Sometimes I feel like Albert Finney
in Network, all foam and froth and praying for therapy—had enough and hanging my tired-as-hell self out the window by my own feet, threatening me to stay level-headed and composed or else, telling me if I don't shuttup I'll let go and end it all... trying to keep calm in the face of the unending stream of nonsense. It comes from all directions, never sleeps, has sharp teeth and breath to wilt your soul. With each passing moment I become more frantic and horrified by my awareness of the world, an appalled spectator watching as we go streaking toward the 21st century with the capacities of angels and gods and the brains and hearts of scarecrows and tinmen. I know mobs of people that would unthinkingly claim to be men without any hint or feeling of what that might mean, even if it were to be assumed meaningful nowadays. I know crowds of thousands who are just too tired this evening to attend to anything more strenuous than a beer and a leg up, to hell with infinity and any shot at grasping it or feeling it or feeling anything more complex than an erection or a balled fist. I keep telling me that thinking is for those with time for it, but hell I've been as busy as anyone I've ever met and it's not like I've lived an exceptionally privileged life other than being born white and periodically audacious. I work hard every day and have danced the dance with mayhem, angst, and irony more often than most, but I still have this hunger to go looking for everything. Am I upset because I see so many moving across this stage like hapless drones and feel as if I've done more than my share, or is it simply the frustration of knowing that all my efforts will leave no marks other than those inside?
Suddenly this summer
I'm screaming at a truck driver, my elder in fact, who is looking at me as if every ounce of the chemical stew tearing up his nervous system is telling him to kill me with his bare hands, and they have pushed all my buttons today and I have a new platitude, I've made up another, and it goes like this: "It's toooo early!" See, every day I need to relearn how screwed up this world really is (and every morning he sings: "well the weather outside is frightful...") so it takes me until noon-ish anyway to attain my full coping strength. Now at 8:30 a.m. I am unable to deal with the things that people try to teach me, like that Women are Thoroughly Dishonest (the latest in genetics), or that Blacks Can't Swim (they sink like rocks), or that Gays All Want to Eat Our Children With Spoons (something to do with a popular though vastly outdated religious tome called the bible). HAVE I BEEN READING ALL THE WRONG BOOKS?
[And on these occasions I always wish life were like that Woody Allen movie, the one where he hears some guy pontificating on Marshall McLuhan and flustered he suddenly stops him: "I have Marshall McLuhan right here" and sure enough here comes M.M. to inform this guy that what he's saying is total and utter nonsense.]
Now today's grand sweeping theme is "Kill Them All," and I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore so here I am howling at this man I hardly know about the low amusement quotient of stupidity, about the errant politics of exclusion, about being cheated and going to the grave knowing nothing of importance, about oh yeah right that's why all of the sages down through the ages have espoused the wanton murder of whomever has slipped up and become different than you. You think this stuff is funny, this isn't funny the world is a shitstorm of heinous acts and intentions and abuse and this buddy-buddy clubhouse noise where we all sit around and hardy-har derisively about everyone outside this cozy circle does not play here—if you want me to be capable of listening to this drivel you base your attitudes on you must wait until at least after lunch, when I am stronger and more aware of where I am and my threshold for mean-spiritedness is higher. All this and so much more for way too long ranting at a guy maybe fifteen years my senior and the only reason his hands aren't slippery with my blood is that I can hear the popping of circuitry in his head from where I stand, his anger doubled by the fact that he has to admit I am making an unfamiliar kind of sense.
And later my trembling has stopped
and he is gone and I realize I could've handled that better? All week long I wonder how to apologize to him for the way I said it, while making no mistake that I meant every word.
(I feel I am missing an aspect of understanding, a component that will allow me to relax a bit more and not take so much to heart. That Zen wisdom that clears out every moment so you can concentrate fully on doing just what you can as well as you can, without the pressure of MORE. I should not hold myself responsible for the minimal daily requirements of my brethren, I haven't the strength for it.)
The following week he comes back to deliver again, and as I approach him I realize I still haven't got it figured so I'm clearing my head in order to start improvising, and he says "Hey, buddy, I'd like to apologize to ya for last week, I was way out of line..." and I am surprised by this, hadn't even imagined this as a possibility.
"I've learned that anger against injustice is good for you. It sharpens the soul."
—Paul Monette, Last Watch of the Night
I see this quote
in a book-club flier a few days later and my fingers cross with hope that it's true, as I also suspect a case could be made for my anger as subtracter: the finer point being that I don't believe it possible to teach anyone anything by insulting them though I also grant that it is not possible to teach some people anything, period. Is what I'm doing "in here," whatever that is, is it working? Am I, and this, headed somewhere?
Okay now hold on wait
let's rest here. Calm ourselves, pitch a tent. Strike up a lazy little fire and get out our opiates. Put those feet up. How we survive... Myself, I got the stacks of books lined up in a projected reading order that never quite pans out; the music emanating from the far corners of the world to calm my very troubled soul; the custom family built of friends to pat me on my back and reassure me; and oh the many groovy things I think about all day long to keep me busy—back and forth on the evolving agendas and islands of knowledge, hashing out concepts and the mysterious trails that they may roam if I decide to let them out—yeaaaahwhattawewannatalkabout this time?
Well... baseball, of course.
And So They Did...
"They say I won't quit until the uniform falls off me.
Well that's right, I won't, and before they get me down and cut it off they'll have to club me to death or gas me unconscious."
—Jimmy Austin, 1920s St. Louis Browns
- 1B) Jackie Robinson, turning the other cheek.
- SS) The woman in the photo on page 11, because she appears ready.
- CF) Joe Jackson, his need.
- LF) Gregory Bateson, Mind & Nature, an accounting of what "Every Schoolboy Knows."
- C) Gary Zukav, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, clutching his ideas.
- RF) Archie "Moonlight" Graham.
- 3B) Erwin Schrödinger, What is Life?/Mind & Matter, fellow cat-lover.
- 2B) John G. Carney, The Saga of Erie Sports, collector, local historian.
- P) Jim Knight, bringing it.
In the dugout:
The Deep Bench:
- Rick Lopez, just warming up, really.
- Sandra "Shug" MacGlaughlin-Lopez, gamer, fastball to die for.
- Aaron Lopez, hot prospect, good genes, who on Sunday, August 21st, flew off to Navy bootcamp in Chicago, and who I'm probably unreasonably worried about, picturing him now as a protagonist in a Sammy Beckett novella, face down in the mud, some hirsute beast standing on the back of his head and calling him fifty kinds of maggot in an unreasonably loud voice, trying to make soup of his vibrant young brain. All this for an education, you brave and beautiful boy. Quick, someone console me...
- Lon Sherman, team chaplain, the Church of Saturday Night, candles burning bright.
From Ray Gotto's Cotton Woods, 9/26/57.
"Hold up the light of truth in your life, amidst the darkness of human ignorance."
—Hazrat Inayat Khan