Danville, Kentucky – Italian food is food of romance – of Amore. My Uncle Bert taught me to have no love for the Italians after what he saw in Sicily with the fightin’ 7th, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a soft spot for pasta and meatballs in spite of the brutality of Mussolini. It was 1998, and love was in the air. I was at an Olive Garden on what was supposed to be a special night. Preparations were made; a table was reserved, and the lovely staff at that establishment signed off on me bringing in the finest bottle of Andre Champagne that my poker winnings would buy. An even finer engagement ring was carefully placed in a bowl of Chicken & Gnocchi that Mrs. Will Hart #3 was supposed to eat. My heart skipped a beat just thinking about the look on her face when she scooped up some of the creamy broth with her spoon only to discover the golden band with a diamond stud.
There I waited for her, drinking cheap wine to pass the time. The minutes turned to hours and before you knew it, I had been through 3 or 4 of OG’s finest fried mozzarella appetizers in anticipation of the arrival of Mrs. Will Hart #3. The Chicken & Gnocchi she was meant to discover a ring in became lumpy and cold. My desperate phone calls weren’t returned. The Andre remained unpopped.
I hesitate to use the phrase “rock bottom,” because if there’s one thing life has taught me it’s that things can always get worse. That night felt like rock bottom. Defeated, I paid the hefty tab and skulked back to my ’69 Ford with my Andre in one hand and my ring in the other. I felt a numbness I hadn’t felt since Nixon resigned after Watergate.
Later, I wandered around the mean streets of Danville to collect my thoughts, going nowhere in particular. Nothing could prepare me for what I saw next – nothing could prepare me for rock bottom.
Out of the front door of Danville’s Applebee’s – my favorite restaurant, the one place in the world I felt like I belonged before my unceremonious ban – came my would-be 3rd wife and another man. I did what I always did in those situations. Still tipsy from Olive Garden wine, I confronted the man and fought him. Horrified, the woman who betrayed me called for help while I attempted to wail on the man. He hit me back, hard, but I didn’t care. Sometimes, it’s nice to feel pain, if only to remind myself that I’m still alive.
It was a betrayal unlike anything I had ever experienced, until Walter Jocketty traded Johnny Cueto to the Kansas City Royals. I have nothing to say about this series between the Royals and Cincinnati Reds. It hurts me to even think about it. Drunk, alone and divorced at a Chili’s in Lexington watching the pitcher who was supposed to take your team to the promised land in another city’s uniform. That’s rock bottom.