One September day, one not particularly special day, I took the train down to Phoenix City Hall. I was to meet my old friend for lunch and a discussion about a parcel he had been considering developing.
The train rolled smoothly on its track through the old East Phoenix neighborhoods, and I was greeted by tire shops and local restaurants with their names painted on their stucco walls. Everything was a sandy tan and pink and soft, old yellow, telling the story of years of haboobs that couldn't be washed away with the early fall rain. The sky was a deep blue today, and it reminded me of ultramarine, that coveted paint of old Renaissance masters.
As the train moved into Downtown it, and I, was suddenly cast in shadow, under the watchful eye of a looming, squat building that stood apart from the rapidly changing business core to the north. A ballpark, one usually covered though open today, and I wondered who watched it as it slept.
"T!" Gerald leapt up from the table to greet me. The cafe was nearly empty, being quite early for the office drone lunch hour. "You're looking lovely."
"Flattery won't help," I replied, sitting at the table and casting an eye around for a server.
"Oh, I know," he said as sat. "but we have to engage in some civilities."
"Just don't bore me with talk about the weather."
As breakfast progressed we discussed his project, yet another walkable mixed use develop that seemed to be the only source of my consulting work. One workable example in the city, and suddenly every developer is trying to shove a version of it in every urban village. I pointed out the usual flaws, that the demographics in the area weren't favorable, that the parcel wasn't large enough and that he'd have to buy and demolish the surrounding parcels, that a significant investment would have to be made in an underground parking structure.
After the meal ended Gerald and I walked down Washington towards the station. Before us loomed Chase Field, that lonely ballpark of the local baseball team.
"I wonder," he mused, "why they never developed a successful retail component around the park."
Another question I had been asked what felt like a million times. "No where to put it. It's bound by Washington, 7th, parking to the south and west. The parcel to the north could have been something, but they had to build a parking garage with the ballpark to meet league rules."
"I haven't even been to a game this year," he replied. "Things haven't been the same since Goldschmidt was traded to the Yankees."
I shrugged. "He was at the end of a long contract and gave all his best years to us. Hard to be too mad."
"I know! I just remember that 2015 season, and just want to relive it forever."
"I mainly remember that season as some doses of fun but mainly relief at not being disappointment."
"Disappointment," he asked, turning to me with eyebrows attempting to join his hairline. "How could 2015 been disappointing?"
"It was expectation," I replied. "Or lack there of. They were the worst team in baseball in 2014, and had castoffs or unknowns for 2015."
"But Goldschmidt in his prime! Pollock, Inciarte, Peralta, Tomas, Castillo!"
"Right, but outside of Goldschmidt there wasn't particularly high hopes for any of them. Tomas started the season at third and in the minors, if you remember."
"What I remember," he puffed up his chest and assumed the classic mansplaining voice. "was the D-backs going on a late season winning streak and sneaking into the playoffs."
"That's not how I remember it all."
He sniffed. "Well, it's okay to not be much of a fan. But that NLCS series was a lot of fun, even if it was ultimately heartbreaking to lose to the Cubs in Game 7. At least we lost to the eventual winners."
"I'm pretty sure none of that happened."
His patronizing smile reminded me why I only saw him for business. He kept talking, but by that point I had stopped listening. I looked towards Chase Field, devoid of activity this September morning that was just starting to feel its heat. The ballpark was nearly 30 years old, and I knew from talking with other developers that there already was talk, quietly of course, of replacing the facility. It didn't look bad for its age, but this was the way of things.
Gerald mentioning 2015 made me suddenly love the aging park. Not for the playoff races or Hall of Fame players, or the championships. That random year nearly 10 years before hadn't been anything special in the record books. Its banality made it more endearing, though, as a representation for baseball as an act of entertainment and community.
As I waited for my train I felt the humidity rise and watched the colors shift on the facade of the ballpark. In the late morning sun it ceased to glow with a soft pink light, but instead became streaked in dust and reminded me of the endless strip malls around the metro area. The current season would be over and the mild winter would come, and other distractions would fill my time. The books I had neglected, the new ballet season. But baseball would remain on my mind.