Wednesday, March 28, 2007


The guys around Juan Miguel’s coffee cart see the signs.

“They’re almost the same,” Javier says. “I mean, how much closer could you get?”

Fat bundles of the Daily News and the New York Post landed with a hollow thud on the Bronx sidewalk. Carl Pavano is on the back pages. One headline reads ‘I’m Ready’ the other ‘I Am Ready.’

“Yeah, you can’t get closer than that,” Lou agrees. “I think it means he’s ready.”

Everyone laughs. These are good days in the neighborhood. The winter grime has melted and Opening Day is coming fast.

Javier sucks in his cannonball gut and goes into a windup. Thwack. A perfect imitation of Pavano. On the follow-through he grabs his arm and then his back and finally clutches his chest. Everyone laughs, again.

“Naw,” he chuckles. “I believe in him. The kid’s ready.”

Michael stands at the edge of the group and can manage only a weak smile. He is still adjusting to the idea of life without Bernie Williams.

“You don’t think Bernie’s coming?” he asks the guys.

“No,” they snap. “How many times do we have to tell you?”

A regular around Yankee Stadium, Michael is – as always – in a suit and toting his ever-present Bible. The inside cover is signed by Williams.

“Bernie’s my friend,” he says softly. “What am I gonna do?”

“He’ll be around even if he’s not playing,” the guys, sensing he isn’t joking, try to reassure as he trudges off. “Don’t worry.”

Carl Pavano will start on Opening Day and Bernie Williams won’t.

Signs of the times.

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