Splendor in the Grass

This is their rhapsody, this final spring of organized youth baseball.

Our heads can be scary places. I was telling Dogpark Gary about a dream I’d had where I conjured up a person I’d never seen before.  I marveled at how the sleeping brain does that, just creates a person out of the dark mists of the mind, cobbling together all the traits of all the women I’ve ever seen. Like turning on the TV to some new and intriguing character.

Weird, right?

And Dogpark Gary replied with this idea for a dream machine, where you can dial up a sports dream, or a fishing fantasy, or a date with the blond mom from “Modern Family.”

“The Impossible Dream Machine,” Dogpark Gary said he’d call it.

We laughed a bit, then sat quietly for a moment, the way friends do.

My old pal Dogpark Gary turns up each dawn like Puff the Magic Dragon. A savant? A conjured person? I’m not sure Gary even exists outside the dogpark.

Anyway, in our last episode, I touched on a few too many things, bounced around from topic to topic, misery to misery, till what we had was a glimpse at life in Los Angeles, a town renowned for palm trees and snarky ridicule.

That wasn’t my intention at all, just worked out that way.

Dear Diary, why doesn’t the 134 west connect to the 101 south?

Existential questions like that.

Guess that’s what this is, a diary of some sort…what the touchy-feely types call “an anxiety journal.”

It’s no secret that LA has some of the best anxieties in the world. I usually try to laugh them away. When that doesn’t work, I flush them out with gin or bourbon.

I don’t recommend that approach for everyone, but that’s the one-two punch that works for me. Daily exercise helps too. And dogs. And baseball.

In our last episode, I was also whining about a surly waiter we had recently at a high-end westside restaurant (Terra! Terra! Terra!). Funny, because when I was  having lunch with Bruce and Judy, Bruce mentioned how I seem to prefer seedier joints.

The main reason is that if you have bad service in a dive bar, you just take the waiter outside and shove him around a little. It’s like the Wild West, an era that we probably over-romanticize.

But justice was quick for cowboys, and no one ever asked to speak to the manager. You just dragged the culprit outside and tossed him in a horse trough.

“What do LA waiters use for birth control?” asked my buddy Druck.

Their personalities.

Generally, I have a fairly high opinion of LA servers. They are rarely warm, but they get the job done. Most are efficient pros, in a quick paced and demanding field.

While many of them have higher aspirations, is there really a higher aspiration than ensuring people have a great time during a special night out, that you help them make a memory of a big birthday or important anniversary?

That’s God’s work.

Seriously, I can think of worse professions. Such as writing alone in a corner bedroom at dawn, with a wolf at your feet, the coffee growing tepid, the words even more tepid, as various deadlines loom.

Right now, I have a book proposal to finish, and a screenplay to complete, and a grocery list that, in its first draft, leaves me cold. So I have to work on that first. The second act – the dairy section – has no spark at all.



–Cheddar cheese


–More gin*

–Alka Seltzer

*don’t forget the gin

In some ways, writing isn’t even work. In other ways, it’s like a lobotomy you perform on yourself every morning. Aspiring writers, please remember that: Writing is a cross between messing around and do-it-yourself brain surgery.

So write if you must, because no one really writes for any other reason. Most writers have just the one career option.

I was never much of a ballplayer, or an editor, or a lover for that matter, though I think we all tend to think we are good lovers in some respects:  attention to detail, finishing tasks you start, cleaning up after yourself when you’re done — all the real-life stuff they never show during Hugh Grant movies.

When I was much younger, a woman I was dating said: “You know, you’re a real animal in bed.”

I said: “What kind?”

“A possum,” she said.

Her kind words helped turn me into the writer I am today.

Thank you for your patience. As with love, I’m still learning.

In fact, thank you for your patience with everything lately, as I go off life’s deep end, though in pleasant ways that I hope aren’t too much agony.

Seriously, look at the past year. We got Smartacus a driver’s license. We got him into a fine college. We saw his big sister get married. Got my Moderna shot (with a corkscrew and a sneer).

Now we await — like kids at Christmas — a first grandchild.

And in my spare time, I’ve been working the scoreboard at Smartacus’ high school baseball games, and that’s been really fun. I won the honors when, emphatically and without hesitation, all the other parents declined to do it.

No biggie. It’s always good to learn new cognitive tasks, though operating the scoreboard has taken me away from my work a bit, if you want to call writing work.

I sit in the press box with the other dads: with Spiro, our PA guy, who has a voice like a series of sonic booms, and with Jeff our musicologist, who caps each win with Randy Newman’s  “I Love LA.” Up there with us is Glen, the scorekeeper, and our team’s motivating force, who sends out these weekly emails that charm and entertain us.

“Practice with a purpose from here on out…”

And I think: “Is there really anything better than this? Watching kids play ball while telling Greek jokes?

When the boys first started playing, the dads coached, teaching them how to grip a baseball, like an egg, so you don’t break it.

To teach “soft hands,” I once brought water balloons and a carton of eggs to practice, so they’d learn to softly cradle a catch.

That went really, really well. Basically, we taught them how to have a food fight.

The boys played tee-ball initially, when they were 4 and 5. Some of the dads called it wee-ball, because when the kids got a hit, they would wee a little. Not the kids, the dads.

I mean, talk about romanticizing stuff.

Now our sons are strong, with actual shoulders, men in metal cleats. The way they goof on each other is sublime.

And this is their rhapsody, this final spring of organized baseball.

Grant Wood should paint it. Wordsworth should caption it…something about soothing thoughts and primal sympathies.

Hey guys, one last tip from your dads: A dragon lives forever, but not so little boys.

Your mothers were your first love; baseball will be your last.

Thank you for the interest in Saturday’s Happy Hour Hike. Come thirsty, my friends. If you made the cut, you would have received details by now. If not, there are more hikes to come. Have a wonderful weekend.

11 thoughts on “Splendor in the Grass

  1. Your last column left me with cognitive whiplash. This one feels like the real YOU again, firmly in your unique and special sweet spot of wry humor, gentle but deadly observation and poignant truth in just the right mixture. Loved it.

  2. “ if you have bad service in a dive bar, you just take the waiter outside and shove him around a little” 😂😂😂

  3. LA eateries are full of WAMs
    Waiter waitress
    Model wann bees
    Come up to Oxnard or Ventura where the servers are happy

  4. I’m not sure how running a scoreboard keeps you from writing. But hey, sometimes anything keeps you from writing, especially if it’s that scoreboard inside you, and most especially if the scoreboard clock says it’s late in the game, and he’s about to leave, go off to school, and take his next game—a road game, of course—elsewhere. As for finishing a play or a movie script…it seems almost everyone in L.A. has a play, teleplay, or movie script ready for a discerning eye. Is the script about baseball ? Or the game of family life ? I would wager the latter, though I’ve never won anything wagering on games; except, perhaps, from the game of life. And there, as with many of us, the biggest wins have had little to do with money, and much to do with love; which, if you think on it, seems to be what most of this is all about. If there is a scoreboard anywhere around, that’s the one you want to keep an eye on.

  5. Been watching Ken Burns “Baseball “ again. Makes one fall in love with the mystique all over again. When my daughter was little,I ,of course, taught her about Lou Gehrig. She said when she got married she wanted a real Lou Gehrig baseball card instead of an engagement ring. If I ever remarried,I want a Honus Wagner card. Since I’ve been widowed twice, a third is not in the offing, but a girl can dream!

  6. Thank you for the heads up. If (when) a woman ever tells me I’m like an animal in bed, I will NEVER ask what kind.

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