I used to hate Melvin Mora before I moved to Brownsville.
Yes, I soured on the Orioles’ highly paid third baseman after his numbers fell following the front office’s sweetening of the pot. From North Carolina it seemed like he was sandbagging after he got his big contract.
During the latter part of his time in Baltimore, I was hot on my streak of watching at least one Orioles game per season (which sadly ended in 2013) and each time I made the pilgrimage to Camden Yards, Mora came to bat while the same song played.
I heard the song occasionally outside of the stadium and each time I was reminded of his failure to produce, and I would wince. In truth, I have realized in hindsight that the fact that no one could replace Cal Ripken Jr. likely factored into this dislike, but the truth remains that reminders of Mora brought me no pleasure until I came to South Texas.
It was a year ago March 23 that I arrived here.
While March 23, 2013 was spent mostly in the car on the way from Shreveport, La. to Brownsville, this year’s third day of spring was a whirlwind of episodes.
I spent the morning with my Colombian best friend/coworker who, one year ago, was just the coworker who responded to a tweet 365 nights ago.
I spent the afternoon with a friend who came to the Rio Grande Valley just a month after me. We commonly talk about how much of a culture shock it is as non-Hispanics to have crash-landed in South Texas
I passed the rest of the day watching college basketball, pretending I still lived in an area of the country where that mattered.
Then I went to a club a block away from my apartment and had a few drinks with some friends I actually met at a different bar.
They head to that club most Sundays and usually act as my beards while I whet my appetite for overpriced drinks and dance music.
I headed there again for my one year anniversary, knowing full well that it’s bachata and salsa night.
And then I danced with my friends and eventually met a woman by dancing up to her during a bachata remix of Wrecking Ball.
Let’s just say that neither of those things existed a year ago.
In a region where every night out carries with it the chance of salsa dancing, it’s nice to have a song programmed to memory that I can focus on.
As I count the beats in my head to the count of the cowbell, it’s easy to remember where my feet belong.
But for the songs where the rhythm is hidden, I pretend it’s a cool night in Baltimore and Melvin Mora is coming up to bat.
The song echoes in my head as clearly as it did throughout Oriole Park and all of a sudden I find the music, just as he found the batter’s box.
It’s a strange connection to home, or the East Coast, rather, through a few strange memories, but it’s still a welcome reminder of how far I’ve come. Geographically at least, if not ethnochoreologically.