“Thereby Hangs A Tale.”

The morning goes like this.

I get up. There’s no need for an alarm. I wake up, pretty much as I would wake up if there were an alarm. I turned the alarm off way back in March when I closed my studios due to the pandemic. But, I wake up at the same time anyway. Six a.m. Six-ish.

I feed the cats. I split a can of food onto three plates. It’s not rocket science.

One of three.

I make my coffee.

I turn on my computer.

For the past several days this image has appeared as I’ve signed on to my computer.

Embed from Getty Images

 

Ancient crumbling Irish ruins. It’s beautiful, really, as it crumbles away, taking whatever memories are inside. Turning them to sand. Turning them to dust.

I will be sad when Windows 10 decides it’s time to change this photo to something else.

Like the ruins, the photo will disappear.

But, as I sat and looked at it today, I noticed what was spread out behind those ruins. Behind all that ancient crumbling beauty.

I’d missed it at first. But, if you look beyond the castle ruins you’ll see in the background the span of a modern city going about its business.

You’ll see today.

All I want to see are the sweet crumbling ruins.

I realize now that beautiful crumbling ruins are everywhere for me lately, planting themselves squarely in front of today.

Those ruins are the old newspapers I scour looking for interesting baseball stories, or non-baseball stories about things like popcorn pie.

The Coffeyville KS Weekly Journal, 9/24/1887

“We hear of pop-corn pie. That’s certainly a new dish.”

Those ruins are the distractions I use to block out the horrible today things like pandemics and racism and hatred and greed. All the things closing or cancelling. All the people who’ve been hurt or are gone. All the things that will never be the same.

I feel a little guilty when I look back at that photo and force my eyes to see only the ruins. To see only what I want my eyes to see.

The Baltimore Sun, 6/23/1896

Poor Philadelphias.

I feel a little guilty when I bury myself in an old baseball box score, trying to figure out who hit the single that scored the run in a hundred-year-old game that is forgotten, turned to dust, except for the bones of that old box score.

The Baltimore Sun, 6/23/1896

Orioles win.

And, I feel a little guilty when I foist all this on you, dear reader, assuming you will want the ruins of this old box score, too. I feel guilty that I’m asking you to find it as interesting as I do. To need it as much as I do.

When I stick my nose into an old newspaper today, I get the exact same feeling of excitement that I did when I was a teenager and I discovered the old newspaper archives at the Carnegie Library across from my high school.

It’s no longer the library, my friends tell me, but it’s still there.

I miss the mildew’y scent of the old local papers that were sewn into giant leather-bound books and stacked into a corner – in a space too small to be a room, too big to be a closet. I loved the heft of those newspaper books, the fragile edges of the pages, the sound the paper made between my fingers, the musty smell. There were stacks and stacks of very old and worn Sports Illustrateds there, too, that I’m pretty sure someone donated when they were cleaning out a dead uncle’s garage.

The thrill of opening an old newspaper remains, even if it’s online now. I just need to see what’s inside, to see what once was. To see what I might find.

I need those ruins to stand between me and the world.

To tell me about baseball and popcorn pie.

Altoona KS Advocate, 9/16/1887

Thereby hangs a tale.

16 thoughts on ““Thereby Hangs A Tale.”

  1. “Foist?” Jackie, your blog posts are a high point of my week- or day; whatever. No “foisting” involved.
    Am I, as you suggest, focusing on the ruins- the “bare, ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang”? Maybe so, but so what? In the midst of the daily shitestorm, we might all be forgiven for wanting a break, a usually amusing visit to a world that is… well, not today.
    But, your writings, Jackie, are more than just a diversion. They are warm and witty, clever and even inspiring, with their tales of imperfect men (usually) who played a “game” with utmost seriousness. They left a mark, a story that says “I mattered”, if only for a few summers, and what that means is we can all matter; we can all leave our mark, somewhere.
    -And, you matter, Bloggess, dear, to me and God knows how many other readers who just want to be reminded that our own imperfections do not disqualify us from “mattering”. You’re writing about Baseball, but your subject is the Human Condition. Please continue. It matters.

  2. Hi. Speaking of libraries: are they open in your region? They are closed in my area. Seems to me that they could be open, if they limit the number of people inside, require people to wear masks, etc. I miss going to my local libraries.

    • Today is the first day that the local library in my teeny-tiny little town will be reopening … for “curbside pickup” only. But, better than closed. Baby steps …

      Things are still slow-going here in Virginia and that feels like the right pace to me.

  3. Pingback: The week gone by — June 14 – A Silly Place

  4. Beautifully written!

    I too love libraries. I used to work in the “Stacks” at the University of Illinois. It was just me and the books sometimes, for hours. My job was to put the books back on the 12 floors of stacks, containing something like 4 million volumes of books. I think it’s the largest University library in the world or in the USA or something like that. Maybe it was 20 million volumes? I forget. However, I do remember the wonderful feeling of being immersed in all that history, all that work that was mostly long forgotten. It was a great part-time job for a dumb college kid like me.

    Thanks for your story.
    Reid

    • It sounds like a dream job! When I was in college I would always study in the basement of the library where the newspaper archives and old books/historical documents were stored. I was often the only one down there and I loved having that whole floor of books and newspapers to myself — although I did occasionally worry that the library would just close for the night, and they’d forget to check the basement level, and I’d get locked inside. :)

      • Great story! I understand 100%. I felt the same way. Haha. It was great getting lost amidst all of those books and quiet atmosphere. Once in awhile though I would get scared out of my mind by a sneaky stranger who was wandering the Stacks. It was like a horror movie! LOL!

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