“I’m a fan because my Dad’s a fan,” Butch said. “He says being a sports fan helps him feel young.”
“But he plays sports too,” said Bernie. “He plays in the basketball league at the YMCA with my father. That’s what keeps him young.”
“Yeah, of course. But he says watching sports makes him feel like a kid, and he enjoys that feeling of wonder. Being a sports fan keeps him in touch with a feeling he’s had since he’s been a boy. He says when he’s watching sports, he can forget about all his adult obligations, he can live in his own little world for a while. And he knows he always needs to come back to the real world, but he also knows he’s always got his special little world, a world of youth, available to him. And he takes a lot of comfort in that.”
“Most sports fans aren’t like that,” said Double-J. “They’re obsessive and narrow-minded.”
“Not my Dad,” said Butch. “He’s a pretty special guy.”
“You have no idea,” he said, his voice fatigued, “how difficult it is for me to let things alone. When I see a problem, I want to jump on it, solve it, get it out of the way. It’s bad enough to see someone drop the ball, but it’s even harder for me to watch the ball lying on the ground, waiting for it to be stolen away or tripped over. You have no idea how much I want to fall upon every loose ball I see, but I’ve learned over the years that for every ball I dive for, there’s two others I’m leaving myself in no position to recover. It’s not a matter of faith, in trusting that someone else will pick up the ball. The answer isn’t in the serenity prayer, in knowing the difference between what I can change. It’s accepting the existence of a ball lying on the ground, that no matter how out of place it may seem — that’s where it is, and that’s where I need to leave it.”
He was not a patient person, in fact he prided himself in not having patience, as if it were a physical entity, a product one could purchase in a store (“Can I please have some of that Extra-Strength Patience? Do you have it in gel-caps?”) but he chose not to unless he absolutely needed it, like a foul-smelling insecticide.
It was all worth the money he spent, in fact he no longer cared about the costs, all he cared for was the joy he had experienced and the pleasure he had seen in the faces of those he loved.
His computer was placed in the corner of his cubicle, two desk panels meeting at that corner to form a V. Papers, books, and assorted personal photographs and office tools were scattered throughout the desktop, in a pattern that wasn’t obvious at first sight. Items that were important to him — the picture of he and his wife at their wedding, pictures of the boys in their Little League uniforms, papers that needed his immediate attention — were kept close to the computer in an area relatively clear as compared to the miasma on the outer edges of the desk. It was as if a large object had been thrown in the general area of the computer, with the weightier/more important material remaining closer to the splash zone, the lighter and more abundant material being thrown farther.
His family had undergone significant financial difficulty when he was young, and conservation tasks such as squeezing the last ounce of toothpaste and carpooling were seen as survival skills. He not only became adept at using the minimal resources required, he took it as a point of pride, enjoying even what he knew to be the absurd lengths he would go to in carrying out his conservatory impulse, such as only using one waste basket in a hotel room so that maintenance staff would only have to replace one liner.
A recent visit to the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York inspired me to download this classic Washington Irving short story. I’m not a big fan of omniscient narrators, and this device is particularly bothersome in this story — the narrator is constantly interjecting his voice into the narrative, and seems to get in the way of a very intriguing tale. But in the end, the fictional world that emerges from this story is vibrant enough to overcome whatever narrative shortcomings I find in its delivery. The residents of Sleepy Hollow share brilliant tales with each other, tales that inspire the imagination of poor Ichabod Crane to believe that he is pursued by a Headless Horseman, an Old World spirit protecting the insular immigrant community against outside influences such as Crane.
I’ve been remiss in writing my impressions of the books I’ve been reading, so time to start catching up. “Great Expectations” is a novel that I had trouble reading, but enjoyed having read. Think that has a lot to do with the fact that the characters are so memorable — Pip, Herbert Pocket, Jaggers, Wemmick, Magwitch, Estella, even Miss Havisham — they live in the memory as easily as a good dinner with someone whose company you enjoy. What makes it difficult to read is Dickens’ rambling prose style, those narrative progressions with dependent clauses piled onto each other with so many layers that you eventually lose memory of the primary clause. Maybe struggling through those passages are the obligation you have to accept in order to enjoy the richness of his characterizations.
For the first time in his life, he felt he was part of something that was bigger, more significant than what it appeared. He felt uplifted by being part of it, that being part of this group somehow made him bigger, made him realize something about himself that he would not be able to recognize were he not part of the group.
The town prided itself on its tolerance, which it defined as liberty, the freedom to live as if the role of government was no more than a concept in sixth-grade social studies, to act like nobody was watching you and if they were then shame on them, to think however they pleased, even if those beliefs would, if put into application, would infringe upon other’s liberties in a manner not at all compatible with the tolerance everyone exhalted.