DFA: A BLOG ABOUT LIFE ON THE BASEBALL MARGINS: July 13, 2008
DFA, chapter 32: The Postmodern Dilemma
We lost again today – twice. They’re called “split-squad” games. Pacheco Perez, a Colombian infielding NRI who no habla the espanol, cowered beforehand in the clubhouse; he thought “split squad” meant the team was going to cut all of the players in half. Something that he claimed he saw happen in Colombia (although not to baseball players, but people accused of being sympathetic to the rebel group FARC, to which Shelly Duncan retorted, “FARC you!” to general hilarity).
I got to play in one of the games, against the Astros, subbing for Jose Molina, who thought it was funny to hide Wonderbra and force me to use this beat-up, hole-ridden mitt that looked like it was taken from Connie Mack’s tomb. But try catching Mark Melancon and his 96 mph gas with it! I had so many passed balls that it took three ball girls with brooms to sweep them out of the way.
I got a couple of hits, though – a groundball over the bag at third that even our own bench said was foul, and an infield hit in which the shortstop must’ve stopped to make a cell phone call between catching and throwing it, since it took an eternity for his throw to reach first. This is the only way I could ever get an infield hit, since if I ran more slowly, I would go backwards in time and stop the universe or something.
After the game, Johnny Damon stopped by my locker and said that, “Joel Sherman wants to talk to you.”
“Oh, you mean the same way Mike Lupica did?”
Damon tried to suppress a smile, but since he was almost always smiling, it was hard to tell if he was bullshitting me.
“Nah, that was a gag. Abreu’s been using that line for years. On all the rooks.”
“Thanks, anyway, but fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, I won’t get fooled again.”
“Who said that?”
“Wow, that’s some deep shit,” Damon said. “Anyway, I told Joel to meet you behind the second field.”
I smirked. “Why didn’t he ask me himself? Or go through the Yanks’ P.R. people?” whose names I hadn’t remembered, except they all had kind of the same name and sounded like they were Italians from Brooklyn.
“I don’t know. He probably thought you’d be more … agreeable if a veteran like me put it to you.”
I laughed. “It’s comin’ out your ears.”
“O.K., don’t believe me. Just don’t come cryin’ to me when you get slammed by Sherman in his Sunday column.” He paused as I weighed his words. “And the last thing an NRI needs is a rep as a bad apple.”
“Yeah,” chirped Kyle Farnsworth. “If the press don’t like you, they can ruin your career as fast as I can shoot the antlers off a bull moose.”
“O.K., I’ll play along. Let you guys have another laugh at my expense.”
So I trotted out toward field number two, smiling and looking back into our dugout. Of course, when I arrived at the diamond, it was emptier than a ghost town.
“So, have you read the manuscript or proposal or whatever it is Rick’s written?”
I was talking to Letty Gonzalez at her hotel room in south Tampa, which in terms of elegance was somewhere between my roach hotel and Nina Sky’s palatial suite.
“Not really. He’s guarding it like it’s the Hope Diamond.”
“The most famous gem in the world only. It was stolen from a statue of a Hindu goddess, who supposedly put a curse on anybody who owned it. Louis XIV was said to have given it to Marie Antoinette, so I guess the curse works.”
Letty was wearing a shifty kind of skirt that was about as big as a midget’s strike zone. And high-heeled sandals. It was a cool night, and she’d opened the windows, allowing a cool breeze into the room like room service.
“So you’re going to ask me a lot of questions?”
“Unless you want to ask me some first?”
I wanted to ask just how involved she was with Sanabria, but thought that if she was in shallow, she’d let me know, and if she didn’t, she was in deep.
“Do you like teaching?”
“I love to … share the consolations of literature.”
“In other words, the students suck.”
“A lot of them feel entitled to get an ‘A’ just for showing up, and their parents expect it for the money they’re paying, and the administration essentially backs them up because they get to grade us. So if we don’t give enough ‘A’s, and we don’t have tenure, they can fire us.”
“The students grading the teachers. Man, things have changed since I went to school. ‘Course I never got past Ju-Co.”
“Yet you write.”
“I don’t really count the Blog Monster--”
“It’s writing. And it’s not bad.”
“You read it?”
“Some. For research purposes, of course.”
“Of course. Someone like you … you’re used to real literature … so why would you …?”
“Please. I didn’t mean to sound patronizing. You have real potential.”
“You think so?”
“Yes. You have a voice. An off-kilter way of looking at the world. It comes from who you are. It can’t be taught.”
“Wow…that’s some compliment…Do you write?”
“Only academic stuff. So I can eventually get tenure—”
“You’re funny, too…Want some more wine?”
She was pouring herself another glass.
“Oh, no, thanks, I really don’t drink.”
“Not even this? It’s a Premier Grand Cru Classé. Top of the line Bordeaux. Rick introduced me to it.”
“Ummm…most ballplayers drink beer.”
“And most professors drink wine. And reporters…?”
“From what I’ve seen, they’ll drink anything.”
She laughed, then pointed to Wonderbra, which I’d left on a coffee table. “You bring your mitt home with you?”
“That’s a special mitt. It goes everywhere with me. It even has a name.”
She laughed. “What’s its name?”
“Is this an oblique way of making … some kind of sexual overture?”
“No! That’s its name. It’s a special glove. It even got treated by Yogi’s glove doctor.”
“I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about,” she said, and collapsed into a fit of laughter. Then she got up and cranked some music that, I learned later, was called “alt-rock.”
The band’s lead singer was croaking something like “rage against the machine.” After my experience with Nasty Boy, I could relate.
“Trying to set a romantic mood?” I joked.
“Is it too loud?”
“No, it’s fine. You wouldn’t happen to have a couple of those construction worker ear muffs?”
“We could communicate by waving flags.”
“Yeah. Better, we could use baseball signs. Although the vocabulary is pretty limited.”
“What kind of music do you like?”
“You’re kidding?” She laughed again, flashing those teeth so bright they cast the kind of spellbinding white light people claim to see when they’re near death.
“You’re serious? God, I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody who actually likes New Age music.”
“You have now,” I said with a touch of false machismo.
“I don’t have any New Age.”
I shrugged. She lowered the music.
“You know, I never would’ve taken you for a ballplayer.”
“Unfortunately, you’re not the first.”
“So, did you grow up always wanting to be a ballplayer?”
“I wanted to be a lot of things.”
History of My Occupational Dreams
0-3: Walk and talk
When Letty had stopped laughing, I asked, “How about you?”
“Oh, my parents are academics. My father is a professor of sociology at City College, and my mother is a medical researcher at Columbia. So I’m a cliché. Speaking of which, how do you write a baseball player’s autobiography without it sounding like recycled sports pages? Rickie” – she called Sanabria “Rickie” sometimes, which made me wince – “recommended a bunch of them to me, because I wasn’t familiar with the genre. I mean, their titles alone – ‘Safe at Home,’ ‘Full Count,’ ‘Stealing Courage’ – suggest a total lack of imagination.”
“Yeah, they’re all written by hack scribes. And what’s worse is they’re all fantasies that appeal to eight-year-olds. That’s why I started my blog.”
“What about your blog? Rick didn’t tell me much about it.”
“He doesn’t like it. He thinks I’m competing with myself. With the book.”
“I don’t think so. I’m telling the truth. Rick is telling my ‘story.’ I’m writing about a year in the life of a backup catcher. Rick is writing a ‘narrative’ of … what did he call it? A ‘triumph of the human spirit.’ It’s bullshit, and he knows it.”
“This raises the postmodern dilemma.”
I didn’t know what that was, but she had moved close to me on what she called her “Davenport.” Close enough to be nearly suffocated by the intoxicating smell of her mossy hair, moist, satiny skin and a perfume that was subtle yet powerful (she said it was some oil called ylang-ylang, which I thought was the name of that Chinese panda that had a cup of coffee in the news a few years back when they were trying to mate her at the zoo). I was thinking she might want me to kiss her, but if I was wrong, she’d tell Rick and there’d be some serious blowback, although I wasn’t sure what kind. And I’ve always been notoriously bad at figuring out when a woman wants me to make a move. It’s like my chick radar’s been knocked out and I’m flying blind.
I leaned back, away from her.
“I can see some problems ahead,” she said.
“Problems?” Was she reading my mind and anticipating the morning-after residue of our night of glorious passion?
“Yeah. Once your book comes out and it purports to be a true story, somebody will read your blog and find out two and two equals five. The publisher might sue, to get back his advance.”
“We don’t have a publisher yet.”
“You will. Do you have any family members that would come forward and deny anything in the book?”
“My folks don’t read.”
“No, just lazy.”
“How about friends?”
“Bounced around so much I ain’t got many, and they don’t take the Blog Monster seriously. Besides, I don’t write much about them anywhere.”
“Good. Maybe you two can work out a strategy that protects you. Talk to the publisher, somebody in legal.”
“I’d rather talk to you,” I said, with lust flooding into my body, making my voice quaver and sound like I was lying…
… I know what you want to know: Did I score with Letty Gonzalez? I’m sorry, dudes, but a gentleman never tells. Besides, I don’t want it to come off like one of those Hollywood sex scenes, where the heroine attacks the hero, they rip off each other’s clothes, and they moan and groan and the whole thing’s over in five seconds.
It was at least 15. Minimum.