Isolation and alienation had become my only companions and other then that time in a Bangkok hotel bathroom… I never felt so low.
Hold up maybe I should back up for you. See today, I saw old friends who came up from Peoria that I have not seen in over year. It was good to see them however, I learned people wondered where I went or what happened as I did move away very abruptly, with little communication to anyone about why and did it in a private manner. So, it is time to poke my head out and make contact share a bit of my story and no I did not join a cult or run away to work for a carnival.
Life threw me a curve and I got divorced and the abruptness and circumstances being as they were at the time; I felt the best decision for my future was to move back to Chicago quickly leaving behind all I grew to love over 12 years. My heart was broken, and the last year and half of my life as taken me to very dark places emotionally and challenged my will like no time before. And it is here in my life where I opened my letter.
However, I thrive at challenges and happy to say like a bad check I bounced back. I also reflected a great deal on my life over the last 12 years and sharing it like this in a public forum is risky, makes me vulnerable and certainly is a bad idea…. but that is what makes me…. well me.
My life now is vastly different than the last 12 years of my life in the Peoria metropolitan area and that life left me with memories and relationships that I will hold on to with diamond hands.
In Chicago there is no corn…. yup not seen one stalk. I have not seen a harvester or a even a farmer in over a year. I can’t get a Casey’s slice of Pizza and there is no Smoothie King, and most people don’t even know where Peoria is and unlike Michigan, I can’t use my hand as a map, so I simply say central Illinois.
I am often asked what is Peoria like and to that I would say. It is a city where Cats rule and Deer should stay in woods. It is where the blue and red meet and the line between them divides like the Illinois river that runs thru it. Whether blue or red… minds will not be changed, and truth varies depending on which side you are on. I never knew the rivalry between the Cubs and Cardinals could cause such passion.
It is a city that was once known as the Alcohol Distilling capital of the world and many of the distilleries remained open legally during probation. It is where I-74 will always be under construction, professional athletes are raised, and you can get a Bloody Mary with a Cheeseburger as one of your toppers at a bar named Koochie’s. It is a city that gave us Richard Pryor and Dan Fogelberg and the janitor from "Scrubs," Neil Flynn, is a graduate of Bradley University. Peoria is where my heart will always be.
My time in Peoria brought softball back in my life and out of retirement. Till then I never realized how much I missed it. The softball diamond to me is where you can go and leave the troubles of the day behind. It is a place where finely tuned athletes will not be found, drama is in abundance and insults and ridicule are the currency of love and respect. Somedays you might be looking for a guy…some days you might be looking for a hit but what I found for certain were some of the best people I have ever met.
It had been 12 years since I played Softball before I moved to Peoria and though my mind told me I was in my 20’s and 30’s my body said otherwise and like Shakira says, “hips don’t lie”. Other than that, I found things basically the same as when I left the game except for 24 and 25 OZ bats…. seriously.
Side Bar: I still disagree with the opinion that using a bat that light will help to accelerate the bat thru the zone improving the exit velocity of the ball off the bat vs what could be had by using a slightly heavier bat with a slightly slower swing speed. The coefficient of variation mass and acceleration does not provide a large enough standard of deviation to support such a ridiculous claim. It is a E=Mc2 kind of thing and I thought about doing the math, so I am 98% sure I am almost right and 100% sure that is all bullshit.
Ok…where was I… that’s right coming out of retirement…. So, it seemed the years of football and grandfather time caught up to me and being that I typically was surrounded by a whole generation of kids who have never experienced dial up internet it became clear I was not suited anymore for the outfield and yet I found great teammates who made me a home at catcher. Now, I do not want to brag… but I was the best catcher this side of the Mississippi and that is no tall tale. I was doing things behind that plate that were groundbreaking and only visible to a well-seasoned veteran and every so often unexpectedly, in very short distances with just the right amount of beer in my system… I could move like a cat.
Nothing like strolling up to the plate, digging into the batter’s box with 2 outs and the game on the line. The is tension in the the air so thick you can cut it with a knife. The aroma of cigarettes and medical grade marijuana fill the air. Sounds fade away and I get laser focused as I look out thru the haze of infield dust from the previous play dancing in the lights as it settles to the ground. I see him… a fully grown adult male dressed as a catcher who is about to throw me...another fully grown adult male a big yellow ball…. underhand…. which I proceed to pop out to the catcher. God, I miss softball.
I would gladly drive an hour twice a week as far as Chillicothe and beyond just to play at one of the best hidden gems. To those who spend the time to make that place possible and you all know who you are….my hats off to you. Thank you for making that place what it is.
I grew in my time there as a person as well and learned much about myself. I have come to take pride in my natural ability to make any social situation or group setting incredibly awkward in an instant. I realize I am an acquired taste but if you have come to know me, I hope you learned the look on my resting face does not reflect what is in my heart. I thank all of those who reached out to me to make sure I am ok. For those who did not...I should have reached out to you. Regardless, I hope if our paths ever did cross at the very least it was memorable. To me the worst thing that can happen to another person in the end… is be forgotten.
So, if you are still with me here let me offer some advice but know it is only based on my own meandering experiences and nothing more. Time is the great equalizer, and we all have it, some have more than others but none of us know how much. Even the mighty star is not able to endlessly march thru the cosmos without answering to time. So, make the most of it and work hard to bridge the distances and gaps between those you love and mend the fences that might separate you from the ones you need in your life…. olive branches go both ways. Be confident for the idea of tomorrow but do not forget it is not here yet and you do not have control of what tomorrow brings. The cosmic powers at play could care less about what you think so be grateful for what you have today and be sure you let the people you love know what they mean to you. Take ownership of your flaws and be patient with others flaws because we all have them. Even the south end of a north bound goat is still going in the same direction.
Know we are all ignorant about something and Ignorance the lack of knowledge can be fixed….in my mind its willful ignorance that will destroy you and others and being willfully ignorant makes you as useful as a closed book and as dangerous as a raised toilet seat in a dark bathroom. Open minds will open hearts and open doors… (I like that I think I will write it down)
If change in any capacity is what you seek in your life, think small to get big and just start. We are what we do repeatedly. “The chains of habit are to light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken” -Warren Buffet
So, to Peoria and those I have come to love…. thank you…thank you for the love, the lessons, the memories, and scars. Every one of them are tattooed on my heart and none of them will be lost.