The Familiarity of Stranger Things

Maybe you had some variety of wild place – your own Hawkins, Indiana, the wild places bordering your neighborhood which encouraged those wild places within you, before you came to any awareness about energy policy, or rendition, or black sites; before you understood that the worst of the world’s problems came not from without human agency, but from deep within it. I certainly did. The joy of Stranger Things springs in great measure from its ability to reconnect us with those places. It’s a meditation on power – the loss of it, the restoration of it – which never for a moment feels didactic or in any way concerned with message, but rather like a parable from within the temporal borders of our own lives. The precarity of modern life has led to a sense of unease and fragility. In Hawkins, Indiana, as in the places of our youth, before the age of smartphones, help could be very far away indeed, but we got by, in some cases with some help from benevolent authority figures, like Chief Hopper, but more often with the help of the freaks and outsiders we called our peers. The ability to navigate danger depended not on how reliable your 4G signal was, but how reliable your friends.

“The familiarity of Stranger Things,” on the late-Cold War malaise woven into the show’s DNA, for sinkhole‘s essay roundup of 2017’s significant pop cultural moments and things

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A Good One in The Feathertale Review

FTR20-cover

He started in: “There’s a guy. Good guy. Or average guy, anyway, like any of us. Flawed. Known his share of personal pain. Maybe he’s been predeceased by a child or a wife or a lover or a sibling. This guy – we’ll call him Randolph – walks into a bar.”

“Oh, this one,” said Marian.

— “A Good One,” a new story in The Feathertale Review‘s Winter 2018 issue

A Little Larceny for Sinkhole Magazine

The American culture industry was shipping out products like White Christmas with reliable regularity— trifles made not without some care and craft, but generally with little eye toward longevity, and certainly no expectation that they become time capsules of the era’s subcutaneous anxiety. But some, including White Christmas, were dipped in the waters of dread, and they still bear the mark.

On White Christmas and the Great America that never was, for Sinkhole Magazine

Timelines

Ubaldo Jiminez is pitching—and Zach Britton is not—and his first pitch to Encarnacion meets wood and then rises up through the cool air inside the open-roofed stadium and lands in the second deck. Encarnacion stands with his arms above his head and drops his bat. I stand with my arms above my head. “Oh my God,” I say. “Oh my God.” “Did they do it?” asks my wife, who is upstairs unpacking. “Oh my God,” I say again. The SkyDome erupts in jubilation and disbelief. The TV broadcast will end with that buzz still apparent, the emotional currency of that place plain and enticing to us at home. It is unlikely that a team’s fans should ever know even one of these moments, but we have counted four. In the morning I will show the children the replay of Encarnacion’s home run over breakfast. I will watch it myself a dozen more times.

“Timelines,” for Eephus, about Encarnacion’s Wild Card Game-winning home run, as well as Roberto Alomar, Joe Carter, José Bautista, memory, family, the passage of time, and a bunch of other stuff

Le baseball

We wander into the guts of the stadium for another beer or a bathroom break and see where they have hung on the walls images of old teams who played here, including the Athletics, the Alouettes, and the Braves, members of the Provincial League and, later, farmhands for Boston and Milwaukee. Warren Spahn pitched in this very ballpark. Hank Aaron hit a home run here. They modeled this park’s design on Trois-Rivières’ home field, built a year earlier. The Expos installed an affiliate in the ’70s, called les Carnavals, and later, the Metros. Gary Carter and Andre Dawson took their hacks. Though unique, Québecois baseball is nothing new. It goes back decades, or a century, or more.

— “Le baseball,” on les Capitales de Québec of the Can-Am League, for Eephus

Tris Speaker in Peterborough

An ad in Friday’s Examiner touted the following day’s contest “the Greatest Baseball Game Ever Played in Peterborough,” pitting “American Stars vs. Wellington Semi-Pro. Team of Toronto,” to be played at Riverside Park, “Peterboro.” Also in that day’s edition: several pages of World Series coverage, including a photo of the Giants’ Frankie Frisch getting caught stealing second, and another of Ruth, mid-swing, looking classically Ruthian.

“The Time Tris Speaker and Ty Cobb Led a Group of Players to Ontario for Hunting and Baseball,” for VICE Sports Canada

On Tee-Ball for The Classical

There’s a persistent tug in me toward baseball, and the idea of how it should be played. I want to call out to my boys, “Stand there!” “Run that way!” “Catch the ball!” I do allow myself one outburst, when Cormac stands on first base with his glove on his right hand. “Cormac!” I call, “the glove goes on the hand you don’t throw with!” He waves and smiles and switches hands, though it won’t matter when the ball next comes his way; it’ll sail by, unbothered, just the same.

“The Glove Goes On the Hand You Don’t Throw With,” for The Classical