ON HE RODE — Chapter Twenty-Four

We are still on hold until the new BRP site comes up, but that has not stopped original BRP supporter and retired University Laboratory School English teacher guru Jim Harstad from keeping his Memoir going : )

If all matter here on Earth is made up of atoms with a nucleus surrounded by spinning satellites sorta like our solar system, then why couldn’t the universe that surrounds us be a much larger version of the universe within us? And why would the atoms in the universe around us not be parts of the system of atoms that form a much larger Being who occupies a much larger dimension, a God-Being, perhaps? And maybe each of us is also a god to the critters who inhabit our atoms?

Why couldn’t all dimensions exist in simultaneous and perpetual equilibrium within, without, and beside each other? Isn’t that relativity?

It surprised me to find over sundeck beers that Whitey thought so too. “Why couldn’t it work that way?” he asked. “Why isn’t it theoretically possible for there to be universes within universes forever?”

It surprised me to hear him say this, maybe because that’s about as far as my thinking had taken me, and I’d been to college and he hadn’t. But maybe a student of literature is in no better position to conjecture than a man who spends eight hours each working day blasting through steel bulkheads on the USS Kearsarge, the Yorktown, the Essex, etc.? Plenty of time to explore relativity below decks on an aircraft carrier in dry dock. Your body accommodates to the intercession of the compressed-air chipping gun, leaving your head free to wonder about the nature of the universe.

Whitey thought about other things as well. He invented tire chains that he said were much easier to put on and take off but never tried to produce or market them. He also wondered why the ocean’s tides could not be harnessed to produce perpetual clean electricity.

No doubt he also wondered where he’d gone wrong in the rearing of his once-promising only son. That he successfully resisted offering advice on how to re-order my conspicuously disordered life had to be difficult and was perhaps the surest sign of wisdom achieved through hard experience, the path he was leaving open to me. Does frustration lead to wisdom? Can it? Perhaps? Sometimes?

In what now seems the most distant of distant pasts, his advice might take of form of rhetorical questions, such as: “Wouldn’t it be nice to make good money for playing a game?” He meant baseball, a game I played reasonably well. If I trained hard enough to get really good, I could turn pro and put myself in a position to be rich and famous. What could be better than that?

Was I really the boy to be carrying this dream into manhood? Would it really be the brilliant lifetime of professional stardom? The adoration? The glamour? I read books like “Lou Gehrig, Quiet Hero” and John R. Tunis novels featuring the kid from Tompkinsville.

Then Evers got on board, read the same books, shared the same dreams, and we worked together to make them happen. Probably the most fun we ever had in sports was standing a hundred feet apart and whipping knucklers, curves, and fastballs back and forth, dreaming of a glorious future in Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park.

That pleasant regimen alone put us ahead of the competition in throwing and catching, the basic hand-eye synchronicity at the heart of most sports, so by our 11th-grade year he’d nailed down shortstop and I was emerging as the unexpected leader of a strong pitching staff. Previously I’d had two frustrating injury-ridden seasons during which I pitched batting practice and not much else. But they let me start in preseason my junior year against a strong Seattle school, just to see. What they saw was a full-game winning effort, a five-hitter. That was followed by two wins against Tacoma schools, a three-hitter and, believe it or not, a no-hitter. The local news played it up. Seems, according to the headline, that I’d handcuffed the Tacomans. Whitey was pleased, of course. Carrie too. Smiles all around.

Things were going so well in general that I was inclined to think rather highly of myself. It was easy. Too easy. What’s the fun of handcuffing chumps who couldn’t believe that curve ball they’d just ducked could be a called third strike? Or the one they’d swung at so mightily was so far out of reach when it got to home plate?

Just how good was I? Let’s find out. We’d be playing the makeup of an earlier rainout the following Monday, and I’d be the starting pitcher. Of course we’d win. Plate umpires had told our coach they were impressed by my stuff and by my control over it. So I was good. Could I be legendarily good? Let’s see.

Lucky me, the family was gone for the weekend. The house was mine alone. Plus a couple of friends. On Saturday it was my girlfriend, with whom I spent the whole day and a good part of the night in liturgical discussion, as usual. Somehow, though I was Lutheran, I always ended up defending Catholic ritual as a spiritually uplifting force, as opposed to her own low-church spiritual inclinations. Our always enlightening discussion led to reinforcing our mutual spiritual commitment by pleasuring ourselves on most of the padded surfaces in the house.

On Sunday I went driving around the countryside with a red-haired drinking buddy named Fred, a math whiz and class arm-wrestling champ. We spent the day downing a 24-bottle case of Rainier beer and chunking empties at telephone poles. I also took an out-of-season swim in icy Tiger Lake and emerged shivering and blue. I’d been told that the worst thing a pitcher can do is swim because it stretches the throwing muscles, makes them flaccid and incapable of producing the snap required to throw blazing fastballs and tantalizing curves. But a true legend could forego such advice with impunity. God willing, I’d be legend.

Talk story

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