Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Wasted youth

I earlier mentioned that we visited the New York Public Library a week ago Saturday. Actually, brother Tom had a quick bit of touristing planned for us, primarily because we didn't have a lot of time. I mentioned the books we saw, but I failed to talk about a huge exhibit that the NYPL was sponsoring.
It was a very detailed retrospective on the "beat" author Jack Kerouac. Confession time, here. I have read no Jack Kerouac, and could care less about "the beats". Among the authors I've never read would include Gregory Corso, Gary Snyder, and William Burroughs.(I only wish I could say that about Edgar Rice Burroughs). I did once read Howl, by William Ginsberg, but it didn't make any sense to me. So, I'm no hipster, not a beatnik in any way, shape, or form.
The exhibit was nevertheless quite interesting. Detailed examples of the various notebooks, note-cards, teletype paper, and regular typing paper that he apparently wrote and typed on from morning to night, based on how much of it was on display. Interestingly enough, this supposed master of just writing whatever came to his mind, actually wrote, rewrote, and rewrote again. There are multiple copies, all different, of all his major works.
Anyway, we're having a great time, eavesdropping as a pair of docents led big groups through the room, with Tom and Maureen, literary snobs that they are, comparing notes on Kerouac's writings that they of course had actually read, when my cell-phone, against all likelihood as well as rules, rang. I must admit my cell rarely rings. So I took this very important call, and slipped outside to make the equally important call the first call caused. You are supposed to note the irony in the previous sentence.
When I went back in, I find my group convulsed in laughter, gesturing madly to get me to come to the only corner of the exhibit that I had not examined.
Even though Easter is passed, I find myself preparing for my second confession in one blog post. Now the first one wasn't a real apology or confession, because I feel no remorse at all over not reading the beats. This one is much more significant, in that, while I'm not exactly remorseful, it still is not something I have been in the least willing to let anyone know about. My siblings, spouse, and children know, and I figure Kevin does, but otherwise it has been lost in the fog of the past.
Here it is. I wasted significant amounts of time, probably about fifty hours a week, during the years we used to call junior high. I know it is now middle school, but in the very early sixties, it was junior high. My childhood fascination was baseball, and what I did, along with my best mate from those days, Mike Jackson(who is fond these days about calling himself the "real Michael Jackson") was create a fantasy baseball game using dice. We played hundreds of thousands of games, keeping detailed statistics. We had seasons, playoffs, and World Series. Drafts were serious affairs. and trades of one player for another often included real assets. I got my favorite ever baseball bat, a 32 inch, 32 ounce Al Kaline model in a trade for a player I had that someone else wanted.(this bat eventually was stained and taped and became, until we were caught, illegally used in a fast-pitch softball league nearly a decade later) It was about ten of us who would meet on summer afternoons in Jerry Morgan's basement-my best guess is that was the coolest place we had access to- and played entire seasons in a week or two.
I must enhance my confession. Our game was distressingly simple. We must have made a decision to keep it simple, probably so it was easier to draft other wayward boys into our wayward ways, or maybe because we were 12 years old. I have since worked out in my mind, any number of significant improvements, either using twelve and/or twenty sided dice, or different colored dice. Any of these could have created a statistically sound, maybe even fun game. But, no , we kept in minimalist, before we knew what that meant.
So, in the corner of the Kerouac exhibit, was HIS fantasy baseball game, about a thousand times more detailed than ours. Instead of dice, he used 55 cards he lifted from his Dad's print-shop. He had entire seasons, fantasy teams(one league was named after cars, another colors) logos. I wouldn't have been surprised had he designed t-shirts. He did this when he was eleven years old. Later on, he created a fantasy horse racing game, something we were never tempted to do. I am left to think that not only were we not original, we were also pikers in virtually every aspect. Purely second rate.
Now I have to decide if this is enough to get me to read any Kerouac.


Anonymous said...

Interestingly enough I have just read "on the Road" by Kerouac.

Somewhere I have a sheet of paper in Joe's handwriting that lays out the various combinations of the dice for dice baseball. It will find its way to Cooperstown at some point.

I was a Johnny come lately to the game, but I had a serious lineup that included both Rod Carew and Mary Decker (pre Tabb or slaney).It is a game that you can almost do in the dark, but is much more fun when you can put a lineup together.

maureen said...

Actually, being a literary snob, I say give the Kerouac a pass. Although I guess "On the Road" is all right; the exhibit and fantasy baseball game was about a thousand times more interesting than anything I've read by him.
Also, the "literary snobs" were not so much comparing notes on books we'd read but rather checking out the corner of the exhibit that included a box of Kerouac's Valium.