Monday, May 23, 2005

I haven't paid much attention to the game since I was a teenager, but I love reading about baseball. I just picked up this seemingly self- or at least small-press-published book called Cool of the Evening: The 1965 Minnesota Twins by Jim Thielman (Kirk House), which I found at a Barnes & Noble in Minneapolis on Saturday, where I was for my friend Laurie's wedding. It's not great, and overwritten in spots, but I'm enjoying it a lot so far; I'm about 2/5 through it. I'm a sucker for books about baseball teams anyway--both of the David Halberstam ones I've read (Summer of '49 and October 1964; still gotta pick up The Teammates) and Roger Kahn's great October Men, about the '78 Yankees, are big favorites of mine.

So far, it's very good on mechanics (pitching coach John Sain was a revolutionary in training and results--he coached a bunch of world-champion teams and was the guy who worked with Denny McLain in '68 when he won 31 games) and the social aspects of Minnesota, not precluding race. Lots of the '65 team were Cuban, and Mudcat Grant, the team's star pitcher (21-7, 3.30 ERA, 142 K in 270.1 innings pitched), was one of the game's premier race men, and helped topple some of the nonintegrated hotel bullshit the team faced in Florida during spring training. Fuck yeah. The other main coach was Billy Martin, pre-alcoholic breakdown and (as demonstrated in October Men with his interactions with Reggie Jackson) race-baiting; here he's a spark plug for a group that, true to MN fashion, was pretty mild-mannered overall. Or maybe that's just Thielman talking--Minnesotans have a habit of downplaying conflict, and he recounts five separate player-manager gripes at the top of the season. In New York, those would have probably festered; on this team, they're resolved fairly peacefully. Another reason I love being from where I'm from.

Random thought: Someone should do a 33 1/3-style series of short books on individual baseball (or sports) teams if they haven't already. (I don't read about baseball nearly enough to know if that was the case, obviously.)

The wedding I attended was pretty wonderful. I met Laurie G eight years ago, when I was poptending (i.e. serving soda to underagers) at First Avenue during an all-ages Wednesday. I was in a grumpy mood for some reason--I think the band was some lousy ska thing--and this skinny, pleasant girl with long, straight hair came up and ordered something. "How you doin'?" she asked. "Blah blah blah grump," I responded. "I don't like the music tonight." "Yeah? What kind of music do you like?" she asked. Usually, this is just a precedent for uneventful small talk, but I rattled off whatever my top-ten albums list at the time was. "Those are good records," she said. "Mine are the first Specials album . . . " and went into some extremely canonical, catholic list that was like the top ten I'd forgotten. Naturally, we've been friends ever since. Her dad Ron is just as much a music geek as her; I spent many pleasurable hours at their place (she lived in the basement of their old house; both of them have since moved, Laurie several times), both just hanging and playing records and during the many terrific parties she threw, usually with Ron making a giant pot of gumbo for the occasion.

I was hoping the gumbo (Ron's is stellar) would be on hand at the wedding. It wasn't, but that hardly mattered. Laurie and her new husband Jason were married at a park in Northeast Minneapolis, in what I'm hesitant to call a meadow--it was on grass, on a downward slope, and overseen by a funny-not-hammy I-think-rabbi (he was in a tux, and they did the stomping-the-wine-glass-wrapped-in-napkin thing at the end to signify togetherness). The weather was good though a bit cloudy; it definitely portends good things that after the vows were exchanged the sun came blooming out. I enjoyed myself a lot, especially after I got over my initial jitters at being undergroomed for the occasion (I wore a T-shirt and jeans and sneakers and hadn't shaved in a few days, ulp), but it was a very casually laid out event so I was comfortable soon enough. Also, I recognized a few of Laurie's friends and wound up talking to several of them, mostly about music and movies. And the spread was delicious. I had to leave before the entertainment began, unfortunately--due to some crossed connections (mostly a pre-wedding invitational I'd received for the night before the actual ceremony that I'd mistaken for being the actual wedding date; this helps account for my casual wear, since I thought I might have missed the damn wedding altogether), I'd already made evening plans. Then again, I did want to see Dylan Hicks, not to mention Jason Moran, whose Walker Art Center-staged and -inspired show was hit-or-miss. Mostly, it hit when he stuck to his regular repertoire and missed when his wife came on and did what might as well have been Adam Sandler Opera Man bits to tie the disparate parts together.

I haven't mentioned this here until now, but I'm going to be an uncle soon. I had extremely mixed feelings about this for a long time, to say the least--my sister Brittany turned 18 in January, and her daughter is due at the end of June. The other major event I attended while visiting home this weekend was the baby shower, which was well attended. I still worry a lot about the situation--as a child of teenage parents who's become moderately successful and hopes the same will happen with my siblings, especially siblings whose early raising I was deeply involved with, I reserve that right. And I definitely wasn't gunning to become an uncle at 30. Parenthood is scary enough when you're making a comfortable living and have had a good amount of experience in the world; when you haven't finished high school yet and are only working part-time, even when your boyfriend is working full-time and is committed to being there (as Miguel, Brittany's guy, has demonstrated), it's more tenuous yet. Aside from Christmas, the last trip I made to Minneapolis was last November, when I flew out on two days' notice to talk to Brittany about it. I felt that she should at least consider adoption or abortion; I wanted her to have as wide open a door in front of her as she could. She decided to keep it (or, rather, her), and I worried some more. But the love in the room yesterday (and yes it's a cornball-as-fuck way to describe it but there's really nothing else that does it justice) was almost overwhelming at a couple of points. I didn't stay the whole time--it started at 2 p.m. and I had to leave at 5 to get a 7:05 plane. But I'm really, really, really glad I went. And as worried as I still am, I'll be just as glad to be there when I go back next month, for a week-plus, around the time she's due.