Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Reflection, Day 9

This is the second to last day in the time of Reflection. For that opportunity, I thank my great, great grandmother Rosenthal. Being part of such a club often affords an opportunity for reminiscing, maybe among old friends or simply peers. At a wedding in my hometown this past weekend, I had suspected an opportunity for just that, but collective nostalgia was not particularly viable given that most of the people I know from the era appropriate for the draw of guests were not in fact invited, or at least did not attend. It occurred to me then, that as an activity, reflecting seems to be a sort of edgy version of reminiscing, where the past is placed somewhere forward—launched—with a trajectory: an unexpected bounce.

Several years ago, I saw a baseball game played at Disch-Falk Field in Austin. There is something unexpected and shocking about that field: it is covered with Astroturf. Possibly that does not seem shocking (and it is pretty cool to actually use “Astroturf” given the close proximity to Houston), but the fact is that the field is outdoors and there is no shortage of full-time grass staff at UT; in contrast, the field at Texas Memorial Stadium is better tended than most any thing, anywhere, and it is most certainly real grass. Further, the shade of green is the sort that raises questions.

I had questions that day, after the game, and for the first time in probably a couple of years, I reached out to a friend of mine from high school—from the same era as the bride in said wedding—to investigate the field and get a player’s perspective. This guy was scouted by several pro teams, played serious college baseball, and ultimately chose instead to play for Harvard. The correspondence was via email. What I received read in the unique voice of my friend—someone I admired for countless reasons—and matter-of-factly addressed the baseball issues, followed up with anticipatory discussion of plans for a return visit home. I learned that two days after that email was sent, Josh died in an automobile collision while working, as he had been, in Eritrea on projects of aquaculture research.

One of the benefits of artificial turf is the consistency of ball bounces—truer hops. I played lacrosse in high school and consistently marveled at the physically impossible trajectories a white Brine ball could follow. I played on grass and never really made the connection with turf surface until learning of the baseball analog. Upon reflection, I am a bit surprised and somewhat disappointed at my ignorance.

I remember driving to north Austin to buy cigarettes the night I heard Josh had died. I remember seeing, as I had thousands of times before, a fairly provincial church on the way. The great part of that church was the tiny yellow neon cross on the roof-ridge: at night the juxtapositions of scale and seriousness spinout what might seem a fairly decent place to the ironic. I remember thinking that telephone poles really had amazing power, with an unearthly sort of animation, unexpected even of living trees.

I have enjoyed an aphorism despite outwardly disapproving of aphorisms: predictability is the enemy. Only recently has it occurred to me that remembering, reminiscing, and reflecting are all different. I had expectations of this wedding trip: decadent times slathered with nostalgia, but have been unexpectedly shocked by the lively trajectory of reflection, divergent from the slow orbit of reminiscence. As a result, I find I am without prediction: unprepared, but willing.

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