grand salami

Baseball & the 10,000 Things

Vol. I, no. 4, Page 13    February 1995

"I Want a New Drug..." —Hugh Craig Lewis

"Opiate it! Opiate it!" —Crazy Aunt Bea, in that hell called Mayberry.

"Certain organisms are born to become a prey to drugs. They demand a corrective, without which they can have no contact with the outside world. They float. They vegetate in the half-light. The world remains unreal, until some substance has given it body. It does happen that these unfortunates can live without ever finding the slightest remedy. It does happen, too, that the remedy they find kills them."

—Jean Cocteau, Opium, 1957.

Christ I can't remember everything so who was it that asked:
"What is it about being human that makes us all so desperate to get out of our heads?"
And I thought hey yeah that's all I've been hearing all my life
I can't wait to get home and have a beer/
I can't wait to get home and light up a joint/
I can't wait to get home and feel that slick juicy runnin' through my veins/
I can't wait to forget where I am tip my head change the world or STOP it.
I NEED to get off get me off for the love of god help me relax my life is a pail of sloshing...

(...just a second... hold on... writing this, it makes me want to get high—I'll be right back— ...okay:)

...sloshing wet insanity my shoes a mess help me forget that I live by spending more than I make help me ignore the ant-like quality of our daily to and fro help me avoid the fact that it all has a significance I'm not prepared to comprehend help me stay blind to the rampant cruelty and subjustices of this starvation-diet spiritual zoo we all call home help me loosen up for a minute and shed an inhibition or ten so I can link up with somebody on some level without fear just... Help... Me.


Noway I'm goin' home, sit around and just think... Hell with'at.

So one day during a strip search in 1971 on the Army base at Fort Meade, Maryland, I suddenly recall that the previous night I'd grabbed an abandoned syringe out of the bottom drawer of the motel room so's the GIs who'd paid for the place wouldn't get into any trouble, the only other civvy and I being the last two to go stumbling out into the daylight and me feeling concerned and assuming they'd want it for later, and I said to the FBI and CID fellows looking at my hiney something along the lines of "aw shucks" as I pulled it from my hat. "Whooee!" they exclaimed "We got us a junkie here!!" and when they see the track marks on both my arms they call in their friends, and there's no explaining to them that yesterday was my eighteenth birthday and that my naïve existentialist being did this for the very first and only time just twenty-four hours ago and the yellow-and-blue patina up and down my arms is from my having "rollers," or veins that roll away from the needle that the army guys were trying to push opium into me with, over and over, in different places until they got it right. They're used to hearing lies that sound exactly like this, so I begin rolling my eyes at the same time they do, only for different reasons.

Now, I'm sorry, but it was a good birthday, no other way to describe it, and these guys had no concept, no context, and no experience to parallel mine, so who are they telling what? They were dealing with something of which they was skeered to death, and went a-building all kinds of make-believe structures in their heads about what it meant, or about me as a human bein', instead of just granting that I was 18 and looking for love and it was the time and "what is life without adventure?" Only time I ever ran opium. Like I did heroin, once. Understood it perfectly, was astonished by its beauty and the size of its thorns, and knew I'd never do it again. Advantage: my brain. That they had taken up getting sloshed and rowdy whenever the opportunity arose, or smoking and chawing like fiends, or paying for that diet-pill script for their darlings all went right past them—just blew right by. But it really is the same thing all over—always has been.

Now what am I looking for these days you ask well it's connections, some mad tendril, insidious creeper, reaching into the corners of everything: "Break the pattern which connects the items of learning and you necessarily destroy all quality," he told me and ever since I've yearned for some transparent substantive powder that would permeate the ground of being and get me there get me that high the quick-turns on my synaptic threads tying pieces to pieces and parts to parts until the outlines of every "it" pop like cartoon bubbles.

Dammitt man gimme a bag o' godHeart blow, some new unfranchisable thing we can hand out on every street corner and in every school yard let's addict the world to an updraft catch the current of subtle undertow flowing forward that skims along with real-world dread and doom and wonder in its eyes because it knows where it is, smoldering with life and unimpeded by the tidal wave of humanity flowing backwards.

Oh, man. What a dreamer.

Still with me here?

We're on the highway the chaplain and I, autumn and its low sun exploding across the tarmac, the Burning Rhythms of Haiti proclaiming "Let Them In" out the speakers in rat-a-tat staccato splendor and all the edges have been softened today, this moment hitting me where suddenly everything is—everything is perfect. And I know that it's subjective and no, the world hasn't clicked onto some weird track where everything is right, but there is the fact that I can have this focused moment where all of this swirl fits for me: that I, as locus of this world gone mad, can smile in the middle of it, can feel THIS.

That drug.


"There have been only two geniuses in the world. Willie Mays and Willie Shakespeare."

—Tallulah Bankhead (1903-68) Actress.

"Baseball is a game, yes. It is also a business. But what it most truly is, is disguised combat. For all its gentility, its almost leisurely pace, baseball is violence under wraps."

—Willie Mays, Giants outfielder, 1951-73.

[King Henry V:]
"If they will fight with us bid them come down,
Or void the field; they do offend our sight:
If they'll do neither, we will come to them,
And make them skirr away as swift as stones
Enforced from the old Superbas slings:
Besides, we'll cut the throats of those we have;
And not a man of them that we shall take
Shall taste our mercy: —go and tell them so."

[Duke of Exeter:]
"Here comes the herald of the Dodgers, my liege."

[Duke of Gloster:]
"His eyes are humbler than they us'd to be."

[Enter Montjoy:]
"I come to thee for charitable license,
That we may wander o'er this bloody field
To book our dead, and then to bury them...
O, give us leave... to view the field in safety, and dispose
Of their dead bodies."

—Willie Shakespeare, King Henry V, Act IV, Scene VII, In the heat of a pennant race.

Time to Spare

"It should be possible to build a pagoda of crispbread, to think of nothing, to hear no thunder, no rain, no splashing from the gutter, no gurgling around the house. Perhaps no pagoda will emerge, but the night will pass...

It is always with the fourth floor that the wobbling begins; a trembling hand as the next piece of crispbread is put into place, a cough when the gable is already standing, and the whole thing lies in ruins—"

—Max Frisch, Man in the Holocene, 1979.

"...something that would fit inside your pretty little head..."

—Daniel Lanois, "For the Beauty of Winona," 1993

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