Keeping your ears open.

Time To Settle Accounts

January 13, 2012: Keeping your ears open.

It was quarter to nine in the morning when I walked through the turnstile at the Damen Blue Line station. On my way up the steps, I made eye contact with a CTA employee standing at the platform. “Good morning,” I said as I walked.

“Hurry it up,” he said. “There’s someone behind you trying to get up the stairs.”

We’re all trying to get up the stairs, you ornery prick, I thought to myself.

The platform was packed with morning travelers, most with headphones. Others stood solitary within a mass of people, staring straight ahead. The train pulled up, with riders pressed against the walls. As it slowed to a stop, the platform people marched toward the doors. There was scarcely enough room for any new bodies, yet some squeezed in.

The announcement rang out: “Please stand clear of the doors, doors are closing! There’s another train following this on…” The doors closed and people stood around, bummed. A few minutes later came the next train. I don’t like shoving my way into trains, but I was on my way to an interview; now was not the time for unrequited manners.

The doors opened and I wiggled in. There was a pack of us near the door, a person on each of my shoulders and one a breath in front of me. None of these three wore headphones, but they kept their heads down. I pulled my box of mini-Altoids from my pocket and popped one in. I held up the box for the others:

“Altoid anyone?”

The first two people shot their eyes toward me to see if I was talking to them, and then grunted kind of and shifted their heads back and forth. The third said “No.”

Most people cleared out at Clark and Lake, as did I. I walked upstairs to the Green Line and boarded. That train was much lighter on passengers. I remained standing, as is my preference. When we reached Ashland, an announcement came: “Attention passengers, this train will run express from California to Austin. There is another train behind us.”

We got to California and the announcement rang again. I began walking to the door, but then noticed a man wearing headphones. I walked toward him and waved in front of his eyes. “Did you hear that?” I said.

He stared at me. “Did you hear that announcement about the train running straight to Austin?” I said. He stared at me again, and then said “Yeah” and put his head back down, so I left him to his music and got off the train.

NEXT: A religious fanatic. (1.14.12)

PREVIOUS: Yeah, but for real this time. (1.12.12)

On this date, 2011: Tweet for me.

Photo credit.

Before tweeting the 1st draft of this story, I wrote a mini-commentary on why I love good writing. For the sake of posterity, here it is, unedited for style (but with links now embedded) tweet by tweet:

A few days ago, I pulled @sportsguy33‘s “Now I Can Die In Peace” off my bookshelf for the first time in five years.

It was, at the time, my first opportunity to interact with Simmons’s work, to underline, mark-up, and comment.

I was 25 at the time, and my margin comments often reflect my age, like one spot where Bill commented on his mom’s college mini-skirts…

…and I underlined the passage and wrote: “I could probably never write this about my mother. Maybe things change after 30.”

Ain’t that the truth. Re-reading the section this week, I thought, “What was wrong with that? I could write that today!”

What hasn’t changed is my love for his work, and my love for good writing, and my love of sports fans.

My own sports fandom has dipped greatly in the past five years, as discussed in this column from Sept. 2010.

But that’s why I’ve loved working on the start of this sports fan oral history project.

Because pulling out the stories of unabashed sports fans brings me back to my own love.

And reading the Simmons book brings me back to writing I loved and still love.

The peak came about an hour ago when I read Simmons’s collection of reader emails following Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.

I giggled, sighed, grimaced, and grinned as readers reflected upon their Boston Red Sox pain, sorrow, and undying love.

Bill explored his relationship with fans in a column after the Vikings blew the 2009 NFC title game.

They write to him because he “feels their pain,” yes, but it’s not because he is a great sports fan. It’s because he is a great writer.

The relationship he has with readers manifests itself as sports fan therapy…

…but it’s his knack for expressing those universal emotions that bonds readers to him.

It’s a reader’s greatest thrill: “This writer gets me. This writer said it how I would say it if I were that good a writer.”

As a reader, you long for those moments. As a writer, you hope to create them.

It’s what I love about writing, about putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

It’s the reason I will never stop reading, and the reason I can never stop writing.

Whether receiving or creating, writing heals me.

It is life.


2 Replies to “Keeping your ears open.”

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