I was headed toward the first game of the American League Championship Series from my extra-secret parking place in Brookline when I met the Norwegian couple, a man and his wife. They had climbed a set of stairs from the Yawkey MBTA station, dragging their suitcases on rollers behind them. They stood near the old Sears building, whatever it is called now, and studied a map.
“Excuse me,” the man said. “Do you know where the Howard Johnson’s hotel is? On Boylston Street?”
I had to smile.
The Howard Johnson’s hotel is located so close to Fenway Park it almost could be part of Fenway Park. The idea of someone landing there from a foreign country — Where are you from again? Norway? — on the night the Red Sox would play an important game like this was easy sitcom material. The roars and the public address system and, sure, the sounds of “Sweet Caroline” would keep these people up way past their bedtimes.
“There’s a baseball game here, you know,” I said as I led the way toward the Norwegians’ destination, which was pretty much my destination.
“Oh, yes, we saw all the people dressed in their gear on the subway,” the man said. “This is for the championship, yes?”
“Yes. Sort of. The start.”
The man said he didn’t know much about baseball, but maybe he and his wife would try to see one of these ALCS games against the Detroit Tigers. They were attending a conference for three days, first visit to the city, but would have spare time. Baseball would be an interesting thing to witness in Boston, Massachusetts.
“Are the tickets expensive?” the man asked.
“Hah,” I said.
We shook hands at the Howard Johnson’s entrance. I went along my little way. A strange thing then happened. The Norwegian man and his Norwegian wife became stuck in my head. I am not sure why. They stayed with me for the entire Red Sox march to glory.
Every night I went to the games, walked the same route, I thought about them. Every night, same route back, I thought about them again. Did they indeed go to the game the next night? What did they think?
I somehow invented a different arc to their story. Yes, they went to the game. Yes, they loved it. They loved being at the Howard Johnson’s! They loved the crowds! They loved the noise! They loved baseball! They extended their stay, ran up their credit cards, watched all the games, straight through the World Series. I would see them at the parade!
“We love your city,” the man would say. “We love the Red Sox. We love Big Papi.”
“Yes, yes,” I would say. “This is a good place to be.”