“Life is hard,” my Grandma would tell me. “Eventually someone will hurt you. When that happens, you get to decide: fight back, or forgive. It’s up to you. What will you do?”
As a kid, I played baseball in the field behind my Grandma’s house. We played every day, all day, and each day for lunch, my Grandma made us her world-famous peanut butter sandwiches. These were beautiful: a single piece of toast with a thin layer of peanut butter spread on top. That’s simple enough, but what made them special was she wrote your name into the peanut butter so you knew THIS one was yours.
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It was a simple field. The path to it ran past my grandmother’s house, through a set of bushes and into a circular clearing behind. First base was a tree stump. Second was a raised patch of earth that kicked up dust whenever someone ran over it with a lawnmower. We used an old glove, one we found lying underneath a rock next to a stream in the woods behind my house, for third. Home was ditch that had worn thin the first couple years we played there, and then gave up on growing anything thereafter, because when you played ball as often as we did – day after week after month after year – without ceasing, even in the cold months, it tends to leave a mark. Childhood is more powerful than Mother Nature in some ways, which is probably why it wears out so quickly leaves such a lasting impression.
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Every night, as a kid, I listened to the Reds on 700 WLW. Every night. Without fail.
Some nights, particularly those when the Reds played teams on the west coast, my parents would tell me to go to bed round about the sixth or seventh inning, just as things were getting good.
“Awww, Mom! Come on! Eric Davis is up first next inning. Can’t I just stay up till then?”
“No. Bedtime. Get upstairs.”
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This time of year is always tough. Football season is ramping up, the weather has hinted that it might start to cool off a bit here soon, and the kids have gone back to school. Even those of you who are not either a student or a parent have, at the very least, spent a long commute caught in the sloth-like wake of a school bus, wondering why we haven’t developed flying cars be now.
The answer: because your stupid teenagers would drive those flying cars, crashing into each other, killing thousands. Then where would we be?
There’s lots to distract us from our favorite pastime. Heck, I’ve even given up on Fantasy Baseball. My team, the Florida Dumpster Fire, has descended into last place, breaking decades-long records for ineptitude in our keeper league. It’s easy, in seasons like this, where the impossibility of a postseason was a foregone conclusion before the Findlay Market Parade took its first steps on Opening Day. Back then, we thought anything might happen. Now, we know that nothing has and nothing will. How do we keep things relevant?
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Not Person: I read your latest Elevator Conversations post.
Me: Yeah? Did you like it?
Not Person: No.
Me: Why not?
Not Person: You made it up, didn’t you? You make them all up!
Me: I make some of them up. Most are real. And others are a mix.
Not Person: You shouldn’t do that.
Me: Shouldn’t do what?
Not Person: Make those up.
Me: Why not?
Not Person: It’s like you’re lying!
Me: Lying has intent to deceive. This has intent to entertain.
Not Person: Well, I think you should stop.
Me: Okay, but you’re not gonna like it.
Not Person: …Why?
Me: Because I made YOU up, and…
Not Person: No, wait!
Me: …If I stop…
Not Person: …I take it back!
Me: … you stop.
Not Person: Nooooooooooooo!
Not Person disappears into a puff of existential smoke. Other Person steps into the elevator.
Other Person: Why are you talking to yourself?
Me: You wouldn’t understand. … Can you push floor 3?
Other Person pushes the button and steps to the side.
Other Person: Stupid, drunk, homeless people.
Me: Hey! I’m not homeless.
Other person: You sure smell like it.
The doors close. The elevator goes away.
Two men step into a crowded elevator.
Man #1: You should just give up and get contacts. They really are better than glasses.
Man #2: No way. I’d have to start washing my hands.
Man #1: …You mean more, right? You’d have to wash your hands … more?
Man #2: No.
Everyone in the elevator steps to the side opposite Man #2.
I stood next to the elevator, holding my hat in one hand; my cell phone in the other. A lady approaches, pushes the button. She sees my hat and her eyes go wide.
Lady: We’re not supposed to wear hats
Me: It’s okay. I’m not wearing it.
Lady: We’re not supposed to wear hats!
Me: It’s okay … I’m not wearing it.
Lady: I’m telling someone.
Me: But….I’m not …
Lady (angrily): We’re not supposed to wear hats.
She storms off, just as the elevator arrives.
Me: I don’t even work here, Lady….
Two men standing in an elevator. One has a large bruise on his forehead.
Man #1: Dude. What happened to your face?
Man #2: Oh nothing. I just fell asleep in the shower and knocked my head against the faucet.
Man #1: Wow. I bet that woke you up.pretty quick, huh?
Man #2: No. I slept there for a good thirty minutes before my wife came in to see what was going on.
Man #1: Heh
Man #2: She said the tile amplified my snoring and it sounded like a wild animal being drowned in our bathroom.
Man #1: Why’d it take her thirty minutes?
Man #2: This wasn’t the first time this has happened.
Person #1: I feel hungry.
Person #2: Hunger’s not an emotion.
Person #3: It is today.
I have a lot of good Reds memories. Most of us do, I guess.
I remember sitting on the floor in my living room, watching Eric Show give up THE HIT to Pete Rose. The REAL hit came a few days earlier in Chicago, but nobody knew it then and we celebrated like we’d won the lottery. I screamed so loud, our pet beagle, Murphy, had to leave his customary spot in the sun next to the door to get away from all the noise.
I was in attendance on Johnny Bench day in the early ‘80s when Bench hung up his spikes. The game was humdrum, but they gave a Johnny Bench handout at the gates to the first X-thousand guests. I still remember how it looked, sitting in the corner of my room next to the door. No amount of music posters, Chicago Bulls memorabilia from the ‘90s MJ teams, or hastily built bookshelves could supplant it from that place of honor. I kept that handout stapled to my wall until I graduated high school and THEN I kept it with my baseball cards. I lost both it and the baseball cards when my parent’s basement flooded in 1998. So it goes. Bench was always my favorite player. I wore my baseball cap backwards from birth in deference to him. I still do, even though I’m nearly 40 and I look weird when I do it. It just feels wrong to wear it right.
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