As I have written previously, in order to avoid shrine jokes and general accusations of fanboy creepiness I have always endeavored to display my baseball memorabilia tactfully or otherwise just askew from plain sight. In fact, following the bedbug scandal, I have become a bit of a minimalist. If I am in the mood to flatter myself, I can say that my newfound style reflects the same decor of your Seattle condo as depicted on that CSN documentary that aired a while back. But I am a bookseller and an aspiring if unpublished author who rents a friend’s living room; at best, one can say the style is all my own, and at worst, that I can’t afford style.
Which is not to say that I got rid of my Giants memorabilia — no, wait. That’s a lie. Brace yourself: I threw out the newsclippings I collected of the 2010 World Series, and remembering that I had thrown them out, I didn’t bother collecting any newclippings from this past series.
I know: blaspheme! Sacrilege!
I can describe to you my thought process when I was confronted with the newsclippings during the height of the scandal, when we had engaged in our sudden burst of autumnal spring cleaning. I thought to myself: well, I have never gotten around to buying a scrapbook for these things, and who knows if I ever will? I sure as hell will never have the money to properly frame them. Also, the newsclippings (as well as magazines, catalogs, and other media related to the 2010 series) were all in bad shape from being stuffed away. I have never been a collector, Linc; rather, I’m more like a packrat, and one that knows when it is time to part with the extra junk, the over weight.
I will now have to look back to memories to recall the 2010 World Series. Oh certainly, I have pictures saved on my computer, but so much else has been tossed out; if it were possible to mortgage the past, then I have placed my bets on the reliability of recollection. Of course, I kept all the bobbleheads. One of those bobbleheads is of you from the 2011 season. It’s on my computer desk. I never did that before. Previously, I grouped all the bobbleheads together on the topmost shelf of a bookcase, so as to display them proudly — and also, out of sight. But after the bedbug scandal had cleared and we were regrouping, it was Clara who unpacked your 2011 bobblehead and perched it at the corner of my computer desk.
"Oh, you can just put there over there," I said absently, while I was unpacking other things. I pointed to the bookshelf where we had restored the other bobbleheads.
"Why?" she said.
She was already positioning your bobblehead on my desk. “It’s Lincecum. Don’t you want him here while you write?”
I remember laughing at her, very casually saying “okay,” perhaps even feeling my cheeks go hot but not quite blushing, and then concerning myself with whatever was in the box I was sifting through. Ever since then, however, sitting down to my computer has been a new experience. I can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner.
All right, for starters, the bobblehead is still in the box; I never unpacked it, so what is actually displayed is the original packaging just as I had received it. (I didn’t get it from a ballgame, actually. Remember Donna? From my old job?) Instead of a toy figure of your likeness, each time I sit at the computer I get to see an actual photo of you on the side of the box. You are on the mound and you have just launched a pitch. Your right leg hangs in the air and though your visage is heavily concealed by the brim of your cap, we know that your gaze is possessed with the computerized accuracy of those military drones that are lately making the news — and you look so, so beautiful. Don’t let your masculinity be challenged by my use of that word, Linc. When they are in the throes of their athletics — football, running, basketball, and every once in a while soccer — all athletes are beautiful.
Have you ever heard of the Missed Connections category on Craigslist? It gets mocked a lot. I think there may even be a documentary about it on Netflix — which has lately become a den of iniquity in terms of content. In the aftermath of so many studios and networks either limiting or outright pulling their content, Netflix now has this bloated inventory of middling documentaries but that I watch anyway out of fascination over how anyone with a camera, some choice angles, the occasional shot in black and white, and a narration track believes they are a filmmaker. But that’s another story for another day.
I did use Missed Connections but that was many years ago, right when it was on the cusp of mockery. I thought about it earlier this week. Winter was in full effect. I had just escaped a downpour and managed to grab myself a seat on the train to work. A few stops later, this guy boarded. In contrast to the ideals in these never-to-be-sents, particularly my idealistic notions of you, as well as my stubborn attachment to romantic comedies, this guy was rather plain. He had full cheeks and bit of a beefy frame, a simple buzz cut, and looked like he wouldn’t really stand out from, say, Comic Con — also, when he sat down, he took out a copy of Game of Thrones to read. Although I like the TV show, I am not into the books. (I do not like the writing style.)
I couldn’t help sneaking glances. I suppose it could be said that he fits a certain type that I like in guys. But although I did not like the book that he was reading, I liked that he was reading — and reading a rather hearty paperback, to boot. This to me seemed smart and aware and he looked decent and I was very compelled to ask him out. I shut my eyes and gave myself a pep talk: Okay, Joseph. At the next stop, we will get up and introduce ourselves.
'Hi. I was wondering if I could call you sometime?'
'Hi. Want to grab a cup of coffee sometime?'
No. Too creepy. Say ‘hi’ first. And then… compliment the book?
No, that’s a lie. I don’t like those books.
He has a nice smile. I wonder what he’s smiling about.
Look away! Look away!
Oh God, did he me looking at him?!
Whew. OK. Next stop. We will do this at the next stop.
Suddenly, at the next stop, a flood of passengers boarded the train. The guy in question was still in my line of sight but now I would have to cut through a forest of drenched passengers. And for what? To risk rejection? I couldn’t do it. Possibly this was what Ray used to describe as “paralysis by analysis,” but whatever was going on, what resulted was a whole lot of nothing. I’ll probably never see him again.
I’m in possession of a stolen library book. The story behind this is a bit roundabout, and an accident.
Clara had reserved a book at the library, and at the same time it became available, my hold came through as well. On her day off, while I was at work she decided to pick up both books — except that she was so enthusiastic about her book that she stuffed mine in her purse while she read hers, and then she forgot all about mine. The alarms did not alert her to this oversight.
"Hey," greeted her voice on my cell phone. I was in the break room of work, reading on my fifteen.
"What’s uuup?" I sang. I was in a good mood. My coworkers were cracking good-natured jokes, as if we were extended family. There had not yet been any trifling customers, and the e-mails I’d received had been composed with, dare I say, reason and civility, which are all too infrequent. Also, the book that I was reading was good — as of late, they all are.
"Guess what? I got our books," Clara said.
I smiled. “Sweet.”
Clara reads in theory. What I mean by this is that there are many like her, possibly like you, who do not outright deplore the notion of reading; but that, though they claim to not do much of it, every so often they find engagement with it for a variety of reasons that could take shelter beneath the sturdy umbrella shared by and enlightenment and entertainment. When Clara told me that she wanted to reserve a library book, I was nerdishly joyful for her, for she hadn’t even realized that there was a library branch just a few blocks away. My revelation to her that she no longer had to trek solely to the downtown main was momentarily life-changing.
"But here’s the thing," she began, and then she told.
At first, I laughed. I truly thought it was funny, even cute. I told her no problem, just go back in and let the librarian know what happened.
"Really?" she asked, and her incredulity was breathtaking. Already, before she launched into anything else, I knew that she was proposing I take advantage of a library book free and clear. But though I can just imagine your contemptuous snort at the coming revelation, I cannot tell a lie: at her aversion to going back, I was appalled.
I did not escalate the conversation into what was going through my mind, which was You’ve gotta go back and tell them and — yes, really, Linc — That’s not nice. The latter was not meant to reprimand her so much as it was a defense for the public library system and the institution in general. I really wanted her to go back and put the book on the record, but instead I moderated that it was OK, I will just take it back when I have the chance, thanks for picking up my book!
When I hung up, I put the phone down. The break room has the small, dingy dimensions so often mockingly depicted on TV and the movies. With that shift’s smallish staff all on the sales floor, I had shut the door to the break room to relish in the peace and quiet of delicious silence. But when I put down my phone, I, too, was breathless — at the heat in my cheeks and, yes, my racing heart, all over the notion of a stolen library book. I thought to myself that I couldn’t be that much of a nerd, and a goody-goody on top of that, but when the alarm and amusement abated, I proudly accepted the facts. The thing is, Linc, anytime now someone loud and obnoxious will point out that the public library institution is socialist in concept and will wield the power to terminate life support. With the way the world is going, the power to delete libraries from the national forecast is very real. Nothing free can possibly be good, is the argument. If everyone can get to it, it must be socialist and the rest of us who dare to identify as middle class are thieves and scoundrels who don’t do shit to earn our keep. They will think of us: these people won’t return the books anyway, so why bother spending money to keep their libraries open? But I do, Linc. I return my books. There are many things that I have done that may or may not be the right thing, but I always return my books.
"In the early nineties, Pizza Hut sponsored “Book It!” to promote reading. For every ten books you read, you get a certificate for a free, one-topping pizza…it turns out there is no greater pleasure than reading for pizza. No longer do you feel guilty about eschewing the “real” world for these fantasy zones. Now you have an unassailable, American motivation; you’re a breadwinner. Literally."
— Karen Russell, on reading fantasy novels for pizza, in the New Yorker. (via thebronzemedal)
If you haven’t already, do not assume that these long never-to-be-sents are unique to me. Although there are probably not many like me who are writing long, thoughtful and — let’s face it — wordy unsent letters to his baseball player idol, the form and reflection of these never-to-be-sents is often replicated in e-mails that are exchanged between my friends and me. Often, I don’t even do the initiating. To tell you the truth, I don’t put in as much effort into e-mails to my own friends as I do in these never-to-be-sents, which says a lot about my state of mind, and why therapy is especially useful.
Recently, Spencer came up with the idea that we should have a book club with some of our friends. She was reminiscing about some of her childhood favorites when she realized that her lifelong fondness for reading had also been a private joy that she now wanted to see reflected from all of us. For years, we have known that each individual in our circle of friends loves to read but we never thought to ever organize a book club together. What has followed after Spencer proposed the idea is an e-mail thread that this morning produced this brilliantly realized passage from Spencer:
Growing up I loved The Trumpet of the Swan and Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White. In each of these books, there is a sense of nobility and sacrifice. In The Trumpet of the Swan, the protagonist Louis is a mute trumpeter swan who cleaves the webbing of one foot so he may use a trumpet to communicate and create music. The idea that one must suffer to create art impressed itself on my very young mind. And, deep in the pre-Internet age, I remember longing to know how his romantic ballad “Beautiful Dreamer” sounded. The excitement I experienced when I heard the melody by chance in an old movie is indescribable, and it can’t have happened in our time, when a search for the song would likely lead me down the Youtube/Google rabbit hole — and to neglect the very book which inspired the search. I often wonder if ours is the last generation to read novels, as the Internet is so prevalent, so invasive; nowadays even elementary school children have smart phones.
The part that struck me the most was the revelation that today’s generation will not have the same literary experiences that we did; however, the entirety of the passage is profound, especially her analysis of The Trumpet of the Swan. After digesting the magnitude of Spencer’s observations, what followed was an act of pride and a simple smile. I thought to myself, My friend wrote that.