Baseball & the 10,000 Things

Vol. I, no. 2, Page 5    May 1994

Trade of the Year: Joe Camel for Memorabilia + Cash

"With the smoke of a Lucky Strike curling upward, a man can dream of Pocahontas in her garden at Varina, of settlers farming with holstered pistols on the handles of their ploughs, of early craftsmen at work upon the first rude blends, of Nicot teaching the courtiers of Catherine de Medici the pleasures of the Indian plant- and then of countless men whose art and labor improved the leaf until it became the greatest solace of a troubled world."

—Roy C. Flannagan, The Story of Lucky Strike,
1939 New York World's Fair Edition

This is the final lovingly writ paragraph of a stylish hard-bound 94-page advertisement, which you may compare at your leisure to recent ad copy for Budweiser or Tidy Bowl or the latest Quicker-Picker-Upper, in order to gauge how far we have come. (Myself, I see a clear connection between "It's a round world, genuine and true..." and the recent rash of quakes out West: all those deceased literati writhing at once in their graves.)

I offer it up as an example of romance, an idealized love. Lilting prose to cloak another pretty poison. In much the same way, the images we set, and their style, allow us to adore the filmic dance of big-screen murder; the way Arguello's right uppercut nearly took off heads; and wars all shiny with the gloss of production values.

I quit smoking one year ago February 23rd. I loved it, even though while I loved it I knew what it was. I had these lines: "Well, I try not to offend anyone but myself..." things like that, trying to be honest and apologetic and gosh really these humps own me I ought to know I've smoked two packs of Camel straights a day for twenty years although on days when I was wired spinning going at it "like a dervish aflame" or caught up in the kind of writing where I breathe sentences like this one while chaining one after another after another it could run to an appalling three packs. You gotta be crazy. So all the while I'm doing this I understand it. The few times I'd quit for a few months or so I'd transform into some purist from health-farm hell, assaulting people in restaurants and feeling so offended you'd think I'd never done a foolish thing in my life. Let's try to embrace the whole picture, shall we?

It's a beautiful sight, dusky grey smoke curling up and away from that glowing tip... Bogart and Bacall loved it; film noir used it as indoor fog; some film directors love it so they show it in reverse (Polanski's The Tenant, Clayton & Pinter's The Pumpkin Eater) as if they'd rather it didn't get away... the taste, when you are accustomed to it, is like a kind of subtle sex, and with hardly any movement but that slow intake of breath, that soft pulling with the lips, now, now... something you can do before during or after just about anything... it's a pal really, a thing to hold onto (see: crutch)... wake up wheezing enough to notice but not enough to take note... teeth yellowing fused together ready to go... once inawhile a cough that don't quit... it's in the exhaling, the release of the drug, the moment when you put it out and begin to look forward to the next one... oh, they give you a feeling, they do... How is it possible that some people understand nothing of compulsions, and the rest understand nothing of people without them?

Hi. My name's Rick. I'm a tobacco addict. I couldna done it widdout dah help of The Patch-- which was like methadone actually in that you could imagine paying for Habitrol for the rest of your days just to free up your hands. Like a low-grade adrenaline buzz, relentless and appealing. The main trick, however, involved trading in one obsession for another, which is actually how I live life. The health arguments, mere abstractions to a good smoker, did nothing for me-- but the horrifying fact that it was costing me $5 per day $35.00 per week $140.00 per month $1,680.00 per year got to me. I spent a few months with a major interior dialogue: If I quit smoking, Then I could, for instance, buy a gorgeous Ted William's Moxie Root Beer bottle one week, a set of Negro League art-postcards the next, and then save up for the next two weeks and take that ancient deep-brown Cracker Jack bat from Chicago home so's I could wrap it in swaddling clothes... What did I really want, OK?

So there we are one night, we're talking mortality and having fun "how many seasons left" no! no! I'm just getting going here I don't wanna die at 42 or 45 or that ilk then conceding "well, sure, say ten-twenty more years then yagottago yagottago" but just as quickly backing off thinking eighty would be much better "yeah, I could live with that" thinking wow the year 2033(!), then reconnoitering getting it right saying:

"Well, at least until they go to metal bats..."

Dem Bums Ride Again
by Babs Gonzales
Crazy Record Co., Babs Music, ©1956
Select #1003, A side

Yeah last October '55
Baseball people got a taste of some real square bums
Puttin' some hepcats in their place—
Well all the cool boys and the writers
They knew that the Brooks' couldn't win
But the way that Podres threw his ball
Yankee-mortis had to set in!
And uh... they laughed and said
"This guy Sandy Amoros, he ain't nothin' but a joke"
And in two minutes he took Yogi Berra
For the pure Brooklyn okee-doke
And about Campanella and Hodges
You know these cats got to cop the Hall of Fame
'Cause they got together for the two-ee-reenies
That actually copped the Brooks' the game
And my man Jackie Robinson
He was sick and he couldn't even wail
But his insane previous playin'
First got the Bums out on bail
Well after the game I made it down to Borough Hall
And all I can say is you shoulda been there
'Cause we really had us a ball
All the folks was in the street dancing
I mean both the young and the old
And do you know one guy had old Grandma
Out there teachin' her
This new rock
And this roll?
And I saw some old maids kissing strangers
And a monkey hugging a flea
And the towns' leading hoodlums
Sitting up sipping tea!
And then there was the gentleman banker
The kind of guy they call "Mister Big"
Well so many pretty chicks was huggin' him
That he didn't dig
He had blown his wig!
And the strangest sight of all I saw that day
I think
Was old panhandlin' Willie actually
Buying himself a drink!
So I'll never forget October '55 and it should be called
Brooklyn Year of Cheer
'Cause now all you Yankee fans got a chance
To be familiar with...
"Just wait until next year!
You're gonna get yours!"

—Transcription by Lon Sherman

Where you guys been? It was Aristotle first defined "team," in Metaphysica, when he said:
"The whole is more than the sum of the parts."

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