Baseball at my brother's house

Clay and I are brothers, but not close. He's very Christian-Republican, while I'm neither and consider the words opposites. And he lives so very far away in a suburb off the edge of the earth, where there's no bus service within miles. It's a 90-minute drive if traffic is light.

When Clay invites me to his house, I say no. I've said no so often that he rarely invites me any more, which is not one of my regrets in life, but… this time my pal Leon would be there too, and Leon said he'd drive. So on Thursday we met up and proceeded out into the wilds of three clogged freeways, far beyond civilization, immeasurable miles into the savagery of the next county, to Clay and Karen's house in a new development surrounded by trees.

There's literally a bear alert in their neighborhood. That's how far out from the city they live.

As Leon parked the car and we walked toward Clay & Karen's doorbell, I looked around for bears, and wished I was somewhere else. That's not a good sign, but with Clay, there's always something.

He's the only member of the family who still expects me to call on the phone, a phobia of mine. Everyone else understands that I'm never calling; texts or emails only please, but even in setting up this watch party for the ball game, Clay's invitation was a phone message I ignored for several days, followed by an email that said, "Please call me so we can discuss getting together." I emailed him instead.

Via email he told me, like he always tells me, that there'd be no-one else. The only people watching the game would be Clay and his wife, and me and our friend Leon.

"Nobody else?" I asked again.

"Nobody else," he claimed, but I would've bet money there'd be someone else.

Always before seeing Clay, I doublecheck, and remind him of my aversion to meeting his friends and new people in general. "I really am a hermit," I've said so many times, "and meeting new people saps my strength like green kryptonite."

Clay hears me when I say this, but never listens. He thinks I'm joking, despite my repeated and direct statements that I am not joking. Or maybe he thinks my introversion is an affliction and it's his job to heal me.

So always he says it'll only be us, but almost always he invites a surprise guest, or several. Many years ago, not once but twice the surprise guest was his pastor, who wanted to talk to me about saving my eternal soul by coming to church on Sunday. More often, Clay's surprise guests have been friends of his but strangers to me, with a clear agenda of inviting me to some church function.

It was a sadness but not a surprise, then, as Leon and I settled into Clay and Karen's living room on Thursday, when Clay said, "I'm not sure where Kayden is, but I'll put the pizza in the oven when he gets here."

"And who's this Kayden," I asked, "today's person you promised wouldn't be here?" Clay laughed and explained that Kayden is a friend of his, which was no explanation at all. If the pizza doesn't get cooked until Kayden shows up, he's obviously a friend of Clay's, but what would be the point in asking "Who's Kayden?" a second, third, or fifth time?

This is the booby trap of visiting Clay's house. If Kayden is actually Clay's pastor (which was and still is my suspicion) or if he's simply someone I'm uncomfortable around, I wouldn't be able to leave unless Leon wanted to leave, or unless I wanted to walk to the bus stop three miles away.

When Kayden got there, much to my amazement, he seemed like a nice enough guy, smiley and talky but not too smiley and talky. I didn't ask what he does for a living and he never volunteered that info, never asked me any personal questions, and never mentioned God or church. He quickly became "one of the guys" to me, same as Karen and Leon. This was a miracle of New Testament proportions.

No miracles for the Mariners, though. They played a lackluster game, losing to the Houston Astros 4-2, leaving them one game from elimination. But the five of us wisecracked and chatted about baseball and about nothing, and it was a nice enough afternoon that I did not spend three hours wishing I wasn't there.

I had a good time. That's what I've heard is supposed to happen when you get together with family, but it's new to me.

Things only got dicey when political ads came on the TV, and with an election in a few weeks, there were lots of political ads. Clay proudly mentioned twice that he'd already voted, Republican of course, and all I said was, "I can't wait to cancel out your vote."

Generally, I don't talk politics with someone like Clay, since his mind was decided on all political matters when he accepted Republican Jesus into his heart in the 1970s.

It was heartening, though, when Leon argued with him. Leon has never been political, but there he was, saying (truthfully) that the Republicans are against democracy. I had to say "Damned right," which of course got me scolded for using blasphemous language.

"You should hear me when I'm not making an effort to be rated G."

The biggest annoyance of the afternoon, other than the M's losing, was watching baseball on TV.

There's a Nike swoosh on every player's jersey, of course, and also on the upper right butt of every player's pants. There are ads on the walls behind the batter, but they're fake ads, not visible in the park. They're added electronically, and change all through the game, sometimes to garish colors that obscure the batter.

Those abominations I'd seen before, but here's one that was new to me: There's now an ad electronically inserted into the dust around the pitcher's mound, which looks like it's 3D embroidered into the dirt. It changes to a different logo every half-inning, and it's impossible to watch the pitcher pitch without noticing the paid advertising superimposed under his feet.

I marvel at the technology, but much more I marvel at the willingness of Americans to put up with it. For me, yesterday was the last time I'll watch a baseball game on television.

No bears were sited, though, no big arguments were had, and nobody invited me to church, so it might not be the last time I go to my brother's house.


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  1. I am glad you have a family but I definitely understand the part where you disappeared for twenty years. You tell your brother you're uncomfortable around other people, he tells you he won't invite anyone else, and always invites someone else. That's like telling someone you're alcoholic, but they insist on serving you a bloody Mary every time.

  2. If your brother's house is, indeed, SSE of Tacoma as the map indicates, then it's not a suburb of Seattle. unless you're from Africa or Siberia, in which case Portland is also a suburb of Seattle. No, I'm not from the Tacoma Chamber of Commerce and Visitors' Bureau -- those bastards went out of business after the Smelter stack fell down due to an abundance of explosive charges and Nalley's left the valley.. It's a question of geography, not pride. Yes, I'm aware that the Seattle SSMA includes several counties, including the one that contains Tacoma, but the name of the SSMA is "Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA MSA".

    I am aware that they told Davey Crockett that the Alamo was a losing proposition, but that didn't discourage him none. I side with Congressman Crockett.


    1. The map may not be to scale or accurate. I actually have only the vaguest idea where his house is. Never driven it, and there's no bus, so I've always been a passenger. It's Pierce County, so closer to Tacoma than Seattle, but they never go to Tacoma and we're all Seattle people, so accuracy probably isn't a factor. To them, at least, I think it's a suburb of Seattle.

    2. They're the only family I have, and I returned to Seattle to return to their orbit... but I'll try the bloody Mary line next time, like it very much. :)

    3. Well, technically a bloody mary and a cracker.

  3. I was watching the NY-Cleveland game the other night and keeping an eye on a Yankee chat board where a few of the posters are actually smart and entertaining. Somehow there were commercials for...Jesus, who we were informed 'saves'. The board took umbrage with this religious malarkey and all agreed that if Jesus does indeed save, maybe he could join the Yankee bullpen.

    BTW, it appears Game 4 of the NY-CL game will be over before either the Asstros or Seattle scores a run. Please, Seattle core first and win.

    1. Commercials for Jesus were on the message board, or on the game telecast?

      There's a Christian charity allegedly for the down-and-out, Union Gospel Mission, which sponsors Mariners games on the radio. Hearing their ads is like spending a minute inside a particularly awful church, and it's convinced me that the charity is a scam.

      Astros win 1-0 in 18 innings.

      The Mariners: Pretty good team, exciting season, great game.

    2. Well, at least they're Union. There's nothing less holy than scab Jesus.


    3. Raised in a decent Christian church surrounded mostly by decent Christians, I've cheerfully turned my back on it all with no regrets, but still there's not much that pisses me off more than charlatan Christians.

    4. To clarify, the Jesus commercials were during the telecast on either TBS or TNT or FS1.

    5. If the Freedom from Religion Foundation wanted to buy commercials on TBS or TNT, I'll bet the networks would refuse.


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