Opening Day

Jason hasn't been to Boston for a season opener in years, but when he finds out the Red Sox are playing at home for once, the first thing he does is get a couple days off work. The second thing he does is buy a plane ticket. Not until he's guaranteed a way to Boston and back does he call his parents and suggest that one of their season tickets go to him for this one game.

(He finds out later that his parents end up flipping a coin to see who goes with him, since they only have season tickets for two.)

The game is canceled on account of rain, which is ok with Jason, since he thought ahead and planned two days in Boston anyway. It puts his free-day-to-visit-friends at the front of his trip instead of the back, and he meets his friend Steve for lunch downtown in the pouring rain. Jason tries not to gloat that he has a ticket to see the Sox play at home on opening day, but it's hard. Steve and his brothers are as die-hard a trio of fans as anyone Jason knows. Steve's father is from New York, and is - much to Steve and his brothers' eternal shame - a Yankees fan. Sometimes he can joke about the Sox/Yankees rivalry, and sometimes - as Steve and his brothers are quick to admit - he's a dick. Today, Steve says, his dad is being good, but that might be because the game is delayed in Boston, and he can claim it as some kind of sign.

Later, Jason calls the gallery to make sure everything's ok and nothing went missing and no one's pissed off about anything, and then he calls Micah to say hi and if he sees any TV cameras at the stadium tomorrow he'll wave at them. Micah says he kind of doubts the Sox game will be broadcast in LA. Jason tells him to look for it anyway.

On game day, Jason and his dad start their morning with a traditional pancake breakfast, Jason's mom grumbling the whole time about having to listen to the game on the radio, and then Jason's dad heads to work for a few hours while Jason takes his time getting ready and then leaves to scope out some art galleries and see what's new out here. He has time for lunch with another old high school friend, who shocks him by announcing that not only is she getting married, but she's marrying a nice French boy and moving to France. They just reached that decision a couple days ago, she says, which is why she didn't say anything sooner. Jason wishes her well. She says of course he's invited to the wedding, and they're having two, one in Boston and one in Nice, where the nice French boy's family is from.

Jason picks up his dad at his office, where his dad has already changed into his baseball-watching clothes - jeans and a Sox jersey, #9 for the late, great Ted Williams. He and Jason match. (Jason's mom's jersey has an 8 on the back, in honor of Carl Yastrzemski.) The area around Fenway is unsurprisingly a zoo, and they push through a crush of people to get sausages from the Sausage King cart, which is as much a tradition as the pancake breakfast. Jason texts his mom to let her know he's being squashed to death in his quest for food. She's unsympathetic.

Inside the stadium they stand in an interminable line to get beer before making their way to their seats. The sky is overcast and the wind is cold and wet, but the mood is jubilant and Jason doesn't even care when someone trying to get to a row farther down jostles his arm so he spills his beer. He and his dad settle in their season-ticketholder seats, for which Jason's dad rightfully gives thanks every Thanksgiving, and they toast the Sox with their plastic cups of Sam Adams and flip through their programs and have a goodnatured argument with the guy to their left about the quality of the pitching staff and the probability of injuries.

During the pregame ceremonies, as the players are being announced and walking onto the field, Jason calls Jennie back in LA and holds the phone out so she can hear the crowd's cheers, because she always laughed at his baseball devotion and claimed she couldn't understand. He keeps the line open for the national anthem and the fighter jets' flyover, and cuts the conversation off only because the game's about to start.

His dad rolls his eyes as Jason turns off his phone and sticks it in his pocket. Jason says she still doesn't get it, but he loves her anyway. And anyway his dad shouldn't talk - he kept texting Jason's mom when Ted Kennedy came out in a golf cart and threw a ceremonial pitch to newly Hall-of-Famed former player Jim Rice.

Then pitcher Josh Beckett takes the mound for the first inning and Jason looks around, surrounded as he is on all sides by Red Sox Nation (and probably a few Tampa Bay fans), taking in the excited, excitable mood of the crowd and feeling the pride in his home team that he feels every year on opening day. He likes Los Angeles and doesn't often regret moving there or making a life there, and he has no plans to move, but every spring, when the first pitcher throws the first pitch and the first batter takes the first swing, and every time he gets to plant his butt in a Fenway seat, he remembers that no matter where he eats and sleeps and plays and makes his money and pays his taxes, Boston - and Fenway Park - will always be home.