Friday, November 21, 2014

Blue binder

Well, lurking quietly in the corner, at the bottom of a pile, hoping to be ignored in the clean-out, here’s an ancient blue 3-ring binder holding a career’s worth of addresses and phone numbers. On the back of some of the pages, the occasional doodle, list, or bits of terrible protest doggerel, scribbled almost certainly during an excruciating phone call with a magazine editor. A representative example:

Cut, he cried,
It’s way too long.
Make it like a Beatles song—
Short and snappy hits the gong.
Incomplete? Who gives a bleat?
Our dopey readers think it’s meat.

Other than my perfectly-scanning Wordsworth imitations, it’s page after alphabetized page filled mostly with numbers attached to names I haven’t thought of for years or have utterly forgotten, cunning little codes that no longer snap my synapses, scribbled notes with additions or changes or bits of info about secretaries, spouses I must have met along the way, and children now long grown. Once in a while a face pops into my mind, triggering flashes of memory that make me smile, or grimace, or wince. Colleagues, people I used to do work for, people who used to do work for me. Writers, editors, publishers, graphic designers, artists, distributors, packagers, photographers, publicists. Politicians, mostly local or state. Baseball types. Old running partners, teammates, opposing coaches. Professors, teachers and school administrators, tradespeople, priests and ministers (we have five churches within half a mile). Stables, horsey types, equine supplies. Outdoor gear. Membership organizations. Once good friends lost in the mists of time (sad, sad). The payphone at the house I lived in during my last year of college (!!). The occasional famous or near-famous or once-famous name. (Sometime in the early ’90s, I picked up my phone to hear the then universally-known voice of the broadcaster Joe Garagiola shouting, “Mark, Mark, why am I calling you?”) Doctors, dentists, physical therapists, athletic trainers (some of whom I still see, some of whom I haven’t seen in 40 years). Relatives and pals now departed. So more doggerel:

Old notebook
Workhorse compendium
Reminder of annoyance
and affection
Ennui perfected
and late solitude
grinding out lines immediately forgotten
And that great party in Chicago
with the wrestler and the white limousine
at Harry Caray’s
And the broken tooth in Boulder
with the pretty assistant
and the fern-bar dentist
And Anchor Steam in Frisco
or maybe it was Berkeley
     or both
Too bad, old notebook, old memories
It’s still the bin for you

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A quandary

I’ve been working away at my disaster of an office in concentric circles, expanding outward. I’m being ruthless and brutal and am making surprisingly great progress (“Look, the floor!”), but now I’ve come to the logjam of a bookcase in the northeast corner. Maybe 200 books, collections, journals, guides, studies, and bound manuscripts, mostly about baseball, but with some unimportant stuff tucked in here and there, too.

The top shelf holds mostly things I wrote, edited, or contributed to, and I suppose I’ll keep most of that. But then I run into trouble. I feel disloyal tossing stuff by friends, and I know how agonizingly hard some of the writers I gave moral support to worked on their projects. There are also a few books signed by authors I admire. (One has a charming inscription to H—and it’s a terrific read, too.) Then there are things I’ve had since boyhood, and which I’m sentimentally attached to. But most of this stuff has really got to go. I have a horror of having to pack up a mass of personal debris in quick time if we move, and a much greater horror of leaving the horrible job to a loved one. And really, not many people would think this material is worth anything.

So I’m gradually working my way around to just getting rid of it all. Or maybe allowing myself half a shelf. Or maybe I’ll just weed the obvious outz now, go skiing, and come back to it next summer. Or maybe the book fairy….

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Now that’s the ticket!

I’ve been digging deep into the detritus of my life (you could say “the mess in my office” if you wanted to be mundane about it). 

Today I surfaced a collection of autographs: Ted Williams, Nellie Fox, Bob Feller, Jimmy Piersall, the golfer Doug Ford, and, best of all, a non-autograph: a ticket stub from the 1964 US Olympic pre-Trials at Randall’s Island. 

Tom O’Hara! (Scrawny as I was—“ah, your arms are just for balance.”)

Dyrol Burleson! (Whose first name I never knew how to pronounce.)

Jim Grelle! (Whose last name I never knew how to pronounce.) 

Cary Weisiger!  Archie San Romani Jr.! The idols of my youth. 

I remember going to a side field to watch these guys warm up for the 1,500. I was shocked that they looked remarkably human.