Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Rain, Rain... Go Away?

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.


CSD Faux Finishing said...

Congratulations for getting into the playoffs! Who would have thought that would all be due to Bacon?

When I was a kid I literally lived at a beach so it was pretty much a daily occurance to swim in the summertime. We (my sister & I) would swim until our lips were purple & we would have kept going if mom/dad/gramp didn't pull us out. We would be freezing to the core but smiling through chattering teeth as we hit a nice warm shower. The single best feeling in the entire world to me is putting on fuzzy, warm, cotton clothes after a beach day shower. To this day I have not let that one go and I fully intend never to do so.

This was a really great post, I hope you do go and run around in the rain smiling the whole time :)

SandraRee said...

Horrendously melancholy whining my foot, this is excellent writing. And I for one am glad that you "write this crap."

I agree, we do repress happiness as we grow older. I so remember begging to play out in the rain when I was young.

I have a daughter that enjoys almost every waking moment in her life except when the hormones kick in. (then nobody enjoys) She's very verbal (nothing like her mom) and says things that brings makes back moments just like what you've posted about. She delights in watching my face every time she does or says something
that's "crazy".

Loved this post, Sul, and congratulations on making the playoffs!

Anonymous said...

It was my usual practice to take mu little dog Molly for an early 1.5 mile walk. About two years ago and at the half way mark it started to rain. There was no sense of running, but we did walk briskly. In Florida the rain has a habit of quickly turning into a downpour... about three minutes later we were drenched to the bone.. squishy shoes and all. I began to laugh like a fool. After reading your blog I now know why.

Neponset River Bridge Dig said...

I know what you mean about keeping the youngness in our lives. I like to go out to Dairy Freeze on Adams street in Quincy and have ice cream for dinner once a week during the summer. It does remind me of being a kid.

David Sullivan said...

All those things you mentioned is why people have affairs, do drugs and cruise the internet. People need sensory experiances that are new and exciting. As a kid you are constantly comming across new and exciting things.

As an adult, not so much.

Much of adulthood is spent trying to recapture the sensory feelings of youth.

Michelle H. said...

Congrats on the playoff seat!

This proves it. I AM CRAZY! I would have gone outside in my knickers and bedamned the neighbors. Of course, I do live out in the country... with lots of trees... and the nearest neighbor's house is about an acre away...

Twinks. said...

Being 14, I'm still on that line between being a kid and an adult. And I totally understand what you're saying.

The other day, it was raining, so I decided to go outside and catch the raindrops on my tongue, while running around in circles on my driveway. I didn't even think about it, I just did it.
The 17 year old boys that live down the street from me looked at me like I was crazy. But I didn't care. Why should I? Why should I let people judge me just because I want to act like a goofball?

I guess what I'm saying is, you should be a kid as long as you want to be. My grandfather is in his 70s, and he still likes to spin his old wooden top from when he was a young boy.

I think it's perfectly sane for an adult to act like a kid for a while. I think everyone is so uptight and serious nowadays. We need to just learn to let go and act crazy every once in a while.

I'll be looking out for the story about a crazy old man running around in his underpants in the rain on the national news. ;-)

Suldog said...

Chucka - There's something totally special about cleaning up and drying off after a day at the beach. Usually real nice, but it depends upon how burned you got (in my case, being almost transparent-skinned, usually more than I would have liked.)

SR - Interesting balancing act when you have kids, which I don't. You're reminded of much, and so live it through them again, but at the same time, you worry about them. I make a great uncle. I do the playing with them part really well; not so good at the discipline.

Speaking of uncles...

Uncle Jim - This made me happy. The idea of you laughing in the rain tickles me greatly, for some reason. Thanks for sharing that!

Rich - Dairy Freeze! We used to ride our bikes from Lower Mills to Wollaston Bowladrome sometimes. Whenever we did, we always ended up at Dairy Freeze on the way back. Without fail, I got a chocolate cone with a cherry dip. Thanks for reminding me of that!

David - Absolutely. Much of my adult life, I've come to find out, has been an attempt to recreate kindergarten, albeit with me in charge.

MLH - Maybe someday we can go rolling around together in our kickers. Platonically, of course. I'm happily married, as you know. Somehow, I have the feeling that MY WIFE wouldn't be as much up for rolling around on wet grass I would be. However, she has been known to... well, look for yourself.


Twinkie - I love you, kid. You are wise beyond your years. Stay wise, but also stay young.

(Easy for me to say. But, try, anyway.)

Suldog said...

OK, word wrap has once again failed. Here's the link again. Remember to connect the two parts up in your browser.


Michelle H. said...

OH MY! Snow AND naked bodies?

Ha, too bad you didn't set up a video camera in one of the windows. It would have been great to relive the moment. And I think the hungry insomniac bear would have been too shocked to take any bite out of you, although it would have solved the bobbing problem so that you could race in the Olympics. But I don't think that would have been a very good trade-off - in my opinion.

Twinks. said...

Thanks Sully. :-)

**Twitches** I know I should have never followed that link to the Coed Naked Snow Jogging... **Twitch** lol

Janet said...

One of the joys of 32 acres of wooded property is the ability to wander around naked outdoors sun or rain. I don't usually go out naked because of bugs (yes, even in the rain, the mosquitoes love me). The kids love to go out in the rain.
The co-ed naked snow running was a stitch. I've often wondered about the ancient Greeks, too, even without the er, frame of reference.
Looking forward to hearing about the playoffs!

Suldog said...

MLH - Not a very good trade-off? Hideous, if you ask ME. I'd rather the bear rip open my head and eat my brain than have him eat THAT.

Twinkie - Sorry, kid. I hope you're not scarred for life :-)

Janet - Where do you live again?


Melinda said...

Loved the post Sully (as usual).

Coincidentally, this weekend I had a moment in which I felt like a little kid again. Forgetting to guard my behaviour, I let my eyes widen and my jaw drop open while laughing, clapping my hands and shouting "it's amazing, huh!" The freedom of that moment will be with me for a long time. It's sad that as grown-ups, we forget about how much fun it can be just to jump in some really big puddles.

Congrats on making the playoffs :)

Shrinky said...

I sooooooooo loved reading this, oh Suldog, you have really hit a nerve. I recall my big bruv' (seven years my senior, so basically a stand in growdie-up)dragging me home in the middle of a huge thunder and lightning storm - it was so close the building he dragged me past was hit and the hairs stood up on our arms - as I laughed and wriggled to get free, it was exhillarating and wonderful. 'Course, my mum who had sent him out to find me wasn't nearly so amused.

Such a pity we bury the child within. Thanks for reminding us there is still that kid deep inside, we should free them up a lot more often than we do.

Hilary said...

Wow.. great post. I was thinking about that sort of thing myself just a couple of weeks ago when after much rain, the creek swelled enough to spill over the walking paths, burying them under a few inches of water.

Instead of turning back, I took off shoes and socks, left them on a bench and continued to walk until I hit a point that was just a bit too muddy and slippery underfoot. It was totally rejuvenating! I still intend to post a few pics when I'm done organizing them.

Congrats on the playoffs. And don't worry about trying to explain baseball talk to the illiterates such as myself. My eyes just glaze over at that point anyway. ;)

fuzzbert_1999@yahoo.com said...

Nothing like sex with a watermelon...I loved that description...brought back so many memories...not about sex, but eating them!

lime said...

i sincerely hope you do go for a soaking stroll in the next hard summer rain that occurs. i remember playing in the wet crass at my uncle's farm, jumping through the puddles and when the rain stopped getting the hose out so we could keep getting soaked.

i think that you even consider the excitement things were when we were kids means you can enjoy all of it again. savor it. a couple of winters ago my son got excited watching individual snowflakes melt. we stooped down in the street and watched it together. stuff liek that is worth the pause.

as for softball, i know it's not easy not being up to your old playing standards but allow me to suggest tat next year you get involved in coaching kids softball or little league baseball. i know you don't have children but i think you'd be great at it and you'd be so close to the excitement and enthusiasm of the kids you'd be re-entering some of that and facilitating a great experience for them (and god knows we need good coaches like that, not the win at all costs, neanderthals)

Buck said...

Playoffs! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Congrats! There ain't nuthin like the combination of luck and skill, eh?

re: Playing in the rain. We all get a second chance at this, assuming we're parents. One of the very FIRST things the ex- and I did shortly after SN3 could walk was teaching him all about the joys of stomping in puddles... by example, of course. And I've continued to do so ever since, but I don't publicize it.

Someone might call the cops.

Jeni said...

Boy, you really know how to hit the memory nerve, dead center too! So many of the things you mentioned -so true how much we enjoyed them as children and now, not so much so. Today, when it rains, like it did today, all I could think of was for it to please stop so my back, knees and ankle joints would quit aching, throbbing like a nasty old toothache ya know and yet, as a child, I loved to cavort in a nice warmish, summer rain with other kids my age. So much we miss as we grow up and don't even realize how great those sensory things were -until you come along and remind us how much fun being a child really is. Good orders too that we should all follow to try to keep as much of the child alive deep in side us too as long as we can -regardless of the looks others may give us too!

Melissa said...

Wow, I think you struck a memory with everyone leaving a comment. I know I repress myself a lot as an adult, and have wondered a lot of the same things as you, why do we repress ourselves?

I do have an excuse having a kid who's 8. I can go to the park and play with her, or do sidewalk chalk, or catch fireflies or let woolyworms crawl on our arms, things that adults wouldn't do, I can because of my daughter. So, I cherish those memories with her as well as the ones from my childhood.

Congrats for getting into the playoffs!

Suldog said...

I'd answer each one of these detailed comments in detail, myself, but I'm leaving work with a bit of a cold or something. See you all soon, and thank you!

Suldog said...

In the meantime, go read Melinda's post. She's a wonderful writer and deserves more readers.


Twinks. said...

Uh oh!!

Hope you feel better soon!! :-)

Anonymous said...

I am so happy to see that the team made the playoffs!! Its great to see a bunch of good guys that were long over due to have something truely great happen to them. My only regret is that i was not there to help.

Elaine Denning said...

Crap? My arse!

That was wonderful, and throught your words you transported me back to my childhood. I remembered my Mum drying my hair; my head on her belly and her rubbing the towel with all her might, making me go dizzy with laughter.

Strangely, I stood in my garden last night in the rain - in my pyjamas. It was incredible. And then I stripped off in the kitchen, tossed them in the washing machine and made a mad dash upstairs with my cellulite wobbling horrendously. It kind of ruined the moment!

rosecreekcottage-carol.blogspot.com said...

One of the things I miss most about teaching is seeing the world through those 8-year-old eyes all day long. We have to remember to do that. Everyday. Great post!!

CSD Faux Finishing said...

Due to the cold guess you didn't dance in the downpours yesterday huh? Feel better soon!

Woman in a Window said...

Forgive me Suldog, but I have sinned...I don't care for baseball. But the first part of this post was golden! Crying here, half in tears and half laughing my ass off imagining the guy on your baseball card (as you) running the streets and jumping puddles. Wonderful. (Over again from David's.)

John-Michael said...

Don't even try to tell me that you have missed an opportunity to live, my Wonderful SulDog Friend! I am overwhelmingly aware of an abundance of Life coursing through your Spirit as you generously share these beautifully loved moments with me. You have had me enjoying those much-looked-forward-to afternoon thundershowers during the oppressively overheated summer days of my youth. And I have enjoyed huge inner smiles in recalling all of those comic books absorbed (I really felt like I had reached some level of literary accomplishment when I progressed to the "Classic Comics" series that retold finer works of literature.) [smile]

Thank you, Jim, for this lovely piece of reflection. Sure do appreciate and respect you and what you do.

'Love You, My Friend ...

Cath said...

What fantastic memories. You sure know how to awaken them with your writing.

Anonymous said...

I share your memories of running in the rain -- does anything smell better than rain? You did a great job of describing how wonderful the whole process was, including the toweling off afterward and putting on warm pj's.

Re: softball. I have a horrendous score on the fitness test on the Wii because I can't hit a home run! I was good at softball when I was a little kid, but apparently I've lost my "touch." On the other hand, Hubby hits them "out of the park" regularly and has a Wii age of about 26! Bummer.