Monday, May 23, 2016


Hello to both of you! The blog has been mostly dark for a while, and this will be the final post at this address. But not the Last Post.

As part of a restart, I’m shifting things to WordPress and renaming the new version Catswamp, after Cat Swamp Road, where I was brought up. Not surprisingly, you can find it at

Hope to see you there.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Geezer redux

I haven’t posted for over a year. Stuff happens.

One more bit of stuff that’s going to happen in the next few weeks is that I’ll be posting again, but on a new platform at a new address. I’m not sure if I’ll be changing the blog’s title. “The Geriatric Review” has been suggested. Either way, I hope and think it will look nicer and be more stable and easy to use. I honestly don’t know what direction the whole enterprise will take, but both of you can expect the standard jibbering cogitation. I’ll post appropriate info when I have it.

Anyway, I’m still here, and I’m still working on my office. Most of the books (160 baseball titles alone to the Wesleyan University Library book sale), and lots of the files and papers are gone, along with most of the random detritus. But here’s a partial list of items I just pulled out of corners and drawers, or off the back of bookcases.
  • Five baseballs, all decades old. Two used, two autographed, one pristine. 
  • A rubber gizmo used to keep cross-country skis together. (You need two for the system to work.)
  • A yarmulke. I used to carry one in a pocket of each of my sport and suit jackets. You never know….
  • A tiny fielder’s mitt my grandfather tossed into my crib in 1948.
  • A single bronzed bookend from the late 1920s, made from one of my mother’s baby shoes. The other one’s around here somewhere….
  • My dad’s Wilson 1940-vintage Ellsworth Vines tennis racket, in its press. Your ad!
  • A Speedy Stitcher sewing awl, “… a handy tool to have around the house, farm or any place where heavy material has to be sewn.” I think I may actually have used it. Once.
  • A 1928 YMCA Checker Championship trophy won by my mother’s father.
  • A small wooden music box that plays “Stardust,” a wedding gift to my parents in 1945.
  • Three inflating needles, used in decades past mostly for basketballs, but occasionally for the random soccer ball or baby gizmo.
  • An Ace bandage wrapped in a length of well-greyed adhesive tape. I’m pretty sure this came home from college with me in the summer of 1966.
  • And, best of all in a way, a small, tattered, fake stuffed bird that was given to me, for reasons I no longer remember, by friends on my 21st birthday, and has been hanging off of a series of study and office lamps ever since.
What do I do with all this? You can have the needles, the ski thingy, the yarmulke, the Ace, and maybe the awl, but what can I do with the rest? It’s family history. Maybe I’ll start a museum.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Leery of relativity

When I was a boy (oh, God, here he goes again), the local paper had a little Sunday magazine that carried a feature listing local events that had occurred 10 years, 20 years, and 30 years before. I remember thinking the 10-year-old stuff wasn’t really all that long ago, but the 20-year-old stuff was pretty antique, and the 30-year-old stuff was nearly obscured by the mists of time.

The same paper has apparently been doing something similar these days on its sports page. A friend asked me during the fall if I’d seen it a few weeks previous. Nope. “Well, there was a little piece in there about a cross-country race you won 50 years ago.” We naturally had the requisite laugh about how superb we were then and how old and creaky we are now, and moved on to local politics.

Of course, to me now, the fall of 1964 can seem like last week. I can still smell some of those crisp afternoons, tempered pungently with Essence of Cramergesic. On the other hand, 50 years before that was 1914, which only existed in books and the obviously addled memories of the utterly ancient.

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.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

How odd ... How lovely

I hopped in the shower this morning and began a weirdly excellent experience.

I have a very small Bluetooth speaker in there, and I thought my iPhone was set to continue an audio book I’d been listening to. But no. Some illicit digital shenanigans had been going on, and up came “Boplicity” from Birth of the Cool. Which naturally made me feel like one smooth operator. And when it was over I was set up for more ultra-sophisticated post-bopness from Miles and the guys.

But no again. Little Richard asking Lucille to satisfy his heart.

It’s hard to go so fast from supercool to down and dirty, and I didn’t quite make it before here was Fats Waller and his famous variations on Tea for Two, which made me remember for the first time in years asking my mother, who loved Waller (“great left hand”), if this was a joke that was played on him or a joke he was playing on us. She told me she thought he was just taking an insipid tune and demonstrating how it could be played in various jazz styles. I wasn’t convinced then and I’m not convinced today.

By this time, I was in the car headed north to a great farm market. We went classical for a stretch, and the sounds took me deeper and deeper into the memory tunnel.

A movement of a Vivaldi Cello Concerto made me remember that we used to listen to a lot of Baroque when H was a little girl. She always recognized this composer, and called him “Mr. Vivaldi.”

Next, a movement of the Mozart Bassoon Concerto (Michael Chapman!) reminded me that while I used to know most of the Köchel numbers, now I can barely tell Mozart from Cab Calloway.

Onward to Coleman Hawkins sedate but ground-breaking “Body and Soul”.  My dad, the first time I played it for him decades ago: “Where’s the melody? I can’t hear the tune! Why would anyone do that? You don’t like this stuff, do you?”

But dad loved the next one (which is why it’s on my iPhone): Bing Crosby crooning his massive early hit, “Please”. (“Your eyes reveal that you have the soul of / An angel white as snow / How long must I play the role of / A gloomy Romeo?”) My mother used to roll her eyes at stuff like this and make the “square” sign.

Back to a movement of one of Big Mo’s string quartets. Until I lost the hearing in one ear in the mid-’80s, chamber music was my thing, and the Mozart Quartets were pretty much my idea of perfection in music. But they became vastly less enjoyable to me in personal mono. Which is a shame. On the other hand: jazz. Louis and Wolfgang exist somewhere together. They both treat Billie Holiday with great respect.

By this time, I was cruising along back roads that were beautiful, green, and cool. It’s an awfully nice part of the country here. And up came Patti LuPone singing “Rabbit Tango” from a Sandra Boynton collection we bought for B. We love everything Boynton, but especially Moo, Baa, La La La, which in our family is always pronounced Moo, Baa, Ya Ya Ya, because that’s the way H said it when she was very small.

This was unfortunately followed by Simon & Garfunkel singing “Save the Life of My Child,” which I actually don’t remember ever hearing before, and which brought my spirits low even on this beautiful day in the beautiful place.

But then, just before I pulled into the farm, The Beatles offered “Let It Be”, which made me realize that the older I get, the more I love John Lennon.