Sunday, June 29, 2008

I learned how to ride a two-wheeler when I was 12 years old. My best friend, Adam, who was 10, taught me when no one else could. I'm over it now, but it was my greatest shame for most of my childhood. While my friends would effortlessly mount a moving bicycle, darting off down the street, I'd lumber to my Big Wheel, contort my too-long legs around the plastic steering column, an ever-present panicky feeling, desperate to catch up. I remember being so low to the ground, the asphalt whipping past my thighs.

I'm not sure why I couldn't learn. I remember giving up, time and time again, like an alcoholic who knew it was easier to keep drinking. And then, by way of methods I don't recall, Adam convinced me to let him teach me. I don't remember how long it took or how many times I tried to give up, but suddenly his voice wasn't behind me anymore, where he'd been holding the seat of my bicycle, and when I circled I saw him, across the dead end street, and realized I was on my own. He jumped excitedly, everything a blur around me, except his voice, high-pitched and boyish, urging me to keep going.

No one else had been able to fill me with such pride. Not the lady who lived across the street, all tough love and tight grey curls. One warm summer evening, the sky pink and relaxed, she hulked from her front stoop where she'd be watching me struggle and barked something about not stopping, just keep pedaling, as if I wasn't trying, flipping through a catalogue of tips and tricks to successfully riding a bicycle. Years went by, try try again, but it wasn't until Adam - some strange mix of sporting manliness I couldn't replicate, and soft, gentle friendship - did I ride.

* * *

I think I loved Danny.

My Dad played slow pitch softball when I was a kid. We spent many weekends watching tournaments, though all I remember, really, are sensory things, like the smell of the concession stand, shoelace licorice, the crack of a baseball bat. And Danny, in his red uniform.

He seemed, of course, to be an adult, much older than me, but he was likely in his mid 20s. He was tall, blonde and muscled in a way no one else I knew was. He was tanned and healthy and, though I don't remember him smoking, I'm sure he did. He seemed to me the picture of virility, and most people with those qualities didn't hang out with me, but, rather, the other guys on the team. He seemed to enjoy entertaining me while the game was going on. Afterwards there was always beer and food served in red plastic baskets. I sat drinking, inexplicably, from a Mason jar, watching Danny laugh with my parents, his girlfriend and a blur of other faces. I don't remember anything, really, I can't even conjure his face in my mind, but I remember feeling butterflies, total infatuation. I was eight.

* * *
I wasn't athletic, this much I've made clear. I was one of the smart kids, one of the kids teachers looked to for help creating the poster for the annual Christmas Bazaar. I'm two years younger than my sister, so I was often snatched up by teachers who had taught her previously; some sort of draft for brown nosers who could bring up the class average. Mr. Nediger was her grade eight teacher, and consequently, mine too. He was a large hairy man. But young and healthy, always arriving at school in bicycle shorts and changing into a standard ensemble of khaki pants and dark dress shirt. He was smart and I liked him. He must have liked me too, because he asked me if I'd like to be the scorekeeper for the senior boys' baseball team. I jumped at the chance and soon started riding in sporty convoys, touring the city with them.

I knew just marking down numbers wasn't enough for me. I needed more. I immediately tweaked my new position into that of a PR and Marketing Manager. While the guys stretched and swung bats in warmup, I'd strut across the diamond to the other team's scorekeeper, to hand her (usually a her, sometimes even someone's Mom) a pre-prepared list of my guys names, alphabetically. I'd let her know who to watch out for, which ones might pose a problem for her team. After each game I wrote a detailed commentary to be read during morning announcements. Like some kind of queer, low rent Bob Costas, I raved about the double scored by David in the third or the amazing homer smacked out by Don at the bottom of the ninth.

I loved it.

At the end of the season I made the guys a yearbook, full of photos I'd taken, season statistics, and each of my post-game-wrap-ups. It was the closest I ever came to being on a team of any sort.


  1. Thomas of Washington DCJuly 6, 2008 at 9:30 PM

    love it! :)

  2. You are good at illustrating the past in humourous ways. Also? Manipulating language (bromance, ha)!

  3. Good old Mr. Nediger.
    I hope he isn't worried about us; the last time we saw him was during our stint as carnies. And he had such high hopes for us.

    I am always amazed at your vivid memory - for me, our childhood is very hazy.

    Love you,

  4. my sisters were the sporty ones and i always ended up hanging out with some kid's mom at the baseball diamond..your story brought back some very foggy memories.

  5. Hi Roving,
    FYI Sedaris announced at Massey Hall -,6

  6. Great post. It makes me want to dig through the archives.

  7. I was the manager of our girl's softball team my freshmen year in high school and then the track team my junior and senior years. With T&F I tightened up the scorekeeping by recreating all of the score sheets in some weird word processing program that was in my high school's computer lab. I remember being very specific about how all the lines were weighted. These sheets, I was recently told, were still in use by my high school long after I left. Funny that when I'm asked when and I why I got into running, I always talk about the NYC Marathon in 2001, but this post makes me realize how much I always wanted to be a part of the track team...I guess the whole fascination with running started much earlier. Probably because I wanted so much to be a part of THAT team (and not just the wide variety of bands I was in).

    Post specific: I liked the three vignettes on the one topic. Your ability to paint a picture with such vivid detail is impressive;