Here's another one that was so embarrassingly long it, again, had to be split into part I and part II. Part II has some pictures in it; they're not the ones I would necessarily have chosen out of the excessive amount I submitted, but I can't complain. I never was in love with the whole piece, to be honest, but the Powers That Be liked it and it seems to have been reasonably well-received, so who cares about my opinion? Take a look at the monster if you're so inclined.
Sorry, no book reviews for a bit (okay, I know no one is sorry). Events have conspired to cut into my usual reading time and the book I do have now is long and going at in small bits and pieces isn’t enormously helpful (where was this huge book when I needed it two weeks ago? Am I the only person in the history of medicine to have uttered these words in an ER? “Please don’t admit me! I finished my book and I’ve read the footnotes twice!”). Instead, how about this:
I read a column by Rob Neyer on ESPN.com that posited this question, essentially, if you could go back in time to watch a baseball game, what would you choose? He opted for choices pre-1960, going with the premise that because games prior to that were televised in black and white, our images of those game are also in black and white (presumably he also meant black and white photos because some of the games he chose were way before anyone was televising anything). So what would we want to see in “living color,” as it actually happened, your own view instead of that of a historian or reporter or camera?
Now I’m not wild about this particular reasoning for the time period because, although it’s true that games were televised in black and white initially, there certainly was film of other games, for newsreels and such, and I’ve got to believe some of that was in color. I mean, I could be wrong on that but consider this: the first feature-length Technicolor film was Becky Sharp in 1935 (as you might imagine, it’s generally a bit stagy and stiff, but worth a look for Miriam Hopkins' no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners performance in the title role. Has there been a better Becky since? I doubt it). The technology took hold quickly—there are color films taken in the field during WW II and people were shooting home movies in color in the 1940s, so it’s not like there was a purely black and white film/video world prior to 1960. But that’s just pickiness on my part, as well as a reason to mention Becky Sharp, and if nothing else, you can always count on me for a bit of trivia and relentless flogging of things I like (here’s to you, Miss Hopkins). It’s an interesting question nonetheless.
(Sidenote: Neyer asks several writers to make their choice for the game they’d like to go back to. He checks in with Josh Prager, who wrote The Echoing Green, the winner of the not-very-coveted top spot in my 9 Best Books of 2006 list (no, I won’t ever miss a chance to plug my own stuff, but I do it just because I am very fond of those books and want to make sure other people know about them…I know, who am I kidding? I’m the only one reading this.) (did I just parentheses within a parentheses?!! I should be handcuffed and hauled off to punctuation jail)). This makes me think that this year’s list is going to need to be done frighteningly soon, and to be honest, it won’t be easy. I found many books this year that I liked, admired, or respected, but none that I loved. This may even be a Top Seven or Top Five list instead of Top 9.)
Anyway, where and when would I go back to? Considering how my appearance at a baseball game usually guarantees a loss, I probably shouldn’t choose a game that would have been important to a pennant race; I’m not up for rewriting history today. If given the opportunity to time travel, would it be smart to go someplace I’ve never been? Should I go to one of those games in Japan that featured all-star teams with the likes of Ruth and Gehrig? I’ve never been to Chicago. Maybe one of the Black Sox games (“hey, is it me or are these guys really not trying today?”)? Well, knowing what we know now, I guess it would be a good gambling opportunity. I love the 1930s—maybe a Cubs game in say, 1933 (“you know, that guy over there looks a little like Dillinger, like if he’d had plastic surgery or something…”).
But with my background, I guess it’s inevitable that my real choice would of course be a trip back to the early days of the original Yankee Stadium. I know, not very original, but there it is. For that, I guess I’d want to be there in the 1920s (I like reading about the 1930s, but I’m not going to volunteer to live during the Depression—even for a day). Let’s say 1927. That’s about as classic as you can get. But if I’m going to be back there, why not live it up a little? Let’s say that I’m a Broadway star, a sort of Adele Astaire type. At night I’ll perform in a frothy Gershwin musical, then go out and dance until dawn, sleep late, then go to a game at Yankee Stadium in the afternoon. I’ll drag myself in to the theater right after the game and my dresser will look at me disapprovingly and say, “How are you going to sing after yelling at a ball game all afternoon?” And I’ll just say, “I’ll be fine once I get onstage. Now get me a drink and where are my shoes for the ‘Life is a Bowl of Tutti-Frutti Ice Cream” number?”
I admit, the idea of time travel is rather attractive. I could use a break from here and now and all the attending awfulness. So many places and times, where would I go? To see a big historical event? To observe some tremendous moment of discovery? To look at a place untouched, in its original incarnation? There are so many things to choose. But you know what? If given the chance to time travel, I would give almost anything to take my sweet little dog for one more walk, late on a summer night.