Today was a day of redemption for those of us that were picked last. Today, we went to baseball. Baseball didn’t come to us.
It was the first game of the Los Angeles’ indie press initiated Litball. When you get a bunch of writers together, some of them in matching outfits, the quality of conversation goes up.
I arrived at the second set of games. Slake had already lost to Red Hen Press 7-5. Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB) was playing Black Clock. The win went to LARB 17-5 (ish). In the final game Red Hen Press was playing LARB, Tod Goldberg was pitching. Out on the field were Matthew Specktor, Seth Greenland, Brian Hewes, and Rob Roberge. It was cold, but that just means Los Angeles cold, so you could get by with a hoodie and some beers. Carolyn Kellogg was umping (and tweeting) for Red Hen Press. The game was at a small park in the Elysian Valley, the area of Los Angeles referred to as ‘Frogtown.’
As a fellow writer, reader, member of the last picked, I’ve always been a big fan of ear hustling, and let me tell you, the real sport that was taking place was the ear hustling. In the stands you heard conversations like, “My brother was having some behavioral problems growing up so my folks enrolled him in sports. When he was playing softball you could see him out in the field masturbating.”
“You should use that.”
“Before my last relapse I was doing triathlons.”
“Dude.. is he wearing breakaway pants? You know, the kind with buttons down each leg and you just tug and they come off.”
“Oh man that’s so cool. I remember those.”
“Yea man, I think I’m gonna get a whole wardrobe of just breakaway pants.”
“Hey wanna beer?”
“Naw man I’m playing.”
“You don’t drink and play?”
“I don’t drink and play poets.”
Then from the field there was the taunting of whoever was up to bat.
“Hey kid you wanna get a faculty position at a UC school?”
“You want an MFA? You might want a letter of recommendation. I’m pretty famous.”
“How many of my books do you buy?”
“Kindle? You’re messing with my livelihood!”
Occasionally, with all the smack talking, someone would actually get struck out. From the stands you’d hear, “I can’t believe you actually did that! That guy’s a dad!”
“Yeah! He’s a taxpayer!”
And like that. So all in all maybe the baseball was a little sucky, and aside from all the foxy young interns, folks were getting a little old and a little injured, but there was a victory to be had by all. Because today was the day that all of those folks that were once picked last were picked first, and whatever we lacked in athleticism was made up for in heart, and as someone said from the pitcher’s mound, “You can’t teach heart…or Judaism.”
So this is for all us word geeks—for those times when people ask us to do things that make us uncomfortable and sometimes we take a chance and say yes.
The final victory went to Red Hen over Los Angeles Review of Books 11-5.
All literary men are Red Sox men. —John Cheever