Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Frederick Wiseman presents 'Wrigley'

I now live in Chicago, Illinois. For how long...who knows? Less than a week after my arrival, I had an opportunity to work at Wrigley Field for one day on a entertainment program that will go unnamed. Wrigley Field, aka The Friendly Confines, at first seemed like nothing more than a ballpark, but as the day wore on and I wandered the concourse, ramps and balconies, it began to resemble Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, which I visited this summer with the Brune brothers and Royal (Brune). As the second oldest active park in Major League Baseball and the oldest in the National League (my league), it's as storied and towering as Frank Lloyd Wright or Abraham Lincoln. With all my miscellaneous tasks to perform throughout the day, I managed to witness the slow wind-up of a Cubs night game, start time seven-0-five. Vendors arrive in the early morning to deliver kegs of beer, boxes of produce and dry goods. An old man in an over-sized Cubs jacket and hat, who works a six-thirty am to two-thirty pm shift with no lunch break, oversees Gate J/K logging all those who enter on the back of a scrap piece of white copy paper, jotting down numbers like L2345 in columns that slowly drifted as they ran down the page. No pre-printed charts, names or positions. He was doing it the old-fashioned way. I was able to see, hear and inhale the sights and scents of popcorn being popped, bagged and hung from stands like pennants. I held my own personal interior court in the modest, cramped administrative offices watching a 'Cubbie' hand-deliver a printed memo to all the cubicles. I drooled over a bucket of what appeared to be foul balls. I watched a colleague shake a bobble head and film it with his Iphone in close-up. A well dressed group of musicians in blue cummerbunds and long horns with banners hanging from them as if in some medievel kingdom gathered near the box office, preparing for what had to be the Star-Spangled Banner. Outside, at Clark and Addison, it was an ocean of red, white and blue.

I felt so out of place in khaki, green and white - not a bit of blue in my eyes and the only red on my lips.

It seemed like a document Frederick Wiseman might have captured already. How had he not? Not only is it a physical institution and business, but it lies within a much larger institution - baseball; and beyond that a larger institution still - sport. The closest he seems to have come is Racetrack and his relatively unseen film about Madison Square Garden. At Wrigley Field, I witnessed the everyday occurrences that so often feed Wiseman's poignant and simple tales of American life. I was reminded of a military convoy leaving the base in Missile, the students entering school in High School II, cattle being driven towards the slaughterhouse in Meat, and the supportive classrooms of The Spring in Domestic Violence. Lately, there has been a drought of movie-watching and making in my life. These droughts always seem rekindle my passion for what I feel is the most powerful medium we have - cinema. Wiseman's renderings came to life for me today in a place I never expected them to - Wrigley Field.

I am an old-fashioned kind of man, just like the man running Gate J/K. His home, place of worship and work is Wrigley Field. Mine is the cinema, but is no different. It is a home, a place of worship and a place of business. Each is historic, hallowed, strong, durable and meant for preservation. They were both built a long time ago and people passionately flock to them today just as they did then. To me, baseball and cinema are two past times I will drive to the airport or help move cross country or give my spare key to. Whatever they ask of me...my answer is yes.

I cannot wait for my first game in person. Let's play two!