the closed circuit TV with which each box is equipped. “Yeah, that’s where they are,” the man said enviously, yanking at his tie. He seemed like the sort of man who didn’t wear a tie to work but put one on especially to come to the Astrodome. The thought that some rich lady might be naked up there in a skybox clearly preyed on his mind. I took his comment with a large grain of salt. The Texas middleclass has always overestimated the sexuality of the Texas rich. Not many of the local rich would be inclined to make love at a baseball game, even if they could manage it at such an altitude. The skyboxes, I’m told, are mostly owned by corporations and used for more sedate forms of entertainment. The game that night was between the Astros and the Mets, and it was obvious from the first that most of the fans would not have sat through such a contest if it had been taking place elsewhere ; even in the Dome many of them would not have stayed with the game had it not been for the big ‘electronic screen in center field. What the game did was provide material for the man who operated the screen. Whenever the Mets got a man as far as second base the screen showed a foolhardy Met being smashed into the dust by a plummeting Astro, after which the word WHOA! appeared. The fans all yelled WHOA!, which effectively checked the Mets’ feeble rally. Later in the game, when the Astros unleashed the full fury of their normally inconspicuous attack, the screen assisted them at practically every pitch. When an Astro got on base there was a blare of heraldic trumpets and a little cavalryman screen, sabre raised. The word CHARGE! appeared, and the fans yelled CHARGE! Sometimes, instead of the cavalryman, a fierce little black bull rushed across the screen. When an Astro performed some particularly daring feat of baserunning screen flashed OLE! and the fans yelled OLE! If the Astros push across two or three ,runs in a given inning the trumpets and the charges have the fans in such a state of emotional frenzy that the one thing they want to do is yell CHARGE! once more. To keep them at this pitch the screen carried loud, violent between-inning commercials. It was entrancing to ponder the imaginative uses such a screen could be put to. Billy Graham is going to lead a Crusade in the Dome this fallwould a conversion be considered the equivalent of a home run, or of a single? What would they flash then? On reflection, the comparison between the Dome and the Colosseum was a little disturbing. What but blood sport would ever be sufficient to the Dome? When a gladiator fell a huge thumb turned down of coursecould be flagied on the screen, and then the words HOOK HIM! The fans could yell that with real fulfillment. After awhile I got up and wandered back into the Upper Stands, to see how the 4 The Texas Observer game looked from up there. Two old ladies sat just below me, one of them so armored with diamonds that she looked like some sort of eccentric crustacean. She ignored the game and kept her field glasses trained on one of the skyboxes. I gathered from the conversation that she owned it, but had gone into temporary exile in the Upper Stands because her family had insisted on inviting someone she didn’t like. She watched indignantly as the obnoxious someone made free with her liquor. Now and again, when the trumpets blared, she and her companion turned around and dutifully yelled CHARGE! BY THE SEVENTH INNING the screen had practically destroyed my will. Every time the trumpets blared I felt the word “charge” forming on my lips. I got up to leave and was almost trampled by a rush of usherettes; they had just been released from duty and were hurrying down the ramps to take off their heavy, shapeless gold dresses. After three hours in the Dome my sense of direction was in no better shape than my will, and I exited on the north side of the stadium, well over a mile from my car. From the outside the Dome looks very good at nightthe light glows through the roof and the white serrated walls. I walked through the parking lot, between rows and rows of cars, and after awhile it dawned on me that all the cars were new, or nearly so. It was like being in a factory yard in Detroit. There was not a jalopy anywhere, just hundreds and hundreds of yards of bright, rectangular rear-ends, with now and then a fishtail for variety. Such a parking lot really brings home to one the meaning of phrases like “affluent society” and “burgeoning middleclass.” There were no kids outside the park, just cops and parking attendants. I had a moment of nostalgia for the baseball I had watched as an adolescent, in good old Spudder Park, when Wichita Falls -had a Class B franchise. If one got tired of seeing the Spudders get walloped it was only necessary to step outside. The grounds were Baytown When a person’s hair begins sprouting white at the temples and stops sprouting altogether over significant areas of scalp, he becomes increasingly sensitive about saying that anything was better in the good old days. He sees senility staring bleakly over the horizon and he doesn’t want to do anything to expedite the arrival of the golden years. For several years now we have tried to refrain from comments on feminine fads for this very reason. We kept our typewriter shut while the girls were having their hair prepared in such bouffant fashion that it looked as if their little brains had exploded. There will be no comment here on the wearing of navel jewelry with bikinis, even though it is difficult to restrain mention of the fact that we have read of both concave and convex baubles alive with kids: Mexican kids, Negro kids, city kids, farm kids, all waiting hopefully for home run balls or out-of-the-park foul tips. When one came over there was a scramble. One night when the Spudders got walloped 30 to 1 our local nine gathered in no less than 17 practice balls. If no balls came over the kids stood around under the liquid north Texas sky and swapped dirty jokes and bits of sexual folklore, a form of cultural exchange that benefited us all. I found my car with difficulty and drove away. It was clear that the Astrodome would be an immensely successful enterprise, if for no other reason than that it is itself immense. Texans like big things, and they aren’t the only ones. I had gone to the Dome expecting to dislike it intensely or else be won over by it, but neither thing happened. The architecture is interesting and the seats are comfortable, but as a type of enterprise the Dome is so typical that no elaborate analysis is called for. It is the product of a love of money and ostentation, not of a love of sport, and it caters to that part of the Texas \(or native and certainly very familiar. For a long time now people have been devising spectacular new ways of persuading the populace to hunger for circuses rather than bread. A day or two after my visit I heard that Boston was going to build a dome bigger than Houston’s, and with a retractable roof besides. Atlanta may get one, and Los Angeles surely would if Californians weren’t so outdoorsy. In a few more years domes may not dot the country and make the one in Harris County seem like a monument of ancient architecture. Certainly no one in Houston is the least worried about the prospect. By then some enterprising native will have thought of something else Houston needssomething bigger, better, sexier, more violent: above all, something costlier. When somebody thinks it up, Houston will build it. Who knows? Next time they may even get the Shamrock in. to accommodate the patron depending on whether the umbilical severance left a protrusion or depression. We will not even revive the old WAC joke of World War II vintage about the girl who explained her unusual navel concavity by explaining that she was a flag bearer in parades. We learned long ago not to say that various items don’t taste like they did in our boyhood. This brings instant repercussions, contrasting other differences which have occurred since that distant era. However, we have been recently favored with a jar of home-made dill pickles. They do taste like the pickles my parents made back in Menard. My job was to hoe weeds away from the cucumbers, pick the gorgeous orange and black caterpillars off the growing dill in the front yard, and, when all was ready, carry the granite crocks in from the store-room out in the lot. My mother heated water, probably Differences
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