Pulse by Julian Barnes: Chapter 1
It was one of those mornings.
You get sleep in the double digits (10 and a half, ain't braggin) and you expect things. The hills, for one, should be alive. Even without the sound of music - even instead, with the sound of Rob Kardashian making his mom teary - there should have been veritable springs in my veritable steps.
(and yes, our apartment subscribes less to "cable" as we do "E! HD")
Instead, I stumbled into the shower. Where, let's confront another unfortunate truth. I buy shampoo like I buy gum. Mango Raspberry Truffle Blizzard gum, if you exist, I will purchase you. Mint Mocha Banana Lazer Swirl, please be real someday. So it should come as no surprise that, perusing Belmont's finest CVS, your narrator was unable to talk himself out of "Organix Nutritional Acai Berry Avocado Shampoo." Here, let's read the fine print.
An exotic nutrient luxurious blend of antioxidant rich acai berry extract and guava to instantly nourish and enrich your hair while avocado proteins add nutrition and balance along with Moroccan argan oil to moisturize your tresses and create a shiny, smooth, frizz-free finish. Beauty pure and simple. Sulfate free / paraben free. Organic acai berry & avocado extract. Safe for color treated hair. Why we love it. It's an exotic, alluring, and totally intoxicating combination. Why you want it. It's a nutritional blend of natural vitamins, proteins and minerals for your hair's total enrichment. What's in it for you. A sensual and exotic botanical infusion of vitamin and antioxidant rich acai berry extracts and avocado proteins to nourish, re-energize, and enrich your hair along with argan oil for moisture, shine and balance. What it's in. Organix bottles are eco-friendly, manufactured from materials containing recycled post-consumer resin. All labels are printed utilizing environmental inks and compostable label film made from annually renewable resource corn, not from petrochemicals. Not tested on animals. Made in USA.
Bold emphasis, MINE. I very well may never know what Moroccan argan oil is. I don't even know what "tresses" are. But surely, my hairline - while receding - deserves a smooth, frizz-free finish. Zero sulfates. Zero parabens. Made in our America. DONE.
THESE ARE IN MY SHAMPOO YEAH
So I'm fumbling through my morning. I'm even resorting to the trick - without success - where you try smiling to yourself a couple minutes to fool whatever "happy, ready to go to work!" chemicals into appearing. Something you might have overheard in high school. Maybe I read it in a People Magazine once. Whatever. But I'm grinning, painfully, to no avail. On with the morning, I suppose.
Soap. Shampoo. Shave...
I stop. And I don't know why it was a big deal. Not because of the avocados, for sure, or even the idea that I had probably spent seven dollars too many on an impulse haircare binge. My morning should have been smooth. Ten hours of sleep, I felt, demanded it. That I was alone and smiling like a sociopath was one thing. But that I had gone to shampoo AGAIN felt like too great a loss to bear.
It was time to make a stand.
Whether I was standing up to the universe, or standing up for it, I have no idea. But I wasn't going to just wash Organix's finest down the drain. Or just laugh it off, perhaps, and make for a second go of it. That didn't feel right, either. A lot of being 29 has felt like "laughing it off." NOT TODAY, ACAI BERRIES. I was going to pour the shampoo back in the bottle. We're probably talking only five cents worth, right? But it was going back in the bottle. It was going back in the bottle or my day wouldn't start.
It took ten minutes but you bet I uncapped that cap. Probably the best thing I'll do all week.
What does this have to do with #qrichappreciationmonth? Or basketball or books or Julian Barnes?
His wife - ex-wife - had said to him one morning over breakfast.
"Look, Vernon, I don't hate you, I really don't. I just can't live with you because you always fuck things up."
Her statement seemed to come out of the blue. True, he snored a bit, and dropped his clothes where he shouldn't, and watched the normal amount of sport on TV. But he came home on time, loved his kids, didn't chase other women. In some people's eyes, that was the same as fucking things up.
"East Wind" is about Vernon, divorced and 37. He's in a predictable place of getting by. Making do. Less angry than numb, it appears, as you get a few pages in.
Into his life comes Andrea - who, to be fair - probably finds herself in this story less to exist than she is to illuminate. Plain, broad-faced, immigrant Andrea who barely shares the same language. The server he asks out - she agrees - that ushers him further into whatever post-life he's found himself in. The miracle for Vernon, page after page, is that Andrea is described as "not having minded." She doesn't mind he's a real estate agent. That he has kids. That he's divorced. That he's, umm, rusty.
"Not minding," could read in the negative as "indifferent." But the affirmative - which I think is closer to what Mr. Barnes was getting at - ought to read instead "accepting." This guy is in an unenviable place and we get to follow along throughout the rescue, however pleasantly awkward.
Until he fucks it all up.
Because of course - of course, right? - he's not okay with someone finding him okay. So the guy steals her keys, makes himself a copy, scares her away, and learns a few unfortunate truths. CHAPTER ONE. THE END.
So whaddawe got here.
To continue translating, "always fucks things up" could very well be read as "the state of the universe." Or, "a state of the universe" for you optimists. "A fallen world," to clarify further. There are fourteen chapters here and if the world is really dancing entropic, if things are really winding down then Quentin Richardson Appreciation Month might feel a bit more tragic than we care to see through. Or at least without any further modification (this is only one version, folks), there you go. Julian Barnes starts the story describing a town's wooden beach huts burnt to the ground, un-rebuilt. The story ends with Vernon looking out over the same space. NAIL, MEET HAMMER.
Translated, "there was probably a three point specialist/shooting guard mired on the Orlando Magic when Q-Rich entered the league, too."
So thanks for that, Julian. Appreciate you.
I had finished the first chapter right before falling asleep the night of my double-digit slumber. So maybe the Acai Berry story makes a little more sense now.
Pulse by Julian Barnes: Chapter 1
I suppose this is one way of announcing that mid-September's book of choice is Pulse by Julian Barnes. Just starting from chapter one and seeing if any of you want to play catch up. The idea still is, yes, we're going to go ahead with Quentin Richardson Appreciation Month. But LOOK, man. Months are, you know, constructs. QRICH APPRECIATION, quite possibly, is a state of mind. So let's ride out these fourteen short stories "appreciation style" and see where and when we end up. To take stock of Basketball Book Club rounding into our third month:
(1) Ideally, this was all meant to be reactionary. The idea started from Zach Randolph banking in threes over the Spurs last spring. Post-lockout, what should be happening here is:
Decent books + EVENTS = lively lively the liveliest commentary
What we have going on instead is practice practice practice makes perfect. John Carter getting tied into last year's Stephon Marbury GQ step out. Graham Swift's redundant narrator poking at Grant Hill's Detroit-to-Disney World shift, taking aim at the Skip Bayless drag that defined last year's Heat. Julian Barnes, most likely, will see us through an overgenerous baker's dozen of posts... all navigated (somehow?) through the career that Quentin Richardson has found himself with. Here's the difference, though. Let's say we're all watching basketball next Christmas day and Chauncey/Melo/Amare make their Boston statement. Some author somewhere will have written something that we'll force upon the event. This? This. This instead will take September/October short stories and find their place with a player (mostly) unfamiliar. A DePaul basketball player, Chicago born, traced through the NBA... the Darius Miles years, a Brandy engagement, Phoenix three launching, his time as a disaffected Knickerbocker, the corresponding weight gain, narrative-less Florida basketball, what any of it could mean. There's always something to find.
Just not sure what to look for yet. I suppose that'll be the fun.
(2) Thanks for all of you who check in from time to time. All of this probably still reads ROUGH DRAFT and starting a whatever-this-is during the lockout is... unorthodox. Or even more unorthodox than the premise. Hopefully there'll be games starting in the next couple months and then we can see what happens here.
(3) Oh look, NBD or anything, but it just so happens I'm Internet famous
now. NBD. You give me a day off from work and I will send links to Jon Bois ALL DAY LONG.
(4) Speaking of Jon Bois, you might find him worth your time. Example: If you like your football round-ups written in the key of Which Football Team Reminds Me Of What Goldeneye Weapon
, he is your guy. Example: If you can feel your heart slowly resigning itself to a world in which Pitbull drinks Dr. Pepper under an overpass, he is your guy.
Or if you have twitter
. Likewise. Your guy.
(5) WELL. My plight as Roscoe Village rent payer dictates that I probably ought to go and, you know, work for a living. Even if we haven't even begun to appreciate QRICH, even if we haven't touched upon "East Wind" or how dark I'm afraid these stories might get. So let's leave it parked. You don't have to play catch up, we'll start chapter one in the next day or two. Here's the book
, electronic readers. Here's the book
, Amazonians. We're going to be spending a good amount of time with Pulse
and maybe it's worth your ten bucks to follow along this time.
Last thing. Confession being I'm two chapters in and really enjoying it. Twenty eight e-pages (iPages?) through and:"Look Vernon, I don't hate you. I really don't. I just can't live with you because you always fuck things up."
When you get there, that'll sting. And when the story ends, that's about the summary in a sentence. Not sure how it ought to pertain to our basketball friend, but that's the sentence I want to start with this week. Who knows what we'll find... but there's where we'll begin looking.
Okay I can't leave it at that. So (6) it feels like I used a whole lot of the "royal we" in this post - THE MAJESTIC PLURAL - and have no idea whether it was a good idea or even remained consistent. Might have overused it, at least. Will return to that thought, too.
Love to love ya. Until next time.
When I grow up, I'd like to be Spencer Hall.You will enter into a one-way contract upon birth. All goods are temporary, and your most personal property, you, will stop functioning completely without warning or refund. Your employer, despite what you believe, does not care about you, and is only interested in the capital you can help them accrue. Your home is a house, and is a good. Your organs can be sold for a certain dollar amount on the open market. The people in charge of the imaginary territory that someone made up to fill with saleable goods are, by all accounts, unqualified for their jobs and very much do not have your best interests at heart. Your wife or husband is under a chemical delusion that ends in six months, and likely continues for the convenience it provides in raising children.
There is always free cheddar in the mousetrap, and it is always a deal.
That, as he calls it, is one edit. The second edit he chases after got me half-misty. So today is his, and probably the weekend too. For fans of college football and meticulous, curvy reflection. Read it already.
Probably haven't been this moved since early summer reading this father's - what an Amazon reviewer would surely call "achingly beautiful" - account of getting high at Disney World.
I know "you - yes, YOU - clicking those links and spending twenty minutes of your afternoon with the two of them" is a pipe dream of mine. You can't blame a book clubber for trying, though. When I think of what I read in 2011, both of those will be at the top.
Q. Richardson Appreciation Month is still probably a few days away. Will take the weekend to talk myself out of making Rick Perry's "Fed Up" our September choice.
A Princess of Mars by Edward Rice Burroughs: Chapters 17-28
Two weeks later and this is a one take.
Hey blog. Hey book readers. Can I tell you about A Princess of Mars? I liked it plenty. I'd like to thank it for all the bus rides where I didn't notice how grim (this morning) my transit companions were (THIS MORNING). I'd like to thank it for being just interesting enough that I *cared* when John Carter aligned the Tharkians with the Heliumites for one massive battle against the whoevers. But that's about it. I liked it.
And I think I jumped the gun earlier. Because I got real excited at the idea -- John Carter/Foreigner/Newfound Power and how that would translate to Powerful/Random Ballplayer/Outsider. But about two posts in, as the book continued on it's campy journey... I realized that was about all I had. All of my promises earlier - let's talk about Deron, let's talk about KD, let's write a tribute post for Yao. C'mon. They were going to be the same post, the same thought, rebranded.
While we're being honest.
I hated my last post but only realized how much so after a few too many days. Only figured it out it after having left the thing up long enough that it couldn't be discretely taken down. So there's that. I think whatever I was feeling - some cathartic mix of dopey self pep talk - probably ought to have been written, saved, and kept in my inbox. Alas.
This, I've decided, is also an altogether far too honest tribute to Yao Ming. Because I LIKED him. But only in the same way I can say I enjoyed this book. It was verifiably good. I enjoyed my time well enough. And that's about it. I'd almost rather have something flawed, something grating... I can WORK with that. The self-destructive tendencies you bring along with yourself aren't ignited by a good, clean story. The (this is the wrong word) humanity (see, I told you) one could find in writing about the imagined inner-workings of Quentin Richardson (I believe I promised you an entire Q. RICHARDSON APPRECIATION MONTH, John Lewis) would be much more worth your time than another mild tribute aimed at a stoic 7-6 center from a country I only know well enough to stereotype.
Yao Ming was interesting for basketball. But only in the way that casual fans here could take notice, keep up, and nod slightly at his retirement. No emotions stirred, really. No sense of loss other than the reticent appreciation of a career flamed out too early. Houstanites/Houstanians/whoever you are, this post is not for you. Ignore me, or pretend I'm writing about Arvydas Sabonis a decade ago when you didn't care.
Glad to have read a good book. Suppose I ought to leave it at that.
A Princess of Mars by Edward Rice Burroughs: Chapters 10-16
Twenty years have intervened; for ten of them I lived and fought for
Dejah Thoris and her people, and for ten I have lived upon her memory.
Alright blog, let's dance. The greater part of this last weekend was spent trying to avoid posting about eHarmony, Puerto Rican point guards not named Carlos Arroyo, Miss Universe 2006, and John Carter's relationship with the red Martian Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium. It looks like I'm not going to be able to dodge this one...
...so here goes.
And I know saying all this in public should make me feel funny
But ya gotta yell something out you'd never tell nobody
We're going to leave this apology-less, overrunning today's book club with a dating site confessional one-off, the experiment a whole six weeks in. Let's take inventory: a handful of dates, a few pen pals. The main benefit to Neil Clark Warren's dollar-a-day offer? The whatever it is that makes you jumpy around strangers tones itself way down. The unwarranted double take towards a remotely attractive customer. Constantly noticing who you're sitting by in transit. Anxiously awaiting your shopping cart to get smashed in at every corner aisle, your future someone at the careless wheel. The to-be-expected produce bag she drops to the floor. A witty something from yours truly. The mutual eye lock. An obvious music swell. Everyone in the audience clued in that You Just Met Her And Your Life Will Never Be The Same For Having Shopped At Jewel.
That's the nice part. For a dollar a day, the Internet will hand you seven people who can't complain - at least without good cause - if you write them, or send five closed ended questions, or select pre-recorded sentences such as "your profile brought a smile to my face." I got TWO of those today. I would gladly gladly gladly have paid fifty cents each for such mild affirmation. And you know what, I guess it kinda turns out I did.
What I mean is, these last six weeks have put an end to the Red Line's monopoly on potentially non-platonic faces. Random encounters feel far less dramatic. And faced with the alternative of signing up for hot yoga down the block, this was the far saner investment.
Let's get back to that in a second... and instead continue upon this August's theme. It's absurd comparing basketball players to a Virginia Confederate/Arizona prospector turned Martian captive/hero. And it was even that very word which led to last week's post
, the by-definition, all-caps ABSURD career of Stephon Marbury. His newfound powers, the newfound opportunities that owe themselves to an alien land. A John Carter honorable mention, it was decided.
This week we find ourselves with a 5'10" Puerto Rican point guard. Twenty-two hundred collegiate points, an undrafted '06, and a half-decade's work culminating in this past summer's Finals run. J.J. Barea's career is the result of a different sort of absurd... the kind that fits right in with our captive/hero's stubborn will. By chapter ten, John Carter is a Tharkian chieftain (of the green Martians, for those keeping score) who has just come to the rescue of Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium (the red Martians, you scorekeepers). Tars Tarkas (Team Green) warns these actions might carry consequences. The reply:"I hear you, Tars Tarkas," I answered. "As you know I am not of Barsoom; your ways are not my ways, and I can only act in the future as I have in the past, in accordance with the dictates of my conscience and guided by the standards of mine own people. If you will leave me alone I will go in peace, but if not, let the individual Barsoomians with whom I must deal either respect my rights as a stranger among you, or take whatever consequences may befall."
Translation, I'm Not From Here And Your Rules Don't Apply.
Translation, I'VE GOTTA BE ME.
Thrilled to hear Tim Riggins try out a speech on Tars Tarkas this spring.
Now translate that for Jose Juan Barea. Who says someone a whole foot shorter shouldn't be scoring at will with history on the line? That David can't afford to take a few shots from Goliath?
"Only my ribs hurt, but for Kobe, it's his ego."
It's not just Captain John Carter's ability to swing fists, to leap buildings, that set him apart on Barsoom. It's the certainty that accompanies him. The promise that "in Virginia, a gentleman does not lie to save himself." The acknowledgment early on that, "in all of the hundreds of instances that my voluntary acts have placed me face to face with death, I cannot recall a single one where any alternative step to that I took occurred to me until many hours later."
This courage... the same stuff, perhaps, that would compel a man to throw his body at giants over and over. To lower one's head, to drive to the basket, to accept the consequences. To get up and do it again. To reject the easy way out. To not be confronted with an alternative.
The only trouble that comes along with writing attractive Internet strangers, it turns out, is the inherent failure built into the thing. You get seven matches and maybe two interest you. One doesn't write back. A victory like finding someone to actually take and return your mail (no small success) comes hand in hand with six mini-defeats. And unless you were really hoping for her e-shopping cart to just plow right into you on day one (my first match's profile photo showed a woman squeezed into a kayak - at least twice my size - eyes wild, holding an oar triumphantly over her head), then that seems to be about the rhythm. Without, of course, knowing any of these people. Or knowing their rules, more importantly. Whether your e-mail should have been a call. Or your voicemail a text. Did you disclose too slow? Or was that too much? It's all guesswork. So let's learn two lessons here and then today needs to get going.
Oh, OOPS. Did I just delete the part of this post I left up for two weeks too many? SORRY. NOT. SORRY.
Guess we're just going to fast-forward through. Imagine a pair of too-earnest-for-the-Internet lessons.
Now for the finish.
Because we all like happy endings. J.J. Barea, our 5'10" fearless study, is expecting his first child along with Miss Universe 2006 sometime this spring. Now go and have a great day.
A Princess of Mars by Edward Rice Burroughs: Chapters 7-9
If our hero were from Coney Island.
No prose bombs this morning. Or at least, not any of mine. Wanted to share this instead:
Unlikely as it may sound to hear a multimillionaire athlete so emphatically resigned to a place like Taiyuan, it's worth recalling that by early 2010, when Marbury first cast his lot with the Dragons, he had reached a place in life where options did not abound. After leaving the NBA at age 32, the two-time All-Star's career had been defined not by his triumphs on the court but by what happened off it—a catalog of errors that included public spats with coaches, romancing a Knicks intern in his truck, and a series of candid Webcasts in which he wept, burst into song, ate Vaseline, and generally volunteered grist for broad speculation that he had gone out of his mind.
That's where you start.
This is where you end:"I want to build my own city," he said. The settlement, he explained, would be built on a 4,000-acre cotton farm in South Carolina he had his eye on. The citizens would be "all my family members. They gonna have their own businesses, companies that will feed off of my company. I want to build my own Walmart-style store. I want to build my own hospital and school system. I'll take all the people where I'm from in Coney Island and tell them to leave everything they got inside their homes and move into our new homes. We'll have all the people sign up to be Starbury employees before they move. This is my vision of what I want to do if this thing really pops off the way I think it will if we continue to stay on the path."
All of the in-between is just as fascinating. If you have time in your day for only one long form GQ article devoted to Stephon Marbury, the attempted resurrection of his career in China, and the efforts to establish his Starbury shoe and apparel line overseas
, this is probably for you.
John Carter - through nine chapters - is learning the Barsoom language, winning the affection of his Martian guard dog, and killing space apes. If there is an equivalent of our time, I'm not so certain Mr. Marbury wouldn't at least place honorable mention.
More to come.
A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs: Chapters 1-6
"It had become daylight almost without warning."
Putting this all up took a few more days than I would have liked, but let's start with this - a month with John Carter is going to be a whole lot of fun. The story of a displaced man; a captain stumbling from the wrong side of war, penniless, without station or title. Scrapping for gold in Arizona. Rushing headlong one-to-one-hundred to save a fallen prospector from capture. Taking shelter in a cave. Waking up on Mars.
We're going to spend a month with this found man, then. We'll spend it walking with lizard people and bounding from cliff to cliff. The realization that in these surroundings - this sudden, startling change - the pulls (gravitational and otherwise) on John Carter are different. A confederate gentleman now leaping one hundred feet in a single bound. The power to send towering green captors flying with only a fist. If A Princess of Mars is a story that places Earth as Krypton, the next three weeks will be spent with our own Superman on Mars... albeit one with a heavy accent and the accompanying manners.
What could this possibly have to do with basketball?
This month is for Stephon Marbury selling shoes in China, for J.J. Barea whirling past opponents a foot and a half taller. The Yao Ming retirement tribute that should have been written a month ago. Deron Williams agreeing to play in Turkey. Kevin Durant dropping 66 in Rucker Park.
You think Dirk might be making a return appearance? Could that possibly be appropriate?
This month is for those of us displaced, found. The stories where you wake up and the world is suddenly suited to you again.
Finally, a clue that the movie (despite it's over-the-top trailer
) might be in good hands: if you listen carefully enough, that's Peter Gabriel in the background performing a cover of Arcade Fire's "My Body is a Cage."My body is a cageThat keeps me from dancing with the one I loveBut my mind holds the key...
I'm living in an age That screams my name at nightBut when I get to the doorwayThere's no one in sight...
Set my spirit free
If the song - his cover - wasn't haunting enough (think Johnny Cash/Hurt
), the thought of John Carter as described in the book's foreword... back from Mars, each night spent "standing in the moonlight on the brink of the bluff overlooking the Hudson... arms stretched out to the heavens as though in appeal" is... well, it's devastating. But it's just about perfect, too. Found for a time but unable to return. Depending on the next twenty chapters or so, those stories might find their way here as well.
The reading is light, I promise, and you're still welcome to join.
Okay! On with the weekend already. Later everyone.
Because every new book club ought to transport Tim Riggins to Mars.
That's right, we'll be reading A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs over the next month. The good news? That's about only a chapter a day. The better news? Those chapters will be free on your iPhone, iPad, or Kindle.
You're more than welcome to come along.
You get the idea.
Tomorrow by Graham Swift: Chapters 21-31
None of us are in LeBron's head. I'm especially not. I can't tell you a thing about what goes on in there.
But you know what? I can PROJECT.
So let's first get this book out of the way (I know, rude) and get to where we need to. First of all, an apology to Mr. Swift. Both for the previous sentence and also anything from the past month that read... so dismissive. I meant it and I didn't and I suppose what I'm apologizing for is this - I still don't exactly know what a critique is for. As a musician, it drove me nuts. The thing you create, it EXISTS. It's the only thing that could have been made. So the idea of deconstructing it, the what-ifs and could/should haves, the griping about four chapters (plus) with Otis the Cat. Disregard those. There is critique as entertainment and critique for critique's sake. The latter, I'm not sure I believe in. I can't write books. Or haven't yet, which is worth the same. The same result. So who am I helping by pointing out Paula's repetitive, overdramatic performance? She can't help it. She's Paula.
It's better she exists.
"Dear Graham, I'd like a semi-less annoying narrator." That's insane. Paula is the person, the book happened to her, and she's re-living it. So here we are. There's no other story to be told.
And critique as entertainment? That will be worked out here over time. Because I think you're allowed, maybe even invited, to engage a novel. To be thrilled by one. To roll your eyes at another. You're allowed to react. What I'm getting at - the playfulness a story invites, the respect it calls for, the line for each. This place will become more comfortable with both. A book puts you at the mercy of another. You say, "Author, fill my head. The stories you have, the pattern of your thoughts." And like that, off you go. So sure, let's all have a laugh or worse - wherever we're taken - but let's also acknowledge the power there.
Ultimately what I mean: I enjoyed this book. It's not the Jimmy Eat World rule invoked anymore. I was moved.
So... last summer. I'd like you to ignore what it must be like to have "Chosen One" tattooed across your back unironically. Or how it must feel to be King Personal Noun to the rest of the world. Instead, pretend you've dominated your peers at an acclaimed thing for over a decade. From 15-25. Again, tie this all back together.... who were you at 15? Who were you at 25? How many different people were you in-between?
I can't imagine it. To be at the very top through such a long, weird time.
What I'm not interested in pardoning LeBron for (if I needed to, if he had wronged me): the whole pre-announcement buildup. The announcement itself. It was as dumb as what Paula Hook just put us through. You don't let the hometown wine and dine you, you don't take that sort of history and insist "baby, there's still a chance" when it's over.
It was over. LeBron knew.
The closest equivalent would be some freak season of The Bachelor with your girlfriend of seven years as a contestant. The promise of a fair shot. Her humiliation on live TV. Taking your talents to South Beach.
Grant Hill (see, it comes together) and Tracy McGrady took their talents to the Magic Kingdom over a decade ago without any of the fuss. So let's just call this what it was... one colossal mistake, drawn out over weeks and broadcast to the entire world.
Here's what I'm interested in, though. And here's what I'd like you to imagine:
You are something like LeBron James was last summer. Think of the thing you're really good at, or would like to be. Imagine you've been frighteningly good at it for over a decade. Imagine the stories you've been telling yourself the entire time. And now imagine the world is starting to disagree with them.
What I recall then was LeBron having to deal with the idea his career was invalidated. An undercurrent of "you're only remembered for having won or lost. You're only remembered for championships." That those were The Rules and perhaps his time was already running out, this 25 year old.
So here's The Decision, then, the what-was-to-be-decided:
These Rules. Will you play by them? Do you agree?
He answers with Pat Riley and the Miami Heat. He answers with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
He answers, overwhelmingly, yes.
Here's what I think. You can't spend that amount of time - absolutely certain of who you are in relation to the game (or anything, really) - without feeling contempt for any expectation that suggests otherwise. I think that's human fact. I think it happens to all of us.
So let's give up on The Announcement. One of the most tactless, absurd hours we'll all collectively share.
It's The Decision that shouldn't be so quickly thrown away. I can't give up on the intensity there, the collision of inner-narrative (You Are The Chosen One) with that all-consuming nastiness, the Skip Bayless media horde, a collective voice shouting No You Are Not.
Taking your talents south is being punctured by the thing. It's finally showing blood.
"Well, if it's wins you want...."
I wish LeBron had answered no. Because what we're all witnessing now is that contempt, that joylessness. The anger that leads you to suggest "not 5, not 6, not 7" championships. The attempt at taking the rules once handed you and bludgeoning the league with them. The Miami Heat as death march, the exhausted result of having let someone else dictate your success. Rings not even as validation anymore. Rings as revenge.
A transcendent King would have told us otherwise:
"I know my own truth."
You can imagine your alternate universe. I'll imagine mine:
LeBron James in blue, black, and orange. Absolutely free playing D'Antoni's Seven Seconds or Less. A season's worth of sold out Madison Square Garden seats. The true talent of his generation playing under it's brightest lights. Forty one nights of that show trumping the rule that says our greatest players must play on the winningest teams. The rule that 29 seasons end in failure every year.
I'm not sure when we'll see one of our powerful own like this again. The awful mix of wielding one's own strength to answer such an inferior voice. To finally ask, "You really want to see my power?" An almost Anakin moment, a non-playoff roster turned planet destroyer. But to what end? To answer who? And for whose approval?
LeBron, will you play by our rules?
Not if they're issued by the court jester. And not if they're beneath you.
One can wish, and one can still hope.
We'll start this all again in a few days. Still figuring out August's book.
Thanks for coming along this month.
Tomorrow by Graham Swift: Chapters 17-20
"Cameraman said he wanted less brooding, more 'Serengeti pensive.' Told him no problem."
"Had that Zoobilee Zoo
theme song stuck in my head all morning. Happens a lot. Mayor Ben was THE MAN."
"You know our women stay pregnant for nearly a year and a half? And they give birth standing up. Calf just falls to the ground."
"I hate Toys 'R Us. You can print that."
"I go on YouTube and type in iPad GarageBand Explosions in the Sky cover.
No results. Explain that one."
All of that is one way of saying these last four chapters centered on the Hooks' relationship with their cat, Otis.
I think Paula finally dropped the bomb, though. Saving it for another post, one that will definitely be featuring this guy,
A very special edition of Basketball VitaminWater Club coming soon.