Several years ago, I taught a class of kids with profound disabilities for an hour a day so their regular teacher could go eat a sandwich in peace or have a smoke or whatever she did during that time. For some reason, all the kids wanted to do—inasmuch as some of them could express or inhabit the sphere of their desires—was play the board game Candyland. I cannot detail for you entirely how excruciating an experience this was. Most of the kids were nonverbal; few had any concept of how rules or gameplay worked; none understood the licorice spaces (to be fair, I myself don’t really understand those). Nonetheless, every day I would scrunch into a seat at the too-small table and have the lurid box deposited in my lap, six faces turned expectantly towards me. Initially, I resisted. I was ostensibly there to teach, after all, and what was this teaching? The games went on forever, and no one ever won. More often than not, someone would reach out and knock over all the plastic gingerbread men, or fling the stack of cards, or knock over all the gingerbread men again and cackle in my general direction. The more I tried to teach the rules of proper gameplay, the more miserable I got, until one day the sweet fairy of Fuck-It came and landed on my shoulder.
I think what happened was this: I would describe my days at this school, a middle school in a decaying industrial part of Philly, to friends, and for a second it would feel like I had stepped out of myself, seeing something I had learned to shut off in myself dawning on their faces. Cops visited the school weekly, and not to do safety programs. The drinking fountains were all turned off because of corroded pipes. The school—a stately red-brick affair from the turn of the century—had beautiful grounds, but we were all forbidden from walking on the grass because it would become littered with needles and broken glass faster than the janitors could keep up with it. Honestly, hanging out with those kids was the best part of my day. I just had to do away with the idea of getting to that damn candy castle.
This is all a longwinded way to say something terribly cliché, but worth remembering at this point in the Mariners season: it’s the journey, not the destination. But sometimes the journey too is a Kafka-esque exercise in futility. You draw a card, you move a space. Or you don’t. (Not the Adam Lind card again!) Or some hand comes and knocks everything cattywampus and you start over from I don’t know, there maybe? Look, that castle is hella far away and no one is getting there anytime soon. But I’ve always enjoyed the scenery on the board anyway. I complained before like the shortsighted creature I am that this season hasn’t provided as many iconic moments as last season, but of course it has: Dae-Ho swinging so hard his hat pops off, bonesawing, the Swelmet; all of them brightly colored spaces on a board that’s wended past some ugly stuff this year. So here’s a toast with some ice cream floats.