104.0: Oh, my love.
I heard you boys had a nice game tonight. To be honest with you, there’s still some concern about your pitching but tonight you had good run support. Either way, I’m glad for you.
Spencer and I were wandering around the Inner Sunset during the game. It had been a warm day and by nightfall the fog had rolled in. We were coming from this donut place that we’ve been going to ever since college. The staff has changed a lot, as it does at donut places. But the hot chocolate has stayed the same: it is like drinking a melted and piping hot milk chocolate candy bar. There is nothing like it. I am so mesmerized by this hot chocolate that I refuse to pull back the curtain on its secret. I don’t want to know that it’s probably just powder that was scooped out of a tin can and dumped into a filter that has been rinsed without a proper washing in days. I don’t want to know that they probably keep the hot chocolate sitting out in the warmer for hours. All I want to know is that when I show up with Spencer, and we order our hot chocolates, that our cups are filled with the wonder of many childhood winters. The donut place is called Donut World. You should check it out sometime.
After we had our drinks, we went for a little walk. I heard the game wafting from somewhere. There is a prejudice — probably the result of the so-called east coast bias — against the San Francisco Bay Area, that we are not a “real” sports town. Living here for 13 years, that is so far from the truth. A town that is not a real sports town does not have ballgames randomly wafting through the nighttime air from variously scattered radios broadcasting a station of all-encompassing familiarity. Boston, New York, and Phillie can eat it.
It was too misty to see any stars tonight. But when I got home I finished reading a book called Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. I’m breathless. The main characters in the title are not the classic philosophers, but these two guys who are named after them, and like their namesakes, these guys are trying to define the world. These guys, the guys in the book, one of the things they do to try and make sense of the world is to drive into the desert to look at stars. And it reminded me so much of going to Our Balpark.
When I finished reading Aristotle and Dante, I was compelled to turn to the front of the book and find the copyright date: 2012, the same year that The Fault In Our Stars was published. I just finished reading The Fault In Our Stars two weeks ago. The Fault In Our Stars got the loudest acclaim. I didn’t even hear about Aristotle and Dante until I saw my coworker reading it last month. I liked both books. But I liked Aristotle and Dante the best. I guess it has something to do with all the brown-skinned gay people. And the stars, of course.
Clearly, 2012, which was the year when the world was supposed to end, was actually a very good year. Not only did the world not end, two very good books came out that year. And the Giants winning the World Series, of course.
The Fault In Our Stars and Aristotle and Dante are young adult books. The main characters are teenagers. The books are marketed to teenagers. But like the TV show Glee and the books and movies of the Twilight franchise, grown-ups also read them, especially “grown-ups” in quote marks who can’t quite bring themselves to believe that they are grown up. I have read the Harry Potter and Hunger Games books, but they were such blockbusters that I never thought that I was reading young adult books when I was reading them. They were just, you know, bestsellers. Stuff you read because everyone is reading them and you want to have something to talk about with people.
The coworker who was reading Aristotle and Dante is the lead children’s specialist for my bookstore. She knows all about kids books starting from those board books that you give as gifts to babies who usually just end up chewing on them, but her real passion is young adult literature — and I have come to believe that many of these books are truly literature, and neither merely a passing fad nor marketing gimmick. These books are literature because the prose is often Shakespearean in construction with the emotion of Emily Dickinson’s poetry. And they are universal because as much as we “grown-ups” hate to admit, we still feel much of the same loss and confusion as our younger counterparts in those books.
I didn’t go into 2013 planning on having a reading binge of young adult novels but my coworker’s enthusiasm is infectious. She asked me a few questions about what kind of things I like to see in the books that I read and suddenly, in the last few weeks, I have burned through Eleanor and Park, Marcelo in the Real World, Mexican WhiteBoy, Boy Meets Boy, Will Grayson, Will Grayson (this one is about two guys named Will Grayson and there’s also a musical involved), The Fault In Our Stars, and Aristotle and Dante. On the surface, this is just some new hobby — after all, I’ve gone through reading phases before, like in 2007 when I burned through stuff by D.T. Max, Michael Pollan, Mary Roach, and Alan Weisman.
But I can’t help thinking to 2009, when I started this whole baseball madness. I was so hungry for answers that I started reading whatever I could. I didn’t just want to learn how to play baseball, nor merely how to watch it, but also about its history, its place in culture, and whatever other personal meanings I could extract from such an unexpected and profound discovery. Oh, Linc. It was crazy. I read so much that summer. I read this book called The Empire Strikes Out, about how baseball is an imperialistic tool; Ball Four, Jim Bouton’s legendary memoir; Take Me Out, the Richard Greenberg play; and Peter Lefcourt’s fanciful romance The Dreyfus Affair. I liked reading them all. It was like baseball was this new life class that I was taking and there was a syllabus to follow. Because baseball is a game rooted in childhood, I even revisited Dear Mr. Henshaw and Strider, two favorites to which I had not given thought in nearly a lifetime. Four years later, here I am again, not all that different from the first summer that I saw you:
turning the pages patiently
in search of meanings
— W.S. Merwin
That guy won the Pulitzer for poetry in 2009, by the way. I didn’t know that. That little poem was quoted in Aristotle and Dante.
Sometimes I think about how funny it is that I’m a church elder. That word, “elder,” implies age, advanced age — the finished accumulation of experience, and earned wisdom. What’s funny to me is that I’m an elder who has to reach into young adult literature to understand who I am now. These first few months of 2013 have been crazy, Linc, not because I’m reading all of these young adult novels, but because all-too often my very real life has been all-too tumultuous. There’s just so much going on. I just want to go to The Ballpark and sit there day after day, game after game. Or close my eyes and live inside my head for a while, sitting in Our Ballpark, looking at stars with you.