And now…sport.

I was gonna work tonight, but TBH I’m so excited by the Mets ridiculous comeback win today that its just not gonna happen.  Instead, I’ve been thinking about sports and fandom and my long history with the New York Mets.

It’s always been baseball for me. I’ve never liked football or hockey. There was a brief flirtation with basketball in the late 90s/early 00s, but that was mostly about the narrative surrounding the Knicks, who were like a cadre of Viking warriors – forever doomed to fail in face of Ragnarok, and nevertheless fighting until their last breathes. I see a lot of tennis, mostly because bronwen​ is passionate about it, and I’ve been able to appreciate a lot about the sport. And in the past couple of years I’ve been giving English Soccer a try, and been enjoying it quite a bit (Up Man City!). But I was raised a Mets fan, they were my first and are my only true sports fandom.

Maybe I’m not a great fan, because I stop watching when they’re bad – and they’ve been bad a lot.  But there have been a few major eras of my fandom with the Mets, each about 15 years apart. And each one has been colored by the different stages of life through which I’ve experienced them.

1) 1982-1990 

In 1982, I was 10 years old. The Mets were terrible, but I didn’t really know that. Whenever I had a chance to go to a game, it was an event. I was just beginning to understand that there were Mets fans and Yankees fans, and it was the life goal of all Yankees fans to make sure that Mets fans knew they were pathetic individuals doomed to a life of squalor and ineptitude.

To this day, I hate the Yankees and everything about them. 

But something funny started happening in 1983 – some really good young players started coming up through the Mets farm system. And there started to be a buzz. In ‘84, they were good. In ‘85, they were better, but not quite good enough. 

In ‘86, they were legends. 

1986 was the first – and so far only – time my team won it all. I was 14, and the players seemed like gods. We were convinced they’d be unbeatable for years to come. We were wrong.

By 1990, I’d lived through several disappointing years, watched those young heroes be torn down by drugs, pressure, and the wolverine-voracious New York sports media.

Seriously, you guys. When it comes to pettiness, entitlement, righteous posturing and ad-hominem attacks, Tumblr has nothing on New York sportswriters.

In 1990, I went to college. At some point, I’d figured out that it wasn’t really cool anymore to have posters of baseball players on my walls anymore. It felt…childish. Like I needed to move on to other things. 

It helped that I went to school in DC, which at the time had no team. And it helped that the early 90s Mets were legendary for how bad they were. It was easy to let them slip back to a peripheral awareness. 1994 was also the strike year, and everybody was fed up with baseball. So it was easily to forget about. Also, I started studying theater. And when you start hanging out with the nerdy, artsy kids, sports are usually not near the top of the conversation.

After college, I went to film school in Greensboro, North Carolina. They had a single-a minor league baseball team called The Bats, and they were in the Yankees farm system, so there was no way in hell I was ever going to set foot in their stadium. Even though they had some young, up-and-coming prospect that everyone was excited about, some kid named Jeter. But when I was in Greensboro, Carolina got a new NFL team, the Panthers, and it was a lot of fun to see a new franchise and new story spring into being. 

In 1997, I moved back home to New York, and began living in the city. Coincidentally, this happened to dovetail with the next period in which the Mets played decent baseball

OK, this has gotten much longer than I intended it, so I’m gonna break it up into more than one post.  I wonder how many posts I’ll need to get to whatever point I’m trying to make?

Survival Is Not Mandatory

Today brought some unsettling news about a person who has long been out of my life but was once a very important part of it. 

We tend to think when we’re in the middle of a crisis that if we hang on things will assuredly get better. 

But this is a fiction we tell ourselves to cope. The truth is, sometimes things only get worse. Not everybody gets better.

We all, at some point, catch ourselves shaking our heads at someone we love and saying something to the effect of, “sooner or later, they’re going to have to figure out.”

No, they don’t have to. Some people never do.

Someone I used to work for had a reminder written on a whiteboard in his office: “Survival is not mandatory.”

 

Late Night Confessional: Health Edition

OK, this is not something I talk about much.  And I don’t think I’ve ever talked about it online. But for some reason, tonight I feel a compulsion to talk about it. Not sure why. But what I’ve learned over the years is to trust these instincts when they arise. So, borderline incoherent, typo-filled screed below the cut.

So here it is: I have fibromylagia.

Well, let’s be a little more precise. I have a fibromyalgia diagnosis.  I am not entirely sure that fibromyalgia really exists.

Now, let me be crystal clear about that – because for years and years, people suffering have heard the phrase “Fibromyalgia isn’t real…” shortly followed by “…it’s all in your head.” As if the pain isn’t really happening and moral, intellectual fortitude is all that’s needed to overcome.

The people who say that should have very heavy objects dropped on top of them. Repeatedly.

And since fibromyalgia is usually called a “woman’s disease” (there aren’t enough quotation marks in the universe to put around that phrase), fibromyalgia becomes yet another way to say “Shut up and let me get you some yellow wallpaper.” 

So what I mean when I say I’m not sure fibromyalgia exists is that it’s a convenient label for doctors to slap on the situation – and it doesn’t actually tell me anything about what the hell is really going on.  But would I like some Lyrica?  

No, I would not like some fucking Lyrica. Or Neurontin. Or Cymbalta. Maybe this isn’t something that a prescription can make vanish, you goddamn allopathic, machine-metaphor addicted God-complex fuckheads.

Harumph.

So, call it fibromylagia, call it chronic pain syndrome, call it Harold K. Moskowitz if you like, I doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change the fact that something is simply not working. Sub-optimal, if you will.

It’s been about 20 years or so of this crap. A long time to deal with it and not really talk about it. But really, people usually don’t want to hear about it.  Because there’s nothing you can do to solve it.  It is, by its nature, a problem that cannot be fixed. And so it becomes tiresome. Zod knows, I’m fucking tired of it.

All you can really do is maintain. Eat healthy, get moderate exercise, and take it easy. Be careful of not overdoing it. Know your limitations, is what they say.

To which I say – do you have any clue what it’s like living in America? There’s no such thing as taking it easy. Puritanisitc striving and self-abnegation is written so deeply into the DNA of our culture, and it’s so unbelievably toxic.  I’ve been choking on it lately.

Work, work, work, work, work, work, work. Oh, are you not getting ahead? You must not be working hard enough. You must not WANT IT enough.

Part of it is that I’m actually doing OK – I have a bunch of projects I’m working on, and some of them actually pay money. But every day is a war between “you should be more productive” and “you shouldn’t overdo it.”

Or put another way, “work more” while simultaneously “work less.” 

I’m not really sure what the point of this screed is. It’s just that, for a long time my coping strategy was to not push myself. But I’m tired of that, and for the past few months I’ve been making another concerted effort to improve my condition – seeing some new doctors and health providers. Spending a fuckload of money on it, but it seems to be worth it. Thank Zod for myofascial release and trauma releasing exercise.

And it just feels like as part of that effort, it would be good to talk about some of what the experience of 20 year of this has been like.  I’m gonna try to write a little more about this going forward. If you have questions, feel free to ask them and I’ll try to answer them best I can.

Going to publish this now before I think about it too much and delete it.

The Best Play I’ve Ever Seen

Continuing on a memory-trip inspired by watching The Normal Heart…

Let me tell you about the best play I’ve ever seen.

It was 1991. I’d just finished my freshman year at George Washington University in DC, where I’d veered away from my intention to study political science to become a theater major.

I’d only really gotten involved in theater in my senior year of high school. I didn’t even really know our high school had a theater program until the spring musical of my junior year (a barn-burning West Side Story starring deadlightsgirl). In my senior year, I went to the audition for the fall production. I’d like to say I was inspired, but the honest truth was I had a crush on a girl, and she was auditioning. So I auditioned too. I didn’t really expect to get a part, but I did.  The play was called Standard Safety, it was a workplace farce, and I got the role of the boss who was prone to waxing rhapsodic about the delights of his young, male employees.  The sophomore who was initially cast as the object of my affection was forced to quit the play when his father found out “what kind of play it was.” I was surprised by that. I shouldn’t have been. 

The spring musical was Little Shop of Horrors, and somehow I successfully lobbied the director to include scenes from the original Roger Corman movie – which I transcribed from a worn VHS tape. Even then, I was drawn to adaptation and mixing different media.

I went off to college and decided, on a whim, to audition for the student theater company’s fall play – Fahrenheit 451. Again, to my surprise, I got cast. So when spring rolled around, I decided “what the hell,” and auditioned for the mainstage show, Moliere’s Learned Ladies. And I got cast, in a small servant role. By now, I had the bug. By mid-way through freshman year, I officially became a theater major. 

After the end of freshman year, I stayed in DC for the summer It was my first summer living on my own, outside the confines of school. I did a couple of shows – GWU had a summer production of Nancy Drew: Girl Detective, with professionals in the leads and students as understudies, and a suburban Virginia production of As You Like It. And I tried to see as much theater as possible. DC had (still has, I hear) a small but vibrant theater scene. 

One of the lead actors from the Nancy Drew show – John Lescault – was appearing show in a small blackbox space in Georgetown, by a company called the Potomac Theater Project. PTPs goal was to provide challenging political work for free.  They were running two different evenings of two one-acts in rotation. One of the plays was Harold Pinter’s Mountain Language. I don’t remember the other two.  

The fourth piece was The Dog Plays, by Robert Chesley.

The Dog Plays were a triptych of short, two person scenes about living with – and dying from – AIDS. The production notes told us about Chesley, a playwright in San Francisco known for shows that were challenging, somewhat farcical and full of explicitly homoerotic language.  These plays, we were told, were the first things he had written after getting diagnosed with AIDS. This production was in the summer of 1991 – Chesley had died the previous December.  

The play was full of grief and longing and despair and the vision of a bright world that had just been glimpsed before being snatched away forever.  Each of the three pieces features a character named Dog (all the characters have canine names) interacting with someone that he’s lost or is losing.

I say it’s the best play I’ve ever seen, but in truth I barely remember 2/3rds of it.  The third piece in the triptych, “Hold” is a fantasy treatment of letting go of a lover who is dying in Dog’s arms. The second piece, “The Deploration of Rover,” I have no memory of at all. 

But the first part, “Wild (Person Tense) Dog” was shattering. 

Dog (James Patrick Sheehan) goes out to a club, but he’s depressed and lonely. So many people he knows are getting sick. On the way into the club, he’s accosted by a homeless person named Buck (John Lescault). Dog shoves a 20 dollar bill into Buck’s hand without looking at him. Inside the club, Dog and Buck deliver alternating monologues – Dog to the audience and Buck to Dog. Dog tells us about what life was like before the plague came, the community that has been lost. And Buck slowly tries to get Dog to recognize him as a former lover, someone who he was once intimate with, but who now is sick. And because he is sick, he can be ignored, not looked at, not SEEN. Instead, Dog gives him money so he doesn’t have to see. 

The play ends with Dog finally opening his eyes and recognizing Buck. It’s heartbreaking, a howl into the darkness.

I’ve never forgotten it.

A few years later, I was beginning film school in Greensboro, North Carolina.  While studying theater at GWU, I took as many film classes as I could; now I found myself in the opposite situation, studying film but taking a lot of classes in UNCG’s theater department. In my first year, I did an independent study that involved me directing a play.  I chose “Wild (Person Tense) Dog.”  I wasn’t trying to be controversial; I just really loved the play and wanted a chance to engage with it. But in hindsight, it was a breathtakingly loud choice. (For context, while I was in Greensboro, the traveling production of Angels in America was boycotted during their run down the road in Charlotte. This was also the place where I had a fellow student, very sincerely weep for me because I was going to Hell.)  

To say the show ruffled some feathers would be an understatement.  The head of the film department walked out in the middle, white as a sheet. 

At some point over the years, my copy of the play was mislaid. I just went looking for one online, and came up mostly empty. Amazon has a used copy for $50.  It’s a shame.  (EDIT: Found one!  Immediately purchased.)

One day soon, I would like to revisit these plays again.  In the ensuing years, i’ve become fascinated with immersive theater, and I think there might be a way to do these shows in a site-specific or interactive way that could be interesting.

But mostly, I want to see if I can recapture a sliver of the sledgehammer power I felt when I first saw the show in 1991. 

So after 23 years, let me say: Thank you, Robert Chesley. Thank you, Potomac Theater Project especially director Jim Petosa and actors James Patrick Sheehan (Dog) and John Lescault (Buck.)