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While We Still Can

There will be no regrets on this trip.



It could be because I turned 40 not long ago, but I've been thinking lately about regrets. Not regrets about stuff I did, though there's plenty of that, but about stuff I didn't do.

A perfect example: the time I was in Alaska and saw a company offering aerial tours of Mount McKinley for $100. I was on something of a tight budget and schedule, so I declined, but by the end of the day, a crystal-clear thought was pounding in my head: It's not like I'm coming back next week! What was I thinking? But the weather moved in, and I had to be back in Anchorage, and I still haven't seen that mountain.

Back in my Deadhead days, the band used to play shows in all these cool little places in California: Frost Amphitheater at Stanford, the Greek Theater in Berkeley, the Warfield Theater in San Francisco. By the time I got out of college and got my act together, the Grateful Dead were too big for those places, and I had to go see them in football stadiums or big, sterile venues. I was working on tickets to finally see them at Madison Square Garden when Jerry Garcia died and the whole train quit running.

Never saw Eli Manning play football at Ole Miss. Skipped the Jackson Five Victory Tour (their last, it turns out) because of all the screaming girls. Hardly spent any time in New Orleans before Katrina. Didn't hook up with a fellow backpacker I met in Thailand back in the '80s who was inviting me to barely-open Vietnam. Never saw Johnny Carson tape The Tonight Show.

Sure, a lot of this had to do with money. I've never had enough of it to go flying around the world knocking everything off my to-do list. But I do spend money, and I do travel, and I do not have a real good reason for why I didn't do these things. And now I can't do any of them.

Last year, I read two things that brought this energy into focus and focused it on one goal. One was a study of elderly people, which found that a large majority of them, at the end of life, regretted not the bad things they did but the things they didn't do. That sent a chill through me. The other was that 2008 is the last year baseball will be played at Yankee Stadium.

Now, I'm not a Yankees fan by any means. I do like baseball, but like a lot of people I'm turned off by the egos, the money, the steroids, the star-worship, etc. But the Yankees have been playing at Yankee Stadium since 1923. They, and their stadium, and their city are icons. The stadium has seen 33 World Series and 26 Yankee championships. It's where the "win one for the Gipper" speech was given and where the Greatest Football Game Ever Played (1958 Giants-Colts) was played. And that stadium is being torn down after this baseball season.

But besides all that, there's my dad. My dad grew up listening to Yankee games on the radio, back in the 1930s in Leland, Mississippi. Before that, Babe Ruth used to knock balls out of Yankee Stadium. So did Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle. One day I'll tell my little nephews and nieces, and probably their kids, about Alex Rodriguez knocking balls out of there.

But I've never been there, and neither has Dad. And he just turned 74. So awhile back I called him and said, "You know they're tearing down Yankee Stadium, right?" He said yes, and I said, "Well, I think we need to go to a game there." Even over the phone, I could feel him get excited. "I would really like that!" he said. So we're going.

In fact, once I started telling the rest of the family, my nephews got into it (although the 14-year-old insists he's wearing all his Red Sox stuff to the game), and now it's become the Family Trip to New York.

I've been doing my homework on this. Summer airfare from Memphis to Newark, New Jersey, runs about $300 (into New York is closer to $400). Amtrak is around $350, with a possible stopover in Chicago (Cubs game at Wrigley, anyone?), or you can drive it in two eight-hour days. Game-day ticket prices are $14 for the bleachers up to, ahem, $400 for something close to the field, and hotel rooms can be had for about ... well, let's not think about hotel rates in New York City.

As for the stadium, tours (including the field, dugout, press box, clubhouse when available, and historic Monument Park) are $20 — $15 if you get a group of 12 together.

It may be that the males in our family go to the game and the ladies go shopping, but I don't care. I'm gonna see the Yankees play in Yankee Stadium, with Dad, before they tear it down. And I'll be in New York City with my whole family. I'm sure we can find other things to do while we're there — like go see David Letterman tape The Late Show.

You know, while we still can.

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