Writing exercises . . . never understood them.
I’m not damning them all to hell, that’s not the intention here. I mean it simply. I don’t understand them. Literally. Don’t get ’em. It’s my problem, not theirs of course.
I dated a girl who used to write down-verbatim- her college thesis paper opening statement. She did this whenever she was blocked and she swore to its everlasting medicinal qualities. I envied her. Not for the fact she was such a true believer. No. I envied the fact that she could find any shit from her college days.
Another girl I knew utilized colors in her writing exercise. Now, she had a method which most definitely did not sound like madness. At least not when you were standing right in front of her and dreaming up her succulent lips, long blonde hair and . . . well, you get the point. I bought what she was selling cause my bent was more horizontal than literal. And my bent, wasn’t bent whenever she was around.
As for me? I don’t cozy to any writing exercises in order to get the mind gibbering into jabs.
And then it occurred to me this afternoon that I have this ‘exercise’ I do each and every day. I picked it up again after years of cocky obsolescence- also known as my thirties. It’s an exercise I first began in high school. Back when learning how to unclasp a bra in the dark was considered graduate level stuff.
High school for me was spent deciphering the hidden message (there isn’t one) to Pink Floyd The Wall, and navigating the historical absurdities of the ’78 Mustang. And peyote. I never did get how that shit was supposed to make it all better.
Back to the exercise because it seems I have gone so far off course here as to belong on C-Span with my mug in front of a bill I want to see burned in epitaph while Joe from Nebraska calls in his regrets on the state of the Union.
I recite Casey at the Bat. That’s my exercise.
I do it every single day and I could probably do it backwards and in Pig Latin at this point in my life. I do it because it centers me. I do it because it allows me the freedom of falling in love with words as if I was kissing them for the very first time. I do it because, well, I don’t consider it an exercise. The truth of the matter is that I hate exercise in any form and the only reason I’m still keeping up is because I love sex. And well, we’re back to the beginning of this writing exercise tale . . it would seem.
So here then, is my fix. My writing exercise. The happy place where I can come and let the words breathe into me slowly and with sugared aplomb.
This playful excursion brings to mind the very first pitch of baseball season. It’s of a pitch thrown meanly and with spirited thought. And as I sit here freezing my ass off, here too is what I think of snow, and its evil extravagances.
I want to see first pitch. If only for the weather it brings.
The Outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.
A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that –
We’d put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat.
But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a lulu and the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey’s getting to the bat.
But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despis-ed, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.
Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.
There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile on Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat.
Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.
And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped-
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one,” the umpire said.
From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
And its likely they’d a-killed him had not Casey raised his hand.
With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, “Strike two.”
“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.
The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has struck out.