I like to watch the trains as I smoke cigarettes. It’s something I’ve taken to doing sometimes, usually at night, walking the block to the bridge that overlooks the Long Island Railroad. Standing, peering down, I’ve often thought of how it all came to be. And not so long ago. Engineers bashing through plans for tracks to be laid, crisscrossing North America, by the bare hands of those with a hunger. Some of it literal; some divine. A battered innocence cut. And all but with some idea that it was indeed for something bigger. For the present and future as one. For a past wrought without civility; without mercy and without care. A train, for one thing, might take you anywhere. Anywhere at all. And so why not let it ride?
Of course, with history, we know that the rails were built by suffering. That’s all we’ve ever truly built with, this nation of ours. We are a land of the supposed will for compromise and with a certain moral superiority, yet we’ve a penchant for absurd greed and ragged muscle. For a fire ant’s mentality. For a rusty sheath of ice cold steel. With a bubble bath in the headlines and its filth disappearing down the drain.
Funny how it is that filth upon which those tracks were laid in the first place. To comb our past is to present no disparities to wonder. Blood and sweat spill. Yet whatever our motives in the treatment of each other, we should know we are one as Something, if not something else. And with a lifetime of maturity, it seems we could be able to get to that someplace better.
Of course, such fate may seem to drag it’s knuckles. Time waits for no one when they seem eclipsed by darkness. And in our world, there is much darkness. Too much, to be sure.
So within this blanket of night, where do we go for a light switch? I tend to look for pieces of art. For music, dance, pictures, and laughter. For that which is so vast in it’s scope, it is played out perpetually, with each passing moment a momentum for change; for history made. For that impossible emotion brought forth from your soul.
It seems I’ve been feeling these tides of elation more and more these past couple years. One moment aghast by our national stage: a man with a constant hardon and a history of sexual assault, serial fucking around, and a failure at common sense and decency who is leading us further into a darkness. This is no abstract notion. But it’s not his fault. He wasn’t made for this. He was made to play the game. But when it isn’t a game anymore, what is it? And what will it turn into?
I for one, prefer no game. But if I have to choose, I choose beauty over brawn. I choose finesse over annihilation. A ball over a bullet. A handshake over a clenched fist. I choose baseball: America’s pastime. It is our Mona Lisa. Along with rock and roll, the greatest thing that we’ve created as a culture. And it goes on and on, baseball. Over three quarters of the year, we watch and we listen. And sometimes, we see the impossible play out before us like theatre drawn from the mind of some idealist romantic. Our hearts soar with the crowd as a team from Cleveland plays like no team has ever played, winning more consecutive games than any of the thousands of teams that have played the hundreds of thousands of games since Major League Baseball began over a hundred years ago. A team that – over a 22 game period – won all of them, hitting more home runs as an offense than the total number of runs allowed by the pitchers. By twenty-something men gliding past expectations and holding fate and chance as no deciding factors in the purge of true soul in motion. For three weeks, Cleveland Baseball was as perfect as the world has ever seen. And it was so remarkable.
But tonight, as I stood watching for those trains rolling beneath me, on those tracks built by the past, I thought about our present and future as beings in our existence. And although I may always shudder at the world as it seems to have always been, I can’t help but have some hope. Because we as human beings continue to mine for and witness beauty. For three weeks, 25 young men participated in something no 25 young men have ever more than dreamed up. And as it has come to it’s end, I stood on that bridge and I glanced down at the tracks beneath me and smiled. Not at the railroad, its history, or its future. But at the reality of the cars’ inhabitants: a few of the millions of people who know a world where 30,000 people will all rise in ovation at the end of an inevitable defeat, as 25 men wave their hats in gratitude. None of it because of losing the game. But for a collective epiphany that Cleveland has once again made us believe in Light. Even while the world is draped in darkness.