Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Batting 2nd, HD Thoreau

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.


Oboe-Wan said...

GREAT entry!!

You're absolutely right: HDT is still ahead of our time. It's probably good that he's not here, though, because he'd be an enemy of the state whcih is unfortunate.


Ok, I wasn't a big baseball fan until I met my husband (a life-long BoSox fan). I used to watch baseball as a kid and our family had a connection to the 1983 Baltimore Orioles: Joe Altobelli, the manager, is related to our family by marriage. Hey, we Italians are all related in some way! LOL! He brought us kids back a ball from the world series signed by the entire team. (as a side note, our AAA team in Rochester, NY used to be the farm team for the Orioles)

My husband has gotten me hooked on baseball again as an adult. In fact, I love watching the Red Sox play. And I love how excited he gets watching the games! He, too, has to listen online to most of the games, but hopefully play-off games stand a better chance of being broadcast out here. We'll see... people tend to be San Diego fans here. hmph.

greentangle said...

Thanks, I had fun writing that one.

I hear the Sox are becoming popular all around the country. In some places, including Baltimore, there are often more Red Sox fans than home team fans at the games.

So far life is perfect: Red Sox 1-0, Yankees 0-1.

Oboe-Wan said...

Too bad the Yankees won today. Oh well. Great game by the sox, though!

My husband is torn, though, because he said that it would be WAY more fun to see the sox beat the yankees, but it's more likely the sox would make it to the world series if they played the Indians.

greentangle said...

Well, your husband doesn't have to worry about that anymore.

I know they play Fri, Sat, and Mon nights but not sure of the schedule beyond that or if the World Series dates are already set. If they make it, the Series will probably be going on while I'm in Boston, which will be a fun madhouse, but they'll probably be playing on nights when I've already got concert tickets and other plans.

donw said...

I was looking around your blog site and decided to read this old (and good) entry. I don't understand how you would forgo fellowship with Thoreau buffs for a baseball playoff, but never having had much of an opportunity for the former, and not being a fan of any professional sports teams, I guess I don't have grounds to judge. I never had the memories of boyhood summer ball leagues or stadium visits or a generational tradition of following a team.
I hope if you do indeed move back east, that you will be able to make it to the July 12 meeting of the Thoreau Society.

Close to 35 years ago, I got a letter from a college friend who had moved out east to the Boston area and was working at Walden Pond. I wrote her back and inquired about acquiring Thoreau's Journals, but they were prohibitively expensive and were only available to her in individual volumes by year(?), not in the 2 volume set that I acquired many years later. I was living in a sod and log hut with the Nunamiut Eskimos in the Brooks Range and really wished that if I couldn't have collegiality with "Thoreau-buffs" that I could at least have his journals. I sent a letter to my college friend but never heard back about specific years available to purchase.I have never really had available to me the social forum where truly knowledgeable people about things that matter to me were around to discuss and learn from. This chance to be able to participate in lectures and discussions with others that would be found in places like Massachusetts would be one of the few reasons that I would want to live in a truly urban area. I guess I look at a move such as what you are making as a "mixed blessing" where the (counter)-cultural advantages have some appeal...

greentangle said...

The baseball or Thoreau was actually an easy choice for me for a few reasons--I'll almost always choose doing something alone over with other people, free tv vs. the cost of bus and hotel, and having been to the real deal in Concord a few times I expected this one to be less interesting.

I never played Little League or anything but was definitely raised on baseball. My grandfather was a pretty good player back in the days when all the factories in that area had their own teams, and I remember playing catch with him using ancient gloves he'd used back then.

As for here and there, wild and urban, for me there will always be some greener grass on each side and Duluth has been a very good compromise. I've never done the type of wilderness things you do, and I love a lot of things that a good city can offer. But not being here is going to be difficult, and unfortunately I'll be stuck in a town/suburb too removed to really get many of the urban benefits. Oh well, I figure it's just going to be a transition on the way to something more interesting.