To The Heavens, They Obliged

The History of the Twin Towers Design and Architecture - Bloomberg

“Good Lord . . . there are no words . . .” CNN Anchor Aaron Brown as the north tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.

Something hit the World Trade,” My wife told me as I was shaving.

Of the myriad thoughts that scrabbled through my brain, I never approached the reality of what had just happened. As I listened to the news coverage, describing the event as a small plane crashing into the North tower, I knew this wasn’t true. I’d been to the twin towers and gotten lost inside the mighty shadow it cast on my every step. They were double imaged testimony of man’s ability to dream big and build even bigger; One hundred and ten stories tall and almost three-quarters the length of a football field wide. A twin-engine Cessna would’ve resembled a pock mark on the side of this massive structure.

“It wasn’t a small plane . . no way,” I said.

9/11 documents detail bravery and fear - Deseret News

It was a few minutes before nine a.m., minutes that separated us from a sinister new normal and the worst kind of evidence that our world had gone sick with madness. I listened as the news reports kept getting it all wrong, and I prayed for the uneasy feeling that wouldn’t quit my bones to leave me be.

I stepped outside to take a call from my sister and lit up a smoke as we talked about what we didn’t know as if it meant something. The sky was a pristine ocean of blue that held forever in its mighty reach, as if Andrew Wyeth had paid God a ransom for the privilege. And then those precious minutes stopped separating us from the truth and then the second plane hit the south tower and then that peaceful blue sky went black and then a quiet Tuesday morning on the cusp of autumn became the meanest winter.

Ohio State studying effects of WTC dust on 9/11 first responders

It wasn’t long before Washington was hit, after which every major city across the country braced for the next attack. And then reports of a plane going down three hours west of us, and then the waiting as time got stuck in this insidious clench of hopelessness. By Tuesday night, I feared sleep as the threat of more attacks continued to prevail. And when I woke early on Wednesday, it was as if midnight had visited us and decided to stay.

I walked my kids to school at the end of the week. I felt an intense need to propagate simple moments out of the unseen world, and I was struck with an even deeper sense of humility. I visited the principal to offer my apologies. I had engaged in a heated argument with him on that Tuesday morning when I insisted on picking up my kids from school because I wanted them with me. I remember the exhaustion on the faces of every adult I came across. We couldn’t turn back time, we couldn’t undo all the horrible crimes that had been perpetrated on us. The calculus on a new millennium had morphed into a frightening new reality, where every person, place and thing could be the end of days.

NYC first responders, non-profit rush to save 9/11 tribute - New York Daily News

The weekend was full of shutting out the world around us the best we could, but it was no use. There were calls from my sisters who had just gotten home from Maine and calls to my cousin, who had been in the north tower, and calls to friends who still wanted to talk about the one thing we were trying to get away from but never would.

I went to church that Sunday. It was something I rarely did by that point, but it felt like the right place to be since I was desperate to gain a peace of mind that wasn’t happening in the days since the attacks. The house worked for me in the way I assume it’s intended to work because I prayed as if I had a direct line to Mother Mary’s ear. I prayed for the heroes who were lost and I prayed for the heroes who kept digging for signs of anything at all. I wished for that deep blue ocean of a sky to return those precious minutes back to them . . . the minutes that came before a raging storm stole their forever away. I wished for a different somewhere, a place where that brilliant sky might get to finish its work for their weary souls.

Wherever they were.

Yesterday Once More

Canadiens-Golden Knights Game 6 score, live updates: Artturi Lehkonen's OT goal sends Montreal to Stanley Cup Final - The Athletic

There’s a line from the movie Miracle in which the legendary Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks lets his young troops know what’s really at stake inside the sixty minute crucible of the biggest hockey game of their lives against the Russians. He tells them the name on the front of the jersey is a hell of a lot more important than the one on the back.

The Tampa Bay Lightning may not be confused with the Soviets powerhouse of a hockey team, but the Bolts are pretty damn good in their own right. And it’s going to take everything this young Canadiens team has to raise that Cup. And unlike that American hockey club at Lake Placid, these Habs have to do it four times in a couple weeks. So where you might be helped by a lucky bounce or a bad game by a superior line in a single game elimination, those chances dwindle when you’re talking about a seven game series.

These Canadiens are good with that. They came into this Stanley Cup playoff season with 500-1 odds to make the finals. Of the four Canadian squads with a dance card, they were given little to no chance of being the first team north of the border to get this far since Vancouver did it in 2011. And when they fell behind to the favored Toronto Maple Leafs three games to one in the first round, you wouldn’t have blamed their fans for toasting to last rites. And then the Canadiens pulled an Ali and got up off the canvas and punched their way through the Leafs, the Jets and the Golden Knights. And now you’ve got a group of kids with a whole bunch of tomorrows in their back pocket, intent on making today the beginning of a brand new chapter in their proud history. It’s been twenty-eight years since the Canadiens were last in the finals, and yet their twenty-four titles are still far and away the most of any team in the sport. Where some might find such a task daunting, this group seems to feed off of it.

These Habs bring a solid mix of veterans and kids to the party. From Brendan Gallagher to Cole Caufield, Tyler Toffoli to Nick Suzuki. And then you have Carey Price in goal, who happens to be in the middle of a playoff run for the ages. He’s been around long enough to know what to expect, and it’s a fine hockey blessing that he gets to sit at the high stakes table now. You want to see guys like Carey Price doing their thing on the sport’s biggest stage, getting his chance at immortality. And now Carey Price has the one thing, the only thing, a competitor really wants. He has his chance. And so does a Canadiens squad that doesn’t know what it doesn’t know, playing for history.

The Canadiens have made June a magical place to be, awakening the echoes of a once mighty empire as they topple the modern day giants of the sport. And now there’s one heavyweight champion left in front of them, looking to defend their belt, after having dispatched the Islanders in a seven-game nail biter.

Tomorrow in Tampa is where past meets present, and all that’s at stake is every single thing these guys play for. It’s when the names on the back of the jerseys get known and it’s where the name on the front of the jersey counts most of all. For this Habs squad, it’s a halcyon dose of recognition for what they have achieved thus far. And they’re well aware tomorrow isn’t promised.

It’s earned.

A Word For Wednesday

The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not mans
-Mark Twain

I told Dale I would post today’s entry because I just do not want to let Wednesday go wordless. Not this Wednesday.

Zeke passed into the mystic on Tuesday afternoon. And as with any brilliant light, the end came much too soon. Because it is always too soon to say goodbye to such a cherished companion. She referred to him as a beautiful beast yesterday and a more fitting description you will not find. He lived a wonderful life as evidenced by this montage pieced together by the love of his life.

Good night, sweet prince.

The Sorryless Non-Refundable 2021 MLB Season Preview!

Image result for San Diego Padres celebrate wild card win

Since I’m still trying to figure a way in to the Magic Dance Sunday series, I decided to change things up this week and go with something completely different. With spring training on the horizon, Imma summon my creative fastball with a 2021 preview of what to expect from the MLB this coming season. And as always, if you decide to place a wager based on these predictions, seek help . . immediately.

The season begins on April Fools Day, and the results are in keeping . . .

Newly acquired slugger George Springer hits a record five home runs in his Blue Jays debut as Toronto beats Gerrit Cole and the Yankees 21-18. New York signs NFL place-kicker Sam Ficken after the loss. In Colorado, the defending champion Dodgers score so many runs that the scoreboard operator resorts to Roman numerals after the fifth inning. Final score: Dodgers XXVIII- Rockies II. The New York Mets win their opener over the Nationals, after which the New York papers declare the NL East Race to be over. The Chicago White Sox club the home team Angels so badly that Mike Trout asks to be traded to a playoff contender. He is promptly dealt to the Rams for five first round draft picks.

Once the season gets its legs kicking, form wins out. In the National League, the Dodgers go undefeated until mid-July and end up beating out the San Diego Padres for the NL West. The Mets win the East going away, prompting owner Steve Cohen to ask for public money to build an exact replica of The Colosseum. For the first time in baseball history, an entire division- the NL Central- is eliminated from postseason play.

In the American League, the Yankees win the East but decide to sit out the playoffs since more than half the team is on the injured list. “We would have to call A-Rod back into service, and I’d much rather hold on to the soul the good Lord gave me,” Says manager Aaron Boone. The White Sox win the AL Central but are upstaged by the Chicago Bears trade for DeShaun Watson so the team announces it will be moving to the cornfields of Iowa in 2022. The Houston Astros win the AL Central despite playing in a literal dump, after MLB removes every trash can from Minute Maid Park.

The postseason is where things get carazy with a capital Ice-T.

The Dodgers fall flat after going 151-3 in the regular season, losing in three straight to the Mets, after which they attempt to trade for the Rams Mike Trout but are thwarted since LA is undefeated thanks in large part to the running back’s MVP caliber season. The Mets then lose a hard fought classic to the Padres in seven games, when Fernando Tatis hits a pennant clinching home run in extra innings. The Mets lodge a protest claiming they led for the first three innings and thus should be awarded the game but the case goes nowhere since the GOP already tried that in the 2020 Presidential election.

In the American League, with the Yankees out, the Tampa Bay Rays stand in for them and proceed to sweep the Astros out of the playoffs. Houston promises to bring a pennant back to Houston next season, after the city’s health department orders the team to house trash cans in their stadium by 2022. The Rays are then swept out themselves by the White Sox, after which the team enters into discussions with the city of Tampa to build a tax-payer funded stadium for the team . . in Montreal.

The World Series is a winner for baseball fans, even if the networks complain that a San Diego/Chicago World Series is a ratings killer on the level of The Alliance of American Football. Fox Sports President Mark Silverman petitions to have the teams replaced with New York and Los Angeles and Commissioner Rob Manfred suggests two World Series be played. The idea goes nowhere since daytime World Series games would have to be played in order to pull it off, and no network worth its gravy is going to forfeit prime time ratings, sorry kids.

With the series locked at three games apiece, the deciding game is played in a snowstorm. It’s the first such storm to hit San Diego in more than fifty years. Illinois GOP Chairman Don Tracy calls it a “Gift from God” but is refuted by California Governor Gavin Newsom who proclaims it to be a byproduct of climate change. Feeling right at home in the elements, the White Sox push five runs across the board and hold serve through the first seven innings before the Padres answer with three runs of their own after replacing their cleats with snowshoes. The game goes to the bottom of the ninth inning with the White Sox clinging to a 5-4 lead when Fernando Tatis comes to the plate with one man on and two outs.

“Tom Brady is one swing away from delivering San Diego its first Stanley Cup ever!” Says a clearly inebriated Joe Buck. The Fox announcer will later admit he played a drinking game in which he downed a shot of tequila every time a batter struck out in Game 7. To the great entertainment of Fox viewers, the teams combine to strike out a record forty six times.

Tatis quickly falls behind 0-2 and appears to tweak his left shoulder, which forces him to finish his at bat from the left side. A Fox Graph follows, grimly predicting the Padres chances of winning to be less than Hilary Clinton’s in a Presidential election. Somehow, Tatis works the count to 3-2 as Joe Buck is replaced in the booth by the legendary Vin Scully, who tucks the baseball season to bed.

“And Tatis has sustained every punch the odds have thrown his way, from the frigid snowflakes out of Currier and Ives to the fiery bullets being served up by Sox closer Alex Colome. Add in the fact that Tatis is batting from the left side for the first time since his days as a prospect in the Dominican League. And now El Nino, as befitting a name in these conditions as Henry Thoreau could muster, is being asked to pen a Cinderella ending for the Friars . . .”

” . . . Colome will be pitching from the windup here with the whole of October in the offing. And now the pitch . . . hit deep down the right field line, if it’s fair its gone . . . it iiiiiiiiiis GONE!” 

And then Scully does something remarkable. He lets the scene play out without injecting a single, solitary adjective. He lets the tapestry of joy and heartbreak play out on its own, and he allows the viewers . . to view. Three minutes worth of watching men transform themselves into little boys again. Stomping through a miracle ending on the way to baseball nirvana. Inside this moment, the world settles into a most agreeable place, where magic and reality intertwine before the season gets lost to winter. And in the dark confines of the losing dugout can be heard that most dignified appraisal of not just baseball, but life itself.

Wait till next year.

 

Magic Dance

Howard Beach, 1983: Liz fumbled across the night table until her index finger was strumming the snooze option on the alarm clock radio. She lay still as the dead, as if by doing so she might stave off the day that was dripping into her brain like tiny beads of water from a faucet. She rose when the morning news broke through the darkness and switched off the alarm clock before moving into the bathroom.

“Fuck . . ” She said, examining the tiny shadow of a curl on her face. A virgin wrinkle. Her mother had taught her the value of pretty faces and gin martinis; a disharmonious combination that would end up stealing the elasticity of Mary Austin’s youth until she concluded that life was no longer worth living, and promptly moved to Long Island.

The chime of the rotary phone in the living room brought Liz back to present day. She ran to its bleating hum like a lovesick Lizzy Borden, craving that melodic timbre that was silk to her senses, even if she wanted to murder the sweet talking sonofabitch.

“Hey funny face,” Danny said. He lifted the moniker from an Audrey Hepburn flick they’d taken in at the Regent Theater in Soho on the day they fell in love.

“A Saturday, Danny? The fuck . . ”

“Half a day, and then we have a hot date at Don Peppe,”

“I wanted a hot date this morning and I got the fucking cat, okay?”

“Okay, forget Don Peppe. Makeup sex, pizza and beer,”

“Uh, no . . you don’t get to cheap out after standing me up. And morning sex beats makeup sex, every day of the week,”

“Debatable,”

“No, what’s debatable is whether you’re getting any tonight,”

“That’s harsh,”

“It’s why you love me. Get me some cheesecake from Eileen’s on your way home,”

“Done. I’ll be home by three,”

“That’s a half day?”

“Yanno, some day when we’re summering in the Hamptons and you’re drinking gin martinis at noon and having sex on a king sized hammock, you’re going to look back on this time and wonder what all the bitching was about,”

“Well now, that depends on the gardener . . .”

“Cheesecake as per your wish good looking,” Danny said.

“I hate you,” Liz replied.

“Hate you more, see you at three,”

Liz turned to find her black cat, Thin Lizzy, tossing daggers at her.

“I don’t need your shit right now sister, so you go tell it to the old man when he gets home,”

She moved to the kitchen and cranked up her coffee maker before delivering up some Al Green on her turntable as the intercom came to life.

“Yeah?!”

“Buzz me in! Buzz me in!” It was her best friend Maria. Liz unlocked the door and poured two cups of coffee, fixing hers up the way the old Cubans did, with enough sugar to send her into a diabetic coma.

“I hate my fucking life! More later . . I gotta piss!”

Maria was what happened when sound got pregnant with fury’s baby. The two of them had been friends since grade school, and Liz was thankful for the fact every single day. To know there was someone in the world more fucked up than her, it was a priceless thing.

“Coffee . .”

“Kitchen, I didn’t add anything to it since I don’t know what your mood is,”

“Bitch knows me!”

“So why does life suck today?”

“Never mind, but okay. Remember Richie Mancuso from high school?”

“Probably not,”

“Sweet black Riv? We went double dating after ditching the prom? You passed out in the front seat and he banged me in the back seat?”

“Oh shit, the guy I thought was too good looking to be straight!”

“Him. Well, we went out last night. He’s a used car salesman now,”

“God, I am so proud of you for moving on,”

“So we’ve gone out twice, he’s banged me twice,”

“When’s the wedding?”

“That’s just it, the fucking guy’s married!”

“It’s just so strange, Mar. A used car salesman . . . who lies,”

“I know! How did you get so lucky, meeting a handsome guy with money?”

“Easy. His childhood was as messed up as mine, Get this, his mother confessed to me that Danny’s father? Ain’t his father,”

“Get the fuck out!”

“Yeah, she pulled me aside at her birthday party last week to tell me this. She was totally wasted so of course I had to confirm it by calling her a couple days later. Turns out, she was messing with a family friend and the next thing she knew . .”

“Danny,”

“Yep. And it makes sense. They’re blonds, can’t grow facial hair to save their lives. I saw pictures of this guy . . has a Robert Redford thing going on. So no complaints on my end,”

“Do you have any weed?”

“Utensils drawer in the kitchen . . .”

“How’s the painting going by the way?”

“Eh, I sold a couple pieces last month at that art gallery in Brooklyn,”

“That’s awesome!”

“Maybe. But it was to the same guy, and I think he only bought them because he wants to sleep with me, so there’s that,”

“Does he look like Robert Redford?”

“More like Robert Redford’s accountant. Toke, por favor,” Liz said.

“Does Danny know? About his old men?”

“Are you nuts? He still thinks his mom was a virgin when she met his . . . when she met Carl,”

“Well when I have kids, they’re gonna know their mother had a good time when she was younger. Lying about your past bites you in the ass, always,” Maria said.

“I’ll make sure to remind you of this when you’re boring the shit out of them with stories of your time in the convent,” Liz smiled.

“Why does love have to suck so much Liz?”

“Because it knows we’ll keep coming back for more . . .”

The Meaning Of Substance

Hank Aaron's Greatness, by the Numbers - The Ringer

From the first time I cradled a Louisville Slugger, I was hooked. There was something immensely captivating about gripping the barrel of that perfectly crafted stick. It was a portal whose ability to transform a gangly eleven year old into one of his heroes was the reason I fell in love with the national pastime across one baseball summer.

Batting stances, they were my thing. I loved collecting them, like so many trading cards. There were scores of funky batting stances going on in the MLB, and each one facilitated a wholly different experience when you tried it on for size . From Doug DeCinces’ back to the pitcher pose to Brian Downing doing just the opposite. There was Don Baylor’s “Royal Guard” and Mickey Rivers hunched over pose which was always followed with a baton flip of his bat on a swing and miss. And of course, there was the imitable Rod Carew. The legendary batsman didn’t swing a bat so much as wave a magic wand when he stepped into the box. His was the maestro serve to the pitcher’s volley and his talent for readjusting the spin of a pitcher’s meanest choice was nothing short of mystical.

Hank Aaron had retired by the time I started following the game in the spring of 1978. All I had to go on when referencing his mighty swing were black and white photos of his time with the Milwaukee Braves and of course, his record breaking smack against Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers; the night when Vin Scully tucked the great man’s opus into the record books for posterity. The night when Babe Ruth doffed his cap and ceded his crown to a black man from the deep south.

Of course, it was never that easy for Aaron. I didn’t know of the struggles he endured as he made his way through the Negro Leagues and into the minor league system of professional baseball. I had no idea as to the scathing hatred he faced on a daily basis, both in the stands and in his own dugout. And I hadn’t yet learned about the nightmarish proposition he faced in the time before and after breaking the all time MLB home-run record: The letters threatening his life and the lives of his family if he dared break Ruth’s record.

All I knew was that Hank Aaron’s swing was a forever kind of deal, with the way he turned a baseball bat into a hammer sent down from the baseball Gods. His swing was crisp and lean, no fat. It was workmanlike in nature until the barrel hit the gas pedal and formed a chemical compound with that fiery pill, blasting it into the deep blue sky. It could be said that Hank Aaron recruited more astronauts than NASA, because every single fan who watched his orbit was transported to the stars.

Hank Aaron and that mighty swing passed in to the ether last week. It was a swing borne of a great American dream, hard earned and complicated. A swing whose brilliance served as a master’s course for baseball fans everywhere. And it was the swing that produced 755 career home runs, which was the MLB record when he retired from the game.

In my eyes, it still is.

 

Searching For Pablo Neruda

His tiny lungs greedily swallowed up as much oxygen as his wiry frame could handle before disappearing under the froth and steam of the mighty ocean that was bearing down on the toes of sleepless shoreline. His legs struggled to maintain a foothold as spent seashells pricked at his toes like miniature soldiers with bayonets and fine sand burned coldly at his heels. He found a steady rhythm with the gaping sway, opening his eyes now to ruminate on the world under his feet, a world stolen by water.

A clench of seaweed danced back and forth like a milksop scarecrow, its roots tethered to a foreign planet that lived a million miles beneath every lonesome foot of separation with the floor of a deep, blue sky. Stones the color of vermillion and smoke, eburnean, peat and umber pocked the roam of invisible footprints whose songs were forged in the calamity of romance and death.

He lay his eyes upon the shimmering platinum sky above and wished never to return to the world of sound, preferring the embrace of silence instead. He prayed that Jules Verne’s restless imagination might write him onto a page of fiction from which he could breathe in this foreign language until the sun lost its way. And that the sea might fetch his mortal bones and remand him to the mighty Gods of the deep. And that his soul might venture like a wild butterfly, feasting sweetly on the mysteries while hurtling through all those less traveled places made famous by rock star poets.

To nowhere and to everything. He prayed.

 

The Rushmore Series: What If?

Yoko Ono | Biography, Art, & Facts | Britannica

New York City, December 1st 2020: 

John Lennon had just gotten back from a trip abroad. He was exhausted and exhilarated all at the same time. His celebrity benefit concert to aid victims of COVID-19 had proved to be a huge success, its outreach would hopefully stem the second wave of cases that had begun springing up across the globe in late summer. There had been no major outbreaks and the purpose of this fundraiser was to make certain it remained that way.

The first wave had been stanched to a great degree by the Kennedy administration’s quick response in answering the pleas for help by state governors across the country. A prompt two week shutdown of the country had proven most effective, during which the appreciable store of ventilators collected while President Obama had been in office helped to save countless lives. By May the country was open for business, with contingencies in place to help prevent an outbreak.

In late August, Paul McCartney and his former bandmate embarked on a three month tour across the globe. With the help of fellow musicians and entertainers, they had raised enough money to help wherever the need was greatest. The “Make America Sing Again” tour was greenlighted by allies and even several countries who had previously been at odds with the United States. Such had become the reach of John Kennedy Jr since sweeping into office in a landslide victory over GOP renegade candidate Donald Trump in 2016.

“Are we seeing John this weekend?” Yoko asked as their car came to a stop outside the Dakota. The two octogenarians stepped out hand in hand, canoodling as if lovesick high schoolers.

“Yes we are dahling . . we can’t miss this party,” He smiled. Kennedy had won re-election over former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, and he had promised his good pal John that the invite was not a “busman’s holiday” and that he would provide cover in the event there were any song requests. The night would be about cooling their jets before refocusing on the future.

As they stepped out into the December night, John shuddered. To think it had been forty years since a crazed gunman had made headlines standing right in this very spot. He had been taken down when an off duty police officer noticed he was carrying a firearm and that he fit the description of a suspect who had accosted the singer James Taylor outside the 72nd Street Station a day earlier. The Beatles “fan” had waited all afternoon and into the night for Lennon to return, with plans to assassinate him in order to collect his fifteen minutes of fame. When he was booked, all he had in his possession was the book Catcher in the Rye, a signed copy of John’s album Double Fantasy and a .38 Special.

John and Yoko had spent the evening at the Record Plant, making refinements to the song Walking on Thin Ice with producers Jack Douglas and David Geffen. Afterwards, the couple invited Robert “Big Bob” Manuel- a security guard at the Plant- to grab a bite to eat. The couple’s original plan to head straight home to say goodnight to their son Sean was scrapped when their sitter called to let them know the boy had come down with a stomach ache and had been sent off to sleep early. So it was when the couple arrived back at their apartment just before midnight on December 8, 1980, they were just in time to see the would be assassin as he was escorted off to jail by the NYPD.

“You alright?” Yoko asked as they stepped into the vestibule and out of the cold, dark night.

“Just thinking . . . if we had arrived back here a few minutes earlier on that night . . .”

“My love, it’s been forty years . .”

“Marry me,” John said.

“Again?” Yoko laughed, smiling that schoolgirl smile only one man on the face of the earth could elicit. “That would be what? . . .”

“The twenty eighth time, dahling . .” John said, bringing her in for a kiss.

“Yes, twenty eight times yes . . . forever yes,” Yoko laughed.

They made their way inside just as the clock struck midnight.

 

Me and Oscar Wilde at a Ballgame

We sit along the third base line as the late summer afternoon puts another quarter in the jukebox of a melodious sky whose lyrics rhyme with every kind of forever after kind of place. And Oscar, he minds to the third baseman, who’s being rather possessive of the mussed up bag he’s responsible for guarding.

“The chap is of a mind to take that thing you call a base home with him, it would seem . . .”

“It’s why they refer to third base as the ‘Hot corner’. Because if you’re looking for the most suspenseful of locales on a diamond? It’s as good a place to start as any,” I explain.

Seven innings down and I’ve explained a lot of the nuts and bolts of a typical game to the old boy. He digests every morsel of information before spitting out literary devices in return, so the bargain? It’s fantastic as far as I’m concerned.

“Why does the fellow on the mound behave in such a fastidious manner? Is it not considered poor etiquette to deny the batter his involvement with this baseball?”

“Involvement with this baseball . . I don’t think Ted Williams could have said it any better than that, my man. Well see, it’s like this. The pitcher is attempting to talk that baseball into doing his bidding. But the batter, he is well aware of the liberties he might be able to take with the very same ball. So the pitcher holds on, as if holding to a lover he fears might quit him,”

“I see. So . . chess with a sidearm?”

“Oh God, Oscar. I can’t imagine Vin Scully could paint a baseball portrait any better!” I say.

“Here, here!” He replies as we clink our plastic cups full of a brand new round of merry.

“And there are how many stanzas to this parade again? . . Nine?” He asks,

“Officially, yes. But unofficially, the game could last forever. There is no clock, there is no time limit. I’m going to lend you a book . .it’s called The Iowa Baseball Confederacy. The author, W.P. Kinsella . . he will educate you as to why the game is like no other game ever invented. Because if both teams are tied after nine innings have been played . . they keep on playing until someone breaks the seal. Home team always batting last . . .”

“Ah, it’s very much like when I penned The Importance of Being Earnest. There were indeed moments that stretched into days and weeks and yes, months . . where I believed the very core of the sun would meet its end before I might conclude! And as it were, I produced several books out of that one . . before business was attended to and the pages were snipped into a more agreeable fashion, as it were . .” Oscar says.

“Because the words are like a baseball game, huh? They have no real end to them. The precarious little buggers,” I say.

“So, assuming this contest does not outlast the sun? Might you have a place for me to settle in, where I may commence with a postlude on the day’s events? It is my solemn wish to share these moments with strangers whose divinity can be found at the bottom of a well apportioned glass!”

“There is a place, across the bridge in fact. Full of firemen whose ancestry goes back to when these streets were navigated by horse drawn carriages. Romantic like that,” I smile.

“Are they the sort to appreciate a good story?” Oscar asks.

“As long as the tap is singing and the company understands the fine art of colorful language . . yes. But I must warn you, they are rascals, the whole lot of them,” I warn him good naturedly.

“I do love a good rascal,”

We toast as the inning ends on a double play, cut clean from the geometrical nursery rhyme of Tinkers to Evers to Chance. And the sun splashes down in one final vertical thrust before bidding adieu.

The visitor’s half of the ninth inning begins with the home team having things well in hand, by a 6-2 score. But with one man out, a rally gets to stepping and the next thing we know it’s 6-4 with two men out, but the bases loaded. And now the buzz of the crowd folds into a single, collective hush as their best hitter steps to the plate with all manner of bad intentions as far as that baseball is concerned.

And now the windup . . and now the pitch . . .

For When The World Stops Standing Still

EVENTS — Creatively Lancaster

Let’s be real. We have no blessed idea what happens from here, I mean, once the lights go back on. Because to believe there will ever be a normal kind of normal, well . . that went away with September 11th. Everything and every day since has been a differently textured sense of normalcy, to which we held because there is something called the everyday to attend to, after all.

Now this, and now the world . . the whole entirety of it, holds its breath in anticipation of light at the end of a tunnel we never saw coming.

Things will change, because that’s how any kind of abrupt intermezzi works on the human psyche. We change, if only in miniature. But still, the things we hold to will have their aesthetic pulp to which we can still be quenched. Just this morning, I was thinking about certain of these items to which my pulse expands. And I knew that no matter what the world ends up looking like on the B side of things, these things will hold me to.

Always.

  • Walking into a baseball stadium and looking out over the field of play and just marveling at the heavenly construction. Wondering how it was possible that someone conceived this mystical design: the idea that fielders could master the vast expanse and pitchers would be able to make a small white pill speak foreign languages whilst hitters could turn on one in the time it takes to blink? And the dimensions of that diamond will seem the most fantastical endeavor of them all. As legendary columnist Red Smith once opined, “Ninety feet between bases is perhaps as close as man has ever come to perfection”.
  • The hush that comes over a movie theater when the crackle of the featured attraction starts to pop across the screen.
  • That buzz, the gloriously definable buzz that washes over a restaurant as dozens of loose conversations weave themselves together. Accompanied by mysterious noises from an unseen kitchen, the clink of glasses. And laughter, ransoming its way across the walls as if you could pick it up and take some for yourself.
  • Standing in front of a piece of art and letting time fall away, like so many leaves on a mysterious tree. Wondering what captured the imagination of the artist to figure out that kind of magic.
  • Running in the park on a spring morning as I pass by a fellow who’s having better luck with his smokes than with dinner. Dogs run across the emerald sweep as their owners toss them a ball. While kids and their parents negotiate the parameters of their afternoon and kites break the sky into small and wondrous pieces.
  • Hugging
  • The sound of a jet overhead as it navigates the muffled crease of a moonlit night. And for a moment, you wonder where that plane is going to and where it came from. And how the world is just this: A collection of fragmented stories, pieced into billions of pieces we will never get to know. And yet, we somehow understand.
  • High fives
  • Book stores, whose perimeters are lined with pilgrims of the written word and java junkies and festering brush fires of idle conversations.
  • City traffic that gets captured by a photographers lens and immortalized in a million different ways that we somehow take for granted.
  • A stranger’s smile
  • Holding hands

For now I lay my head on the pillow and think about a world that caught fire. And perchance there is a dream to be had, and if so I want to dream about some quiet, normal day when all of this will be relegated to hushed whispers.

And nothing more than that.