Friday, October 3, 2008

Friday Fiction Fix: "The Death of the Right Fielder"

In case you didn't know, Dane Cook is eighch-aye-larry-us. I won't plug his MLB post-season commercials from a year ago, and he's been way less than funny in the two movies I've seen him in, but his stand-up makes me laugh. A lot. I just spent an hour and fifteen minutes in line at a branch of the Missouri Division of Motor Vehicles. We here at the House of Georges use the phrase "good times" a lot. Probably too much. But let me tell you that that wait, to pay the state of Missouri $70 was really, really good times. And it made me think of this bit Cook did several years ago, before he was lambasted by people not named Bankmeister as an unfunny tool. Though I use quotes, I paraphrase:

"So I'm at the DMV the other day. And I'm just standin' there. Waitin' in line. I'm rocking back and forth on my heels doin' that thing we all do in line at the DMV where we rock back and forth, shift our stance, look around, and sigh a lot. We all do that there. And you know what's weird? We're all in line, and nobody's talking to anybody. Period. And here's the weird part: we're all thinking the exact same thing. And that's, 'GOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHhhhh!'

I can't think of anything more painful than being in line at the DMV. You know what they should do? They should have a guy standing there by the door that just punches you in the eye when you walk in. At least that way, your painfully long and slow wait won't seem that bad.

You know, in the year 3015, everything will be all futuristic, and we'll probably have time portals for travel, where you just step in to this tube, and schhhwwwipp! there you are. But the DMV will still be there, and it will still be slow. You'll be like, 'How long is this going to take?' and they'll respond, 'about nine seconds,' to which you exclaim 'nine seconds? nine fucking seconds? I have to be at work in like three seconds!'"

To me, that's funny shit. And yes, I'll introduce this new feature, and make some sense of all know where.

The coupling of Mr. Cook's humor with my own experiences prompted me to bring a book to the DMV. That book is a collection of short fiction called The Coast of Chicago by Stuart Dybek. Dybek is originally from Chicago, and currently teaches at Northwestern University. In 2006, he was the Cockefair Chair Writer-In-Residence at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and I had the pleasure of spending the better part of the week with him, during which time I hungrily devoured I Sailed With Magellan, a collection I would pit against some of the best by Carver, O'Connor, etc.

Today, though, I stood and read several short stories from Chicago, one of which is entitled "The Death of the Right Fielder," and since it's playoff baseball time, a time in which many right fielders will die (Editor's Note: And by "die" I mean "go home for the off-season."), and this is the House of Georges, the idea for a new feature was born. In an effort to obey rules and laws associated with phrases like "fair use" and "copyright infringement," I will of course not transcribe the entire short story, but pieces I found funny, as in Dane Cook.

See? See how I tied that together all neat and motif-like?

"The infield is for wisecrackers, pepper-pots, gum-poppers; the outfield is for loners, onlookers, brooders, who would rather study clover and swat gnats than holler. People could pretty much be divided between infielders and outfielders. Not that one always has a choice. He didn't necessarily choose right field so much as accept it...

...There was the same gray on his black, high-top gym shoes, as if he'd been running through lime, and along the bill of his baseball cap -- the blue felt one with the red C which he always denied stood for the Chicago Cubs. He may have been a loner, but he didn't want to be identified with a loser. He lacked the sense of humor for that, lacked the perverse pride that sticking for losers season after season breeds, and the love. He was just an ordinary guy, .250 at the plate, and we stood over him not knowing what to do next...

...Past thirty-five the talk starts about being over the hill, about a graying Phil Niekro in his forties still fanning them with the knuckler as if it's some kind of miracle, about Pete Rose still going in headfirst at forty, beating the odds. And maybe the talk is right. One remembers Willie Mays, forty-two years old and a Met, dropping that can-of-corn fly in the '73 Series, all that grace stripped away and with it the conviction, leaving a man confused and apologetic about the boy in him..."

The Coast of Chicago was published by Picador press, and can be purchased here. I Sailed With Magellan can be bought here.


Unknown said...

First of all, Dane Cook is an unfunny tool, but you are not alone in your admiration.

I like the Coast of Chicago piece ... well written and certainly nostalgic. I do hope that you realize it is nostalgia which grabs your heart.

You envision the game and cling to the memories. You see, you remember and miss the game that it was and is.

It's just not the game that is offered on your TVs for those sad summer nights. You, and countless other nostalgic fans, still long for that time.

That time is gone, likely to never return. The time of baseball heroes across the land, and kids emulating their home town star ... gone.

The league will never ruin the game for it just can't transcend it. Instead, it has belittled and disrespected it. It has taken it's very soul and put it on sale.

It saddens me to watch yesteryear fans cling to memories and grasp at an uncertain future. It saddens me more to watch them turn from fan to victim, and ask for more.

What a game. How did we let it get to this?

Enjoy your MLB playoffs. Talk and write about "this year's" phenom and then turn away as they fade from view in the year to come.

Close your eyes when the Red Sox buy their next ring. Tell yourself it's "good times" when one or two small market teams flash in the pan.

When it happens over and over and over again, cling to your new good times. When the league asks you to bend a little more, ask them right back ... how far?

They've got somethin' to sell. Buy, buy, buy.

Sad gentlemen ... really sad.

-- TLR