Archive for prose

Our Dewey Walk

Posted in Prose, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on June 11, 2017 by sethdellinger

I just went out for a very late night walk with Benji. The moon was so bright, a brazen beacon up there, like some alternate version of the sun, and it is so warm, like nights I remember from technicolor teenagehood, and the smell of grass, always the smell of grass, and tonight the tiny insects that swarmed Benji and I even seemed pleased, seemed to be telling us their happiest secrets. Barely midnight and already dew droplets leapt from the ground with each step we took, Benji looking for the perfect place to pee, different every time we come out but always perfect.  I was bathing in the moonlight like it was sunlight, turning my face toward it and soaking it in, staring at the gray ball, stunned as I often am by the thought that there’s a world there, that I’m looking at another world and it’s there right now, the surface of the moon, sitting there waiting for something, or maybe not waiting at all but just happy all alone, its craters and mountains just perfect, silent and airless and pockmarked, goddamn what a beautiful night with the insects and Benji looking back over his shoulder at me, his big black eyes pleading something, something I can’t know and can never know , and tucked inside our little air conditioned house my Love sleeps, her of the fine features and deep understanding, she sleeps in there like the surface of the moon and she has chosen me and aint it grand, aint it grand indeed.  Tomorrow we’ll wake up without an alarm and have mango and basmati rice for breakfast, and a pot of coffee, too, and maybe Schubert on the stereo.  Oh, life is probably pointless, ultimately, just atoms and electrons and consciousness happening by accident, the whole damned scene just one ludicrous accident, but who can argue with this, with the moon so serious and luminous and the dog looking over his shoulder and the air conditioning inside and basmati rice tomorrow, who would ever want to call any of it an accident?  Oh Karla I love you so much!

It is possible to grow up and still let the juice run down your chin.

Posted in Memoir, real life with tags , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2017 by sethdellinger

Our culture is full of tales that suggest there is a prime way to live life; movies, music and books that implore you to chase your dreams, to leave the safe confines of your daily routine, to reach out and grab life by the whatevers, because, you know, you only live once.  It’s a moving, inspiring narrative.  The thing is, you see, in our society, typically when someone does that sort of thing, we all look at them like they’re crazy.  I can’t believe she just up and moved to New York—to be an actress!  She had a pretty good job here, too.  She’s nuts!

And so on.

This is not going to be a piece of writing where I tell you how you should be living.  For the most part, how you are living is between you and, possibly, those closest to you.  It’s got nothing to do with me.  They make so many movies etc suggesting you grab life by the armpits because those kinds of things make money.  People love to be told how they are pissing away their existence.  Why?  Because almost everyone is, in some way, convinced they actually are pissing away their existence.

It’s hard to know how to live your life, right?  By the time you get one thing figured out, one part of you fully colored in, you’ve changed in other ways, and now you’re chasing other ghosts, ironing out new parts of you, nursing new interests.  The songs tell you to chase your dream but very few of us have just one enormous dream.  Most of us are a collection of dozens of itsy bitsy dreams.  I don’t suggest driving your car off a cliff over an itsy bitsy dream.

All I’m personally concerned with is being passionate, living with vigor.  I keep changing, evolving; it’s like I’m in the center of an orchard that is spinning around me and I’m leaping at fruit as they fly past.  Even as I near my fortieth year, I find my changes accelerating: I would be unrecognizable even to my thirty-year-old self.  With so much swirling into and out of my crosshairs, it’s impossible to laser-focus on something.  What I need is passion for everything.  The racing heart, smelling the book, walking outside in the cold to take the photograph, the peach juice running down your chin, holding Her as tight as I can.  I don’t need to move to New York to be an actress to squeeze the juice out—but maybe you do, so maybe you should.

And maybe you’re OK with rote routine, eating your food and drinking your water just to stay alive as long as possible.  That’s fine, too.  Like I said, this isn’t a piece of writing to tell you how to live your life.  That’s got nothing to do with me, because nobody’s paying me to write this.

But me, I need passion.

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For a few years in my early twenties I was passionate about Alcoholics Anonymous.  I mean that’s who I was for a little while.  I thought it was the life for me.  After being tentative and gradually going into that world, I fully immersed myself once comfortable.  I would get phone calls late at night and go talk to a drunk in need.  I gave a talk to troubled teens attending an early intervention class at a local church.  Almost all of my friends were members of AA.  We went to meetings together, then went out for coffee afterward, then sometimes even back to an apartment or house for a movie night after the coffee.  We took road trips together to meetings and seminars.  At the time, I was still considered a “young person in sobriety” (I was 25-26) and my closest AA buddies and I went to the Pennsylvania Convention of Young People in Alcoholics Anonymous (known as “Pennsypaa”).  We took over a hotel in downtown Baltimore (that’s right, it was in Baltimore–they like to make it a nice trip for everyone no matter where you live in the state) for three whole days.  That’s how passionate I was about Alcoholics Anonymous.  In addition to tons of panels and activities, there was also a room where they had round-the-clock meetings, one an hour, for the whole three days.  I made it my mission to do a stretch of 24 hours straight, but I think I only got 7 or 8 before I had to go sleep.  I had my favorite AA jokes (“They asked me to go to that meeting and give a talk on humility, but I said I’d only do it if enough people showed up”), I had my favorite chapters in the Big Book (“Us Agnostics”), and on and on.  It was my life and I thought it would always be.  It isn’t my life anymore, though.  It hasn’t been for a very long time.  Those guys I went to Baltimore with–there is only one of them I am still in touch with.  But that’s how it is supposed to be, back before social media changed our expectations; people, like passions, are allowed to come and go.  You can let them go.

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Like most of my blog entries lately, I’m just kind of thinking out loud here.  Don’t look too hard for an overarching theme or thesis.  As my birthday approaches I’m doing a little taking stock.  Certainly my life right now is the most amazing it’s ever been–it is not putting on a front to say that.  People think that if you say your life is amazing on the internet that you must be lying, but they think that because their lives are not amazing.  I assure you mine is.

No, I am not taking stock of my life in some way that implies it needs improved, but rather, to discern just how I have changed so much.  This is one of the more massive themes of all the blog entries I’ve ever written: how the old me becomes the new me becomes the old me becomes the new me and on and on and on.  And why do I think you’d want to read about this?  Why, because I assume the same thing is happening to you.

I suppose it’s possible this is not happening to you.  It’s possible the old you became the new you and then you stayed right there, and now you’re just you.  But again, that’s none of my business.

What I want to get at is, how much of those old me’s are still part of me?  Are there fundamental bits of Seth mixed up inside me, that have always been there and shall always remain?  Or do we change, piece by piece, insidiously, until the person we see in the mirror bears no relation to the people we were 10, 20 years ago?

Is there even a way to know the answer?

Sometimes I think the only thing in this world that cuts to any part of the truth of existence is music–music without words–and the only thing I can really create is words, but no music.  So there you have it.  Questions stacked on questions like mirrors looking into mirrors.

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I’ve seen Pearl Jam live 21 times.  Approximately.  It might be 17.  I know it is more than 15.  At some point in my life I knew that number very concretely.  That is how much has changed within me since I gave up the ghost on Pearl Jam.  For a very long stretch, the band was my life.  I bought everything you can possibly imagine–spending thousands of dollars on the band’s merchandise.  When they would tour, I would take vacations from work and follow them up and down the east coast, staying in hotels by myself in places as diverse as Jersey City to Virginia Beach.  I attended about 75% of those Pearl Jam shows all alone, and did not mind one bit.  I used to tell people I had to go to as many shows as possible because Pearl Jam concerts were “my church”.  Especially the long instrumental parts they would play in “Even Flow” and “rearviewmirror”; I would close my eyes during these times and replay my life up to that point, flipping through memory images, whatever came to mind and seemed significant, and then giving immense thanks that I had come through everything to be in a position to be standing there, right then, as this band was creating this music, and I had enough money to buy the poster and a t-shirt and my own hotel room.  When the band cycled back around to the climax of the song, I’d open my eyes, always tear-filled, and they’d pour down my cheeks, and I’d jump like a maniac as the music built to a catharsis, and I’d scream and pump my fists and let out my barbaric yawp.  It was my church.  I did that for a long time.  Seven or eight years.  But I don’t do that anymore.  I didn’t even look at the setlists for Pearl Jam’s last two tours.  I’m more of a Miles Davis kind of man now.

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People talk very poorly of “routine”.  They are afraid of falling into routine.  They think routine will just sap the authenticity directly out of your life.

Here is what they mean: they are afraid of getting old and having responsibilities.

Lord knows I was afraid of those things for a very long time.  I lived by myself for a decade and railed against the breakfast-nook-having, 401k-caring-about, child-rearing snoozevilles.  But guess what?  While I was living alone, bitching about all that, I still had a routine.  I may have been able to take road trips more often, stay out late, what-have-you, but ultimately, if what you fear is routine, then you are fucked, mister, because whoever you are and whatever you do, you are already in a routine.

I have a family now.  I am now living much closer to what some people would call a “normal adult life”, and yes, we have a routine.  Having a routine is how you make sure you get out the door in the morning (if that’s what you have to do), get food in your belly, pay the power company on time.  Having a routine and being in the flow of “normal” adult life doesn’t mean your passion has to be siphoned off.

But you gotta work at it.

The last thing I want, as I near forty and the changes inside me keep accelerating, is to live joylessly, simply existing, from one day to the next, sun up, sun down, alarm beeping, alarm beeping.  Luckily my partner is also a person with no interest in living an ordinary life, even if we do want to have breakfast nooks someday and pay attention to our 401ks.  Intense existence and successful adulthood, I think, are not mutually exclusive.

I want our family to be safe from harm but I don’t want to “be safe”.  I want desperately to reach further and further out of my comfort zones.  I want to do new stuff until the day I die.  I don’t want to only listen to the music I loved in high school.  The world is so damn huge.  We’re only here for a blink.

I have learned that it is possible to grow up and still let the juice run down your chin.

It’s Time to Start Thinking About It

Posted in real life with tags , on January 4, 2017 by sethdellinger

When I was a teenager, I’d often sit in my car in the driveway of our house out in the country and listen to The Beatles, usually Abbey Road.  And usually at night.  I’d smoke cigarettes and pop No Doz and analyze every sound in “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”.  I thought maybe there was some deep stuff hidden in there, especially in regards to the abrupt ending.  In the summer I rolled the windows down and flicked my ashes on the asphalt my father made me help him seal every summer, underneath the basketball hoop I was never any good at using.  Sometimes I put in Sgt. Pepper and tried to suss out the meaning from “A Day in the Life”.  I knew much younger than my friends what Albert Hall was, and where Lancashire was.

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Of course, some teenagers in this world of ours have to worry every day about finding clean drinking water, or whether they’ll be shot by a bullet from an AK-47, or be stolen and raped by Boko Haram.  All told, it’s probably pretty rare to be able to sit by yourself in the front of your Dodge Daytona, smoking Newport Lights and pondering why George didn’t sing more.  Such is life, I suppose.  Not that I’m brushing off the discrepancy; in fact I loathe it.  But what can be done, I wonder?

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Despite living in a very prosperous nation, and being born of the least harassed skin color and gender, many people like myself have still experienced extreme depths of sorrow and deprivation.   I have experienced such a thing.  Between the ages of twenty and twenty-five I developed acute alcoholism, which culminated in “hitting bottom” during a weeklong stay at a true fleabag hotel, in the most deplorable conditions I could have imagined. But listen to this: some of my most distinct memories of that week are watching “Rugrats” on the cable television and listening to a Barenaked Ladies CD on repeat on the boombox I had brought along. The lowest point in my life still involved what others might consider creature comforts.  Naturally, this does not diminish the pain or seriousness of the event for me, but it’s worth pondering.  What does “hitting bottom” look like to a Sudanese refugee?  Perhaps I am simply mistaken about what “hitting bottom” means. Maybe, but probably not.  Probably it’s complicated.

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I have an avid interest in the American Revolution.  I don’t think I could be called a “buff” of this period; despite having read extensively about it and visited many of the main  sites associated with it, I simply cannot remember many of the essential details.  I forget things, which I think automatically discredits me from being a buff.  But I find the Revolution fascinating without end.  I quite often find myself breathlessly declaring, What tremendous courage these men had!!  How could they have committed to this? Would I have had this within me, to risk all for this freedom?

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The Civil War and the World Wars were, no doubt and to varying degrees, important wars that fought for (again, to varying degrees) important freedoms.  But we have fought for nothing approaching the towering consequence of history since our Revolution–and certainly not in the modern era.  No doubt the men and women that go to fight for us now are brave, hardy folks, whom I respect–but they fight for nothing important, and certainly not freedom.  They have courage–but to what end?  To whose end?

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In high school, I worried about fitting in.  Cliche, sure, but there it is.  I wasn’t angst-ridding over it; I began high school somewhat timid and scared–perhaps somewhat worried about what troubles my short height might find for me–but I quickly developed a confidence I’d retain through most of my life, and have gone through most of the rest of my life forgetting I am short.  But still, I was concerned about fitting in, would I be popular?  Would there be girls?  Would I be made fun of?  Gosh, can you imagine–with all the pressing weight of human history behind us, and such shocking decisions ahead of us, we spend our most visceral years worrying about nonsense?  I spent hours trying to roll my pants legs properly.  I never got good at it.

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See, listen here:  what’s happening now isn’t normal.  This is not just a “my party lost” situation where I’m bitter at the incoming president.  I think we all feel it.  There has been a shifting.  There has been a change.  The Rubicon has been crossed.  Now, there’s no way to know, quite yet, what path the future will take.  It’s still possible that everything could be fine.  But with each passing day, that looks less and less likely.  It is painfully easy to see a future where very few American boys sit in their sports cars in their parents’ driveways dissecting Beatles tunes.  It is becoming much easier to imagine other, darker futures.

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I just now, at the age of 38, got myself a family.  I had given up on that notion for awhile, but now I have one.  I have lately begun imagining what we will do if the proverbial shit hits the proverbial fan.  There is nothing more important than them.  How will we stay safe?  At what point in the news cycle do we decide we need a plan?  I don’t want to be an alarmist, but I also don’t want to be the last one to have a bunker to go to.

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I have spent many years marveling at the courage of John and Samuel Adams, George Washington, Thaddeus Kosciusko, John Trumbull, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson.  They saw what they had to do.  They risked their very lives to steer all of human history.  I have wondered what I would do in their position, never imagining a similar moment could happen in my lifetime.  I am by no means suggesting that moment is here.  But I can imagine it now.  Can you?

You Vanish

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on December 8, 2016 by sethdellinger

Grandma was a short, stout woman who made puddings and hoarded swaths of uncut fabric in an upstairs walk-in closet.  Earlier, she had been a farmer’s wife, raising four children and taking on city “Fresh Air” kids in the Sixties.  Her husband came down with Parkinson’s disease and eventually she had to wheel him around the house in a big wheelchair, help him swallow enormous pills.  She tended a garden out back and taught me how to pick peas.  She watched professional wrestling and baseball with the television on mute.  Then one day she vanished.  She’s no longer here.

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Jenny was a girl I met in college–or so I’m told.  I was a very heavy drinker in those days, and I literally do not remember knowing her in college.  She found me on Myspace about ten years later.  She had stories about me from college that I didn’t remember but we knew all the same people.  Her father had been my philosophy professor, and I vaguely remembered that.  We texted a lot for a while; we were toying with the idea of romance but after getting together in person, it just wasn’t there.  She liked horror movies and had lots of tattoos.  She was a fairly big woman but something happened at some point to make her lose a remarkable amount of weight–suddenly she was tiny.  I never asked what was wrong with her and she didn’t seem to want to tell me.  She’s gone now.  She’s not anywhere you might look for her.

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I went to high school with Nate.  We weren’t really friends, but we knew each other.  We ran in mostly different circles.  But we both went on the class trip to England.  We got somewhat close over the two-week trip, even though he thought he was a little cooler than I was, and I didn’t disagree.  We bonded over being heavy smokers and enjoying a good adult beverage.  When we got back home we mostly went our separate ways, aside from a minor power struggle we had over a female, and one time I accidentally set off the alarm in his lowrider truck.  He was a moody guy who liked the bass in his truck and wore backwards baseball caps.  He was really, really funny.  He disappeared in his mid-twenties.

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My first real girlfriend’s father was a nut about World War II aviation.  He’d sit in his chair in the living room and watch History Channel aviation shows all day long.  He was balding in a very adorable way, he didn’t try to hide it but a combover look came to him naturally.  He’d worked most of his prime years for a shoe company that went out of business at just the wrong time.  There was always a dog or a cat in his house that everyone else was mad at but he seemed content to ignore.  He enjoyed “black powder shooting”, which is the hobby of shooting antique firearms.  He never really said much to me–maybe “hi” and “bye” at the appropriate times.  The past seemed to weigh on him.  He has vanished.

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What is it, this business we have of ending?  It’s tempting to say we go somewhere–even if it’s just energy, even if it’s another life, anything, anywhere.  Of course, that’s just the rub of it–there is literally no way of knowing.  There is only the ever-present mystery. Although when you confront the thing head-on, there isn’t really much mystery at all.  We all know, at our core, exactly what it is (or better yet, exactly what it isn’t).

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Someday I, too, will vanish from these daily comings-and-goings, in a poof, like mist, like a lantern you thought you saw in a window.

Sounds Like a Train. Not a Train.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on November 16, 2016 by sethdellinger

Everything in life can seem so sudden, even though almost all of it is gradual.  Events can shock you even when you saw them coming.  Maybe you didn’t know you saw them coming, but you saw them coming.

Luckily there is love.  What matters but love?  Towering, epic love.  Basically nothing else.  To snuggle.  To profess eternity, depth of caring.  It’s not an original thought, but, well, there it is.  Love.

It’s dark on the east coast as I write this.  I haven’t done the time zone math but it’s probably dark over all the continental states.  People describe darkness as a “closing in” all the time, but really it’s the opposite.  Light closes us in, as it is an actual presence of a thing, whereas darkness happens when the light leaves.  Darkness opens us up.  Darkness is an absence.  It is a lifting of the lid.

It’s not just that Trump won the election; I could handle that.  It’s that this country isn’t what I thought it was.  It’s that I have to mourn for the uplifting future I had imagined.  I don’t care that “we lost”.  I find myself suddenly terrified of the land I live in.

It’s dark outside my door.  My neighbor across the street, Manny, appears to have gone to bed.  His lights are all off, but now he has Christmas lights on his porch, which I adore.  He has a terrific little dog, Fulton, who sometimes sniffs our Benji.  I imagine Fulton is asleep now, too, somewhere at the foot of Manny’s bed, or maybe in there with him.  The streetlights here are shockingly bright; as I step out into the crisp autumn evening, I can see them dotting the side of the landscape for five, maybe six blocks, until the natural curve of Harrisburg’s grid takes them out of view.  It’s quiet, dark and quiet and still.  The houses seem stuck between holidays, some porches still sporting mushy pumpkins, others feeling tentative strands of colorful lights.  Somewhere in the distance, a car alarm goes off, but just briefly.  I stand here in my pajamas and I imagine the people in their houses.  Most of them asleep, now, but not all.  Some watching television–although increasingly they are somehow watching it after it aired.  Some of them perhaps showering, or cooking a late dinner, or arguing, or having sex.  But most of them sleeping, breathing rhythmically in some sort of shut-down stasis that scientists are hesitant to admit they still don’t really understand.  I stand here and I imagine them.  I really do.  I’m not just writing that I imagine them–I really do it.  What a thing to do, when you really do it!  All those lives behind those doors, drifting like worried sparks, like baffled little flames, breathing in unison, with all their own concerns and private intensities.  What a massive undertaking, life.  Such a long, worrisome climb.  And you can do it anywhere.  Some folks are born as baffled sparks in a tribe in a jungle.  Others in a London flat.  Some people had to do it in the 1600s.  Still others will give it a go in 2190.  To many, my worries about the land I live in would seem a trifle, the luxury of a man who has everything he needs.  They’d probably be right, but still.  I step out all the way onto the sidewalk in front of my house, suddenly wishing all of my neighbors would come outside all at once so we could talk about it.  Mostly we don’t talk to our neighbors, but now, in the still autumn evening, I wish I could.  I wish I could look them in the eyes, I wish I could pat them on the back.  I would tell them, perhaps, one of my secrets. Suddenly as I am standing there, in my pajamas in the autumn evening, a low, distant sound makes itself known.  It starts as a quiet rumble.  I can’t tell where it’s coming from but it grows louder and louder, the rumble becoming a growl; it sounds like a train, but it’s not a train, I have no goddamned idea what it is but it’s getting louder and louder and I don’t think there’s any escaping it.

Be a Bright Blue

Posted in Prose with tags , , , , , on November 6, 2016 by sethdellinger

godspeed

Sound the alarm bells.  The ship, it is sinking.  Our shoes are on fire and our water is a virus.  Good god, sound the alarm–run.  It’s the same old damned thing, the same tired emergency.  It’s the same old lie.

Run the white cloth up the flag pole.  Watch it hang there, limp.  Shut your windows and turn on the AC.  I’m exhausted from defending my lifestyle, and I’m exhausted from checking my phone.  Turn up the static.  Lean back into something.  Grill some putrid items.  Excoriate your neighbor.

A new batch of people have come along now.  They’re old enough now.  They see evidence of lies, control.  Someone has spotted a two party system.  THEY’RE ALL LIARS, they shout.  They sense something not genuine.  They sense they are not in control of this world.  They see they are inside a machine, and they cannot even see who controls the machine, or even the walls or the floor.  It’s a machine, they say, vote for Jill Stein!

As though someone polling at 5% of the national population isn’t part of the damned machine.  Hey listen.  If you’re in a machine, you’re in it.  You think the machine lets you out?

The machine was here long before you and promises to outlive you.

Sound the alarm bells, by golly!  The construct is about to swallow another generation whole.  Like zygotes.  Like plankton.  Like dust.

Of course you can fight things inside the machine and change things.  But until you understand the actual nature of your plight, you’ll attack the wrong parts, the wrong cogs and pulleys.

You have taken the blindfold off without realizing there was a second blindfold overtop the first one.

Recognize the machine.  Feel its rhythm.  Do not doubt its omnipresence.  You speak hushed of the politicians who control you while you sit in a strip mall restaurant.  How did the strip mall get there?  Why is it there, instead of elsewhere?  How many red lights did you wait at to drive there?  Have you registered the car you drove with the government?  The gas you put in the car–where did it come from, and who decided how much it cost?

Welcome to the fucking construct.  Jill Stein will take your order now.

Be a shiny countertop.  Be a chemtrail.  Be a smiling dog.

When I was a kid, I played little league baseball for two years.  I had waited too long to get started though.  Whereas most kids in my town started very young, I waited until I was ten or eleven.  Mostly I waited so long because I had never really wanted to play little league baseball.  I was scared of the ball, and I was scared of organized sports.  I wasn’t pressured to play.  I just wanted to participate in a thing that made the other kids look cool.  They looked like major league ball players to me.  So I did it even though I didn’t want to.

Be a lazy Sunday.  Be Madison, Wisconsin.  Be a suspicious cough.

Since I waited so long to start playing baseball, I was behind kids my age, when it came to skill level.  So the people who ran the little league put me on the teams with the younger boys.  My plan to do something I didn’t want to do to be cooler had backfired.  My friends and classmates were playing on teams I never saw, and I was playing with boy 2 or 3 years younger than me.  And they were still better than me.  I was a very bad baseball player.  My coach–whose son was on the team–was frequently disappointed in me.  He thought since I was older, I’d be his star, when in fact I was the worst player on the team.  It was mortifying.  The little league had a rule that every single player had to get an at-bat every single game.  One game I did not get an at-bat.  I wasn’t very sad, since batting was just another opportunity for me to be embarrassed.  But my parents were quite mad.  Because they are good parents.  After the game they told me to go wait by the concession stand while they spoke to the coach.  I waited.  About five minutes later they came into view, laughing.  They were laughing.  What happened?, I asked.  They informed me they confronted the coach about me not having an at-bat and he had freaked out, screaming at them, somehow finding a reason to rake them over the coals for having the audacity to question him.  They said he had become red in the face with anger.  The next game, he had me bat leadoff, despite being the worst hitter on the team.  My humiliation was complete.

Be a light early-morning mist.  Be a fully-trimmed Christmas tree.  Be a cardinal direction.  Be a traffic-free commute.  Be the paint that dries.  Be a clear radio station.  Be a marching band in the distance.  Be Jimmy Stewart.  Be a sun-dappled cave entrance.  Be a bright blue.  Be your grandmother’s afghan.  Be Connect Four.  Be the olive-skinned belly dancer.  Be a stunning cul-de-sac.  Be an early dismissal.  Be a crescendo.  Be the young girl that stops to help you, when she doesn’t have to, when you’ve dropped all your groceries and the sun is starting kiss the horizon, and she is beautiful, and the air reminds you of perfect childhood, and you don’t have to work the next day.  You, too, are part of the machine.

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Baltimore, 1998

Posted in Memoir, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 24, 2016 by sethdellinger

I suppose there’s always a lesson to be learned, whether in a filthy dive bar or over tea in a teahouse, whether in sweaty socks in a high school gym or walking onto stage in a vaunted theater, there’s always some lesson to be gleaned, whether it is for you or against you, whether it is exactly what you want to hear or it devastates you, it is going to be there, regardless.  Take, for example, standing on the balcony level of a thumping bar in Baltimore, peering down at the crowded dance floor below, my head already swirled with gin, watching three of my friends dance in a group, turning sluringly to the young girl next to me, who I’d never met or even spoken to before, Hey!  That one down there, with the orange hat?  Do you find him attractive?  Women are always into him instead of me, and when she grimaces and turns from me wordlessly, I amble over to the balcony bar, order a double of the top-shelf stuff, and settle into a corner table alone.  Even in my youth I saw this not as a lesson in the unfairness of having friends more desirable than yourself, or being a bad dancer or lacking social graces, but as a gut-punch reality check about a path I was trodding from which I could not return.  But what else did I know as the waitress lit the candle on my round table in the dark?  What did I know about anything?

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