Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Category: Life (Page 2 of 7)

1, 2, 3, 4

I’m experiencing a combination of drive and paralysis with my non-Variety writing. Paralysis is winning because it’s less stressful – it’s easier right now for me to live with the unfulfilled urge to create than fit the struggle of creation into my schedule.

Ever since I began this hiatus two months ago, I feel like I’ve been catching up on 10 years of lost sleep, dating back to when my daughter was born in September 2002. I’m sleeping more hours per night than I have in all that time, and it still feels like it’s barely enough.

I’ve also been a little less of a slave to the desktop computer than I’ve been in that time. Year after year of juggling projects has mostly, for the time being, been transformed. Other than working on next spring’s revision of 100 Things Dodgers, I’ve been a one-job man since baseball season ended.

That job, of covering the awards scene at Variety, is challenging in that I’m the newcomer now, trying to establish my place among the folks that have been on the beat for years. I’ve done some good work, but there’s always, always more that I could be doing. That alone is enough to cower my ambition in other areas.

Whatever I contemplate doing – and I contemplate a lot – there’s always the feeling that the following is more important: 1) family, 2) Variety, 3) exercise, 4) sleep. Not necessarily in that order. I have a very comfortable bed and I enjoy every moment in it.

As for my waking hours, I’ve been home from the office this week on a staycation, and my chief activity has been preparing for a garage sale. I see offseason Dodger news and mostly feel relieved I don’t have to pause to address it. I miss the idea of doing Dodger Thoughts and how special it made me feel, but I don’t miss the reality of it.

I’m not sure when the yearning I have to create again will translate into actual activity, or whether I can find fulfillment completely in my day job, which would be somewhat ideal. Even this post, which was meant to be a five-minute stream of consciousness, has become something that I’ve spent more time than I intended on – and yet not turned into something entirely satisfying. Doing something of substance requires a level of commitment that I am wary of.

I’m still never sure if I’m working the appropriate amount. Recall my post two years ago about myself, Matt Kemp and John Wooden.

… I approach life a certain way. I want to be better, and I’ll grind at it, but there’s a limit to what I’ll do. I work very hard, I feel, but I can’t emphasize that limit enough. And that limit can change on a weekly, daily, hourly basis. There always has and always will be a part of me that wants to do nothing more than smell the roses, whether those roses are Saturday morning cartoons as a kid or a nice long walk in the twilight as a grown-up. I like the work I do, but I don’t like to work. I accept the process and can even enjoy the journey, but the result is a big part of my reward. I always want my life to be easier; I always want things to go right the first time.

And so that limit of how hard I’m willing to work is a moving target. …

Should I be working harder to provide more for my family, or should I be working harder at being with my family, or should I be content to get a good night’s sleep? Thanksgiving doesn’t answer the conflict between ambition and satisfaction.

Soul in That

Twenty years ago, on December 2, 1992, I finished the last poem of my Georgetown grad school poetry workshop – the last poem I have ever written or intend to write. It’s nothing the least bit remarkable, but I found it during some housecleaning this week and thought I’d share it.

I have some good memories of that workshop, though none better than of our instructor, Roland Flint, a Burl Ivesian man of letters and a baseball fan who expressed warm envy for my sportswriting career, such as it was. We even made a trip to a still-new Camden Yards together. Flint passed away in 2001.

Anyway, here’s the poem. For my farewell effort, I had decided to take my best stab at telling a Springsteen-like tale in poetry.

* * *

Soul in That

Understand me now:
he wasn’t much
just some overgrown bolo-wearin’ Bob.
I could run him in circles any day o’ the week.
But yessir, to answer your question,
you could call it a push.

I tried explainin’ to Shelly,
but she wasn’t in no mood for understandin’.
See, that was our spot
up on Hays Peak.
Then last month
this guy come to steal Shelly.
And then
I heard
that they
was up at
our
spot.
That was too much of mine to take.
And so I took somethin’ of his.

You ever think about them words?
I       took         a         life.
I did.
You’ll do whatever with me ‘n mine now.
Don’t matter none, ’cause it’s already been spit on shit on put down ‘n run round,
and ’cause I got his,
got it for keeps –
and you’re payin’ ‘tention now, ain’t ya.

Understand me now:
I done it, but I ain’t guilty.
I’m a decent man.
My shirt ain’t tore.
I ain’t no long-hair metal-head.
I like a nice, soft tune.
I can tell you that Patsy’s “Crazy” is A24
on the Midnight Bar & Grill jukebox.
Say, you should write a song about this, sir,
do a little something for y’self, like
me.
Hold on – I’ll even ante up a couple bits for ya:
Lessee,
Sun was out hot, those weird twistin’ rays.
nice little backdrop for his hey hey heeeeeeeys.
Ha –
tell me there ain’t no soul in that.

* * *

Below, here’s the real deal:

Best wishes to those in path of Hurricane Sandy

Though it might seem I’ve forgotten about this site, I haven’t forgotten about its readers.  Just wanted to send my most hopeful thoughts to those who are in jeopardy from Hurricane Sandy. If and when you can, let us know in the comments how things look and how you’re doing.

For those of us here in California, this is as good a time as any to check on your earthquake supplies. Because, you know, the Mayans.

On waivers

My oldest son witnesses my outfield heroics at Dodger Stadium – winter 2008-09

It’s a complete coincidence that this post comes on the 10th anniversary of the last post before my one and only Dodger Thoughts sabbatical. That began four days before my daughter was born, and wasn’t by design as much as it was just a byproduct of feeling overwhelmed by a dramatic life change and wanting to make sure I had my priorities straight. I had only put three months into the site at that point, drawing but a handful of readers, and it wasn’t clear that I was actually giving up anything meaningful.

Tonight, I’m more clear on what I’m putting aside – including a dream of doing Dodger Thoughts for 50 years or more. To this day, I still have enough arrogance about myself to be surprised that no one has ever wanted to pay me a living wage to do this full-time. But the marketplace spoke, and unless it changes its mind someday, I don’t have the luxury of ignoring it. And I’m tired of doing mediocre work on something that meant so much to me.

Anyone reading this site knows how hard it has been for me to maintain a pretense that the site is still useful in 2012. There have been some decent moments, but mostly, it’s been painful. And it’s not getting any easier. My family and my day job demand bigger and bigger shares of my energy and my sanity. So let’s cut to the chase: I’m designating myself for assignment.

That doesn’t mean I’m never going to post here again – in fact, I can almost promise that I will at some point – but it does mean I’m releasing myself from the daily task of writing about the Dodgers, as well as creating chat threads for every game. Dodger Thoughts has become a burden – the opposite of what it was intended to be – and there are too many other sites that now do what I set out to do more productively. The fact that I’m cutting and running with only two weeks left in the regular season (and a Dodger playoff appearance still very much a possibility) indicates just how much of a burden it has been. For all their problems, I believe in the Dodgers much more right now than I believe in my capacity to write about them.  That about says it all.

For those who remain interested in my writing independent of the Dodgers, I encourage you to visit my Variety blog, The Vote.  I know the subject matter differs like apples and asparagus, but by focusing my blogging energy there, I hope to invest it with more of the life that Dodger Thoughts once had – and maybe draw in some non-hardcore fans in the process. (The comment section there is begging for a community.) Also, please follow me on Twitter, which will be the best way to keep up on what I’m keeping up on and the quickest way to find out if and when I post on Dodger Thoughts again.

Anyone who ever was a reader or a part of the Dodger Thoughts community, and especially those who provided critical support along the way, I can’t thank you enough. I really can’t. This has been the most memorable writing experience of my life.

But this message has already gone on too long.  Here’s hoping the Dodgers come back and make me feel stupid for folding at this moment. (And here’s wishing, as Bob Timmermann suggested in an e-mail, that I had just thought to explain all this as a figment of Tommy Westphall’s autistic imagination.)

* * *

Oh – one thing I already forgot to mention. A revised version of 100 Things Dodger Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die is scheduled for publication next spring. Orlando Hudson’s cycle and other treats from the past three years will be included in the second edition.

The wallet blues

It happened again this morning. I spent nearly 15 minutes looking for my wallet, and when my wife joined the challenge, she found it in 15 seconds. It’s one of the less original tropes in my household: I can take forever to look for something that my wife will then find in an instant.

My question is, why can’t I laugh at this? Instead of stewing at my inadequacies, why can’t I find the cheap humor in it, you know, like it’s Drabble or something? As my wife handed me the wallet, explained where it was and moved on with her day, I stood there, shaking my head, wanting to laugh but not being able to.

Somehow, this explains a lot about me, I think.

Tenth Anniversary Freeze-Out

Sunday, July 21, 2002

This is where I will vent, and, if I can ever feel so comfortable, exult about the Dodgers and baseball in general.

* * *

Ten years, three kids, one puppy, 855 wins and 782 losses later (including 9-14 in the playoffs), I realize I might better have described my mission just as inhaling and exhaling – catching my breath – about the Dodgers and baseball in general, and life.

The landscape has certainly changed. This website began to fill a void in my writing life – “bad scooter searching for his groove” – now I don’t have enough time to write all I want. Life in general has only become more challenging. At the same time, when this site began there was virtually nothing like it covering the Dodgers; now there are more than I can keep track of, doing excellent work, providing a level of insight unprecedented in the history of Dodger reporting.

But overwhelmingly, I want to express that I’m grateful. I’m grateful for the invention of blogs, for the invention of the Internet, that enabled this platform for all my thoughts, baseball and otherwise. It has really helped sustain me. And I’m grateful to anyone who stopped by over the past 10 years and gave something I wrote a glance of consideration. I’m grateful for the support I’ve received, even through posts as self-serving as this one, and for the friends I’ve made through this site.

Sometimes, I wish I had channeled the past 10 years into something more majestic – a book or script that would stand the test of time. Sometimes, I wish I had just gotten away from the computer more altogether. The rest of the time, I can’t think of anything better than writing right in this spot and hanging out online with you.

Dodgers at Mets, 10:10 a.m.
Bobby Abreu, LF
Adam Kennedy, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
James Loney, 1B
Juan Uribe, 3B
Luis Cruz, SS
Matt Treanor, C
Chris Capuano, P

This morning

The last thing I did this morning before walking out the door for work was hug and kiss goodbye my 4-year-old, who was singing and playing with our electric keyboard. I walked out to the car, my iPhone in hand, preparing to try out a new podcast for the 15-minute drive to work.

Got in the car, hooked in my iPhone, belted, turned on the car ignition and looked over my shoulder.

I looked. I did look.

But it was a quick look, a glance, a blurry glance.  It was a look without any intention of seeing, and in fact, I had already shifted the car into reverse and begun to lift my foot off the brake pedal when the image registered in my consciousness of my 4-year-old running over to finish saying goodbye to me.

I looked.  I did look.

And he wasn’t behind the car. He was to the side of the rear of the vehicle. I wouldn’t have hit him. But it was just way, way too close. And a different image rests in my brain.

Put the car in park, unbelted, got out, picked him up and hugged him tight in that way where you’re scolding him, yourself, and everyone and everything in the world for allowing tragedy to lurk around every corner, at any moment.

Now I’m at work.

Nightmare

My thoughts are with the victims in Colorado and their family and friends.

Age is just a number (even if it’s the wrong number)

Mets at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Elian Herrera, 3B
Jerry Hairston Jr., 2B
Bobby Abreu, LF
A.J. Ellis, C
James Loney, 1B
Scott Van Slyke, RF
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Aaron Harang, P

I’ve spent most of the year thinking I’m the wrong age. What does this have to do with the Dodgers and R.A. Dickey? Maybe nothing at all, but find out the scoop at Los Angeles Magazine’s CityThink blog.

Wait, wait, don’t serve me

Good on the boys in blue this weekend. They’re amazing, I tell you what. A.J. Ellis, Jerry Hairston, Chris Capuano … I see Butch and Sundance of the Houston Astros looking down the canyon and asking, “Who are those guys?”

* * *

There’s this relatively new pizzeria in Westwood, 800 Degrees, that I just find fascinating. Its calling card, essentially, is that it replicates the experience of waiting in the worst Dodger Stadium food line you’ve ever encountered, topped off by the lack of urgency or even regret over the time it takes to service a given customer.

The product, implicitly, is worth a pilgrimage of infinite time … which in reality, isn’t the case. The pizza is plenty good, but hardly lifechanging. Yet typically – if you’ve had a different experience, tell me – the line out the door is somewhere between 50 and 100 people.

Once you order your food, it’s prepared right in front of you, cooked in what I gather is the oven to beat all ovens, and ready to serve fresh and hot within five minutes. There’s a rule against saving seats in the restaurant until your food arrives – a rule that gets broken by some patrons, to our judgmental annoyance – but really, it’s not an issue. There always seems to be an empty table by the time you’re ready to sit down.

But the line. It’s insane. Just insane. We’ve been there two times. (Yeah, fool us twice …) Today, I timed the wait – nearly 50 minutes from our arrival to the cash register. You’re just standing there, moving a footstep once in a blue moon. I mean, who would actually volunteer to enter this kind of trap outside of a baseball stadium or other venue where you had no other options?

The answer, apparently, is hundreds or thousands of people every day, all generally in good spirits. It’s remarkable. It must be one of those things where people see the line and just assume they must want to be a part of it.  I have to imagine that someday, more and more people will decide, with a nod to Yogi Berra, that it’s so crowded that nobody should go there anymore. But that doesn’t seem imminent.

I’m bowing out, however. Vito’s Pizza on La Cienega will remain our go-to place. It’s farther away from our house, but we can complete the round trip in the time it takes to traverse the quarter-block line on Lindbrook Avenue in the shadow of the old Mann Festival theater. My New York-born-and-bred wife, who by birthright is the authority on such matters, deems Vito’s the best pizza in Los Angeles, and I’ve never seen any reason to disagree.

Can’t explain

I can’t explain … anything that is going on.

For the past week, I have been sitting on the sidelines. Watching. Not writing.

There’s more going on right now with my compulsion to write about the Dodgers than I can articulate right now. None of it is bad. It’s just complicated. Like trying to jump on to a spinout ride, not knowing how to jump … and realizing you don’t have to jump. That maybe you’re not supposed to jump.

It has never seemed less necessary to offer my two cents. I’ve never felt less qualified. There’s nothing I’m seeing that you’re not seeing. The only thing I can tell you about the Dodgers is what I’m feeling … and you’re already feeling it.

Maybe someday, there will be a baseball team that I’ll write about again. But this is a thrill ride. Right now, I’m a passenger, just like you.

Home run

So, a couple times this week, Youngest Master Weisman, age 4, has asked me to play baseball in the backyard with him after dinner. Nearly 10 years of parenting, and it’s finally happening. 

Aside from the pleasure you can imagine I take from this, I realized just how much I still like to go play ball in the yard. Four decades has made no appreciable difference.

Spending the night of the L.A. riots at Dodger Stadium

Twenty years ago, I was in between. I had left my full-time sportswriter job at the Daily News in March and was headed to graduate school in Georgetown in the summer, but for the time being, I was mostly killing time with a little occasional freelance work and a lot of sitting around. I had a destination and was adrift all at once.

Not surprisingly, I spent a lot of time at Dodger Stadium that spring. The 1992 Dodgers were dismal, losing 99 games (the most by the franchise in 84 years), but they started the season 9-9 before dropping three consecutive one-run games, two in extra innings, from April 26-28. The outfield of Eric Davis, Brett Butler and Darryl Strawberry all hit the ball decently in April, and rookie Eric Karros – a surprise starter at first base – was also off to a solid start. The starting pitching, perhaps surprisingly, was the shakiest part of the roster in April.

On the afternoon of April 29, I was in front of the family room TV in my parents’ Woodland Hills house, watching the verdict announcement in the trial of the four police officers charged in the Rodney King beating case. As it was being read, in formal, almost bland, tones, I remember most of all not being sure I was understanding it correctly.

Soon, I would really realize how little grasp I had of what was happening.

My friends and I had plans to see the Dodgers play the Phillies that night, a Wednesday. I don’t believe it occurred to me not to go, other than to perhaps stay home and watch more reaction to the acquittal of the officers. We knew there was anger, we knew there were protests, but we didn’t know how they were going to unfold. Our drive to Dodger Stadium was without incident. When Reginald Denny was being dragged out of his truck, at approximately 6:45 p.m, we were inside the ballpark and insulated from most news of the outside world.

The game wasn’t memorable. Orel Hershiser fell behind 5-0 in the fourth; the Dodgers made four errors and lost, 7-3. It would have been completely forgettable if not for one thing: the warning from the public address announcer not to take any of the southbound freeways away from Dodger Stadium. That certainly got our attention.

By the time we reached home – heading directly west – we fully understood what the deal was.  So would the Dodgers, who canceled their remaining home games that week, forcing them to play doubleheaders on July 3, July 6, July 7 and July 8. That night, I drove back to the Daily News office, an outsider there now as well as just about anywhere else. But in this pre-Internet era, I wanted to see the news coming in. Feeble as it was, that was the only way I knew how to feel connected.

During a recent conference call promoting the documentary Harvard Park, I asked Davis and Strawberry their recollections of the day. Both were in the Dodger starting lineup as the events of April 29 unfolded.

Davis:

It started out as a normal day. With any news of that magnitude, we were watching and paying close attention to the verdict. Unfortunately we had started to play when the verdict came down. And some things started to transpire that we weren’t aware of. And at the end of the game, the sheriffs came into the clubhouse (and told us) that the city was in an uproar and they kind of routed us home, as far as what freeways to take.

Going south out of South Central, the city was in a blaze. There was a lot of anger, there was a lot of hatred that was going on in the city at that particular time because of what had transpired. We actually went home and turned on the news and saw the city being in a blaze.

At that time, Darryl and myself had a store on 84th and Broadway, called All-Star Custom Interiors. The next day we got a call that the games were cancelled. And we were like, ‘Wow, this is really serious, they are canceling games.’ So, we went down to see the store and everything around it had been burned and vandalized — except our store. So it was like we had mixed emotions, because of the total chaos that was going on in the city but the upmost respect for what Darryl and myself had meant to that particular area as opposed to other areas that our store was not vandalized.

And then the time that we brought Rodney King down (to Dodger Stadium) … I had known Rodney’s attorney, and our thought was that it was a healing process and that here’s a man who was getting abused for getting beat. And when he came to Dodger Stadium, it was more of a comfort zone – from what Darryl and myself – to say, let’s try to move forward. But the response we got from some of the people at Dodger Stadium was like this guy was Charles Manson or somebody. It kind of hurt then, because of the fact that he was still being treated as an aggressor, or that he did some wrong outside of getting beat.

So I had mixed emotions about that.

It was a very tough time in South Central at that particular time. I had never been a part of a racial riot to that magnitude. I mean, I was a kid when I watched riots hit, but to actually be in the middle of that and have something to do with it, it was a very tough time – I’m just glad we got through it.

Strawberry:

Well said, E. That’s so true, because it was a very difficult time. You’re talking about two guys that grew up patrolling up these streets of South Central Los Angeles, and never saw so much hatred towards color. Just the frustration of people and the acting out over something hurt a lot of people.

I remember my brother Michael, he was (with the) LAPD at the time too, and he got his car got shot up during the riot as they rolled by. With a AK-47, he got shot up. He had a helmet on but bullets didn’t even hit him in the head, he could have been dead over the fact that the LAPD had got off this case here after being on (video) shown around America of the beating of Rodney King like he was a dog. It was just an unfortunate time for all of us to have to see that because that’s not what America’s supposed to be about.

America is supposed to be about a place of love and peace, happiness and joy and sometimes it turns out to be the opposite of that because of the color of your skin, and it shouldn’t be that way. We felt like we should have been past that, so that time of our life was very difficult to experience and looking back on it and seeing the guy.

The morning of April 30, 1992, we – those of us who slept – woke to a city on fire. The morning of April 30, 2012, we will wake to the day of new ownership of the Dodgers. The events are more coincidental than connected – even with an African-American as one of the new co-owners. Even if it’s just a coincidence, though, it seemed worth pointing out. It is strange what the calendar brings – acknowledgment of how much has changed, and misgivings over how much has not.

Update: My Variety colleague Andrew Barker, who says April 29, 1992 was the first major-league game he ever attended, points out that Strawberry (and then Davis) batted in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded and a chance to tie the score, but made out.

Please let my dad keep his foul ball

My father will soon be 77 years old. He has been going to baseball games since the 1940s. He saw the Cubs play in their last World Series when he was 10.

He has never gotten a foul ball at a game. Not once. And he still really, really wants to.

My fear is that one of these days, he’ll get one. But there will be a kid somewhere in the vicinity, and the surrounding crowd will angrily demand that my father give it up to the little moppet.

No, no, no.  A thousand million times no.

I have three kids. I want every moment of their lives to be special. But there is no way that my kids, let alone some stranger’s kids, deserve that foul ball, that keepsake of a lifetime of attending baseball games, more than my father.

In my mind, the appeal of getting a foul ball was centered in the fact that you got the ball. If it’s handed to you, I’m not sure what makes that ball special anymore. I’m not saying that a game-used ball wouldn’t have appeal to a kid, but I don’t know where the idea grew that a kid was more deserving.

And above all, just because you get older doesn’t mean you stop being a little boy inside, especially when it comes to being a baseball fan.

All you people who are aghast at the selfishness of a grownup who would keep a foul ball rather than hand it to a child need to do a serious rethink. If someone who has never gotten a foul ball wants to keep it, and you intimidate him into doing otherwise, you’re the cruel ones.

Remembering Grandma

We had a nice gathering at my aunt’s house tonight to celebrate the life of my grandmother on what would have been her 102nd birthday. Her three children, six of her eight grandchildren and 10 of her 12 great-grandchildren were on hand with other relatives in what was a very light-hearted night, the centerpiece of which became a post-dinner exchange of stories about her.

There’s one Grandma Sue story I don’t think I’ve shared before. A baseball fan who would talk more than once about how wonderful she thought Carl Hubbell was, she went to Dodger games with us into her 90s, though admittedly her view of the team was much more impressionistic and easy-going than mine. In the 1990s, she was very surprised to hear me criticize Eric Karros, who was having a rough time and not delivering, I felt, when it counted. Sure enough, at the next game we attended together, Karros went something like 9 for 9, and she grabbed my arm and laughed with each and every hit.

Several people tonight made the point that Grandma Sue was decidedly unsentimental, though that would seem to imply she didn’t cherish moments like those – but that’s not really what they mean. Rather, as my cousin Debbie put it, she was born completely lacking the self-pity gene (much unlike her seventh grandchild). She didn’t wallow in hardships, but not because she had embraced some self-help philosophy – it simply never would have occurred to her to do anything but move forward. My grandfather, Aaron, died in 1994, ending their marriage at 64 years. Grandma Sue laid him to rest, and then went on to have some of the richest years of her life.

Once, roughly around that time, she noticed I was depressed and asked why. I said it was because a girl had broken up with me, and Grandma Sue simply replied with matter-of-fact demanor, “Oh, well, you’ll meet someone else.” No pep talk, and moreover, no sympathy. At the time, it infuriated me, and to be perfectly honest, it discouraged me from ever again being all that open with her – but not from loving and respecting her. How I’ve envied her ability to just accept and move on.

Tonight, Grandma would have told us not to spend an extra minute in mourning. But what we were reminded of this evening is that we’ll never meet anyone else like her. So as easy as she might make it to take her advice, it’s hard to want to follow it.

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