A Good Man (20)

Book I: Chapter 20
June 22

I pouted for a couple days — tinkering around in the garage working on my… project.

[Note to Reader: This is Chapter 20 of Book 1 “The Pawns of Prophecy” – if you missed the start of the book, click here return to the main page. ]

As I told you before, I’m currently living in upstate Pennsylvania – in a town called Williamsport to be exact.

Now if you’re wondering what there is to do in Williamsport, let me answer you – not much. I migrated here over fifty years ago because I wanted to live in a secluded town where I wouldn’t be bothered. For the most part, that’s still the case.

 The city (if you can call it that) is located in the northern part of Pennsylvania, a little east of center. When I moved here back in the 1950’s it was still a pretty small town, but since then it has grown to about 30,000 or so – most of that due to an influx of supposedly rehabbing criminals that have been continually shipped here from Philly for the last couple decades. To encourage Williamsport to accept these fine new citizens, the state paid the city a bunch of money for so-called community projects; it wasn’t a fair exchange – this place used to be a decent country village with respectable people, but now I don’t travel much into the city-proper because of all the riff-raff. Sure, Philadelphia is good for being the home of my Phillies and I can never have too many Gino’s cheese steaks, but keep your criminals there please!

Hey, did you know that in the late 1800s Williamsport was actually known as The Lumber Capital of the World? Or that Williamsport once had more millionaires per-capita than anywhere in the United States at the time?

I doubt you know any of this or even care. In fact, if you’ve heard of this town at all, it’s likely because it’s the birthplace of Little League baseball and still the home of the Little League World Series.

Now if you know anything about me at all, you know I love baseball, and while I never played (the game didn’t even exist when I was in my youth), for whatever reason I can’t get enough of watching this pastime now. Sure my favorite team is the Phillies, but being that they are three-plus hours away by car, I rarely get to their games.

Nonetheless, if I want to see some live ball, I have a couple options – I can drive into town and watch the local minor league affiliate of the Phillies called the Williamsport Crosscutters, or I can go to any number of local Little League games and see the sport in its purest form.

In addition to going to the little league series every August, for a long time I also helped as a volunteer assistant coach with some of the local little leagues in the 1970’s and 80’s – usually at the Brandon Little League which was located in a community park across the street from my friend Frank Stoppa (yes I actually did have a few people I considered friends).  

I enjoyed my time there and was a stalwart for over two decades. Unfortunately, in the late 80’s, I started to feel under-appreciated by some of the parents, and later on I started to get questioned as to why an old geezer like me was so interested in helping out with young boys and girls who were not related to me. Eventually it just wasn’t worth the trouble anymore.

(Gee whiz, it’s not like I was recruiting some kid to be my catamite. I simply loved the game – is that such a crime?).

As for my friend Frankie, he was quite a pal. With a shock of black hair ever-filled with Brylcreem, he was a greasy-haired Italian-Pollock who was one of the few people in the world I’ve ever met who truly got it.

It was Frankie who introduced me to my faithful friends Jim and Jack (Reeves and Daniels that is), as well as to such beer classics as PBR, Genesee, and Yuengling. And it was Frankie who also turned me on to country music. Many a night it was that the two of us would put away a case of beer or a few fifths of whiskey listening to Jim Reeves, Conway Twitty, or Hank Williams.

Yes, Frankie understood that life was pretty much pointless unless you could find some way to enjoy it.

He was quite a character – as gregarious as I am quiet – and for over forty years we made quite a team. Unfortunately for me, Frank passed away back in 2009 and things haven’t been the same since.

He was my last real friend. He knew my secrets – and he took them to the grave.  Funny enough, I was there at his funeral mass when his grandson gave what I consider the most fitting eulogy of all time – not only was the talk filled with humorous stories about Frankie’s life, but at the very end, (right there in a Catholic Church mind you), his grandson cracked open a can of Pabst and sent Frankie off with a toast of ‘one for the road!’ Check it out…

Now, that’s the way to go, huh? I can’t imagine the balls it took for his grandson to stand up in a catholic church and make a toast with a beer can. I heard after the fact that the priest was none too happy about it. 

And yet, I don’t have such a luxury — I’ll never get a eulogy like that because I’m stuck here. Despite the fact that I still enjoy my baseball, and my booze, and my music, I’d gladly give it all away if I could only die like my friend Frankie.

I’m just oh so tired of being alive. Can you understand that? I doubt it.

There’s a section of King Solomon’s Book of Ecclesiastes (Chapter 12) which comes close to what I’m feeling. Let me read it to you,

“…The years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them.’ When the sun and the moon and the stars grow dark. When old men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint. When even the grasshopper drags himself along — for desire is no longer stirred. Then shall the dust shall return to the ground it came from, and the spirit to the God who gave it. [But for me] Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!”

If you open your Bible and read that book, you’ll notice that I did NOT add that last section about Life being “meaningless” – Solomon himself wrote those words and he was supposed to be the wisest man who ever lived so if you got a problem, take it up with him. In any case, his words sure as hell apply to me.

But, what more can I do?

I can’t die, and yet I don’t want to keep on living. And so, I am forced to suffer a meaningless existence – unless I can figure out a way to change my fate — that’s what my Project is all about.

I’d love to finally tell you about something IMPORTANT – like my Project – but alas, right now I’m supposed to talk about my visions… again.

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