I was planning to go to St Paul this weekend to attend some lectures on Thoreau, and do the other usual things I do when I visit there: sell as many books as I can carry (no one buys in Duluth), stock up on bagels (my favorite chain's not in Duluth), eat some good veggie restaurant meals (there are good ones in Duluth but the options seem repetitive after 6+ years here). All available in a neighborhood I love and investigated moving to last year before I discovered how tiny the local apartments were and decided that the Twin Cities area isn't very encouraging for public-transiting jobseekers. Too much sprawl and not enough transit, like most of the US between the coasts. And most of the coasts, for that matter.
When I lived in the Boston area, I was an occasional member of the Thoreau Society, as well as spending many days in Concord on my own. The Society is made up of an interesting mix of literature professors, history buffs, and folks who, like Henry, see the world in many unusual ways. Since my long-ago year as a graduate assistant taught me I had no interest in teaching, I qualified through my many unusual ways. The group gathers annually in Concord on the weekend closest to Henry's July 12 birthday, for lectures and various presentations, nature hikes, canoeing, and book sales. I'm much more of an antisocial hermit than Henry ever was (really, he wasn't at all...it's a myth put forward by people who know nothing about him) and this was one of the rare groups of people that I enjoyed hanging out with.
Anyway, some members are giving lectures in Minneapolis this weekend so I had made a hotel reservation. But I canceled that when the Red Sox playoff schedule was announced and I realized the trip would cause me to miss seeing two games.
Baseball is the only sport I still follow, though I wish they'd get all the dead cows out of the game. Pro football and college basketball fell off my radar long ago. At my college, the big sports were wrestling and soccer, which I probably would have gone on enjoying if there had been an easy way to keep up with them. But baseball...baseball's a whole other world.
My grandfather (still a fan at age 102) had some baseball connections and back in 1967, the year of The Impossible Dream, I met one of the Red Sox pitchers who took my program back to the clubhouse for a cover full of autographs. Which came first, following the pros or playing on the wild local lot which was shaped more like a football field? We all learned to hit to straightaway center; pulling the ball landed it in the many pine trees (there was a massive one closest to the field, protecting its young) to the left or through a window on the right. Hitting it out to the street was a home run. It's all gone now, subdivided into more ticky tacky boxes.
I remember pitching with a metal splint on my broken finger and how it curved around the ball when I caught a line drive back to me in that ungloved hand. And playing center, racing in for a sinking curving liner, catching it awkwardly waist high and flipping it to 2nd to pick off the runner for a double play. Innocent memories are often lies though; in cruel boyhood, there was also an unfortunate incident involving baseball bats and toads which I try to repress. When not outside playing, I bought games with cards based on players' statistics from the previous season and rolled dice for hours recreating games and batting averages and pennant races.
Many years later, I worked for a Boston company with a private box at Fenway and caught a game from that elevated vantage point, while some strange coworkers stayed inside the attached room watching the game on television instead. We got a foul ball that night.
So rather than listen to words about Henry this weekend, I'll be watching the games unfold on my computer. But baseball players are not my heroes now if they ever were. Among the Red Sox, there are hunters, Republicans, religious fanatics, the macho and the immature. Not folks I want to spend time with. I just want to see the game.
So when I visit Boston later this month, even if the Sox are still playing I won't be going to Fenway to worship and put more money in their overpaid pockets. I will be spending a quiet day by the side of a Pond and at the foot of a grave of one of the greatest Americans and greatest writers, who dared question American 'progress', who went to jail rather than pay a tax he considered immoral, who would be labeled a terrorist today for his vocal support of John Brown's armed uprising, who valued other species, who thought his inner voice was more important than what governments or religions or neighbors told him he should believe. He'd still be ahead of his time today.
But this week, it's fall ball. Let's play.