Reading books is one of the few things that calms my mind for any given length of time as concentrating on any one thing for long moments poses some serious headaches and bones of contention. Losing yourself in a novel is a fantastic escape from everyday trials, and I find myself getting lost in the wordplay and whimsy turn of phrase by any writer with significant skills. I was recently going through some old boxes when I found a dusty copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five with a baseball card tucked inside and I had to take pause.
I had dragged this “bookmark” around from mezcal soaked Tijuana watering holes where the prostitutes would whisper “primo” at me in an attempt to extract a few American dollars for an escort, extravagant Palm Springs hotels where I once kissed a model with a zit on her chin, and a hash-smoke laden Barcelona beach where a Muslim kid tried to steal my passport while I was sleeping. It has ceased to be a simple piece of cardboard to be merely used, thrown away or disregarded; now it is a dear friend full of memories with untold esoteric and rather dodgy anecdotes to share.
I know very little about the player on the card, and have certainly never seen him play. Tommy Harper was born in Oak Grove, Louisiana and was a central figure in the troubled and recently recognized racial history of the Red Sox. He had a dignified, but rather unremarkable career with 8 teams. (not to be shortchanged, he did hit 31 home runs for Milwaukee in 1970, fashioning a trip to the All Star game.) I find it rather odd that his career was plagued with a lack of playing time because he was an defensive enigma: his career being interchangeable with my own life at the time as I bounced around from place to place with no discernible or long term position in this murky, three ring psychosis-like memoir of continued existence.