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Cardboard Links, 3.12.09

March 12, 2009

kerouac

OK, so this week at Cardboard Gods has so far been one that has dwelled on aging and on where aging ultimately leads. What a grim one-direction-only conveyor belt is life! So the question is, how to get through weeks like this (or months) (or more) without going kind of nuts and/or walking around with a sad and anxious look on your face, exactly the kind of loserface that will not help open doors for you in your quest to rise to the Top of the Heap in life? I don’t know. Drugs? Booze? Television? All of these are fine options, of course, I guess, and there are others, too, probably, such as yoga and bow-hunting and “swinging.” But me, I like going backwards, or fostering the illusion of going backwards, of becoming as the gentleman pictured above instructed, “a teahead of time.” It’s Jack Kerouac’s birthday today (thanks to fjgallagher for emailing me a reminder), and I think he would approve an attempt to head in the opposite direction of that Inevitable Day when remaining loved ones will gather and split up my meager possessions, when the Blue Line train will be one guy less crowded, when a maintenance man is contacted by Human Resources to remove my nametag from my cubicle. Oh the woe, birthday boy, for all of us have deathdays too, so let us in your name go backwards, eyes and ears open to all that once was that is gone.

First stop: 1909. I’m sure it’s poor form to link to oneself, but I’ve recently started writing about the Red Sox for the new Baseball Digest website, and as yet have not managed to generate any conversation on any of my customarily self-absorbed Red Sox rantings, besides one comment from what seems to be a nonhuman entity. Be the first to chime in!

Next stop: Way Back and Gone. This baseball history site makes every day one that points backward, with a running “this day in history” feature as well as features on Hall-of-Famers (most recently, Paul Waner and Harry Helimann), and other bygone baseball meditations, such as a recent post on the father of the box score, Henry Chadwick.

Another blogging baseball historian is Negro Leagues expert Scott Simkus, who recently enlightened readers on black baseball’s best minor league team (along the lines of Lefty Grove’s dominant Baltimore Orioles squads of the 1920s), the Union Giants.

Simkus also alerted me to an interesting story on agate type about an infamous and talented Negro League pitcher named Dave “Lefty” Brown. Agate type is a fun site to rove around on, as everywhere you go you go further back. From a post on that site about Benny Kauff I found myself at another site that I visit regularly and that is truly one of the greatest treasure troves on the web for fans of baseball history: SABR’s Baseball Biography Project. Here’s the biography on the star-crossed Ty Cobb of the Federal League, and I would suggest going from Kauff’s story to the “browse” page and simply diving in to read in-depth stories of stars and journeymen from all corners of baseball history. 

While you’re reading, you might want some music to help move you away from the senseless cacophony of the present. I would suggest visiting Setting the Woods on Fire, which offers a running supply of good tunes (and commentary and biographical notes on said tunes) from bygone times.

If you feel like you need to venture from the world of baseball in your trips into the past, a perfect bridge from our beloved child’s game to the world of Things That Actually Matter is Bob Timmermann, formerly of the Baseball Toaster site The Griddle. Bob has started a blog, One through Forty-Two or Forty-Three, that focuses on providing detailed and entertaining reviews of biographies of all the United States presidents. So far I have learned, among other things, about the namesake of the fearsome gang that once menaced George Costanza; about the president who, similar to Mr. Orange in Reservoir Dogs, spent most of his brief time in the spotlight dying of a gunshot wound; and about a president from the Cardboard Gods era who may have been the most accomplished athlete among presidents (he was a college All-American in football), despite his reputation for pratfalls.

It’s strange to think that Gerald Ford, after living for more years than any president, is finally gone. Since he’s a figure from my childhood, I tend to think of him as existing in the Now rather than in the deep and separate Then of the past. So it’s comforting to me that, as proven by Mets By the Numbers in a piece on the Top Ten players to wear the number 9 in Mets history, there are gods from the past that you can still reach out and touch:

One afternoon I looked up a George Theodore in Utah, left a phone message, and hoped for the best. Turned out I had the right guy: He got back to me right away, he was every bit as nice and down to earth as I’d hoped – who could look like that and have an attitude? . . . I was able to pick up this tidbit: Theodore shed 18 for 9 as a tribute to Ted Williams, whom he considered a boyhood idol (“I thought it would help my batting,” he said).

5 comments

  1. I was a guest on a blog talk radio show last night in which we discussed presidents, pop culture, and watchmen, among other things, set off by “the rock” obama on snl and nixon’s five terms in the watchmen movie. ford was the first commander in chief to appear on saturday night live, in a 1975 episode hosted by his press secretary, ron nessen. the episode also featured would-be senator al franken, musical guest and activist patti smith, and a stand-up routine by a young baseball-loving comic named billy crystal.

    could you imagine kerouac reading his work to some be bop on saturday night live had he lived a few more years?


  2. “could you imagine kerouac reading his work to some be bop on saturday night live had he lived a few more years?”

    Well, he got more and more reclusive as the years went on, so it would have taken more than him merely avoiding death to make it out of his drunken living room for SNL, but had he somehow reconnected with his youthful vitality I can see that. Years earlier, he did have that appearance on the Steve Allen show:


  3. ack! i can’t believe i forgot about that…


  4. In that photograph Kerouac looks like Hugh Hefner.


  5. I thought he looked a lot like Daniel Craig in that picture.



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