Sunday, July 31, 2016

ode to a beeswax turtle

Yes, there are many things one can do with beeswax, and many of those things are over there in the links at the bottom of The Beeswax Page. Others just keep popping up, out of people’s mouths, at the farmers market, like using beeswax to plug the holes in your boat or to wax the floors in your doll house, uses which may be mere extrapolations of your more general uses, but there was something else, something different, now I forget, but the latest thing I’ve done with beeswax is (to try) to make poetry out of it.
Ode to a Beeswax Turtle
(at the downtown marquette farmers market)

One of the oddest things
is the beeswax turtle
several in a bowl—
an old wood salad bowl her mother had,
from a set of six or eight—
and—What is it? people ask.
A beeswax turtle, I say.
What would you do with it?

Ah. Now there’s a question.
What would you do with a beeswax turtle?
(But first—how does it sound?
Which word is emphatic? Is it:
What would you do
What would you do …
      [ - consternation - ]
… with a beeswax turtle?
Or,
A beeswax turtle?!)

So set the turtle free.

It may just float away.

Beeswax, as a rule,

floats.

But, seriously, folks:
Put the turtle in your
sewing basket,
your tool box,
your kit;
hide it among your fisherman’s junk,
tuck it in your hunter’s shed,
give it to your taxidermist.
(See them sweet eyes?
Beeswax holds that gaze.)
Or put it in your lip balm,
your skin cream,
your polish;
your didgeridoo likes it too
(say it: didgeridoo);
You can seal it with your beeswax;
Zip it with your beeswax;
Bake it with your beeswax;
Or,
Melt the beeswax turtle in your melter
(he’s barely two inches round,
just a solid bit of wax with
a head four tiny feet a tail)
or keep it in your pocket
Cuz,
A beeswax turtle smells so sweet.
Take a whiff. I always say—
sniffin’s free.

But the turtle ain't.
Buy the turtle, please.
He’s only 50¢, half a dollar, two quarters, five dimes:
          have you got that?
and treasure him, forget him,
put him on your windowsill or
on the rim of your bathtub—
he floats!—
did I mention that?
but watch out—
your dog may eat him
your child may bite his head off
be surprised
because it’s not cheese
it’s not a cookie
(and nope, it’s not soap, no rope
to hang with just words)
but that’s OK
everyone’s OK
except for that
headless
chewed up
messed up
melted
floatin’ away
beeswax turtle.

So come on back. Get yourself

another.

Because what would you do without
—a beeswax turtle?

Meanwhile, Josie’s on border patrol.

Look out! He’s heading for the shadows!

And something’s commanding his attention in the wood shed / garage. Probably chipmunks. Probably the same thing keeping Elliott out all night, sleeping all day, preferably in the lilies, well fed.

There’s Elliott.

And those turtles, well, after poetry like that, they’re making a run for it.

Out of the dark, into the light.

Goodbye, July. Hello, August. Did you know daylight Thursday was exactly 15 hours long? 6:30 to 9:30. Crazy hours.


“Ode to a Beeswax Turtle (at the downtown marquette farmers market)” is now available as the first-ever beeswax-rag-flag-covered chapbook-ette.

ode to a beeswax turtle

Yes, there are many things one can do with beeswax, and many of those things are over there in the links at the bottom of The Beeswax Page. Others just keep popping up, out of people’s mouths, at the farmers market, like using beeswax to plug the holes in your boat or to wax the floors in your doll house, uses which may be mere extrapolations of your more general uses, but there was something else, something different, now I forget, but the latest thing I’ve done with beeswax is (to try) to make poetry out of it.
Ode to a Beeswax Turtle
(at the downtown marquette farmers market)

One of the oddest things
is the beeswax turtle
several in a bowl—
an old wood salad bowl her mother had,
from a set of six or eight—
and—What is it? people ask.
A beeswax turtle, I say.
What would you do with it?

Ah. Now there’s a question.
What would you do with a beeswax turtle?
(But first—how does it sound?
Which word is emphatic? Is it:
What would you do
What would you do …
      [ - consternation - ]
… with a beeswax turtle?
Or,
A beeswax turtle?!)

So set the turtle free.

It may just float away.

Beeswax, as a rule,

floats.

But, seriously, folks:
Put the turtle in your
sewing basket,
your tool box,
your kit;
hide it among your fisherman’s junk,
tuck it in your hunter’s shed,
give it to your taxidermist.
(See them sweet eyes?
Beeswax holds that gaze.)
Or put it in your lip balm,
your skin cream,
your polish;
your didgeridoo likes it too
(say it: didgeridoo);
You can seal it with your beeswax;
Zip it with your beeswax;
Bake it with your beeswax;
Or,
Melt the beeswax turtle in your melter
(he’s barely two inches round,
just a solid bit of wax with
a head four tiny feet a tail)
or keep it in your pocket
Cuz,
A beeswax turtle smells so sweet.
Take a whiff. I always say—
sniffin’s free.

But the turtle ain't.
Buy the turtle, please.
He’s only 50¢, half a dollar, two quarters, five dimes:
          have you got that?
and treasure him, forget him,
put him on your windowsill or
on the rim of your bathtub—
he floats!—
did I mention that?
but watch out—
your dog may eat him
your child may bite his head off
be surprised
because it’s not cheese
it’s not a cookie
(and nope, it’s not soap, no rope
to hang with just words)
but that’s OK
everyone’s OK
except for that
headless
chewed up
messed up
melted
floatin’ away
beeswax turtle.

So come on back. Get yourself

another.

Because what would you do without
—a beeswax turtle?
A

Meanwhile, Josie’s on border patrol.

Look out! He’s heading for the shadows!

And something’s commanding his attention in the wood shed / garage. Probably chipmunks. Probably the same thing keeping Elliott out all night, sleeping all day, preferably in the lilies, well fed.

There’s Elliott.

And those turtles, well, after poetry like that, they’re making a run for it.

Out of the dark, into the light.

Goodbye, July. Hello, August. Did you know dayight Thursday was exactly 15 hours long? 6:30 to 9:30. Crazy hours.

c q

“Ode to a Beeswax Turtle (at the downtown marquette farmers market)” is now available as the first-ever beeswax-rag-flag-covered chapbook-ette.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

five-forty, 7/23, & you can’t go home again, now i see: just another pea-picklin’ diary

Wednesday
Aha! At last! Page 704.
He saw now that you can’t go home again—not ever.
And I saw, too. I got it, I got it, I got it. “You Can’t Go Home Again” had taken a most interesting turn and I agreed, yes, Thomas Wolfe, you can’t go home again. Life moves in one direction, one inexorable direction, and that direction is forward, ahead, onward maties! To the future! And I got it, but I did not think I could explain it, put it into words, but I knew I had got it and I knew it was much more complex, deep, full, or something like that, than anything I had read online that tried to explain that well-worn phrase “you can’t go home again.”

Never fear. Thomas Wolfe goes on. Page 706.
… And at the end of it he knew, and with the knowledge came the definite sense of new direction toward which he had long been groping, that the dark ancestral cave, the womb from which mankind emerged into the light, forever pulls one back—but that you can’t go home again.
       The phrase had many implications for him. You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to romantic love, back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile, to escape to Europe and some foreign land, back home to lyricism, to singing just for singing’s sake, back home to aestheticism, to one’s youthful idea of “the artist” and the all-sufficiency of “art” and “beauty” and “love,” back home to the ivory tower, back home to places in the country, to the cottage in Bermuda, away from all the strife and conflict of the world, back home to the father you have lost and have been looking for, back home to someone who can help you, save you, ease the burden for you, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time—back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.
Damn. Now if that isn’t something to cross-stitch and hang by the hearth.

Wednesday, but earlier
By mid-afternoon the temperature toying with 90 humid degrees, about to zoom past, the first day of several in a heat wave predicted, and Josie and I head to the river. For the first time this year I wade through the current up to the island, swim through a deep dark pool. Josie runs along shore, along the bank, back and forth, and the water feels good, clear and cold, just this soothing side of wild.


We goof around at the island for a bit and then I float and bob back, the river carrying me, and Josie meets me at our access point, and he’s just running around having fun, and so for a while I hang from Stick, a branch worthy of its own name as Stick has been here from Day One and I have been holding on to him, letting the cool water rush over me on hot hot days, from the start, for five years now, and now the sixth begins. Stick is long and skinny but strong, extending horizontally from some long-ago fallen tree on the river’s opposite bank, half in the water, mostly in the water, with a long tip rising above, bobbing in the current, saying grab on, baby, let go. Sometimes Stick is completely underwater—it was just last week.


Josie plays along the shore, in and out of the water, and when it is time to leave I cannot make it back up the bank—too much mud. The initial three feet has me stymied. I plant a foot, feel secure, whoo! Down in the mud I go, so back in the river, rinse off, try again, whoo! Down in the mud, back in the river, Josie loves this game. I finally find a spot that cannot foil me. We head home, hose off, mow a little, hose off, mow a little, hose off.

Later, maybe, it’s hard to tell
The clock has stopped again. It has been five-forty since … five-forty.

Thursday
Five-forty and the sky is as dark with storm as with waning night. But the storm seems far to the north, a constant rumble and grumble to the north and flashes of heat lightening. It is 75 degrees. Last night, when I went to bed, the temp had dropped from 95 to 85. I did not think I would be able to sleep. But I did. The miracle of the fan. But I am thinking it is because of the fan I am feeling stiff and creaky. Or maybe it is the heat. My brain feels swollen and … it may stop at any moment. My brain. Join the clock in perpetuity, five-forty forever.

Every window is wide open just in case a renegade bit of cool night air whispers by.

Five-forty, but I swear it’s later
Wowee! What a storm! Came up from the south! Several degrees cooler now, raining, rumbling and grumbling, flashes of lightening, the storm ripped through with great winds from the west and south, bending the trees, the bushes—it’s a marvelous thing, slightly frightening, to see the trees bend as they do, so close to ground, springing back up to toss their fine, full crowns of glossy green then down again! to the ground! all in a twist and bother and back up! Again! I feel lucky the trees are still standing. Lucky to have a roof. What a scream of cool air.


Definitely later
The clock has moved. It now shows seven-forty-seven.

Later still
We find such interesting things in the river.


Five hours after that
Wow. I just finished “You Can’t Go Home Again.” And there, on the penultimate page, Donald Trump. I am blown away.

Friday
I kind of like this broooooooown-eyed Susan.


The lack of anger in my soul
tells me what cannot be told,
the past is past, that’s plain to see,

and the future ahead, yet to be.

Time for a dip in the river.


Saturday
It’s been a long time since I headed out to the farmers market feeling as tired and crappy as I did this morning. But we were moving along, and I was sipping some Earl Grey tea, radio off, no music, no audio book, and that’s mostly the way it has been this year, just a quiet dawn ride through the forest, mind wandering, wherever it wants to go, and before I know it, Ishpeming, Negaunee, Marquette, radio on, looking for a walk-up song because all the ballplayers have one, I want one, too, and a Saturday or so ago it was uncanny when I turned on the radio just before the Front Street round-a-bout and then, right then, Van Halen’s “Jump” began.

This morning my mind wandered and found its way to that rocking chair on the balcony of my parents’ condo where I sat for a moment early June 2005, looking out at Lake Michigan, the sky, the water, all so blue and summery fresh and I rocked gently, and I see this peaceful scene, but this memory is anything but peaceful, so full of all that was inside; and then I remember. A few weeks later I am at the rest stop just south of Green Bay with the dogs, Buster and Queenie, and the cat, Goldie, and it was the same time of day as now, sun just up, day just begun, on the road, and I’m on my dad’s cell phone because I did not have one, and my dad had just died, the night before; today is the anniversary.

My mind goes back and the emotion drowns me as always I feel I am there but in reality I am here driving through forest eleven years later so no, I see, I do not go back because I cannot go back, it has taken me such a hell of a long time to see but maybe, now, I do.


Sunday, July 17, 2016

twisted humidity brings out a worm in a chestnut but the ice cubes are clean so an auspicious day (hic!)

Twisted
I arrive at the farmers market just before eight on a clear cool Saturday morning. After walking Josie, I head over to pick up my tent. I hear Joni Mitchell singing “Twisted.” It is coming from Colleen’s van. Colleen is The Soap Lady, also known as Native Sister, and she is unloading her stuff. I sneak up behind her just in time to sing “ … and you know two heads are better than one … ” This gives her a start. But she is delighted. Of course I know the song, have since high school, it’s on Bette Midler’s first album, or is it her second?

I get my tent, have it and the four paint cans filled with cement, painted blue, in a garden cart, am wheeling it across the concrete to my spot on the other end of the Commons. But Colleen has restarted “Twisted.” Uh oh. Stop. Sing. Dance.

Humidity Stops the Clock
The other day, it was really humid. The clock stopped. It runs on a battery, so I figured the battery was dead, though usually it slows down first, when the battery’s about to go, but anyway it was three-thirty when I noticed the clock was dead at one-forty. I spun its hands around to three-thirty and waited to see what would happen. It was much too humid to do anything more.

The next day was a bit less humid, but not much, it rained most of the morning, and occasionally I would glance at the clock and it was always three-thirty. Then all of a sudden it was ten after four. So I spun the hands around to eleven-twenty and it’s been keeping time ever since.

The Clock. At Near to Six.

The Sublimity of Washing Ice Cubes
Most Saturdays Nora stops by the farmers market to visit her mother, who has a booth practically next to mine. Last year I didn’t pay much attention, but this year, now that she is two and a half, I find Nora quite interesting—for one, she knows what to do with a beeswax bowl.

The beeswax bowls (bowls made of beeswax) were a short-lived new item earlier this year. I continue to take them to market but do not display them. At market, I am subject to answering certain questions over and over—it goes with the territory, I do not mind—but I wasn’t expecting the one I heard, over and over, about the bowls. It went like this: “What would I do with it?” My initial, off-the-cuff answer was: “Eat your popcorn from it. Or your cereal.” And unfortunately what often happens is that once I answer, I repeat the same answer over and over, like Pavlov’s dog, and I so quickly tired of hearing about that stupid popcorn and cereal that I stopped displaying the beeswax bowls.

For a while I continued to display a floating candle in a beeswax bowl full of water. I have been doing this for years, previously using a ceramic bowl, and for years this has drawn the question: “Why is there a candle in the water?” The answer: “To show that the floaters float.” Which helps to sell the floaters. But, this year, out of nowhere, I answered: “It’s a marketing ploy.” So, for now, I have removed the beeswax bowl of water with a floating candle from the table.

But, before I completely nixed the bowls, the entire bowl thing was redeemed as one day, after market, Nora began washing ice cubes in a bowl. I had taken the bowl off my table and put it on the low brick wall that runs behind my booth, removing the candle but not the water, and soon, without hesitation, Nora was washing ice cubes in it.

“Good job,” I told her, and silently thanked whomever for this one person who knew without question what to do with a beeswax bowl.

The Original Beeswax Bowl.

You Can’t Go Home Again
“You Can’t Go Home Again” by Thomas Wolfe is a long book—743 pages—and as far as I can tell there is not much plot but this: A young man named George Webber is bound and determined to learn about men and humanity and writing—get at something about men and humanity and writing—and our third person narrator is going to describe for us men and humanity and writing about men and humanity and about George Webber writing about men and humanity and trying to get at men and humanity and writing until … I don’t know. I’m only on page 508. But I’m lovin’ it. It’s dated, to be sure, reflects its time, the nineteen-twenties and thirties, and surely there is something universal about it all but also I would say, if I may, at times it seems awfully narrow, but, after all, in a way, we all have narrow perspectives, so that becomes part of it, and mostly the way in which this book is written and layered feels rich and fascinating. There are many quotable passages, but my favorite line so far, because it made me laugh, is:
She looked at him for a long moment as one might look at a large worm within the core of a chestnut that one had hoped was sound.
An Auspicious Day
1. I look up and my market table is surrounded by young women from South Korea. They are snapping pictures. Silently I admire the hat that one of them wears. She buys candles and a rag flag.

2. A young man buys several candles. He did this too a few weeks ago. A repeat customer! But the story is his dog ate the previous batch, every bit of every candle. I should put out a warning: DOGS EAT BEESWAX. Later it struck me—he bought two charmers, the candles with the small silver charms inside. Where are the previous charms? Inside the dog? Or … Wish I’d thought to ask.

3. Having moved on from typed-by-hand books to printed books, I expand and upgrade my book display using an old hive box that I must have gotten from my beekeeping friend and candle mentor several years ago. I sell a copy of “Seven Poems for Dogs.” It’s true—small things make me happy.

The Hiccup Song
Colleen asked if I had seen the video of Annie Ross singing “Twisted.” I had not, so I found it. We’re at something like a cocktail party in 1959, some comments on the video say it’s a clip from a TV show called Playboy’s Penthouse, and it reminds me of a Rob and Laura Petrie party, as on the The Dick Van Dyke Show, but with the Count—Count Basie!—on piano, and Tony Bennett smiling fireside. After “Twisted,” Ross sings (and hiccups) “Everyday I Have the Blues” with Lambert and Hendricks—and Joe Williams! Hey Joe! So grab a drink and a smoke, or a coffee and donut, or tea and toast, and relax, take a few minutes—


And it’s kind of like being at a ballgame. The video is best watched through to The End.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

the memory lane rag

I am tired of tripping down memory lane,
stumbling and fumbling and being surprised,
so I take to the track that strolls through the field
of summer and bliss and now.

On either side the flowers bloom and grasses wave hello,
and here I know this is my home, so now, where else to go?

Daisies rampant, that I love, and soon Queen Anne will bloom.
Brown-eyed Suzie’s poised to unfurl—aha! There she goes! Zoom!


The goat’s beard is mostly puff balls now, puff balls full of seed;
they wait to explode—the wind is light—
so many flowers I see.

Then one morning I look for music
to play as I go about work,
and I pick a CD that I rarely
—like never—think of
and wouldn’t you know,
it sets my toes tapping!
And so off I go dancing
but the road it takes
looks just like

Ragtime piano by a guy named Bob Milne,
and it was my mother’s CD. I am dancing now,
just like my mother,
and once this would make me cringe
(to see my mother in me)
almost enough to make me unhinge—
Stop! Why?

I love my mother and I see her now,
the way she was once ago,
the way she danced—
a little shuffle and jive,
   mincing steps,
sly smile a grin,
    hands clenched in small fists,
(hands that played ragtime piano
to beat that
                 barrelhouse
                                    band)
and she’s got the boogie,
      and she’s got the rag,
            the blues,

and folded within the plastic CD case, which is a bit sticky, so yuk,
is a paper upon which something was spilled,
maybe coffee or tea or such,
it is mottled and wavy, puckered and creased,
and on it is printed a full page piece:
—“BOB MILNE – Ragtimist”—
written by my brother-in-law’s dad
—“MERRY CHRISTMAS 1997”—
and he signs off w/love
—“Samardad”—
which is a take on him and the place where he lived,
the place my mom lives now,
a place where Bob Milne
once played piano in ragged time
in a Mountain Room—

It is a wonderful story I read it now
while shuffling and jiving,
  mincing my steps;
I had forgotten this paper inside the CD,
the CD I listened to with my mom, once or twice,
in the room where she lived before now,
that room where she had more of her stuff,
and when she moved I took this CD because heck, I like that memory—
and she wasn’t dancing but sitting in her chair,
the big green chair with the seat that rose
to help her out,
out to lunch or dinner or wherever,
a walk to the patio—
I like that memory,
she enjoyed the ragtime,
it made her smile,
  made her whole face lift,
her hands move,
   her body move,
just a bit,
    just a slight jive,
but very much alive,
     and yes, dancing.

“Samardad” was a character.
He wrote a book about his life. I have a copy.
And now I have this raggedy piece of paper too
on which he wrote “BOB MILNE – Ragtimist”
and all about that “ragged-time
(ragtime) music.”

But I have a question:
Where do Memory Lane and Here & Now Avenue part?
They must diverge somewhere, please.

I think also I dance
like Barney Fife
— now isn’t that great?

To dance like Barney—
To dance like my mother—
To dance like me!


But how do I get off this Memory Road?
I am tired of tripping on down it, of dancing on down it,
though I like to think I am smoothing its bumps,
sitting high in the cab of a mammoth machine,
at the controls,
smoothing the bumps,
filling the cracks,
making the road
a level path to wander
in my dotage
when,
probably,
I will have forgotten it all
anyway.

I walk down the track through the field
one morning,
there was a night of rain and storm—
a Hollywood version with flashing lights,
rolling thunder,
pouring rain,
will it never end?
—what is with all this drama, anyway?—
and mingling in the aftermath
a scent of hay fields, just mowed,
  thick with moisture,
ten thousand flowers,
   vibrant air,
and I swear just breathing
    is full as a meal,
like meat and potatoes—
     salad and roll on the side,
                                               please.


A line from “The Ragtime Dance,” Scott Joplin (1868-1917).


Sunday, July 3, 2016

cub scorecards, wallowing, going home, again

I am surrounded by scorecards, wallowing in old scorecards from Wrigley Field, tripping down memory lane and loving this rocky trail of 20 years and more, these old Cub scorecards like photographs—

A photograph of a scorecard, mid-game, game time 1:20 p.m., Sunday, Oct.6, 1991. OUTFLD GEN ADM 6.00. Finally. The last game of 1991. St. Louis 7, Cubs 3. Sweep. 17,169. NO BEES! It’s Elsie’s B-Day. VIC, COTE, & ME. Sandberg hits his 100th RBI.

As summer sizzles and drizzles and pops all around me, I dig into hundreds of miles away and years ago and again it’s right here, again.

I wanted to see the last scorecard I kept and I was sure it was from the last game I went to, a dozen years ago, 2004, on or around my birthday, and it should be right there, at the end of it all, all the cards in their plastic crate in their file folders, organized by year, but it is not. Rather, the last scorecard is from Friday, August 10, 2001, the Cubs beating the Giants 9-3, starting time 2:20 p.m., 77 degrees, clear, wind blowing in. Lieber pitched a complete game. I sat in a Club Box, Section 36, Row 3, a $30 ticket—now how did that happen? And how can it be that this is the last scorecard? I can picture that 2004 game, a night game, box seats between home and third, a lovely night, but, no scorecard? And nothing from 2003? 2002? Perhaps I should stop here, but I delve in.

And now I must pause to acknowledge: fear. I am exploring this notion, perhaps harsh old lesson, that “You Can’t Go Home Again,” which is the title of a book by Thomas Wolfe. I have never read it, but it’s about time I did, so I’ve checked it out of the library.
At any rate, that is how it seemed to young George Webber, who was never so assured of his purpose as when he was going somewhere on a train. And he never had the sense of home so much as when he felt that he was going there. It was only when he got there that his homelessness began.
I am on a train, tunneling into scorecards, not sure where I am going, but enjoying the scenery, like this scorecard with a photo, May 22, 2001, a night game against the Reds, Cubs win, 5-3, there is a rain delay in the fifth inning, my scoring stops after the seventh, and there is the photo glued to the squares for the eighth, ninth, and tenth innings, it is NU Night—Northwestern University—at Wrigley Field, so I am with co-workers in Sec. 208, Row 16.

I still have that cap. Must have been a give-away. And there’s Ami. She was fun.

Then there is this game from 1994. The Braves beat the Cubs, 19-5. I sat in the bleachers, it’s a 2:20 p.m. Friday game, April 15. I’ve just come from the dentist where I took gas, headphones & a filling. The wind howls from home to scoreboard. How will I get home riding against it? 53 degrees. Atlanta hit three home runs in the first inning off Anthony Young and after the fourth inning my scorekeeping stops and there is this note: 2 hours, 4 innings, 11 Atlanta runs, 10 (at least) less degrees later—I’m going home! Riding home against wind gusts up to 40 MPH. I saved the newspaper articles, Tribune and Sun-Times, and they are pretty funny. Cubs manager Tom Trebelhorn is described as “shell-shocked” by one paper and “surprisingly subdued” by the other. Atlanta not only had 19 runs but 24 hits and they stranded eight.

Then, a Sunday afternoon game, May 5, 1996. In the bottom of the ninth Sammy Sosa hits a home run that breaks a window in an apartment building on Waveland Avenue. Cubs win, 5-4, beating the Mets. Game time temp 49 degrees with a crowd of 25,949. I was in Aisle 240, Row 8, Seat 7.

But mostly I sat here.

And then all the memories of all the Opening Days, a long string of which began in the late 1970s with an impromptu drive from Appleton, Wisconsin, with a guy named Rick, and eventually years later the finagling it took to get Opening Day tickets and other dates as well—I’m talking bleachers, here—and remembering how in February I would pore over the Cubs schedule, confer with my then-husband and friends and relatives, construct a list of games to attend, number of tickets to get, and then on the day tickets went on sale figuring out the best TicketMaster outlet to go to, how early to get there, the route to take, and then the cold and coffee and camaraderie and cigarettes of standing in line at dawn, late February, maybe March, to get tickets for the heat of August, the method and structure of ticket sales always changing, I see that now, and it jostles away this old static memory that bleacher tickets were sold at the gate, day of game only, that of course going way back to ’84 when what you could do is, one or two people go early, stand in line on Sheffield or Waveland and then when the gates open buy your ticket but also tickets for those who come later, closer to game time, and then those who come later stand out on Sheffield, wait for someone to appear above, the someone who’s inside the park with tickets saving front row center field seats, and then that someone tosses a slightly scrunched-up paper cup up and over the chain link fence that tops the story-high brick wall along the back of the bleachers, and down the cup falls into your hands or at your feet and inside the cup is your ticket, maybe just slightly dampened by a dredge of beer. How we coordinated that without cell phones or smart phones, I don’t know, but that’s what I remember, until I delve into these years of scorecards and notes and changes and see yes, things were always changing, one frame to the next, static moments in memory only. My 1984 file is thickest by far—40 scorecards.

For a few years, goofy predictions were made on Opening Day, and I had forgotten about that, but I find these predictions now and my favorite is by Ann, then my sister-in-law, Opening Day 1994, that auspicious start to a season with three consecutive home runs by the Cubs’ lead-off hitter, Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes, the homers coming off Dwight Gooden in the first, third, and fifth innings, all to left field, but the Cubs, nonetheless, losing to the Mets, 12-8, on a 65-degree April 4 day, wind blowing out vigorously, and Ann is predicting that Tonya Harding will throw out the first ball Opening Day 1995. Perhaps it is relevant, as on that scorecard, kept in the bleachers, front row, center field, I make two notes—“HILLARY CLINTON!” “BONNIE BLAIR!”—and I am guessing that day these two women threw out ceremonial first pitches.

Interesting. Dallas Green was managing the Mets.

And now here comes a curve, a curve ball, context.

The last scorecard of 1994 is noted Aug 10 – Wed – 1:20 – with Dad – Last game before strike date, 65 degrees + Rain – 34,984. The Cubs lost to San Francisco, 5-2. My dad and I were in Aisle 202, Row 2, and I had Seat 4. I have a static memory of standing for the seventh inning stretch, holding an umbrella, singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” with close to 35,000 others, belting it out, kind of an opening of every pore to take it all in because there was this strike looming, we all knew it, and the strike happened and so baseball was over for that year, there was no World Series, and I got mad at baseball but I also learned Oh, I see, I can live without baseball, and somewhere in there, before that, there was a miscarriage, and I remember I was at the ballpark when I first felt those pains, and later then I stopped drinking, stopped smoking, stopped drinking coffee, and so habits changed and life went on, and I’m not sure how any of this is related or even important but it pops into mind; then in 1995 all the pets in the household changed, and then maybe it was ’96 that I changed jobs, began working full-time, and in ’97 there was the move from the city to the suburb so no more bike rides to Wrigley Field, now a train ride, and really no big deal but it got harder and harder to get to a game, even with all the night games, but maybe also because of all the night games because night games were something I never really got used to, and I had stopped sitting in the bleachers because people move, move on, or maybe not, but it changes, and you change, and I remember how irritating it was when people began bringing phones to the game, to the bleachers, people talking on their phones in the middle of a ballgame!, it seemed so odd and stupid and was just so easy to mock but also, it was a trend, so soon more and more of this, less and less of that, and for better or worse, things change.

That ain’t me, babe. Or no, wait minute, is it?

I carry this image in my head of my dad and me at Wrigley Field in an upper deck box between home and first on a somewhat cold, rainy day. I see him in one of his driving caps rather than a Cubs cap, and for a raincoat I am wearing a brown plastic trash bag. We both wear gloves, keep score, are part of a sparse crowd, don’t say much, and when the game is over we take the el home, or he takes the el home and I get on my bike. This image comes to mind whenever I think of how one should never leave a game until the last out is played or the last run is scored. I am not sure why this image has become memorable, become static, but I am wondering now if I can find my scorecard for that game and match it up against my dad’s, for I have all of his scorecards, too. Maybe that game was April 29, 1995, Aisle 431, Row 4, Seat 4, ticket: $7.50. A Saturday afternoon. Opening Day + 1 … GREY, 49 degrees … 28, 244. I make a note that the umpires are not regular umpires but “replacement umpires,” and that, as well as this late start to the 1995 season, speaks to the duration and acrimony of the strike. But, nonetheless, that day the Cubs beat Montreal, 5-4. Dunston had a three-run homer in the first; Sosa hit a single shot in the sixth. In the top of the ninth Montreal threatened, scoring a run on two outs, an RBI double by Shane Andrews who was then left stranded on second, the last out being a fly ball to right, and I wonder now how close to the warning track, to the ivy, to the brick, that last out flew.

Father-daughter scorecards, April 29, 1995.

I know now I didn’t keep a scorecard for that game in 2004, and I wonder if all these years later, these years of breaking down and messing up and rebuilding, carrying on, if I were to show up at Wrigley's gate, would it be like old friends hugging away the years, embracing the struggles, the changes? Or would it be like wary strangers eyeing each other, judging the changes, a tsk tsk and a fare-thee-well. Either way, for sure, this time I’m keeping a scorecard.

Circa 1961, the heyday of scorecard cover art. No, I wasn’t at the game, but somebody was, and they kept score through the sixth inning. The Milwaukee Braves were in town. Ernie Banks was at short, Santo at third, Williams in left, and some guy named Zimmer played second. A bleacher seat cost 75 cents, tax included, and you could get a taffy apple for 15 cents, a cigar for 10 cents, a pencil for 5 cents, and, best of all, you could rent a seat cushion: 10 cents.