In a power-house of a match-up that was reminiscent of their three playoff series against the Lakers in the 1980s, the Celtics had a chance to win their 17th NBA championship trophy that night in June, 2008.
And I had tickets.
I and a friend had decided to take a chance that the Celtics would win the championship in Game 6. Splurging on an eBay purchase of a pair of tickets, we met a couple of hours before the game at the Haymarket T stop, he arriving on his bicycle and I having taken the train. It was a clear, cool, beautiful evening and we enjoyed the weather as we strolled over to the North End for dinner.
Little did I know that we were walking into one of the greatest photo ops I’d ever experienced.
We spied an oyster bar and decided to go in. We had to navigate around a man and woman who were nuzzling each other as they waited for a table at the top of the few stairs we had to mount to enter. As we turned past them, we found ourselves in a very small restaurant. Tiny, in fact.
Basically, we were in a box – a noisy box. To the left were two short rows of tables, one on either side of the room. They were occupied by people talking, laughing, eating and drinking. A waiter was trying to take orders above the din. Straight ahead was a small bar where a guy was making drinks. To our right, under the large window overlooking the street, was a bank of crushed ice where a woman was shucking the oysters that were embedded within. Between us and her was the bar, and on the bar…
On the bar…
To this day, I still can’t believe it.
On the bar, sat two large, silvery-golden, brilliantly shiny, World Series trophies.
What’s wrong with this picture?
I stood for a few seconds getting my head around what I was seeing. I suspect that I might have been slack-jawed in that moment.
I turned to my friend and asked, gesturing toward the bar, “Are those the 2004 and 2007 Red Sox World Series trophies?”
He is from Europe, and not only does he not understand baseball, he doesn’t even think that it’s a “true sport. ” I knew this previously but had momentarily forgotten.
“Oh, why am I bothering to ask you?” I muttered. He shrugged again.
I turned to the couple behind us who were still making out in the corner at the top of the stairs. “Hey,” I said, gesturing with my thumb over my shoulder in the direction of the bar. “Are those the Red Sox World Series trophies?”
The guy cocked his head to see around his girlfriend who hadn’t even broken stride as she sucked his earlobe.
“Uh,” he replied, as though he had only just now noticed the trophies, “I’m not sure.”
Obviously, he was distracted.
I turned back to the scene in front of me. There were people sitting at the tables. There were a couple of waiters. There was a bartender. There was a woman shucking oysters. There were people waiting for a table. There was even a guy in a white polo shirt nonchalantly leaning on the bar on the other side of the trophies.
This noisy little restaurant was full of people and not one of them was paying any attention to the two World Series trophies that were sitting on the bar!
I was dumbfounded.
And what were these trophies doing there anyway? It didn’t make any sense!
I had tried to see the 2004 trophy when it toured Massachusetts four years prior and the lines were so long that I gave up. But here it was, along with its 2007 brother, both of them sitting on the bar in a little oyster shack in Boston’s North End and not one single person there seemed to even care.
“This is crazy,” I thought. “Are they even real?”
I would later learn a bit about these trophies.
According to Wikipedia, the most accurate source of information in the world:
The Commissioner’s Trophy is presented each year by the Commissioner of Baseball to the Major League Baseball team that wins the World Series. Recent trophy designs contain flags representing each team in North America’s top two leagues, the National League and the American League. The two participating teams in that year’s World Series were previously represented by two press pins set on the base of the trophy. It is the only championship trophy of the four major sports in the United States that is not named after a particular person (contrasting with the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup, the National Football League’s Vince Lombardi Trophy, and the National Basketball Association’s Larry O’Brien Trophy).
Although it did not receive its current name until 1985, the trophy was first awarded in 1967, when the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Boston Red Sox. A new Commissioner’s Trophy is created each year, much like the Lombardi Trophy and the O’Brien Trophy; in contrast, the Stanley Cup is passed from champion to champion. Since its inception, the only year that the Commissioner’s Trophy has not been awarded was 1994, when the players’ strike ended the season on August 11, resulting in the cancellation of the entire post-season…
…The current trophy design, which was redesigned in 1999 for the 2000 World Series and made by Tiffany & Co., is worth approximately $15,000. The original trophy was designed by Lawrence Voegele, of Owatonna, Minnesota. The trophy is 24 inches (61 cm) tall, excluding the base, and has a diameter of 11 inches (28 cm). It weighs approximately 30 pounds (14 kg) and is made of sterling silver. The trophy features 30 gold-plated flags, one for each of the Major League teams, which rise above a silver baseball covered with latitude and longitude lines that symbolize the world. The baseball also contains 24-karat vermeil baseball stitches. The base contains an inscription of the signature of the commissioner, as well as the words “Presented by the Commissioner of Baseball”. The new design was presented for the first time at the conclusion of the 2000 World Series, won by the Yankees.
I stepped forward and peered intently at the trophies. The inscriptions. The golden flags. 2004. 2007. They seemed authentic enough, but the fact that they were sitting in this seemingly random oyster bar made me think that perhaps they were just… I dunno… baseball kitsch?
I noticed that the guy in the white polo shirt who had been leaning on the bar staring out the front window was now leaning with his left elbow on the bar so that he faced the trophies. He appeared to be bored. How could a guy be bored when he’s standing next to two Red Sox World Series trophies?
I glanced up from my close scrutiny, extended a forefinger toward one of the trophies and asked him, “Do you know if these are real?”
He stood up straight.
“DO NOT TOUCH THE TROPHIES!” he boomed.
I quickly drew back. It was then that I noticed the small Red Sox insignia that was embroidered on the upper left front of his white polo shirt.
“Okayyyyy, so they are real,” I said.
I glanced at my friend to see whether he was appreciating the situation. He was reading emails on his Blackberry and wasn’t even paying attention to the trophies or my interaction with the man who appeared to be a Red Sox employee.
“What are these doing here?” I asked the man as he resumed his relaxed posture against the bar.
I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it had something to do with businesses having the opportunity to rent or win the trophies for a day to display, advertise and bring in clientele. I don’t know if the full tables had anything to do with the trophies, but the place was certainly packed with people.
I asked, “Can I take pictures?” “Sure,” he replied. “Thanks!”I responded.
I looked at my friend who now had his back to me, surveying the room for a table. I tapped him on the shoulder and when he turned, I said emphatically, “Dude, please tell me you have your camera with you.”
“You want to take a picture? Of what?”
“Of the trophies!!” I replied, exasperated. He shrugged, as though he couldn’t understand why anyone would want to photograph these objects.
I asked again. “Well? Do you have your camera?” I was worried that if he didn’t, I wouldn’t have a record of this moment. Who would believe this story without proof?
He dug his hand into his pants pocket and pulled out a little silver point-and-shoot digital camera. I was relieved.
There wasn’t much space to maneuver. I sort of hunkered down a little in front of the bar, drawing as close to the trophies as I could without touching them while my friend backed up as far as he could and pointed his camera.
“Can you see me and both trophies?” I asked. “Sort of,” he replied.
I figured that asking the Red Sox guy if we could push the trophies closer together would not receive a positive response.
My friend snapped a couple of photos and I borrowed his camera and shot a couple more. He then suggested that we go eat somewhere else because we weren’t going to be seated for a while there and I agreed.
On the way out, as we passed the fused couple at the top of the stairs, the guy finally took notice of what was going on and he unhooked his girlfriend from his earlobe and asked, “Hey, are those trophies real?”
We ended up having dinner at an Italian restaurant and then went to the game to watch the Celtics win the NBA championship with a blow-out of 131-92 over the Lakers. It was a fantastic evening of Boston sports.
And so what is my point in telling you this?
It’s about this snapshot, this photograph of a “Kodak moment” — I can’t stand to look at it. And I can’t stand to show it to anyone. Letting people see this image (without the baseball in place of my head, I mean) would be embarrassing. I was living as a woman then and that isn’t me in that picture.
It’s not just this photograph. It’s all of them. When I see any pre-transition photograph of myself that was taken sometime throughout my life, I wince.
A few weeks ago, there was a going-away party at work for someone who was leaving and a coworker had put together a slide show for him that he played on the big screen in the front of the room. Projected to music was a series of images of current and past employees that this man had worked with over the years.
There were about 50 people in the room and they were ooh-ing and ah-ing, laughing and commenting about the different people whose images flashed up on the screen, but I was standing there cringing. I knew what was coming — photographs of me pre-transition — and I was dreading it.
Sure enough, up popped the first one and the lightheartedness, laughter and cheery banter went dead silent. Think crickets chirping.
I stared at the floor, wanting to see neither the image of that-former-person-who-wasn’t-me nor the faces of the coworkers standing around me. I wondered if they wondered what the proper reaction should be. It was awkward and horrible and that moment played out a couple more times before the slide show finally and mercifully ended.
I ask myself whether I will ever get to a point where I can accept these old photographs for what they are — records of a part of my life that I wish hadn’t transpired in the way that it did, but records of my life nonetheless.
Will I some day be able to sit down with a friend or significant other and pull out my old photo albums and digital image files with confidence and acceptance? Other trans people, like Matt Kailey for instance, seem to be comfortable with their old photographs.
I don’t know if I’ll get to that point, but I hope so. At the moment, however, these are Kodak moments that I keep tucked away.