Reading books is one of the few things that calms my mind for any given length of time as concentrating on a trivial concern for long moments poses some serious headaches and bones of contention. Losing yourself in a novel is a fantastic escape from everyday tedium, and I find myself getting lost in the wordplay and saucy turn of phrase by any writer with significant skills.
Despite my love of books, I had to get rid of some of the collected, messy congestion–artifacts of my bohemian demimonde past. I was sorting through some ancient boxes in a futile attempt to pare down this overflowing library when I found a dusty, dog-eared, second-hand paperback copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five with a coffee stain emblazoned on the cover. This copy also had (amongst the scribbled notes and penciled marginalia) a baseball card tucked inside and I had to take a blindsided pause.
I had dragged this “bookmark” around from mezcal-soaked Tijuana watering holes where the prostitutes would whisper “primo” in my ear in an attempt at extracting a few gringo dollars for an escort, extravagant Palm Springs hotels where I once kissed a model with a zit on her chin in a wooden jacuzzi, and a hash-smoke saturated Barcelona beach where a Muslim kid tried to steal my passport hidden away in a notebook 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, rather dodgy, and borderline dangerous anecdotes to share in an era lovingly thought of as my “roaring 30’s.”
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 (by the powers that be) racial history of the Red Sox. He had a dignified, but a 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 by reason that he was a defensive enigma: his career being metaphorically 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.