I Had a Chance to Travel Anywhere. Why Did I Pick Spokane?

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By the time I pulled into Spokane, I was furious at myself for coming to Spokane.

I’d had a bad pandemic, though not nearly bad enough that I feel entitled to complain about it, and definitely not to complain about it publicly. In the most important ways, my family was fine: healthy, housed, employed and buffered from the crisis by circumstance, privilege and luck. Relatively speaking, we were exquisitely comfortable and safe — literally on an island, the semirural suburb of Seattle where we live. We had space. We had trees. Until recently, the case counts were low.

Even so, at the onset of the pandemic, my wife and I were both working, and our daughters were 11 and 6. While there were many moments of laughter and togetherness, life in our household also felt precarious and strained. Beneath the warm, opioid glow of family movie night, there seemed to be the potential for some darker disorderliness and pain. And so, I gradually put my career into an induced coma to prioritize our kids.

It was a luxury that felt like a necessity. But it carried its own complications too. As our family’s collective hard time eased, I began having my own personal hard time. The details aren’t important. Let’s just say, I felt as if I were moldering in place. Time passed. Summer came. I was slow to experience any of the combustive euphoria of the reopening while it lasted: I didn’t fly anywhere, didn’t eat inside a restaurant, didn’t see a movie, scarcely set foot in a city, seldom managed to leave my small town. Then Delta swept in, and gazing out, I felt people were being reckless, and I was primed to take their recklessness very personally, on behalf of my one, still-unvaccinated child. But I couldn’t judge what, on the sliding scale of prolonged disaster, counted as reckless anymore.

Here’s what I think was happening: It hadn’t been too painful, initially, to settle into a small, circumscribed life — going grocery shopping, volunteering at our local vaccine clinic, getting together with friends outside. But it meant I’d never been forced, or forced myself, to acclimate to the virus as much as other people seemed to have done. I wasn’t learning to live within the odds. This made me uneasy — personally uneasy, because I interpreted it as a lack of toughness, but also ethically uneasy, because I knew that in a broken society like ours, my comfort came at the expense of other people’s demoralization and discomfort. Still, that’s what happened. And while I’m sure this left me with an exaggerated sense of the risks of leaving my particular bubble, the real problem was, I’d started chronically undervaluing the rewards. I’d been forgoing so much that forgoing felt easy. Too many things I imagined doing began to feel skippable, arbitrary, not a tragedy to decline. Either I was approaching some new state of equanimity and contentedness or I was depressed.

Then, as if I’d won a sweepstakes, this magazine offered me the seemingly wide-open opportunity to fly somewhere for its travel issue. By then, I’d spent almost 17 months parenting two demanding children on an insular island. I needed to get back to work. And so, I considered the befuddling risks, stresses, uncertainties, child care complications, psychic agitations and relative irresponsibility of traveling anywhere at all and asked, “What if I drove to Spokane?”

Spokane, Wash.: birthplace of Father’s Day; hometown of Bing Crosby; a city with a sequence of wide, rocky waterfalls pouring through its center like a Cubist boulevard, cracking it in two.

I’d been genuinely curious about Spokane for years. Though I heard a lot of liberals around Seattle disparage the city, young people kept rediscovering the place, opening businesses there, moving in. I also knew that Spokane was a city with a history of minor-league baseball that stretched back more than a hundred years, and I unreservedly love going to baseball games. A minor-league game felt like a manageable, belated step into the mid-pandemic lifestyle that people were calling post-pandemic life. I would be in a crowd, but a smaller-scale crowd, buffeted by currents of fresh, evening air.

The problem was, in the two weeks leading up to my trip in mid-August, the Delta variant swamped the city. Spokane County had 535 daily cases per 100,000 people, a full vaccination rate that had stalled out at 50 percent and its highest rates of hospitalization since the pandemic began. Still there were a handful of counties in Washington State doing far worse. At some point during my six-hour drive to the city, the governor reinstituted a statewide mask mandate for most indoor public spaces, though it wouldn’t take effect until the following week. In Spokane, there were plans for a protest downtown.

I arrived around dinnertime and found the classy, cavernous lobby of my hotel packed with maskless strangers drinking and eating, but also not even drinking or eating — just lingering, loping through, working on their laptops, working in the restaurant kitchen, bellowing plosive consonants at one another, cavalierly clearing their throats. I went to my room and ordered a hamburger. And when the knock came, I fumbled to mask up, opened the door and discovered a young woman smiling at me at close range, her bare mouth saying, with complete casualness: “How’s your evening going? Getting up to anything fun tonight?”

This was foreign to me. I was agog. And at that point, my consciousness started thrumming, haplessly recalibrating to an unfamiliar magnitude of risk — this place called Spokane. I worried about carrying the virus home to my unvaccinated daughter or my in-laws, understood those odds were still quite low and manageable but also understood that even a mild case in my orbit would create anxiety and disruptions to my family’s already tenuous daily routines and require uncomfortable conversations with friends, foisting the same stress and nuisances on them. School was about to start — fully in-person this year. I didn’t want my kid stranded at home or a ballooning network of other 8-year-olds needing to be swabbed, just because somebody’s idiot father let his guard down in Spokane. “Heard the dad’s a writer,”’ I imagined some understandably infuriated parent writing on our community Facebook page. “He got paid to write about his feelings at a baseball game lol.”

The Hillsboro Hops were in town from Oregon for a six-game series against the Spokane Indians. The name “Indians” was first used for a baseball team in Spokane in 1903. But in 2006, the current team began seriously grappling with how to bear that name respectfully and whether it should continue to use it at all. The baseball Indians reached out to the Spokane Tribe of Indians, whose people have inhabited the area for at least 9,000 years. A unique partnership was forged. When, for example, tribal leaders shared the urgency they felt to preserve their dialect of Salish — at the time, there were roughly a dozen remaining fluent speakers — the baseball team put Salish translations on the signage around its stadium. Since 2014, it has also worn the Salish word Sp’q’n’i (Spokane) across the chests of its jerseys. (The jerseys are auctioned off at the end of the season, and the team donates the proceeds to the tribe’s youth initiative.) When I talked to the chairwoman of the Spokane Tribal Business Council, Carol Evans, she expressed great pride in the partnership and emphasized the fundamental difference between the Spokane Indians baseball club and other teams. “We are not their mascot,” she said. “They’re named after our tribe.”

In fact, the Spokane Indians have four mascots: two dinosaurs, a superhero named Recycle Man and a local species of fish. When I met the team’s senior vice president, Otto Klein, on the field during batting practice, he told me about each of these characters, gushing with the blind fervor of a man bragging about his zany, college-aged kids. Klein has worked for the Spokane Indians for 29 seasons. His skill set was sports marketing, but his essential nature, it seemed, was “host.” He saw his job as hosting the entire, greater Spokane community in his welcoming, unpretentious little baseball stadium at the edge of town — impeccably engineering a cozy and communal feeling for everyone, every night. The mascots were part of that experience, of course. But everything was. “That’s why, you look around, and it’s immaculate,” Klein told me. “I dare you to find a piece of trash.” That’s why there was a Kids Zone beyond the right-field fence, with hopscotch and chalk, and a Wiffle Ball field beyond the fence in left. That’s why everything looked freshly painted, why the bathrooms were well lit and staffed by attendants. (Klein was confident I would have a “positive bathroom experience” that night.) That’s why parking at Avista Stadium is free. “See that?” Klein said at one point. “You could eat off that.” I thought he was gesturing at the seats behind home plate, but he meant the concrete floor.

What the Indians really offer their fans is their hospitality. At this level of minor-league baseball, Klein explained, the show has to be bigger than the nine guys on the field. The Indians are the High A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies — three tiers down from the major leagues, one tier up from the floor. Players pass through the roster rapidly; virtually every week, someone is called up or sent down. (This year, three of the Indians’ five starting pitchers vanished within weeks of Opening Day — just … poof, like a rapture.) That churn scrambles the usual sports-marketing logic, Klein explained. As soon as a ballplayer garners a little star power in Spokane — becomes a fan favorite, a potential bobblehead, a draw — he’s spirited away.

Last year, the pandemic scrapped the entire minor-league season. Now, Klein said, people were returning, with relief and abandon, chasing that normal summer feeling of sitting at a game, even if the world still hadn’t entirely returned to normal. “One of the things that I think sports allows us to do is escape our problems,” he told me. “Right now, you’re here at the ballpark, and you’re not thinking about your cranky boss or the way your wife spoke to you this morning when you left home. It gives you an outlet to be kind of free emotionally and be a part of it.” That’s why I’m here, I said.

It was Dollars in Your Dog Night. With two hours to go before the first pitch, staff members in the stadium kitchen were wrapping hot dogs in foil and randomly inserting play money into some. These bills, in denominations of 1 to 100 dollars, were redeemable for real bills — a total of $2,000 would be given away during the game. Dollars in Your Dog Night was one of the most beloved promotions at Avista Stadium, and the Indians seemed to run a different one every night of the season. (Halloween Night, Pajama Party Night, Bark in the Park, when fans bring their dogs.) Hot-dog sales spike on Dollars in Your Dog Night. The $2,000 is sprinkled among hundreds of dogs — the potential for a payoff, for any individual hot-dog eater, feels attainable and real. “There’s a really good likelihood that you’re going to win money in your hot dog tonight!” Klein told me encouragingly.

After so many months of tracking Covid statistics and deciphering health-department dashboards, of being forced to visualize formerly mundane situations and make bungling calculations about distances, densities, air flow — the trajectories and life spans of billions of invisible aerosols eddying omnidirectionally through the air, and the odds of too many of them lodging up my nose — it was fun to imagine something random happening to me that was good. I might come home from Spokane with Covid, but I might come home with a $20 bill.

I haven’t mentioned the smoke.

I saw the fire in the mountains north of Spokane as I drove into town, discharging its spectral, ashy cloud. The Ford-Corkscrew Fire had more than doubled in size overnight, chewing up 13,000 acres and forcing evacuations. Still it had to be regarded as a relatively puny disaster compared with the megafires in California and even the other fires ravaging Washington State, some of which were also lofting smoke toward Spokane.

For days leading up to my trip, I watched the city’s air-quality numbers rise on my phone, alongside its Covid numbers, tracking this data as compulsively as I tracked baseball statistics as a kid. It was another stressor that I couldn’t control — another catastrophe that we had largely inflicted on ourselves that seemed to be getting inescapably worse everywhere, just at different rates and on different scales and which, therefore, seemed also to require a modulation of our discouragement and alarm. Then, the evening before I left home, the air quality in Spokane deteriorated starkly, edging above 200 on the color-coded meter: Purple. VERY UNHEALTHY. The Indians had a game that night and tried to wait out the smoke for an hour, while the crowd sat in the stands, swaddled in the abrasive, weighted blanket of Planet Earth’s air. When the team finally took the extraordinary step of postponing the game, everyone booed. “It was kind of yucky, but we fans didn’t care,” Karen Kaiser told me.

A minor-league game felt like a manageable, belated step into the mid-pandemic lifestyle that people were calling post-pandemic life.

Kaiser has been watching the Indians play in Spokane for 14 years. She works as a curator at the Jundt Art Museum, on the campus of Gonzaga University, across the river from downtown. When we met in her office one afternoon, she set out a small, faded baseball card of a former Spokane Indians player for me to see. The back of the card described Jack Lohrke as “one of the luckiest boys in baseball.” He was also Kaiser’s dad.

Seventy-five summers ago, in 1946, Lohrke was the Indians’ 22-year-old third baseman and a standout slugger, hitting .345. On June 24, the Indians’ owner received the inevitable phone call: Lohrke was being promoted to the Pacific Coast League. He should report to San Diego right away.

Lohrke was unreachable, however. The team had left Spokane several hours earlier, traveling west across the state for an away game the following day. Shortly after nightfall, the Indians’ bus was climbing through the Cascades in the rain when the driver swerved to avoid an oncoming car. The bus skidded along the guardrail, scraping up a shower of sparks, then broke through the barrier, plunged off the road and bounced 350 feet down the side of a mountain until it hit the riverbank below. Then the gas tanks exploded. Everything burned.

Six of the 13 players aboard were killed instantly. Everyone else was severely injured; three more died in the hospital within days. But Jack Lohrke was totally fine. After receiving the call about his promotion, the Indians’ owner enlisted the help of the State Patrol, and a patrolman managed to spot the team’s bus parked for hamburgers at a truck stop in the middle of the state. He relayed a message to Lohrke, who dispensed quick goodbyes to his teammates and began hitchhiking the 175 miles back to Spokane to pack his things. That is, Lohrke went east while the Indians continued west. Their bus crashed about 45 minutes later.

It was an astonishing story, and the media ran with it. “Lucky Lohrke,” they called him. But the nickname turned out to be even more apt than it seemed. Two summers earlier, Lohrke landed in Normandy with the 35th Infantry Division just after D-Day, then slogged through France and Germany, fighting in some of the grisliest campaigns of World War II. On four separate occasions, he watched the soldier standing on either side of him get killed but was never harmed himself. Then, trying to get home to Los Angeles after being discharged, Lohrke was bumped off an Army transport flight at the last minute to clear a seat for a military V.I.P. He was miffed. Not only was he burning to return home, he’d never flown on an airplane before and was looking forward to the experience. The flight took off without him, then crashed, killing everyone on board.

Growing up in Southern California in the 1950s and ’60s, Karen Kaiser did not hear any of these stories from her dad. He retired from baseball in 1953, after seven mediocre seasons in the big leagues, and took a job as a security guard. As a father, Kaiser told me, he was somewhat forbidding and withdrawn. (“Everyone would say: ‘Jack, you’ve got six kids. You must really love children,’” she remembered, and Lohrke’s line — always delivered flat — was: “Not especially.”) Kaiser relished anytime she could hold her dad’s attention. She loved playing catch with him, even though he threw so hard he would turn her glove hand red. She described herself as a solitary, artistic child in a family of fanatical athletes, and it meant the world to her, she said, when Lohrke snapped at her brothers and sisters to leave her alone and let her draw.

Lohrke never talked about the bus crash, Kaiser said, and the only war stories she could remember the man telling were pat little anecdotes, like the time he had to sleep in a hay bale and woke up so stiff his legs wouldn’t work. “Not a word about watching his friends die,” Kaiser told me. “Not a word.” It wasn’t until she moved to Spokane after winning a scholarship to study art that Kaiser learned more of her father’s history. She was still Karen Lohrke then, and people in Spokane kept surprising her by recognizing her last name. “I was amazed how many people knew about my dad,” she said.

It was around this point in her story that Kaiser paused and asked me to follow her to the museum’s loading dock, where Ken Spiering, a burly, genial older man in work pants and suspenders, was backing up his truck to unload some art.

Spiering, it turns out, is one of Spokane’s best-known artists. He moved to the city in 1968 and has spent his entire adult life in town. In 1989, he created a 12-foot-tall sculpture of a red Radio Flyer wagon that still sits in Riverfront Park at the very heart of Spokane, probably the most iconic piece of public art in a city that seemed to brim with it. (The wagon is a tourist attraction.) Now, at 71, Spiering was transferring his personal collection to the museum, a transaction that Kaiser helped engineer. She and Spiering had been friends for decades. That’s one thing she loved about Spokane, and its artistic community specifically, Kaiser told me: the intimate scale, the unpretentiousness of the scene. “It’s folksy here,” she said, stripping the word of any feeling of belittlement.

I helped carry in a couple of Spiering’s printmaking matrices — detailed woodcuts of a boy sitting by a river, fishing. As we worked, Kaiser noticed her friend’s fingers were bandaged and asked, “What’d you do to your hand?”

“Burned it!” Spiering said. “Right across these four fingers.”

“A torch?” Kaiser asked. “You were making something?”

“No, on the grill,” Spiering said, and began to good-humoredly outline a mundane barbecuing accident.

“Smells a little different than hamburger, doesn’t it?” Kaiser said.

It was a nice moment, that’s all. It made Spokane feel like a welcoming place.

Back in her office, Kaiser stressed that nobody, other than reporters, ever called her father Lucky Lohrke. He was deeply uncomfortable with the nickname. This was important to understand, Kaiser said. All these stories about Jack Lohrke narrowly escaping death didn’t feel breezy and wondrous to Jack Lohrke. To him, they were traumas. They were stories about a succession of his closest friends not escaping death, all while Lohrke kept on existing, knowing they were dead or even watching them die. As a result, he seemed incapable of delivering the kind of lighthearted sound bite that reporters wanted. “I’m a fatalist,” he told The Los Angeles Times.

“It was awful for him,” Kaiser said. After the Indians’ bus crash, Lohrke took it upon himself to drive one of his teammate’s widows back to her parents’ home in San Francisco. Then, continuing on to San Diego, he consoled another teammate’s widow there. When he finally reported to his new team, the owner chewed him out for taking so long to arrive from Spokane. “Where have you been?” the man barked. Lohrke replied, “I’ve been delivering widows.”

Suddenly, I heard myself thinking aloud in Kaiser’s office, struggling to process my own, more banal good fortune as much as her dad’s. How could Jack Lohrke — how could anyone with moral integrity — look back on his survival and feel unequivocally good and deserving of it and also not wind up racked with compassion and hypersensitive to risk? “I think,” Kaiser said, “you’d have to be pretty egocentric to think there’s some overriding meaning about the importance of your life as opposed to somebody else’s.

“He was always worried about us,” Kaiser went on. Lohrke usually seemed quite even-keeled, but he would fly into a panic whenever one of his children failed to get home before dark. Kaiser remembered one day, when she was 7 or 8, her dad was up on the roof fixing something, and she begged pitifully to be allowed up to help. Finally, her father caved. “Dad said, ‘Aw, bring her up here.’” And she was hoisted up.

Lohrke sat his little daughter down, pulled the extra denim of her pant legs away from her body, and proceeded to hammer nails through the fabric, all around, securing his child to the shingles so she wouldn’t slide off.

“I was happy as a clam,” Kaiser told me, “just sitting up there, just being where he was.”

I bought two hot dogs in the top of the fourth but didn’t win any money. In truth, I suspected I didn’t even have a chance of winning money, because I happened to order my hot dogs at a moment when the smaller of Avista Stadium’s two concession stands momentarily ran out of hot dogs — a fleeting and completely forgivable collapse of hospitality that, nevertheless, I’m sure will pain Otto Klein to read about here. Within minutes, workers scuttled in from the stadium kitchen, first with a tray of hot dogs, then with two bags of buns, to clear the backlog of customers. I watched the people behind the counter assemble and wrap them together as fast as they could. In their haste, they seemed to have abandoned the project of stuffing any dollars in the dogs. Later, though, I learned that this wasn’t an oversight. All the money was disbursed in the early innings. I’d misunderstood and missed the whole thing.

Honestly, I didn’t care. It was a trivial blip of disappointment at worst. I realized I hadn’t been to a baseball game since I chaperoned my daughter’s field trip to see the Mariners in the spring of 2019, and I felt grateful just to soak up all the usual, wonderful baseball stuff happening around me, the nuanced inflections of an experience that I’d known all my life. I was reconnecting with all the nostalgic clichés — the crack of the bat, and so on — but also subtler particulars: the helpless sensation of scampering to the bathroom and hearing, from the other side of the stands, a tense, collective roar, then a terrible, collective groan, and knowing I missed an opposing player’s home run; watching a little redheaded girl, the age of my younger daughter, creep down the right-field seats toward the Indians bullpen clutching a green Crayola marker, flip through her program and match the number on the closest player’s back to his name, and then screw up the courage to ask Mr. Whoever He Was for his autograph; the anesthetizing, stadium-wide wash of white noise and murmuring that can miraculously set in during the doldrums of a very long at-bat.

Otto Klein’s people, meanwhile, were putting on their show, spackling every crack in the action with giveaways, games and promotions. Down on the field, between innings, little kids tried to throw pizza boxes into fishing nets to win prize packs, or jumped up and down with pedometers strapped to their foreheads. These contests were relentless (“OK, guys! It’s really simple! We’re going to take those toilet seats and throw them like horseshoes!”) and the mascots kept coming, too: the blue dinosaur, the other dinosaur and, most beloved of all, making his traditional appearance in the middle of the sixth, Ribby the Redband Trout.

Ribby is a homage to an ecologically precarious subspecies of rainbow trout that spawns in the Spokane River. The fish tottered in from left field, anthropomorphically upright, then planted his feet to perform his signature dance: a quick, perfectly perpendicular vibration of the torso, executed with uncanny evenness and precision, as though there were not a human inside the Ribby suit but a pneumatic paint-can shaker from the local hardware store. My jaw dropped. People howled. The woman in front of me buckled over with glee. It was the most unusual thing I’ve ever seen a mascot do. “Hope you enjoyed Ribby!” the Indians P.R. officer texted me proudly once the euphoria had passed. I replied, “That shake is really something.”

I was enjoying myself! I was energized! The moon was low and radiant behind the stadium lights, and the air quality had eased to MODERATE. “Baseball is good!” I texted my wife. Still, concurrent with all that, I never stopped clocking my proximity risk. All this expert entertainment and distraction and I still couldn’t mentally escape the pandemic as fully as those people just sitting around my hotel lobby seemed to have done. All evening, I would hop from one mostly vacant tract of seats to another, so I could take off my mask and feel marginally less self-conscious. Virtually no one else was masked, and there were small, unmasked children everywhere — a conspicuous violation of the stadium’s policy that unvaccinated people must wear masks. I preferred not to breathe on them, just in case. I had never managed to embrace that one pandemic mantra: “It’s probably fine.”

The game went into the bottom of the eighth tied up, 3-3. The Indians’ first baseman hit a grounder to the right side and reached first when the pitcher failed to step on the bag. Then he stole second. Then he bolted for home on a double to deep center field. The throw to the plate appeared to keep rising and rising. The Hillsboro catcher leapt but landed empty-handed. The Indians took the lead, 4-3.

The Spokane closer, Dugan Darnell, came in to stitch up the ninth. Darnell is a 24-year-old Michigander who, after graduating from college in 2019, didn’t have any opportunities to play professional baseball. So he made a résumé and eventually got a job as a “financial adviser recruitment consultant” at an analyst firm in Chicago, after interviewing for the position five times. He was midway through his second day of work when he got a call on his cellphone from the SouthShore Railcats in Gary, Ind., offering him a spot in a small independent league. He quit his white-collar job on the spot and hopped two trains and a bus to meet his new team. He was lucky, he explained to me before the game, “I told my bosses I didn’t want any what-ifs.”

Now, Darnell was striking out the first batter he faced. Then another one, too. After the final batter lined out, the crowd exploded. The Indians’ outfielders converged for a leaping, three-way high-five, then trotted in to hug and shake hands. The joy, for me, was Pavlovian. The home team won.

Soon the field was empty, except for Ribby the Redband Trout, whom I watched toddle in wide, pointless circles near third base — not fully performing anymore, but not exactly taking a break. Then “Don’t Stop Believin’” started cranking on the P.A., and the children appeared — a long parade of them, tightly clustered and impeccably straight, filing in from beyond right field where they’d been organized for one last, warmhearted Avista Stadium tradition — the chance to run the bases after the game. Presiding over this exercise was Otto Klein. Standing in front of home plate, he pointed the antenna of his walkie-talkie at the first child’s feet and started flicking it sharply again and again, signaling to the kids, one at a time, when it was time to take off.

I watched them run and run: the young, clunky ones who slingshotted uncontrollably around first base, and the serious-faced tweens who crouched and sprinted, with something to prove. One or two scuttled by holding an older sibling’s hand.

Suddenly, something surprising happened to me. I missed my own children, the same two girls from whom I’d wanted to peel myself away for a year and a half, who had infuriated me, depleted me, screamed at me, taken me for granted, picked insultingly at the dinners I cooked. I missed my younger daughter: a sweet, complicated, anxious and stupefyingly talkative child, who had been marooned with a Chromebook at our kitchen table with an agonizing backlog of things to worry about and say. And I missed my older daughter — a contemplative and perceptive girl who, a few days earlier, when we had our first bout of summer smoke at home, looked up from our driveway and wondered aloud if her own children would think the yellow suns she drew as a kid were strange, because, by then, the sun would always look red.

In that moment, I understood that I was failing them. I don’t mean as a father, not one on one. I mean as part of a society that seemed, with increasing bluntness, to be sending its children signals that it would not prioritize their well-being or their future — that it would not keep them safe. Why, from the very start of the pandemic, had I felt an inescapable responsibility to stay focused on my daughters even when I couldn’t do it gracefully, which was a lot of the time, even when I felt resentful, even when it became obvious, I suspect to them as well, that this compulsion was neurotic and had left me feeling rudderless and stuck? It wasn’t overprotectiveness. It was shame. It was grief. The one meaningful thing I had to give them was my attention.

I wish this epiphany had passed before the time came to write it down. I’m not sure I have a right to be so gloomy. But why bother re-entering the world and not be honest about how it went: that I traveled somewhere, tried to get a feel for the place, but struggled to feel much beyond the heaviness of my own head. That I was the melancholy doof in the mask behind the dugout in Spokane, feeling lucky — heartbreakingly lucky — just to be there and to feel as good as I did, while all the other parents crowded in around me, screaming for their kids to round third and run home.

Jon Mooallem is a writer at large for the magazine and the author of a book about the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964, “This Is Chance!” His book of essays, “Serious Face,” will be published next spring. Meron Menghistab is an Eritrean-American photographer from the South End of Seattle known for his reportage and portraiture work.

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