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Doug Konieczny

February 10, 2017

doug-konieczny

“I think it’s one of the real gifts that art has for us as human beings . . . it gives us a channel to connect with each other that regular life doesn’t give us.”
– Wayne Kramer

All I do is work. Well, I get the weekends off. I get to go home at night. But during the day on weekdays, it’s just work. It gets busier and busier at my job with each passing year, as if the whole goal is too gradually take everything from me a little at a time.

Here’s the part where I should probably say, lest the gods strike me down, that I’m grateful to have a job. The only thing that’s worse than having a job is not having a job.

On the weekends, I play with my sons. That’s good. But this doesn’t leave much room for art. I get a little time every night after we get them to bed. I’m exhausted by then, but I sit down on a cushion and meditate for twenty minutes, and some of the garbage that’s accumulated in my head all day dissolves. Then I go to my notebook. I’m trying to write a novel. I write a little every day. It’s all disjointed now, and the fragments that come out are absurd. There’s no bright blazing path carrying me through the act of narration, as I always hoped there would be. Writing is not like I thought it would be when I was a youth high on marijuana and reading On the Road. You never get lifted up into some kind of ecstasy. No, you have to just fucking sit down and insist on a reality, again and again.

Who knows if it’ll amount to anything. I’ll keep insisting, I guess. The alternative, just letting my life be work and brief blank periods away from work, makes me want to leap into a wood chipper.

What does this have to do with Doug Konieczny (pronounced kuh-NEEZ-ny)? I don’t fucking know. Maybe only that he probably had to join the workforce like the rest of us when his brief rainbow-bright days in the majors ended. Also: among all baseball players in history he was the most likely to have been at a particular 1970 concert of note that was staged near a highway on the Wayne State University campus in Detroit. Konieczny was up until a few years ago the only graduate of Wayne State to make it to the majors, and in July 1970 he was nearing his final months at the college. Of course, school isn’t in session in the middle of the summer, but Konieczny was a Detroit native, so maybe he heard the big noise and wandered over to see what it was all about.

The band playing was the MC5. Featuring brilliant guitarist (and arguably the best guitar-playing dancer this side of Chuck Berry and Prince) Wayne Kramer, the MC5 wanted to blow up the whole bullshit system that sends us all marching to the beat of our corporate overlords until the day we get blown up by a landmine or succumb to asbestos poisoning or simply keel over from heart disease or dive into a wood chipper. They believed this could be done: a revolution.

After the band broke up, Kramer landed in prison for a while, and this has informed his work of late in which he goes into prisons and gives guitars and songwriting instruction to prisoners. He knows that revolutions may or may not occur, but art is always capable of transforming you.

I know this post hasn’t amounted to art. But that’s where I’m always trying to go. I know I’m not alone. As a matter of fact, I found while trying and failing to find much at all about Doug Konieczny that a painter had transformed this very card into what its brilliant colors intimated. Below is the possible attendee of the July 19, 1970 MC5 concert as rendered by painter John Kilduff. May we all feel that swirl of brilliance once in a while.

konieczny-transformed

6 comments

  1. Josh, this post really hit home. I felt as if I was hearing myself about work, my kids and the frustration of finding time to write or just play “a” game of Strat-O-Matic. Writing isn’t what I thought it would be like when I was reading “The Great Gatsby,” my favorite baseball writers, or the inspiration I got from reading your books. At least you wrote them and they were great! I finally got the opportunity to do some writing for Baseball Prospectus last season, and even then, several short articles I wrote were so hard to compose. The frustration and crap in my head from teaching Senior English would just suck the creativity out of me. Between my son’s baseball practices, games and taking care of other adult responsibilities just seemed to eat all of my time. I love baseball…I love playing it, watching it, reading and writing about or just talking for hours about it. Like you said, “No, you have to just fucking sit down and insist on a reality, again and again.” However, just keep writing a little bit at a time and so will I. You’ve accomplished a lot from what I can tell from your books and posts; sometimes we just have to be satisfied with that for now. Maybe that ecstasy or nirvana will someday exist for us. In the meantime, we will just have to “run faster, stretch out our arms farther” and hope we beat the current.


  2. Substitute “sports” for “art” in Kramer’s quote and it makes just as much sense.


  3. Josh, a lot of this post hit home for me as well. My dad went to Wayne State, and he had the grim “going to school at night” college experience at an urban commuter school in a dying city. He has little positive to say about college. He didn’t get to go off to some idyllic rural campus and take drugs and study philosophy. Just the grind for that guy. I was born there, but got to grow up in the Houston that is evoked when I see a player wearing those rainbow uniforms: a sunny city growing exponentially and full of opportunity. The Astrodome was truly a crappy baseball experience, but you don’t know that when you’re a kid. You just appreciate the game live. You’re not old enough to compare the whole astroturfed, domed, set in a drab part of town experience to Wrigley or Fenway.

    Detroit and its sad story figured prominently in my coming of age through baseball. As an adult, I became aware of Detroit/Michigan’s propensity for producing pitchers with terrible drug problems: Steve Howe, Bob Welch, Lary Sorensen, among others. This seemed to cement in my mind the image I had of the city, that even its success stories somehow came out of that place with troubles that were not easy to conquer. It’s a foolish point, LA and Tampa with their beauties and sunny climes have produced some of baseball’s best drug addled careers as well.


  4. That´s an enjoyable post – I think this site (and perhaps the Wilker ethos) is infatuated with loss –
    but the combo of Astro stripes, artwork and Detroit afro rock strikes me as joyous. Speaking of afros and loss, I´m still waiting for the reappearance of the ultimate (Ultimate!) Oscar Gamble card we used as a talisman that vanished into thin air in Turkey Swamp, New Jersey —
    Every baseball card I´ve ever stolen has vanished thusly. The karma of the cards?


  5. Chris! That one year at Turkey Swamp when we won the “B” tournament was maybe the most enjoyable of my few brief detours from losing. Praise be to Oscar.

    Good point about baseball equaling art in its potential to connect, jimmykc1.

    Thanks for the commiseration and thoughts, Thomas and Ochanga. Let’s keep trying to connect.


  6. I third or fourth the opinion here Josh about this post hitting home. Writing seems to awaken the bipolar behavior in many of us. Some days, maybe a week tops, the discipline is there, that grinding out a few sentences, maybe a paragraph or if really lucky, a page, and other days, there’s looking up one batting average on baseball reference and the search turning into a 2 hour internet joyride. But the flip side goodness in that, is it brings me to sites like yours and suddenly, after reading your words, I feel far less alone.

    The other obstacle i find is if work is actually enjoyable or if i get along too well with my co-workers. The social intercourse can be very draining. That can really hinder my writing. I then have no use to escape into another reality, one I create and feel productive doing, When I’m tuned to my plots and characters, I do a lot of my note scribbling at work, in the shadows, where the boss and no one else can see me. It requires a certain degree of cat and mouse, but it’s doable.



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