Election 2016

I wrote this years ago as a throwaway intro for a baseball blog post that never saw the light of day. With deep apologies to Samuel Beckett, I’m publishing it today.

 

EXT. SHOULDER OF A DIRT ROAD. A SINGLE DEAD TREE PROVIDES SLIGHT SHADE. — DAY

TWO MEN STAND BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD.

“You know, I never got the saying ‘Dog Days of Summer.'”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. I love dogs. Dogs are great.”

“Yup.”

“They’re loving, they’re loyal.”

“Yup.”

“They stick with you, you know? You can always count on a dog.”

“Yup.”

“Chickens, though. Fuck chickens, man.”

“Yup.”

A QUIET SETTLES OVER THEM.

“Now, to be sure, a turkey is no chicken.”

“Yup.”

“Not literally, of course. I mean, turkeys are quite clearly chickens.”

“Oh?”

“Sure. Big Turkey wants to hide that. But it’s true. Turkeys are just huge chickens. Ask anyone. Ask anyone who KNOWS.”

“Yup.”

SILENCE.

“You ever seen one? A turkey, I mean.”

“Yup.”

“Not like, in a market. Not the 15-pound, frozen bowling balls you buy for Thanksgiving. I mean a real, honest-to-god turkey.”

“Yup.”

“I had a moment with one once. It changed me.”

“Oh?”

“Sure. I was a success, once. I had houses, cars. I had shoes. My god, the shoes.”

SILENCE.

“Now look at me. No house, no car. I got shoes, but look at these. Filthy.”

THE FIRST MAN LIFTS HIS FOOT OFF THE GROUND AND WAGS HIS DIRTY BOOT-CLAD FOOT IN THE DIRECTION OF THE SECOND MAN.

“Yup.”

“It was that turkey. I blame him, but damned if I don’t respect him.”

“Yup.”

“Women, man. Women. They don’t understand. There’s a bond between a man and a medium-large ground fowl that they’ll never fully grasp. Once it got out…well, you know what happened next.”

“Yup.”

“The press got in on it, and I was done. There went the houses. The cars. The love of a good woman, all thrown away.”

“Yup.”

“You ever seen a turkey after a three-day corn bender? My god.”

“Oh?”

“Feathers pointing the wrong way. Broken claws. Cracked beak. Wattle out of place.”

“Yup.”

“And that smell. The bile rises.”

SILENCE.

“Like a horse took a shit in a fish market.”

SILENCE.

“The smell. My god.”

SILENCE.

AN OLD FORD TRUCK APPEARS ON THE HORIZON, A CLOUD OF DUST IN ITS WAKE. THE MEN STAY SILENT AS THE TRUCK DRAWS EVER CLOSER.

“I think I know that truck.”

“Oh?”

THE TRUCK SLOWS AND PULLS ONTO THE SHOULDER.

“That your ride?”

“Yup.”

THE SECOND MAN OPENS THE PASSENGER-SIDE DOOR AND GETS INTO THE TRUCK. IT IS DRIVEN BY A TURKEY. THE FIRST MAN BRIEFLY LOCKS EYES WITH THE TURKEY. THE SECOND MAN SLAMS THE TRUCK DOOR AND THEY DRIVE AWAY.

THE FIRST MAN WATCHES THE TRUCK RECEDE INTO THE DISTANCE, UNTIL NOTHING IS LEFT BUT THE RAPIDLY DISSIPATING CLOUD OF DUST, GLOWING RED FROM THE SETTING OF THE SUN.

“Man, fuck turkeys.”

2015, Rest in Peace

NOTE: I wrote this 10 minutes after the last out of the 2015 NLCS. I was drunk. Sobriety and watching the Mets get worked in the World Series has tempered my dire attitude. That said, I hate to write something and then never let it see the light of day, because I’m a narcissist who, like the streaker Dick Butkus once almost killed at the 50-yard line, is ever eager to show off his shortcomings. What follows are the rantings of a crazy man and also a half dozen beers and a glass of Scotch.

I didn’t have the heart to watch it, as it ended. I knew the score before it came up. The Cubs lost, and that was enough. I didn’t need to know how.

Technology is a funny thing. I didn’t want cable, so I bought Dish Sling for a month so I could watch the playoffs. But Sling sucks, and lags 30 seconds or more behind “live.” So I used my phone to track the score, the outs, the game, and then would patiently wait for the result to show up on the screen. So I knew, before it happened to me, that it was over. Technology is funny in the same way that all tragedies are funny. You laugh because you don’t want to cry.

Though, to be honest, I kind of want to cry.

Maybe I should have watched. I’d watched enough this year. I’d probably seen 80 games in their entirety, including the three amazing games against the Cardinals over my birthday weekend in Chicago. It should have been enough, and I should have had the loyalty to watch, but I couldn’t. I didn’t want it to end.

Baseball is dying. People say as much every year, when they compare the ratings to that of inferior sports, to football and its interminable pauses between mindless violence, to basketball and it’s infuriating squeaks and individual plays that mean nothing at all in the grand scheme. Oh look, what an amazing play, he just scored less than 2% of their final total, he’s an amazing athlete.

Basketball is a crock of shit.

But if baseball is dying, it’s taking me with it. I turned 40 this year, and when you turn 40 you realize some things. All your hopes, all your dreams, are dead. You’re a middle-class wage slave with a comfortable life, a life you never wanted and dreaded having. You’re past the point of having potential, and to the point that you’re ten years into a thirty year pull to the finish line, where you won’t even get a gold watch when you retire. I’ll probably die before I retire, and if I do, make sure to tell the state of California it can go fuck itself.

I have anger issues.

This season seemed different, for some reason. It wasn’t Joe Maddon. I never liked him, and I dreaded his hiring. I knew he was a great manager, that wasn’t the question. Probably one of the two or three best in the league. But I wanted a manager like Bruce Bochey, a pleasantly dopey kind of klutz that endeared himself to your heart while simultaneously making all the right calls. I didn’t want hipster grandpa. I didn’t want onesie parties and zoo animals, and I still don’t.

We had the Cy Young, the Rookie of the Year. Before he ran out of gas in October, we had a legitimate argument for a top-5 MVP. It all seemed so different.

And it is different. The Cubs will be good in 2016. They’ll probably be good in 2017 and 2018. And there’s a very good chance that they’ll be good for 9 or 10 years, in the same way the Tigers have been good since 2006, the same way the Tigers made it to two World Series and now face the real probability of a very long winter.

I’m not a religious man. I believe you turn to dirt when you die, and all the thoughts, hopes, dreams, joys, pains of your life die with you. There is no God, and if there is, he cares not for the plight of mere mortals. But there are times I question. There are times I believe. And when I do, I believe that He hates me.

 

Ron Santo: 1940-2010

I walked a mile and a half in the rain this morning, while listening to Steve Dahl’s podcast. I showed up to work a few minutes late. I said good morning to the skeleton crew that’s there on Fridays, I poured myself a cup of coffee, and finally I sat at my desk and checked the Internet. It’s rote at this point: first Gmail, then Twitter, finally the Chicago Tribune’s front page. I follow a half dozen sports reporters and a couple of Cubs bloggers on Twitter. The first post I read was from Andy Dolan of Desipio.com: “So long, big boy.”

Anyone that ever listened to a Cubs radio broadcast knew what that meant.

I clicked through to his post. “The toughest man to ever play for the Chicago Cubs is gone.” I went to the Tribune. “Ron Santo: Dead at 70.” It took a couple seconds to sink in, but when it did, I started to tear up. Continue reading Ron Santo: 1940-2010

Car Movies: The Big Lebowski

NOTE: This was written as an ill-fated entry for the Jalopnik “Next Top Car Blogger” contest. I read the rules before they’d updated them to specify a 40-word limit on the lede, and didn’t bother to re-read the rules before submitting. In reality, a 150-word lede is ridiculous anyway, so it’s my own fault either way.

The Big Lebowski was not a success, critically or financially. Pointing that out now, a dozen years later, seems kind of strange. But for a movie that cost $15 million, a final domestic gross of just over $17 million isn’t exactly burning up the turnstiles. It wasn’t until it hit rental and the stoners, the frats, the punks dropping tabs of acid during the Busby Berkeley dance sequences, and the ironic mid-oughts proto-hipsters got their grubby mitts on it that it turned into a cult classic, a cultural touchstone, and finally a financial success. But this is not a sociology or, for that matter, film blog. We’re not here to talk about the cultural significance of John Goodman’s Walter Sobchak vis-à-vis Neo-conservatism, to dissect the movie’s Phillip Marlowe-meets-Cheech & Chong plot, or even to quote dialog ad naseum until we run out our word limit. After all, this is not ‘Nam. There are rules. Continue reading Car Movies: The Big Lebowski