October 14, 2008
There’s no doubt about it. I’ve got a hitch in my giddyup. It’s not like I’m in a deep slump or anything, but it’s sure been a spell since I’ve been able to close the deal on any of the significant diversions on my plate.
There are symptoms out there that point to possibly being a quart low in the old karmic gearbox. Whoda thunkit? I suppose if I were to run a "diagnostic," I might come up with a more complete list of the usual suspects, but just off the top of my head I certainly could name a few.
For instance, my "Bums," the Los Angeles Dodgers, that loveable bunch who first broke my heart back in the day when they uprooted from Brooklyn, only to have me return to the fold for additional torment. Well, they’re at it again. Not to say it isn’t a good pain. That’s a given when you’re a baseball fan.
But the other night I swore I saw Cormac McCarthy huddled in a dark corner of the Dodger dugout behind Joe Torre. Under the "LA" logo of his ballcap, he wore a subtle smirk. It seemed to say "This is as good as it’s gonna get," which is post-apocalypse speak for "wait ’til next year."
And I will of course. Not that the NLCS is officially over. There are still heat-seeking "backdoor sliders" that didn’t turn up in the WMD inventory to be accounted for. Not to mention the big sweeping curveballs with the bottom falling out and the glancing blow of a high-hard-one off some unsuspecting helmet.
Why the dark clouds circling about the Dodgers? Well, as near as I can figure, the total displacement of the quite self-sufficient and beautiful Chicano neighborhood of Chavez Ravine in order to build Dodger Stadium might have something to do with it? I mean, if you subscribe to that "what goes around, comes around" ethic.
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In fact, in a last-ditch effort to channel those times and reconfigure the inevitable just prior to the Dodgers’ final at-bat against the Phillies the other night, I muted Vin Scully’s Internet audio play-by-play feed (for shame!) and slapped on Ry Cooder’s brilliantly evocative "Chavez Ravine" CD.
I then attempted to plead my case to the lesser gods. They, of course, would have none of it. My Dodgers, accordingly, are in a world of hurt.
This brings us to that other longtime contributor to my mental-health imbalance: the USC Trojan football team, for whom I have a quite similar addiction as my one for the Dodgers, and as insatiable. The Trojans, as college kids are wont to be, are even more hormonally all over the map than my "Bums."
I mean, how else could you explain these guys? Although they are three or four deep with high-school All-Americans at every position, they can’t seem to get out of their own way. They don’t just "win ugly;" last week they won "appallingly!" Oftentimes they look as if someone’s been tying their shoelaces together.
What’s even more embarrassing is their continual rise in the polls. Thank heavens many of the voting coaches miss the West Coast games due to the time differential. I’ve taken to wearing shades out in public lest I be recognized, not to say that "losing ugly" wouldn’t be worse.
And that’s just this year. Going back, it’s very much the same. The Trojans seemed to have, over the years, fine tuned the art of "qualified disappointment." There are nuances at play here, of course. Seldom are we talking about "gross misconduct." It’s more like every week they put a different burr under your saddle blanket.
Identifying karmic scapegoats to explain these sporadic missteps within the USC football program carries some baggage all its own. With the campus location being where it is and all, it’s not all that difficult to paint it in the historic space-time of film noir. We may need to bring in Phillip Marlowe on this one.
I like to think it had something to do with the infamous and still unsolved "Black Dahlia" murder case, one of L.A.’s most notorious. It wasn’t all that far from the 50-yard line at the Memorial Coliseum where the Trojans cavort to where the victim’s body was found in a gruesome state of disrepair that cold January day in 1947.
That may be a stretch, however. Somehow the punishments (a succession of half-the-distance-to-the-goal-line march-offs) don’t seem to fit the crime. But that doesn’t mean an infusion of the "Theme from Chinatown" wouldn’t go well here. The Trojans, even when stumbling mightily, are quite atmospheric.
And another thing! In keeping with the "slump" motif, it’s been well over a month since I actually finished a crossword puzzle. Mostly-unfilled-in word grids are scattered about like the printouts of so many brain scans gone wrong.
There are a couple of signs of a rebound in all this, however. For example, the new Dylan "Tell Tale Signs" bootleg is a most welcome and refreshing addition to the canon. And how ’bout them Utes?
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and a free-lance writer with a background in commercial and community radio, among other pursuits. He has been a columnist and feature writer for various Park City publications going back to 1973.