Category Archives: Personal

And So To Fade Away

To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be that have tried it.

— Herman Melville

This blog entry is my white whale. It has been my nemesis since the genesis of this blog. I have never been able to tame it or capture it. My goal in starting the Catfish Stew blog was not, like so many other baseball blogs, to second-guess The Management, but to express what it feels like to be an Oakland A’s fan. If I have failed as a blogger, it is because I lacked the willpower to bring myself to tell this story, to confront the core pain of my mission. Would Herman Melville have succeeded if he had tried to write his masterpiece without ever once mentioning Ahab’s peg leg, the scar that drives his obsession? If you face the Truth, it hurts you; but if you look away, it punishes you.

Load the harpoons, gentlemen, it is showdown time. Today, my adventure as a baseball blogger ends. I’m going down, and I’m taking Moby Dick with me.

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Of Holes

My baby daughter turns two months old today. For the first six weeks of her life, she didn’t do much of anything; she was like a cute little simple robot that was programmed to just eat and sleep and fill her diapers. Lately, however, there have been signs of sentience. If I sit her on my lap, she will stare intensely down at her own bare feet, studying them as if they were the two most interesting things in the universe.

* * *

I woke up yesterday morning and found my seven-year-old daughter in a state of hunger. Of course, she didn’t tell me this, I had to deduce it from her attempts to pick a fight with her older sister. When she’s hungry, she gets cranky and loses all ability to reason. She feels like nothing can ever possibly make things right (save food, but she’ll never admit that): she’s unhappy, that’s the way it is, and that’s how it always will be, and everyone else around her might as well be unhappy along with her.

Come to think of it, that behavior is not too much different from the two-month-old, minus the foot fetish. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose:

Me: What do you want for breakfast?
7-year-old: I don’t want breakfast.
Me: You need to eat. What do you want?
7-year-old: I don’t want breakfast.
Me: OK, let’s skip breakfast and go straight to lunch. What do you want for lunch?
7: I don’t want lunch.
Me: Dinner?
7: I don’t want dinner.
Me: How about dessert?
7: I don’t want dessert.
Me: You must be sick, if you don’t want dessert. Shall I call the doctor?
10-year-old daughter (sensing an opportunity): I want dessert for breakfast! Let’s have chocolate-chip cookies!
Me: I was kidding. You can’t have dessert for breakfast.
10: What about donuts? Can we have donuts?
Me: We don’t have any donuts, and I’m not going out to buy any.
10: How about chocolate-chip pancakes?
Me (sighing defeatedly, heading towards the kitchen): Oh, all right. I’ll make chocolate-chip pancakes for breakfast today…

* * *

Reason is an elevator to Enlightenment. But Enlightenment is a just a small, lonely bus stop on a long journey to a chocolate-chip beach. Enlightenment is nobody’s final destination. Dessert, on the other hand…

* * *

Josh Wilker, as a young man, took a Greyhound bus to California. He found a hole in a grocery store security system. He stole some cream cheese. But there’s a hole in his story. Where did the bagels come from?

The bagels fell from the sky, into the ocean, and washed up on the shore. Barefoot people with tans combed the strand, gathering the bagels into baskets, and drove the baskets away in a vintage VW bus painted with all the landmark tourist attractions of the world.


(You got your loaves, your cheeses, your walking on water, and then the topper–Wow! Look at the front of that bus! What a header! Who was that–Jesus or David Beckham?)

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Things Are Looking Up

Tuesday, I went camping with my family at Big Basin Redwoods State Park. My three-year old daughter took one look at the giant redwoods and proclaimed them so tall that even her big sister, age six, could not climb them.

The world is like that for three-year-olds. Everything is huge. You look up to people who, like big sisters, can conquer big things.

That evening, after dark, my wife took the kids to get ready for bed. I found myself alone at the campfire. I looked up through the giant redwoods at the stars. That night, the planet Mars was closer than it has been in 60,000 years.

60,000 years ago, my ancestors probably sat as I did just then, huddled around a campfire, looking up at the stars. Perhaps they saw Mars, brighter than ever, and consider it a god: O, great god of war, grant us victory in our battles against our enemies.

Thanks to the wonders of technology, modern men don’t have to wait long to hear whether their prayers are answered. I got my radio out, put my headphones on, and tuned in to the A’s game. Bill King was telling a story:

Back when he was announcing the Warriors, they had a game in Boston snowed out. They had to get to Muncie, Indiana, to play their next game against the Cincinnati Royals. They couldn’t fly out of Boston, so they took a train instead to New York. They had to wait several hours at JFK Airport for a flight to Chicago, and then they’d take a bus to Muncie.

At the airport, Nate Thurmond ran into a famous midget actor, and struck up a conversation. Bill King came upon them, and the mere sight of a man hardly four feet tall talking to a man nearly seven feet tall was something he’d never forget.

Back to the game: the A’s won a long, twelve inning battle, 2-1. Praise Mars!

And so the universe is like this: sometimes, you’ve got your buses and airplanes , your radios and TVs and computers, your ERAs and OBPs and EQAs and UZRs, and you think you’re big enough to climb every tree Mother Nature puts in front of you. But sometimes, you’re just a small man at a campfire, dwarfed by the redwoods, subject to the whims of the stars.