The Utility Player, Chapter 15

Today’s softball game was just as if not even more fun and friendly than last week’s softball game.

Let’s pause here.

Scenic overlook: see the deer frolicking not once but twice in the outfield; the squid kite unfurled beyond the right field line; the older-person bicyclist who wiped out on the corner but came up smiling, thank goodness.

Hear the jolly banter, the gentle ribbing, but not of the up even when a line drive clanked off his glove, arguably costing the game. Not a word about this from anyone. Other people mangled various other fielding opportunities, but the up’s muff went oh-for-spoken of.

That’s friendly! Could it be that his playmates heard what he said when the manager picking teams for both sides asked him if he could play catcher?

The up said, “No.”

Did the lights go out where you are when he said that? Did the sky part? Reality crack? No, not here either. But the up noted, and so did the guy playing first, mainly because the up went full soliloquy.

“This is a turning point,” he actually intoned there on the infield at Newman Field in Seaview. I don’t think we have to print the full transcript of his speech. Is anyone else starting to feel like they might have heard enough about old, old, old? I’m starting to feel like hey, creaky knees, fine, you’re still playing.

This was the gist of the first base player’s remarks too. He said, “I had both knees replaced. I used to play shortstop but that’s over now.” This guy has a kind, wise face. It made the up feel, enough with the self-pity and dread and moaning.

Also, he was lashing the ball. Oh yes. Well, one time he lashed it. One time he hit a sac fly, the next time he popped up, but last time up he lashed it up the third base line. A scorcher, truly.

So all in all, well worth stopping on the scenic overlook to take in the happy feeling of playing softball today in Seaview.

And now there is just one other thing. A digression, which I’m courteously including at the end for those of you here purely for the ballplaying updates. This is about the pile of wood the up passed in Atlantique on the way from Fair Harbor to Seaview. If you want to read about a pile of wood, this next paragraph or two will be just right for you.

He had read, the up did, about how you can grow shiitake mushrooms on logs. They have to be a certain kind of wood — birch, oak, sugar maple, beech, ironwood or hop hornbeam. Have you ever heard of ironwood or hop hornbeam? It is good to know that even at this late stage of the Anthropocene there are still new types of tree to discover.

Anyway, the up, who is still plenty obsessed with growing culinary mushrooms, had just been reading up on how you can grow shitake mushrooms pretty easily on logs, if by easy you mean first of all getting these logs, then drilling holes in them, then injecting the holes with mushroom spore, and then sealing them up with melted cheesewax. All of this seemed pretty do-able, and so does waiting a year for the spore to spread throughout the log, then soaking them overnight.

The up has a year to wait. That will be exactly when he retires from school teaching. Wouldn’t it be nice to be greeted upon retirement by logs covered in shiitake mushrooms? That sounds good to him. Another thing he would really like to see, by the way, is goats clambering over and around a pick-up truck. They say you have to envision your future in order to make it happen.

Anyway, no sooner does the up read about growing mushrooms on logs than he passes this big, neat stack of logs on the path to the beach in Atlantique. So on the way to the game he knocked on the door to ask what kind of wood it is. The woman who knew was doing yoga, though, so he left his number with her mom and that is where things stand right now.

Look at you! Totally up to the minute on both the up’s happiness about playing softball as well as his upbeatness in regard to mushroom cultivation. Thank you for hanging around not only for the scenic overlook but also the digression. It has been a pleasure to share this part of this pleasant day with you.

P.S. Tomorrow we might have a bonus note about going to see a Mets game at Citi Field!

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