Thursday, February 24, 2005

On One's Male Role Models

Once upon a long-ago time, Your Ned played second base on a company softball team. We were just awful -- in the two years I graced that team, I think we won maybe one game.

During one early autumn evening game, I was at bat. Standing at the plate waiting for the next pitch, I noticed that a V of Canada geese had appeared flying very low in the sky, straight in from deadaway center field toward home plate, just barely high enough to clear the backstop. It was beautiful, a real autumn treat.

I raised my hand to the ump, asking for time. Then I stepped out of the box and stood watching the geese fly by. I murmured something like, "Would you look at that..."

Behind me, the other team's catcher simply exploded. "What the fuck are you doing? Play ball, asshole!

Huh. Priorities.

Let us propose that there are two extremes in the male psyche, always at war with each other. Let us further propose that it's that war in our heads that is responsible for most of the bad craziness in the world today.

Religious and philosophical and literary smart guys have long recognized the problem, and sought to define it in various ways: Yin and Yang, Dionysus and Apollo, Stephen Dedalus and Buck Mulligan, intuition and rationality. They all agree that when the two halves are in balance, sanity reigns.

Ah, what a crock of shit.

Bill Lee has written a new book, describing his life after his 1984 banishment from baseball for possession of Yin with intent to distribute, and criminal dearth of Yang. He's knocked around various pro-am, semi-pro, and other, downright weird back alleys of non-major-league ball. What's beautifully evident is that he's lost none of the wonderful cranky eccentricity that made me admire him so the first time around.

Among his exploits was a run for the American Presidency in 1988 on the Canadian Rhinoceros Party ticket -- a Dadaist political party with stated aims to "... abolish the environment rather than protect it on the grounds that it took up too much space to keep clean.... Bulldoze the Rocky Mountains so that Alberta could receive a few extra minutes of daylight.... Paint the White House pink and turn it into a Mexican restaurant.... A ban on guns and butter, since they both killed."

Hell, I'd have voted for him if I'd only known.

Of course this guy couldn't make it in pro sports: Completely unable to knuckle under to the pumped-up Yang of pro baseball, he flaunted his Yin in its face until it wouldn't take it any more and bit back. Poor bastard just refused to go along to get along.

Why is it that all my heroes seem to conform to this model to some extent or another?

So let's posit a spectrum that has Bill Lee over on one extreme and, oh, I dunno, say, Bernie Kerik waaaay over on the other. On Bill's side, there is laughter and surprise and reveling in serendipity. There's understanding Dada art, there's receptiveness to novelty, there's the ability to hold two contradictory ideas in your head simultaneously without exploding.

Over on Bernie's side, you've got... well... Bernie Kerik. Play ball, asshole!

I will never be a CEO. I will never lead armies of men. I will never win political office -- even on the Rhinoceros Party platform -- an Oscar, People's Sexiest Man Alive.

I will, I'm afraid, always and forever, admire the geese.


Anonymous said...

Not so fast there, tough guy. Everybody knows Bernard Kerik really played all the drums on the Beatles albums.

Oh, wait- that was Bernard Purdie.

Never mind.

Bernard Purdie said...

You're fuckin A right, man. I played all the Stones shit, too.
Those British cats can't drum themselves outta a paper bag.
Check it- here's me with George Martin and John Lennon working out some shit on "Beatles For Sale" in 1964---