Not one, but two first-placers?

What a summer it’s been to be a Nats fan with a past and eternal soft spot for the Orioles. Baseball blessings like this don’t come around too often.

June 7 at Camden Yards…

Hot dog and mac and cheese and crab.
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Love a late afternoon start.
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And a breezy evening finish.
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August 5 at Nats Park…

Jayson Werth garden gnome night. Not pictured: the gnome.
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They’re off, but where’s Teddy?
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He’s hiding at the finish! To knock them over and win. Good guy.
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August 10 at Camden Yards…

Bird!
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“Did you take a picture of me because I looked like that child?”
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Amazing seats, courtesy of the Grishams.
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Usually ultra-subdued Buck goes nuts, gets tossed. It was amazing.
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And there’s still another five weeks left to play. At least.

Love is bad timing

From the recent New Yorker profile of Richard Linklater, this passage kicks my butt. It’s about Before Sunset, the second of Linklater’s Before films. I’ve seen it (and haven’t seen the third), but I don’t think this gives any spoilers.

The ending isn’t merely trite, because, like much of Linklater’s work, it has a sharp, against-the-system edge. Aren’t those heightened moments, the perfect instants with Nina Simone playing, the points toward which all life strains? Is it actually so crazy to set our compass by them? In the end, the “Before” series embraces what we’d rather forget: every true love story is a story of bad timing.

‘The second before the sun went out we saw a wall of dark shadow come speeding at us’

The weekend just past was so relaxing. I cleared decks. I did laundry. I may have ven caught up on life a bit, enough to feel great about it. The last time I felt this way was at the beach, rolling through legions of wonderful reads.

And I realized I never blogged about one of my favorites from that stretch, Annie Dillard’s Teaching a Stone to Talk. Her stories took a seat at a corner of curiosity, faith, nature, and awkwardness where I so often find myself.

The passage that stuck with me most was her account of eclipse watching.

The deepest, and most terrifying, was this: I have said that I heard screams. (I have since read that screaming, with hysteria, is a common reaction even to expected total eclipses.) People on all the hillsides, including, I think, myself, screamed when the black body of the moon detached from the sky and rolled over the sun. But something else was happening at that same instant, and it was this, I believe, which made us scream.

The second before the sun went out we saw a wall of dark shadow come speeding at us. We no sooner saw it than it was upon us, like thunder. It roared up the valley. It slammed our hill and knocked us out. It was the monstrous swift shadow cone of the moon. I have since read that this wave of shadow moves 1,800 miles an hour. Language can give no sense of this sort of speed – 1,800 miles an hour. It was 195 miles wide. No end was in sight – you saw only the edge. It rolled at you across the land at 1,800 miles an hour, hauling darkness like plague behind it. Seeing it, and knowing it was coming straight for you, was like feeling a slug of anesthetic shoot up your arm. If you think very fast, you may have time to think, “Soon it will hit my brain.” You can feel the deadness race up your arm; you can feel the appalling, inhuman speed of your own blood. We saw the wall of shadow coming, and screamed before it hit.

This was the universe about which we have read so much and never before felt: the universe as a clockwork of loose spheres flung at stupefying, unauthorized speeds. How could anything moving so fast not crash, not veer from its orbit amok like a car out of control on a turn?

Less than two minutes later, when the sun emerged, the trailing edge of the shadow cone sped away. It coursed down our hill and raced eastward over the plain, faster than the eye could believe; it swept over the plain and dropped over the planet’s rim in a twinkling It had clobbered us, and now it roared away. We blinked in the light It was as though an enormous, loping god in the sky had reached down and slapped the earth’s face.

So many mornings in Maine

When we were in Maine last weekend (was it just last weekend?), I picked up a copy of Jane McCloskey’s book about her father, Robert McCloskey: A Private Life in Words and Pictures. I loved his beautiful books when I was a kid: Blueberries for Sal, One Morning Maine, Make Way for Ducklings, and the Homer Price stories. I noticed her book in a shop in Portland and began flipping through it. All of the art inside grabbed at childhood memories.

The book was perfect for reading outside and by the sliding doors today, with medium sun and breezes all over. Jane McCloskey has the gentle tone as her father, and you can see similar interests and oddities, the same kind that run down in every family. Like a good Mainer, she welcomes you in.

Couldn’t have enjoyed it more. One passage:

Sometimes our family walked around the woods trail that circled the island. We had to climb our way around several trees that had fallen in recent years. Bob said that in the old days, the previous owners had lots of money, and had all the fallen trees cut up every year, and the island raked from one end to the other. He said that we couldn’t afford that, and in any case, it wasn’t good for the woods, which needed most of the fallen branches and needles to replenish the soil.

In high summer, we found chantrelles on our walks, which we brought home. Mom fried them in butter.

Sometimes, when there was a full moon, Sal and I got up shortly before six o’clock in the morning and went down the shore. In the early morning, the sunrise was just beginning to burn off the morning mist.

Still, still thinking about water

Came across a National Geographic story on the rising waters at the Outer Banks, something I blogged about here earlier in the summer.

A quarter or so of the way into the piece, there’s a stunning and sad photo of the Nags Head beach neighborhood where my family used to go every year.  It’s a view from the sky from sometime in June of where I took this picture in late June. The beach replenishment is not looking good.

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Nothing but trouble for Patrick Cooper in the Gray Lady stacks

I had fun the other day trying the NYT’s Chronicle tool, which visualizes the paper’s use of words over time. At a certain point, my usual fascinating with other people who have my name took over. Apparently, showings of Patrick Coopers have been infrequent in the Gray Lady’s history. When we have appeared, the news hasn’t been good. Or hasn’t been good for long.

The entire history of Patrick Coopers in The New York Times:

February 24, 1864. “SERIOUS MARINE DISASTER: WRECK OF THE STEAMSHIP BOHEMIAN. NINETEEN LIVES LOST.” Steerage passenger Patrick Cooper is among the survivors. But this is pretty awful.

October 14, 1934. “GAS FROM AUTO KILLS JERSEY POSTMASTER.” Patrick Cooper, “a barber who rents part of the garage,” finds the body.

March 23, 1961. “Sir Patrick Ashley Cooper, formerly director of the Bank of England and governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, died at sea yesterday, it was announced here today.”

October 22, 1989. Receiver Patrick Cooper receives a touchdown pass from Andre Ware as the Houston Cougars beat Southern Methodist, 95-21. The game set many records. But wait for it…

December 3, 1989. “Juin Rachele Cooper, a former Max Factor executive, and her husband, Patrick D. Cooper — natives of Jamaica in their 40′s — unveiled a line of 157 items at Saks Fifth Avenue and other stores in 1986. Sales topped $1 million in three months. Patrick Cooper now thinks that Rachele could not have picked a worse moment to begin.”

September 9, 1990. Two more TDs for Patrick Cooper. Wait for it…

August 20, 1991. The pro Houston Oilers waive Patrick Cooper.

April 25 and May 23, 2000. Two “dissidents” try to take seats on the board of Carver Bancorp. A man named Robert (shoutout to my brother) Patrick Cooper is general counsel for the bank, and he protests.

January 27, 2013. “Patrick Cooper, who compiled a list of ‘Awesome Horror Anthology Movies’ for the blog Topless Robot, said the form’s popularity comes down to the economy of a cheap thrill.” So, yeah.

March 26, 2014. In a running tracking of gun deaths in the USA: “Wayne Patrick Cooper, 36, a known gang member, was shot to death in an S.U.V. parked outside an apartment complex in Downey, Calif., early Tuesday.”

It’s not 100% bad news. In 1963, there were two notes of a Miss Windisch becoming engaging to and then marrying a Patrick Cooper. They had 50 years of marriage. All Patrick Coopers can hope to be that Patrick Cooper.

Last week’s songs

Joe Strummer, Johnny Appleseed, via No Depression.

Lord, there goes a Buick forty-nine
Black sheep of the angels riding, riding down the line
We think there is a soul, we don’t know
That soul is hard to find

Bruce Springsteen, Atlantic City.

Everything dies baby that’s a fact
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back

Gaslight Anthem, Break Your Heart.

And oh, my my, it would break your heart,
If you knew how I loved you, if I showed you my scars
If I played you my favorite song lying here, in the dark
Oh my my, it would break your heart

BANG as story

James Wood’s story about the style of Scottish author James Kelman is good, but Kelman’s writing (which I’ve never read) is hard to describe. So many of his scenes appear to exist so deeply in the worlds he creates. But this summary and quote from one of Kelman’s stories work awfully well.

In “Bangs & a Full Moon,” which is only a page in length, the narrator looks at the full moon from his window:

A fine Full Moon from the third storey through the red reflection from the city lights: this was the view. I gazed at it, lying outstretched on the bed-settee. I was thinking arrogant thoughts of that, Full Moons, and all those fucking writers who present nice images in the presupposition of universal fellowship under the western Stars when all of a sudden: BANG, an object hurtling out through the window facing mine across the street.

The “story,” the event, is the BANG, though we never find out what it is. And its function is to undermine stories that go on too long, or wallow in epiphany (“nice images”). The piece ends, “I got back up again and closed the curtains. I was writing in pen & ink so not to waken the kids and wife with the banging of this machine I am now using.”

I do enjoy seeing some of my favorite foods appear on lists

This time, they appear in Buzzfeed’s commentary, “If White Characters Were Described Like People Of Color In Literature: Welcome to the mocha-chocolate-coffee-bean-exotic-butterscotch-caramel-cinnamon-cafe-au-lait side of town.” I love chocolate, mocha and cinnamon and:

2. She took off his shirt, his skin glistening in the sun like a glazed doughnut. The glaze part, not the doughnut part.

6. She didn’t know it yet but the girl of her dreams had just walked in. Her eyes were radiant and her skin glowed with mozzarella undertones.

7. She was beautiful, elegant. Like a tall clear glass filled with raw pasta.

Chasing randomness and form