Me and the Curve

My body, six feet tall and cartoonishly slim, resembles no known athlete’s body, which makes sense because it performs like no known athlete’s body.

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Major League Baseball opened its 2023 season today with a clock to govern the time between pitches, something that has not ever been used in baseball. Poets who were baseball fans were known to rhapsodize over the inner rhythms of an individual game and about baseball’s “timeless” qualities, but in recent years games took three-and-a-half hours to play, which is not at all timeless.

Today’s New York Yankees victory took two hours and thirty-three minutes to play, a full ninety minutes less than last year’s opening day performance. I think that the length of time it took to play a single game is a reason why it has been several years since I have watched a game from start to finish; three hours deep into almost anything I start to think about household chores I want to work on. Perhaps this season will see me watch a game again.

If you had told me when I was sixteen that I would live entire years without watching even an inning of a major league game, I probably would have asked you what had gone wrong in my life. I learned math, arithmetic, from the backs of baseball cards. I memorized famous players’ stats. I had a baseball card collection whose organization was maintained with an attentiveness that a librarian might envy. I wanted to be a baseball player, my lack of athletic skills be damned.
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Four Homes, One Beard: 2022

Oh, and I grew a beard this past month for the first time in my life. I should have led all this with THAT news.

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Last month I posted my annual birthday essay in which I searched for a possible correspondence between my age and the equivalent element on the periodic table; this year I am 54, and xenon is the 54th element.

As I explained, it is an idea that I credit to the late Dr. Oliver Sacks from one of the last essays, “My Periodic Table,” (here’s the link; subscription required) that he published before his death.

Some friends took me out to dinner the night before my birthday, which was very kind, and one of them asked me whether I had written anything recently. Whenever I live a year like 2022, the one we are about to see off, a year in which I wrote little and published less, I will admit to you that my replies to this friendly question can sometimes make me sound like a job applicant who knows there is nothing he can say to win the job: for several months in 2022 my answer has been, “No, I haven’t written much, but I’ve been learning how to edit video …” and my voice would trail off in the direction that I perceived my questioner’s attention had drifted off toward.

But on my birthday, I had indeed written something, and I explained the age=element concept to my friends, several of whom are between the ages of 24-30, and told them that this is a series that I have undertaken for several years. It elicited the unmistakable sounds of their approval for my clever brain: an “ooooohhhh” seemed to come from each one of them.

And then one of them asked, “How many more elements are there? Are there enough?”
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A Christmas Story

How (not) to cut down your own Christmas tree.

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Tree trimming was my least favorite type of trimming when I was young. I still lack the eye-hand coordination required to decorate a tree correctly; in fact, I believe that almost every tree I have attempted to decorate was quietly fixed upon my departure from the vicinity of the tree.

A beloved girlfriend one Christmas credited me with the expansion of her notions of tree decoration. She said, “You’re the first person I’ve known who does not put all the decorations on the ends of the branches,” which is true, I sometimes place them on the middle or sometimes closer to the trunk. And they she pointed out that I had overloaded one section of the Christmas tree with the same color ornament (albeit at different depths on the branches!) and this needed to be fixed.

Oh, Christmas can be a challenge for someone so rarely festive, like me.

One winter’s day long ago, a dear friend enlisted me in a project to cut down a real live Christmas tree from a local Christmas tree farm so that her son could experience a Christmas just like the one she and I had never, ever, ever, never had.
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