The 1995 Source Awards were fresh in my mind as I prepared to enter the belly of the beast. Twelve summers ago, a ragtag collection of West Coast rappers were met with scorn and disdain from the moment they set foot in the five boroughs.
The similarities were striking: Snoop and I both hail from Long Beach, while we both represent our colors proudly and unapologetically. Crip blue for Snoop…Oakland A's green and gold for me. Spindly Black men, both of us, with the weight of the West Coast across our slight shoulders.
Today, I'm going to New York City for the first time. Uhh…again. But, this time it counts.
24 hours from now, I could be found face down with 41+1 ("A new record!") in me.
24 hours from now, I could be 50 feet tall and knocking over buildings.
24 hours from now, I could be on my hands and knees, turning a toilet into the new Ground Zero.
"It's not about East or West…
It's about n*ggaz and b*tches…power and money… riders and punks.
Which side are you on?" - Makaveli
7:59: 57…7:59: 58…7:59: 59…
8:00 AM - Nick'a and I are on the road. I'm armed only with my wits, my street smarts, a steely glare and some delicious coffee prepared by Nicka's wife and handed off to me in a convenient travel cup. (BTW, if she's reading this, I forgot to ask you what kind it was…just send me an email. Oh, and I loved the "crispy" granola bars that you packed for us! I'm so used to those Nature Valley bars that are like concrete to my teeth. Just include the brand in the aforementioned coffee email, please.)
Before we hit the expressway (do they call it that in Connecticut?) we stop at a bank. Here's another difference between CT and the rest of the world: All of their consumer-related buildings (banks, restaurants, Radio Shacks) look like this.
9:00 AM - Despite the fact that Connecticut is the third smallest state in the country, we still haven't made it to the train station. There's no traffic to speak of and Nick's doing at least
It's obvious to me that this is where the show "Lost" takes place. In another two or three years, they should reach the state line.
10:00 AM - We're on the train into NYC, after parking on the 450th floor of an adjacent parking structure. I exaggerate, but only slightly. Fortunately, our state-assigned Sherpa was able to guide us down from the mountain and into the station. We're now shoulder-to-shoulder with every New York Yankee fan in New England. Nick is one of them and…I don't know if I can trust him.
I re-position the concealed phone book over my abdomen, appropriately.
11:00 AM - The train ride is a lot more scenic in the sunshine. We pass a few hundred feet from dozens of homes and homeowners who really need a new realtor. Meanwhile, at the back of our train, a gaggle of teenage girls have managed to make my ears bleed with their machine-gun squeals of "Hey, you!", "OMG!", "I know, right?!" and "She is such a slut!"
Once upon a time, I wanted to sleep with women from that, uh…"demographic". It's amazing how much can change in 24 hours.
12:00 PM - We pass through Harlem right before we get to Grand Central Station. As an African-American, I marvel at the neighborhood's history, legacy and renewed spirit as part of its ongoing renaissance. Approaching the 125th Street stop, all I can think is "Don't stop, train. Keep going. Don'tstopdon'tstopdon'tstop."
We arrived at GCS (not sure if the locals refer to Grand Central Station that way, but in California we abbreviate everything). Our hotel was a few hundred feet from there, as we dropped off our bags with the indifferent African immigrant bellhops. Akon and Adebisi should show a little more enthusiasm for their sh*tty jobs. They'll never make it out of the
I bought a "MetroCard"! It entitles me to six(!) rides on the subway for only $12! And, on the other side of the card is the post 9/11 warning: "IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING", with the number of the "Terrorism Hotline" included. My initial enthusiasm is officially muted.
Overall, my first New York subway experience was uneventful. Since I learned everything I ever needed to know about them from early '90s movies, I was disappointed when I didn't see Patrick Swayze debating another, less attractive apparition over whether he was "pushed" or "fell" or "jumped". We did bump into Wesley Snipes & Woody Harrelson, though. Still trying to rob the "Money Train". We gave them each a dollar.
The Yankee Stadium subway stop is pretty much unlike any place I've seen. It opens up to a world where the well-to-do and affluent walk casually alongside the unwashed masses in an area where, under normal circumstances, none of them would be caught dead in after dark. It's all I can do to not stop and soak all the surreal in.
"GET THE F*CK OUT OF THE STREET!"
We're in a crosswalk, about 7/8 of the way to the other side when the light turns red. That all caps commandment came from a traffic cop, furiously waving her arms while gently chiding the young couple about 100 feet behind us. This place is awesome.
I've been to all five ballparks in California and none of them compare to the pre-game atmosphere for a regular season game here. The entire town wears a chip on their shoulder and thousands upon thousands of them are politely filing into The Stadium
Here's another difference between the coasts: In California, "heightened ballpark security" consists of an 18-year-old squeaky voiced teen halfheartedly looking inside overstuffed diaper bags with the equivalent of a keychain flashlight. At Yankee Stadium, there are three security checkpoints before you can enter.
They were digging through purses and bags at the first one, making us empty our pockets at the second and having us open our cell phones at the third. Precautions obviously inspired by the pre-match instructions during the 1991-92 feud between Missy Hyatt and Paul E. Dangerously.
Now, safely inside the bowels of Yankee Stadium (and trust me, that word has never been more applicable in the history of all that was written) we make our way to Nick's season seats. Up the ramps and past the concession stands, I try my best to appreciate the history of the team and the character of the stadium.
Unfortunately, the former is hampered by seeing dozens of children in ridiculous trash talking t-shirts that mock the Red Sox and/or trumpet "their" 20-something world championships.
With apologies to Bill Maher…New Rule: You can only "claim" a world championship for a team you actually saw win The World Series. And, while we're at it Yankee fans, there are 12 other teams in the American League besides you and Boston. Stop with the centuries-long blood war bullsh*t when everyone knows that this latest "rivalry" traces its history all the way back to Aaron Boone. All of four years ago.
Nick introduces me to "Sleepy", a short and somnambulant concessionaire who can barely see over the cash register. In fact, everyone handling the cash here today is a testament to the term "public assistance". Good to see…good to see.
We're in Section 617 with a spectacular view of the entire field. We get the last few moments of the pre-game radio show piped in as the host states that this is the best day game weather they've had all year. Hard to argue, as it's about 80 degrees with NO humidity and an actual breeze.
Could someone let The Mayor and Mother Sister know that there'll be no temperature-related race riots today?
(Fine, I'll say it…just to get it out of the way, so I can delve (and devolve) into the events of the rest of the day and night with a clear conscience. Thanks again to Mrs. Bootleg and That Nick'a Family for making this all possible. Oh, and God. Seriously, this was one of those days that could've swayed atheists. I mean…no humidity!)
12:59: 57…12:59: 58…12:59: 59…
Next: Yankees vs. A's!