Slouching Towards Spring

Roy Madison is back, and here to tell you that another season of East Van Baseball is about to get underway. Of course, no dispatch from the desk of your newly appointed literary laureate of the league would be complete without a large portion of the play-by-play devoted to my innermost feelings. So before the bats start swinging, the meat starts sizzling, the suds start flowing, and the dust and dirt of our competitive nature gets kicked into our faces all summer long, let me tell you about my very off, off season.

Starting a new schedule of games always casts the last ones into an uncertain fog of recollection. If you remember friends, fans, and followers, the East Van Baseball’s championship ended with me standing behind the beaten, mighty and tall, cold steel fence of Strathcona Field while I stood to watch the Mt. Pleasant Murder triumphantly make their way to What’s Up Hot Dog? in celebration of their win. Over the course of that inaugural season, and summer in Vancouver, I found a new appreciation for being alive. Now the league that gave it to me was breaking for winter. Suddenly, amidst all the cheer, I felt the breeze of fall wicking cool from the sweat on my brow. Within hours, I left my hotel room in English Bay, and was on a flight back to Los Angeles, where my poolside suite at the Highland Gardens Hotel in Hollywood had been waiting for my return all summer long.

Reliving the past is beautiful friends, fans and followers, but it’s wrought with peril too. Hell, it’s goddamn dangerous. But baseball’s never ending waltz with departed time is what makes it so bloody delicious. As a sportswriter, I can always detect a scent of doubt, even from players spouting the most fearless rhetoric of sport during an interview, because everyone damn well knows you’re only as good as your last at bat, pitch, steal, or game-saving catch. Every time you return to the game, the questions will inevitably come: is my arm done? Can I do it again? Will the pain come back? Is this the end, or should I keep going? And when the end finally does arrive — and we all know it will friends, fans, and followers — well, then you’re just history.

We were trying to recreate something that didn’t exist anymore. Friends, fans, and followers, we were history.

My return to the past was in California. My last play at the plate took place there at the bottom of a hotel swimming pool. And last fall, I was standing over it, wondering if Tina and I could be like we used to be, or if we were just history.

“Sal de aquí, asqueroso bastardo!” Suddenly I was flying forward, face first into into the tranquil, cool, and silent waters of the pool I had such a hard time leaving before I knew what East Van Baseball was. This time was different though. I left air in my lungs and maintained a buoyancy that ensured an easy return to the surface. When I opened my eyes, Tina was standing above me.

“Roy Madison! You think you can just show up here. You’re not registered guest no more!” she said. This dame was hot! I knew this was not going to go well, but I couldn’t help but look at her with a big grin on my face. Fully clothed and treading water in my suit and tie beneath her, with my hat floating away behind me, I knew I still loved Tina. Once I got out of that pool, I made quick work of making things right again. I took her to our regular table at Musso’s for dinner. Fixed her Dubonnet on ice just so. Played her favorite Gene Pitney songs. Danced with her on the pool deck as the sun fell behind the Hollywood hills. And held her like a woman needs to be held goddamnit! But through it all, I could hear the voice of doubt in the words she spoke, the way she moved, the way she sipped her Dubonnet, and the way her eyes passed over me with sadness even though we were laughing. Doubt and mistrust was present in every nuance of her delivery. We were trying to recreate something that didn’t exist anymore. Friends, fans, and followers, we were history.

Not long after I arrived, I decided to leave all over again. With my hypochondriac, neurotic, obsessive, insufferable, souffle baking houseguest Oliver asleep on the couch, I left my key with a note telling him that he wouldn’t have to clean up after cards with the fellas anymore, and that the Madison Suite was now his. I didn’t know where I was going, but I knew once I set foot outside the Gardens I would never be allowed back. By the time I got to Hollywood Boulevard, I was already regretting what I had done. Now I was really lost. I had no action to cover, no story to tell, no Tina to love — so I just kept going. Into the Metro, onto the Red Line, down to Union Station, onto to the FlyAway bus, and up to a ticket agent at LAX for a one-way flight to Japan. It was the off season here, so it made perfect sense to my injured disposition that needed to be put on the designated list, that baseball would be in season on the flip side of the world. Everything would be better there. Well, hell, was I wrong.

Mid-November was in full. The Nippon League in Japan had just finished for the season, East Van Baseball was a distant memory, and the Chicago Cubs had won the World Series. There was nothing left. I finally accepted defeat and gave up on the idea of finding some action to write about, and accepted the long slouch towards spring we all had to deal with.

Roy in Japan catching up on the latest headlines in the world of sport.

Like you kids that actually play the game of baseball, Roy Madison is a slave to the rituals of routine that offer faith when success is in doubt. I wear clothes that connect me to distant pasts, I live in a hotel, I read newspapers instead of the internet, I refuse to dine in restaurants that play recorded music, I never have a Manhattan without a hint of Fernet in it, and I will only play cards with decks that had their suits made in China.

It didn’t take long friends, fans, and followers, to construct a parallel universe for myself in Japan while I awaited baseball’s return. Just like the Gardens, the hotel I found there was a two-level triangular complex with a pool in the middle of it that time seemed to have forgotten about, even though it was surrounded by the tall buildings and tourists in Shinjuku. It was run by three lovely sisters, and I would often entertain one of them each evening with Gin Rummy and Madison charm in exchange for a deal on my digs. I walked around. I looked at the sky. I fried my own pork chops. I baked my own ribs. I bought a shirt around the corner with a tiger on it, and read from a stack of vintage Sports Illustrated magazines the gals kept at the front desk until suddenly, it was spring.

Now we’re back, and we’ve all changed a little. Even this league goddamnit! A batch of new teams: the Stilettos! Cosmos! Brawlers! Cobras! Gaolers! All set to do battle, all summer long, and let’s not forget the new website with my very own Broadcast Gondola. Of course, the weather is still bloody awful here at this time of year friends, fans, and followers, and I’m sure I’ll get my slacks filthy from the mud of Strathcona Park on opening weekend like I always do, but right now, from my room at the Patricia Hotel — after a renovation The Sylvia upped the prices of drinks, so forget it! I’m East Van proper now — I can see the clouds over East Vancouver dumping their last bit of dismal before they make their departure and the sun comes out. This is the story we’ve all been waiting for. With new teams, new players, new dramas about to unfold, the averages set to zero, and the schedule ready to come to life, the air smells of nothing but opportunity. What you do in the park, friends, fans, and followers, is up to you. Let’s play ball in East Vancouver.