The Language of Peace
By: Nathan Bishop
I met a man earlier this year. Let’s call him Greg. The past decade of Greg’s life had seen a series of spiraling traumas. His home was foreclosed on during the housing crisis of the past decade. The stress and despair of the incident led to divorce, which counted as trauma number two.
The man who bought the property at the courthouse was a liar and a crook. He told Greg he could continue to live in his home if he paid him rent, and after a few years he would sell the home back to him if he could get financing. Because Greg had never been one for official notices or paperwork, no formalized agreement, lease, or purchase option was ever written up. Greg simply sent a check every month to stay in his home. When the new owner was in turn also foreclosed on Greg had no idea, and continued to pay his rent for years to someone who now did not even own the home in which he lived.
The final issue was the diabetes, which unemployment, fragile mental health, and lack of diligence with doctor’s appointments and medication had about a year ago led to the amputation of his right leg, just below the knee.
I found all this out in Greg’s living room, as he told it to me with profanity laced invective while looking at a piece of paper agreeing to vacate his beloved home in 30 days. You see, the second foreclosing entity weren’t in the mood to play around. You don’t come into acquisition of a property anywhere near Seattle these days and not put it on the open market. So it had fallen to a series of official notices, first mailed and hand delivered, repeated visits from the police, a few real estate agents, many of whom Greg scared off with his understandable rage, and, finally, myself, to come to a peace, and avoid him being forcibly removed from the property.
Greg and I sat in his living room, his ex-wife at his side. She had come to oversee things, still caring about Greg and worrying about someone taking advantage of him like his duplicitous former-landlord. She assured me that Greg’s parents are still living in Oregon and he has a place to stay, he just needs to agree to do so. But Greg is still listing off his woes, and seems only partially aware I’m not the cause of them. Tucked behind him, dusty and worn and faded from a decade or so in a window, sat an old sign from the 1995 Mariners. It read “Refuse to Lose”, trimmed in that most quintessentially 90’s teal. I was tired of being yelled at, so I interrupted and told Greg I liked his poster. He stopped, looked at me, and for the first time, was silent.
The next 45 minutes were spent in the other corner of the house. It was there that Greg kept his baseball cards, at least many thousands of them. Greg estimated there were “hundreds of thousands”, and that they “must be worth a fortune”. Our time in there was spent reminiscing over Pete O’Brien, of laughing at the self seriousness of the ‘90 Score set, lamenting Kevin Mitchell’s lone year in Seattle.
After some time, Greg asked me if I wanted the cards. I told him thanks, but I had no place for them. His ex-wife assured me their children would come by and pick them up. He pointed at a forest green Seattle Sonics t-shirt: “I bet you remember that too, don’t you?” I assured him I did. Greg paused again, looked around the “card room” as he called it, and sighed.
“Alright, fine”, he said. “I’ll sign your damn paper.”
Tyler Saladino's Enormous Moustache, as Told By Gabriel Garcia Marquez
By: Kate Preusser
On the second day of rain they had eaten so much bacon on a stick that Brian Dozier had to cross Guaranteed Rate Field and throw the rest onto 35th Street, because Tim Anderson already had the meat sweats and no one was available to replace him. The world had been sad since Monday, and before that it had also been sad. Sky and parking lot were a single ash-gray thing. The light was so weak that when Dozier was coming back after throwing away the meat-slimed sticks, it was hard for him to see what was moaning and groaning at the rear of the Craft Kave. He had to go very close to see that it was a man, lying face down in the peanut shells, who, in spite of his tremendous efforts, couldn’t get up, impeded by his enormous mustache.
Frightened, Dozier ran to get Miguel Cabrera, and they both gazed on the figure with a mute and wondrous horror. The man’s shirt and pants were ripped from stolen base attempts, and his odor of grit and wax permeated the room. They looked at him so long and so closely that they found their courage and tried to talk to the man, but his voice was muffled in his immense mustache, which flowed down his face, wrapping around his shoulders, and pooled beneath him. That was how they skipped over the inconvenience of his .315 OBP, and the ever-growing mustache, and decided that he must be a leadoff hitter, since he looked like and smelled like one.
News that the White Sox had found a leadoff hitter spread quickly. People came from as far away as Kenosha to see him. The aged came, wanting to see the next coming of Luis Aparicio. The skeptics came, wanting to believe that magic could still happen, even in a rebuilding year. The children came, and wanted to touch the mustache, which by now extended all the way to the upper deck, snaking around it like the Chicago River. The creature known as Tyler Saladino did not care to see anyone, though, and wrapped its mustache many times around itself before curling up to sleep in a nacho helmet.
The season began in earnest. Rival teams complained as their baserunners became entangled in the long and filthy mustache. They would shoo him from the infield and he would gaze back from the dugout with his antiquarian eyes. His own teammates began to ignore him after Jose Abreu found a hair in his morning hot chocolate long enough to knit a sweater from. At night they threw a fleece blanket from last year’s stadium giveaway over him and left him to sleep in the dugout. No one noticed, then, as the fevered summer gave way to the cooler temperatures of fall, the mustache began to separate into barbs and quills, began to quiver, slightly, in the strong wind blowing off Lake Michigan, until one day the team came in to do their warmups, lifted up the blanket celebrating 1983’s team to find nothing beneath. Looking skyward they could see just the hint of a figure disappearing over the horizon, the mustache flapping behind him, triumphant at last.
I Just Want to Sit Down
By: Meg Rowley
I’m all for exercise, but it’s important to be able to sit down. The world wears us out, and we ought to be able to take a rest. Not being able to sit is why I got tired of living in New York. You’re constantly battling past people there–on the subway, on the sidewalk, in line for a promotion at work. You do this battling, get jostled about, and then you go out with friends to unwind, only to have to keep standing. You wait for a table, and you have to stand by the door. You decide to have a drink at the bar while you wait, and again you stand, holding your coat, clutching your credit card. You keep getting bumped by the waitress, which annoys you and her. All you want is to sit, but you can’t, and you’re worn out. Also, it’s loud. You’re shouting. We make terrible choices in our twenties.
The world should let us sit down. It’s part of why I enjoy baseball. It’s leisurely. If the park isn’t full, you can put your feet up. The action is slow; you can relax but still be moved. You only have to get up to holler when your team hits a home run, or wins, or if it’s a close game late, and not even always then. Your fellow fans also want to sit, and you’ve agreed not to block their view. You have a social contract. You’ve formed courts.
Except this guy. This is Chip. Chip is the worst. Smiley– we live in an overly litigious world– but the worst. Tall, but the worst. Chip thinks he is the Leviathan.
It’s the fifth inning, Chip. I know it’s the World Series, and you’re excited because it’s a 1-0 game. You think standing for every pitch of Joc Pederson’s at-bat is just normal fan stuff that guys do. But you’re forgetting about Bob. There’s Bob.
Look at Bob’s face. Bob can’t see without craning his neck. Marlins Man can see better! Chip has forgotten about Bob, but really, he’s neglecting all of us. He’s broken a promise. He has forced Bob to make choices. Bob can be a grump, and tap Chip on the shoulder and ask him to stay seated. Bob can do that, but then Bob is being uptight. A bad sport. Perhaps, Chip will whisper, a bad fan. Bob can complain to the usher, but then he’s a snitch as well as pusillanimous. Or Bob can stand, too. Bob can stand, forced to like those behind him, until everyone is standing. Chip has turned his whole body into an oversized vase or a comically large hat full of fruit. He’s imposed upon Bob an obligation to make a bad choice. And all for a couple of flyouts and a strikeout looking.
There are many things we do to have a civilization; farm, vote, fall in love. We write books and fight with each other, and cheer for our teams. We do all of that. But we’re well served to remember that among the most basic things we do is let each other sit down for a little rest. After all, the world can wear you out.
Freedom in the Bay
By: Matt Ellis
It’s a terrible thing, really, to face your own freedom. Kierkegaard thought it dread: the dizziness that comes from standing upon the precipice of a giant chasm, you, there, small, tiny and pathetic, staring into the gap that is all that Could Be. Later, Sartre turned it into a coffee-table book, and then we just kind of started calling everything that took anything remotely seriously “existential.” That sad movie you watched last weekend. Radiohead. Turning into your parents.
It’s a kind of horror that lends itself well to art, but one that doesn’t quite speak to the experience of watching baseball, which if you ask me, is also art in a certain way. But where Sisyphus and Antonius Block shudder under the weight of Possibility, the athlete thrives in it: It is precisely possibility that promises a paycheck tomorrow, and the next day, and then the next, until your body stops outputting what you try to put into it.
Enter Pablo Sandoval.
Pablo Sandoval hit a walkoff home run for the Giants to end their season. In classic Sandoval fashion, it cost the team the # 1 overall pick
— OverTheMonster (@OverTheMonster) October 1, 2017
It would be, I suppose, banal to observe the irony of the situation. Sandoval’s departure from the Bay Area, his struggles in Beantown, or even the simple fact he would not be wearing a major-league uniform were the Giants to have any other win-loss record are not necessarily givens, but they are, in their own way, kind of funny.
Instead I think we have to problematize our dear friend friend Kierky, to realize the real horror of existence comes not from facing the eternal freedom that possibility holds for us all, but from the understanding that we are all, each of us, born not into a physics experiment but a math equation. For Sandoval to finish his season wearing Giants orange, a small part of the universe demanded a sacrifice, a closed door which reminds you that you asked for one small thing and it would cost another.
The stakes of this are staggering. Perhaps, in a strange way, we are all unfree. But it’s only the universe responding to that deep, embodied horror we outlined as a species so many decades ago: Be careful what you wish for. Freedom might be terrifying, but it may not be able to eclipse the sun that is fate. That may not sound incredibly existential, but sometimes you have to wonder what really keeps you up at night.