April 11th, 2006

Conversation

A CAFÉ ON A CORNER IN THE CENTRAL DISTRICT OF A POLYGLOT METROPOLIS

The bustle of customers, their para llevar beverages in hand, makes it hard to hear. Most tables are taken up by solitary individuals peering into their laptop screens. In the background, looking through the plate glass window facing the larger street, the rain-washed pavement gleams momentarily with the low-angled light of the late winter afternoon sun. The buildings across the street pulse with a faded orange glow, then return to the damp gray they sported a minute before. The camera zooms in on a table shared by two patrons, a MAN and a WOMAN. The eyes of the MAN are downcast, his hand distractedly gripping the paper cup in which the remaining 2/3 of his latté have gone tepid. The WOMAN pushes down on the balls of her feet, rocking her chair ever so slightly backward. She is watching him.
WOMAN: What are you hiding from?

MAN: I'm hiding from the realization that there's so much to be hiding from.

WOMAN: (laughing through her teeth) That's a clever bit of indirection.

MAN: No, I was reading The Nation this morning--

WOMAN: (interrupting) How can you read The Nation and not think that?

MAN: The April 10th issue, that piece on the reconstruction of New Orleans by Mike Davis. Did you know he's writing a book about the city?

WOMAN: He would. What's his title this time, City of Sludge?

MAN: I know, I know. But he writes well. It's pretty convincing.

WOMAN: So you're telling me that you're hiding from the realization that there's so much to be hiding from as a way of hiding from the realization that you're hiding from me.

MAN: Did I miss something? Last time I checked we were sitting in the middle of a crowded Starbucks listening to the dulcet sounds of Sam Cooke.

WOMAN: Fuck you.

MAN: It's your call.
WOMAN leans forward, putting her hands on the table in order to push off, the first stage in getting up out of her seat.
WOMAN: You know what I want.

MAN: A rock and roll band, passionate kisses, and all of that stuff.
WOMAN settles back into her seat and turns her head toward the plate glass window.
WOMAN: It's raining again.
Outside, a woman walking by the plate glass window stumbles and drops her oversized green golf umbrella. A bus covered in an ad for the latest action film rolls by heading the opposite direction. And, for just a second, a beam of sunlight plays across the buildings across the street, but not the street itself or the near sidewalk.

Analogy of the Day

Chuck Klosterman, whose writing usually entertains me and sometimes enthralls me, weighs in on the Barry Bonds story today over at ESPN.com, in an essay that is also running in ESPN: The Magazine. I'm sure Greil Marcus is next. As absurd as the furor has become, though, there are parts of Klosterman's piece that resonated for me:
Early in "Game of Shadows," authors Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams try to illustrate what motivated Bonds to inject chemicals into his rump, and they suggest that his actions were driven by jealousy and, to a lesser extent, race. "They're just letting him do it because he's a white boy," Bonds supposedly said of McGwire's steroid-fueled run at the single-season home run mark. This statement makes Bonds seem as paranoid as Richard Nixon. How, one wonders, could unseen puppet masters be pulling the strings behind the home run race? It all seems crazy.

But, then again, nobody ever wrote a takedown book on Mark McGwire. I'm not sure anyone even considered it.

Nixon wasn't always wrong.
Likening Bonds to Nixon may be totally over the top, but it helps to legitimate my recent rant in which I asked why the nation seems more preoccupied with Bonds's deceptions than those of George W. Bush. And I have to agree with Klosterman that it's highly unlikely that McGwire ever would have found a Fainaru-Wada and Williams as his muse, at least without the fuss surrounding Bonds today. More broadly, I think Klosterman worms his way to the real problem that statistically-minded people have with Bonds which is not simply that he appears to have benefited from indulging in artifice, but that he did so when he was already one of the best, if not the best, player in baseball. You can't throw his career out the window very easily, since he did better before his alleged misdeeds than most alleged misdoers did after them. I mean, what was Mark McGwire hitting in 1991?