Heaven” all the way through. It’s fun to watch her sing it now. But it’s not that fun to listen to now, really. I have been listening to these songs for forty years, and with the occasional mood-based exception—(every once in a while, it is a marvelous night for a moon dance, and God help me, I’m a sometime sucker for Billy Joel)—I am bone-weary of them.
One million songs, that I’ve heard one million times, all playing all the time, everywhere I go—the waiting room at Jiffy Lube, the grocery store, lobby at the DMV—and they sound to me like the sawing of logs.
It seems to me that only people who could enjoy these songs at this stage are those with severe arrested development, the types for whom it’s all been downhill since high school.
What’s even more enraging is that corporate-marketing deejay somewhere is feeding me this Aerosmith at Wrigley Field, because I’m 52 and of the target generation, well-enough heeled to pay hundreds of dollars to take kids and parents to games. This was the music I grew up on, so it must be what I want to hear. I remember when my WWII-generation dad bought a Cadillac Seville in 1975 and it came with an eight-track tape in the glove-box: Then-thirty-five-year-old big band music, like Pennsylvania 6-5000, and Chattanooga Choo-Choo. Because they knew what generation was buying Cadillac Sevilles.
Well, I’d rather hear “Begin the Beguine” at Wrigley Field than, “It’s the End of the World (as We Know It).” But really, I’d vastly prefer that there be no music at all.
(Anyway, we had a good time, and Chris took one of his beautiful pictures and believe it or not it’s still impossible to truly maintain a sour mood in Wrigley Field, despite everything.)