This card from 1986 feels different than a major league card, flimsier, promotional, disposable. The player’s name is spelled differently on the front than it is on the back (“Krausse”), and on the back instead of the somehow comforting stack of years that you see on a major leaguer’s card there’s just one line of statistics, from the player’s previous season, which occurred with another team from a different organization, in another league, in another city, in another country. The numbers from that year, 1985, are without promise—3 homers, 2 steals, a .244 average. Above them are some other numbers for height, weight, and birth date that further fill in the portrait of a slight, plodding, light-hitting Triple A infielder who’ll turn 28 before the year is done.
But what gets me the most is the stray comma after the birthday info: 9-09-57,
The comma seems to be from the same disordered reality as the figures in the photo on the front of the card. The photo’s ostensible subject strikes a polite pose and smiles, but the slippage in focus of his gaze away from the camera loosens any possible ability of the figure to center the presentation. You aren’t drawn to any one thing in this world, and so you bounce from thing to thing randomly, from the necklace of the infielder to the blotchy sky to the other figures scattered around, all seeming to look with slackened boredom at various unremarkable occurrences.
I listened to a lecture on the drive to work today by a Buddhist teacher named Gil Fronsdal. He talked about how it’s important to pay attention to your body, to really feel moment by moment what you’re doing. There’s a part in my drive when I pull into the left-hand turn lane on Touhy to make a left on Elmhurst. I’m always in a long line of cars for this turn. It was at this point in the lecture when Fronsdal talked about what a waste of time it is to wait. When you are standing there, just feel yourself standing. Pay attention to the moment. Meditate. Breathe. Don’t cast yourself forward in time or strain against the expectations you brought into the moment, the disappointments those expectations bring.
There’s a huge billboard above the lights for that turn for a “gentleman’s club.” It advertises that it’s “full liquor” and “full contact” and that the “dancers work free.” I’m not sure what any of this means except for the liquor part, which I suppose means you can get hammered on any type of liquor you want. I guess you can grope the woman who work there at will and you don’t have to lure them toward you by waving money in the air. I’ve gone to strip clubs two or three times in my life, back when I was the age Tim Krauss is here, and there did seem to be customs around money and contact. On the billboard there was a large photo of a woman’s face. Her head was tipped back and her mouth was hanging open. Her eyelids were almost shut. She looked as if she’d been drugged. The other billboards on this strip of road sell other consumables and services, cheeseburgers, lawyers, liquidation.
The green arrow came on and it was my turn to go. The lecture ended and Fronsdal asked for questions. After some loud feedback a man in the audience ignored the request for questions and made a faintly but flintily challenging statement about how it seemed easy to follow the precepts of mindfulness when things were going OK, but when the body started breaking down or other life crises occurred it got a lot harder. Fronsdal said—he didn’t use these words, but this was the gist—that everyone would be wise to train the mind for when things inevitably start to suck. You’ll never be able to do it if you wait until the end.
And things will start to suck. You’ll lose whatever intermittent ability you might have had to turn on the inside fastball. And that will just be the first of it. All day at work I felt like I had been dropped from a height. I was woozy, weakened. This is closer to the norm than the exception. I never really feel that great anymore, physically, and yet I’m always waiting to somehow become 27 again going on 26, or 25, or 24, on one of those days back then when every muscle felt good and like the next card I drew was going to feel solid in my hand, not some discordant fortune of meaningless punctuation, anchorless desire.