Jose Canseco

April 18, 2011

Maybe it’s okay when things stop coming together. Who knows? Either way, here are some of my disappointing attempts over the last several days to write about this loaded Jose Canseco card. Nothing has really felt like it was coming together, but I have to put something down and try to move on. 

From 4/17:
Eras personified
1900-1919: Ty Cobb
1920-1945: Babe Ruth
1946-1968: Jackie Robinson
1969-1985: Reggie Jackson
1986-200?: Barry Bonds or Jose Canseco?

From 4/16:
Everything is provisional, faulty, impure. Every day I try to find a true sentence. Every day I feel conquered. I wish I knew what to do with this feeling. Sisyphus at least knew the particulars of his punishment. A rock, a hill. I can’t put my back into anything. No true sentences exist (not even this one). 

From 4/15:
I thought this morning I might start keeping track of my mistakes. This would only be fair for someone who spends so much time scrutinizing and exploiting the stats on the backs of baseball cards, those merciless numerical narratives of how far each player falls short of perfection. I made my first mistake today when I failed to spring out of bed when my alarm clock rang. I always set my alarm for very early in the morning so that I can write before I have to go to work. If I don’t write every day my days lose color and meaning, and I begin to feel like a prisoner in a pointless, exhausting life, so I try to fight it by getting up very early, thus my first mistake today, the first of my intentional or accidental diversions from my intentions, when instead of springing out of bed early I just lay there in the dark. Days begin in the cold dark and with dread, and it seems while lying in bed that the only escape from the dread is back into the warmth and oblivion of sleep. I made my second mistake when I finally did get out of bed and, while reaching for my glasses, knocked a thick biography of Charles Schulz onto the floor. This was not my intention, and it caused my wife to stir. She didn’t wake up, I don’t think, but still I didn’t intend to knock the book over, so you’d have to say it was a mistake to have done so. I don’t know if I made any mistakes with my breakfast. Probably I spilled crumbs and ate too much butter on my bread and even now cockroaches are on their way to a takeover of the kitchen and arteries are clogging in my heart, but these mistakes will have to remain unofficial for I didn’t specifically notice them. But I did notice another mistake as it was happening while I spent a long time after eating breakfast reading the Charles Schulz biography. This again came at the cost of what little writing time I have every day. But I was near the end of the book, which is 566 pages long, and so I kept reading until Charles Schulz died. I didn’t have much time left to write.    

From 4/14:
The Jose Canseco baseball card pictured here seems ludicrous now, the subject looking less like a human being than a misshapen and overinflated Macy’s Day parade balloon, but at the time it came out, 1998, baseball was luring droves of disenchanted fans back to the game with record-smashing barrages of the long ball, at the center of the cyclone of power several unnaturally massive bat-wielding hulks, all following in the footsteps of the Johnny Appleseed of steroids pictured here in smug repose, and few among us so much as blinked. Baseball, that pure land at the center of America, was back.

From 4/13:
We the people, weak, conniving, greedy, diseased in body and mind, in order to force a pure land into being will use force to trample anything in our path. We the people, addicted to purity, forever scour the land of apparent impurities, the godless and savage and monstrous, and we the people expand and enslave, never satisfied, purity forever elusive. Splits and fissures everywhere, we the people are fractured, atomized. We the people dream of the pastoral idyll of green fields and inalienable truths and baseball, every new transgression seen not as evidence of an imperfect world but as a sin against the pure ideal that, in reality, never was and never will be.


  1. Wow, the darkness seems to be sitting on your doorstep these days – these are all promising paths, and sometimes that IS enough. After all, another American obsession is the tidily complete conclusion (god forbid an American film ends without clear resolution), so in your own elegantly accidental way, you can consider this thumbing your nose at convention. How’s that for sun shining out your a*#hole?
    Anyway, for meanderings, they’re engaging – I must admit, the sight of Gargantua holding his toothpick struck me a bit dumb too…

  2. A couple weeks ago, an airplane heading from Phoenix to Sacramento had part of its outer shell fall off mid-flight. The plane made an emergency landing in Yuma, Arizona, where Jose Canseco has just been named the player-manager of the Yuma Scorpions of the independent North American League.

    When things don’t come together, when things fall apart, you invariably end up in a desert. And it is in the emptiness of a desert, where the distractions are minimal, that you can focus on inspecting the holes you have let form in your own walls.

  3. Regarding April 15, I’d say if you didn’t wake up the wife, then dropping the book is more like bobbling the ball but getting it to first base in time to beat the runner. No error charged, and hence it becomes untraceable in the scorecard of life. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

    By the way, is that David Michaelis’ book ? It’s been on my nightstand for a month or so now, but I am still in Minneapolis with Sparky in high school. Thanks for telling me how it comes out.

    Still trying to make out how the card relates to the Blue Jay’s chances this year. Pretty bleak, I guess.

  4. Hey, just wanted to let you know that a CardBoard Heroes interview in the Saturday Evening Post that you did showed up numero uno in the results listing of the database I was using to help a student doing a research paper on “collecting.” So somewhere out there in Chicagoland, some student is using your article to write a paper. I just thought that was cool to soem across that.

  5. come across that*

  6. notalenthack:
    Yes, it’s the Michaelis bio. I really enjoyed it (though it was pretty sad at times). Very interesting seeing the author trace the great Schulz’s personal life and sensibilities to the strips.

  7. baddude22:
    Thanks for letting me know about that. Pretty cool.

  8. Hey Josh, when are you doing a bookstore reading in Chicago area? I hope I didn’t miss that already….I just moved out here in November from Los Angeles been reading your stuff for years now.

  9. I think you kind of peaked on the 14th.

  10. baddude22:
    Yes, there’ll be a reading at the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square in early May and another out in Naperville in June. I’ll get details up soon.

    Yeah, Pete, I should have posted a little something on the 14th and moved on with my life, but I felt like there was more to say (I just couldn’t figure out how to say it).

  11. Have really enjoyed reading your book and post. Baseball card collecting picked up for me on the 80s after having handfuls of cards from the 70s. The collecting in the 80s was just like the juiced players, as too many cards were made and collecting lost it’s fun. Is neat to look back now and see how few players of the 80s became good 15-20 year career players.

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