Saturday, April 14, 2007

In October, 2002 I quit my job as a counselor on a locked psychiatric unit in Springfield, Massachusetts. I had worked there for eleven years. Donna, who had been teaching high school Spanish since the 1980s, gave notice. Our plan was to sell our house in Connecticut and move into the Rhode Island vacation home we’d had built in 1986.

We followed through with that plan, and have been, as I write this “ semi-retired “ for four years. I tell people I’m semi-retired and they look at me like I was speaking in tongues, or in Latin. They look at me like they’re thinking: “ Semi-retired? Is that like being kind of pregnant?

It is and it isn’t. Pregnant with possibilities? Yes, that’s what semi-retirement is. Guaranteed to deliver? No guarantees.

Life is like baseball. And for most of us, it’s minor league baseball. Sure, some of us have had, at one time or another, a shot at the majors, The Big Dance. The Show. That’s what ballplayers call it. If you’re an accountant, it’s called something else. If you’re a dentist, something else. A comic? The Tonight Show or Letterman. That’s The Big Dance. That’s what you aim for.

Among the three careers I had before semi-retiring was advertising. I was a copywriter, a job writers like Don DeLillo, Joseph Heller, Fay Weldon, Salmon Rushdie and even Carl Sandburg had before they made it big. I won some awards as a copywriter. One year I won the Gold Award, for the best radio spot produced in the state of Connecticut. I was surprised when they announced my name at the show, the show being The Annual Greater Hartford Advertising Club Awards. I wasn’t expecting to win. I didn’t think what I’d written, directed and helped produce was very good. But some guy from New York City did. He was one of the judges. The big wig among them. He worked for an ad agency in the biggest show of them all, the Big Apple. The Madison Avenue guy loved the spot and shined the spotlight on me. For a minute or two.

Among the responsibilities I had at the Hartford agency for which I was a copywriter was running the internship program. It was my job to get prep school and college students to work, for nothing, for three months, at our place on Allyn Street in what is known as The Insurance City. In the spring of 1985 we had an intern, her name was Elizabeth. She was a student at Miss Porter’s School in nearby Farmington. I liked Elizabeth. She was only 17, but she had a quiet confidence and she was determined to be a writer. Elizabeth liked me, too. And she seemed to have some respect for me, more respect than I had for myself.

Elizabeth said to me, and I’ll never forget this.

“ You’re going to be on the cover of Time magazine some day. “

Donna and I moved three years ago into the smallest state in the union, Rhode Island. Rhode Island, which is famous for, among other things, its minor league baseball team, The Pawtucket Red Sox.

The Pawtucket Red Sox played in the longest game in professional baseball history. The game began on April 18, 1981 and went 33 innings. The first 32 innings ended at 4:07 a.m. on April 19. The game resumed two months later when the opposing team, The Rochester Red Wings, returned to Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium for another series. The Pawsox won the33 inning game by a score of 3-2.

Among the Rochester players who took part in that game was a young Cal Ripkin Jr. Ripkin went on to play for the Baltimore Orioles, where he set the record for most consecutive games played by a major league player. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Pawtucket, that minor league town in the smallest state in the union is a 45 minutes drive north from where Donna, our dog Gracie and I have been living since we “ semi-retired. “ Donna’s been to a few games at McCoy. I’ve never been.

Here I am, as I write this, somewhere south of Pawtucket. I just turned 60. The game I’ve been playing is now in late innings.

Baseball is boring to some. All that standing around. Not much happens until it does. But those late innings.

I think I was eight when my father drove me to Boston. Took me to a Red Sox game. This was in the mid 1950s, when Ted Williams was still playing for The Hose. The Sox were behind in the 7th. My father wanted to get the hell out of Boston, before the Fenway crowd hit the streets. Wanted to hit the road before they all hit the road. So we left the park.

As we were walking towards Copley Square, we heard a loud noise, a great roar. It was the sound of 30,000 fans screaming, laughing, clapping and stomping their feet.

We heard on the radio, in the car on the turnpike on our way back to western Massachusetts, that Ted Williams had hit a homerun. Won the game in late innings.

I will never forget that sound. It will stay with me forever.

No comments: