DFA: A BLOG ABOUT LIFE ON THE BASEBALL MARGINS: April 3, 2008
DFA, chapter 20: Viva La Revolucion!
As I walked out of the studio and into the street, slowly, heavily, like a bear who got lost in the woods and ended up in midtown Manhattan, the first thing I perceived, after the rain pelting down like a spit in your face from Mother Nature – and dimly, through my brain hazy and stunned from what had just gone down – was that every other person coming toward me was looking not straight ahead like they should’ve been, but staring into a cell phone they held at arm’s length. Zombies getting electronic messages from their mastermind controllers in a skybox high over the city. Or moths drawn to the lights of the tiny screens. One woman forced me to bump into a traffic stanchion to avoid her as she typed something, and a man walking three big dogs (that he had his back turned to), jibbering into his cell phone, almost tripped me with the dog’s six-foot leash. “Blah, blah, blah,” he seemed to be saying in a dramatic voice that whinily lingered over certain words. “Blah, blah, blah,” everyone seemed to be saying. They were oblivious to everything, even the cold pits of rain. And if all you do all day is blab, what do you have left to blab about?
I passed one young woman wearing a long frock coat and a beret-like hat with a bird on it. “Blah, blah, blah,” I said to her. She ignored me.
My own phone started buzzing about a minute after I left the studio, and hardly stopped until I got back to the Martha Washington.
My voice mail queue was bursting to its circuit board (or whatever the hell it's made of). Pomade left a message saying that the Yankees were “apoplectic,” and wondered what the hell I was doing at the end of my King segment. Sanabria thought the same thing – he called it “your Howard Dean imitation,” but he thought it was “awesome” and would bring our book even more publicity. Sure enough, my last-minute intention to do the right thing and absolve the Yankees of any responsibility for … (for what exactly I wasn’t sure anymore. I hadn’t committed a crime or done anything suspicious. Why did I feel I did?) already was being labeled “Son of the Scream.” A second message from Pomade said that the cable networks were running and re-running what would not go down as one of the “great moments in Yankees history." My mom left a message wondering if I was “doing something you’d regret later on in life,” which was my parents’ way of referring to anything from alcoholism to homosexuality. (Did she think I came across as queer, or on drugs? Or both?) Pomade again – he had spoken to and “mollified” the Yankees, who issued a press release and were considering holding a press conference with me in attendance. In his fourth message, they didn’t want me to attend. Then they did. And I got more invitations to discuss my story, what it was like to be an American playing in Venezuela, the plight of the Latin American player and the politics of Hugo Chavez.
My life was moving faster than I could keep up with, like a pop-up you track off the bat but the wind keeps blowing until it lands on the screen or a can of corn that gets up in that Chi-Town air tunnel that cannons it right into Waveland Avenue.
After picking up a cloying, honey-covered lump of sugar at Schwarma Sweets down the street from the hotel, I collapsed onto the unmade bed in my room, which was and had been untouched by Martha Washington housekeeping for over a week. (Rick wanted me to move to a higher-class hotel with my share of the advance we’d gotten for the book, but I never trusted myself with money – not because I’d ever had a lot and pissed it away on frivolous things, but because I watched my father gamble away most of his military pension on football tickets, betting on schools that didn’t even have a football team – I mean, come on, the Electoral College? – the dog tracks and the stock market, and I thought his financial recklessness was in my genes.)
Part of me couldn’t wait to call Kara, was a NASCAR race official waving me on, a sergeant pushing me out of a paratrooper plane, an air traffic guy waving me to land ... while other parts of me were holding up her photo with a big black diagonal line through it, cutting me off and barking over its P.A. for me to pull over and remain in my vehicle and lowering a railroad crossing bar right in my path. Before I could decide who among all these me’s to choose from, I fell asleep.
Over the next week things settled down. Pomade told me he’d explained to the Yankees that my intentions were not to "bring dishonor to the Pinstripes" and, miraculously, they still agreed to let me come to spring training. (Sanabria told me they did it because they wanted to maintain good relations with Pomade, who repped Mark Teixiera, who the Yankees intended to pursue when he became a free agent after the season.) I made six or seven TV appearances and twice as many radio interviews. Rick made sure I always mentioned our upcoming book, and to add “from ESPN Books; ESPN – the worldwide leader in sports.” I said it so many times that I introduced myself to a cute young woman I met at Curry Favor (another joint on Lexington Avenue near the hotel) as “Ric Grieff, the worldwide leader in sports.”
I still suffered from stage fright, but the hosts didn’t pull a Larry King and change-up on me, so I had time to rehearse most of my responses. Except for this Amy Goodman woman from a show called “Democracy Now,” who got me on the phone one morning while I was still shaking off a bad dream and before I had my chai tea from Schwarma Sweets and had cleared the interview with Pomade. She wanted to know if my visit with Hugo Chavez was a “symbolic gesture in support of the “peoples' struggle.”
“What people?” I asked.
“The indigenous peoples of the Americas.”
“You mean like the rainforest?” I was vaguely aware that something bad was going on in the rainforest, and that everybody seemed to be on the rainforest’s side. I didn’t know who was against it.
“Well, yes, the people who live in the rainforest, for example.” Before I could respond, she rattled off a long list of grievances, bad things that America had done to poor people in the Third World, including how the American major league baseball teams exploited Latin American talent. I kind of tuned her out and started obsessing about Kara. She’d been on my mind and in my dreams. I had to see her, and now couldn’t wait to get off the phone. I figured that like most women, the easiest way to get rid of this Amy Goodman was to “yes” her. So every time she asked a question, I replied, “Yeah, sure.” Then I excused myself, she thanked me, and we hung up.
Later that morning, a guy named Stuart Ma called me. He said he represented Grand Cayman Capitol Holdings LLC and asked me if I wanted to sell shares in myself. He told me about this minor leaguer named Randy Newsome had hatched this plan to sell shares in himself as a player and to pay back shareholders if and when he made it to the Show. I agreed to meet him.
“Oy, vat troubles do I bring upon my head!” as my old teammate Jason Epstein used to say. Only he was kidding.