Thursday, August 14, 2008

Reprint from BDD

This piece originally showed up at the Boston Dirt Dogs website, a Red Sox-based site owned by the Boston Globe, to which I contribute from time to time. I wrote it the Friday before Father's Day.


Father Time

From Gary Jacobs, BDD contributor

PAWTUCKET, RI | June 13, 2008 – It is, like most days here, a beautiful day for baseball. The players are playing in bright sun, though their shadows dance long in front of them. The gametime temperature is 77 degrees and the gentlest of breezes cools the foreheads of the near-capacity crowd of over 9,000. The day couldn’t possibly be better suited to baseball.

Baseball was the game I learned on my father’s knee, the first game I gave my love to. And though I learned to love hockey with almost the same ferocity, baseball is what connects me with my youth, with memories of glorious summer days with nothing to do, and with my father.

We could always count on baseball and the Boston Red Sox to provide common ground, Dad and me. In 1986 I was a willful 17-year-old know-it-all with a full-on case of cranio-rectal inversion. You couldn’t talk to me without me flying into an adolescent rage, no matter the subject. My parents were idiots and worse yet, major crampers of my style. We went nose to nose many more times than once; we came to the brink of a fistfight on at least one occasion. But we both had the Red Sox that magic season – expectations were so low for that squad that they took the city completely by surprise. And when neither of us had much to say to each other, we could always talk about baseball.

Years later, when time started taking its inevitable toll on the old man, and he complained constantly about being cold, I bought him a satin lined Red Sox jacket. He wore it constantly.

Right up until the day he died, which was last month.

And today, as I sit in the PawSox pressbox squinting from the lowering sun, trying hard to concentrate on a baseball game that I’m supposed to be covering, all I find myself thinking about is my dad, and how he absolutely adored sunny dry days like this, when baseball in the evening was a given, and the only question was radio or TV.

Like most men of his generation, my dad was far from materialistic. He wasn’t much for jewelry or trinkets of any kind. After the funeral my mother bade us take what mementoes we wished to remember him by. I took two things: an International League baseball that I got for my dad (a friend of mine actually got it for me; it’s bad form for a reporter to ask for a baseball), and his Red Sox jacket. When I took it home I discovered quite poignantly that it still smelled like him.

Much has been said about the generational nature of baseball, of how it binds father to son. And every morning when I wake up and I see Dad’s jacket hanging up, I find that it binds us still.

Happy Father’s Day, everybody. If you’re lucky enough to still have your Dad, give him a call or head over the house on Sunday – maybe talk a little baseball. -- In Memoriam, Cyril R Jacobs, 1933-2008

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

And Speaking of Lennon...

(news from CNN - Thanks Ted!)

(CNN) — John Lennon’s killer, Mark David Chapman, was denied parole for the fifth time Tuesday.

The New York State Division of Parole issued a release saying Chapman’s request was denied “due to concern for the public safety and welfare.”

Chapman, 53, is serving a sentence of 20 years to life in prison for the shooting death of John Lennon outside Lennon’s New York City apartment on December 8, 1980. He has served 24 years of his sentence at the maximum-security Attica Correctional facility.

Hosanna to the god-damned highest. If there was ever a stupid, senseless death, it was this one. Mark David Chapman robbed the world of a mature, wise, seasoned John Lennon and who knows what that man would have been? Almost certainly he would have reunited with the other Beatles in 1987 to do Live Aid. Whatever the case, we have missed out on 28 years of great music, introspection and a strong advocate's voice for peace.

And, closer to home, Sean and Julian lost their father. Julian was around 19; poor Sean was only 5. Too soon, too god-damned soon.

So: kudos to the State of New York for making the right decision. MDC can rot in his cell for the rest of his life and in his case, I wish I were wrong about there not being an afterlife, so that he could rot in hell. He stole something absolutely precious from millions of people.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A flaw in the system

I've shopped this question around a little bit to my friends, and none of them seem to have an answer. Some of them look at me with kind pity in their eyes or touch my arm in a show of sympathy when I ask it, because they know why I ask it.

But the question, without any further buildup, is this: Why is there such a fundamental flaw in the societal construct that the inevitable end-product of love is pain? Three months ago yesterday, my father lost his valiant fight against his own deteriorating heart and since then my life has been layered with a more or less constant underpinning of pain. Sure, there have been moments of joy - laughs and good times and the company of friends and family and new children born into this world - but when I'm alone, when I start thinking about things a little too deeply, the pain of losing my dad comes back in full force - an raw, open wound that is showing no signs of healing.

Why on earth was love architected to end, invariably, in pain? The Tralfamadorians, Vonnegut's benign aliens in the brilliant "Slaughterhouse Five," had a much healthier attitude towards death: a shrug of the shoulders and the words "So it goes." Would that I could compartmentalize my feelings towards my father's passing so ably!

It's not just the death of a parent, either. Every time love ends, pain begins. Ask the owner of a pet; ask a jilted lover. Anywhere you have love, beware; soon there will live pain.

Lennon was wrong. Love does in fact die - and it turns into something pretty goddamn dark.