Cubs schedule the rest of the way out

I’m liking the Cubs schedule for the rest of the year.  They have a lot of games against teams that are not contenders.  Of course, translating those into wins is another story.

Published in: on July 29, 2009 at 9:16 am  Leave a Comment  

You can mess up a Stray Dog thing too

I’ll admit it.   I wonder what life would have been like with A. if I had not been untrue.  After all, she is the woman I left my wife for.

I know you don’t like me writing about personal things, but sometimes, that’s all there is on these sultry summer Chicago nights.

The question haunts me still.  Were we just Stray Dogs to each other when a Stray Dog seemed as though it was our destiny?  Or were those sultry Sunday summer afternoons lying in bed next to each other, after making good love, something that should have been forever if I had not fucked it up?

Published in: on July 28, 2009 at 11:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

“… and luck were all you needed”

The blue-backed notebooks, the two pencils and the pencil sharpener (a pocket knife was too wasteful),  the marble-topped tables, the smell of cafes cremes, the smell of early morning sweeping out and mopping and luck were all you needed.

A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway

Lookin’ forward to writing tomorrow when the sun comes up.  As paltry as my words are, a romance continues between me and them.

Published in: on July 27, 2009 at 12:07 am  Leave a Comment  

Stray Dogs Reprise

I am increasingly growing less interested in Stray Dogs–no matter how easy. Now, what the fuck do I do?

Published in: on July 26, 2009 at 8:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Baseball wagering Sat 25 Jul 09

Today’s baseball picks: Cubs over the Reds, Tigers over the White Sox.  Straight wagers on both games, and a two team parlay of same.

Published in: on July 25, 2009 at 10:59 am  Leave a Comment  

The embrace of thunder

Tonight, a warm gentle rain.  Thunder crashes occasionally.  Lightning flashes.  Then more thunder off in the distance.

I recall those summer nights when I was a boy in small Iowa towns back in the days when trains ran by them.  Upon going to bed I would hear their whistles as they approached the town.  After that, the sound of their wheels rolling along the rails disappearing in the distance.  And I would fall asleep to that sound.

I wish I was in the country again listening to the train-song.

The patter of the rain and distant thunder tonight will do though.  And the remembrance of what peace is really like.  And deep sleep, the kind of sleep where forces embrace you rather than threaten you.

Published in: on July 25, 2009 at 1:04 am  Leave a Comment  

Romance–when no holds were barred

One sure way to to burn daylight early in the morning is by studying historical baseball numbers.  Take the Chicago Cubs for instance.  From 1906 through 1910 they won 99 or more games each season, they won 4 NL titles, finished second once, and they won two World Series.  Their 1906 record of 116 wins and only 36 losses stands as the best winning percentage of all time.  Too bad they lost to the Chicago White Sox “Hitless Wonders” four games to one in the World Series that year.  After those five years, they did not tail off much as they finished second twice, third once, and fourth once in the NL.

Back then, they were not known as the lovable Cubbies as they are today.  They played as mean and hard as any team.  They retaliated in kind no matter how roughly they were treated.  Their player/manager Frank Chance was once called the best amateur barroom brawler in America.  That must have been a sight to behold given the belligerent no-holds barred era he played in.

The Cubs return home to Wrigley to play the Reds at 1:20 this afternoon.  On July 24, 2008, the Cubs beat beat Brooklyn 2-1 in Brooklyn.  Jack Pfiester got the win.  The Cubs and Giants were one game back of the Pirates in the standings at the end of the day.  The Cubs won the pennant that year over the Giants and Pirates.  The regular season ended with the Cubs playing the Giants in the last regular season game to make up the Merkle Boner game.  The Cubs beat Detroit in the World Series four games to one.

All manner of romances populate our imaginations.  We love souls, places, and times to name a few.  One needn’t find another soul when a beloved has forsaken us.  Substitutes abound.  If we want romance, we should get ourselves to places where desire, fantasy, and reality can scarcely be teased apart.  Wander.

Published in: on July 24, 2009 at 10:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Sedative

Some nights this summer I eat a chocolate chip cookie or chocolate ice cream and watch a little of the Ken Burn’s Baseball documentary before going to bed.  It takes me far away.  I always sleep well on those nights.

Published in: on July 23, 2009 at 10:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

They play it every day

The Cubs did better last night than the night before, but managed to lose 4 to 1 to the Phillies in the bottom of the 13th on a three run home with two out.  I am sure anyone who cares knows about it from watching the game or TV highlights or reading the sports news, so I won’t bore you with the details.

Whether you play like shit and lose or play well and lose, you still lose.  Someone once said you cannot be a baseball fan if winning is everything, for even the best teams lose a lot.  More’s the pity for the mediocre or bad teams.

It’s only July 22, 2009 though.  The Cubs play the Phillies again this afternoon.  As a loyal Cub fan, I cannot wait for revenge.  Nothing would delight me more today than  to see the Cubs end the Phillies ten game win streak.

The Cards lost again last night to the Astros.  The Cubs remain two games back of the Cards.  Too bad the Cubs had to visit Philadelphia when the Phillies are playing their best.  Don’t think of that, State Street.  Think about how happy you’ll be if the Cubs win today.

Published in: on July 22, 2009 at 9:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Room for the genuine

The gloom that fell over my feeble mind from the horrible display of baseball ineptitude put on by the Cubs last night has left me, for I am sitting in the sunshine bathing my balcony as I write this.  And the Cards lost last night too.  The Cubs remain only two games out.

My mind wanders to the awesome 1963 World Series pitching performance of the Dodgers’ Koufax, Podres, and Drysdale against the Yankees.  They shut them down in four straight games.  The series ended so quickly most people could not believe it.  Koufax and Drysdale were almost unbeatable in those early Sixties years.  The morning after they pitched I nearly memorized the boxscore of their games and newspaper reports of their triumphs.

Even when most days seem like days of failure and loss, we find something genuine in the exploits of those who reach almost absolute perfection, then triumph.

Published in: on July 21, 2009 at 10:35 am  Leave a Comment  

Garbage shoot

I wrote the first draft of a novel last year after swearing I’d never try to write one again.  I was in love at the time and being in love, I fell slightly in love with myself, which returned me to the awful notion that I could actually write a novel.  With some things I am persistent to the point of stubbornness–like writing novels.  After the first draft, I realized how horrible it was.  I decided to commit it to the waste basket, then the garbage shoot, but one night while in Paris, sitting alone in the bar of a hotel, an idea chanced upon me as to how I could make it better.

The novel was written in the third person.  I decided it should be written in the first person.  I meditated on the characters in the novel who would be the best candidate as the narrator.  None seemed a possibility.  Once again, I wanted to throw it down the garbage shoot.

I was driving home from Iowa from the Christmas holiday when the notion came to me that all I needed to do was add a first person narrator to the story, one who had not been in the first draft.  In January, I commenced to do just that.  I finished the second draft about a month ago.

I hated the second draft as much as the first when I finished.  The garbage shoot and the second manuscript seemed like best friends.  This past week I realized all it needs is a completely new plot.  But plots are hard things for my feeble imagination to create.

Now, its back to writing things on scraps of paper about the plot if and when they arrive from who knows where.  The Muse jabs me in the ribs every now and then, but not often enough.

I’ll write the third draft of the novel. for what is character and plot and the other elements of fiction?  They are fictions themselves.  Things we tell ourselves are necessary so we may keep going on.

Published in: on July 20, 2009 at 10:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

A half year of punishment

I can hardly believe I have done all the bad things I have done to myself this year.  (A list would only bore you.)  The only reason I can say that is because I think I have passed the worst of the crisis of doing bad things to myself.  I’ll knock wood just in case.

It’s always been a mystery to me that the only person whoever hated me was me.

Published in: on July 20, 2009 at 9:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Persona

Some of us never catch up on our reading no matter how hard we try over the span of almost 60 years.  Take me, for instance.  I am woefully under read in the classics of a sport I have enjoyed most of my life–baseball.  Thus, I am newly armed with a stack of books about baseball: Veeck–as in Wreck, Bill Veeck, with Ed Linn, Ball Four, Jim Bouton, The Long Season, Jim Brosnan, The Boys of Summer, Roger Kahn, and The Summer Game, Roger Angell.  I will also reread The Image of Their Greatness, Ritter and Honig, and The Glory of Their Times, Ritter, just because they satisfy immensely with each reading.

I’d like to think that our reading interest at any one particular time is one of our personae.

Published in: on July 20, 2009 at 9:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Realityville

Back to reality for the Cubs. They are down 9 to 2 in the 5th against the Phillies and playing like home made shit. They ought to broadcast their games on the cartoon channel.

Published in: on July 20, 2009 at 7:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

He scores

I score a lot of baseball games whether at the park, at home, or in the bar.  I use scorecards and 8 1/2 x 11 paper too.  I was sitting in the bar on Wednesday May 13 waiting for Cubs/Padres game to start when I got the urge to score the game.  Not having paper at hand, I walked to the Walgreen’s on Chicago and Michigan and bought a notebook.  I scored the game in the notebook.

I have a system that allows me to capture much of a game on lined notebook paper.  When completed it looks like a combination of play-by-play melded with box score even though it does not capture all the events.  My notation can’t be deciphered by most since much of it is nonstandard.  However it’s perfect for little old indolent me.

I’ve logged a lot of games so far this season in my notebook.  The digital age makes it unnecessay to do that kind of thing.  You can look up every game up on the Internet and get the details.  But using paper and pencil intrigues me still.

Published in: on July 20, 2009 at 10:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Beware the Butcher Boy

I listened to the Cubs/Nationals game on the radio yesterday.  The Cubs won 11 to 3.  One interesting play went like this.  Fontenot and Hill were on second and first with one out for the Cubs and the pitcher Hart at bat.  He showed bunt all the way.  On one pitch the Nats third baseman and first baseman charged the plate and the shortstop took off to cover third base, a play called The Wheel intended to get a force out at third if the batter bunted.  But the Cubs manager Lou Pinella had The Butcher Boy play called, a play where the batter swings away hoping to take advantage of the gap in the infield.  Hart singled sharply through the gap to drive in Fontenot.  That was the third run in a seven run inning and the damned best play the Cubs have made all season.

I love Sweet Lou.

And so it goes with baseball as with life in general.  The Wheel might be the deal, but beware the Butcher Boy.

Published in: on July 20, 2009 at 9:42 am  Leave a Comment  

“Summer, summer, summer, it turns me upside down like a merry-go-round”

You get on these reading jags. Sixties and Seventies nonfiction, or the classics of baseball literature that you are ashamed to admit you have not read even though you announce yourself as the big baseball fan. Or some oldies but goldies you want to read again, those oldies plucked almost at random from the book stack, yet resonating against all odds.

It’s summer and you’re drifting and dreaming like you have not for over a year, and you just don’t care about anything but that, for drifting and dreaming drugs you like the best opiate. You listen to people as if you are observing a fly on the wall. The fly is not all that pretty, but it goes about its purpose, and who are you to argue about its purpose?

And you have not forsaken all philosophy, You might throw Hume’s An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding onto the bonfire of reading one last time. What other book of philosophy might fit for these days of drifting and dreaming?

The skeptical and what might be the end of innocence defines your soul.

Published in: on July 18, 2009 at 10:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Baseball frivolity and destiny

This summer baseball consumes my attention and imagination as much or probably more than any other summer. The morning begins with brief yet serious work on my fantasy teams. I try to do whatever else that must be done after that while anticipating the start of the day’s Cubs game. I read baseball, listen to, watch, or go to as many games as I can, watch baseball documentaries, study statistical inference so I can apply it to rudimentary baseball questions, and when I wake in the middle of the night and cannot get back to sleep, I play computer simulation games. I began a new project today. I am creating a scorecard for each of the Chicago Cubs World Series games from 1906 through 1945.

Last night I sat in the bar watching the Cubs game on one TV and the White Sox game on another TV next to it on the wall. I focused on the Cubs, but watched the Sox too. I saw White Sox player Jim Thome’s three run home run and his grand slam while sneaking peeks.

I don’t find anything mythic, heroic, or poetic about baseball. It merely transports me to a different world where grand careers and minutiae of particular games meld into a fascinating collage almost impossible to tease apart for inspection.

I suppose I’ve never grown up in more respects than I want to know. Baseball accentuates the juvenile in me for all to see, more than any other of my aimless pursuits. I suspect that when I die my juvenile pursuit of baseball will symbolize not only my life but my destiny.

Published in: on July 18, 2009 at 2:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hem and Evan at the Lilas

“I’ve been wondering about Dostoyevsky,” I said. “How can a man write so badly, so unbelievably badly, and make you feel so deeply.”

“It can’t be the translation,” Evan said. “She makes the Tolstoi come out well written.”

“I know. I remember how many times I tried to read War and Peace until I got the Constance Garnett translation.”

“They say it can be improved on,” Evan said. “I am sure it can although I don’t know Russian. But we both know translators. But it comes out as a hell of a novel, the greatest I suppose, and you can read it over and over.”

“I know,” I said. “But you can’t read Dostoyevsky over and over. I had Crime and Punishment on a trip when we ran out of books down at Schruns, and I couldn’t read it again when we had nothing to read. I read the Austrian papers and studied German until we found some Trollope in Tauchnitz.”

“God bless Tauchnitz,” Evan said. The whiskey had lost its burning quality and was now, when water was added, simply much too strong.

“Dostoyevsky was a shit, Hem,” Evan went on. “He was best on shits and saints. He makes wonderful saints. It’s a shame we can’t reread him.”

“I am going to try The Brothers again. It was probably my fault.”

“You can read some of it again. Most of it. But then it will start to make you angry. No matter how great it is.”

“Well, we were lucky to have had it to read the first time and maybe there will be a better translation.”

“But don’t let it tempt you, Hem.”

“I won’t. I’m trying to do it so it will make it without you knowing it, and so the more you read it, the more there will be.”

A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway

One place I would like to have been.

Published in: on July 17, 2009 at 10:55 am  Leave a Comment  

Unsettled

I brought out the old manual typewriter this morning.  I typed a letter to B on it just as I did many times several years ago.  I typed slowly so as not to make any typos, but still a few crept in without my knowing until I had finished.

B’s been working in Europe again these past few weeks.  She sends me wonderful postcards from the cities where she stays.  The postcards make me want to a buy a plane ticket and show up on her doorstep.  However, our meeting this year will be in New York City where rumor has it they don’t say their prayers.  She’ll be with her daughter and her daughter’s fiance, who I am told is a fine man headed for a career in law enforcement.  I suspect her daughter and I will be the ones who stay out past curfew sampling the saloons.  I think it will be the first time I’ve seen her since the weekend I taught her to drive.  She turned corners without slowing down and I prayed along the ride that parked cars would not sit nearby.

B leaves Antwerp this weekend for two weeks of work in Costa Rica.  B and I vacationed in Costa Rica once.  She had just come off major surgery for a tumor.  Her doctors had not yet discovered that during her post surgery nuking they had killed her thyroid gland.  She was tired and irritable the whole time in Costa Rica.  I suspect that was the beginning of the time when she had met some other guy too.  She’d never admit it, but I’m sure she’d rather have been with him.

Oh well, she wants to be with me now.  Quite frankly, I’d move to where she lives, but she is always undecided where she wants to live.  The thought of buying a place, getting settled, then selling a year later because she no longer lives there does not appeal to me.

The sun’s arched high into the sky.  I knew it as a puppy this morning shedding its light across the horizon at five.  Soon, the dawn will sleep past five each morning and I’ll be alone on State Street at that hour.  Things fade, then return in cycles I won’t outlive.  Things tend to even out.

Published in: on July 17, 2009 at 10:02 am  Leave a Comment  

Hugging me

The summer days roll languidly by.  I read A Moveable Feast and Dispatches in short alternating bursts.  They are made for that like bookends of a different wood and hue.  And I do a little math just so I can learn a little more before I die.

At night, before falling asleep, I lie in bed and pretend I am in a boat upon on a placid sea, the waves rocking it slowly, hugging me until I succumb.

Published in: on July 16, 2009 at 10:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

We helped fuck the whole thing up

One time I had this friend.  She fell in love with this guy that we, her friends,  felt was no good for her.  My friends tried to warn her while I sat on the sidelines, my theory being romance does not admit of any negative counsel.   As it turned out, the romance did not work out.

To this day, I still wonder if we, either the most aggressive or the most passive against the romance, did not have more than our fair share to do with its failure.

No, I don’t wonder, we helped fuck the whole thing up.

Published in: on July 16, 2009 at 10:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Haunted, but all will be well

A girl came in the cafe and sat by herself at a table near the window.  She was very pretty with a face fresh as a newly minted coin if they minted coins in smooth flesh with rain-freshened skin, and her hair black as a crow’s wing and cut sharply and dieagonally across her cheek.

I looked at her and she disturbed me and made me very excited.  I wished I could put her in the story, or anywhere, but she had placed herself so she could watch the street and the entry and I knew she was waiting for someone.  So I went on writing.

A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway

The air smelled of gentle early morning summer rain languidly evaporating on grass and trees when I walked to the coffee shop this morning.  I sat at the window in the coffee shop reading the opening chapter, A Good Cafe on the St.-Michel, of the restored version of A Moveable Feast.  Memories of the summer I first read it returned.  I’ve read the book many times, but only in summer.  It is a summer book for me even though Hemingway evokes the sting of late fall when the weather turns cold and strips the leaves from the trees.

The first time I wondered what it would be like to be a writer was when I was 17 and reading the Ian Fleming James Bond novels on summer mornings.  The second time came when I was in my twenties and read Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast.  I’ve had moments in my life when I’ve been distressed or depressed and the only way I could fall asleep at night was by telling myself, don’t worry, you’ll write  a bit tomorrow morning and all will be well.  And those morning always followed.

Walking home from the coffee shop I saw a woman standing across the street waiting for the traffic light to turn.  She was young and pretty.  She wore sandals and a white summer dress dotted navy blue.  She was tan yet not too tan.  Her black hair was partially pulled back leaving the sides falling about her shoulders.  The light changed.  When we passed in the middle of the street I glanced at her and she was looking at me, an old man smoking a cigarette with A Moveable Feast tucked in his armpit, his long hair spilling from underneath a Cubs baseball cap.  She might have been Hemingway’s girl at the Place St.-Michel returned to haunt another old man.

At home, before going in, I stood on the sidewalk and finished my cigarette and imbibed the odor of the rain glazed grass.

Today, I feel as though it is the summer of 2002, the year I turned 54 and officially decided I was living my first year of old age.  That year I declared myself a writer too–either for good or ill.  I have betrayed my writing many times since.  I should have written successfully by now.

On these summer nights of 2009 I still tell myself before falling asleep, don’t worry, you’ll write in the morning, and all will be well.

Published in: on July 15, 2009 at 9:09 am  Leave a Comment  

Dispatches: blown away again

You could be in the most protected space in Vietnam and still know that your safety was provisional, that early death, blindness, loss of legs, arms or balls, major and lasting disfigurement–the whole rotten deal–could come in on the freakyfluky as easily in the so called ways, you heard so many of these stories it was a wonder anyone was left alive to die in the firefights and motor-rocket attacks.

Dispatches, Michael Herr

While searching the book stacks at home last night I came across Herr’s Dispatches.  I have not read it in around 35 years, so I decided to try a few pages to see if it was still fresh.  Damn, fresh ain’t the word for it.  Frenentic, a prose style manic and on the edge.  I classify it with the other books from the Sixties and early Seventies that fall in the categories New Journalism and the Nonfiction Novel: books like Capote’s In Cold Blood, Thompson’s Hells Angels, Wolfe’s Electric Cool Aid Acid Test, Mailer’s Armies of the Night, and Pirsig’s The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

The best half dozen books to come out of the Vietnam War are Herr’s, Caputo’s A Rumor of War, Kovik’s Born on the Fourth of July, O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, Mailer’s Armies of the Night, and Halberstam’s The Best and Brightest.  I judge Dispatches as the best because Herr confurs a near impossible prose style.

Lots of good nonfiction has come from the Iraq War.  I now wait for the gritty and wild books written by a new generation who were there and saw things up close and personal.

However, with Dispatches the bar is set very high.  Reading it again is blowing me away just as it did the first time.

Published in: on July 14, 2009 at 4:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Love, chance, and flipping the coin

Recently, I’ve been studying methods of statistical analysis.  I have gravitated toward baseball analysis since it provides a good laboratory for applying statistical methods to learn about what counts as ability and what counts as chance.  Much of which we care about learning should be related to discovering what counts as ability versus chance.

I’ve been thinking about how love and romance might be amenable to statistical analysis.  One must first define love and romance appropriately so that one can attach numbers to it.  I suspect even those who have had hundreds of sexual partners can narrow their number of romances and trues loves to less than a dozen.  Lets take a person who has fallen deeply in love  four times in their life.  Lets say all those loves failed.  What can we say about that person’s ability to achieve love and happiness?  Not much unless we possess some numbers to validate or invalidate our hypotheses.

Flip a fair coin four times and count the number of heads.  What is the chance that you will get four heads in a row?  It’s 1 out of 16 times giving a .0625 probability.  Let’s say each time a person falls in love they have a 50-50 chance of it being a success.  Fall in love four times and you have a 93.75% chance of one those being a success.  If the success rate of romance it 50% you’d expect a lot of satisfied souls roam the earth.  Such does not seem to be the case.

The romance coin might be biased in favor of failure.  The chances of all failures in four tries might be much higher than 6.25%.  Yet observing a person who has failed at love four out four times, one still wonders how much of that is due to innate inability to achieve a lasting love or chance alone.

In my own case, zero successes out of however many tries doesn’t seem as daunting when looked at from a statistical point of view.  I don’t know the population mean and standard deviation regarding the random variable love.  I have done no sampling to estimate those parameters.  Maybe, my failures are closer to the mean than I think.  Bad luck might plague me as it does many others.

If success at romances are independent events, then past failures mean nothing with the next flip of the coin.  I’m not ready to flip it.  Probably never will flip it again.  I have a feeling the mathematical expectation is negative.  It’s like betting on sports against your bookie.  Play the game long enough and you will eventually lose all your whip out cash.

Frumpy indolence charms me more than romance these days.

Published in: on July 13, 2009 at 10:19 am  Leave a Comment