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Steve Foucault

May 31, 2011

I studied poetry in college. That was my primary focus. I also played a lot of pickup basketball, wrote fiction fragments and long-winded essays, got a combined “anthropology/sociology” minor, drank a lot of beer and smoked a lot of pot, though less so as the years went on, and was often fairly lonely, an emotion I channeled into poems, I guess, though I don’t remember ever writing anything directly and honestly about my own daily life. Instead I tried to write chiseled nature odes like Gary Snyder or yowling apocalypse rags like Allen Ginsberg. As I neared the end of college, a panic set in. I went around to different teachers I’d had and asked them what I should do with myself. They had no answers, at least none that I can remember, and the basic gist of the conversations was as follows:

Me: Um, well . . . help me?
Teacher: It was great having you in class.
Me: I don’t really want to leave.
Teacher: Have a nice summer!

I don’t blame them. In fact even moments after the conversations I’d feel ashamed of myself for trying to corner them into giving me an answer to something I couldn’t even frame as a distinct question. What were they supposed to do? I’m older now than most of them were then, and I certainly couldn’t give anybody any answers, and anyway it’s not the kind of thing someone can resolve for someone else. You can look in for a sign, like Steve Foucault is doing in his 1975 card, and you might even get one, but then you’ve got to straighten up, take a deep breath, and throw the pitch. And most likely things will be exactly as they are for Steve Foucault in this 1975 card: in truth there’s no one to provide a sign. You have to fake it.

I was 22 then and am nearly twice that age now, and I haven’t changed that much, in that I still would prefer to be—the crux of my problem then and now—somehow exempted from having to work. Can’t I just read and shoot hoops and occasionally turn in a paper on Zen meditation or the Deep Imagists? Last night my pregnant wife and I were talking about labor, how it’s brutal on the mother yet even more wrenching for the kid, though thankfully none of us remember this first trauma. Everything’s just fine in the womb, nice and warm, all the sustenance you need, then, wham, you start getting shoved downward toward a tiny tunnel, then through the tunnel and out into the cold and a blinding brightness. Life begins, and forever long as you’re alive that pattern is repeated, each moment or passage of time ending in an ejection to another transitory interlude until, finally, that one last ejection into some other world, or nothing, or who knows.

***

Steve Foucault seems to be without a black eye as he pretends to look in for a sign, suggesting that this photo was not taken around the time of the 1974 10 Cent Beer Night promotion in Cleveland, which ended in an on-field brawl/riot pitting players from the Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians against a mob of drunken fans that had spilled onto the field. Steve Foucault was punched in the face during the brawl and got a black eye.

Moments don’t ever go the way you plan them. The Cleveland Indians front office did not intend to cause a riot when they came up with 10 Cent Beer Night. I don’t really know exactly what they were thinking, but promotions seem generally to be rooted in a sense of what people like, the basic question behind each promotion being, How do we help get people to the ballpark by giving them something they like? Following that logic, it would seem to be a no-brainer to seize on beer sold extremely cheaply, since many people who like baseball also like beer and the cheaper the better.

This same thought is behind the gimmick of the upcoming reading events I’ll be participating in over the next few weeks. It’s being called the Free Beer Tour. I’m not sure what exactly this will entail, but I’m pretty sure if you come to one of the events you will be able to get some free beer. I am hoping to drink some beer, meet some people, sell some books, and avoid getting my eye blackened by a punch in the face.

***

My thing lately, or really whenever life seems to be slipping out of my grasp, is to make to do lists and then to more or less ignore them. The latter part of that routine is not intended. My intention when making lists is to instead transform into the kind of fellow who soberly and calmly faces up to all responsibilities and moves through to do lists with ease and relentlessness, marking each completed task done with a single clean line through the task. My to do lists always have a few deep scribbles across the stray items that I manage to get done—usually these are the easy ones that I put on the list just to get myself going, to make it seem like I’m getting things done, in hopes that by marking off something like “take a shower” I will set myself in unstoppable motion, but in the end my series of little notebooks scattered around my home are full of incomplete lists, only the easy things marked out. Anyway, I made a whole list of what I want to do on this site over the next couple of months, probably because in the next couple of months I’m going to get on a plane several times, go to a lot of new places, and, near the end of the two months, if all goes according to schedule, become a father. I don’t know anything about how to do that last thing, so a lot of my difficult list items are pointed toward that looming eventuality. I guess it’ll be good to cross “Steve Foucault 1975″ off my list, so I’m steamrolling ahead through this post. You have to steamroll ahead sometimes. I tried to be a poet and kept revising and revising my attempts until I revised myself clean out of poetry altogether.

***

Poetry fell away from me. Several years after it did so, my last burst of poetry came when I wrote some poems to my wife when we first met, most of them attempts to get her to laugh. This worked better than the scary and obscurely self-aggrandizing works reeking of desperation I’d occasionally foisted on puzzled girls when I was in college. I kept writing, but not the kind of sculpted heightened lines I’d aspired to while in college but the kind of writing I guess a guy does when he’s trying to get by from day to day. Which brings us to today and work. I have to leave in a few minutes. A baby on the way: need money, gotta work. It’s not my dream job, but I never had a dream job. I never thought that way. I did want to be a poet though, a guy who wrote poems, and for the first years out of college I wrote poems in my notebooks, but none of them ever came made it out of a notebook, and more and more I wrote stories and long prose rants and prayers in my notebooks. Looking for a sign.

6 comments

  1. Josh, great as always. Your comment about preferring to be exempted from work reminds me of two things my father used to say, “work doesn’t interest me”, and “work fascinates me….I could watch it all day”.

    Steve Foucault seemed like one of those guys who was always around in the mid ’70′s but had very little impact on his team winning or losing. Like most people, just along for the ride.


  2. Glad I had my office door closed, because I started laughing when I got to the to-do lists. Adding the easy stuff is totally legit. You don’t want anyone to stumble across your list with nothing crossed off. How would that make you look?

    I’m picking up a little Peter Gibbons (Office Space) here, too. His dream was to sit on his ass and do nothing all day, which often sounds pretty good to me.


  3. The good thing about a baby is that they’re like a checklist with a built-in alarm clock. You can’t just let that to-do item go unchecked, because they’ll let you know by screaming their little head off.

    The bad thing is that sometimes, you can tell they want you do to *something* on that to-do list, but you don’t know exactly what it is. You can end up running through the whole checklist (feeding, burping, diapering, playing, sleeping) before you figure out the right one.


  4. Foucault was actually not bad, numbers-wise. It’s sort of surprising that he didn’t last very long.


  5. Josh: Once again you gave me chuckle,so I guess in the cosmic scope of things you always have that going for you although I am unfortunately not the Dalai Lama. In my dotage I am a published poet, however, and I have made a grand total of $0.00 for my efforts. I think you probably made a good choice in not pursuing that goal with your burgeoning family in mind. Route that free beer tour through Nebraska next time-it sounds like fun.




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