Pulling for the Jazz

James Taylor is my favorite singer-songwriter of all time. His soothing, soulful voice, his easy melodies. I must know a couple dozen of his songs by heart. I also love him because his songs are stories and they're easy to connect with; something about his music speaks to me. 

Fire and Rain is my favorite song of all time. One Man Band is my favorite live album of all time. 

I remember when I saw his new album in Target a couple years ago, I jumped to pick it up. I didn't know he was still making music, but I literally grew up listening to James Taylor. He was the soundtrack of many a Sunday morning drive to St. Barnabas Episcopal Church for Sunday school.

I listened to the new album, Before This World (Target Exclusive version!), on the drive back home and loved it. I still listen to it all the time. 

One song reminded me so much of my grandma that it made me cry the first time I heard it. Now every time I hear it I think of her.


Eileen Huffman was my favorite person in the world. Some of my favorite childhood memories are with her: throwing stale bread to the seagulls from her back deck at the Sandpiper in Lincoln City. Listening to Margaritaville on the porch in Kooskia with a citronella candle to keep the bugs away. Eating cold pork and beans straight from the can during a power outage. Making her favorite drink, rum and Pepsi. Scaring her with fake spiders so we could get her to say, "Oh ish!" Playing "Go Fish," or "War," or "Crazy Eights" for hours and hours at a time. Throwing pop-its and watching the fireworks with her every Fourth. I remember when my mom drove me out to Lincoln City one weekend to spend the night with her. We stayed up late watching The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. I was so happy.

I miss my grandma. She died when I was 13-years-old. 

She was also a sports fan. I loved the Mariners, she loved the Yankees. I loved the Blazers, she loved the Jazz. We used to endlessly tease each other when the others' team would lose -- especially when our teams played each other. But when I got a set of NBA pencils -- one for each team in the league -- I made sure my grandma got the Utah Jazz pencil, and she kept it in a cup on her table forever.

It's ironic that Grandma was a Yankees fan, because the song that reminds me of her is called Angels of Fenway. It's a beautiful song and a beautiful story about a kid who grew up going to baseball games with his grandma, and who inherited her love for the game and the team. His grandma was born in 1918, the last year the Red Sox won the World Series until they broke the curse and won again in 2004. The song is about baseball -- but it's really about a kid and his relationship with his grandma. 

"Grandmama was a Fenway fan, even after granddad died. I still remember her holding my hand, taking me along for the ride...Nana made another Red Sox fan 'til the day I die."

The end of the song gets me every single time:

"The whole world held its breath, people got down on their knees, ready for the sudden death, praying to heaven for hell to freeze. Nana watched from her hospital bed, she was there 'til the end of the race. I couldn't hear the last words she said, but she was lying there with a smile on her face."

My grandma and I loved the friendly rivalry. It was our thing, something we shared. She loved to tease me when the Yankees would sweep the Mariners. She loved Mariano Rivera. She loved Jerry Sloan and she loved it when Karl Malone and John Stockton would lead the Jazz to a win over the Blazers. She knew she could rib her grandson.

It's funny though. Grandma died over a decade ago, and I don't follow professional basketball much anymore. But whenever I see the Jazz playing on TV, I find myself pulling for them -- and thinking of her. 

Angels of Fenway
by James Taylor

Eighty-six summers gone by
Bambino put a hex on the Bean
We were living on a tear and a sigh
In the shadow of the Bronx machine

Man, you could feel it smoulder
The whole town had an attitude
Then you'd get a little chip on your shoulder
Say something that's downright rude

Oh, damn them Yankees
Outspending everybody two to one
Picking up on the cream of the crop
Stealing everyone's favorite son

Angels of Fenway
Hear our prayer
We have been chastened
We have been patient

Grandmama was a Fenway fan
Even after Grandad died
I still remember her holding my hand
Taking me along for the ride

She was born in 1918
Last year that the Red Sox won
Back then when they sold the Babe
Something that they never should've ever have done

Hey Nana can I have another Coke?
Here comes the hot dog man
Look at that, his bat just broke
Gee, that's got to kill his hand

Riding home on the Green Line
Watching the town go by
Nana made another Red Sox fan
'Til the day I die

That was back in '65
It doesn't seem like a long time ago
Grandmama keeping hope alive
Watched them win in '004

Oh my God, it was beyond belief
Down three, needing four in a row
Holding on by the skin of our teeth
Like a hungry dog on a bone

Angels of Fenway
Give them peace
They have been patient
Red Sox Nation

The whole world held its breath
People got down on their knees
Ready for the sudden death
Praying to heaven for hell to freeze

Nana watched from her hospital bed
She was there 'til the end of the race
I couldn't hear the last words she said
But she was lying there with a smile on her face
Just a little smile on her face

It doesn't feel like a long time ago...