Fans of baseball and elections found suspense and drama in the long playoff series closing the 2020 seasons, some with delight, others with disappointment, of course, but to say despair is too much; after all, it’s just a game – one in which many fans show not much interest until the end of the season when the pennants are up for grabs, the news and ads full of hype and hyperbole, the waving of bunting pandemic. Baseball fans were heartened to see a fair play series between the Dodgers and the Rays, particularly after the Astros allegedly stole championships with their sign stealing campaign now exposed, confirmed, and penalized in scandal for the 2017 through 2019 seasons. The record books for the 2020 baseball and election seasons will be forever checked with asterisks for the influence of Coronavirus disease 2019 on the play and outcomes. Assumptions got tested, predictions again found presumptuous, and predilections and presuppositions exposed. And the utmost importance of audience was heralded, as fans insisted on being a part of the game.
By Workshop 5 I was workshop weary, having just come out of Workshop 4 more uncertain than ever about Sylvie’s 5 W’s of writing, not to mention the H: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. How to write. And why. And all the rest. I liked the folks in Workshop, but I wasn’t sure they had the 5 W’s or the H down anymore than I did, nor did Soto seem to, in spite of his credentials. From a young age he had wanted not simply to write but to be a writer, not necessarily a published writer, for just about anybody brought up on phonics could accomplish that, but a published writer of significance. He didn’t just want to play baseball (sandlot, or city softball league); he wanted to play shortstop for the LA Dodgers, or pitch closer for the New York Yankees, or announce play by play for the Yomiuri Giants (the first two being poetry, the other prose). Early success had not spoiled him, and he was lucky to escape injury, and he believed in himself and made it to the big leagues, if not at short or closer, the bullpen bench, success enough to sign his autograph to baseballs for kids before the game for a few years. And now he was calling play by play on the radio in writing workshops. But the workshop itself wasn’t writing, it was talking about writing – not at all the same thing; eating a hotdog with a beer in the outfield stands isn’t playing baseball. But it wasn’t that the talking of writing wasn’t helpful. It was. But it didn’t alter the fundamentals of confusion, of mistaking desire for touch. And then it came to me. Put down the pen, close the laptop, save the paper for the birdcage, the little notebook for grocery lists, things to do, reminders. I didn’t want to be a writer. What I really wanted to do was play baseball.
“Play Ball” is episode 80 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
History, a day game, his story, a looper machine, a rhythm continuously churning the same old fat. The past cannot cure this present precious moment as it is devoured by his own story. The ark sinks, the birds do not return, the sacrifice runs on and on and on. He was so Goddy Dodgy that he gave his only Son so that no one would need to sacrifice or be sacrificed again, to bring peace, yet every son and daughter is still sacrificed. Moloch. The Earth rolls forward, will not be stopped, leaves no tracks, nothing motionless as this tiny airplane 8 miles high begins its descent to a 9 inning game where I sit in the center field bleachers in the Tucson sun for an inning before retreating to Sylvie’s air conditioned suite next to the press box over home plate, with a glass of iced tea with a slice of lemon and a sprig of spearmint stick. Perado grounds to short, out at first. Alofme strikes out, looking hot and dehydrated, too exhausted to swing the bat. Carmone drives a hard ball to deep right center and already rounds first when Waltzer up against the fence leaps and pockets the shooting star. Sylvie mentions a few fine restaurants where we might later dine. She likes to eat out, under the blue skies, in the open air, and there’s a one story place she knows in South Tucson with a roof patio, with shade palms in huge buckets and fine water misters cooling the outside tables and a water fountain running against the traffic noise, bubbling and burbling, colorful umbrellas. The game was booked, we left the ballpark for the restaurant, and on the menu we found Berkshire Pig Tacos, Ossobuco with Gremolata, Peruvian Roasted Chicken. Sylvie ordered a bottle of cold dry white Merlot and another of dusty purple Sangiovese. The skies were blue, the sun setting solid gold, the heat lifting quickly in the cloudless desert evening. Your skies are never blue, Sylvie said. Always cloudy, or foggy, grey, cold. Why don’t you come live in the desert for some time away. There are ways to cool off. Swimming holes, sunhats, shorts and t shirts and sandals. The shade of the Tipu trees, Velvet Mesquite, the Blue Verde. Why do you gotta be so desperate all the time? Find some blue skies, enjoy the porch shade, relax. Stop worrying about the world. You’re the King of Anhedonia. Take off that crown of thorns. Feel some joy. Joie de vivre. Sit out with me and talk and dine and let the blue skies seep deep into your body. She reached across the table for my hand and I let her take it in hers and I tried to feel some pleasure in it.
“Blue Skies” is episode 58 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
I wandered over to the post office at Fort MacArthur to check General Delivery and found I had a postcard from Sylvie: Hi, G! With team in Japan 3rd day of 9 day whirlwind tour with 3 game series at the Hiroshima Stadium vs the Carp. Visited the Peace Memorial yesterday. Very sober. Team in good shape, but lost first game to Carp, 5 to 3. Got 6 ok innings out of starter Bell, who gave up 3 runs on 2 walks and a double in the third then a solo homer in the 5th, then bunt, stolen base, and walk off double off reliever Potts by Carp in bottom of 9th. Heading out to ballpark now for some publicity interviews, pics, etc. Hope all’s well w you! Love, Sylvie. Continued walk and from the views around Fort MacArthur I took in the ocean, thinking of the possibility of a neutrino like trip through the waves and I’d instantly be able to join Sylvie at the ballpark and take in the game in Japan with some salty peanuts and a couple of beers and maybe a sushi and rice bento. Instead, I found my way over to the harbor and walked down a ramp to check out the yachts, and there I found Cajetan who had found a job cleaning boats. We agreed to meet up for a beer later on the Rooftop. I walked back to Hotel Julian and pinned Sylvie’s postcard to the wall by the side of my bed, with the pic of the Peace Memorial facing out, and fell asleep and dreamed of meetings and presentations and trips up and down the West Coast thwarted by failed connections, ticketing issues, floods, and train wrecks, roads rising and falling like waves.
“Postcard from Sylvie” is episode 38 of Inventories
a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
(Click link for continuous, one page view of all episodes.)
Note: With episode 30, the title of the novel was changed
from the original working title of “Ball Lightning” to Inventories.
Capital. Jobs. Detrimental reliance.
Rumored it is the gods have lost power over time, and it’s true many of them have exchanged their berths in Heaven for capital on Earth. Nevertheless, many lesser gods remain, living on Earth, though adulterated with traces of human genome. And it’s difficult to determine if the god has absorbed some of the human or the human some of a god. Either way, a tiny insertion of one or deletion of another can result in unpredictable change in behavior, altruistic and selfish. As I made my way daily to and from the pier to fish, waiting for word from Sot, I saw that the South Bay was full of lesser gods: bellhops; waiters and waitresses; truck farmers with vegetables, flowers, and herbs; car wash attendants; house painters; roofers; cab drivers; dishwashers; bicycle and wheeled and track vehicle mechanics; maids, housekeepers, concierges; sex workers; au pairs; gas station attendants, clerks, bussers, baristas, bartenders. The theory goes the gods have lost power because human belief in them has waned, dwindled to a trickle. The symbiotic relationship has weakened, belief in one another deemed necessary for the continuance of both. Detrimental reliance has upset the cart. Rumor has it there’s to be a giant baseball game, good versus evil, lightning balls thrown and hit, and the losers will be cast from Earth into space. But it’s just another rumor. I don’t know how these things get started.
is episode 18 of
a Novel in Progress
in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
(Click link for continuous, one page view of all episodes.)
Late for a meeting. "extreme and unusual risk." "hacked and...gobsmacked"
I was late for my meeting with Walter. I had some explaining to do, but I wasn’t in the mood for working together as a team in the spirit of cooperation toward common goals for the mutual benefit of all. Nor did I feel like throwing any bums a dime. I was their in house Risk Manager. Walter was itself a Risk Management Brokerage, specializing in extreme and unusual risk. Sometimes avoidance was the best answer. I rode down Pine to First and over to Pike to the Market and looked for a place to pull the Harley over and park. Cleo nodded I could squeeze into the space in front of his international news stall. The rain had stopped, the clouds still low and grey and blue and hanging bushed like wads of cotton candy over the diamond. Out on the water a ferry would be approaching, carrying Walter from his The Breakers West on Bainbridge Island. I was late with my quarterly report. We’d been hacked and I was still too gobsmacked to explain it. Walter would want to know who, when, what, where, why, and how. “Damned if I know,” was not the answer he’d want to hear from his six digit plus bonus contracted Risk Manager.
“Hacked and Gobsmacked”
is episode 2 of
a Novel in Progress
in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads
Riding Harley in the rain in Seattle. Ball lightning. The gods.
I throttled my green gnarly Harley across I-90 from Bellevue, wind chopped waves blowing over the wall on the south side of the bridge, the water as smooth as a coffin lid on the north side. I raddled through the last tunnel and merged onto I-5 north to downtown Seattle. A glob of ball lightning looped out of a smoke ring cloud hanging over the ballpark. The ball lightning bounced across the closed roof. The baseball stadium looked funereal. No game tonight. The winter circus was in town. On nights like this the gods might get bored and when the gods get bored no amount of prayer satisfies these clouds of gluttony, the local paradise filling like a wet basement. Why so many gods, I don’t know. Even the Catholics (and I am one, though maybe not a good one, whatever good means, but as Reverend Mother Mary Annette never tired of telling us, once a Catholic, always a Catholic), who profess belief in but one God, pray to the Saints and Mary and the rest, who seem to function much like the old Greek and Roman gods, one for every need or desire, one for every occasion, one for every problem, one for every predicament. A god for this, a god for that. A god for the nice, a god for the mean. Finely balanced too, the old gods, but like an unequal arm balance, some more powerful than others, leaving it to the mortals to try to balance things out. Still, evens up: one for light, one for dark; one for water, one for air; one for love, one for hate. Always meddling in human affairs, though, these immortals. Sure seem to get in the way all too often. Always wanting something, too, a piece of the human pie chart, insatiable. Why do we keep calling out to them? Was there a Saint of scooters? Could use a prayer to him now. Dear Saint Scooter, please get me and my Vespa downtown safely, as an 18 wheeler passes at twice my speed, his mud flap cowgirls waving and laughing. God of lead, god of gold. God of the meek, and god of the bold. God of yes, and god of no. God of hot, god of cold. God of bought, and god of sold. God of gods, who never grows old, oldest of all.
“The gods Get Bored”
is episode 1 of
a Novel in Progress
in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads
At first, I couldn’t find the Dodgers on TV last night, the second game in a series with the Giants in Los Angeles beginning the 2020 shortened season; apparently wasn’t available on the MLB channel in Portland. The Mariners were on the local Root Sports channel, and I was glad to hear the same folks doing the play-by-play as if nothing has changed. Then I was surprised to find the Dodger game on some obscure cable channel. I watched an infield grounder, the batter thrown out at first, a routine play, and then I heard it: Canned Cheering, a canned crowd.
To be canned is to be thrown out, maybe deriving from the US English garbage can. The 2020 season, delayed about four months by the pandemic shutdown, is being played in stadiums full of empty seats, no tickets sold, unless you count the selfie cutouts available from the Dodgers. That must be where the noise is coming from.
If you’ve ever played a game of street or backyard whiffle ball, or a game of over-the-line in the local park, you might know you don’t need an audience to enjoy baseball. Rules vary depending on the venue – over the house is a home run, but a foul ball over the fence, falling into the street, is an automatic out.
“I’m the Dodgers. Who are you?”
“I’ll be the Giants, Juan Marichal on the mound.”
The game is on, all a foot, the fantasy as real as real ever gets.
Because Major League Baseball as viewed from the stands or television is not exactly real. The real game is played behind a facade of hero, dream, and cleanliness. Maybe the canned crowd was brought in because of plays like the one in which Dodger Joc Pederson, on his way to being thrown out at first in the fanless season opener, doubles the F Word while running down the line, his voice fairly clearly picked up by the TV mics in the quiet stadium and broadcast into living rooms around the US – where, what, no one ever uses the F Word?
Respect is born out of shame, shame a form of control. Language is contumacious; it swells and breaks and rolls like the restless ocean. Words are turbulent, irrepressible. At the same time, cussing is often the evidence of a lazy tongue. That is why I decided to omit the F Word from “Penina’s Letters,” with the exception of the discussion in the chapter titled “Henry and the Punctuations”:
“The experience of war can not be told in words,” I said, “but when F-words fill the cheeks with froth, a fascist has infiltrated the mind.”
“Who the fuck talks like that?” Bucket scrunched his eyebrows over scowling lips.
“My friend, Henry,” I said. “It’s a game we play.”
“Clever,” Gabbia said. “But getting back to the common soldier, surely words like fuck and shit are as common as cigarettes and coffee. Part of his mess kit, I shouldn’t wonder.”
“That’s right,” I said. “And, like the mess, rationed.”
“But surely the unfixed tongue is one of the few freedoms the foot soldier feels, and in the fire of the fight, is a weapon he can unleash to gratify his fear.”
“To be frank, no,” I said. “But, the foot soldier does make efficient and effective use of his F-word vocabulary.”
“Do tell,” Gabbia said (148-149).
Photo: With my brother John at a Dodger game, September, 1975. Photo by Susan.
“And the phantom crowd’s horrific boo“Dream of a Baseball Star,” Gregory Corso, from The Happy Birthday of Death, 1960
dispersed the gargoyles from Notre Dame.”
Yesterday, July 23, was opening day of the pandemic delayed Major League Baseball season. That’s about four months later than normal. The abnormal, short 60 game season is underway. Welcome to the virtual ballpark. I missed the first game, the Yankees vs Washington Nationals in New York, which already tested one of the new, shortened season rules: the Nationals lost in only 5 and half innings, timing out due to rain delay. One of the new short season rules eliminates any chance to play the game out to 9 innings.
But I caught the second game, the Dodger game, against the visiting Giants, played in a fanless Dodger Stadium on what appeared to be a typical sunny late July LA evening, but quiet, still, the air clear. What is the opposite of standing room only? Empty seats.
But not exactly empty. Cardboard cutouts of fans filled the seats behind home plate. There was Tommy Lasorda, former Dodger player and manager, leading the cheers to the Dodger late innings 8 to 1 win. Fans can buy a selfie cutout. Maybe Paul and Ringo will spring for a whole pavilion section devoted to cutouts from the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover.
Baseball has never been a good example of an effectively televised sport (McLuhan explained why). But the season opener last night underscored the importance of a fan filled stadium, smelly beer and greasy hotdogs, peanuts, and Cracker Jack, also the importance of ceremonial hoopla to major league sports. The fans are part of the game, as William Carlos Williams suggested in his poem, “The crowd at the ball game“:
“It is summer, it is the solstice
the crowd is
cheering, the crowd is laughing
Aging, and working on mindfulness, one may find one’s lackadaisical waking mindset similar to one’s sleeping condition. Normally (not necessarily as a rule but on the whole and customarily), the logical links connecting thoughts create continuity and coherence and one feels in control, though who or where that one is, where one feels it, or to what extent any feeling of control is fantastical, gets instant replay once the lights go out – replay in slow-motion, surreal angles, calls reversed. That helps explain why poets have always had an affinity for baseball.
Photo: Portland Beavers, by Joe Linker
Run now down the dreary drowning droning
cheers of summer under yellow umbrellas
American baseball under rain
A last blue light in the little lilac
and raspberries wandering and falling
spray of pop flies
Sun slips between clouds squeeze play
cat sitting on cedar deck
gives backward glance
White stone paper cup empty beer
jangle of green grass fills
sun and cat and clouds
Fans all napping
sun crosses bird feathers
field and stands empty nest.
|A bowl of vanilla
as white as the apple
of your eye.
lost in the wild
Fresh yellow of daisies, not the father orange of July, nor the old man red-orange of August, or still older bleached-orange of Fall,
not the infant one of March, but the teeming one of late Spring, teasing practical joker.
|One day your scout
has your attention
for a week, sends a postcard
from the Road.
|“Wish you were here! The sun is a marshmallow on a stick in a fire on the beach, the wave mister going
And here’s the pitch –
and there’s a drive,
deep left center,
Davis at a gallop,
one hands it!
the green cane.