The man, maybe 60 years old, was sitting and fanning himself under his collapsible tent, wearing nothing but a t-shirt and sliding shorts…or some kind of shorts. They looked like underwear but I was trying to be generous. He was chewing on a Safeway pastry. It was 99 degrees; I was with Ramona in Hayward for two softball games. There were mystery bugs dropping from the trees and faux-ice cream sandwiches for $2. The man under the tent looked sheepish when I waved at him. “I’m not supposed to even be here,” he said, “but I need a nap. Help yourself.” He gestured toward the remaining cherry pastry. Apparently the umpires are not supposed to set up shop, but he’d gone ahead and built a little man cave for his fellow umps, all of whom dropped by and sampled ham and cheese triangles. We lost both games but it was worth having my folks come by and comment loudly on politics amongst strangers, while cheering on their granddaughter, who made several spectacular catches in center field and roped a few singles. A few weekends ago I was with Ramona in Lincoln, 20 minutes east of Sacramento, where we also lost several games (errors, heat, lack of hitting) but at least had the adventure of the $2 white-chocolate-and-raspberry scone and the photo opp below:
Then, just last weekend I was with Yvette in Santa Rosa where she pitched in several games and smacked a few liners into short right. Her teammate’s dog, MoMo, a humorous combo of Boston Terrier and French Bulldog, had a grand time licking the faces of all the teenage girls, much to the chagrin of the 19U baseball team in the adjacent field. He also operated on an invisible pogo stick, so excited was he to BE OUTSIDE AND CHEWING ON STICKS! Then, days later, Matt Cain of our goofy, unpredictable SF Giants, threw a no-no! And he had run support! The curse of being “cained” was broken. And later, at the press conference, he credited his teammates and the paying crowd at AT&T Park, for goodness sake. Dude throws 125 pitches and does not allow a single runner and he’s humble. This is why I love baseball: it has its own momentum, no clock and it will derail and right itself unexpectedly. Same goes for softball, but with sparkly headbands and less spitting. But both are ultimately, extraordinarily, humbling. And often, in our culture, we don’t have enough practice with that.
Which brings me to The Invitation, by Anne Cherian, a novel about four college friends, two of whom are married, coming together after 20 or so years for a graduation celebration, dragging all the luggage that comes with life’s disappointments. All are of Indian descent, battling their family demons in mostly interesting ways. I had a hard time liking any of them, or relating to them, but I liked being immersed in their cross-cultural mind-sets. Cherian is unsentimental in her portrayal of Indian ways, especially in how they snipe at each other and are crazy competitive. It was a bit surreal to read this while in a hot and dusty location, slightly out of my comfort zone and watching these young girls swagger up to the plate to fail 7 out of 10 times. Anyway, Cherian knows what she’s doing with her world. Slipping into a culture is humbling. Hang onto your teammates.