Sunday, October 30, 2016

World Series Game 3: Wrigley Field

1. Santa and a Drunk
The crowd was like a sandy beach dusted with snow, varying shades of white and tan, all swaddled in snapping crisp Cubbie blue. Even after it all—the 1-0 loss to Cleveland in Game 3 of the 2016 World Series, the first World Series game at Wrigley Field in 71 years—they looked clean and pressed and rather bright, standing upright, standing tall, except for the drunks, of course, and there were a few of those. Behind me a group of young men held on to one, their friend, a slight young man floppy as an old sock.

The crowd moved in spurts—we were thousands of people leaving the ball park, heading to the el station a half block east. Inside the park we had been herded and channeled by the usual walkways and ramps; outside we were channeled by the usual buildings and structures with the addition of unbreakable lines of police on foot and horse and temporary metal barricades that kept some of us confined to the narrow sidewalk while others walked the spacious street. At Addison and Sheffield I broke free, worked my way over to the back of the crowd at the far side of the el station, which brought me considerably closer to the doors, which, I soon learned, were being opened and closed according to some secret plan concocted by the CTA. When the doors opened, the crowd surged forward. When the doors closed, we stopped.

Standing in front of me was a man who stood out in the crowd. His face was dark as a strong cup of joe and he wore a red jacket, slightly mussed, slightly rumpled. He stooped a bit and held on to a simple walker that sported wheels and a seat. After a surge forward the doors closed, mob movement stopped, he turned, sat down, jingled coins in a cup.

“You sound like Santa Claus,” I said.

He laughed. He said, “Sometimes I act like Santa Claus, too. I give away all my stuff. Yes, sometimes I give away all my stuff, just like Santa Claus. Maybe I shouldn’t do that, but I do.”

The doors opened and the mob moved with a strange, detached momentum. Santa had to stand, turn around, and by the time he did this some had flowed past like water around stone, including the three or four young men with the sleepy drunk. Then Santa got moving, made it into the station.

The doors closed.

I was now at the front of the mob, and in front of me was three feet of open space, then the doors, the last set of three sets of double doors that make up the entrance to the station. The entire face is glass, so I had a great view of the station’s interior. It is one big room with ticket turnstiles to the right, starting about halfway back. I watched as the mob in the station moved through those turnstiles, the near part of the room clearing out, and when that kid started barfing into the garbage can I had as good a view as any. Yes, that young, sleepy-eyed drunk had reappeared, taken a dramatic stance by a large CTA garbage can with a big Cubs emblem on it, and started vomiting. It was not unlike watching a movie. The crowd commented. “Oh no!” Laughter. “The poor guy!” Chuckles. “Oh good, his friend is helping him.” Smiles. “Oh no! There he goes again!” Each time he retched, a collective “Oooooooo.”

Then the young man straightened up, paused, turned, began lurching toward the station doors. Toward us. “Oh no!” “Hey buddy! No way!” “Uh uh, go back!” Everyone, and I mean everyone, made a motion with their hands or said something or did both, did anything to keep this vomiter from leaping off the screen into our world. I’ve never seen a 3-D movie, but this is probably what it’s like.

The drunk abruptly stopped, looked up, maybe saw us all or heard us, and he kind of shrugged, made a face like who needs ya?, turned, and then his buddy, who had momentarily left him, came back on scene to steer his friend through a turnstile.

Phew. We all laughed. I was laughing, and I looked around and everyone in Cubbie blue was either smiling or laughing and it was absolutely the funniest moment of the night.


2. Standing Room Only: The Aussie
With an SRO ticket, you can walk around the grandstand or upper deck of Wrigley Field all through the game, or you can stand on the far side of the walkway behind the grandstand seats, which go from the the left field corner to the right field corner. There are many good spots, it all just kind of depends on the crowd and the weather and what you’re looking for.

By game time, I had been walking around outside and inside the park for a couple of hours, so I decided to pick a spot to stand, maybe sit, and found one behind home plate. Way behind home plate.


Next to me was Paul, a young man from Australia. He introduced himself and told me he’d been a Cub fan for several years, somehow hearing about them way over yonder and adopting them as his team. The park was very noisy, so hard to hold a conversation, but I think I understood correctly when Paul said that once the Cubs made it to the World Series his parents told him that if he got a ticket for a game they would cover the airfare. So here he was. With a friend from Australia and two friends from Chicago. This was not his first trip over to Wrigley Field this year. And he’s also been to two World Cup finals. Finally I said “Oh, so you’re a sports nut,” and he said “Oh yeah-a” in that nice, soft and curvy Australian lilt.

3. A Word from Ronnie
Before the game Ronnie “Woo Woo” Wickers was outside the park standing in a long line of hopefuls waiting to buy a ticket for the game.


4. Back to Standing Room Only: Laura and a Loner
Soon the players were being announced so everyone with a grandstand seat stood up and I realized the problem: I could not see through them. Some people were sitting just above me on a ramp leading to the upper deck, so I tried that out, and, but for the howling wind at my back, it worked out fine. One could sit or stand and have a fairly decent view. Laura sat down next to me. She had a sign for her brother. He died a few years ago. She was at the game for him, she said, just as she had promised. She wore a Cub flag like a cape, and as the wind blew and the cold concrete seeped into my legs, I shivered. Laura noticed and offered me her cape. No, no, I’m fine.

Laura and I developed a camaraderie. I was trying to maintain a scorecard and told her about my dad and scorecards. We high-fived after every key play. And on her phone is the only photo of me at the World Series.


But it was not a cold night, actually rather a warm one, and I knew that out of the wind I’d be more comfortable, so after five innings I left Laura and the spot on the ramp. I walked around, hit a bathroom, found my way to the far left corner of the upper deck. At the final switchback on the way up the ramp sat one young man, on the edge of the ramp, his back against a post, his legs stretched out in front of him, a calm bubble of solitude. I asked if he had a good view of the game and he said yes, it was a pretty good view.

5. The Scorecard Thing
If you go to a World Series game at Wrigley Field, don’t expect to buy your traditional scorecard and pencil. They are not available. You may be tempted to fork over $15 for the only scorecard that is available, the one within the official World Series program, but in my opinion that scorecard is worthless, and, besides, the damn thing weighs near to two pounds. I made do for a while with a sheet of paper and some pens I had, but overall, a score-keeping disaster.


6. Bill Murray
The upper deck is split by a walkway with rows of seats above and below, and at the left field end the upper rows of seats had been turned into a quasi press box for “auxiliary media.” Here there were far less people walking about and the view was fine. I leaned against the half wall in front of the auxiliary press and had some peanuts. The only people who bothered me were the ones with the little brooms and dustpans that kept coming by to sweep up peanut shells.

Soon it was soon time for the seventh inning stretch and the mass singing of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game, ” the tradition started by Harry Caray all those years ago. Tonight’s guest conductor, as they call whoever it is leading us in song, was Bill Murray, the celebrity face of every long-suffering Cub fan. Guest conductors kind of lean out from the broadcast booth which hangs over the upper deck, back of home plate, and most often they start with a few words of some sort. Murray was no exception. But I could not tell what he was saying. Something about Daffy Duck. What does Daffy Duck have to do with it? I had no clue, still don’t, but finally the song began. And Murray sang like Daffy Duck. I didn’t get it then, I don’t get it now. And I wonder why we have to suffer this stuff. It seems like a mockery of a mockery or something. Postseason baseball and they trot Bill Murray out and he sings and spits like Daffy Duck and seriously, do we need this embarrassment?

Cleveland had gone up 1-0 in the top of the seventh, and in the bottom of the seventh the Cubs had a bit of something going, a triple, finally!, by Jason Heyward, and I was enjoying it all when suddenly a crowd of people marched by headed toward the far corner of the stadium. Hello. Where did you all come from? Hello. I can’t see … I realized there was something officious about this group as they all moved briskly, heads up, eyes forward, no one stumbling or fumbling about with a floppy trayful of beers or nachos—it was very much as if Something Was Happening. Luckily, there were two young men nearby who caught it all on their phones, and after this shipload of people had passed these guys looked at whatever they had captured and exclaimed: Bill Murray! Bill Murray walked by! I got it! I got it! I got his picture! Look! See?

Meanwhile, the Cubs blew a chance to score.

7. Jim Deshaies
The celebrity I did see was Jim Deshaies. All summer long, April to October, he is a TV commentator for the Cubs, and I think he’s a smart enough guy and quite funny. When I was cruising through the stands before the game I passed Deshaies and stopped short, recognizing him kind of like an afterthought. His voice is more familiar to me than his face. I told him how I listen to him and his partner, Len Kasper, every day, all summer, and thanked him for the fun of it. There’s a lot of room in baseball for announcers to veer off into obtuse matter like who drove the Partridge Family’s bus, if they have that bent, anyway, and I, of course, enjoy these diversions and digressions. So I told Deshaies about that and I think I even shook his hand.

8. Bring Out Your Dead (But please, can we put away the dead bats?)
The official attendance at the game was 41,703, but unofficially, if you stopped to count all the dead people, the attendance was in the millions. It was a night so filled with novelty—the first World Series Game at Wrigley Field in 71 years! no scorecards! no pencils! Bill Murray!—but so heavily laden with the past and this thick miasma of spirits; all these poor lost souls who never while living got to experience this World Series moment; all these dearly departed being evoked by their descendants, the media, interested bystanders—how do we maneuver through such a spiritual smog? Of course some believe these souls are up in heaven watching. Perhaps it is just a few of us believing our dads are actually there with us at the ball park.

While driving home the next day, somewhere in Wisconsin, I was tuned to a radio program on a Chicago station. Listeners were asked to call in with stories of their loved ones, those now gone, those who this World Series is bringing back, those who this World Series is being played for, the moms, dads, grandpas and grandmas and sisters and brothers and aunts and uncles … on and on. One caller told of her mother’s life-long passion for the Cubs and of her very last words, caught on tape. Go Cubs Go, she said. Then she died.

9. Going Home Again
Once inside the el station at Addison, I got through the turnstile and onto a train fairly quickly. Even got a seat. At Howard, we all piled off and most of us stayed on the platform to wait for the next train, either the Purple Line or the Yellow Line. Here things bogged down a bit, and a new mob formed. This one was heavy with families. You could see the generations lined up. Kids, teen-agers, middle-agers, the aged. Several people I would guess were in their 80s, in their 90s, and one or two hung on to the sleeve of a daughter or son, maybe a grandchild. Some hung on to each other. Others stood firmly on their own. A lucky few got to sit.

My van was at the last stop on the Purple Line, my old hometown. There is a parking lot there: $4 for 24 hours. About 1 a.m. I laid down in my van, slept a few hours. Then I drove over to Gillson Park, along Lake Michigan. I brushed my teeth and stretched my legs. A cinnamon roll later, I was on my way up to the next suburb to pick up Josie.


What a night, I thought. What a night. No, it wasn’t the greatest game ever. The Cubs made it interesting in the bottom of the ninth, but left it at a loss, a crazy 1-0 loss with the wind blowing out. But I was able to be there, and that was the thing. Some part of me had felt I had to be there, so I was, and forever now I will have that vivid memory of some guy in a red jacket jingling his change and of some kid barfing into a garbage can. A guy from Australia and a young woman in her cape. The conundrum of Daffy Duck. The tallness of Jim Deshaies. The miasma of ghosts. That kid celebrating his birthday. That one guy sitting on the upper deck ramp. The usher who sang and shuffled her feet to “Hit the Road Jack.” Wayne Messmer once again singing the national anthem. Left Foot Creek and the I Don’t Know Saloon. The proprietor at the coffee shop near 4th and Linden who wanted to buy my vintage Cubs jacket off my back, and the man in Cubbie blue coming in looking frantic did I leave a wad of money here? because he left a wad of money somewhere. There is still a jukebox at the Nisei Lounge. And Ronnie Woo Woo, indeed, he lives.

10. Josie Has His Say
As depicted by a photo snapped by his dogsitter.


11. Elliott Adds a Word
No. Wait a minute. Elliott has nothing to say.

12. So, can we let it go now? Please?
No way. Not yet. We still have to sing.

Go Cubs Go.


World Series Game One: Cleveland 6, Cubs 0
World Series Game Two: Cubs 5, Cleveland 1
World Series Game Three: Cleveland 1, Cubs 0
World Series Game Four: Cleveland 7, Cubs 2
World Series Game Five: Tonight, Wrigley Field


Sunday, October 23, 2016

obsession

Fresh lot 500 pounds of beeswax golden golden, honey sweet, dozens of candles beneath my hands, my eyes, my nose; wax and water tumble rumble in the pot. No snow yet but in a forecast after rain and more rain pounding on the roof, sleeping on my side, Josie under the covers curling into my belly; Elliott at the foot of the bed, thunder, lightening, stacking wood, mowing the lawn, making candles, cutting off half my hair.

Obsession.

Elliott’s nose.

Every time I go outside more and more beauty. To see, to smell, to touch. Pine and cedar, damp. To hear: coyotes. To feel.

Breaking, resisting, refiring, giving in, giving up, a sidelong gaze; wonderment, a vague mistrust, an uncanny confidence.

I cannot sidestep obsession.

Elliott on the trail.

Here is what happened. At the market one of many favorite customers showed me a letter he had written to President Obama requesting a pardon for Leonard Peltier. The letter is handwritten in black ink on a piece of birch bark well over a foot square. Attached to the bark is a feather. The letter writer says he spent weeks obsessed with the project: the composition of it, the design of it, the writing of it on the bark—his wife points out how difficult it is to write without mishap on birch bark—and then he asks: Am I crazy? Crazy to do this? To put so much time into something? Into this? I say no, not at all, just the opposite, and I mean it, and, for a few different reasons, I am moved nearly to tears.

A couple of days later, all that forgotten, I am checking the score of the Cleveland Indians-Toronto Blue Jays game and I see a picture of the Indians celebrating. I am struck by the logo prominently displayed on their caps and uniforms, as if I’d never seen it before. It’s downright creepy, and I am stunned, because it is a caricature of a so-called Indian. I get on Wikipedia and learn this creature is called “Chief Wahoo.” I read that the Indians name and logo have been protested against since the 1970s, and, just this week, there was a case in a Canadian court attempting to ban the name and logo in Canada. Now why wasn’t this on NPR? Or did I miss it? And do Indian fans really go around wearing this Wahoo dude on their chests, on their caps? Do they really proudly display a blatantly racist image and for the most part do the rest of us just ignore it?


Yes. Of course.


I remember the letter written on birch bark and being asked “Am I crazy?” and I think again by golly no. But these people—running around with a caricature of Leonard Peltier or his ancestors, I guess, on their baseball caps—without a thought? That’s crazy.


Maybe they think it is only their perception that matters.


But I am crazy, too, running around with a cubbie bear on my belly. And thinking and writing stuff like this. I once had a “Free Peltier” button. That was long ago. Where did I get it? Where did it go?


Obsession.

I read interesting articles about the history of the Indians name and a player named Louis Sockalexis and about the origin of Wahoo (links below) and I see reflected in the stories some of the history of our society and culture, the history of our racist natures.


I mean no offense to Indian fans—from now on to be referred to as “Wahoos”—or anybody, for that matter. If I had been raised in Cleveland probably I would be attached to this little guy, would not want to part with it or the Indians moniker just because some outsider didn’t get it. On the other hand, maybe I would be at the forefront of the “Bring Back the Spiders” movement. We could have hats, T-shirts, buttons—and Charlotte as our mascot!

Oh, the tangled web we weave …

Mosquitoes bounce on the windowpane, circle electric lights.

Elliott and Josie on the island.

Is obsession is a physical energy? I feel it one morning realizing that if the Cubs are not in the World Series by Sunday, I could go to Chicago Sunday and be there for the Sunday game the Cubs could win to get in the World Series … I could be there. I sit on the sofa with sunshine just beginning to stream in to mix with the warmth from the woodstove and I am so aware of this vibration coursing through and bouncing around within my body.

What to make of it?

And then I get back to this Wahoo business.


The image is racist—there is no way around that. It’s not a matter of opinion. A silly caricature of an Indian based on a white person’s impression of Native Americans circa mid-20th century is, almost by definition, a pejorative racial stereotype. There is nothing nice about it.


Nope, it is not a favorable stereotype. Of course not. I mean, seriously, if we were thinking highly of the people native to this land, why did we kill these people? Why did we isolate those we didn’t kill? Why did we take their children, put them in boarding schools, teach them only the white man’s way? Not your language, our language. Not your ways, our ways. Not your self-image, but our image of you. No, it’s not a matter of whether this image is based on racism or not: we know it is. Is it offensive? You decide.


I have already decided. Wahoo is a creep and Wahoo makes my skin crawl as if with some memory I have no right to. And now we have to play these Wahoos in the World Series?

Wait a minute.

Did I just say World Series? As in Cubs v. Wahoos World Series 2016?

I’m sorry. Did we just enter a new dimension?

Josie watches for squirrels.

Yes.

And this is what I have learned.
Don’t give up.
Stick with it.
If you love it, stick with it.
If you need a break, take a break.
Work on your strengths.
Don’t sweat the weaknesses.
Work with your weaknesses—they can turn to advantages.
Try not to suck.
Listen to your own counsel.
Celebrate your teammates.
Let others yak on and on about your shortcomings, or on and on about those who are so much better.
So what? What do they know?
Do it differently.
Study the game.
Play the game.
Enjoy the game.
Steal home if you can.
If a goat wants to watch a game at your ballpark, LET HIM IN.
Nothing is static.
Be honest.
Be patient.
Take your walks.
Bunt.
Swing away, hit a grand slam.
Respect.
Above all, respect.
Respect history, respect change, respect distance.
Respect people.
Take a road trip.
Wear a onesie.
And sing after every victory.
Oh, don’t listen to me. The Cubs are in the World Series. And that moment came at Wrigley Field. So for all that may be wrong with the world, last night there was that one little thing in that one little place that seemed just about right.

This is kind of how it feels.

Those links I mentioned:

Cleveland Indians: The Name, by Joe Posnanski
Sockalexis Addendum, also by Joe
The Secret History of Chief Wahoo, by Brad Ricca
Wahooism in the U.S.A., by David Nevard
Wahooism Revisited: Louis Sockalexis, also by David with responses and queries from others

Game Two NLCS: Dodgers 1, Cubs 0
Game Three NLCS: Dodgers 6, Cubs 0
Game Four NLCS: Cubs 10, Dodgers 2
Game Five NLCS: Cubs 8, Dodgers 4
Game Six NLCS: Cubs 5, Dodgers 0
World Series begins Tuesday


Sunday, October 16, 2016

on the trail of the prickly pickle pod, dreaming a big fat baby, luffa!, and a return to radio

The next time I went to my new spot along the river I took the camera for close-ups of the prickly pickle pods.

Here is one. There is another on the jigsaw puzzle page.

I thought of snipping one off the vine to take to the local DNR office for identification, like I did one time with that bone I found, but the more I thought about it the more I wanted to just leave the pickle pods be.

The next day clear warm skies. An exciting west wind rustled leaves, tossed a few about, rippled herringbone patterns down the river’s spine, played havoc with the pickle pods. I found them on the ground, just two of the three, one with a hole in its side, the other half torn away. Alas—wounded pickle pods! But getting a peek inside was very interesting. Looked like green, gelatinous loofah.

My previous searches for pods beyond my spot had turned up nothing, but that day, with wounded pods in tow (I figured now I might as well take them home), my vision felt sharp, my mind in pod tune. I looked specifically for the vine the pods hang from rather than for the pods themselves. The vine is thin, yellow, scraggly like a string with no leaves, or maybe just a few leaves withered and brown or yellow. Suddenly I saw such a vine. It wandered through some dogwood branches at eye-height, interlaced with other vines, wrapped around and across spent wildflower heads, shrubs, who knows what all. A loose tapestry of island vegetation, a haphazard net tossed ashore.

Follow the vine.

I visually tracked the vine and at one end found a brown, shrunken-head-like prickly pod. Its bottom was open, as if nibbled off, its thin outer skin slightly curled back. I took a look inside, again reminded of a loofah. I tracked back along the vine and found more pods, still green, various sizes, all with open bottoms. Maybe they naturally split open that way to release their seeds. Or maybe they are, to some, a forest delicacy, bottoms only: be careful not to eat more, Junior, just nibble, like this, suck out the seeds.

Bottoms up.

A couple of humdinger ballgames. Our favorite team wins enough to move on to the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers of L.A. Which is a bit of a doodley doodley doo doo doo. My method of staying calm is to dribble a bit of Tennessee Cider into my peppermint tea. Also, I study the possibility and complexity of synchronizing a streaming radio broadcast with a streaming television broadcast. No easier than lining up fish in whitewater.

A dream: there is a man in a suit. He asks (I think) to sit on my lap—this part is fuzzy—and I say something about him being just like a little boy or maybe a big baby and so then he is a little boy, a baby boy, sitting on my lap, facing me. Now the dream is clear. The baby boy has a big round smiling face, very little hair, and he is clad in a dark blue onesie printed all over with little white and red and yellow balloons. His belly is big, Buddha-round, and I cover it with one hand, barely, commenting on its size. This seems to offend the baby, so I smile and say: “We’ll call you Balloon Boy. How’s that? Balloon Boy!” The baby smiles and laughs. “Balloon Boy!” I say again, and the baby laughs again. We do that for a bit and then the baby says, “You’re so nice, we should name a day for you! There should be a Leslie Allen Day!” And I think yes, there should be a day for me. I start thinking of possibilities. September 31, April 31, October 32. These dates strike me as so funny that I laugh and snort and laugh and snort and I want to tell Balloon Boy why I am laughing but I am laughing and snorting so hard I cannot speak.

By the time I got around to looking at the prickly pickle pods I had brought home from my spot by the river, the innards had dried to a wheat color. The skin—dried pickle green and prickly, though not quite so prickly as before—peeled back easily, revealing and releasing the loofah within. Yes, they are loofahs, or luffas, if you prefer. So somewhere along a wild U.P. river there grows a wild mini loofah vine. I know a woman who keeps doll houses. Maybe she’d like a little mini loofah for a bathroom.

The Loofah Project

I stay up late listening to the first Cubs-Dodgers game on streaming radio, the local Chicago broadcast with Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer. Pat always tells you when a player’s uniform is dirty and even describes the smudges and streaks, and Ron is a bit excitable, especially when things happen like Miguel Montero hitting a grand slam in the bottom of the eighth with two outs to break what had been a numbing 3-3 tie. I’ve decided the national television broadcasts are not worth the folderol and to switch to them during the playoffs, well, it’s like leaving old friends you’ve sat with in the bleachers since April just to sit with and listen to these strangers, these stiffs in slick suits and ties from some faraway land who profess to have a better seat, a better view, and who profess to know it all. Bah. Anyway, what a game.

Game One NLCS: Cubs 8, Dodgers 4

Sunday, October 9, 2016

i’ve got a new spot with prickly pickle pods, unsettlement, cubs in october

I’ve got a new spot by the river tucked up on a little sandy slope in among the vines and ferns. If I look to my right, this is what I see.


See the fat little pickles with bristles? I didn’t until the day after I took the picture and I wished I had my camera so I could take a picture of the bristly pickle pods. I’d never seen such things. I still have no idea what they are. There are three of them hanging from a long, winding, yellow vine. I searched around a bit for more prickly pickles, but saw none. Later, back home, I looked at the pictures I’d taken the day before, and there they were, two of them, anyway, and I wondered how I could take a picture of prickly pickle pods without seeing them.


But mostly I have been feeling a little nuts because the Cubs are in the playoffs again. I wrote a poem about it. It’s long, nonsensical, but, so what? Maybe that’s poetry.

Unsettlement: The Cubs in October
a poem for the masses

I try to take it in stride, cannot.
October and the Cubs do not mix.
I don’t care what anyone says—
it’s unnatural, rare, and never,
never, in my experience or that
of any Cub fan younger than 108,
a thing that ends well.

Hey now, wait a minute.
Aren’t we supposed to enjoy this?
The drama.
The best team in baseball.

The regular season is over, that’s all I know.
A wonderful season of 103 wins.
(58 losses.)
I miss it.
It’s done.
Now this.

October.

On the phone
I chuckle and laugh
with the local internet
help guy, and then I haggle
and laugh with a woman in Ohio
(she works for SlingTV) because I’m
trying to get the tiny SlingTV picture on
my TV screen to grow large, to fill the screen;
you see, I need to stream TV, several channels, to
watch October baseball because the Cubs are playing
October baseball and this thing called SlingTV has the
necessary channels (I think) so here I am, modern life once
again (I did this last year, canceled in November) but there’s this
problem with this tiny picture and how to fix it—is it the settings in
the Sling app (and when did “app” become a word?) or is it the settings
in the Roku box or the settings in the TV?

I take a break from
  • vacuuming flies off windows
  • a mega marathon of candlemaking
  • tranquil moments in a new spot along the river
in order to explore these modern settings.

The local internet help guy is on my side,
as always, which is why I call there first.
And turns out we have the same view of
a certain presidential candidate—oh,
the places we go.
Anyway.
He thinks we better call Sling and
he is the first to find a phone number so
he calls, and then, back on the phone with me,
I go to my Sling settings and who knew that
under “Closed Captions” there were all these
strange things like “Window Opacity” and
“Edge Color” and if there are default
settings for these things, and there
are, why don’t the settings start
there, at the default? Why
must I go now into the
depths of Sling
to click
default
default
default.

We do the verbal hokey-pokey,
the internet help guy and I,
and you just try it:
Say “opacity” aloud.

Still the tiny picture
on the big TV screen.

So I call Ohio, where Sling is,
and I don’t remember her name,
I was just glad to be talking to someone
who seemed not too far away.
She was in Columbus, actually.
Originally from Michigan, she said, had
been to the U.P. maybe once. But
anyway
at first I got a little cranky because the
problem, she said, could be anywhere.
Anywhere? How does that help?
Anywhere but in the Sling app
—oh, yeah
so either the problem is in the Roku,
or the problem is in the TV,
so the problem is not
just
anywhere.

We get down to it.

Following her instructions, I go to my Roku settings.
Go to “Display type.” Choose “720p HD TV.”
It had been “4:3 standard.”
A default setting?
Who knows.

Fixed!
She fixed it!
A soccer game from Ireland (or somewhere) fills the screen from
yin to yang
from fore to aft.

(And I don’t care who that woman in Columbus is voting for, I like her.)

Later I will really really want whiskey and cigarettes
(we are waiting forever for this game to start!)
and to cut my hair and then
I get this vague feeling
that last year I went through this same
whole thing with SlingTV,
this tiny picture,
get on the phone,
720p … and maybe even
the local internet help guy
knew this
and was kind of
humoring me …
maybe
laughing at me … (as
we did the hokey pokey)
—me,
this Cub fan! lost,
so lost

in October.

We are all so vulnerable.
When it comes right down to it,
Vulnerability is Our Name.
Though some we call Gullible.
As in Gullible’s Travels.

Which is when I must admit:
This is October and the Cubs
are here in October and that is
a rare thing not known by anyone
alive
to end well
so,
forgive me for
not taking it in stride
but for
weaving side to side
like a drunken
bald-headed baseball
flicking ash
dancing the hokey pokey
while maybe just maybe
a few stitches
pull
loose.


Game One NLDS: Cubs 1, Giants 0
Game Two NLDS: Cubs 5, Giants 2


Sunday, October 2, 2016

the sound of rain & salt, a heap of mushrooms, a little mossi

Oh I love October. I love fall, so much. And now it begins. In all its last-chance glorious boasting, fading, screaming, whispering, dying, living, moping, celebrating, subtle, twirling, colors.

All its uncertainty.


I stand at the top of the riverbank listening to the rain, the drip, drip, drip of water on leaves, gentle, soft, steady, off-beat, but— it is not raining. Falling from leaf to leaf, needle to needle, on to the ground or not are just the remnants of rain, the left-over rain, maybe caught mid-air, a drizzle of rain unto the woods alone.

The river is high, as high as spring and the color of milk chocolate sprinkled with bubbles, tiny marshmallows, and all over these crazy wild mushrooms grow like escapees from a candy bag.


Rain and mist and cloudy days call forth the mushrooms, big balloons blowing up large and bald, white, in the middle of the yard; others tiny, rippled, fleshy, amoeba-like creatures growing low and flat on the slope of the riverbank, growing among the roots, the moss, the lichen on fallen branches living branches slick with rain and just visible, glistening, low afternoon light.




Looking down into the gully I see large, ivory, fan-like mushrooms, trees sprouting wings; walking down the riverbank’s stone steps I lurch to avoid pencil-thin orange-hooded mushrooms poking up through moss.


When it rains, it pours.


I search for the origin of that saying, first finding, to my surprise, that some believe it has a negative connotation, meaning one bad thing following another in great pouring heaps. But I am not feeling it as such. Rather, the opposite. Like a shower of pennies from heaven. And certainly the Morton Salt people weren’t intending to evoke negativity—no, they were just trying to sell free-running salt. See—it’s a good thing. When it rains, it pours. Like pennies from heaven. An advertising slogan.


I went looking for my “Cub Power” button, the one I wore on a brown felt hat in April, 1971.


I knew I still had it, could see it in my keepsake button cigar box along with a few other choice buttons—I Smell A Rat, Pulitzer’s No Prize—but it wasn’t there. I looked in this drawer, that drawer, not expecting to find it, but knowing, anyway, it was somewhere, so went back to the large plastic crate where I keep the keepsake button cigar box along with another cigar box of stuff like my wisdom teeth and a red plastic Oscar Meyer Wiener hot dog whistle; but also in the crate are the playbills from all the shows I’ve ever seen, and that half T-shirt they gave away in the bleachers one day, one year—It’s a Blast in the Bleachers—and what, the Cubs couldn’t afford to give us full-size T-shirts? Also printed on this half-shirt are the nicknames “Zonk,” “Deer,” “J.D.,” “Ryno,” “Bull.” And that night the Cubs TV announcers seem to unspool talking about nicknames so much they finally say there should be a National Nickname Day and if there isn’t one already it should be April 29, the birthday of “Noodles” somebody or other, a long-ago ballplayer—and anyway the plastic crate is filled with such important stuff like that.

So I’m still looking for this pin, this button, and I move something in the crate and that uncovers a yellow plastic pencil box. Wow. I’d forgotten all about that. Thought I had dispensed with that … JOY. Inside the yellow plastic pencil box I find not only the “Cub Power” button but the “I Love Baseball” button and a small baggie of ticker tape from some parade or event—maybe 1984? First time they’d made it to the play-offs in 39 years … and my little Cubs transistor radio—that was a nice give-away—and a motel-size bar of Cubs soap, and a bunch of baseball cards, and a bunch of little Cub buttons, various player buttons, some Cub key chains, and those collectible team buttons from Crane Potato Chips circa 1961, the year of the great potato-chip-eatin’, button-collectin’ contest, not to mention the Budweiser $2.00 button I must have got off a vendor, and … hello. The pencil collection.

I had to make a jigsaw puzzle of that.



Then I put the buttons in a beeswax bowl and made a jigsaw puzzle of that, too.



Now that I’m thinking of it, all those Don Mossi baseball cards, they would make a great puzzle. I discovered I have fifteen with only one duplicate, plus the one I keep on my desk, and now I’ve heard there’s a card out there of Mossi getting married on the baseball diamond under a canopy of baseball bats. Just a rumor, but worth looking into. I liked Mossi because of his ears.


When it rains, it pours, and I’ve just started reading “A Treasury of Jewish Folklore: The Stories, Traditions, Legends, Humor, Wisdom and Folk Songs of the Jewish People.” It’s a big doorstopper of a book divided into six main parts. Part One is “Jewish Salt,” and a story there called “So What?” brought forth laughter and a vague feeling of recognition. It’s a short tale of a boy and his father, a conversation mostly, as the boy asks his father for an increase in his allowance. “And if you have an increase in your allowance, so what?” the father asks. The boy says he could go to night school—so what? asks the father. Get a better job—so what? Meet a pretty girl—so what? And on and on until the boy says “... then I’d be happy!” And the father says, “So, you’re happy. So what?”


Oh I love October. I love fall, so much. And now it begins. The colors, the beauty, the mushrooms, the leaves, the coolness, the darkness, the candy, the pumpkins, the jack o’ lanterns. The harvest, the apples, the ghosts, the spirits, the baseball and that lovely lack of predictability. The memories, the fires, the frost, the stars at night, the stars in the morning, the first snow. Morning spiderwebs covered in dew. Mushrooms.


Come fall, the forest feels so ancient.