My favorite Red Sox memories

It’s strange that growing up in Seattle, two of the most memorable baseball games I ever attended were against the Red Sox.  The first was May 12, 1989.  My dad’s buddy that he played with in some international games, Rick Cerone, was the bullpen catcher for the Red Sox.  Before the game we’re talking to Cerone and my dad asks “Hey is this Clemens the best you’ve seen in a while?” Cerone quickly responded “He’s the best pitcher ever to throw to my glove.”  Roger Clemens came over to us and signed a ball that he warmed up with for me.  Roger Fucking Clemens.  So as the game starts, Harold Reynolds laces the first pitch off the big right field wall.  He hit it so hard that it got there so fast, that even the speedy Reynolds only got a single.  I looked at my dad and said “I thought you said this guy was good?”  Clemens proceeded to give up one more hit the entire game and shut the M’s out 2-0.   Roger Clemens was now my favorite player (and would be until he put on pinstripes).

So fast forward nearly twelve years to the day.  May 1, 2001.  I’m finishing up my junior year in college, and my dad had recently finished up his last bout of chemotherapy that the doctors said didn’t work.  “Go home and die” I believe was how he put it.  My mom had given us her pair of Diamond Club seats for the May 2nd game against Boston and it so happened the great Pedro Martinez was going to take the mound.  My dad was a pitcher.  I was a pitcher.  And we were going to sit and watch the best pitcher of that generation from three rows directly behind home plate.  He was in pain at this point.  They had done an operation on some of the nodules in his legs, which was where the cancer originated.  Just walking from the parking garage to the seats, he winced with every step, his black and grey and white crochet’d blanket in tow.  That blanket.  Everywhere.

So we get in, take our seats, I load up on food, he’s hardly eating and we start to watch the Dominican Dandy pitch.  Pedro is on the mound just dealing.  Mariners hitters just look pathetic against him.  It was 0-0 going into the top of the sixth inning.  My dad was feverishly annoyed as the kid next to us kept getting up to pee and making him adjust in his seat, which filled his legs with pain.  “Hey do you fucking mind sitting still for more than an inning,” my dad, never one to hold back, said.  “Sorry man, what’s your deal?” the kid replied.  “I got fucking cancer all over my body and you’re making me move and it hurts,” he said.  I don’t remember him playing the Cancer card ever, but man, that kid didn’t move the rest of the game.

In that sixth inning the Sox got some things going.  They got a couple guys in scoring position and Manny Ramirez came up.  Manny had just signed like a 160 million dollar contract in the off-season and was pretty hated by the Seattle faithful.  The guy directly behind my dad screams out to Mariner pitcher John Halama “C’mon John, stick one right in his ear!”  My dad turns his head a little and says to the guy “Are you kidding me?  Ramirez could catch Halama’s puss fastball with his fucking teeth.”  This dude looked at me, I smiled, and he quickly spoke up “I’ll bet you five bucks he gets Ramirez out!”  My dad nodded his head up and down and just loudly said “You’re on!”  A couple of pitches later John Halama threw a sweeping curve that came back right over the plate and Ramirez proceeded to drill it off the left field wall.  Plating home the only two runs of the game.  My dad, reveling in his prognostication, didn’t even turn around to look at the guy.  Simply put his hand back over his shoulder and waited for this total stranger to pluck a limp five dollar bill in his hand.

I remember that game for Manny’s hit, and for Pedro absolutely making David Bell look foolish the one time the Mariner’s made a threat.  I remember walking back out the car and my dad in pain.  I remember getting home that night and him being sad.  I walked by the bathroom and saw him leaning onto the sink counter, his head hanging beneath his arms.  I still remember the maroon colored tile on that counter.  I remember him telling me that night he was scared.  He only told me that one other time in the 21 years I knew him, and that was when he was going into rehab to quit drinking.  “I’m scared too dad.”  I never got to watch another baseball game with him again, in person at least.  Those 18 innings though, I watch them in my mind all the time.  Go Mariners.

Happy Birthday Southbound

Today is Southbound’s birthday.  It was a year ago I started putting fingers to keyboard to write my book.  I looked back in my old microsoft word records and it showed the document started on 10/10/12.  I knew it was around this time, and when I checked, it was right on the anniversary.  How bout that.   This whole process has been one of the  most rewarding experiences of my life.  I say that without hesitation.  It started out as a fluke.  I’m not a writer.  I mean, I’ve always enjoyed writing and was an English minor in college, but basically my writing has all been horse racing related for work.  But I always had this fantasy.  I wanted to say fuck work, fuck everything, and load up all my money and head south to LA or Vegas and gamble it all.  I was a gambler my entire life, and a sick one at that.  Gambling was my muse, my love, my life for a long time.  The ups and downs of that lifestyle are well chronicled in Southbound.  When I tell you it’s a fiction book, in many ways, that statement is fiction.  It’s me in there.  And there’s going to be parts of it where people who know me are going to think “I can’t believe Jason did that.”  But some of those moments I didn’t do 🙂  There’s plenty of fiction as well.  I figure i’ll leave it to the readers to gauge what’s real and what isn’t.

But when Southbound started a year ago, I sat down and wrote a quick outline.  I had played the story out in my head so many times I knew what was going to happen.  I added in some things to help the story along, but mostly, I just started writing.  It was all I did for weeks on end.  The words and stories poured out.  I would take tangents off of the outline and even though the outline started out as the backbone of the story, it quickly kind of went away.   I would write at home, at the library, at school, in my announcers booth between races, everywhere.  I remember getting close to finishing that first draft on Thanksgiving, and sitting in my car at the Starbucks by my uncle’s house typing away as the rain poured down.  The first draft took just over two months to finish.  I mean I was vigilant.  I remember thinking in my naivety, well let’s run this thing through spell check and grammar check and i’m done!  HAHA.

I spent the next couple months going through and revising and editing and at the end of january I ran it by my friend and author Willy Vlautin (if you haven’t read him, do it.   He’s great!)   I figured Willy would read the first chapter, maybe have some suggestions on how to make that better.  Instead he read the entire thing and wrote back with some amazing notes and suggestions.  He also gave me some really positive words of encouragement, which just sent me into super editing mode!  I spent the next two months revising, editing, taking classes from amazing local writers like Vanessa Veselka and Tom Spanbauer.  I read novels from Portland writers when I needed a break from my book.

I submitted to a couple of agents and smaller publishers, as I figured with my complete lack of writing history and the possibility that maybe my manuscript sucked, I figured no big publisher was going to buy it.  I actually had one publisher ask for the full manuscript but they passed after that.  Then one day in early April, maybe one of my favorite local writers, or any writer for that matter, Lidia Yuknavitch tweeted out “hey I have some time off if anyone needs a manuscript reviewed.”   Lidia’s memoir Chronology of Water is something that is more experienced than it is read.  You kind of fall in love with her imperfections and the way she spins a sentence.  So I contacted Lidia and she agreed to read and critique my manuscript and to meet up and chat about it.  A couple weeks later I got a reply back from her saying she’d finished and was ready to talk about it.  She ended the email with “You’re a great writer.”  I’m not going to lie, I cried like a baby when I read that.  Lidia makes people cry.  I’m convinced of it.  I’ve seen her at readings and people cry when they meet her.  I at least gave her the courtesy of crying after our meeting.  I think the reason people cry when they meet her, is because after they read her books, where she sheds her skin and pours her soul onto that paper.  You feel like she’s your best friend when you don’t even know her.  (Random sidenote, her writing group partner Chuck Palahniuk was at the store where we met up.  I got to meet him. He wrote fight club.  It was awesome!)

Lidia had some amazing suggestions and critiques and I applied almost all of them.  I’ll never forget the first thing she said that day.  “This is you right?”  I nodded and said indeed it was.  “Then why the hell isn’t it in first person!”  So for the next couple weeks, I went through and changed the entire manuscript, 82,000 words, from the point of view of the narrator to the point of view of Ryan McGuire.  All the “he’s” became “I”.  And it was the right move.  Because it was me telling my story.  No sense in making it seem distant.  I think it brought the book into it’s own. It helped give it the realness I think it needed.

Well soon after I started contacting some other publisher’s and agents, and a great lady named Zara Kramer from Pandamoon Publishing contacted me and wanted to read the entire manuscript.  A few weeks later she called and we had a great conversation about the book and about possibly publishing it.  We haggled over some details but after a couple weeks I signed.  We’ve done some great editing since then and the book continues to be a work in progress.

I’m so excited for it to see the light of day in a few months (January, 2014).  I’m nervous about it as well.  Not whether or not it sells or doesn’t sell, just putting out a lot of my past, my pain and my reality out there for people to see.   I’m so proud of Southbound.  It’s grown from a blank Microsoft Word Document and has been changed and altered to what is now.  A lot of filled Microsoft Word Documents 🙂   Anyways, happy birthday little story.