I Have A Condition Called Baseball Love

People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring. —Rogers Hornsby

April has passed and May is here, marking my favorite sport’s headway into its long season.

Baseball puts off the die-hard football fans I know because the game “lacks action.” But football is too war-like for me—all about fighting for land acquisition, which is how this country was taken from the native people. Of course, in the beginning the rules were in the making; the big Euro teams were off sides a lot and often had too many players on the field. When they acquired all the land they could, however, that’s when they replaced their cannonballs with the pigskin, began playing amongst themselves, and contained the sport within several isolated chunks of sod.

I don’t mind when a baseball game stalls for a few innings. That is the best time to scrutinize the game and learn new things about the sport. American cartoonist and illustrator Saul Steinberg called the game “an allegorical play about America, a poetic, complex, and subtle play of courage, fear, good luck, mistakes, patience about fate, and sober self-esteem.”

You can travel almost anywhere in this country and see a ballgame in action, from little kids to adults, and male and female. Girls and women play it with a larger ball called a softball. Men with beer guts play softball, too, which they do fast and mean. Even old guys play the sport with a ball so big it’s almost impossible to hit beyond the infield. They call it Mountain Ball, so it seems fitting the players are built like miners.

There are other forms of baseball, like stickball, wiffleball, and kickball. And like all forms of baseball, they can be played anywhere, from a city street to a cow pasture in the middle of Podunk. And you don’t have to be American or speak English to play the game, either. All you need is a spherical ball, something with which to hit it, and some bases to run to, whether they are parked automobiles or mom’s sofa cushions.

No game in the world is as tidy and dramatically neat as baseball, with cause and effect, crime and punishment, motive and result, so cleanly defined. —Paul Gallico, American novelist and sports writer

Kids of all ages band together in the summer to play and watch baseball. I did. My kids did. And I’m betting my grandkids will, too. Baseball has a charm—an appeal to all. Branch Rickey, the great baseball man known for breaking Major League Baseball’s color and race barrier by signing Jackie Robinson and drafting Roberto Clemente, said baseball’s charm is its “adoption of mathematical measurements to the timing of human movements, the exactitudes and adjustments of physical ability to hazardous chance. The speed of the legs, the dexterity of the body, the grace of the swing, the elusiveness of the slide—these are the features that make Americans everywhere forget the last syllable of a man’s last name or the pigmentation of his skin.”

Ravenwood, Chapter 9 [fiction]

Alice Lake:

Alice Lake and Myers Ridge
Alice Lake

Alice Lake and its community is a scenic area of Ravenwood. It once held the stature of being its own municipality, complete with a town hall and post office. It became a popular spot for vacationers (many from Pittsburgh) in the 1920s and became part of Ravenwood in 1957, making Ravenwood approximately two and one-half miles wide (east to west) by four and one-half miles long (north to south).

Alice Lake is a spring fed glacier-made lake one-half mile wide and a little more than one mile long, 8 acres, and with an average depth of 26 feet along a kettle bottom with holes as deep as 50+ feet. Surrounded by approximately 750 private homes and cottages, the lake is picturesque with its quaint cottages and beautiful homes. Visitors can rent a room anytime at Richard and Melissa Bay’s Bed & Breakfast—a charming and spacious Folk Victorian home. They can tour the Alice Myers Museum—a colorful Gothic Revival House—every Tuesday through Saturday and acquaint themselves with the lake’s namesake. They can browse Ellen Waverly’s art gallery and buy excellent local artwork. And they can shop nearly every day at the nineteen specialty gift shops, which sells a mix of country and Victorian knickknacks not found in city chain-stores. Antiques are also a specialty, and Johnson’s Antiques and Auction is less than a mile away at downtown Ravenwood.

My fictitious Pennsylvania Fish Commission maintains the lake and its two public boat launches. When I first created Ravenwood, the lake was used recreationally for swimming and fishing only; there were no horse-powered boats. Now, a 10 horsepower boat is the limit. And now, my characters can rent pontoons, paddle boats or canoes at Maguire’s Boating, Fishing and Hunting, which is open year-round.

For the angler, the Fish Commission stocks Alice Lake with pan fish, bluegill, perch, sunfish, walleye, northern pike, muskellunge, and small and large mouth bass. For the hunter, many public game lands border the area. In the winter, Alice Lake is widely used for ice fishing. Although many of the roads that wind around the lake are dirt or gravel, the State maintains them well. Other winter activities include snowmobiling sponsored by the lake park’s Recreation Hall. And the entertainment hall has a 24-lane bowling alley and a heated indoor swimming pool.

During the summer, there are fishing contests and kayaking, sailing and canoe rowing races on the lake, and go-cart racing and miniature golf at the Recreation Hall. City council displays a fireworks show on the lake every Fourth of July.

Tourists and locals can sip wine coolers and dip lobster in drawn butter on the patio at the Mill Pond Restaurant at the south side of the lake while kids can swim and slide down the fabulous water slide into the lake. Or they and their families can have delicious homemade and hand stretched pizza, subs, and calzones any day of the year at Connie’s Pizzeria.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are inexpensive pleasures at The Roundhouse. Once the lake’s roller rink, it became a restaurant and dining hall after fire nearly destroyed the building in 1966. The Roundhouse hosts dances and live music every Saturday night from June until the end of September.

The south side of Alice Lake comprises an Amish community, so it is common to see Amish buggies traveling the lake roads no matter the time of year.

More about Ravenwood is in the works. I promise.

Living A Writer’s Life

After a morning of writing my strange and spooky fiction (He thinks he’s a writer of the macabre, folks!) and then a day at a mind-bending and almost thankless 9-to-5 job, I’m back at the keyboard writing my blog and losing track of time and everyone and everything around me … until I pause long enough to look at the clock and see the hour is late and I’m really tired.

But I go on and post my thoughts to anyone who cares enough to read about me.

I have been busy this week working on my web sites and trying to redefine them. I have a site for my artwork and another for my writing. All get visited, but only a few people comment their thoughts and opinions. Others sneak in and out, never recording a thing. These are the ones I wonder about. Why didn’t they comment? The Internet is a highway for communicating, after all.

But I go on and post to the expansive as well as the quiet ones because I have a voice inside I can’t silence. Every moment sparks a new idea for either a story or a painting … or both. But it’s the voice of the writer that burns brightest, the voice that won’t leave me alone while I’m trying to sleep.

Words call out, form sentences and create moments from a story in my mind: A lascivious young woman reclined in classic fine-art repose upon a lounge chair covered in multicolored satin linens and silk scarves. Her face was the color of the finest gold, ruby and sapphire. Her emerald green eyes sparkled. Her long auburn hair flowed down a seemingly endless body of extraordinary purity that glowed like a summer sunset in a garden of carnations and lilies.

What does that paragraph mean? I don’t know. But here I communicate to you a voice calling out to be heard.

And such is this writer’s life.