All right, I’m up, showered, fed; the kid is asleep, the dishes are all clean, and I’ve got a half hour to write before I have to climb on my bicycle and pedal to the bus stop and ride to work. This is it from here on out for a while, more or less, so I am not going to mess around with craft too much. Jack Kerouac, who my kid is named after, said that craft in writing is a kind of subterfuge, a way of avoiding honesty anyway. Then again, well, I don’t totally believe that and see that it can be a way out of doing the work needed to make a piece of writing be more than just someone’s spit-up. (Sorry, I have spit-up on my mind.) Also, Jack Kerouac’s writing lost momentum as the years went on, his writing lost life I mean, and his greatest book was written and rewritten many times and suffered for despite the myth that he spontaneously created the whole thing in a few weeks with no forethought or even any effort beyond what it took to crack open a bottle of benzedrine. Still, there is a time for carefully crafting stuff, maybe, and a time to just report from the bunker as fast as possible so as to keep a semblance of sanity and the human voice alive. This situation I am in is not—is actually the farthest thing from—holing up in a bunker. But it is relentless, dealing with a newborn. Of course, I am far from the front lines on this one (back to the battle metaphors again, I know) and am more like a guy running supplies to the ranks on the front lines, those ranks being my wife, a beleaguered army of one who nonetheless is all softness and love with the baby, and when he’s sleeping and giving her a chance to think, her mind is racing with worries that something might happen to him, to his tiny fragile life. As for me (I almost stopped writing to consider my next thought instead of just slamming it down first thought best thought beatnik style) I am coming down from the first high of the kid being born, when I thought I would be a different guy altogether forever, someone able to give myself over totally to complete holy sacrifice all the time, like fucking Gandhi or something, transformed by my love of the boy. Turns out I am the same as always, just more tired. I live for the kid now though. But when I get a little time here and there, I want to figure out what the hell is the shape of my mind. So here I am, staring at the third and final Steve Foucault card in my collection. My three Steve Foucault cards form a progression through the years, the 1975 card showing him looking in for a sign, the 1976 card showing him coming to a set position, and this 1977 card showing him just after delivering a phantom pitch. No ball is visible in any of the cards. Foucault wears a Texas Rangers uniform in various combinations, a long-sleeve undershirt disappearing then reappearing. His right pointer finger pokes out of his glove in all the photos. He has the same long mustache and thick sideburns every year. He looks off to his left in the first picture, off to his right in the second picture, and in the last picture he gazes straight at the viewer. The imaginary ball is out of his hands now and out in the world. Your turn now. He is looking at me, and looking at you. His right hand is in a fist, but it is loosening just a little, his middle finger itching to unfurl. The days are long and exhausting. The years fly by. You can’t touch this pitch. You can grow a splendid walrus mustache and sideburns but you can’t know what’s next. You can’t ever know.
Archive for the ‘Steve Foucault’ Category
Just under a month ago, Steve Foucault peered in for a sign. Now he is coming set. He’s in a different uniform—the away ensemble—and it seems as if his hair may be longer. He’s still working away on a big chaw in his right cheek, and he’s still got the walrus facial hair. In both cards, trees line the horizon, and in this card there also seem to be members of the Oakland A’s in the distance.
This weekend my very pregnant wife and I went for a walk. The doctor said going on walks would help get the baby in position, or something along those lines. I forget the specifics. I am finding it more and more difficult to process information with any accuracy. I’ve been reading books on pregnancy and labor and all the facts and instructions seem to partially or completely disintegrate on contact with my mind. Anyway, the walk was good. We ended up over by the lake, where there’s a small sandy beach. It was a gray day, not that warm, but some kids were still splashing around and playing Frisbee in the water. We sat on a bench on a concrete slab up above the beach, next to another bench that had a pair of women’s shoes sitting on it. One early morning a few weeks earlier, I’d been running on this beach when two young deer appeared around the corner of the abandoned-looking building at the edge of the beach. There’s nothing but big rocks around that corner, so their appearance seemed inexplicable to me. They followed me for a while. I kept looking back and there they were, clambering on their spindly legs up the beach, stepping unsurely on the sidewalk leading away from the beach, moving toward Sheridan Road. Sheridan Road is a busy street with a McDonald’s and a red line El station and homeless people and, on rusted racks, the bones of half-pilfered bicycles. I lost sight of the fawns when I turned the corner onto this street, and I don’t know what became of them. When my wife and I sat on a bench this weekend at that beach I thought of them and thought of this kid on the way.
When a pitcher comes set after getting the sign he most commonly focuses his gaze downward, or perhaps even inward, gathering himself, gathering resolve. In this photo Steve Foucault seems instead to be gazing off into the distance.
Sometimes I find myself kind of praying.
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.