Saturday, April 18, 2009

In This Post You Will Find My Excuse for Not Writing More at the Beginning of This Damn Baseball Season

I have finally, finally begun to read Paper Lion, by George Plimpton.  Bruce Paine once called me a gonzo journalist, so I thought I might as well get some idea of how the best ones do what they do.  Two chapters in (I literally started it ten minutes ago), and I'm loving it.  I've had the book for several months now, ever since my fiancĂ© bought a copy off eBay.  It doesn't say "first edition" in it, but I think that's exactly what it is.  The book was published in 1966, and when I finally opened it up for the first time last night, this is what I found:

"Merry Christmas 1966

Greg,

We do not feel our gratitude can be adequately expressed with words or gifts but perhaps this book, recommended by Joe Garagiola, will give you some enjoyable moments, just as your talents in sports have given us many such moments.  We only hope we may be able to help someone in need some day as you have helped our family and we know you will be rewarded as in St. Matthew 25:40 if not in other ways too.

Gratefully.

Jack and Arlene"


Well, this just plain fascinates me.  Who is Greg?  Who are Jack and Arlene?  When they say that Joe Garagiola recommended the book, do they mean personally, or did they just read some article in which Garagiola once talked about the book?  There is evidence to suggest that Greg is an athlete, and possibly a famous one, since he was able to help Jack and Arlene (financially?) and his "talents in sports" have given them "enjoyable moments."

Joe Garagiola is still alive, and had been doing broadcasts for the Arizona Diamondbacks, but I don't know if he still is.  This inscription was written 40+ years ago, but if Garagiola knew "Jack and Arlene," then maybe there's a chance he'll remember something about them.  I don't know.  It could be grasping at straws, but I'm intrigued by the story.  And I'm going to look into it a little further. 
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Well, here I am in Puerto Rico.  This is my 31st day in San Juan, and there are only 48 (roughly) to go.  Yes, I am counting down. It seems that this is the sort of place that one should take in small doses only.  31 days doesn't seem that long, but it has sure felt like an eternity.  Don't get me wrong -- it is pretty here, and there are interesting things to see and do.  But there's a difference between spending a day here when your cruise ship docks (there are cruise ships in the harbor constantly) or spending three days here on a vacation, and spending nearly three months here. 

There are extenuating circumstances for my feelings about this place. Two weeks after we got here, I got up and went for a run, and then took a shower.  While in the shower, I noticed something on my arm.  Two little red dots, about 1/8-inch apart. In other words, fang marks.  They weren't raised, they didn't hurt unless I pressed on them (and even then not much), and they didn't itch.  Of course, I have read stories of people who have been bitten by bats in the night and not felt it, and then died of rabies a month or so later.  And so, being the hypochondriac that I am, I panicked.  And I spent about the next two weeks panicking, only recovering (almost completely) in the last few days.  

Yes, you read that right.  I was certain for a while there that I had been bitten by a rabid bat, despite the utter impossibility of that happening.  I was in an apartment on the fourth floor.  Yes, the windows were open, and, no, they were not screened (for whatever reason, Puerto Ricans don't believe in screens, despite the vast numbers of mosquitoes), but they were the type of window that is made up of six or eight smaller panes that rise up when you turn a crank.  So, not just one wide-open space into which something can fly.  The likelihood of a rabid bat flying into that window, biting me, then making its way out, all without me, my fiancĂ© (Christine), or my dog hearing, is pretty much nil.

And yet I remained unconvinced.  I Googled "bat expert" and emailed two people to get their opinion on the situation.  Only one wrote back, a guy from Boston University, and told me that he thought I had probably been bitten by a spider.  I read pretty much every Google article I could find on bats, rabies, rabies symptoms, et cetera.  The first day I found the bite, I actually went to an ER here, where the doctor spoke English about as well as I speak Spanish, and simply looked at me like I was crazy (which I was), gave me a prescription for an antibiotic (for reasons unknown) which I did not fill, and charged me $300. Later, Christine called the hospital and spoke with an RN who told her that, in the 23 years that he has worked in medicine on the island, he has never seen a bat bite.  If you think that gave me any sort of reassurance, you haven't been paying attention.

I had full-on panic attacks for about a week straight.  I had no appetite at all, and barely ate, which made me feel skinny when I put on my bikini and went to the beach, but probably wasn't the best thing for my body.  My stomach is only just now getting over the torture I put it through.  I made Christine crazy, since my panic mostly came when she was at work, and so she had to deal with me on top of her work stress.  There was talk of me going home to L.A. so I could just calm down a little bit.

I actually don't know what has turned it around for me.  All the logic in the world couldn't convince my crazy mind that this was ridiculous, and I had physical symptoms that I couldn't shake. Part of me thinks I was actually a little sick, and that it just got worse because my mind convinced me it was something more serious.  The other part of me thinks that I am just plain insane, and thats probably the more likely explanation.

So, now you know more about me than you probably wanted to, and you can feel free to judge. Obviously, this experience has clouded my judgment on Puerto Rico just a bit.  It's not the island's fault that I'm nutty, of course, but I think I would probably still be homesick and ready to leave even if I had spent the last month lounging on the beach.  We're currently staying in an apartment in Old San Juan, but on May 1 we're going to move into the Caribe Hilton.  This was not my idea, though I wholeheartedly approved it when Christine brought it up last night. Another person who is down here working with her is doing the exact same thing, so I'm not the only one who is over the allure of Old San Juan.  It's not like living in a hotel for a month is going to be so great (remember, I did lived in one in Chicago last year for nearly two months), but I still find myself really looking forward to May 1.  It feels like I'll be taking one more step toward home.
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Oh yeah, and then there's baseball.  When I move into the hotel, I'll lose my Extra Innings package on DirecTV, but that's what the MLB.tv package is for on my computer.  Thank god for technology.  I wouldn't want to miss a second of what the Dodgers are doing this season.  They are currently on a six-game winning streak, and are tied atop the NL West with the surprising Padres (who won't keep it up, I guarantee it).  They have been the comeback kids of late, capped with last night's game in which Randy Wolf gave up three runs in the first, then settled down over the next five.  He shut down the Rockies, striking out nine of them along the way, giving the Dodgers a chance to come up. The Boys in Blue kept threatening, leaving men on base every inning (as is their wont this season thus far), but they finally came through in the seventh. Furcal singled, Hudson walked, then Manny hit a single to drive in Furcal.  Matt Kemp hit into a fielder's choice, but Hudson scored.  Then Ethier, who had really struggled at the plate in his previous three at-bats, hit a gapper to left center, which scored Kemp, and the game was tied. Loretta poked a ball over the third baseman's head, Ethier scored, and the Dodgers had the lead.

Kuo did is best to give it up in the top of the eighth, as he loaded the bases with only one out. So, Torre brought in Broxton, and Broxton proceeded to just flat-out dominate.  He struck out the two batters he faced in the eighth, ending the threat, then struck out two of the three he faced in the ninth.  Game over.  Dodgers win.  Billingsley takes the mound today, and we're looking for lucky number seven in a row.

The Red Sox had an even more impressive comeback on Friday night.  After Brad Penny gave up seven runs by the second inning (have I mentioned that I've never liked the guy?), the Sox clawed back into it and eventually won 10-8.  Detailing the onslaught of runs would bore you, but there is hope that this offensive outburst will shake the Sox out of the funk they've been in this season.  Must have sucked to be an Oriole fan last night, but we needed that win.  Still in last place in the AL East, but it's no time to panic.  We're three games behind the Blue Jays, and we've only played ten games this season.

And that, my friends, ends this ridiculously long post.

1 comment:

Bruce Paine said...

Wherever Bruce Paine walks, flowers spring up at his heels. With the slightest gesture of his hand a cooling breeze doth lift. With but a coy turn of his lips, daughters do fall. Such is the power and naked majesty of Bruce Paine.

You need to stack up another book on your list. The good Doctor Hunter S. Thompson's The Rum Diary is set in San Juan, and a fascinating and stark book. It does not possess the full luster of his manic, drug-fueled bends because it is a touch early but has all the depth and mire and hysteric tragedy of his other works. You can see the later Thompson in it, but he is younger, more eager creature. Still, it sweats the talent. The Great Shark Hunt is another island tale but of a different bend. The Rum Diary can be read in a day. The abduction scene is the closest thing to Shakespeare's murder of Caesar that the English language has yet provided.