Category Archives: experimental

the writing exercises where I try something that’s a little out of my comfort zone.

A Poetry Interlude

I never know how much context to provide preceding a piece of poetry, but here is all the context I’ll give you for this one. This poem was inspired by a friend who loves poetry and is herself a prolific poet. I myself do not do much dabbling in poetry, whether reading or writing, but I sent this poem to the friend whose post inspired it, and she compared it to an ee cummings poem, and that made my day. So here it is; I hope you enjoy it.

Safety First

Facebook tantalizes me with temptation: “Check out your memories!”
No warning label. Proceed without caution of any kind.

What is in my memories?
Sometimes pure, nostalgic fun
Tendrils and wisps of a more innocent, more slim, more confident, past self
Less weathered.
Less care worn.
Less filtered.
Less experienced.
Less empathetic.
Less everything, it sometimes seems.

Most often, though
the things that crop up are not things at all, but people.
Former friends. In the comments.

I went through a phase, you see,
in my younger days, when I realized
that Jennyfromthesecondgrade
didn’t really need
to see my every thought, picture, fear, or confession.

Facebook tantalized me back then too.
Unfriend, it whispered.
Annoying? Unfriend!
Over-Emotional? Unfriend!
Too Republican? Unfriend!
Too girly? Too sexist? Too liberal? Too Christian? Too atheist? Too cryptic? Too verbose? Too serious? Too silly?
Unfriendunfriendunfriendunfriendunfriendunfriendunfriendunfriendunfriend

 I created the perfect echo chamber,
full of those wonderful creatures who only think the way I do,
and now my feed is clear, concise,
. . . somewhat empty, and . . .
a little redundant.

My old friends show up faithfully, but only in my memories, and
Facebook tantalizes me still:
“Add friend!”

Oh, but Facebook. That’s one temptation to which
I won’t succumb. I’d choke
trying to swallow that much pride.

Leave a comment

Filed under bloggy, experimental, irreverent, writing exercises

An Existential Treatise on the Futility of Rationale

I’ve noticed myself becoming marginally less argumentative and aggressive as I age in this life.

Ha. If you asked for my fiancé’s side of the story, he would probably recount to you the three biggest fights (so far) of our relationship and say adamantly, “Less aggressive? No way.”

But it’s true. The older I get, the less energy I have for arguments (especially on Facebook) that occur between privileged, middle-to-upper-class, white college graduates (and yes, all of those descriptors apply to me).

It’s odd because my belief system is as “figured out” as it’s ever been. I know where I stand on the issues that plague general society and, often more significantly in my circles, the issues that plague the church.

But I have less energy and enthusiasm for an argument with a gun-rights advocate whose platform is so flawed and vague and just…absurdly selfish, I guess, that I get lost when trying to decide how to approach it to pick it apart. But aside from that, even if I knew exactly where to start, I don’t have the motivation.

I have less energy for an argument with a woman who thinks that sexism is a myth, one who is so buried and embroiled and surrounded by the latent sexism in our society that she thinks feminism is a four-letter word instead of what it actually is – a movement that recognizes a severe imbalance in this world and desires to take the steps to equalize it.

I have less energy for an argument with fire-and-brimstone Christians who care more about hatefully espousing their opinions about the eternal souls of those with whom they disagree than they do about getting to know a person who is different from them.

I’ve become disillusioned in this life I’m leading, and I’m past the point where arguments on Facebook, either with strangers or with people I respected until I found out what their politics or morals are, are satisfying to me. I’m past the point in my life where sitting around and debating issues that MATTER is the only thing we do. I live in a privileged world where I get to go to an office every day and earn a yearly salary, complete with healthcare benefits (although sometimes the high deductible feels more like a burden than a benefit). In my position as an editor, I’m constantly engaging and reworking and immersing myself in content that discusses helping, ministering, loving, being Christlike, putting our words into actions (or “feet on our faith,” as one of our monthly periodicals puts it), and I’m tired of these things being words to me and nothing more.

When I was a teenager, then a college student, then a young twenty-something, I dreamed of moving to another country and changing the world. Not in a big way. I don’t have the tools or skills to change the world in a big way. But in my small, linguist-centered way, I was going to make a difference. But now I’m not a twenty-something anymore, and I haven’t done any of the things I thought I would, and my passion has waned.

I don’t know if it’s because I am tired of arguing without doing, or because my arguments get me nowhere, or for some other reason I haven’t yet thought of. But my passion, my energy, my characteristic aggression has diminished.

And what in the world do I do about that? Maybe it’s a good thing, I reason with myself. I wasn’t really argued into any of the beliefs I currently hold. I came to embrace pacifism (and gun legislation), feminism, anti-homophobia, and all of the other issues I am passionate about by observing, studying, reasoning, practicing, and praying. Therefore, what’s the use of arguing my views to someone who doesn’t share them, or holds the opposing viewpoint? If I wasn’t argued in, how can I expect someone else to be? On the other hand, if nobody ever engaged in arguments, would social progress and change ever occur, or would we still be slave owners, who don’t allow women to work or vote?

But did those changes come about because Person A argued with Person B and Person B eventually saw the light and gave in? I don’t think so. I think they came about because Persons A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, and N argued with Persons O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, and Z until some kind of conflict occurred and an obvious winner emerged. Whether the “conflict” be a war or a riot or a vote/election, usually the losing party isn’t suddenly converted to the other side. It’s just that they’ve become a subordinate somehow.

I guess I feel saddened and discouraged that conflict of some kind must occur before things can be made right. I guess it makes me feel powerless. Tweeting about sexism isn’t going to cause employers to raise all their female employees’ pay to match what the male employees make. Arguing with a middle-aged (or older) Christian, who’s claimed Christianity all his or her life, about whether gay people should be afforded the basic rights that everyone else gets isn’t going to legalize gay marriage in the last remaining states. Trying to reason with the overzealous second amendment defenders on Facebook isn’t going to get Congress to pass the gun legislation that this country sorely needs. And writing a blog post about the futility of it all isn’t going to change a damn thing either.

So, don’t mind me. I’m just over here having an existential crisis. I can afford such a luxury since all my other basic needs (except for equality as a woman) have been met. Nothing to see here. Move along, please.

1 Comment

Filed under bloggy, experimental, irreverent, sentimental

That Time I Saw Some Cool Stuff in the Sky

I’ve always been interested in the stars. My favorite unit in 8th grade Earth Science was the one where we learned about different constellations and what they looked like and how to identify them. My teacher was kind of creepy, and he flirted with the pretty girls in class by asking them which was their favorite constellation and then drawing it on their hand. On my hand he drew Orion. See what I mean? Kind of a creep.

So, despite my casual interest in the night sky, I have never seen a meteor shower, even though I’ve always wanted to. It seemed like I always heard about it after the fact. Or, if I heard about it in time, it was the kind of thing where you had to go see it at 2am on a Tuesday night, and I was never motivated enough to do that, at least not in the middle of the week.

But last week a good friend of mine informed me ahead of time both of the fact that a meteor shower was happening and when would be the best times to see it. Luckily, the best times were a Thursday night and a Friday night. So I chose the Friday night, bundled up in many, many layers, and left my house at 11pm to head up north to an open, rural area where I could clearly see the sky and stars.

The farther away from the city I got, the more gradually I began to see increasing numbers of stars. After an hour of driving and several left and right turns and a lot of creeping along down very dark, two-lane, narrow roads, I finally settled into a spot I thought would work. I was in a network of paved but snow-covered roads that appeared to be the bare  bones of a brand-new housing development. There were cul-de-sacs and dead ends but nothing else. Just land and trees. So I parked my car in the darkness and got out.

I looked up at the sky and realized I had no idea what I was actually looking for. It occurred to me that I wasn’t sure what a meteor shower even was. I’d been assuming it was just a show of various falling and shooting stars. But, faced with the expanse of starry night I now stared into, I was hit by the vastness of it all. I puzzled over exactly how to watch the sky. It had become clear early on that I would need to be outside my car rather than in it. But I had no desire to just stand around and stare up into the sky like a dummy. I eventually decided that climbing onto the roof of my car would be the best course of action. So I hauled myself up to the roof and just lay there, hands stuffed into my pockets, staring straight up.

The thing is, what I saw was like nothing I’d ever seen before. For one thing, I’d never seen so many stars in the sky at one time. The aforementioned friend had told me to locate the Big Dipper and that, if I could do that, I would find the bulk of the meteor shower action just below its handle…or something like that. Problem was, I couldn’t locate ANYTHING familiar in that sky. It was the most overcrowded sky I have ever seen. I could not find a Big Dipper or a Little Dipper or a North Star or an Orion (although I don’t think it’s Orion’s season anyway…). I mean, nothing. Absolutely nothing. So I gave up on that and just stared. What stood out to me the most was the sheer, pulsating quality the sky had. It just seemed to be literally bursting and throbbing with moving light. And I don’t mean falling stars. There were certainly those, but I just mean, it had a pulsing rhythm, resonant of a drumbeat. I’ve never seen the sky in quite such an alive state before.

When I looked due north and straight up, there was one star in particular – an ultra-bright one – that seemed itself to be moving, but not in a falling or shooting star kind of way. It moved sort of like the planchettes that accompany Ouija boards do in the movies: slowly, hovering, sometimes a little jerky. If I focused on it – and only it – for a certain amount of time, then it seemed to become the only star in the entire, crowded sky. Trick of the eyes, I guess, I don’t know.

I lay on the roof of my car, shivering, teeth chattering, the cold seeping into my toes, my nose, my fingertips, everywhere. But it didn’t seem to matter. The tremors were inconsequential compared to the show playing up above. It probably would’ve been a better experience if I’d done more planning and brought a blanket, and maybe a thermos with a warm beverage of some kind in it, but I didn’t do those things. I layered up, hopped in the car, and drove because I had no idea what I was doing or what I was really looking for, and I can’t say – even now, after the fact – that I even really know exactly what I saw.

At times I got lost in the alternating blackness and brightness, and if I got into a comfortable stare, I sometimes had the sensation that there was so much more going on up there than my naked eye could see. The feeling that there was something…more…up there never lasted long, but it was persistent and recurrent.

And then the most magical moment happened while I stared into an inky black expanse. I was trying something new with my eyes. I had been letting my gaze dart frantically around the whole sky, trying to keep up with shooting stars that always seemed to be just in my periphery and never in my straight, full-on line of sight. So for a moment, I quieted myself and decided to train my eyes just on one spot – not one star, but more like a defined square patch – in the sky. I did that for about fifteen seconds, and then there was a flickering in an empty black space within the patch. And then all of a sudden a star burned there, in the exact same spot that had been totally unoccupied two seconds prior, and it burned and shone just as if it had been there the entire time. It seemed so sure of itself and its existence that I blinked and began to second-guess what I had seen. I don’t know how scientific it is that a star will just turn on in the black sky out of nowhere. Perhaps it was just another trick of the eyes, who knows. Nobody was looking at that exact same spot at that exact same moment in order to corroborate my story, but – as my favorite necklace (and Kurt Vonnegut) says, “So it goes.”

I could make some cheesy-sounding and inauthentic, contrived-feeling references to the shepherds and wise men who followed the star in the east to Bethlehem, or to God’s promise to Abraham to make his descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky. But I won’t do that because I don’t want to cheapen the experience, either for myself, or for anyone who might be reading. I did have a cool and unique experience that night, and I’m glad I went. I spent about two hours out there in the dead of night, in the rural quiet of “just outside Kansas City.” And I hope I will never forget the giddy way I felt lying on top of my car and looking up at the brightest darkness I’d ever seen, wishing I did childlike and impulsive things like that more often in my life but also simply soaking up the present moment. It was a lovely evening, and my only regret is that the camera on my phone was not adequate enough to immortalize any of it. Maybe next time.

4 Comments

Filed under bloggy, experimental, writing exercises

Why Are the Sexes Still Battling?

*Obligatory Structure Apology: This post covers the surface of two or three gender-related issues but doesn’t delve deeply into any of them. It flits from surface to surface without looking back and is more on the scatterbrained side of things than I hope my usual writings are. But consider it a free-write exercise or a stream-of-consciousness editorial. Faulkner got famous with that style.*

So, I wanna talk about The Gender Thing. Yes, capitalized. And it might get uncomfortable for you. It might even get uncomfortable for me. That’s okay. You can leave any time you want. I won’t mind. Promise. But if you decide to stay, put on your seatbelts and your thinking caps.

First and foremost, I have realized that the older I get, the more feminist I become. I’m not sure if this is a result of increased awareness, of some sort of defiant personal statement about my own situation in life, or just because feminism (or rather, gender equality, as I prefer to call it) actually does make more sense than any other alternative. Whatever the reason, as I have aged, my beliefs about women’s place in this world and how they ought to be treated have changed pretty dramatically. The world has come a long way too, even just since I’ve been alive, but not as far as it could come, and not as far as I have come.

Growing up, I actually had no concept of male dominance or gender inequality, or even gender roles. Mom and Dad both cooked. They both cleaned. They both mowed the lawn. They both drove the car. And they both worked full time. I do not have a single memory of my dad sitting on his butt while my mom did “women’s work,” nor do I remember my mom putting off yard work or car maintenance “until Dad got home.” When something needed to be done (with a few exceptions that I assumed – and rightly so, I think – were the result of procrastination/apathy more than gender-role assignment), whoever was around and able to do it, did it.

Parents make lots of mistakes raising their children, and my parents made plenty, I’m sure. (And I’m not just talking about the obvious injustices of not letting me go to the movies alone with my seventh-grade boyfriend, or revoked privileges when I broke a rule.) But one thing I had no idea my parents were doing right was The Gender Thing. Sometimes my dad made final decisions, and sometimes my mom made final decisions, and sometimes they both made final decisions. But nobody kept score (that I knew of), and neither one acted superior to the other.

My dad is ridiculously artistic, so he is the one who experimented on my hair when I was a kid. He gave me haircuts (using Scotch tape to adhere my bangs to my forehead and cutting straight across underneath the tape; early ’90s genius); he curled my hair using pink foam rollers; he braided it in tiny braids for me to sleep on overnight (I found out as a young adult that more well-off kids actually had plug-in devices to achieve the same effect); and he styled it into numerous variations of ponytails and pigtails. Once, on school picture day in fourth grade, he even gave me Farrah-Fawcett-feathered bangs. I was too young to appreciate it, and so were my classmates; I got made fun of mercilessly that day.

Growing up, though, I always got weird looks when people complimented me on what my mom had done with my hair and I told them it was my dad’s work. I wish I had understood then what I do now and been able to tell them, “There’s no such thing as a gender role at our house.” But I didn’t, so I just shrugged off their incredulous looks and instead replied, “Yeah. My dad is pretty cool.”

My parents told me the same thing all parents tell their kids when they’re young: You can be anything you want to be when you grow up. Yes, all parents say this to their children. Unfortunately, I don’t think all parents really mean it. But that’s a different blog post. My parents, however, totally meant it. And they never said anything to me about the limitations I might encounter because of my gender. Until I was about fifteen, my only career aspiration was veterinary science. But if, as a child, I had told my parents that what I wanted to do with my life was get a bachelor’s degree, work as an editor, buy a house at the age of 25, and stay unmarried, I am about 93% sure their response would’ve been: “Cool.” Because my parents believe in supporting my decisions. (Or at least, if they don’t believe that, they do a darn good job of pretending they do.  Come to think of it, they are both skilled actors…)

Unfortunately, the rest of the world doesn’t believe that people can be or do whatever they want, and I have encountered some harsh instances of gender inequality in my life, most of them coming in the form of sexual harassment. For whatever reason, we live in a world ruled by men (you can’t argue that; it’s sociological fact); and, unfortunately, they often rule it with their penises.

From the time little boys are taught to pee standing up, they learn early on that their penises are powerful devices, able to be used for whatever purposes they can dream up. It’s why boys have peeing contests. It’s why the four-year-old I babysit once peed all over his bedroom. It’s why a young child a friend of mine used to babysit stood at the top of the stairwell in his family’s house and peed down to the bottom of it. It’s why men lord it over women that they can pee anywhere they want, any time they want, and we can’t. And it’s also why there’s so much phallic-shaped art in the world. Men get a kick out of drawing attention to their penises and what they can do. 

Contrarily, women are told that, because we have vaginas and because they sometimes bleed, that makes us unequal. After all, how can a woman who has wonky hormones once every month possibly be a good leader? Interesting logic, considering that male leader after male leader after male leader (including at least two beloved presidents of the United States) has proven that his hormonal tendencies are even more irregular – and often more frequent – than the average woman’s. At least with women, we can track it on the calendar and predict when hormones are going to get a little out of whack. With men, you never know.

It might be because a pretty girl makes eye contact from across the street. It might be because the wind blows a skirt up for a fraction of a second. It might be because a bra strap is showing (or at least, that’s what church camp said). Or heck, it might be because a guy stares at a blade of grass for too long and randomly springs an erection that has no discernible explanation. How often do men get erections? Healthy men, aged 25-50? At least once a day. I guarantee it.

Anyway, my point actually has nothing to do with who is better equipped to function in any given capacity, because people are equipped by natural or learned skills that have absolutely nothing to do with gender. So let’s not get further sidetracked by discussions of periods and erections. I guess my point is that this is a messed-up, completely broken world, and I’m pretty angry about the fact that I’ve experienced more than my fair share (if there is such a thing as a “fair share”) of sexual brokenness because of guys who thought they deserved to treat me and my body however they pleased, simply because my body exists, and because their penises communicated a desire to their brains.

And, honestly, I have wished in the past for those certain males to have something painful happen to their man parts. But that wouldn’t solve the larger problem, and anyway, in the interest of telling both sides of the story, there have been other instances when I’ve found myself in problematic situations and have made my own mistakes that I have had to take responsibility for. So I’m not pointing fingers at men or at women specifically.

am pointing fingers at the world in general. I don’t understand why it’s 2013 and the majority of women still earn lower salaries than men. Or why certain healthcare policies exclude or ignore women’s needs. Or why women compete with other women in any capacity other than pure athletics. Or why men still rape women (even their wives). Or why women still get cat-called or otherwise inappropriately addressed in public. I don’t understand it at all. And it makes me sad, and it makes me so angry.

But I’m grateful for the way I was raised as it regards gender roles (or the lack thereof, rather). And I’m grateful for the opportunity to be an aunt to a little girl whom I hope to teach early and often the truth about gender, and how that truth differs from what the world may try to tell her.

In some ways, feminism has been really good for this world, and in other ways it has simply made things more ridiculous, more difficult, more complicated. But my friend Karly articulated it well several days ago in a co-ed discussion about stay-at-home mothers. Feminism was originally about fighting for the right to choose, rather than the right to judge. If every person in this world was truly created equal, and if every person was truly created in the image of God, then terms like gender rolemisogyny, chauvinismfeminism, and sexism shouldn’t even exist.

6 Comments

Filed under bloggy, experimental, irreverent, sentimental, stream of consciousness, writing exercises

An Open Letter to Jeff Francoeur

Dear Jeff Francoeur,

I am a relatively new baseball fan. I don’t know how long my friends and followers will put up with me saying that because my baseball obsession probably makes them feel like I’ve been a fan my entire life (or at least, their entire lives). Everybody (except other baseball fans) is tired of hearing me talk about baseball. (And other baseball fans are tired of hearing me defend you.) But the truth is, I really have only been a baseball fan for one year. Less than that, even.

We are about to finish the second week of the MLB season (first week of the Royals’ opening homestand), and I’ve already been to two Royals games, with a third coming tonight. With only six games this week to go to, three is kind of a lot, without being a season ticketholder. Last season it was midsummer before I got three games under my belt. I don’t really say all that to brag or prove anything about myself. I say it to show the dramatic change in my lifestyle since discovering the greatness of baseball.

Once I realized I couldn’t have too much baseball in my life, it was easy enough to get attached to the Royals. And to you, Jeff. Last season was a bit of a tailspin season for players individually as well as for the team as a whole. (That includes you too, unfortunately.) Two Royals players got injured so early in the season that I didn’t even know they existed until they came off the DL.

But there were redeeming moments. Just exactly how many redeeming moments there were will vary in opinion, and will probably depend on how long one has been a Royals fan. For me, a brand-new fan, the opportunities to forgive and forget were numerous, and I took advantage of almost all of them, and had a difficult time deciding which player was my “favorite.” (A few days ago, at my first Royals game of the season, a friend asked me that very question, and by the time I finished answering her, I had just about listed the entire 25-man roster, and even a couple on the 40-man. If you’re wondering, Luke Hochevar didn’t make the list.)

But as far as favorites go, you, Jeff, seemed to make the news more often than any other Royals player last year. During a year when Alex Gordon played well enough to earn his second Gold Glove in a row; a year when the Face of the Franchise, Eric Hosmer – tall, dark, and unbelievably good looking – sucked so much it was hard to believe he was a top prospect just a couple years before; the year the All-Star Game came to Kansas City and Billy Butler was all over the news as the Royals’ representative; a year when Yuniesky Betancourt was inexplicably on the Royals’ roster again; and a year when Salvador Perez came off the DL and immediately started turning heads, both with his bat and his defense… With all that going on, it’s interesting that you still seemed to be talked about as much as you were.

But you found a way: You became a Super Friend to the Fans. You threw baseballs wrapped in money into opposing teams’ outfield stands (actually, that happened in 2011, but it was so crazy that it got talked about a lot last year too). You threw baseballs wrapped in money into your own fans’ outfield stands. You posed for a picture with a young fan who had autism. You reached into a fan’s bucket of popcorn after attempting to snag a foul ball.

Haters still found a way to criticize you for these actions, but on the whole, you are pretty well loved by baseball fans around the country. But that’s key: “around the country.” Here in Kansas City, especially last year, you were pretty unpopular, and I took a lot of flack for calling you one of my favorite players. People said I was naive; people said I didn’t care about winning, only about your winning smile; people said I knew nothing about baseball.

But I continued to like you because you continued to trot out there every day like you cared about your job, despite the fact that your team was losing and you were on your way to having arguably the worst season of your career. You continued to smile, despite the fact that people booed you. You continued to hold your head up, despite the fact that a Francoeur plate appearance more often than not meant a guaranteed out for the Royals.

I guess, in the end, the reason the Royals are so likable is that, despite the losing, we have players and managers who are likable as human beings. Royals players don’t get in the news for being jerks the way Yankees players do. Royals players don’t get in the news for starting benches-clearing brawls the way a lot of other MLB players do (of most recent and notable mention, former Royal Zack Greinke, emphasis on former, and Carlos Quentin). There’s a culture of class and sportsmanship about the Royals organization, and that’s why I don’t care that we’ve historically traded away so many talented players like Melky Cabrera, Zack Greinke, Johnny Damon, etc. Of course, it bears remembering that I wasn’t part of the baseball world when those things happened, so it’s easy not to care now.

But it’s also easy to like the Royals, despite their offensive struggles, because they are a group of genuinely good guys whom just about any local fan would want to go out and have a beer with. And yes, sometimes all the losing means it sucks to be a Royals fan, but at least I’m still happy in the rest of my life. Yankees fans, Red Sox fans, White Sox fans, Cardinals fans… They all seem to be disgruntled in general, despite the fact that their teams win a lot. Nothing seems to make them happy.

Fan culture imitates player culture, it seems. And you, Jeff, are one of the Royals players who leads by example when it comes to being a good sport, and a generally good-seeming guy. You even became buddies with Alex Gordon in the offseason, training with him and getting training tips from him, and doing everything you could to become the best baseball player you can be. I say “even” because Alex Gordon is the only Royal I would not classify as “a nice guy.” (However, he’s still not enough of a jerk to be a Yankee. And maybe he is a nice guy, who knows. He just doesn’t seem to be interested in any fan interaction whatsoever, and I guess that’s fine. There’s no rule that says you have to love the fans.) But see, that’s exactly my point. The guy on our team who is the biggest jerk is simply a guy who prefers to keep to himself. That’s how awesome all the other players are.

Anyway, Jeff, I’m probably the only fan in Kansas City who wasn’t outraged when the guy a lot of people thought would replace you this season got traded for a really good pitcher. I’m the only fan in Kansas City who didn’t care that you being on the team was blocking a “better” player from coming up. (Part of my rationale is that we needed good starting pitching more than we needed another potential yet unproven bat. We’ve got plenty of potentially hot, unproven bats. Maybe if we have some good pitching – which, it appears we finally do – our potentially hot, unproven bats can have a chance to relax, get hot, and actually prove themselves.)

But here’s the point, Jeff. You’re a great guy. And sometimes you play some great baseball. (I’ve seen you throw from the warning track corner in right field all the way to third base. I’ve seen you get RBI hits in clutch situations. When I sat in the Frenchy Quarter section at Kauffman last year, you hit a home run in your first AB.)

Of course, my love isn’t blind, and there are other times that you make me facepalm. Like last night, when you swung twice in a row at pitches that were literally in the dirt. I mean, really. I think they actually bounced before they crossed the plate, and you still swung at them. Or like any number of times last season when you would take off running for a base at the worst possible moment and generate a free out for the opposing team. I am pretty sure one time you even ran when the pitcher was staring right at you.

I don’t know what is going through your head when you do silly things like that. I really, really don’t. But I will always be a Jeff Francoeur fan. Because you are a wonderful human being. Because you have a great attitude and a killer smile. And because, when you are playing good baseball, you’re so much fun to watch. I hope you have a good season this year. But even if you don’t, at least you’ll be happier than guys like A-Rod at the end of the season because, whether you end up having a good or bad season, you’ll go into the offseason knowing, At least I don’t act like guys like A-Rod.

But could I give you one piece of advice, Jeff? That goatee you’ve been sporting this season is not a good look for you.

Sincerely,
Audra Marvin
Devoted Royals Fan, Budding Baseball-in-General Fan, Vin Scully Fan, and Active Hater of Bad Attitudes and Spider Crickets

PS If you’re feeling fan-generous tonight, I’ll be sitting in section 131, row G.

6 Comments

Filed under baseball, bloggy, experimental, irreverent, sentimental, writing exercises

As American As…

There are lots of stereotypes and general-knowledge notions that I have never been able to identify with, such as the statement that Kansas is flatter than a pancake or just one large expanse of farmland; moms who do their daughters’ hair; or the idea of baseball and apple pie being the two loves that make people American. Of course, the reason I couldn’t identify with these supposed common-experience notions was that they didn’t match up with my experience growing up.

For instance, has anyone who calls Kansas flat ever visited Lawrence? Or Atchison? Or Kansas City (on the Kansas side, of course, although the Missouri side has its fair share of hills too, as any runner knows)? I can only assume not. Furthermore, I grew up in a suburb of Kansas City. The nearest farms were at least an hour south of us, and we never went south. Why would we? The city was north. When I was young, my dad crimped and curled my hair for big events like school pictures or church; my mom never laid a finger on my tresses. She wouldn’t have known what to do if I’d asked her to.

And as for baseball and apple pie… Are you kidding me? When it came to dessert, chocolate ruled the day in our house, and when we wanted to be entertained, well, we were a book family (as any loyal reader of this blog already knows). Once a year, in the smack-dab middle of the summer, right about the time our sans-school ennui hit, our family ventured to Kauffman Stadium (a torturous, 45-minute drive away) to take in a baseball game. We sat way up high, had no idea of any of the players’ names (except George Brett, of course), and expected to see the home team lose. It was a good night if my parents sprang for cotton candy. If they declined our vendor-related pleas, the night could not achieve a higher rating than mediocre. For me, the most fun part of going to the baseball stadium was getting to walk down the spiral ramp at the end of the game.

My second favorite part of going to the baseball stadium also happened once the game was over. And it was my dad’s least favorite part: the parking-lot traffic jam. I loved staring at the long lines of cars and brake lights illuminating the night as we waited to get back out on the road. I think my joy over the long wait only exacerbated my dad’s aggravation with it. My third favorite part of a baseball outing was definitely the coveted cotton candy, if I was lucky enough to get some. If not, the game itself could slide up to take a comfortable third place in Audra’s Personal-Enjoyment Rankings.

With the combination of a losing home team, a non-sports-interested family, and the crowd-control factors competing for my affection, one can easily deduce why I’ve never been able to identify with the old phrase “as American as baseball.” And, since I already couldn’t identify with the other American-defining phrase, the one about apple pie, I had no choice but to conclude I was an alien forced to spend my days in this country where they made such errors in judgment as preferring apple pie and baseball over chocolate and traffic jams. And thus I lived, happily – or so I thought – for 27 years. (It seems like I mention my age a lot in my blog posts. I wonder if that’s to remind people that I’m still young, or just to help me keep track of where I’m at in life?)

And then April 2012 came, and through a confluence of factors, I came to be interested in the sport of baseball. Those who know how this story ends might not believe me when I say it started out as a perfectly mild, even casual, interest. In fact, it was less than that. It was purely perfunctory. At that juncture of my life, I was spending a lot of evenings and a lot of carpool rides with a couple of boys who had baseball on the brain. In the evenings, my choices of conversation were baseball or book spines. On the rides to and from work, my choices were baseball or obscure music. I thought their chances of maintaining my interest were better if I chose baseball in both cases, so I began to study and read up on the Kansas City Royals. I also took a few opportunities to attend home games, since the tickets go for as cheap as seven bucks sometimes.

As it turned out, I was a bit overwhelmed at first by everything there was to learn. I had previously thought all there really was to know about baseball beyond what I considered “the basics” were all the players’ names and numbers. (I later found out jersey numbers matter very little; position numbers are what’s important.) To me, the basics were the multiples of three: three strikes, six outs per inning, nine innings, nine field positions. These things are important, but with each game I experienced, whether at the stadium or over the radio waves, I found there was still so much I didn’t know.

So I subscribed to a Royals-specific blog and read every post faithfully, which was exhausting at first because they posted multiple times a day during the season, and some of them were so full of statistics I could barely get to the end of a sentence and still understand what was going on. And if I missed a couple of days of checking Google Reader, I could have as many as eight posts backlogged. In those early days of blog reading, I clicked a lot of outside links to extra information and performed a lot of Google searches to suss out the meanings of various terms and stats.

At first, I took everything the blog posted as gospel truth and verbally quoted it (sometimes without citing my source – gasp!) in conversation, until I started noticing that, due to the number of games I personally attended and listened to, I was beginning to form my own semi-educated opinions about certain Royals players and certain managerial decisions, and sometimes those opinions differed from what the Royals bloggers posted. And I learned that was okay because we’re all just fans, and we don’t have to agree. Plus, other baseball fans were starting to notice my opinions on Facebook, and interesting conversations began to blossom!

Around midsummer, I again thought I had pretty much figured things out as far as batting strategy and basic fielding and defense were concerned, only to learn that there was more to offense than I realized: Pitching theories and techniques were an entire dimension I hadn’t even begun to explore. I had just gotten the hang of the field position numbers when I learned that position numero uno contained far more than met my eye. It seemed like I had a whole new roster to learn, what with starting pitchers and bullpen pitchers, both of which could be categorized further into left-handed and right-handed pitchers, #1-#5 starters, long relievers and short relievers, innings-eaters and closers.

I began to get dizzy when I tried to think about all the different types of pitches that could be thrown. Curveball, fastball, slider, change-up, knuckleball, and on and on and on. So, to borrow a metaphor from the sport that is played in Kauffman’s neighbor stadium, I tackled this problem head on by pulling up YouTube videos of good pitching. I listened to the announcers call the pitches and tried to see how the ball changed speed or direction as it went over the plate. It was tough to figure out, and it was especially difficult to try to apply my knowledge at live games because I didn’t particularly want to watch the pitch; I wanted to watch the runners stealing, the batters making contact, and the fielders playing the shift. And, besides all that, depending on where I sat in the stadium and what angle I had over the pitcher’s mound, I was darned if I could tell without the help of an announcer how fast it was going or how sharply it curved over the plate.

Eventually I found out about a new autobiography written by MLB pitcher R.A. Dickey. I had never heard of this guy and knew very little about his team, the New York Mets, but the title of the book struck me as clever, so I checked it out from the library. If I had known I was in for a read that would compete with my choice for Best Book of 2012, I’m…not really sure what I would’ve done differently. Maybe nothing, except opened it up much sooner than I did after acquiring a copy. But once I did open it and begin reading, I was hooked. Not only did I learn about great pitching (and great pitchers, knuckleballers specifically, like the Niekro brothers, Charlie Hough, and Tim Wakefield); I learned about the life of a man who struggled with self-worth issues and personal demons that stemmed from child abuse, molestation, rape, and abandonment. I learned about a guy who became a Christian early in his life, only to find it didn’t really make his external hardships disappear. I learned about someone who didn’t have anything handed to him on a platter; or rather, had pretty much everything handed to him on a platter, when he first signed an MLB contract, and then had that platter yanked away from him almost as fast. Finally, I learned about a man who loves baseball, loves God, and loves his wife and kids (not necessarily in that order) – and is just trying to figure out how to balance all that love (and stay humble) in a life where he finally – after much struggle, toil, heartache, and disappointment – seems to have everything he has ever wanted.

And with that book, the flame of my interest in baseball was fanned into a fire that spread beyond the exclusivity of the Kansas City Royals. I spent an afternoon near the end of the season watching a Mets game that R.A. Dickey pitched. As it happened, that game was his last of the season, and he earned the win (his 20th W of the season and the first Mets pitcher to achieve that many wins in one season since 1990), throwing 128 pitches over 7 and 2/3 innings and striking out 13 batters. If you don’t know the significance of those numbers, then I promise you, the word you’re looking for is, Wow.

R.A. Dickey and his knuckleball helped me begin to understand the complexities and dynamics of pitching. They also helped garner my interest in players outside the Royals organization. From that Mets/Pirates game, I went on to watch end-of-season games for the Nationals, the Dodgers, the Braves, the Mariners (wherein I also got to see a pitching feat accomplished, the day I watched Felix achieve his perfect game!), and more. When the end of the season loomed and divisions still hadn’t been clinched, I watched some of those games to see who would make it, the Orioles or the Yankees, the A’s or the Rangers, the Dodgers or the Cardinals. I probably watched more Dodgers games than any others, mostly because I discovered a gem of an announcer in Vin Scully, who, as an octogenarian, I quickly learned, is a baseball-announcing legend.

And then, of course, the postseason was upon us, and like any disappointed local fan, I began to choose favorites in the fight for the World Series. I canceled social plans to watch postseason games and lived and breathed postseason baseball for the first two weeks of October. All of my favorites ended up losing in the division or championship series, and I had to choose a new team for the World Series. I chose the Giants based on one player who had caught my eye early near the end of the regular season, when I watched all those Dodgers games. His name is Buster Posey, and his skill blew my mind time and time again, in almost every game I watched. He caught runners stealing, he recovered passed balls faster than anyone I’d seen all year, and his batting! Whew! He hit a grand slam in the Division Series to knock the Reds out of contention. I missed the Championship Series because I was on vacation, but then he notched a two-run homer in Game 4 of the World Series, which, when combined with Scutaro’s 10th-inning RBI, cemented the Series win 4-3 in thrilling fashion – a four-game sweep! – for the Giants.

The more games I watched, the more I learned about the craft and genius and complexity of baseball. And the more I learned, the more I craved to experience and know more. My conversations with friends both on Facebook and off began to go deeper. Even with all I had learned in those short few months, those discussions still turned down routes I couldn’t follow, and I discovered that there is still a huge gap in my baseball knowledge because I know very little of the history of baseball. Steer a baseball conversation away from the year 2012, and, even if you stick with the Royals, I won’t be of much use to you.

And so, my epic quest continues. I have begun to scour Wiki sites to learn about the history of teams, stadiums, franchises, logos, payrolls, and – of course – legendary players. I do this so that, when someone brings up Kirk Gibson or Lou Gehrig or heck – even Babe Ruth – I can still participate in the conversation. (Of course, thanks to The Sandlot, I have been able to rattle off the nicknames Great Bambino, Sultan of Swat, and Colossus of Clout for some couple of decades now, but I figure it’s time to go deeper than that.)  To aid me on my historical facts and legends hunt, I just recently learned that Ken Burns: Baseball is available on Netflix Instant Play, so I’m pretty excited about all of those tidbits of baseball lore just waiting to implant themselves in my  brain, especially now that I’ve got a long off-season looming.

To sum up, I’ve come a long way since those family excursions to the high-stadium seats and our collective expectations of loss. I still love the spiral ramp and the traffic jams, but they’ve moved down a few places in the rankings. I also still expect the Royals to lose a lot of the time, but now it pains me to the depths of my soul when they actually fulfill that expectation. And, contrarily, my joy soars to the highest heights when they defy expectations and Billy Butler hits a walkoff home run; Jeff Francoeur doesn’t make a running error on the base paths; Eric Hosmer manages to get on base; Lorenzo Cain lays out to catch a ball and doesn’t get up limping; or Salvador Perez manages to watch a pitch go by without swinging. These players now feel like mine, somehow, and I’m grateful to the rest of the community of baseball fans, who have (mostly) accepted me and my new fandom with open arms.

Oh, and just for the record, I still love chocolate. But I eat apple pie now too. What with Obama and all, I’ve learned this country isn’t so bad after all (sometimes).

11 Comments

Filed under baseball, bloggy, experimental, writing exercises

1,001 [Bad] Dates

If you will recall, I wrote a marvelously lighthearted post around three months ago that poked fun at the fact that my heart had just shattered (again). (How wonderful; my dating life is becoming one of those.) In the three months since I’ve been back in the game, I’ve had a few opportunities to dust off my skills, oil up my rusty joints, and put myself out there, so to speak. (My goodness, could that sentence have been laden with any more trite phrases?)

I tried my hand at online dating and was in and out of there about as quickly as a guy sent into a store to buy tampons. I went on an actual date with an actual guy from the site, but the evening proceeded in situational-comedy style, including me being kicked underneath the table at least twice, without either acknowledgment or apology. And I found more interest in the Royals game on the TV than I did in my companion, which should’ve sent him a strong message because this was about four days before the All-Star Break, and the Royals were in a losing spiral leading up to the break. My date, however, was so bad at reading social cues that he actually asked me to take a walk and get ice cream after dinner, apparently thinking the night was going wellIt would be my luck that my attempt to pay more attention to a baseball game than to my date would be interpreted as me being an into-sports type of girl rather than a not-into-him type of girl. I guess I should’ve fixed my rapt interest on something clearly less engaging, like counting the number of hipsters who passed on the street, walking alongside their fixed-gear bikes. (Can’t make it up that hill, huh? Serves you right, trend-chasing suckers.)

I also tried the traditional blind-date route. My grandpa had a guy in mind for me, sort of. That phone call actually started like this: “Audra, I have a date for you. [My friend’s] grandson is a very nice man, and he’s married.” Yes, that’s really what Grandpa said, but as it turned out, the only involvement the married grandson had in the situation was offering up the name of his single friend. Grandpa quickly surrendered my phone number to the grandson for delivery to the friend, and several days later, I ignored a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize and listened to a garbled and static-filled message from a guy whose name I couldn’t make out. This must be Grandpa’s guy. I shot him a text by way of response. He immediately asked if he could see me the next night. I said I preferred to get to know him a bit before we jumped into the going-on-a-date part. He said okay and then asked to meet the following weekend. Not exactly what I had in mind, but of course, I was fresh off the online-dating scene, in which you exchange about a hundred messages and then about a thousand texts before you graduate to actually meeting. He seemed nice, and his hadn’t-been-updated-for-three-years Facebook picture was flattering enough, but he was chomping at the bit, whereas I was meandering through the meadow and munching dandelions, so we never ended up meeting.

There was one more short-lived, fairly ridiculous, and awfully humorous evening during which I got hit on somewhat aggressively by a pretty intoxicated out-of-towner one night when I was out with my married friends and was clearly the single wolf in the pack.

When I realized how little fun I was having trying to wrangle dates and meet new guys, I shut down the online profile and took myself off the market, telling myself I was (am) perfectly capable of meeting a guy in real life, in a normal scenario, where we introduce ourselves to each other on our own impetus rather than someone else’s. And then I spent most of the summer going to Royals games and forgetting about real boys because I had an attractive first baseman (and third baseman, and left fielder, and right fielder, and a coupla pitchers) to set my sights on and fantasize about meeting in various places around town, including (but in no way limited to) the stadium itself.

Because the Royals suck (and have sucked for so many years), Kauffman has perfected the art of gimmicky fan promotions in an attempt to boost attendance. Therefore, I have been at the park this year for various events and attractions such as Buck Night (which is also Fireworks Friday), Mizzou Night, K-State Night, KU Day, Family FunDay (every Sunday), Oktoberfest, and more. In August, I found out via the Royals Twitter feed that Singles’ Night at the K was coming up. I abhor singles’ events, just to throw that out there. The desire I had to be at the stadium on Singles’ Night was driven by only one overriding ambition: my goal of going to 20 games this year. Perhaps luckily and unluckily, I already had a conflict written on my calendar for that night: I had to lead community group. Darn.

Several days before the event, a (single, female) friend texted and asked if I knew about Singles’ Night and whether I wanted to go. This got me thinking about whether there was a way I actually could go. The church my community group is rooted in (even though most of us don’t actually attend that church, including me, the group’s leader) just had a community group revival kickoff party in August to attempt to drum up new business or renew old interest in this particular aspect of the church’s ministry efforts. Then the thought occurred to me, What better way to invite new people to experience our community group than a relaxed outing in a nonthreatening environment, say, at a baseball game?

I was, of course, fully aware of my ulterior motives in trying to kill two birds with one stone by upping my baseball game attendance count and also conducting my previously-committed-to community group meeting. But I wasn’t so attached to the idea of the baseball game that I would’ve abandoned community group altogether, so I emailed the core regulars and asked them what they thought about going to the game that night. Everybody except one emailed back and said they were down, so that became the plan. When the actual night rolled around, however, I gathered the carpool group on my porch, simply to find that only one from my community group had shown up. Everyone else had flaked. Luckily, I’d invited another friend, who invited another friend, who invited another friend, so we ended up with a group of five, and coincidentally, we were all female. I had asked my friend Toni to curl my hair all fancy-like, and she did (and did a fantastic job), and then we headed out to the park, peppering the drive with a few jokes about the fact that it was Singles’ Night and the grand plans we had for snagging cute guys.

Then we got to the park, got our five-dollar tickets (?!) – thanks, guy in line behind us, for the BOGO coupons – and headed up to our seats, at which point I promptly forgot all about meeting a guy. How could I focus on that when 1) the baseball game was about to start, and 2) the Royals were trying that night to complete a three-game sweep of our division leaders? (We are rapidly snowballing toward the postseason, after all.) Exactly. I couldn’t.

Right after we trekked and climbed to our very-high-up, very-far-out seats and were about to sit down, the section usher came down and suggested we move infield a few sections. He made it seem like he was doing us a favor, but really I think he was supposed to patrol multiple sections, and, since we were the only ones out that far, he didn’t want to have to traipse all the way over there all night just to check that we weren’t… I dunno, spitting sunflower seeds or peanut shells onto unsuspecting fans in the lower deck or something. So we humored him and moved a few sections over.

We were down at the bottom of the upper level, right in front of the railing. It was my friend Toni’s first MLB game ever, and things hadn’t gotten underway just yet. She was very excited to be there and to see all the pre-game festivities. She took quite a few pictures and then spent the rest of her time standing up and leaning over the railing to see as much as she could. All of this was fine, until the game started. At which point, when Toni was still standing up at the railing (and I next to her, to explain the game and answer her questions), the usher came down again and asked us to take our seats so the people behind us could see. We apologized and obeyed. The game got started and moved along at a swell pace.

A few innings in, one of the girls in our group, Kimberly, pulled out some snacks to share. In the spirit of making them accessible to the entire row, she set them on the concrete part of the wall/railing in front of her, which, when noticed, brought the usher to our section once again. I felt embarrassed at this point, and probably blushed, because I’m not really used to calling so much disciplinary attention to myself. I also felt that I, as the resident stadium-etiquette expert (for 2012, anyway), should’ve recognized these peccadilloes for what they were and extinguished them before an authority figure had to. But, lo and behold, I cared more about the baseball game than what rules my compatriots might be flouting.

On the usher’s fourth descent to our seats, I began to feel like a child in a dunce cap. However, this time, he said, he wasn’t coming to say anything to us; he merely had to stand in the aisle for a bit to give the appearance of good patrolling. I sighed with relief and said to him, “Sorry we’ve been such troublemakers tonight” and flashed a shy smile.

He smiled back and said, “Trust me, you haven’t. I’ve had much, much worse.”

It was only when he smiled that I realized he was actually quite attractive. After he left his post and went to stand guard elsewhere, I turned to Toni and told her I thought he was cute and had already surreptitiously checked his hand and found no ring. Toni immediately went into wingwoman mode and started offering up the various options I had for execution of continued flirtation. I laughed her off but kept a peripheral eye on him for the next couple of innings. After all, I had nothing to lose, it was Singles’ Night, and my hair was all done up! (Kimberly had made a jesting comment earlier in the night about how I could be “one of the super-pretty girls who gets on the big screen,” since they only seem to show dancing children, extremely old people, or really pretty women. Alas, despite my lustrous, flowing curls, the cameras did not make their way to our section that night, not even when we all stood up and swayed back and forth while we sang the Garth Brooks song.)

Pretty soon, the game was nearing the 7th inning, which meant I was nearing the end of my chances to get something started with the Attractive Baseball Stadium Usher (ABSU). Some of the girls had gotten some food earlier, and the trash was under our seats. Lame and transparent an excuse as it was, I decided to get up and throw it away myself. Unfortunately, this task only took about forty-five seconds, and ABSU was nowhere in or around our section during the time I ascended the steps and stepped out to the trashcan. (Since when do they put them right outside the concourse entrances? I remember times of having to hunt for them, walking around aimlessly with a pile of trash just because I can’t find a fricking bin!) So I returned to my seat without talking to him.

In the top of the 8th inning, I decided to try again. Toni suggested I visit the restroom. I nodded and said, “I could pee.” Again, as I exited, ABSU was nowhere to be seen, but I figured I could waste enough time in the restroom that he’d appear again before I got back to my seat.

Sure enough, when I came out of the restroom and headed back to my seat, I had to pass right by him, so close that it would’ve been absurd not to stop and flirt. So I stopped. I stuttered for half a second then opened with, “So… What are some of the worst fan experiences you’ve had?” He turned toward me, smiled, and immediately regaled me with no fewer than three horror stories of drunk fans who had either thrown up (on themselves and on strangers) or peed right in the seats.

I smiled and laughed and OMG’ed in all the right places, acting appropriately scandalized and sympathetic in turn. When that topic died down, I checked the game, saw that the White Sox were still up to bat in the top of the same inning, and started him on another track of conversation. We talked baseball and the Royals mostly, as well as the particulars of the stadium itself and some of the other requirements of his job. Then the Royals recorded the third out and were coming up to bat, which I didn’t want to miss, so I ended the conversation by giving him my name and asking his then returned to my seat, where Toni was all aflutter with accolades for my successful execution of her Faux-Restroom Flirtation Mission.

The game got so exciting after that, I almost forgot about ABSU. Until Eric Hosmer’s walkoff RBI single to score Dyson in the 9th and complete the White Sox sweep, that is. Then I looked around for ABSU so I could 1) chat with him on my way out about the great win, 2) tell him goodbye, and 3) try to work up the courage to ask him for his phone number.

Toni had a slew of wingwoman suggestions for this scenario too, one of which involved me writing my phone number on my game ticket and slipping it to him as we left the stands. I refused this idea, though, because I like saving my game tickets. They make great bookmarks. Besides that, nobody had a pen. I resolved to just be brave and ask him straight out.

I walked toward him across a row of seats as my girlfriends ascended the opposite set of stairs to the exit. He saw me coming and flashed that smile once again (boy, I’m a sucker for a good smile). I thought for a millisecond that I might not make it all the way over there. Then I remembered that I’ve never fainted in my whole life and reminded myself that, to faint, you actually have to be feeling weak and lightheaded, neither of which I was; just excited and nervous. (Sorry; no southern-belle hysterics for me.)

ABSU spoke first. “Wasn’t that a great win? How ’bout that Hosmer, huh?” I nodded enthusiastically and immediately launched into a diatribe about the horrendous season Hosmer has had and how much it warms my heart when he does something clutch like that to redeem himself (he’s had more than a few of those shining moments over the course of his mostly disappointing season). ABSU agreed heartily with everything I said, and then the conversation flatlined. It was very clearly time to make my move and/or say goodbye.

I completely lost my nerve and blurted out, “Well, it was really nice to meet you. Have a great night.” He echoed the sentiment, and then I walked up the stairs with the feeling that he was watching me go.

When I got to the top and was near the exit, I asked myself once again, What have you got to lose? I took a deep breath and turned around. He was about halfway up the steps behind me, and he saw me turn around and come back down. I began to stutter again when I reached him (what’s with the sudden speech impediment?) and did my best Carly Rae Jepsen: “Uh, this might be dumb, but… Could I maybe…have your phone number?”

He smiled immediately (again), appeared flattered but not totally surprised, and said, “Sure.” Then he rattled it off while I punched it into my phone. Then I thanked him, said goodbye (again), and left.

I spent the rest of the night on an adrenaline high, full of many emotions. Relief that I wasn’t rejected. Pride about my ability to be brave. Confidence about the fact that I was, as I texted a friend, “back” [in the game]. Vanity about the boundless power my curled hair might contain. Excitement about a new dating prospect. Hope that there do exist other guys in the world (other than The Ex, that is) who love baseball. (After the breakup, I kind of let myself sink into the depressing mire of the idea that I had unearthed [and subsequently released] the world’s only unmarried baseball – and not just baseball, but Royals! – fan. Do not mock me. We have all painted ourselves into corners filled with absurdly untrue messages.)

The next day I agonized over when to contact ABSU, and how. I polled the Facebook masses, who mostly said to call but who also mostly seemed to misunderstand the context, either thinking it was *I* who was expecting to be called or texted (or had possibly already been called or texted), or that this was a much more advanced acquaintance than it really was. So I mostly disregarded everyone’s advice because I’ve found that the oldest piece of writing wisdom in the proverbial book – Write what you know – usually works best in any life situation. Modify it to fit your context, but basically, be yourself. And calling isn’t me.

Also on that day, the Day After, I got a piece of mail from the library announcing October library events. One such event is a public-speaking engagement by Frank White, former Royals player and true club legend. Being the advance planner (and also the look-too-far-ahead and hope-for-too-much) girl that I am, I penciled in my imaginary first date with ABSU for this specific event. It would be perfect. It would be a public setting, and it would be something that featured the one thing we already knew we had in common. Could this be any more perfect? Obviously God was telling me to marry this guy.

I waited one more day and then texted him Saturday afternoon, the two-days-later mark. I was clever and light and friendly. I mentioned the game the night before, which I’d been at again, and which we’d won again. I also left things wide open for continued communication. Approximately fifteen minutes passed before my phone buzzed with his response. I laughed before I read it because, knowing only his first name when I added his number to my phone, the text showed up as being from “[First Name] From the K.” Oh yeah. Totally marriage bound.

He started off really amicably. “Hey! It’s good to hear from you!” (Notice: Two exclamation points.) Then he responded to my quips about the previous night’s game with a couple of light and sarcastic jokes of his own. (So far, so good. I’m already planning how to answer next – I’ll ask him to meet for coffee next week.) Then the Weird bomb dropped: “I should probably go ahead and tell you this up front. I have a girlfriend. I think you seem really awesome, and it was great meeting you, but she probably wouldn’t like it if I continued to talk to you. :(”

[Insert record-skid sound here.]

Holy mixed messages. On one hand, my eye seems to be able to focus only on certain words, like “you…really awesome” and “great meeting you,” and yeah, he said we shouldn’t keep talking, but he added a sadface. And what about the two exclamation points at the beginning?! But on the other hand, I also can’t ignore the words “girlfriend” and “but” and “can’t keep talking [sadface].”

Now I feel another onslaught of emotions. Rejection, first and foremost. Deflated balloon. Wounded ego. Hurt pride. Disappointed hopes. Anger. Annoyance. Self-righteousness.

So what do I do? I delete his number and the texts and then get on Facebook to publicly decry men.

All’s well that ends weird…or something like that. Bring on the next round.

7 Comments

Filed under baseball, bloggy, experimental, irreverent, sentimental, writing exercises

“The Movie Was Better:” The 9th Deadly Sin*

I just finished reading A River Runs Through It, Norman Maclean’s classic novella, written in memoir style. The thing is, I was disappointed with it. This was my first time reading it, but I had high hopes because of how much I love the movie. I grew up watching that movie over and over, and I still watch it over and over. It’s such a wonderfully told, wonderfully woven coming-of-age story of love and loss, addiction and gambling, family and fishing and faith (those last two – fishing and faith – being treated as interchangeable in this particular narrative). And if you can’t relate to any of those themes, then hopefully you can at least appreciate a young Brad Pitt early in his career!

Naturally, being the bookworm I am, I started wondering why I liked the movie so much better, and I even felt a little guilty for admitting it at first. It can’t be purely about childhood nostalgia or celebrity crushing. In my brief review of the book on my Goodreads account, I recommended that any readers who love the movie and/or aren’t familiar with fly fishing skip the first hundred pages (the copy I read paginated to 160). I don’t know if I’d stick to this recommendation exactly because, to be sure, there are details (perhaps even necessary ones) in the first hundred pages that the reader might appreciate having access to. That being said, though, reading this book gave me a whole new respect for screenplay adapters and script writers. The makers of this movie took a beautiful concept that, in print, translates as piecemeal, extremely personal, and even a bit amateur, and made it into one of the most profound, complex, touching, and universal stories I have ever experienced. There’s certainly something to be said for that.

For starters, the movie’s plot line is more linear than the book’s. Book Norman jumps back and forth, in and out of various stages of his life from childhood to young adulthood to marriage to old age, and it can be difficult to tell what’s happening and in which stage it’s happening. (This is something we certainly would’ve focused revision efforts on had I been his editor.) The movie, on the other hand, moves pretty much chronologically from start to finish in a way that makes complete sense. The movie script also skillfully cuts out certain digressions detailing the technical aspects of fly fishing, the substance of which are what so bogged me down in the first half of the book.

Finally, the movie also does a good job of pulling out the best lines from the book and freeing them from their tangential entanglements so that they provoke the maximum amount of thought and reflective ahhhs. Don’t get me wrong; the book has some great one liners that are certainly thought provoking and deserve to be quoted. But it also has several trains of thought that are absurdly abstract; the kind of abstract that, like certain works of art [most notably the ones that appear to be just errant splatters on canvas, no more impressive than a first grader’s work], make me feel as if I’m missing something for not being awe inspired or driven into reverent and somber silence.

My disappointment with this book and rare (almost shameful) admission that the movie is actually better got me thinking about the other times I have experienced this anomaly. It hasn’t been often, but it has certainly been noticeable each time.

The Count of Monte Cristo is probably the most memorable. I inadvertently bought the abridged version of the book. I had already seen the movie and knew the story and, even with the abridgement, still found the book long, boring, and so tortuous that I couldn’t even finish it (notice that’s tortuous, not torturous; there is a difference). My disappointment was considerable, given that I considered Alexandre Dumas to be one of my favorite authors and I highly revere The Three Musketeers. 

The other main fault I found with The Count of Monte Cristo is that there are too many supposedly important characters and too much time between pickups of their story lines for any reasonable person to be able to remember their pertinent details. In that sense, reading the book felt like the print version of the TV show Heroes. (Remember that show? How awesome was season 1? And even season 2, and then it just got awful after that!)

Brokeback Mountain is my third example of a movie that surpasses its printed counterpart. If you know me at all (or if you’re a faithful reader), you know that I love this movie to pieces. Naturally, I assumed I would also love the short story, but I don’t. I don’t hate it, but I fell in love with the characters as portrayed by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. Film Ennis and Film Jack are excellent and skilled enhancements of Annie Proulx’s Ink Ennis and Ink Jack. Proulx, like Norman Maclean, spins a tale layered with intricacy and a depth that seems almost too much to be adequately unraveled without visual aid or an outsider’s objective interpretation.

It is not a criticism of these beautiful pieces of literature to say that their visual companions did the job better. In fact, better is probably not even the right word. I posit that it’s even a credit to the authors that their works are so layered, so complex, so profound, that they require something more than just black and white words on a page. The fault lies with consumers, perhaps, rather than the authors of these fine works of prose. We consumers have become so detached from the sacred experience of literature that we need the visual stimulation, the third-party, more objective interpretations, to help us connect and engage and receive in the ways these themes deserve and are meant to be received.

That being said, would I take it well if I were told that my masterpiece was better represented, understood, and received in its butchered, doctored cinematic version instead of my own, lovingly crafted original? Likely not. But that’s a hypocritical post for another day.

*If I’m not careful, this could become a post series. I blogged about the 8th deadly sin just over a year ago.

12 Comments

Filed under bloggy, books, classics, experimental, movies, reviews, writing exercises

I Pledge Allegiance, to William Shakespeare

Kansas City, like many thriving metropolises (is that the correct plural form of that word?), has an annual Shakespeare in the Park to-do that’s kind of a medium-size deal. I have only been three times. I went to see Macbeth last year, and then this year, with the return of the double-performance feature, I saw both A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Antony & Cleopatra.

My prior exposure to MND was seeing that horrid movie version that came out around, oh, I don’t know, 2000? 2001? (IMDB says 1999. I was very close.) And then of course I read the play in my undergraduate Shakespeare class – begrudgingly, since my memories of the movie were so negative. (And I’m sure in that class we watched – if not the entire thing, at least some clips from – one of the myriad movie adaptations out there.) Luckily, I enjoyed reading it rather more than watching the movie, but I still didn’t have a positive overall memory of the play.

My expectation for Kansas City’s version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was thus: I would enjoy it only insomuch as I enjoyed the company I saw it with. To that end, I  gathered up some of the best metro company around, in the form of five friends and a baby, and we shared blankets, refreshments, and lots of mirth as we gathered on the lawn for the play.

Before we went, I had flipped through my copy of the well-chewed (thanks to the dog) THE COMPLETE WORKS OF SHAKESPEARE (which, due to its size, caused a friend of mine, upon recently seeing me reading it from a distance, to ask if it was a science or medical textbook). I wanted to skim through my margin notes on this particular play, just to give myself a quick reminder of the basic plot. My refresher course went like this: Play inside a play. Pyramus & Thisbe. Some forest confusion involving ribald fairies and nymphs and unrequited love and…an ass? There’s a particularly obnoxious mischief maker named Puck. Then back to the castle for the rest of the frame play, happy ending, lots of laughter and delighted tears. Whether one’s previous experiences with a single play are positive or negative, that sort of bare-bones recap isn’t going to do much to persuade one’s expectations in either direction.

Even so, sharing the company of good friends really can add a glossy sheen to any occasion. So, given my companions, the outdoors, and the refreshments, I was already pleased with the outcome of the event within half an hour of having left my house. And then the best part of the whole evening happened: The play began. I witnessed, hands down, the best adaptation and performance of Midsummer Night’s Dream I have ever had the opportunity to see. The speech was easy to follow, the story line a cinch to pick up. Things flowed along smoothly, and the opportunities to laugh were frequent and numerous.

The actor I was most impressed with was the one who played Puck, coincidentally. He flew, jumped, somersaulted, and acrobatted all over the stage, and he perfected this sycophantic, servile facial expression that he adopted whenever he spoke to Oberon, his master. In fact, in these interactions with Oberon, the expression on Puck’s face consistently reminded me of Ed the Hyena from The Lion King. And, somehow, this was just fitting.

The entire performance was laced with an air of merriment that the actors could not have faked. It was raw and contagious, and of course it was catalyzed early in the first act by the sole canine thespian breaking free from its leash and bolting from the stage (clearly not part of the script, but the cast handled it and the audience’s reactive laughter and resultant momentary distraction well). The actors got a standing ovation at the end, and they deserved it. The energy between the audience and the stage was palpable, and it was a good night to be at the theater (in the park). And, no offense to my awesome friends, but I rather think I would’ve enjoyed the play whether they’d been there or not!

I can’t say the same for Antony and Cleopatra, though. My prior exposure to A&C before a couple of weeks ago was zero. Before I went to see the Kansas City version, I once again used THE COMPLETE WORKS OF SHAKESPEARE to read the whole play so I could get a head start on following it live. As I read, I didn’t think I disliked it, although Act IV does get tedious. So, I don’t know if it’s this particular acting company’s approach to tragedies or if I truly don’t love Antony & Cleopatra as a piece of literature/art in and of itself, but I was not moved by this performance. That night, it was almost exclusively the friends I was with who helped me immensely enjoy the night, rather than the acting. I got bored before intermission (whereas I was genuinely surprised at MND when it was time for the fifteen-minute break).

The reason I say it could be the troupe’s interpretation of tragedies is that I felt the same way about Macbeth last year, and normally I appreciate and enjoy Macbeth. They took a lot of sexual liberties with the Macbeth adaptation last year, even going as far as to make us all gasp in shock when Lady Macbeth jumped Macbeth in the middle of the stage, and they both went crashing down to the floor; then proceeded to hump for several awkward seconds. Thinking this might be an impromptu ad-lib added as an especial treat for our performance only,  I checked around with other friends who saw the play on different nights, and they gave the same report. For me, this bold addition cheapened and perverted (pardon the pun) the core of Shakespeare’s message, as if they were implying that his writing wasn’t good enough to stand on its own merit, or else that the audience wasn’t elite intelligentsia enough, and they must add these bawdy interludes to keep us from nodding off. (Now I’m not only insulted on Shakespeare’s behalf; I’m enraged on my own!)

Back to Antony & Cleopatra. Setting aside the fact that the titular characters were played by the same lead actors who so offended me in Macbeth, one thing that could let this acting company off the hook is to consider the possibility that I just don’t love this particular play. And that is indeed possible. After all, the story centers around a middle-aged couple who act with less sense than the adolescent Romeo & Juliet (don’t even get me started on them). And there’s a secondary story featuring four men who are essentially in a machismo contest, all trying to conquer the world and all unable to swallow their pride long enough to figure out how to share the pieces of that world. To be frank, it’s embarrassing to watch such a juvenile plot be played out amongst characters who are supposed to be grown adults.

It’s embarrassing fictionally and historically speaking. Where, after all, would Shakespeare get the idea for such a silly story? Well, from real life, unfortunately. The leaders of Ancient Rome were a lot of good things, but I don’t think mature, play well with others, and morally sensible were on the list. The only welcome bits of this play were the blunt sexual innuendos (for their comic relief factor and shock value) and the beginning of all the deaths (since that meant the play was nearing its end).

Kansas City’s Shakespeare in the Park is a cultural touchstone that should be experienced, I’ll warrant. But this year, if you’ve only got time to get to one of the plays, make sure it’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Whatever your feelings are about the theater, or parks, or various Shakespeare plays, one thing cannot be denied: Will was brilliant, and exposure to his work can only make us better people.

9 Comments

Filed under bloggy, experimental, reviews, writing exercises

The Thing About Adult Breakups

I have good news and bad news. Which do you want first? Bad? Wise choice. Like a Band-Aid.

The bad news is, you’re not allowed to look at the post just before this one anymore and think, Aw, what a cute couple! That’s because LF and I are no longer a couple.

The good news is, I’ve written a new blog post! Okay, so I guess you already knew the good news, or you wouldn’t be here. Pretty lame good news, huh? Should I try again? How about, I’m back on the market! (Is it good news that I’m back on the market? Yes? No? Too soon? Oh, how would you know, I haven’t even told you when we broke up!)

Speaking of that term, back on the market, why do we refer to ourselves as if we are pieces of real estate, to be fixed up and sold to the person who makes the highest offer? I feel less like a renovated, freshly painted house that is ready for a new buyer and more like a college frat house the day after an end-of-semester party: crushed beer cans and red plastic cups all over my floor, Mardi Gras beads hanging from my chandeliers, ripped bras slung over banisters, and porn DVDs still playing, even though no one’s around to watch them. (How do I know these are the normal characteristics of a post-party frat house? Duh. I watched all four seasons of Greek on Netflix last year.)

The thing is, though, when you’re an adult, no matter how it makes you feel inside, breaking up is not allowed to be the drama festival it once was (unless maybe you get cheated on – I wouldn’t know, thank goodness). My point is, it usually happens quietly, without fanfare, and without being too drawn out. And then life goes on. Your friends are supportive for a few days, and then, whether you’re prepared, things pretty much return to normal. You’re not expected to be the melancholy, morose, angst-filled, never-leaving-the-house personality you were when this happened at 16 years of age. I know my friends are tired of hearing me wax on about everything that went wrong or everything I could have done differently. In fact, they’re already talking about “fixing me up” with someone else. There’s that real estate language again. “Hey, wanna date my friend Audra? She’s what you’d call a fixer-upper, but I think if you’re just willing to invest enough time and energy, you’ll see she can really shine.” Yeah. Encouraging. But maybe it’s not actually that far from the truth. After all, who doesn’t feel a little (and often a lot) beat up after a breakup?

So, for better or worse, whether I feel 100% marketable again, here I am, thrust back into the single world as forcibly as babies are thrust into the world when they are first born. (During a conversation with friends recently, one asked what babies can possibly have nightmares about. Another quipped without missing a beat, “Birth.”) Birth and breakups, man. It’s rough stuff. And it’s no wonder nobody wants to keep doing it.

So why, therefore, I do keep doing it is a mystery to everyone, except perhaps my therapist. Although, if it’s not a mystery to her, she has yet to enlighten me. Probably because she needs me to keep paying her.

In order to trick myself into fully embracing my new status, I’ve compiled an exhaustive pros and cons list about the single life. (I realize that including cons isn’t exactly uplifting, but who ever writes only a pros list? It’s all about balance, people.)

Pro: Get to meet new and interesting people again.
Con: Have to start doing my hair again.

Pro: Get to smile encouragingly at cute guys who look at my left hand to see if there’s a ring (where before, of course, I tried to avoid eye contact with anyone who looked in the general direction of the left side of my body).
Con: Have to dig through my old jewelry to find the decoy ring I use in emergency eye-contact situations.

Pro: Get to be close friends with guys again.
Con: Have to watch out for their wives and girlfriends again.

Pro: Can choose for myself the amount of sports I want to watch/listen to.
Con: Have to go back to using Google for sports trivia answers.

Pro: Don’t have to worry about what is going on this weekend.
Con: That’s because nothing is going on this weekend.

Pro: Don’t have to try to explain feelings I don’t understand.
Con: Don’t have anyone to tell me things will work out okay in the end.

Pro: Don’t have to worry about my dog and his lack of personal-space boundaries offending someone.
Con: May have to send my dog to therapy for separation-anxiety issues and lack of closure (he didn’t get to say goodbye).

Pro: Get to be spontaneous again and say yes to everything or no to anything.
Con: Have to start counting wheels again and try to avoid being a third or fifth or seventh.

Pro: Don’t have to offer to split the bill anymore.
Con: Can’t eat out as often because nobody’s picking up my tab.

Pro: I’ve now gone to couples’ counseling with two different boyfriends and have learned a lot about myself and relationships.
Con: I have become the girl who drags her boyfriends to couples’ counseling before they’ve even talked about marriage.

Pro: Get to have leftovers again after cooking.
Con: Eat the same thing for three days straight because I have leftovers again after cooking.

In all seriousness, we really did break up, and breakups really are sad, and ours is no exception. But we are on good terms, and there’s nothing more you can hope for in a situation like that, is there? LF, if you’re reading this, I hope that bit I just said (about us being on friendly terms and all that) is still true now that you’ve gotten to the end of this post! I started this paragraph with “in all seriousness,” but I’m going to end it with a kind admonition: Don’t take yourself too seriously. Otherwise you’ll never survive any breakups, or even any of life’s true joys. Peace.

12 Comments

Filed under bloggy, experimental, irreverent, sentimental, writing exercises