Since Sunday, I have been on edge for a reason other than the World Series. When I talk about timing, I shall often include the meaning of things like when the Nationals and the Giants nearly faced each other in the playoffs; and how on Sunday, lurking in the background of merry World Series fever, was the gloom of a storm approaching the part of the country where so many people I care about live while I root for a team in what I have often regarded as my second hometown, the place where I was raised as an adult as opposed to the hometown where I was brought up as a child.
I don’t even know what Sandy is anymore. The news, always trying to attract an audience, has referred to it variously as “the former Hurricane Sandy” and, merely, just Sandy. It is apparently a marketing booboo to say “Tropical Storm Sandy.” How about that? In the midst of an entire coast of these United States becoming paralyzed by God’s hand, someone out there was still thinking of an angle, a marketing tactic, some way to get attention, to make money. As they say these days in the internet world: SMH.
I am in need of a new phone. I have a smart phone, but at almost two years old, it is already ancient. It never had much storage capacity and memory in the first place, so I was always having to delete apps and otherwise make room for stuff. But now at the age that it is, it is slowing down even more and becoming impractical to keep around. I just don’t know when I’ll be able to afford a new one. In the meantime, check out what I unearthed when I was clearing out files:
That was from the last regular season game I attended this year. Unfortunately, it ended up being a poor outing for Madbum. I kept the picture to myself because I knew pictures of it would be everywhere, and also, I didn’t want to keep thinking that it must be a good sign that a rainbow should materialize over The Ballpark on what I already knew to be my final game of the season. You guys lost anyway.
Everyone was snapping pictures of that damned rainbow and uploading it to social media to such a degree that as a counter response people would type things like STOP UPLOADING PICTURES OF THE FUCKING RAINBOW. Social media culture ought to be its own branch of anthropology. As someone who has been observing people for as long as I can remember, social media provides one of the most fascinating landscapes for which I have ever stood on the sidelines. I am an only child, and sometime during childhood, I was afflicted with the illness called writing. Ever since that first infection, I have been writing down the unfolding world, collecting observations, telling stories, and trying to make sense of it all. Maybe for someone else it might be a little creepy: watching. But I don’t stalk the world so much as stand in it while it is happening. I thought about this on Sunday night when I was watching the game. By then, I was already back home from church and watching the game in the living room with Clara and her fiance. When you guys bursted onto the field after Romo’s fateful fastball, we whooped and hollared and then settled down to watch the footage. That was when I saw you in the background. Unlike what might have been the case in a prior year, the camera was not focused on you. Instead, you were part of the shot, a component of celebration, and as the camera contained you to a corner of the frame all I could do was whisper a chuckle to myself and think: Oh, there he is. In the few seconds it took me to do that, my mind ran through introspection of all that baseball has meant to me, and all the writing that I have done because of it, all the blogging, all the longing. And then I went back to whooping and hollaring with my friends.
The never-to-be-sents that I have decided to regulate to the past came to mind last night. I was working a CAL event with Wendell Berry, and to be quite honest with you, I was not looking forward to it. I had only vaguely heard of him before, and not since college, when I was a surprisingly mediocre student, a fallen angel from the artificial paradise of the model minority. In college I had tuned out writers like Wendell Berry, and as recently as yesterday, I was dreading having to work with him for fear that his advanced age would make him boring. He was not. Instead, the man I met was charming, energetic and hilarious. His chatter made me smile nonstop for almost a full hour. Besides his charm and wit, I also like all the things he stands for: conservation, stewardship, and community. It made me dream of upending my life to live off the land, which is a laughable assertion, given then I am so unskilled that I even basic things like cooking and how to ride a bike elude me.
For many years, I have been thinking, plotting, but really merely daydreaming about moving to the midwest; after carousing with Mr. Berry, I have begun to seriously entertain the vague notion I have also held about moving to the south. Before you react with the natural impulse to remind me that I had “better give this a lot of thought” — that has always been my least favorite response to an idea, considering that almost nearly every idea that I have pondered was already excessively pondered long before I moved to verbally express it — I already know that a plump writer with brown skin and narrow eyes will face an uphill climb trying to fit into a place like the south. But there are good things about the south, too: my pastor, for example, who is a woman, and much younger than Mr. Berry, is also from the south and a good clone of him. Life is so much more awesome now that my church has a pastor, and it is yet again made more awesome because of the woman we ended up with. Three of Linc’s boys are from the south: Bumgarner, Cain and Posey. Are they nice guys? I’d like to believe they are nice guys, including the one from the Pacific Northwest.
Midway into the long signing line that Mr. Berry attracted, a woman passed me her book to sign but held back on a piece of paper. She was taller than me, and from her eyeglasses as well as the contours of her face, I guessed that she was also a bit older. But she clutched the paper close to herself and smiled shyly as she said, “I’d like to give this to Mr. Berry myself, please.” The girlish innocence beamed from her smile so radiantly that I had to step back. My voice was quieted by awe. I had to clear my throat before I said to her with unexpected reverence: “Of course.”
She approached the signing table and reverently slid the letter toward the older man. On the piece of paper I spied hasty handwriting and the inexplicable mimeograph print of a cow.
“This is not the most appropriate stationery,” she would end up saying, without further explanation for how she ended up with a bovine print. “But I have always wanted to write and give you a letter.”
Mr. Berry’s own eyeglasses slid from his nose just so that he had to take a finger and adjust them. He then reached for the letter and what he said next was spoken with the twang of decency so common among southerners that it has become a stereotype, albeit one that seems to me would be one of the best and proudest stereotypes of all. Mr. Berry said: “Well, how thoughtful. I will surely read your letter.” As if to emphasize that he was not uttering an empty promise, he gingerly folded the letter and stuck it into the pocket of his suit jacket. Suddenly I began to realize that the folly of my own never-to-be-sents might not have been such a folly, after all. In the end, we all have a letter to write.