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.

My Brilliant Interview, or How I Almost Prevented the Career of Dontrelle Willis From Ever Happening

Dontrelle Willis has dazzled baseball fans with his funky motion and charming personality. He returns to the Bay Area tonight for the first time as a major leaguer to pitch against the Giants.

Suddenly, he’s become a huge star. There’s a great interview with him in today’s Miami Herald. The San Francisco Chronicle had a feature article that detailed how he got his unusual delivery playing with some buddies against the wall of his apartment building.

It almost didn’t happen. Because of me. But the events you are all familiar with all unfolded because I, too, once had a great interview.

Unemployed

After we graduated from college in 1988, my girlfriend (now my wife) Pam and I decided to go spend a year in Europe. We returned to our hometown, Alameda, a year later, broke and jobless. Pam’s brother Sam was kind enough to agree to let me stay in his apartment until I could find a job.

After three months, I still hadn’t found a job. Things were looking rough, and then the big earthquake hit. My job prospects, already slow, came to a complete halt.

Sam was nice, but I could tell I was starting to cramp his style. He had a fairly small apartment, and it didn’t look like I was going to be moving out anytime soon. Two more months passed. So when the largest apartment (of five) in the building opened up, Sam considered taking it. We went in and looked at it. It was certainly much more spacious than the old one.

The Interview

That week, though, I had a job interview out at UC Berkeley, and I nailed it. It was the best interview I have ever given, to this day. I was charming and funny. I had great answers to all their questions. I made it practically impossible for them not to hire me.

So I got the job, and I moved out. Sam decided not to move, and instead, Dontrelle Willis and his mom moved in, into the apartment with the wall against which he first learned to throw that weird-looking pitch.

Every little thing you do triggers a great chain of events you can’t even begin to predict. A job interview I had at UC Berkeley set off something that may, in the end, save baseball in South Florida. If my interview had gone poorly, Sam might have moved into that apartment instead of Dontrelle, who wouldn’t have come up with that funky delivery, and Miami would not now be abuzz.

Is your favorite team in trouble? Threatening to move? Give me a job interview! I am currently unemployed, just as I was back in 1989. I need a job, I can write, and I can do magic with a computer. Take a chance! You have no idea what you are missing.

August

A still August lake,
like a smooth mirror, reveals
yourself to yourself.

Perhaps you’re a stone,
scratched, flawed, dull, dark, dense, heavy,
sinking slowly down.

Or, like a prism,
the light shines on you and you
make it brilliant.

Autumn awaits you.
Ripples inch you back and forth.
Nothing is resolved.

Angels 2002 Acrostic

Knowing exhaustively nature’s norms essentially dehumanizes you.
Destiny offers no natural explanations. Logic lobotimizes you.
A picture perfect image erases reason,
scomplete happiness overtakes everything. Noteworthy endings woo each incoming season
Like a coveted kiss energizes you.

Giants lose. An unexpected sight
emerges rapturously. Suddenly, twentyfive Angels–despite
skeptics, having interpreted each little detailed statistic,
expressing concern, knowing such triumphant expectation is novelistic–
seize a lovely, magical October night;

move out lightly into nighttime air;
float upward; lifting like majestic eagles, rare,
wonderfully elegant birds, eschewing rest,
wings outspread over their escaped nest.
Gravity’s imposing lair,

succumbing passively, its evil zapped, its ordeal
overcome, remarkably terminates its zeal.
Whirling Angels swirl higher, buoyantly upwards, rising near
our celestial heaven. Observers appear
flabbergasted. Impossible, graceful gliding is nebulously surreal.

Reality or dream? Reality is grounded, unlike eagles. Zoom,
phantom eagles! Realists can’t imagine victorious Angels loom
above. No dreamers ever require substantiated observations. None.
Proof angels literally, materially exist? It requires one
miracle, one lilac in nature abloom.