A Trifecta of Trifectas for the Last Quarter-Year of My First Quarter-Century

On the Autumnal Equinox (which falls this year on September 22) there are exactly twelve hours of daylight and twelve hours of darkness everywhere on Earth. It is in this perfect balance of daylight and darkness that I except to experience a full-on existential crisis, otherwise known as my 25th birthday.

On June 22 (the summer solstice), I noted that the last quarter-year of my first quarter-century was beginning. The ninety-four scientifically defined days of summer are the last ones of my early twenties, my youth and my societally overlooked dementia. After the rapidly approaching Autumnal Equinox/25th Birthday, I expect to find it increasingly difficult to explain my lack of living room, significant other, savings account, health insurance policy, car, book deal, advanced degree or self-control.

Someday, I’m going to die. I’ll never be younger than 25 again. On my 25th birthday, I’ll have lived 9131 days, and I’m not sure what I’ve done with them. I think I am supposed to take some consolation in the fact that I can finally rent a car.

With an eye to the quarter-century mark looming at the exact end of Summer 2004 and the mortality looming at some point not long enough after that, I am trying not to waste any time. I am trying to alleviate my exponentially mounting quarter-century angst by riding roller coasters, swimming at subway-accessible beaches, and accepting all invitations to weekend in the Hamptons and Catskills. It is in this flurry of futile angst-staving activity that I have already completed a trifecta of American summer rituals: Baseball, Meat and Movies.

Trifecta #1: Baseball

For my baseball trifecta, I have attended the games of all three local baseball teams. The Yankees, the Mets and the Brooklyn Cyclones. I was born a Met fan, but I realize more and more that I am not so much a Met fan as a 1986 Met fan. The Mets and I had our greatest and purest love eighteen years ago this upcoming fall, and it’s been downhill ever since then.

The Yankees, while fun to watch, will always rub me the wrong way, as does any living proof of the evils of capitalism. The mentality of the Yankees and their fans reminds me of the mentality of the Bush family. “Our destiny is dynasty,” sayeth the Yankees/Bush family.

“You’re just a bunch of beer-swilling coke-sniffing probable date-rapists with more money than the other beer-swilling coke-sniffing probable date-rapists,” sayeth I.

That leaves me with the Brooklyn Cyclones, who, luckily, are by far the most entertaining to watch. The players on major league teams must be enormous, because the Brooklyn Cyclones looked so tiny on the field, like Little Leaguers. They also made a lot of mistakes, like Little Leaguers. They overthrew. They ran into avoidable rundowns between third base and home plate. They bobbled grounders. I found their ineptitude comforting.

While the baseball at Keyspan Park was markedly single-A, the fan enthusement tactics were major-league. Multiple mascots danced wildly on the dugouts. Multiple baseball-themed games of three-card monte were played to raucous cheers on the big T.V. T-shirt guns were fired into the crowd, small children competed in thirty-second games with incredibly complex rules and three life-sized hot dogs, titled Ketchup, Mustard and Relish raced from the bullpen to home plate. (Relish won.)

While the fans seemed only mildly interested in the actual baseball, they were fervently interested in the accoutrements of the baseball game. These two tracks of fan interest created the bizarre effect of the loudest cheering occurring while the players warmed up between innings or new pitchers were called from the bullpen. I wondered if the players were ever frustrated by hearing their fans cheer themselves hoarse for a human hot dog named Relish while home runs were greeted with tennis-match tepid applause.

The people I attended the ball game with had a brilliant tradition of visiting the concession stand every other inning, recognizing that the true American pastime is consumption. I participated happily in the ritual. I had beer in a plastic bottle and Carvel ice cream in a plastic batting helmet. I ate peanuts and flung the shells on the ground. When I was thoroughly nauseated, having consumed a hot dog, fries, beer, ice cream, peanuts and my first-ever handful of Crackerjacks, we left the Cyclones (the baseball team) to ride the Cyclone (the roller coaster). Twice.

Trifecta #2: Meat

Long ago, I was a fairly self-righteous vegetarian. I studiously avoided things that I thought might contain chicken stock or gelatin; I felt physical revulsion at the smell of cooking meat. Like many 1990s vegetarians, I’ve been lapsing steadily for years into depraved carnivorousness.

The reintroduction of animals to my diet has played out like the course of evolution. First, I went to the sea. Then to the land, but only to the flying creatures. Then I ate the smaller mammals, and finally, I began eating the larger ones. As is so often the case with me when it comes to any new substance I can put into my body, I skipped from dabbling, right over moderation, into excess.

My re-embracing of meat followed this pattern. Doubt was quickly obliterated by euphoria.

“What are those little white flecks in salami?” I wondered momentarily. “Who cares? They must be the secret ingredient that makes it so delicious.”

“Do they really put lips and eyeballs into hot dogs?” I thought, dimly remembering my skimmings of The Jungle and Fast Food Nation. “Who cares? The Native Americans ate all the parts of an animal to show respect for its spirit!”

I held out on the steak for a long time. I ate some ground beef here and there, but I still had not chewed the intact flesh of the bovine species. Last weekend, while spending the weekend at the family summer home of a good friend, after three meals during which we feasted on salami, ribs, chicken and sausage, I devoured a small piece of steak. Thus, my return to meat was completed, in double trifecta. I have eaten the fowl, the swine and the cow. I have eaten the cold cuts, the processed, cylindrical meat products and the meat still clinging to the bone. I am a savage, bloodthirsty, food chain-topping carnivore. Hear me chew.

Trifecta #3: Movies

I have just completed my Summer Movie Trifecta. I saw Fahrenheit 9/11, Spider-Man 2 and Before Sunset all in three weeks. This combination of controversial leftist documentary, superhero blockbuster and decade-later sequel to an indie chick-flick just about sums up the three fantasies that often dangerously overlap my reality: the deposition of the Evil Administration, the grandiose notion of being a nerd who learns to fly, and my concept of romantic love, which is to walk around a city talking all night, then become enthralled and haunted by this experience for the next decade and write a book about it.

My upcoming trifectas include a second American summer ritual trifecta (see fireworks, cook lobster, perform flip from diving board into swimming pool) my before-25th-birthday trifecta (learn to walk in high heels, learn to drive a stick shift, read and comprehend Ulysses) and for my grand finale, the 25th birthday trifecta itself, which is simple. DO NOT: Pass out, throw up or fall down.

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