Saturday, June 30, 2007

Time Stand Still

In the movie "Click", Adam Sandler comes into possession
of a remote control which allows him to fast forward
through the dull and boring (according to his
disastrously incorrect assessment) years of his life.

He winds up missing his kids' childhoods,
ruining his marriage and wasting his last years with
his parents.

If I had such a remote control, I'd be tempted to hit the
pause button so that the current reality could be frozen
for a good long time. It's summer. We just had a pleasant,
stress-free fun vacation with my Mom. My child is in a delightful
pre-adolescent state in which he is great company, low
maintenance, and likes having me around. His team just last
night won their final play-off game and will now go to the
Greenbelt World Series next week. He is healthy and happy,
with good and nice friends. At work, I have relatively few
deadlines or dreaded tasks, an enthusiastic and good student,
and several interesting data sets to get through which should
produce some nice results in a reasonable time. My colleagues
are all good to work with, and great to know. In aCappellaLand,
our CD is almost done, awesome sounding and looking, and I
believe it will be well received. We just did a benefit
concert last night that we all enjoyed, and we sounded good.
One of my son's friend's dad's was supposed to go to Iraq
but was relieved of the assignment due to a medical condition.
We just found out when we saw him walking down the lane Monday

In short, this is a special time in which many many things
seem to be going very very well, and it is a pleasure to float
through these days. I want to "freeze this moment a little bit
longer", in the words of Neil Peart in the Rush song "Time
Stand Still". I know exactly what he was talking about.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Baseball Bein' Berry Berry Good to Us

When I was a kid, there was a skit on Saturday Night Live involving a
baseball player with limited command of the English language. His
signature phrase was "baseball been berry berry good to me."

Since April we have become increasingly absorbed into a long
standing old-town institution known as Greenbelt Baseball. With
the boy turning 9 this Spring, he (and we) graduated from machine
pitch to kid-pitch. Last year, I don't think it was even possible
to strike out. They just kept feeding balls into the machine and
aiming it right at the strike zone until a hit was obtained. Then
the many parents on the sideline would cheer and yell "run to
first base. No to FIRST base!!! No the other way, the other way!!!"
or similar. When the kids were fielding, it was quite something
to discover that they were actually paying attention if a hit came
their way. More often, they were playing in the dirt.

Not this year. About 15 minutes into the first practice I could tell:
these kids could really play baseball! Wow. Our team has several
talented pitchers, and they practice drills continuosly. Their two
coaches are very knowledgeable about the game, as well as
amazingly positive guys who each have just the right touch with
the 9-to-12-yr old boy crowd. I was a bit concerned that my boy
would get bowled over by the experience, much like Indianna
Jones must have felt with that six-foot diameter boulder barrelling
down on him. On the contrary, my Mr. Positive Thinking was
visibly delighted to be on a team with "real potential to win
the World Series" as he put it. I was all, like, "Huh? World Series?"
His team is now 12 and 1, with two weeks to go in the regular
season. Perhaps he was onto something that first day.

In addition to the impressive and delightful coaches, baseball has
introduced us to some of the coolest parents around. I've
lived in this town for 14 years but I have not come close to exhausting its
continously flowing potential of new and very interesting friends.
I hope I never do. Many of the folks in Greenbelt Baseball have
been a part of the program for generations. My boy's best friend's
Dad used to play on a team, and his Dad was the coach. And our
coaches? At least one of them was also on that team. And they
aren't the only ones. The city councilman who threw out one of
the first pitches used to play on a team with the coach of one
of the other teams. And it goes on and on. I'm amazed at how
many of these parents and coaches have known each other, and
spent time with each other at this baseball field, for as long as
they can remember. Their lives are tightly woven together for
decades. And yet they easily and warmly let "newcomers" like
us slide right in. That kind of community connection makes it
almost effortless to raise a child here. Surely it makes it seem
virtually worry-free to me. The lines between family, friends
and neighbors here seem very blurred compared to what it
was like in my childhood. And I am very very thankful for it.
It feels like everyone is looking out for everyone else.

I would be remiss if I didn't give a big shout-out to the kids
on the teams as well. From what I've seen, they are all amazingly
respectful of all the adults, and the younger kids. They are
genuinely nice. Know the meaning of the word "teamwork"
and love to play baseball.

So thank you, Greenbelt Baseball, for giving me yet another
reason to deeply adore this town. As someone said to me
a few days ago: "Greenbelt-you either get it, or you don't." I
totally get it.