Last weekend’s hurricane hit the Gulf Coast hardest, but look what it did to Forest Park. It knocked out power, dripped brown water from ceilings and flooded finished basements. It deflated the giant pig balloon at RibFest.
Worse, it put two tense Chicago pennant races on hold. Sunday, it looked like the White Sox game I eagerly anticipated would be washed away.
A Review reader had invited me to the game. Paul Barbahen and I might be on opposite sides of the political spectrum but I appreciated his letters to the editor countering my political columns. In fact, Paul convinced me that using barrels of ink to bash President Bush was a waste of time.
Paul is a longtime Forest Parker who serves on the village’s ethics committee. He’s a lawyer downtown and a libertarian at heart. When I called him in response to his letters, I learned he was also a season-ticket-holding Sox fan. Thus, the elephant and donkey got to sit together at the Cell.
I asked Paul if a pick for vice president had ever greatly influenced an election. He said no, but that Sarah Palin might be the first to actually sway the electorate. Being terminally Democratic, I pointed out that Palin had been mayor of a town two-thirds the size of Forest Park, which makes Palin only two-thirds a Tony.
Meanwhile, the Sox won the first game 4-2 and took a 7-0 lead in the nightcap. With the lack of drama on the ballfield, Paul and I started talking about music. Our tastes were so alike, excitement from that conversation could have been used as an alternative energy source.
We were both at Sinatra’s final Chicago concert in 1994. We had also been at the Chicago Theater for a tribute to our favorite composer, George Gershwin. Our commonality became almost spooky, when we discovered we had both married co-workers of Dutch descent, who belonged to the Christian Reformed Church.
Paul’s wife, Carol, is a lifelong Forest Parker and they have three daughters. It wasn’t just a mixed marriage ethnically and theologically-Carol is a Cub fan. Coming from a background like that, it’s not shocking that one daughter roots for the Cardinals, while another pulls for the Yankees.
Our repartee was then interrupted by the unthinkable-the Tigers tied the game 7-7 in the 8th. We sat there stunned until the White Sox clocked a grand slam of their own and won 11-7. That same magical night, the Cubs’ Carlos Zambrano no-hit the Houston Astros in Milwaukee.
The camaraderie Paul and I enjoyed proved that conservatives and liberals could calmly discuss their differences. In fact, I would like Paul to pinch-hit in this space some day. Until then, I hope he keeps those cards, letters and tickets coming.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.