Tuesday, August 05, 2008
I’m sitting in the house on Saturday afternoon. I hear thunder. Looking out the window, I see that it’s started to rain – hard. I immediately become pissed off. I’m supposed to play softball tomorrow morning; a doubleheader that will decide whether we get into the playoffs or not. If it continues raining, the games will not be played.
As I continue to look out the window at the rain, I remember that there was a time in my life when rain was not always seen as a reason to frown. When I was a little kid of six or seven, I often would see it begin to rain and, instead of thinking about the things I could no longer do – play baseball or whatever – I’d run to my bedroom, strip down, and put on a bathing suit. So would lots of other kids in the neighborhood. And then we’d dash out onto the street, cheering and waving our arms and running after each other in bare feet, splashing in the puddles and enjoying hell out of it all.
If I did that now, of course, someone would call the police. They’d think I was a crazy man running around in his underwear, having a fit of some sort. They’d ask the authorities to come before I could hurt myself.
But, why? Why can’t we keep that joy of life as we grow older? Why are we taught to repress happiness? And why do we see other people enjoying themselves and sometimes have the first thought come to mind that they’ve flipped out?
I know that part of it can be concern for a fellow human’s safety – whether the "crazy" guy himself or those who might come into contact with him - and that’s nice. But I think most of it is envy. Subconsciously, we think, "What gives him the right to enjoy himself so much? I’m not enjoying myself. Fuck him! I’m calling the cops!"
I’m sorely tempted to throw on my swim trunks and see what would happen if I went out and started rolling around on my lawn like a big old dog. I’m not going to, of course. I’m too sane. It sucks.
Another joy of being a kid was coming in from the rain. Yeah, sure, it still feels good to get out of it as an adult. It’s not the same feeling, though. Now it’s just relief. When you were a kid, it was moving from one joy to another (if you had taken the opportunity to don that bathing suit in the first place.) If you got soaked as a kid, you came in and stripped down, then you toweled off. Well, maybe you do the same now, but the experience is totally different. A kid mostly isn’t as worried about how others might judge his appearance. If a man strips down and dries off, he might spend a goodly portion of the process giving different parts of his body a critical appraisal. I’m assuming it’s the same for the female of the species. For the most part, a boy (or a girl) just gets dry.
And when you were a kid, you felt the textures of things more. At least I did. The towel itself was a sensory experience. You weren’t just accomplishing a necessary task. You felt the dryness, the friction, the warmth. Maybe you enjoyed the smell of the clean laundry, too. And as you dressed - whether in pajamas or actual clothing - your entire being felt cleansed. You could take a 60-minute shower as an adult and not even come close to that feeling.
So many things we dull ourselves to as the years pass.
Some of our pleasure is lost because of competency. Perhaps you can recall what it was like to read a book when you were in the second or third grade. You’re an excellent reader now. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be able to make it through some of my painful constructions. And, believe me, I thank you for making the effort to become so good at the task. But, when you weren’t quite as good, didn’t you get lost in a story more readily? Didn’t there usually come a time when you became wholly unaware of your physical surroundings? I rarely lose myself in reading now. Now it has to be something truly amazing to transport me. Back then, it could be a page with only eight or nine words on it, and then my mind would do the rest.
If you’re a musician, you may feel similarly concerning music. Before I knew how to play any instruments, music was much more mysterious and wonderful. Don’t get me wrong. Playing has it’s own magnificent bits of pleasure. Just listening, though, and having no idea how the magic was created, was oftentimes better.
Running. The only time I run now is when I have to, whether it’s to reach first base or something more mundane - to catch a train, for example. When I was a kid, I’d run just because I could. I wasn’t trying to get in shape. I wasn’t going anywhere. I wasn’t trying to impress someone or reach a goal. I did it only because it felt good to go faster.
Eating. A slice of watermelon on a summer day was an all-involving sensual experience. I tasted the sweetness, I felt the coolness, I inhaled the subtle perfumes released when it was sliced, I marveled at the juicy redness of it, I even enjoyed the light crunching noise as my teeth drove through the fruit’s flesh. Even spitting out the seeds was something to have fun with, seeing how far you could propel them as you did so. Now, I buy seedless watermelon, eat it with a spoon so as not to get my hands sticky, and if juice runs down my chin, I immediately grab a napkin and wipe.
In the time I’ve taken to type out this horrendously melancholy whining, the rain has stopped. I now feel as though I’ve missed an opportunity. I’m alive, of course. If I weren’t, I wouldn’t be writing this crap. But I’ve missed an opportunity to live. Being alive and living are two different things altogether.
The next time it rains, I probably won’t get into a bathing suit and go running out the front door, alarming my neighbors and making extra work for the local cops. But I think I will at least go for a walk around the block, allowing myself to get soaked to the skin. Maybe I’ll even run a little bit, if the mood strikes me. And then I’ll come home, strip down, and towel off, all the while ignoring any physical imperfections and just reveling in the feel of the toweling. After I get dressed again – in flannel pajamas, I think – I’ll lie on the floor and read an old comic book. When I finish it, I’ll have a slice of ice-cold watermelon. I’ll let the juices go where they want. And if I feel the need to wash up afterwards, I’ll go for ANOTHER walk in the rain.
That’s what I say now, anyway. That’s because it’s stopped raining.
Since it did stop raining, I got to play ball on Sunday morning. I got to kid myself into believing I was a kid again, except for when I ran the bases. Then, I could only kid myself into believing I was a crippled kid.
We needed to win two games to be guaranteed a playoff spot. We could still make it with one win, but then we’d have to have help from other teams.
We won one game. We got the help. We made the playoffs. This very old crippled kid gets another weekend in the sun
I went 1 for 2 in my limited action as DH. I was sort of surprised to be in the line-up at all, so it was a bonus. I am now batting the amazingly low average (for our league) of .286, which translates to roughly .193 in baseball terms, so I am still below the Mendoza line.
(Oh, if I start explaining all of these things to my British, Australian, and otherwise non-baseball-literate friends, we’ll be here all day. But that’s so cryptic – to them – they couldn’t possibly figure it out without help. The Mendoza Line is a derogatory term used for when a hitter is having an extremely poor season, batting below .200. It is named for Mario Mendoza, a perennially weak hitter who always hovered around that average during his brief stay in baseball’s major leagues.)
After our doubleheader, a few of us headed to Cleveland Circle to watch the games that would decide whether or not we got into the playoffs. Since we only won one of our two, we needed another team to lose one of their two games. If they swept their doubleheader, we’d be out.
The two teams who were playing were there, of course, but so were a couple of other teams from the league, just hanging around and watching. They had played earlier and were just continuing to enjoy being outside in the sun, downing a few after-game brews. I joined Mark, from The Moe Howard Club (yes, named after the famous stooge, with their uniforms featuring a photo of him) on the sidelines. He graciously gave me a beer to enjoy, which I did, greatly. After a bit of softball talk, I went and got myself a shady spot under a tree and watched the game unfold.
When I arrived, The Renegades (who had to lose for us to get in) were leading 7 – 1 in the second inning. This did not bode well, but I had a beer and a smoke and then they were trailing 8 –7. Bacon (the opposition, and easily the best name ever for a Sunday softball team, because what else is better on a Sunday morning?) had taken control. By the time Jack, Pat, and Billy – my teammates – had arrived to watch, it became as complete a blowout as is possible in this league.
Bacon ended up putting about 30 or 35 runs on them, and it was over by slaughter rule in the 5th inning. It was painful after a while, since The Renegades are a really good bunch of guys, but since we needed the loss, we were very happy to finally have the issue settled. We thanked Bacon for helping us. We stood and cheered, like so: “We Like Bacon (clap – clap - clap,clap,clap) We Like Bacon (clap – clap - clap,clap,clap)” They laughed, we laughed, even a few of the Renegades laughed, bless ‘em, and then we went home to shower and to eat whatever it is that playoff teams eat. In my case, it was four slices of toast loaded with peanut butter (which, with a diet like that, may help explain why I feel like a crippled kid when I have to run the bases.)
(I have to mention one more thing. One of the Moe Howard players, as he was starting his drive home, stopped the car, hopped out, and gave me another beer. He’s kind of a young kid – of course, everybody’s a young kid to me – and he told me earlier that he always reads my blog. I know him by sight, a real nice guy, but I’m ashamed to say I’m not sure of his name. I sure did appreciate the gesture, though, so I say, “Thank you, young stooge! May you always have plenty of eyes to poke and custard pies to throw!”)
And that’s about it. Playoffs! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee! I’ll be sure to give you the full story next week, unless it rains, in which case maybe I’ll throw on a bathing suit and roll around on the lawn until the cops come.
Soon, with more better stuff.