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Saturday 8/21/21

Bill Freehan, the long-time Detroit Tigers catcher, died the other day, only seventy-nine-years-old. I knew he had dementia for quite some time. He was the best catcher of the 1960s, his career taking place during a pitcher-dominant era. One thing that tends to be lost to time is where a player stands when he retired in various categories. At the time of his retirement, Freehan stood third among catchers--behind Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey--in home runs. He was a legit MVP candidate a couple of years, a defensive maestro behind the plate. To me, he's at the top of the list of players who are not in the Hall of Fame who absolutely should be, along with Minnie Minoso, Fred McGriff, Ken Boyer, Kevin Brown. He also wrote a book that boasts on its back cover as being more candid than Ball Four, but I guess it would depend on what your definition of candid is. He's one of my favorite players, and represents what a catcher ought to be, and was long thought of as. The Tigers have a rich history of catchers: Mickey Cochrane, Freehan, Lance Parrish. Big favorites of mine. As was Matt Nokes, with his exciting 1987 rookie season. When I have the funds and my house, I'll acquire and proudly display a PSA-graded 1963 Bill Freehan Topps rookie card. I have a couple buddies in Wickett and Kimball who are Freehan fans themselves. Wickett may have actually seen him play in person, which I'll have to ask him about. In the 1968 World Series, Freehan made a great play blocking home plate against Lou Brock that was crucial to the Tigers winning the series. (Let it also be noted that Brock is one of the top postseason performers in MLB history, which is always overlooked.) That play is outlawed in MLB now in our allegedly kinder, gentler era--which is a boldfaced lie--but if ever there was a defense of why it should have been allowed, and the drama it could create, you'd want to put forward that Freehan moment as evidence. You can find video of that game on YouTube, but here is the complete Game 7 with the Tigers winning a fantastic World Series.



I came across a copy of William Sloane's 1979 book, The Craft of Writing. Sloane, who died in 1974, is, of course, the author of my all-time favorite book, To Walk the Night, which I must write that short book about. I was thinking about it all night in bed. In that book I can shred what the publishing industry and fiction writing has become, create a necessary treatise, a rally cry, a book-based hub of clarity and sanity, while also celebrating what makes great writing great, what it does that other writing does not,, what we need it to do, what it does for us. The truth is, I need about ten book to go quickly. I need some publisher to say, "Right, let's do Cheer Pack with its stories from the fancy places like the VQR and Harper's, let's do Longer on the Inside that invents a wholly new kind of fiction, let's do this To Walk the Night fiery polemic thing you got, and let's do one of those music books as well, like that Joy Division, plus one of those essay collections."


And then put them on the schedule. Two a year. Boom boom boom boom. They're all so different from each other that none of them crowd the others out. I have an industry against me right now. You have to do this differently. You have to realize what I am, you have to accept that here is the mega-genius, and you have to make that case by letting that case make itself via the work and pumping it out. Someone has to get it, believe it, and back it. And that would still just be a small fraction of the books. While they're doing that, someone else has to be doing the same thing with different books. Dzanc should be like, "We know this guy, he's in a bad spot, we know why he's in that awful spot, we know he is historically unique, he is going to get to places none of our authors ever will, that no authors will, yeah, let's pump out four of these, and hell, we'll publish two of them on the same day as this bravura move because they're so different and no one does or can do what Fleming does so let's celebrate it and do our part in getting that known." And it's cheap, because of where I am right now, unfortunately. Robbery, pretty much, that I'd be complicit in. I'm different than any writer there has ever been, any artist there has ever been. You have to adjust accordingly and act differently. You have to understand what the ceiling is here, that there is no ceiling. I will get past the people holding me back, and when I do, there is no limit to how many people I can reach, and how much money can be made. I am not some talentless professor who writes shit no one can understand, with no value for humanity, in some MFA program in Idaho and who can only be read by people exactly like him or her who aren't even really reading it anyway because it's impossible to give a fuck and it's just pretend reach-around bullshit. Which is almost all that any of this is.


I'll give you an example of pretend reach-around bullshit. Here is a story by Joyce Carol Oates in The Yale Review, which is edited by Meghan O'Rourke, a massive fraud and a system person and a lover of cronyism, who has had everything handed to her because she is is exactly the kind of person that publishing wants to put forward. She fits the profile. Embodies the type. JCO, meanwhile, is an awful writer. You can't write much worse than JCO, though most of these people in this industry do their best to do just that. Look at this story. This is someone who can wipe their nose on a piece of paper and publishing people pretend it's awesome, when we can all see how awful this is. You don't want to read this story right from first sentence, you are yawning as you try, you are rolling your eyes, you might even be laughing out loud over how piss poor this piece is. You might think, "Are you kidding me? This is 'great' writing?" But they worship her, they give her the awards, she's a legend, and she sucks at writing. How else are you going to put it when you see this? She's amazing? Come on. We all know how bad this is. There is no one alive who truly wants to read a story like this. It's pretentious, meaningless, contrived, it reads like MFA 101 writing, it's lazy, there's no story, it's hubristic, it has no feel for reality, for people, it's dressed up autobiography, it's lifeless, turgid, bathetic, over-written, haughty, joyless, humorless, contrived, empty. There's nothing there. Who is this for? What is this for? It is painful trying to get through this story. What is the point of writing something so utterly pointless? Ego. Insecurity. To have the ass kissed by the people of a subculture of broken freaks? I mean, hooray? That does it for you? None of what is out there is any better than this either.


I will shortly be doing an entry on what has recently been composed, discussed on the radio, published. It's just been so much. Works as strong as anything I've ever done have just been raining down. There Is No Doubt, meanwhile, which some of those works have gone into, is a mature masterpiece of so much power that I all but shake when I consider what is in it.


Major breakthrough on a story yesterday AM. It was already great, and it just got a lot greater. Will let it sit again for a bit now and then return.


I did see most of the Patriots' preseason game the other night. Not sure how committed the Eagles were to being competitive in that game. Both quarterbacks looked strong, but Newton is up and down at best. And when he's up, you still see him toss bad balls--floaters that would be pick-sixes on given days--that indicate, regardless of his stat line, that you can't win consistently with him. I don't think he's serious enough about the position, either. I just see a guy who is a front runner, who has to have everything going a certain way to succeed, messing around on the sidelines because he's happy that he did well that day. If the ball comes out quickly, he can do okay. But just because it came out quickly on one day doesn't mean that it will on the next. It probably won't. Mac Jones, right now, is a far better quarterback. I can't see how you can watch the two and think otherwise. He sees the field better, he more decisive, his football mind moves faster, he throws a much better ball on all of the throws--short, intermediate, deeper. He also seems pretty elusive to me, when he needs to be. I'm not sure he has an NFL body yet for a seventeen game schedule. One thing I remember about Brady was how much core strength he had added by 2002. Having said that, Newton himself will get hurt. He always does. Nothing would really surprise me, as to the week 1 starter, between the two, but I'd expect it to be Newton. But his time is coming to a close. I don't understand why Hoyer is on the roster. I guess it's as a player-coach kind of deal, but I've never really understood why he was on most of the rosters he was on.


People who say "fur babies" creep me out.


Wrote the following a couple days ago on Twitter:


I don’t like Jeopardy—I think it privileges trivia over actually having knowledge and promotes intellectual laziness and glib surfaceness—but goodness, the things this guy said onto a mic. Can’t see how they’d move forward with him.


Saw yesterday that that guy is out. it's telling to me how many people care about Jeopardy. It's everything wrong with society. Entirely about the surface. It's anti-knowledge. Anti-learning. No one who has ever watched the show has seen a clue and thought, "I should learn more about that subject" and then gone out and done so. It awards knowing that The Great Gatsby is the answer--or the question, if you like--to the prompt "This 1925 book, oft-called 'The Great American Novel..." but not actually reading Gatsby. Experiencing. Truly knowing anything about it. How it functions. Why it functions as it does. What it says, what it offers, what it means, what it can bring to lives.


We want to be rewarded for doing the least, knowing the least, putting for the smallest amount of effort, the smallest amount of goodness, having the least amount of talent, and then treated as if all of those things are maxed out. That's Jeopardy. It's the TV version of a drug dealer helping people to delude themselves. To cut off ever going any further, which is to say, going anywhere at all. I can't overstate how much I flat out hate Jeopardy and everything it represents. When I was a kid, and I saw what it was about, I refused to watch it anymore. This was when I was seven, eight-years-old. I went off and I actually learned things. I knew that trivia was meaningless. I knew that actual knowledge was everything in that it was a portal. And it helped make sense of the world, of yourself, of others, of what was right and wrong and necessary. It helped transmute beauty and truth into forms that bolstered humanness and the human experience. That's the antithesis of trivia and, even worse, treating trivia as an end-all-be-all, which is what Jeopardy does, and what people do on account, again, of wanting the least and the lowest to be the the most and the deepest.


They need hardly any prompting at all, any enabling, to do just that, and that's exactly what Jeopardy represents and provides. Go learn something. Don't be a lazy fucking plonker. As for Alex Trebek, he wasn't witty and he wasn't smart and whatever, he was just there. He was vanilla and he was stock. He may have been a fascinating guy elsewhere, but on that show, he was a stick figure. There was nothing to object to, and nothing to celebrate. But that's how America is right now--it wants a stick figure. No one and nothing that rouses feelings one way or the other, because we are collectively dead inside. We want deadness answered by deadness. There's your jeopardy--a societal and personal jeopardy of inertia, sloth, complacency, and the conflation of lower forms for higher ones.


I admired Trebek for how he lived his life after his cancer diagnosis, and his bravery. That really stood out to me. But I just don't like what that show stands for. I think now, in this age, that's even more pernicious, because people are not smart enough to say, "Okay, it's just a light trivia game show." It's become a stand-in for intelligence and putting in the time to learn and have experiences with nature, films, books, plays, music, etc.


Do you understand how we are now? Let me put it this way: we want stop as early as possible in anything we do. Let's say we're out in the backyard running sprints on the lawn for our health. Okay? And we can do a set of fifty sprints if we push ourselves, without a rest, and that's best for us. But what we will do is just do three or four sprints, say that we've done amazingly, and call it a day. With the least bit of encouragement, as if you had a coach saying, "Yeah, that's fine--wait, it's not only fine, it's the best!" That's the mindset that someone has with a program like this. And the program--though without necessarily this intention--facilitates that mindset. We're to blame, really, more than the show. But I will never esteem anything that celebrates trivia, and I'm the guy who knows seemingly all the stuff on all of the levels, including that one. Depth. Substance. Concern yourself with depth and substance. Not with stopping at a surface--but with exploration. Passion. Be on fire for significance, and always search for, and embrace, more of it. In every moment of your day. In every moment of your life. It is everywhere, if you know how to see it, see the world, see others, and, crucially, see yourself.


Which is not an indictment on someone who watches the show, or some six-time winner or whatever. It's just how I think and feel about the show. Usually now when someone says anything, it becomes a grounds for hate or dismissal, if someone has ideas that differ from our own. Preferences that differ from our own. Because we are not secure. The critical view of something tangential to us becomes an attack on the essence of our being if whatever that something is is something we partake of. I never act out of spleen. I always come from a place of reason, where much has been considered, thought through. It's not personal.


There's a line in Tennyson's "Ulysses," where Ulysses is speaking about his son, Telemachus. He says, "He works his work, I mine." Six words. Do you see how they do not preclude community, even kinship, but they let one be one, and the other be the other, and in their tone we are cognizant of the speaker's purpose--that he is not someone who will be caught up in passive aggressive declarations where one person bids leave of another with an un-meant "be well" as they strike a pose of false magnanimity, if they are not in outright lash-out mode. He's busy moving forward in the moment of his life. He understands that life is a challenge to be perpetually present in a succession of moments. Do so, and the result is the accession of the person. The component parts that fuse into an integrated vision and a whole of clarity. It is only from that fused whole that that which is most precious can come. That includes happiness. By which I mean, true happiness.


Ran another 5000 stairs yesterday, closing out the week at 40,000. I would assume that's a personal best, but I don't know, and if it is, it's not by a lot. But that would be like running the Monument about ten times a day for seven days.


On Twitter I also noted that Red Sox first baseman Bobby Dalbec has struck out 122 times and walked 17 times, which is a kind of futility I'm not sure I've ever seen before, even as someone who is all about strange stats. Odder yet is that his OPS is not as abysmal as I'd have expected, given the above numbers, and an OBP under .300. At some point on the radio I'll speak about a couple of super weird stats guys: Ferris Fain, for one, a 1950s first baseman who won a couple of batting titles, and Max Bishop, a Philadelphia Athletics second baseman of the 1920s and 1930s, who has what could well be the most improbable stat line I've ever seen in any sport. Here's his baseball-reference page if you want to try and figure out what I'm alluding to.


A friend is caring for a parent who is struggling much, and this friend of mine tends to pack everything away. They're not communicative. They "go it alone." I've seen how that has taken a toll, because rare is the person--and it's not a knock on them--who can endure hardship without someone with whom to at least confide in. Lately I've noticed how I don't know anyone, for the most part, who is not unhappy, no matter the relative ease of their lives, or their money. You see these fissures in people. A lot of times it's because they entered into something for the wrong reasons, and eventually that catches up to you. It's lack of purpose, other times. Being ground down. Ruts. A lack of passion. Doubt. Huge amounts of self-doubt. The days and the years stack. Life becomes long early, if you will. In the thirties, the forties, already it starts to feel too long, to be old and unwavering, trudging up a gloomy hill with such a long way still to go, and it's just going to be that same gloomy hill. Sometimes I think I'm the only truly healthy person I know, which is ironic, given what I have endured, what I have lived through, what I am faced with, these horrors, this hell, this aloneness, this discrimination, this poverty, this living situation, every day. I wonder, too, if maybe I'm the only person who could ever be truly, completely happy. I'm set up to be, with who I have become. The manner in which I've probed my deepest self, dealt with all that is there. With my abilities and my purpose, my great loves of so much. If I can get past these people, and get where I should be, with all that entails, I think I would know a happiness beyond any ever imagined. I feel like I gave my friend some good--gentle, subtle, nudging--advice, and let them know, too, that I admired them for what they were doing.


Saw that several North Shore farms will be hosting a "walking play" in September centered on the nature-related meditations of Emerson and Thoreau, including at a farm in Ipswich. I'd like to go to that. What a joyous life I will live if I ever get my house back and could just drive a few towns over.