Three Sentences I Have Uttered Today That Tell You Everything You Need To Know About Me

1. “No, no I did make a purchase from Canada yesterday. It was yarn.” *

2. “I could totally watch three spring training games at once right now.”

3. “Oh my god, Kristen Bell is on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me this week?!?”

 

* As said to my bank’s fraud prevention rep, by way of explaining that one of the three questionable foreign transactions on my card in the last 24 hours was actually legit. Don’t worry, everything’s fine and I’m kind of super impressed with my bank right now.


What I’m Reading (and Not Reading): February

I received almost every book on my list for Christmas this year (including some that had been carried over several years in a row).  I started in on Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan, but I have abandoned it for the time being.  I may not be in the right place at the moment for watching a young woman flail around incompetently at her job (we’ll just say I’ve had a few professional struggles of my own of late and leave it at that).  I’m also incredibly sensitive to foreshadowing; if part of the skill of a book/movie/TV show is the growing sense of dread as you see a main character’s life unraveling, even as they remain unaware, I very rarely can make it all the way to the end. Call it the Edith Wharton Effect. In any case, after a full week of avoiding my bedtime reading so I wouldn’t have to face another chapter, I thought it was best to move on.

I have replaced Sweet Tooth with The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg. So beautiful, these stories — whole worlds in thirty pages, like little snowglobes. I’m only about four stories in so more on this later, perhaps.

Internet-wise: “How To Give Birth to A Rabbit” by Carrie Frye (via The Awl), caught my attention with its title and before I knew it, I was deep into one of the best pieces of nonfiction I’ve read in months.  Also, the best thing about the NHL lockout being over is more Katie Baker columns!


Les Miz and Me: A Personal History

I.

SB and I are supposed to be seeing Django Unchained with his brother and sister in law.  As a general rule I don’t watch horror or gory/ super violent movies, which pretty much rules out the Tarantino ovuere, but I’m willing to suck it up because it’s the holidays and it’s his family.  But the four person outing expands to include several of the brother’s friends and I have always had a lousy poker face, so SB declares we are going to see Les Miserables instead.

After we are seated in the theater, SB looks around at the largely high school/college aged moviegoers around us and muses “it’s a younger crowd than I would have expected.”

“That’s because,” I said, “every teenage girl at some point believes she’s Eponine, whether it’s remotely applicable or not.”

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Of Baseball, Nostalgia, and Stan

I often say that I don’t remember being taught the basic rules of baseball — balls and strikes, relief pitchers vs. starters, why first base is the position where you “hide” your defensive liability — because in my family this was all such common knowledge that it seemed like we learned it by osmosis. My knowledge of Cardinals history is not quite as hazy in origin; I remember my father regaling us around the dinner table with stories about Bob Gibson and Stan Musial, imprinting a love for the Cardinals on his children even as the current team descended into its post-1987 mediocrity. But consider, for a moment, that my father was born in 1957.  The Gibby stories were of a player he had watched through his teens, had embraced and celebrated the way we were learning to cherish Ozzie Smith.  The Stan stories were of a player who retired when my father was only six; most of the best stories were not my father’s memories, but his father’s.  And yet, if you watched a game on the right day, you could actually see Stan, sitting in the stands, waving to the crowd, occasionally venturing into the broadcast booth.

Albert Pujols, a player the St. Louis fans long thought would be the person to take up and carry on Stan’s mantle, refused the nickname “El Hombre” because it infringed on Stan’s “The Man” nickname (and continued to reject it even after going to Anaheim). When he left last offseason, I wrote:

[this] is what makes sports fandom so hard, so frustratingly stupid at times: the rational part of your brain knows the player isn’t trying to hurt you — he doesn’t even know you.

Stan was different.  It wasn’t just that we felt like Stan knew us; there are reams of fan anecdotes to verify that Stan treated everyone who approached him like they were a good friend. If you were not lucky enough to have such a story (I am not), you always entertained the possibility that someday maybe you’d be in the right place at the right time and get to shake his hand. He was ours, and he remained so for so long, it seemed like we might never have to give him up.  Last spring, he came out for Opening Day looking noticeably frail.  His wife of over half a century passed away during the season.  We didn’t want to add up these signs. We weren’t ready to let him go.

Someday, I will tell my own children about Stan, just like I’ll tell them about Ozzie, and about what it was like when Albert came out of nowhere. But it won’t be quite the same as when my dad told us. Stan’s a true legend now, just out of reach in the history books, not on the TV waving and rooting on the Cardinals. The next great Cardinal won’t have a picture like this in his Google image search.

Goodbye, Stan.  The world will miss you, and baseball will miss you, but Cardinals fans will miss you most of all.

 


The Summer Sandwich Project, Part 1

Since we don’t get lunch service at work in the summer months (a fact of life I have conflicting emotions about, given the amount of administration an operating kitchen requires), and the UES remains a difficult place to purchase an affordable and efficient lunch, I begin each summer vowing to take my own lunch at least 4 days a week. Of course, by August I’m usually so sick of all my usual lunches that I’m going out most days anyway.  In an attempt to prevent that this year, I’m trying to come up with a new sandwich for each week’s lunch (since most packages of ingredients I buy are about a week’s supply).  These are my June sandwiches (only three because I started the project mid-month):

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A Short Play About Junk Food

Me: You better take those jellybeans with you, I don’t need any more Easter candy.

SB: No way, I’m leaving them here.  This is payback for you leaving the Double Stuff Oreos at my place last week. I ate the whole package!

I should object here that he ate the full package minus the 4 cookies that were in my Oreo sundae (our Valentine’s Day dessert, and why I brought the cookies over in the first place). In other news, our respective attempts to eat healthier are … not going so well.

 


On Albert

After I got over the sudden sinking feeling in my gut when the link first appeared in my RSS feed, I was doing fine for about an hour.  We had plenty of work crises and meetings this morning to distract me, I was rationally discussing it online with SB and Lady Bee, I was going to be fine.  Then it occurred to me that I was just typing all these words, that I hadn’t actually said out loud to anyone, even myself, “Albert Pujols is going to be an Angel.”

That’s when I needed a moment.

Though I’m pretty much in agreement with Will Leitch’s gut reaction (I’ve never actually met Leitch but we were both commenting on a now defunct Cardinals blog back before Deadspin launched; as non-St Louis native Cardinals fans who now live in New York, it sometimes feels like we’re living oddly parallel lives), it was actually a piece I read this morning before the news broke that best captured my feelings. Posted on a White Sox blog after their home-grown star player, Mark Buerhle, signed with the Marlins, I read it thinking “this is how I will feel if Albert signs somewhere else.”  Thirty minutes later, the news broke that he had.

For those of us Cardinals fans who aren’t quite old enough to remember the team’s run of success in the early 1980s, who clung to McGwire’s home run chase only to see it soiled by the steroids accusations, who fell for Rick Ankiel’s early promise as a pitcher only to watch him implode in horribly public fashion, Albert Pujols was the first real sign that the Cardinals were finally returning to prominence, to playing October baseball that actually mattered instead of being sacrificial lambs to the Braves every year (if we made it at all).  Moreover, we were going to do it with a player found in our farm system, who seemed destined to become not only a Cardinals legend, but an all-time baseball legend.  When he signed that first big contract 10 years ago, I still remember that now defunct Cardinal blog enthusing, “Can you believe he’s ours?  That we have him?”

And now we don’t.  And yes, “we” never did, which is what makes sports fandom so hard, so frustratingly stupid at times: the rational part of your brain knows the player isn’t trying to hurt you — he doesn’t even know you.  The emotional part can’t help feeling like 10 years of adulation ought to be worth something.

I’m glad that the Cardinals won two World Series with Albert on the team — it feels less like he’s abandoning us for greener pastures, then that he’s a 31 year old who has worked for the same company his entire adult life and wants to try something new.  I’m glad that he’s going to the Angels — a team I have such fondness for, I wrote a short story in grad school organized around their first World Series win — and not the Marlins, who not only have ugly uniforms and construct their teams in a way that feels like they are gaming the system, but are covered frequently in the New York media as a divisional rival of the Mets.  Still, Opening Day 2012 — a day that should have been about watching the Cardinals get their championship rings — is now going to be about enduring the spectacle of Albert in his new uniform in Yankee Stadium.  For the first time in a long time, I welcome the long months of the offseason.


About that Very Big Baseball Game That is Happening Tonight

These are the opening lines of the email my friend Sarah sent me at 11:43 PM Thursday:

Hey sorry about the cardinals! The only good thing is it won’t conflict with Stevie Wonder.

At 12:51 AM Friday I wrote her back:

I think you reverse jinxed us.

So, thanks to the weather postponement on Wednesday, and whatever the hell happened last night to save the Cardinals from their final strike not once, but twice, the first Game 7 in almost a decade is being played in St. Louis after the craziest World Series game I have ever seen and I HAVE PLANS.

Not, “oh I can reschedule because I can do this some other time” kind of plans, either.  Once in a lifetime, seeing-Stevie-Wonder-in-semi-private-concert-at-the-Waldorf-Astoria-for-free plans.

Stupid Mother Nature.

So here’s what’s going to happen:  I’m going to SB’s for the first hour of the game, then running to the Waldorf Astoria (it’s a short walk) for the concert, while SB DVRs the innings I’m missing, then coming back and trying to catch up.  You are probably better off not texting or emailing me until the wee hours of Saturday morning, but I’m going to turn my phone off just in case.

Also I may be wearing a Halloween costume.  I bought it for a party a few years ago, a party that was also scheduled on the day a Game 7 might have been played, had one been necessary.  In 2006.


And What Does All That Mean?

I went back to work on Monday. Two weeks of ample sleep has, at least temporarily, restored my ability to get out of the house at 8:30.  With a full half hour to walk to work, I have time to stop for a coffee and/or donut and (more importantly) time to walk the extra block to Park Ave and take the northern leg of my commute along the edge of Central Park.  This morning I was running so far ahead that I turned into the park at 79th and wandered along the paths, marveling at grass that was actually still vibrant green in August and morning temperatures that felt refreshing instead of face-meltingly hot (spending your vacation in sun-scorched, drought-ridden Oklahoma will do wonders for your appreciation of NYC summers).  The iNot, which had been shuffling through the sunnier selections on my “5 Star Favorites” playlist, decided to change things up just as I turned into the park, and offered up “Being Alive” from Company.

Three facts you should know about the complicated mood in which I suddenly found myself:

This week marks my two-year anniversary with Sainted Boyfriend.

This week also marks the one-year anniversary of one of the roughest personal and professional periods of my entire adult life.

Three weeks ago, my grandmother died.

I thought about the day a year ago when, unable to sleep, I fled to the park at an even earlier hour of morning, trying to distract myself by watching the early dog walkers and their charges.  I thought about how SB has kept this entire summer afloat for me as the news from home got progressively worse and how much emptier my life would be without him in it.  I thought about my grandmother, who was never able to visit me in New York, but loved hearing about my city adventures.  The very last time I spoke to her, I told her about spending time at the city pool in my neighborhood; she would have enjoyed a story about a morning ramble in a verdant park.

I’ve been trying to write something longer, more specific, about my grandmother but I keep hitting walls.  It helps to write, to sort things out, but I’ve stopped fretting about its lack of writerly form; someday maybe I’ll have the distance to form something cohesive, or maybe it will always just be for my own memory.  I’m doing okay, for the most part.  And I have an anniversary to celebrate.

This morning I was in the park.  Dean Jones belted one last “Be-ing Aaa-Liive!” as I looked up through a break in the trees at the climbing sun.  I smiled, swallowed hard.  I walked to work.


How People Come to Attach Undue Importance to Batting Average

Sus came for a visit this past weekend, so Friday night she, SB and I went to CitiField for the Mets-Angels game. It turned out to be a beautiful night for baseball, despite the fact that in the process of getting from work to the game I got completely drenched by rain once, avoided a second soaking only because of a well-placed scaffolding, and nearly got my eye poked out by an oblivious idiot with a golf umbrella (who did not even pause in his stride after sideswiping both Sus and me hard enough that the bouncer at a nearby bar asked if we were all right). Anyway, I ended up alone in my seat for some time while SB and Sus went to fetch food from the Shake Shack stand beyond the outfield (though they ended up with Blue Smoke, because the Shake Shack line was ages long.  Citi Field isn’t even opening all of their regular concession stands at the moment, but the outfield area is thriving).

Not having anyone to talk to, I could not help overhearing the conversation in front of me, carried on by a father and his young daughter (maybe 7 or 8), who was clearly attending her first baseball game as a conscious spectator.  Even though she seemed most excited at the revelation that Kesha was in attendance, the little girl did try to follow what her dad was trying to teach her about the basic rules of the game, with amusing results. Some highlights:

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