March 2016

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Speaker of the House. Looks like a serial killer. Gives Obama his idiotic budget. Willing to be drafted as presidential nominee..

Speaker of the House. Looks like a serial killer. Gives Obama his idiotic budget. Willing to be drafted as presidential nominee..

Let me ask. Let’s say, just for the purpose of argumentation, that you’re a Republican and would like to win a legislative battle with the Democrats, once anyway.

GOPe.

Uh, why would we want to do that? Do you have any idea how much money we can make as lobbyists even if the people somehow manage to throw us out of office? When the congressional majority dutifully acts like an impotent rubber-stamp minority, the federal funds jet through DC like a fire hose. Nobody in his right mind would ever want to stop that. Why we’re inexorably committed to NeverTrump and AlwaysHillary.

All the lonely people, where do they all belong? In McTammany Hall the answer is clear.

Here endeth the lesson.

Iris and Raven do lots of ripping and tearing in the morning. Chasing each other down the stairs, thundering back up the stairs, and occasionally knocking stuff over. But then comes the midday timeout, when all that’s necessary is being close.

Are you looking at us? Are you looking at us?

Yes, we are looking at you.

Well, okay then.

Well, okay then.

Can't live with hounds for a generation without turning into one. Problem is, I'm not a nice one. I bite.

Can’t live with hounds for a generation without turning into one. Problem is, I’m not a nice one. I bite.

I’m not a nice guy. I have many Irish friends. Yet I wrote this. A satire of Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill, the brawny hairy chested alcoholics in remission who beat up average Joes and win acclaim for their authenticity from The New Yorker and the Times. Great life if you can get it, right? But every year, every single year, there’s a day when even the brawniest hairy fingered lout who thinks he can write has to walk by an Irish pub and not go inside. Voila! (And if you don’t pronounce the V as a V, the Jersey Latin squad will be coming for you.)

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March 17, 2000

The Tough Guy

It’s St. Patrick’s Day!
It’s St. Patrick’s Day!
I was going to say something there. Hold on a sec.
It’s St. Patrick’s Day!
It’s St. Patrick’s Day!

You know, the thing about these support groups is what a bunch of stuffed-shirt, killjoy, bigoted, anti-Irish, English-ass-kissing, boring sumbitches they are. Did you know that? Did you?

You hold their hand, and listen to all their dull, dull stories about their dull, dull problems, and you all sit there not drinking, and forcing down all that bad coffee, which is even decaf for God’s sake, and do they appreciate it? Do they come around on St. Patrick’s Day to say, “Thanks old man. Erin go bragh. Top o’ the mornin’ to you. And by the way, this is one day when you really should take a break from all this dull no-drinking bullcrap crap you usually do.” Do they do that?

No. They don’t. Here’s what they do. They call up that little fairy intern who works in the office next to you, and they tell him to go hunting
through all your desk drawers for the bottle of fine old Irish blarney you’ve filed away for this one extremely special, wonderful day of the year, and they order him to steal that bottle like some little damn fairy thief AND POUR IT DOWN THE TOILET.

DAMN.

But I wasn’t born yesterday. My old man didn’t raise no fool. He was Irish. He was a cop. He was in the big one. He knew all the tricks. And I know’em too. I wouldn’t leave no bottle of genuine fine old Irish blarney in my damn desk drawer where some little fairy intern could get at it AND POUR IT DOWN THE TOILET.

I wouldn’t do that. What I would do, if you’re asking me, is this. I would replace the genuine old Irish blarney in that bottle with some cheap, lousy, made-last-week- in-New-Joisey crap, and I would make sure that I had the real blarney in my briefcase, right where I could get at it if some little fairy thief decided to listen to a bunch of stuffed-shirt support-group Republians and take my blarney AND POUR IT DOWN THE TOILET.

That’s what I would do. If you’re asking.

By the way…

It’s St. Patrick’s Day! It’s St. Patrick’s Day! How the hell are you today?
I’m fine. I really am.

There was something in particular I was going to write about in the column today. It’s on the tip of my tongue. I’ll have it in just a moment. Hold on. Gun control? Maybe that was it. Hold on a sec.

It’s St. Patrick’s Day!

Hold on.

I think it was about this Charleston Heston Republian stuffed-shirt bigoted anti-Irish support-group killjoy… Hold on.

It’s St. Patrick’s Day! It’s St. Patrick’s Day! It’s St. Patrick’s Day!

Hold on.

I’ve got it. Hold on.

It’s St. Patr

The Tough Guy is a regular Star feature contributed by columnist Jimmy Bricker.
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Being Scottish gives you lots of cover. But even I have to admit that this is a 15 year old microaggression that deserves a safe space. Good thing I know where that safe space is.

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Mussolini 1 and 2.

Trump can’t beat Hillary. Trump can’t beat Hillary. Trump can’t beat Hillary. Trump can’t beat Hillary. Trump can’t beat Hillary.

A mantra with two different meanings. On the Democrat side a mantra of fear, Type 1. On the Republican side a mantra of fear, Type 2.

Type 1 is genuine fear, akin to panic. The Dems know Hillary is an incredibly weak candidate. She’s awful on the stump. When she isn’t faking black or southern accents, or simpering little woman fake humility, she turns into a banshee, a braying, shrieking, bitter harridan whose voice is worse than chalk on blackboards. She’s got the sword of Damocles hanging over her head, investigations in the FBI and the DOJ proper that could or at least should land her in prison.

Type 2 is the fear that lies will be found out. The Republican leadership, its congressional majorities, and its politician enriching donors don’t care if Hillary is elected president. In fact, if they can’t have Jeb, they’d prefer Hillary. Their sweet deal will continue. Boundless funds for their reelection campaigns and boundless riches for the lobbying careers they will enjoy after they end their legislative careers. Absolute corruption on a scale not seen since Tammany Hall. Or Ancient Rome. Everyone for sale. Every issue and bill for sale, no matter what lies have to be told barefacedly to their party faithful. Run on border control, immediately propose amnesty. Run on fiscal responsibility, immediately ratify the Dems’ bloated budget whole hog (pun intended). Pretend you’re against ObamaCare, then do nothing to repeal, fix, or replace it.

Type 1 and Type 2 have one thing in common. At this point they both want to do whatever it takes to prevent Trump from becoming the Republican nominee. Why? Well, the George Wills and Chris Matthews and Charles Krauthammers and Anderson Coopers and David Brooks of the world don’t know much about boxing metaphors, but they can sense the excitement, danger, and unpredictability of a heavyweight prizefight. And the very thought of it terrifies them to death. Why they tell us we’re stupid. You know. If you’re David Brooks or George Will, might as well have rape enabler Hillary instead of a guy who probably pinches bottoms in Italy. Something, no doubt about canapés in the Hamptons and NR cruises with Kevin Williamson.

What a Trump-Clinton electoral campaign would be. It would be slugger against slugger, which is relatively rare even in the prizefight world. Nobody’s tried to handicap the contest as it would really unfold. There is reason to do so. Both fighters have records, both have been penalized points and rounds for unsportsmanlike conduct, but in this case they are in the ring together. Who has the edge?

Let’s pick a couple of avatars. First, Hillary as Mike Tyson. (Incredible cheap shot at 6:47 in.)

Second, The Don as Rocky Marciano.


Tyson had a soundtrack. Marciano should too.

Because that was the day and the life of Rocky Marciano. For all you hedge fund managers who don’t know what it’s like to fight to the death for anything.

RELATIVE STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES

Both aggressive punchers and counterpunchers. Tyson the more controlled on the attack, well prepared, planned, expert at ducking and weaving, comes in willing to take a punch or two to get in some savage body body blows and head shots. Tremendous and balanced power in the overall attack, and always waiting for the inside uppercut to bring it to an end. Only sign of wildness is a practiced left hook, designed to pulverize the opponent. Weakness? Violent felony convict, sexual predator, and dirty fighter.

Chew my way to victory if necessary.

Chew my way to victory if necessary.

Marciano. The only ever undefeated heavyweight champion of boxing. He was a wild swinger without much of a jab. The Brockton Bomber, they called him. He fought more champions in his division than anyone but Muhammed Ali. Fabled names. Joe Louis. Jersey Joe Walcott. Ezzard Charles. What was he famous for? Taking a lot of punishment to land one telling blow. He frequently finished fights with his face a bloody mask. But he won by knockout 87.5 percent of the time. Simple arithmetic. Hit him and be prepared to be hit back harder by a factor of ten. Sledgehammer, canvas time. He won in early rounds and late rounds. Unlike Tyson or Foreman. He won when he was behind on points, as Ali was late in his career. The champion rises as his energy seems to fall. A law of physics MIT hasn’t yet explained. Weaknesses? A bleeder. Easy to cut him. Today’s referees might have stopped fights he won. Should they have? That would be a PC matter, wouldn’t it?

CAMPAIGN IMPLICATIONS

Hillary knows how to hit hard. She has teams of morlocks working day and night to compile her ammunition. But there are two factors her dimwit Yale advisers should take into account.

1. Trump has already survived the greatest prolonged assault of negative advertising in the history of televised and otherwise mass media-driven presidential campaigns. He has been called every name in the book, every nasty adjective in the book, every obscenity, every repulsive historical epithet, had his character assassinated by both snipers and organized commando teams, and there he still is, leading the pack for the Republican nomination. What’s left to throw at him? Some personal foible you’ve been hiding under your skirt, Hillary? Which brings us to Point Two.

2. Hillary’s first and only impulse, in the absence of real experience, accomplishment or policy prescriptions that aren’t mere jargon, is to go for the jugular with her famed Clinton factory for oppo research. But the sad, pitiable fact is that no matter what Hillary accuses Trump of, he can respond instantly, in her own words, on video, that she is guilty of worse. Hit him for a loose and sybaritic lifestyle, will you? Think again. He can hit you for committing felonious acts against Bill’s girlfriends. Hit him for shaving corners on construction projects, and he can demand that you lay out the whole financial history of the Clinton Foundation. Trump says stupid things. Quote them in ads. Then wait for Rocky Marciano to bludgeon you with your email server, Benghazi, and Lewinski lies. He doesn’t have to do research. You’ve revealed the reality a hundred times in a hundred on-camera lies.

In what round will she fall? Every time the Clinton machine strikes like a cobra, the Trump mongoose can take her head off with barely a hundred dollars of research. That’s how exposed and vulnerable they are. A once formidable counterpuncher actually needs to learn a defensive crouch.

Before he even gets to the question of why you keep walking around bumping into things, coughing through tiny campaign events, and braying like a donkey at everyone who asks you a question.

Trump can do all this without saying anything anti-woman to you in person. You’ve provided all the ammunition. On film, digitally available, immediately viral on command.

Champions fall. Especially would-be champions who never were.

HOW THEY FELL.

Tyson.


Guy comes out of nowhere and knocks you on your ass.

Marciano.

He didn’t. Died in a plane crash. Don’t think about it, Hillary. You heard it here first.

AND THERE’s that little something extra. Who has it? You know.


I’m the Greatest. Best at Everything. Ever heard that before? He kind of was.

Sonny Liston was the Mike Tyson of his day. Cassius Clay, considered a lightweight amateur, beat him up to win the title. Liston got his second chance though. People thought he’d win, what with all his experience and power and whatnot. He went down in the first round. They called it a phantom punch because the camera angles couldn’t catch the blow that did it. All you had to see, though, was the ripple in Muhammed Ali’s chest muscles to understand the impact that occurred in fact. The amateur took down the invincible monster, in a single round.

THE ULTIMATE IMMUNITY FACTOR

The ability to take it and fight back to win.

THE LAST DEBATE BETWEEN THE DAMNED

She wants to be destroyed. Let him overwhelm her.

Okay. We admit it. What with all the horrific political news of late, we’ve been watching Netflix reruns of CSI Miami. This Caruso guy. Actually a pretty decent actor. A little creepy sometimes but good in his role.

On the creepy side, I put on my old super expensive sunglasses and tilted my head at my wife, who threatened to run me through with a steak knife. If anyone subsequenly runs me through with a steak knife, please ask the Salem police to ask my wife about steaks, knives, and dead husbands and so forth.

I like to think my impression was pretty good or she wouldn’t have been so creeped out by it.

Anyhow. The show itself is better than we remembered. Delco is a useless male slut. Emily Procter is a walking advertisement for not having plastic surgery while you’re still alive. Jonathan Togo is a study in not acting for fun and profit. The fat old white guy cop is your standard fat old white guy cop. I think his name is Bill or Frank or something. Like it matters. But the ME played by Khandi Alexander is as terrific as Caruso. She calls her corpses baby, and talks them through the trauma of autopsy. Everybody else is just a pain in the ass.

Ewe love her.

We love her.

Clarkson, May, and Hammond, the bleeding edge of Brit TV.

Clarkson, May, and Hammond, the bleeding edge of Brit TV.

Yes, they’re going to do it. Come all the way to the colonies for Spring Break and all the B&B (boobs and bums) the colonies have to offer.

Not to mention the motor vehicles.

And the beach bunny. If there’s still one left. Oh. Yes. One last slag.

She wants Jeremy. And May. And Hammond. She's kind of a slut.

She wants Jeremy. And May. And Hammond. She’s everybody’s girl.

Collars R Us.

Collars R Us.


Was there ever, has there ever been, anyone cooler than Clint Eastwood?

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You know the scene. Saw it three times today.

Nothing like a good piece of hickory.

There's always been an Establishment.

There’s always been an Establishment.

And all too rarely, somebody with bullet holes in his back who knows who they are and how to take them down.

Long walk. Many are now taking that walk.

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Got a long letter from my sister. 17 pages typewritten. I had asked her what she as a professional academic was doing to fight back against the antisemitism that has taken over the two places where she built her academic resume over a decade, Vassar and Cornell, both of which are listed in the top ten antisemitic campuses in the United States.

She sent me a hummingbird card and professed, as professors do, that she had no knowledge of antisemitic behaviors on campus.

I do not recall. I have no recollection of that. Not remembering that. And “What difference does it make at this point?”

Hasn’t read my books but pats me on the head for my cleverness at satire. Mildly upset that I don’t read her academic papers on gender studies.

So here, in the graphic above, is the interior of the card she sent me, absent the 17 pages. And in the interest of full disclosure, here’s the front of the card. I’m so touched. You?

Hummingbirds have no legs. They fly all the time. All. The. Time.

Hummingbirds have no legs. They fly all the time. Wings almost faster than time itself. Flying. All. The. Time.

But I’m also your huckleberry.

Say when.

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Thinking Buckley’s pretty proud in his grave of the nasty slanderous rag his brainchild has become. No more brain. Just child. Time to put the slavering neutered beast down.

A quick and necessary end.

A quick and necessary end.

Yeah. NR was born in a war, the deadly battle against Soviet communism and parallel totalitarian impulses at home. The USSR was defeated and destroyed, which removed the original purpose. But if you’re a warrior you need an enemy. “We have always been at war with Eurasia.” We have always been at war with Trump because no one here can last long without the daily two minutes hate. We have always been at war with Trump because all animals are equal, only some are more equal than others, especially if your name is Napoleon Williamson.

Vogue

Does she pose? Does she Vogue? Oh yes she does.

Does she pose? Does she Vogue? Oh yes she does. “I’m Art Deco, dahling.”

I think about Madonna almost never. Love Camille Paglia but have always brushed aside her infatuation with the Material Girl. Which is why it’s significant that our new Iris reminded both me and my wife of this old video.

Hard to prove because like all cats she closes her eyes when the flash goes off. All we can offer is a hint of how she Vogues her ass off except when she wants more soft cat food.

I'm here. Take my picture. Stash that flash.

I’m here. Take my picture. Stash that flash.

Hard to catch her poses. Quick quick quick.

Don't touch me. I'm thinking up my next pose.

Don’t touch me. I’m thinking up my next pose.

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She knows you know she knows you’re looking at her. Fascinatedly.

Killed two mice so far. Shot their nooses. The Good. Killed two mice so far. Shot them down. She is fast, fast with a mouse. And getting faster with the ugly.

Iris is the Angel. Raven is the devil with great big eyes. She’s been afraid of me until tonight, when I held her for ten minutes. She doesn’t know I’ll beat the devil out of her. Not kidding. We got both because I hate what people do to black cats. Seen too many of them squashed on the road. Won’t happen on my watch again. Raven started purring in my lap. She might be getting it.

Raven. Coal black. Why we did this whole thing: can’t stand seeing black cats mutilated deliberately on the road by old boys who think they’re bad luck. For me they’ve always been great luck.

Racen killed a mouse too. She ate it.

The Bad. Raven killed a mouse too. She ate it.

And then there was The Ugly. Who was the guy like the guy in Road Warrior who had to be chained in front of the big truck with a face mask on him. That would be Elliott since the little ones arrived. Monster. Barbaric. But if I call him he does respond.

He's the king. Fastest, most aggressive, most difficult, most loyalty to me.

He’s the king. Fastest, most aggressive, most difficult, most loyalty to me.

Ring. Fitzgerald referred to his face as a ruined cathedral.

Ring. Fitzgerald referred to his face as a ruined cathedral.

Amazingly Simple Except for the Side Effects: A tendency to splutter in aristocratic disdain, a violent gush of quotes from Bartlett’s, a list of distinguished articles published in National Review and Commentary, reviews of classical music performances as abstruse and opaque as you’d find of audio equipment in the better stereo publications, and such extended repetition of references to Burke, the Federalist papers, and your male lovers at Oxford that no one should doubt your superiority unless you suddenly keel over dead from pure bombast and pomposity. And a possibly fatal identification with the tiny conservative faculties of Goucher, Vassar, and, of course, Yale. And all of a sudden Princeton.

The Works of Ring Lardner.

With an aside at the beginning for all you dedicated fellers. When I was at the Hovvid place, the profs told me one of the five great novels of the twentieth century was by a close friend of Hemingway named Ford Madox Ford (really?), who had invented a style of narrative that showed the truth of what was going on underneath a first person narration by a man who was essentially clueless. He was the fool of his own story. (Hmmm.) The book was the Good Soldier (1915) and it was as advertised. A man of dull perception is recounting a years long relationship between two affluent couples without the slightest idea that he is specifying the particulars of his own cuckolding. Totally unaware. Wow. Cool. Modern writing at its best. Subtle language, good vocabulary, and devastating irony. It makes you feel smart to see the nuances. You’re learning about great lit.

One problem. I had a sense of hick vulgarian deja vu. Had a nagging sense that I’d encountered this narrative technique before. Where? How? Aha. Ring Lardner did it all the time. Not just once but multiple times. Lardner was a newspaper humorist sports hack who spun yarns for, among others, the Saturday Evening Post. As a guy who wrote under deadlines from day to day, he loved the epistolary form. Many of his works were masterpieces of a dim narrator revealing much about his familiars and even more about his limitations. Written in the most colloquial language, with no pretense of being literary. Since I read everyone and everything, usually on a radiator, I already knew and loved Lardner, including his brilliantly titled “How to Write Short Stories.” (Never got better advice till I stumbled across Max Shulman’s treatise on “How to Write.”)

So. Anyway. Ford Madox Ford was in the twentieth century elite and Ring Lardner was remembered and revered only by F. Scott Fitzgerald, who knew genius when he saw it, and a bunch of baseball fans who cling to his old stories like spike marks in the forgotten infields of the original American Pastime.

For the record, the Good Soldier was published in 1915. The series of chapters that constituted “The Busher’s Letters Home,” or “You Know Me Al” were published in 1914. Something to bear in mind, you starched and patronizing Buckleyites. Lardner was a genius. Ford was a guy who was imitating the spare and ironic prose that was the mode of the day. (Pay attention in particular, those of you

What Fitzgerald said about Ring he would never have said about Ford. When Lardner died in 1933 at the age of 48, Fitzgerald wrote an elegy “Ring,” for The New Republic:

“At no time did I feel that I had known him enough, or that anyone knew him – it was not the feeling that there was more stuff in him and that it should come out, it was rather a qualitative difference, it was rather as though, due to some inadequacy in oneself, one had not penetrated to something unsolved, new and unsaid. That is why one wishes that Ring had written down a larger proportion of what was in his mind and heart. It would have saved him longer for us, and that is itself would be something. But I would like to know what it was, and now I will go on wishing – what did Ring want, how did he want things to be, how did he think things were?

“A great and good American is dead. Let us not obscure him by flowers but walk up and look at that fine medallion, all abraded by sorrows that perhaps we are not equipped to understand. Ring made no enemies, because he was kind, and to many millions he gave release and delight.”

Herewith, a taste of the prescient and incredibly acute Lardner known as Alibi Ike. Anything seen precociously and presciently familiar?

Lardner. You Know Me Al.

The Opening Pitch of You Know Me Al.

Ch. A Busher’s Letters Home

Terre Haute, Indiana, September 6.

FRIEND AL: Well, Al old pal I suppose you seen in the paper where I been sold to the White Sox. Believe me Al it comes as a surprise to me and I bet it did to all you good old pals down home. You could of knocked me over with a feather when the old man come up to me and says Jack I’ve sold you to the Chicago Americans.

I didn’t have no idea that anything like that was coming off. For five minutes I was just dum and couldn’t say a word.

He says We aren’t getting what you are worth but I want you to go up to that big league and show those birds that there is a Central League on the map. He says Go and pitch the ball you been pitching down here and there won’t be nothing to it. He says All you need is the nerve and Walsh or no one else won’t have nothing on you.

So I says I would do the best I could and I thanked him for the treatment I got in Terre Haute. They always was good to me here and though I did more than my share I always felt that my work was appresiated. We are finishing second and I done most of it. I can’t help but be proud of my first year’s record in professional baseball and you know I am not boasting when I say that Al.

Well Al it will seem funny to be up there in the big show when I never was really in a big city before. But I guess I seen enough of life not to be scared of the high buildings eh Al?

I will just give them what I got and if they don’t like it they can send me back to the old Central and I will be perfectly satisfied.

I didn’t know anybody was looking me over, but one of the boys told me that Jack Doyle the White Sox scout was down here looking at me when Grand Rapids was here. I beat them twice in that serious. You know Grand Rapids never had a chance with me when I was right. I shut them out in the first game and they got one run in the second on account of Flynn misjudging that fly ball. Anyway Doyle liked my work and he wired Comiskey to buy me. Comiskey come back with an offer and they excepted it. I don’t know how much they got but anyway I am sold to the big league and believe me Al I will make good.

Well Al I will be home in a few days and we will have some of the good old times. Regards to all the boys and tell them I am still their pal and not all swelled up over this big league business.

Your pal, JACK.

Chicago, Illinois, December 14.

OLD PAL: Well Al I have not got much to tell you. As you know Comiskey wrote me that if I was up in Chi this month to drop in and see him. So I got here Thursday morning and went to his office in the afternoon. His office is out to the ball park and believe me its some park and some office.

I went in and asked for Comiskey and a young fellow says He is not here now but can I do anything for you? I told him who I am and says I had an engagement to see Comiskey. He says The boss is out of town hunting and did I have to see him personally?

I says I wanted to see about signing a contract. He told me I could sign as well with him as Comiskey and he took me into another office. He says What salary did you think you ought to get? and I says I wouldn’t think of playing ball in the big league for less than three thousand dollars per annum. He laughed and says You don’t want much. You better stick round town till the boss comes back. So here I am and it is costing me a dollar a day to stay at the hotel on Cottage Grove Avenue and that don’t include my meals.

I generally eat at some of the cafes round the hotel but I had supper downtown last night and it cost me fifty-five cents. If Comiskey don’t come back soon I won’t have no more money left.

Speaking of money I won’t sign no contract unless I get the salary you and I talked of, three thousand dollars. You know what I was getting in Terre Haute, a hundred and fifty a month, and I know it’s going to cost me a lot more to live here. I made inquiries round here and find I can get board and room for eight dollars a week but I will be out of town half the time and will have to pay for my room when I am away or look up a new one when I come back. Then I will have to buy cloths to wear on the road in places like New York. When Comiskey comes back I will name him three thousand dollars as my lowest figure and I guess he will come through when he sees I am in ernest. I heard that Walsh was getting twice as much as that.

The papers says Comiskey will be back here sometime to-morrow. He has been hunting with the president of the league so he ought to feel pretty good. But I don’t care how he feels. I am going to get a contract for three thousand and if he don’t want to give it to me he can do the other thing. You know me Al.

Yours truly, JACK.

Chicago, Illinois, December 16.

DEAR FRIEND AL: Well I will be home in a couple of days now but I wanted to write you and let you know how I come out with Comiskey. I signed my contract yesterday afternoon. He is a great old fellow Al and no wonder everybody likes him. He says Young man will you have a drink? But I was to smart and wouldn’t take nothing. He says You was with Terre Haute? I says Yes I was. He says Doyle tells me you were pretty wild. I says Oh no I got good control. He says well do you want to sign? I says Yes if I get my figure. He asks What is my figure and I says three thousand dollars per annum. He says Don’t you want the office furniture too? Then he says I thought you was a young ballplayer and I didn’t know you wanted to buy my park.

We kidded each other back and forth like that a while and then he says You better go out and get the air and come back when you feel better. I says I feel O.K. now and I want to sign a contract because I have got to get back to Bedford. Then he calls the secretary and tells him to make out my contract. He give it to me and it calls for two hundred and fifty a month. He says You know we always have a city serious here in the fall where a fellow picks up a good bunch of money. I hadn’t thought of that so I signed up. My yearly salary will be fifteen hundred dollars besides what the city serious brings me. And that is only for the first year. I will demand three thousand or four thousand dollars next year.

I would of started home on the evening train but I ordered a suit of cloths from a tailor over on Cottage Grove and it won’t be done till to-morrow. It’s going to cost me twenty bucks but it ought to last a long time. Regards to Frank and the bunch.

Your Pal, JACK.

Paso Robles, California, March 2.

OLD PAL AL: Well Al we been in this little berg now a couple of days and its bright and warm all the time just like June. Seems funny to have it so warm this early in March but I guess this California climate is all they said about it and then some.

It would take me a week to tell you about our trip out here. We came on a Special Train De Lukes and it was some train. Every place we stopped there was crowds down to the station to see us go through and all the people looked me over like I was a actor or something. I guess my hight and shoulders attracted their attention. Well Al we finally got to Oakland which is across part of the ocean from Frisco. We will be back there later on for practice games.

We stayed in Oakland a few hours and then took a train for here. It was another night in a sleeper and believe me I was tired of sleepers before we got here. I have road one night at a time but this was four straight nights. You know Al I am not built right for a sleeping car birth.

The hotel here is a great big place and got good eats. We got in at breakfast time and I made a B line for the dining room. Kid Gleason who is a kind of asst. manager to Callahan come in and sat down with me. He says Leave something for the rest of the boys because they will be just as hungry as you. He says Ain’t you afraid you will cut your throat with that knife. He says There ain’t no extra charge for using the forks. He says You shouldn’t ought to eat so much because you’re overweight now. I says You may think I am fat, but it’s all solid bone and muscle. He says Yes I suppose it’s all solid bone from the neck up. I guess he thought I would get sore but I will let them kid me now because they will take off their hats to me when they see me work.

Manager Callahan called us all to his room after breakfast and give us a lecture. He says there would be no work for us the first day but that we must all take a long walk over the hills. He also says we must not take the training trip as a joke. Then the colored trainer give us our suits and I went to my room and tried mine on. I ain’t a bad looking guy in the White Sox uniform Al. I will have my picture taken and send you boys some.

My roommate is Allen a lefthander from the Coast League. He don’t look nothing like a pitcher but you can’t never tell about them dam left handers. Well I didn’t go on the long walk because I was tired out. Walsh stayed at the hotel too and when he seen me he says Why didn’t you go with the bunch? I says I was too tired. He says Well when Callahan comes back you better keep out of sight or tell him you are sick. I says I don’t care nothing for Callahan. He says No but Callahan is crazy about you. He says You better obey orders and you will git along better. I guess Walsh thinks I am some rube.

When the bunch come back Callahan never said a word to me but Gleason come up and says Where was you? I told him I was too tired to go walking. He says Well I will borrow a wheelbarrow some place and push you round. He says Do you sit down when you pitch? I let him kid me because he has not saw my stuff yet.

Next morning half the bunch mostly vetrans went to the ball park which isn’t no better than the one we got at home. Most of them was vetrans as I say but I was in the bunch. That makes things look pretty good for me don’t it Al? We tossed the ball round and hit fungos and run round and then Callahan asks Scott and Russell and Ito warm up easy and pitch a few to the batters. It was warm and I felt pretty good so I warmed up pretty good. Scott pitched to them first and kept laying them right over with nothing on them. I don’t believe a man gets any batting practice that way. So I went in and after I lobbed a few over I cut loose my fast one. Lord was to bat and he ducked out of the way and then throwed his bat to the bench. Callahan says What’s the matter Harry? Lord says I forgot to pay up my life insurance. He says I ain’t ready for Walter Johnson’s July stuff.

Well Al I will make them think I am Walter Johnson before I get through with them. But Callahan come out to me and says What are you trying to do kill somebody? He says Save your smoke because you’re going to need it later on. He says Go easy with the boys at first or I won’t have no batters. But he was laughing and I guess he was pleased to see the stuff I had.

There is a dance in the hotel to-night and I am up in my room writing this in my underwear while I get my suit pressed. I got it all mussed up coming out here. I don’t know what shoes to wear. I asked Gleason and he says Wear your baseball shoes and if any of the girls gets fresh with you spike them. I guess he was kidding me.

Write and tell me all the news about home.

Yours truly, JACK.

Paso Robles, California, March 7.

FRIEND AL: I showed them something out there to-day Al. We had a game between two teams. One team was made up of most of the regulars and the other was made up of recruts. I pitched three innings for the recruts and shut the old birds out. I held them to one hit and that was a ground ball that the recrut shortstop Johnson ought to of ate up. I struck Collins out and he is one of the best batters in the bunch. I used my fast ball most of the while but showed them a few spitters and they missed them a foot. I guess I must of got Walsh’s goat with my spitter because him and I walked back to the hotel together and he talked like he was kind of jealous. He says You will have to learn to cover up your spitter. He says I could stand a mile away and tell when you was going to throw it. He says Some of these days I will learn you how to cover it up. I guess Al I know how to cover it up all right without Walsh learning me.

I always sit at the same table in the dining room along with Gleason and Collins and Bodie and Fournier and Allen the young lefthander I told you about. I feel sorry for him because he never says a word. To-night at supper Bodie says How did I look to-day Kid? Gleason says Just like you always do in the spring. You looked like a cow. Gleason seems to have the whole bunch scared of him and they let him say anything he wants to. I let him kid me to but I ain’t scared of him. Collins then says to me You got some fast ball there boy. I says I was not as fast to-day as I am when I am right. He says Well then I don’t want to hit against you when you are right. Then Gleason says to Collins Cut that stuff out. Then he says to me Don’t believe what he tells you boy. If the pitchers in this league weren’t no faster than you I would still be playing ball and I would be the best hitter in the country.

After supper Gleason went out on the porch with me. He says Boy you have got a little stuff but you have got a lot to learn. He says You field your position like a wash woman and you don’t hold the runners up. He says When Chase was on second base to-day he got such a lead on you that the little catcher couldn’t of shot him out at third with a rifle. I says They all thought I fielded my position all right in the Central League. He says Well if you think you do it all right you better go back to the Central League where you are appresiated. I says You can’t send me back there because you could not get waivers. He says Who would claim you? I says St. Louis and Boston and New York.

You know Al what Smith told me this winter. Gleason says Well if you’re not willing to learn St. Louis and Boston and New York can have you and the first time you pitch against us we will steal fifty bases. Then he quit kidding and asked me to go to the field with him early to-morrow morning and he would learn me some things. I don’t think he can learn me nothing but I promised I would go with him.

There is a little blonde kid in the hotel here who took a shine to me at the dance the other night but I am going to leave the skirts alone. She is real society and a swell dresser and she wants my picture. Regards to all the boys.

Your friend, JACK.

P.S. The boys thought they would be smart to-night and put something over on me. A boy brought me a telegram and I opened it and it said You are sold to Jackson in the Cotton States League. For just a minute they had me going but then I happened to think that Jackson is in Michigan and there’s no Cotton States League round there.

Paso Robles, California, March 9.

DEAR FRIEND AL: You have no doubt read the good news in the papers before this reached you. I have been picked to go to Frisco with the first team. We play practice games up there about two weeks while the second club plays in Los Angeles. Poor Allen had to go with the second club. There’s two other recrut pitchers with our part of the team but my name was first on the list so it looks like I had made good. I knowed they would like my stuff when they seen it. We leave here to-night. You got the first team’s address so you will know where to send my mail. Callahan goes with us and Gleason goes with the second club. Him and I have got to be pretty good pals and I wish he was going with us even if he don’t let me eat like I want to. He told me this morning to remember all he had learned me and to keep working hard. He didn’t learn me nothing I didn’t know before but I let him think so.

The little blonde don’t like to see me leave here. She lives in Detroit and I may see her when I go there. She wants me to write but I guess I better not give her no encouragement.

Well Al I will write you a long letter from Frisco.

Yours truly, JACK.

Oakland, California, March 19.

DEAR OLD PAL: They have gave me plenty of work here all right. I have pitched four times but have not went over five innings yet. I worked against Oakland two times and against Frisco two times and only three runs have been scored off me. They should only ought to of had one but Bodie misjudged a easy fly ball in Frisco and Weaver made a wild peg in Oakland that let in a run. I am not using much but my fast ball but I have got a world of speed and they can’t foul me when I am right. I whiffed eight men in five innings in Frisco yesterday and could of did better than that if I had of cut loose.

Manager Callahan is a funny guy and I don’t understand him sometimes. I can’t figure out if he is kidding or in ernest. We road back to Oakland on the ferry together after yesterday’s game and he says Don’t you never throw a slow ball? I says I don’t need no slow ball with my spitter and my fast one. He says No of course you don’t need it but if I was you I would get one of the boys to learn it to me. He says And you better watch the way the boys fields their positions and holds up the runners. He says To see you work a man might think they had a rule in the Central League forbidding a pitcher from leaving the box or looking toward first base.

I told him the Central didn’t have no rule like that. He says And I noticed you taking your wind up when What’s His Name was on second base there to-day. I says Yes I got more stuff when I wind up. He says Of course you have but if you wind up like that with Cobb on base he will steal your watch and chain. I says Maybe Cobb can’t get on base when I work against him. He says That’s right and maybe San Francisco Bay is made of grapejuice. Then he walks away from me.

He give one of the youngsters a awful bawling out for something he done in the game at supper last night. If he ever talks to me like he done to him I will take a punch at him. You know me Al.

I come over to Frisco last night with some of the boys and we took in the sights. Frisco is some live town Al. We went all through China Town and the Barbers’ Coast. Seen lots of swell dames but they was all painted up. They have beer out here that they call steam beer. I had a few glasses of it and it made me logey. A glass of that Terre Haute beer would go pretty good right now.

We leave here for Los Angeles in a few days and I will write you from there. This is some country Al and I would love to play ball round here.

Your Pal, JACK.

P.S–I got a letter from the little blonde and I suppose I got to answer it.

Los Angeles, California, March 26

FRIEND AL: Only four more days of sunny California and then we start back East. We got exhibition games in Yuma and El Paso, Texas and Oklahoma City and then we stop over in St. Joe, Missouri, for three days before we go home. You know Al we open the season in Cleveland and we won’t be in Chi no more than just passing through. We don’t play there till April eighteenth and I guess I will work in that serious all right against Detroit. Then I will be glad to have you and the boys come up and watch me as you suggested in your last letter.

I got another letter from the little blonde. She has went back to Detroit but she give me her address and telephone number and believe me Al I am going to look her up when we get there the twenty-ninth of April.

She is a stenographer and was out here with her uncle and aunt.

I had a run in with Kelly last night and it looked like I would have to take a wallop at him but the other boys seperated us. He is a bush outfielder from the New England League. We was playing poker. You know the boys plays poker a good deal but this was the first time I got in. I was having pretty good luck and was about four bucks to the good and I was thinking of quitting because I was tired and sleepy. Then Kelly opened the pot for fifty cents and I stayed. I had three sevens. No one else stayed. Kelly stood pat and I drawed two cards. And I catched my fourth seven. He bet fifty cents but I felt pretty safe even if he did have a pat hand. So I called him. I took the money and told them I was through.

Lord and some of the boys laughed but Kelly got nasty and begun to pan me for quitting and for the way I played. I says Well I won the pot didn’t I? He says Yes and he called me something. I says I got a notion to take a punch at you.

He says Oh you have have you? And I come back at him. I says Yes I have have I? I would of busted his jaw if they hadn’t stopped me. You know me Al.

I worked here two times once against Los Angeles and once against Venice. I went the full nine innings both times and Venice beat me four to two. I could of beat them easy with any kind of support. I walked a couple of guys in the fourth and Chase drops a throw and Collins lets a fly ball get away from him. At that I would of shut them out if I had wanted to cut loose. After the game Callahan says You didn’t look so good in there to-day. I says I didn’t cut loose. He says Well you been working pretty near three weeks now and you ought to be in shape to cut loose. I says Oh I am in shape all right. He says Well don’t work no harder than you have to or you might get hurt and then the league would blow up. I don’t know if he was kidding me or not but I guess he thinks pretty well of me because he works me lots oftener than Walsh or Scott or Benz.

I will try to write you from Yuma, Texas, but we don’t stay there only a day and I may not have time for a long letter.

Yours truly, JACK.

Yuma, Arizona, April 1.

DEAR OLD AL: Just a line to let you know we are on our way back East. This place is in Arizona and it sure is sandy. They haven’t got no regular ball club here and we play a pick-up team this afternoon. Callahan told me I would have to work. He says I am using you because we want to get through early and I know you can beat them quick. That is the first time he has said anything like that and I guess he is wiseing up that I got the goods.

We was talking about the Athaletics this morning and Callahan says None of you fellows pitch right to Baker. I was talking to Lord and Scott afterward and I say to Scott How do you pitch to Baker? He says I use my fadeaway. I says How do you throw it? He says Just like you throw a fast ball to anybody else. I says Why do you call it a fadeaway then? He says Because when I throw it to Baker it fades away over the fence.

This place is full of Indians and I wish you could see them Al. They don’t look nothing like the Indians we seen in that show last summer.

Your old pal, JACK.

Oklahoma City, April 4.

FRIEND AL: Coming out of Amarillo last night I and Lord and Weaver was sitting at a table in the dining car with a old lady. None of us were talking to her but she looked me over pretty careful and seemed to kind of like my looks. Finally she says Are you boys with some football club? Lord nor Weaver didn’t say nothing so I thought it was up to me and I says No mam this is the Chicago White Sox Ball Club. She says I knew you were athaletes. I says Yes I guess you could spot us for athaletes. She says Yes indeed and specially you. You certainly look healthy. I says You ought to see me stripped. I didn’t see nothing funny about that but I thought Lord and Weaver would die laughing. Lord had to get up and leave the table and he told everybody what I said.

All the boys wanted me to play poker on the way here but I told them I didn’t feel good. I know enough to quit when I am ahead Al. Callahan and I sat down to breakfast all alone this morning. He says Boy why don’t you get to work? I says What do you mean? Ain’t I working? He says You ain’t improving none. You have got the stuff to make a good pitcher but you don’t go after bunts and you don’t cover first base and you don’t watch the baserunners. He made me kind of sore talking that way and I says Oh I guess I can get along all right.

He says Well I am going to put it up to you. I am going to start you over in St. Joe day after to-morrow and I want you to show me something. I want you to cut loose with all you’ve got and I want you to get round the infield a little and show them you aren’t tied in that box. I says Oh I can field my position if I want to. He says Well you better want to or I will have to ship you back to the sticks. Then he got up and left. He didn’t scare me none Al. They won’t ship me to no sticks after the way I showed on this trip and even if they did they couldn’t get no waivers on me.

Some of the boys have begun to call me Four Sevens but it don’t bother me none.

Yours truly, JACK.

St. Joe, Missouri, April 7.

FRIEND AL: It rained yesterday so I worked to-day instead and St. Joe done well to get three hits. They couldn’t of scored if we had played all week. I give a couple of passes but I catched a guy flatfooted off of first base and I come up with a couple of bunts and throwed guys out. When the game was over Callahan says That’s the way I like to see you work. You looked better to-day than you looked on the whole trip. Just once you wound up with a man on but otherwise you was all O.K. So I guess my job is cinched Al and I won’t have to go to New York or St. Louis. I would rather be in Chi anyway because it is near home. I wouldn’t care though if they traded me to Detroit. I hear from Violet right along and she says she can’t hardly wait till I come to Detroit. She says she is strong for the Tigers but she will pull for me when I work against them. She is nuts over me and I guess she has saw lots of guys to.

I sent her a stickpin from Oklahoma City but I can’t spend no more dough on her till after our first payday the fifteenth of the month. I had thirty bucks on me when I left home and I only got about ten left including the five spot I won in the poker game. I have to tip the waiters about thirty cents a day and I seen about twenty picture shows on the coast beside getting my cloths pressed a couple of times.

We leave here to-morrow night and arrive in Chi the next morning. The second club joins us there and then that night we go to Cleveland to open up. I asked one of the reporters if he knowed who was going to pitch the opening game and he says it would be Scott or Walsh but I guess he don’t know much about it.

These reporters travel all round the country with the team all season and send in telegrams about the game every night. I ain’t seen no Chi papers so I don’t know what they been saying about me. But I should worry eh Al? Some of them are pretty nice fellows and some of them got the swell head. They hang round with the old fellows and play poker most of the time.

Will write you from Cleveland. You will see in the paper if I pitch the opening game.

Your old pal, JACK.

Cleveland, Ohio, April 10.

OLD FRIEND AL: Well Al we are all set to open the season this afternoon. I have just ate breakfast and I am sitting in the lobby of the hotel. I eat at a little lunch counter about a block from here and I saved seventy cents on breakfast. You see Al they give us a dollar a meal and if we don’t want to spend that much all right. Our rooms at the hotel are paid for.

The Cleveland papers says Walsh or Scott will work for us this afternoon. I asked Callahan if there was any chance of me getting into the first game and he says I hope not. I don’t know what he meant but he may surprise these reporters and let me pitch. I will beat them Al. Lajoie and Jackson is supposed to be great batters but the bigger they are the harder they fall.

The second team joined us yesterday in Chi and we practiced a little. Poor Allen was left in Chi last night with four others of the recrut pitchers. Looks pretty good for me eh Al? I only seen Gleason for a few minutes on the train last night. He says, Well you ain’t took off much weight. You’re hog fat. I says Oh I ain’t fat. I didn’t need to take off no weight. He says One good thing about it the club don’t have to engage no birth for you because you spend all your time in the dining car. We kidded along like that a while and then the trainer rubbed my arm and I went to bed. Well Al I just got time to have my suit pressed before noon.

Yours truly, JACK.

Cleveland, Ohio, April 11.

FRIEND AL: Well Al I suppose you know by this time that I did not pitch and that we got licked. Scott was in there and he didn’t have nothing. When they had us beat four to one in the eight inning Callahan told me to go out and warm up and he put a batter in for Scott in our ninth. But Cleveland didn’t have to play their ninth so I got no chance to work. But looks like he means to start me in one of the games here. We got three more to play. Maybe I will pitch this afternoon. I got a postcard from Violet. She says Beat them Naps. I will give them a battle Al if I get a chance.

Glad to hear you boys have fixed it up to come to Chi during the Detroit serious. I will ask Callahan when he is going to pitch me and let you know. Thanks Al for the papers.

Your friend, JACK.

St. Louis, Missouri, April 15.

FRIEND AL: Well Al I guess I showed them. I only worked one inning but I guess them Browns is glad I wasn’t in there no longer than that. They had us beat seven to one in the sixth and Callahan pulls Benz out. I honestly felt sorry for him but he didn’t have nothing, not a thing. They was hitting him so hard I thought they would score a hundred runs. A righthander name Bumgardner was pitching for them and he didn’t look to have nothing either but we ain’t got much of a batting team Al. I could hit better than some of them regulars. Anyway Callahan called Benz to the bench and sent for me. I was down in the corner warming up with Kuhn. I wasn’t warmed up good but you know I got the nerve Al and I run right out there like I meant business. There was a man on second and nobody out when I come in. I didn’t know who was up there but I found out afterward it was Shotten. He’s the centerfielder. I was cold and I walked him. Then I got warmed up good and I made Johnston look like a boob. I give him three fast balls and he let two of them go by and missed the other one. I would of handed him a spitter but Schalk kept signing for fast ones and he knows more about them batters than me. Anyway I whiffed Johnston. Then up come Williams and I tried to make him hit at a couple of bad ones. I was in the hole with two balls and nothing and come right across the heart with my fast one. I wish you could of saw the hop on it. Williams hit it right straight up and Lord was camped under it. Then up come Pratt the best hitter on their club. You know what I done to him don’t you Al? I give him one spitter and another he didn’t strike at that was a ball. Then I come back with two fast ones and Mister Pratt was a dead baby. And you notice they didn’t steal no bases neither.

In our half of the seventh inning Weaver and Schalk got on and I was going up there with a stick when Callahan calls me back and sends Easterly up. I don’t know what kind of managing you call that. I hit good on the training trip and he must of knew they had no chance to score off me in the innings they had left while they were liable to murder his other pitchers. I come back to the bench pretty hot and I says You’re making a mistake. He says If Comiskey had wanted you to manage this team he would of hired you.

Then Easterly pops out and I says Now I guess you’re sorry you didn’t let me hit. That sent him right up in the air and he bawled me awful. Honest Al I would of cracked him right in the jaw if we hadn’t been right out where everybody could of saw us. Well he sent Cicotte in to finish and they didn’t score no more and we didn’t either.

I road down in the car with Gleason. He says Boy you shouldn’t ought to talk like that to Cal. Some day he will lose his temper and bust you one. I says He won’t never bust me. I says He didn’t have no right to talk like that to me. Gleason says I suppose you think he’s going to laugh and smile when we lost four out of the first five games. He says Wait till to-night and then go up to him and let him know you are sorry you sassed him. I says I didn’t sass him and I ain’t sorry.

So after supper I seen Callahan sitting in the lobby and I went over and sit down by him. I says When are you going to let me work? He says I wouldn’t never let you work only my pitchers are all shot to pieces. Then I told him about you boys coming up from Bedford to watch me during the Detroit serious and he says Well I will start you in the second game against Detroit. He says But I wouldn’t if I had any pitchers. He says A girl could get out there and pitch better than some of them have been doing.

So you see Al I am going to pitch on the nineteenth. I hope you guys can be up there and I will show you something. I know I can beat them Tigers and I will have to do it even if they are Violet’s team.

I notice that New York and Boston got trimmed to-day so I suppose they wish Comiskey would ask for waivers on me. No chance Al.

Your old pal, JACK.

P.S.–We play eleven games in Chi and then go to Detroit. So I will see the little girl on the twenty-ninth.

Oh you Violet.

Chicago, Illinois, April 19.

DEAR OLD PAL: Well Al it’s just as well you couldn’t come. They beat me and I am writing you this so as you will know the truth about the game and not get a bum steer from what you read in the papers.

I had a sore arm when I was warming up and Callahan should never ought to of sent me in there. And Schalk kept signing for my fast ball and I kept giving it to him because I thought he ought to know something about the batters. Weaver and Lord and all of them kept kicking them round the infield and Collins and Bodie couldn’t catch nothing.

Callahan ought never to of left me in there when he seen how sore my arm was. Why, I couldn’t of threw hard enough to break a pain of glass my arm was so sore.

They sure did run wild on the bases. Cobb stole four and Bush and Crawford and Veach about two apiece. Schalk didn’t even make a peg half the time. I guess he was trying to throw me down.

The score was sixteen to two when Callahan finally took me out in the eighth and I don’t know how many more they got. I kept telling him to take me out when I seen how bad I was but he wouldn’t do it. They started bunting in the fifth and Lord and Chase just stood there and didn’t give me no help at all.

I was all O.K. till I had the first two men out in the first inning. Then Crawford come up. I wanted to give him a spitter but Schalk signs me for the fast one and I give it to him. The ball didn’t hop much and Crawford happened to catch it just right. At that Collins ought to of catched the ball. Crawford made three bases and up come Cobb. It was the first time I ever seen him. He hollered at me right off the reel. He says You better walk me you busher. I says I will walk you back to the bench. Schalk signs for a spitter and I gives it to him and Cobb misses it.

Then instead of signing for another one Schalk asks for a fast one and I shook my head no but he signed for it again and yells Put something on it. So I throwed a fast one and Cobb hits it right over second base. I don’t know what Weaver was doing but he never made a move for the ball. Crawford scored and Cobb was on first base. First thing I knowed he had stole second while I held the ball. Callahan yells Wake up out there and I says Why don’t your catcher tell me when they are going to steal. Schalk says Get in there and pitch and shut your mouth. Then I got mad and walked Veach and Moriarity but before I walked Moriarty Cobb and Veach pulled a double steal on Schalk. Gainor lifts a fly and Lord drops it and two more come in. Then Stanage walks and I whiffs their pitcher.

I come in to the bench and Callahan says Are your friends from Bedford up here? I was pretty sore and I says Why don’t you get a catcher? He says We don’t need no catcher when you’re pitching because you can’t get nothing past their bats. Then he says You better leave your uniform in here when you go out next inning or Cobb will steal it off your back. I says My arm is sore. He says Use your other one and you’ll do just as good.

Gleason says Who do you want to warm up? Callahan says Nobody. He says Cobb is going to lead the league in batting and basestealing anyway so we might as well give him a good start. I was mad enough to punch his jaw but the boys winked at me not to do nothing.

Well I got some support in the next inning and nobody got on. Between innings I says Well I guess I look better now don’t I? Callahan says Yes but you wouldn’t look so good if Collins hadn’t jumped up on the fence and catched that one off Crawford. That’s all the encouragement I got Al.

Cobb come up again to start the third and when Schalk signs me for a fast one I shakes my head. Then Schalk says All right pitch anything you want to. I pitched a spitter and Cobb bunts it right at me. I would of threw him out a block but I stubbed my toe in a rough place and fell down. This is the roughest ground I ever seen Al. Veach bunts and for a wonder Lord throws him out. Cobb goes to second and honest Al I forgot all about him being there and first thing I knowed he had stole third. Then Moriarity hits a fly ball to Bodie and Cobb scores though Bodie ought to of threw him out twenty feet.

They batted all round in the fourth inning and scored four or five more. Crawford got the luckiest three-base hit I ever see. He popped one way up in the air and the wind blowed it against the fence. The wind is something fierce here Al. At that Collins ought to of got under it.

I was looking at the bench all the time expecting Callahan to call me in but he kept hollering Go on and pitch. Your friends wants to see you pitch.

Well Al I don’t know how they got the rest of their runs but they had more luck than any team I ever seen. And all the time Jennings was on the coaching line yelling like a Indian. Some day Al I’m going to punch his jaw.

After Veach had hit one in the eight Callahan calls me to the bench and says You’re through for the day. I says It’s about time you found out my arm was sore. He says I ain’t worrying about your arm but I’m afraid some of our outfielders will run their legs off and some of them poor infielders will get killed. He says The reporters just sent me a message saying they had run out of paper. Then he says I wish some of the other clubs had pitchers like you so we could hit once in a while. He says Go in the clubhouse and get your arm rubbed off. That’s the only way I can get Jennings sore he says.

Well Al that’s about all there was to it. It will take two or three stamps to send this but I want you to know the truth about it. The way my arm was I ought never to of went in there.

Yours truly, JACK.

Chicago, Illinois, April 25.

FRIEND AL: Just a line to let you know I am still on earth. My arm feels pretty good again and I guess maybe I will work in Detroit. Violet writes that she can’t hardly wait to see me. Looks like I got a regular girl now Al. We go up there the twenty-ninth and maybe I won’t be glad to see her. I hope she will be out to the game the day I pitch. I will pitch the way I want to next time and them Tigers won’t have such a picnic.

I suppose you seen what the Chicago reporters said about that game. I will punch a couple of their jaws when I see them.

Your pal, JACK.

Chicago, Illinois, April 29.

DEAR OLD AL: Well Al it’s all over. The club went to Detroit last night and I didn’t go along. Callahan told me to report to Comiskey this morning and I went up to the office at ten o’clock. He give me my pay to date and broke the news. I am sold to Frisco.

I asked him how they got waivers on me and he says Oh there was no trouble about that because they all heard how you tamed the Tigers. Then he patted me on the back and says Go out there and work hard boy and maybe you’ll get another chance some day. I was kind of choked up so I walked out of the office.

I ain’t had no fair deal Al and I ain’t going to no Frisco. I will quit the game first and take that job Charley offered me at the billiard hall.

I expect to be in Bedford in a couple of days. I have got to pack up first and settle with my landlady about my room here which I engaged for all season thinking I would be treated square. I am going to rest and lay round home a while and try to forget this rotten game. Tell the boys about it Al and tell them I never would of got let out if I hadn’t worked with a sore arm.

I feel sorry for that little girl up in Detroit Al. She expected me there today.

Your old pal, JACK.

P.S. I suppose you seen where that lucky lefthander Allen shut out Cleveland with two hits yesterday. The lucky stiff.

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Cute together, sure, but sometimes there was hard work to be done.

They had a long, fine exciting life, and this is also a time to remember that.

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Watching the Nancy Reagan funeral right now. It’s a sad occasion in more than one way. Not just that she was a dignified and class First Lady, but that she was of a kind that is vanishing from our culture. Here’s something I wrote a dozen years ago in response to an irreverent bit of mysogeny by a blogger who called himself duToit.

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In the 1970s, this country embarked on the most radical social experiment ever attempted by a human society, without even allowing itself to recognize that it was an experiment. I’m referring to feminism. Five thousand years of accumulated traditions and roles were almost immediately junked. If you never knew the “before” it’s easy to see why all this seems like it must represent all that is best in humanity — justice, freedom, equality, and so on. Yet it also seems that no one is counting the cost. The divorce rate has skyrocketed, illegitimate births have risen to astonishing levels, juvenile encounters with drugs, crime, and sex have moved from virtually nonexistent to epidemic, educational achievement has plummeted to near ruin, and a new statistic called “abortions per year” was developed, computed into the millions, and then banished from the pages of the almanac because we don’t like counting it anymore. Do women at least seem happier to those of us who remember the “before”? No. They don’t seem happier. Their marriages crumble, the new equality deprives them of the protections they used to enjoy in the event of divorce, their children are too often unsupervised, too often kidnapped by their unsupervised peers into addiction, sexual promiscuity, and premature cynicism. Further, women feel obligated to pursue careers that turn out to be — surprise! — tedious, stressful, wearying, and debasing (whether in the factory or the boardroom, the “Company’s” most universal motive is debasement). They abandon age-old protections of dress, behavior, and speech, and — surprise! — they pay for it with date rape, violent assaults, the need for abortions, and worse.

And for some of us “before” dinosaurs, these kinds of unintended consequences aren’t even the worst ones. What we failed to take into account in our unacknowledged experiment was the real socio-political role the nuclear family played in the culture — in every culture above the hunter-gatherer level known to recorded history. The few years a child has in the home with its mother and father before reaching serious school age, 6 or 7, is the only time when the goodness latent in that child can be developed without countervailing influences from institutional culture. It’s a brief window during which parents can instill curiosity, manners, awareness of right and wrong, the meaning of responsibility, altruism, and honesty.

We have failed to understand that every organization in which we become members, all our lives, will exert amoral pressures that benefit the organization and work, directly or indirectly, to mold the identity of a person into a shape different from its initial individuality and humanity. That we have good and virtuous people who are ever proof against corruption, seduction, and greed is a function of what happens in those first six or seven years of life.

Now, we have enticed mother out of the house, away from her children (and please don’t preach to me about economic necessity: there is absolutely no need for the exorbitant number of parentless households we now tolerate), and we have attempted to plug the ugly holes in the fundament of our culture with — what else? — new, more intrusive institutions of government, which reach deeply into that once private preserve of the home to monitor the children’s welfare and begin the process of absorbing them into institutional identities at an earlier age than any society has ever attempted.

Perhaps the change in the children is not sinister or even detectable if you weren’t there before. A close friend of mine has spent the last six years living in a household with a contemporary American teenager of good reputation and recognized academic and personal merit. He told me in a recent letter, “I have no doubt she has been trained so well in accordance with the accepted standards that if she chanced to become a junior executive, fresh out of B-school, with the Final Solution Corporation, she’d have no trouble managing the day-to-day schedules and operations reports of the divisional crematory. As long as she didn’t have to work too much overtime and could phone in sick pretty often after an all-nighter with her current boyfriend.”

Some of us, including “bigoted idiots” like du Toit, can’t help remembering ladies. They were our mothers and grandmothers, our friends’ mothers and grandmothers, and they had no idea they were prisoners of a vicious sexist culture. They knew how to smile, how to make strangers and shy ones feel welcome, they knew how to dress up for a party, how to dance to ballroom music, how to practice countless skills that made houses into cheery homes, and we loved them. In every possible way they exemplified the essential human virtues and mediated their children’s vulnerability through their own. They were playing a life-and-death role, especially in those first six years, and one that fathers couldn’t play because their role back then was different. Fathers weren’t second-string mommies, always playing catch-up on the sensitivities not born into men. They were, when all was said and done, judges — the ones charged with preparing the children to be strong against the institutional temptations and corruptions that were coming after the time of safe haven was over. Their job was not to be taken in the way mother could be by an artful grin or pleading. Their job was to say no, to describe the consequences, to levy the punishment so that the lesson would be learned in the home, not in the dangerous realms of the outside world.

“Before” there were fathers and mothers. “After” we have “deadbeat dads” and a plethora of lawyers, doctors, journalists, executives, and bureaucrats, all with ticking biological clocks and an enduring confusion about the difference between home and government. If they can’t be in the home, then they want the world as a whole made as safe as a home. They want more laws, more protections, more services. They beg the government to come deeper into the home, inside the car, into the chemistry of their children’s brains. Your post hoc ergo propter hoc analysis is dead wrong. The women’s vote has played a pivotal role in the rise of nanny government precisely because they’re always looking back in the direction of a home that is no longer what it was.

And as I’ve said, you’re perfectly welcome to prefer the “after” to the “before.” It is just that the certitude you display about your preference for what has been a very recent drastic change is as shallow as it is rigid. The so-called return of the right-wing has not rolled back the clock in any material way in any part of the culture. GW Bush is proposing and signing levels of entitlement spending that would have made him a leftwing Democrat “before,” and in his domestic policies generally he can only be called conservative by a contemporary leftist. Your apparent blindness to these contradictions in terms is what makes you seem naïve. And to some of us, probably, you also seem presumptuous in your automatic assumptions about the world reactionaries would like to have back, at least in part.

Doctors made housecalls. People who went out to dinner at nice restaurants dressed up for the occasion. Fathers were as stern about the importance of being a “gentleman” as they were about the importance of being a man. To hit a girl or to swear in public was not just wrong. It shamed you.

Shame was apparently a function of class oppression, because now there is no shame. Why did so many of us rightwingers hate Clinton so much? Because he was obviously no gentleman, and the president should always be a gentleman (or a lady). Then he proved it and shamed the nation before the whole world. What did we rightwingers really want to happen with the Lewinski scandal? What we couldn’t ever have. We wanted him to resign because that would have been the right and gracious thing to do. A fanciful archaic throwback of a notion? Maybe. But if Clinton had resigned, then perhaps President Gore might have focused more national attention on a certain piece of violent Arab street trash and prevented a few thousand deaths.

Funny how being a gentleman can sometimes also be a pragmatic and positive act. If Al Gore had been a gentleman like Nixon (!) before him, he would have disdained to contest the results in Florida. He would still have won his popular vote victory, despite the electoral defeat, and he would have been well positioned, even admired, as a candidate for 2004. (Pause: Compare this scenario with the erratic hide-and-seek irrelevancy Gore has since become.) Meanwhile Bush might have been spared the rancor and bile of the Democrats, and the new “tone” everybody had hoped for might have been achieved. And by the time foreign policy decisions became so horrendously critical, the Democrats might have had a respected advisory role to play. Hell, they might even have played a respectable role. Instead of seething on the sidelines, characterizing every single presidential decision as a new low in corrupt right wing power politics. If a few more of our leaders had behaved like gentlemen, in fact, our foreign policy might be more successful at this very moment.

“Hey, hey, LBJ. How many kids did you kill today?” That’s our tone. It’s been our tone ever since. It was the tone of the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. It’s the tone of civil rights leaders since the assassination of Martin Luther King (though it wasn’t his tone). It was the tone of the Watergate scandal. It was the tone of about 2,000 book-length feminist screeds about men and the unfairness of being born with a uterus. It was the tone of the Reagan haters. It’s the tone of both sides of the abortion debate. It was the tone of the Thomas and Bork hearings. It was the tone of the impeachment debate. It was the tone of the 2000 presidential election aftermath. It’s the tone now. And some of us are tired of that tone precisely because we remember the time before it was there.

It’s the tone of spoiled kids, boys and girls, who are just plain pissed at not getting their way, at not having every obstacle removed from their path by someone else. They should get their way because they’re entitled. And we have made that principle the basis of our great secular religion, the religion of “after.” Never mind the consequences. Even though the economics is slam-dunk against women in divorce, never mind that. Fire them up about their freedom to throw the bum out if he has an affair. Never mind that she, and her kids, will be paying for his affair forever. And by the way, don’t teach the boys about being a gentleman — even in courtship and marriage — because that’s an elitist term, and if we start talking about gentlemen, then somebody else might be tempted to start talking about ladies, and everyone knows that women have to be free to do whatever in hell they want, regardless, damn the consequences, because that’s what equality is all about. And if they want, they can dress like sluts from grade school on, and talk like sluts from grade school on, and act like sluts from grade school on, and do all the drugs that any slut might want to do, and have as many abortions as any slut would want to have,.and marry the first idiot who asks, and divorce him when he cheats, and marry the next one, and maybe do some cheating herself, and have a kid, and divorce the next one, and then set up shop as a bitter single mother who has it on good authority that all men are no-good bums. Now, how about all those government programs she’ll need to get by as a single working mother…? And isn’t this absolute paradise compared to the days when women weren’t free, and men weren’t permitted — by their fathers or each other — to be total, irresponsible slobs?

In fact it’s all working so well that we can try another experiment, and start bringing the boys up to be more like girls, so that they can dress like sluts from grade school on, and talk like sluts from grade school on, and act like sluts from grade school on, and do all the drugs that any slut might want to do, etc etc. After all, the only difference is that girls have sockets and boys have plugs, and they can start connecting to one another (and calling each other slut and ho and bitch) from grade school on, because that’s what freedom and self esteem are all about. And look at all the other progress we get with this approach: no more toy guns, double the cologne sales, and a fantastic new growth market in condoms.

Of course it’s better. That’s how we can be absolutely sure it’s okay to sneer at the idiot Republicans who hearken back to the evil racist sexist “before,” because we all know what they really miss is being able to use the N-Word on the servants, and commit secret incest with their daughters, and treat their wives like slaves, blah, blah, blah.

And because we also know that it’s very very dangerous to allow ourselves to consider, for even a moment, that maybe most women were better suited to the old way, and maybe only a small percentage actually belong out here in the nasty rough-and-tumble, and maybe our kids and all our home lives would be better, happier, if we could admit that the nuclear family is the indispensable foundation stone of an entire civilization, and that dynamiting it away without a single forethought might have been a criminally stupid thing to do.

But no. It’s always been this way. For everyone 40 and younger. It’s the right way. The conservatives are stupid, bigoted, immoral, and wrong. “Hey, hey, LBJ. How many kids did you kill today? Not as many as we’re going to kill in the next 50 years…”

Forgive me. Yes, we get heated. That’s because we’re so stupid. And wrong. And immoral. Maybe you could bear that in mind, and treat us dinosaurs with a little kindness. Like a gentleman.

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Rest in Peace, Mrs. Reagan.

We used to have to got to chapel at 0'Dark Thirty.

We used to have to go to chapel at Zero-Dark-Forty-Five.

1969. I was sixteen. Or almost sixteen. I was the editor-in-chief of a nationally esteemed prep school publication called the Mercersburg News. I had watched my school fall apart in about two years. There were two jock dorms when I arrived in 1967. In 1969 there were two drug dorms.

Then came the chapel walkout. A huge, life changing event. Half the school walked out of the Mercersburg Chapel during a Saturday 8:45 am service. The headmaster, who used to have a box of Gettysburg musket balls on his desk for awards to good students, called a school meeting. My best friend and roommate was one of the ones who walked out. Life had been riven.

You know. My best friend. He’s dead now. At forty. I’m alive. 62. He did meth. I didn’t. Or cocaine. Ever. We were both Harvard, don’t you know.

But the world cleaved in half that day.

I published the only extra in the history of the Mercersburg News. In a day and a half. Linotype.

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So. I didn’t die. He didn’t die that day. But in reality we both did.

Never heard how lovely the voices are.

Never heard how lovely the voices are.

You had an idea, did you?

You had an idea, did you?

Went there. I really did. You try surviving four years in a place that tries to kill you every single day.

Went there. I really did. You try surviving four years in a place that tries to kill you every single day.

What do you do for the next forty-five years? You write and write and write and write and write and you wake up in the morning as I did today, saying only two things I’m grateful for. My ability to write and my love for my wife. That’s it. The total.

Makes voyeurs of us all.

Makes voyeurs of us all.

When you’re ducking the news because it’s too awful to look at, somehow you can wind up watching the endless syndicated episodes of CSI shows, the one in Vegas, CSI Miami, CSI New York, NCIS, and all the others that show dead naked women on the stainless steel table of the pathologists. They blur this and cover that, but it’s all a peekaboo show and makes us closet necrophiliacs simply by watching well paid actors talking about rape kits and vaginal and anal smears and torn perineums and DNA, DNA, and DNA.

So, channeling my inner William Burroughs, I wrote a poem about this bizarre phenomenon.

My CSI Sonnet

A dead woman is the saddest thing.

She still has eye makeup and painted fingernails.

Her feet are deformed by years of high heels.

Her breasts are flaccid and inert on the morgue table.

Her hair is still done.

She can’t close her legs to conceal her sex.

She is no longer with us.

If only she could be.

If there could be a light in her whited eyes.

If her legs could cross.

If her fingers could touch.

If her mouth could smile just a little.

If she could have just a little life.

A dead woman is the saddest thing.

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This elevates and ennobles us how?

He made a speech. A speech? He's ready to be drafted?

He made a speech. A speech? He’s ready to be drafted? No. He just wants more.

What’s wrong with these old guys who can’t give up on power dreams? I’m old. I don’t want power. I want peace and quiet.

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Nobody can be this majestic.

But Psmith. And Raebert.

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He was 31. And is still.

There is a plan, a pattern, and a purpose. God bless you, Sue Schrock.

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