I remember when I used to play shoot em up, shoot em up, bang, bang, baby. I remember when I chased the girls and beat ‘em up. (Lyrics from the Intruders hit, “Cowboys to Girls”.)
Oh, how the world has changed and maybe not for the better. If you go pulling a girl’s hair nowadays, you are definitely running up on a case, a serious one at that.
St. Johns Field in Lawrenceville was my “field of dreams.” On evenings and weekends you would find most of us playing unorganized “street” ball and later on down the line little and pony league baseball. There were players with names like Gerald “toe-zee” Picket, Ronnie Alexander, Frank and Jerry McKeithen and of course Kevin Best and my main man Lawrence van Buren. From the crack of dawn until the crack of dusk we were armed and ready. Our weapons of choice were bats that we bought at the Goodwill, reclaimed from the garbage, or stole.
My favorite bat was a Matty Alou Louisville Slugger that had such a hellacious crack in it that it had my father, an electrician who had a degree in electrical engineering from Tuskegee, scratching his head as to why rolls and rolls of his black electrical tape continued to disappear from his tool belt. I loved that bat because strange things used to happen when the ball made solid contact with that taped up crack. The ball was liable to go in any direction. All I had to do was run toward first and glance to see where the ball was. Even when I hit a pop up, there was such a weirdo type spin on the ball that there was a 50 percent chance that the ball would be dropped.
“After one particular encounter with my “magic stick,” “Toe-zee” yelled at me after he had dropped his 1,001th pop up as a result of one of my at-bats. He stood on his soapbox and made an argument that “the bat was cursed and should be banned from all future games.” All the crew voted in favor of disallowing the bat until they looked over at me all alone surrounded by the majority of the gear. They soon realized that I owned all of the balls, four of the remaining six bats and all of the bases except for home plate. There was a runoff vote immediately and somehow the “altered” bat was allowed to remain as part of our “equipment inventory.” To be used only by me.
You wanna see a grown man cry? When I came home from the Army tearing the basement apart looking for that bat, my mother unceremoniously informed me that she had thrown the bat away. Well like “Toe-zee” Picket I am going to stand on my soapbox. If there is a “heaven” for baseball bats I am sure “Peanut’s” bat made it. By the way, back in the day my nickname was “Peanut.” Don’t even think about calling me “Peanut” unless your dental insurance is current. Those were the days, my friends, I thought would never end.
“Boy, hand me down my walking cane. Hand me down my walking cane, I’m gonna take me a stroll down memory lane” (the late Lou Rawls).
A Barbara Streisand special was on PBS a while back. I dozed off and it seemed that she continued to sing to me even in my dreams. “Memories, light the corners of my mind, misty watercolor memories of the way we were. Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind, smiles we give to one another. For the way we were.”
Man, I wanted to be that cat to hit the ball over the left field wall to end the game. I needed to be the one to throw or catch that TD pass as the gun sounded or the hero that swished the net with the game winner or blocked the opposition’s shot that would have snatched victory from my team. But those were only dreams. I also had dreams and visions of becoming a sportswriter; that “drision” (dream, vision) manifested, man did it ever.
With my health being “questionable” my heart desired to connect with you now while I still have the power and faculties to do so because the Holy Scriptures tell us that “no man knows the time or the hour.” King David asked the question in the book of Psalms. “How can I praise you from the grave?” I want, no I need to take this time to praise you the readers of my work. Those of you who stop me on the street know that I have always paused to listen to the rhythm of your heartbeats for you have forever been at the center of my work. I have always attempted to be sensitive and attuned to what “we” needed to hear because I realized early on in my career that like in real estate, location, location, location is the primary reason for success. Well in journalism, the reader, the reader, the reader, is the main component for achievement.
See folks whether you are from the be-bop age, hip-hop age, Stone Age or any age in between, do not ever be afraid to dream. Just remember that whatever you dream can only become a vision when hard work is attached to it because when you work at anything and the intent of your heart is good, chances are only good things are going to happen. Where is my bat with the black tape? I guess it’s around here somewhere.
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-583-6741.)