Sunday, June 8, 2014

a pea picklin’ diary to start off june with billie joe, handwriting, a rooftop memory, and ... who’s this?

Rain falls and I feel protected.
Rain falls and I feel assured.
Rain falls, mosquitoes rejoice.
Rain falls and rainbows occur.

Shall I search for my pot of gold?

Rain falls.

Not a drop in the sky. All green and blue and the yellow of dandelions. A little white and pink as apple trees bloom. Cool and sharp, all squeaky clean. Mosquitoes reign.

I receive a letter in the mail. I went to the post office to post a letter to a friend and found in my box a letter from a friend. Handwriting! I know that handwriting! It has come from another part of the U.P. I wonder what she has sent? Boy, she has the neatest handwriting in the world.

handwriting on envelope

And, now that I think of it, the friend I just sent a letter to also has neat handwriting.

handwriting on envelope

On the other hand, my handwriting is nothing to write home about.

note to mom

But what’s in the envelope? Aha! A newspaper article! Clipped (neatly) from the Mining Journal. Oh, what memories! Both my mother and my father were scissor-happy, article-clipping, “must send this to so-and-so” people. The articles would sit on the corner of a desk until enough had accumulated or it was simply time to mail a letter and then off the articles would go, stuffed into an envelope, the envelope addressed, stamped, eventually delivered through the U.S. mail. I’m sure my sisters received many more of these packets of info and love than I did, living off in California as they did and do, but I received my share during the few years I lived off in Wisconsin or Missouri, and even when I lived close by occasional envelopes stuffed with newspaper clippings would show up in my mailbox. Clippings about dogs, the Cubs, people I might have once known or still knew, often funny, rarely serious, except, oh yes, during those many years I was a smoker and my mother clipped and sent every article about the dangers of smoking, the cost of smoking, the benefits of quitting smoking, and I eventually came to realize that one of the benefits of quitting smoking for me was that I would no longer have to suffer receiving these gobs of articles that were pointing out how stupid I was to be a smoker. As if I didn’t know. Maybe I didn’t.

But other than that, the articles were always about the recipient’s interests, not the sender’s. No doubt the last articles from my father had to do with the U.P., and I’m fairly certain the last article my mom sent had to do with honeybees. Sometimes, of course, our interests overlapped, and many of the articles over the years had to do with that hapless-but-sometimes-great Chicago baseball team: the Cubs.

But what’s in today’s envelope? What’s this clipping from the Mining Journal all about? Ha! The Cubs! It’s an AP article that, with pictures, looks like it took up about half a page. The headline: Non baseball baseball rivalry: Cubs and rooftop owners.

Another old story with another new twist. It seems almost every story that has to do with the Cubs is an old one. Hairy old tales that not only grow a little every year but also shrink until they are like wizened, whiskered, balding, bent, decrepit old men cackling away in a corner. You try to ignore them, but can’t. You try to make light of them, but can’t. They are so absurd, so demanding of attention, so unable to take care of themselves with any shred of dignity, you wonder: How has it come to this? How has it possibly all come to this?

In the article I read something about a dozen or more rooftop venues and millions of dollars and lawsuits and aldermen and tradition and progress and he said / she said and … blah blah blah. (I know you’re wondering: Anything about that goat curse?)

I’m not going to give you the history of this rooftop business vs. Wrigley Field, except for this: I used to live on the 3600 block of Sheffield Avenue in Chicago in one on those apartment buildings across from the right-field bleachers. I think it was 1980. I had two roommates and there were lots of mice. To get to the rooftop you had to go to the third floor back porch (we lived on the second floor), climb up a ladder, push open a heavy hatch door, and then, yikes!, scurry across black tar to get to the front of the building from where, yes, you could peek into Wrigley Field. This activity was strictly forbidden by our landlord, who, by the way, promised one day to do something about the mice. About the rooftop, he made it clear that no one except for himself (and maybe his friends) were allowed.

Bah. Who cares.

My friend and I sneaked up there just once, for just a bit. The roof was this broad, flat expanse of black sticky tar and it was incredibly uncomfortable, hot, and smelly. A game was in progress, of course, but our view was lousy. And we got caught. We figured we had got caught on camera—were on TV—because we were barely off the roof before our landlord, who lived elsewhere, showed up and confronted us. As if we were criminals or something. Yeah, well, what about the mice, fella?

For all you youngsters out there, that’s the way rooftops were back in the good old days. And who needed them? Bleacher tickets cost all of $2 and you could show up at game time and skip the hot tar, skip the hassle, skip confrontation.

In her incredibly neat handwriting, my friend from elsewhere in the U.P. wrote: Go Tigers!! Now, I ask you, was that really necessary?

baseball standings June 2014

My sister sent me a link, which takes the place of a newspaper clipping, which is, in its own way, more fun, because sometimes you get a music video.

The third of June is not only the day that Billie Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge, it’s the day I once got married. A few years later, June 3 was the day my dog Dandy died. It’s all a little creepy. But that’s not why Penny sent the link. While last in California, she and Jim and I got into a dinner table discussion that somehow brought up names like Bobbie Joe and Billie Jean and Jim Bob and Peggy Sue and who knows why and what all, but that led to googling “Ode to Billie Joe.”

By the way, the lyrics to “Fancy,” another Bobbie Gentry song, are also very interesting.

Just another gorgeous, sunny day here in the U.P. The air is rich with the scent of late spring, early summer. Grass, new-mown grass, dandelions, chives, petunias, and the most aromatic of all—chokecherry blossoms.

Dum-de-dum-dum. Decision made.

Just the usual rain and farmers market. But wait … who’s this?

sleeping dog
Welcome, whoever you are.