Flummoxed, anxious and angry that he had done this to himself, the writer took a big swig of tequila and gazed once more at the list of 30-plus story ideas, in search of the one idea he could turn into the promised, and surely long-awaited, narrative.
Idea 1: More stories from the future about how people celebrate Jeter Day.
“Hmmm. Jeter Day. In the future,” he muttered. “Well, that’s a pretty long time away. How the hell am I supposed to …?” Confounded, he turned to the second idea, which he called Idea 2. A boy’s parents are murdered by a mugger, so, as a rich adult, he fights crime at night in New York City while wearing a cape.
The writer took another swig and muttered, “OK, this is ridiculous.”
When muttering to himself, he had always got right to the point.
“It’s only 8 a.m.!”
And so he brewed a cup of Sanka and poured it into his bottle of Cuervo.
“OK,” he said, more softly now, and taking a sip. “Where were we?”
By “we” he meant himself (even if the sentence “Where were himself?” sounded not quite right), the same “self” that had done this to himself. For indeed, on Sept. 26, the writer had challenged readers to concoct story ideas, and from the best of those ideas, he’d written, he would craft an intriguing and perhaps titillating story! This was the time. Armageddon was nigh. It was now, as they say, or not ever.
But how, from among the dozens of ideas, could he pick just one?
He turned to Idea 3, which was the third idea on the list: With lower starts, greater bullpen use and injuries, have we seen the last 300-game winner?
“Oh, c’mon,” he muttered, “who do you think I am … Jeff Sullivan?”
It was then that he had an idea, his first, which he called Idea 1A: Lounging on the velvet balcony of his luxe Manhattan loft, which he had purchased with profits from his three-part series, “Have We Seen The Last 300-Game Winner?”, the writer John Paschal reaches out and, with the fiery tip of his Cuban cigar, pops the Tino Martinez balloon that hovers above the weekly Jeter Day parade. Laughing maniacally, he summons his butler, Jeeves Jr., to come hither and hold the cigar while he unzips his (i.e., Mr. Paschal’s) ermine trousers, upon which achievement he (i.e., Mr. Paschal) proceeds to pee on the great procession. Then, just as Mr. Paschal has achieved an arc of golden magnificence, a caped avenger swoops in and – BIF! BAM! POW! – takes him in for questioning in the theft of Jeff Sullivan’s work.
Not quite satisfied, the writer sipped his coffee tequila and returned to the list.
Idea 4: …some fine literature concerning what Bud Selig will do in retirement. It should be in the style of Adrian Beltre minimalist literature.
“Who do you think I am?” he moaned. “Jeff Sullivan stealing Dayn Perry’s work?”
Head spinning – well, not literally – he moved on.
Idea 5: John Rocker and the rest of the Top 10 biggest horse faces in baseball history.
“Aw, come on,” he groaned. “That’s not nice … to horses!”
He added, quickly, “Hi-yo!”
Properly amused, he hit upon Idea 2A: Pen in hand, Jeff Sullivan watches as Dayn Perry observes Adrian Beltre blowing a smoke ring into the third-base dugout, where it enters a secret time portal and floats past the Monica Lewinsky scandal to alight upon Oneonta, New York, circa 1982, and there it drifts past infielder Bob Woodcock – baaaarely past infielder Bob Woodcock – to dissolve upon the equine chin of John Elway, a 22-year-old rookie outfielder who, as ordered, is using his right leg to count to 10 for retired Commissioner Bud Selig. Pleased, but still uncertain with regard to time portal re-entry, Selig sighs, minimalistically.
“Yes,” the writer said, nodding. “Now that I am drunk, that will do.”
Satisfied, he typed his favorite words: THE END.
He took another swig of Cuervo java and then, just for fun, glanced at the next idea.
Suddenly dissatisfied, he typed his least favorite words: “Or is it?”
Upon waking from a nap in a nearby gutter, the writer ate a bowl of Barbados rum and returned to his desk, still in search of that one great idea – no, that one greatest idea, greater than even the other great ideas, all of them really, really great, much like the people who had posted them, the readers, the MVPs.
He was sure to type that – the readers, the MVPs. They were great.
…a futuristic amusement park where dinosaurs are brought to life through advanced cloning techniques.
He chuckled, and also threw up a little.
“I don’t know about you,” he muttered, not to himself but to the reader whose suggestion it was, “but I would call it ‘Billy and the Cloneasaurus.’”
He kept searching, mostly by looking at the next idea on the list.
… players who share their names with varieties of cured meats.
This brought to mind – his mind – the ’27 Yankees and their famed Murderers’ Row, featuring Babe Pork, Lou Sausage and Tony Salami. (It also brought to mind the 1988 Yankees Meat-Is-Murderers’ Row, featuring Jack Kale, Dave Quinoa and Don Broccoli, a.k.a. “Donnie Vegetable.”) It did not bring to mind much else. He moved on, to a suggestion that the story take the form of a gif of such immense size that the sole purpose is to crash every reader’s browser, signifying the crashing of readers’ hearts due to the inevitable death of NotGraphs. Maybe the gif could be of Joe West, or (editor Carson) Cistulli discretely disposing of an adorable puppy.
“A gif?” he muttered. “Who do you think I am … David G. Temple?”
Suddenly, an epiphany: After A’s GM Billy Beane clones a well-known piece of cured meat, he embarks on a traveling road show called “Billy and the Giambisaurus.” But when the Giambisaurus is misidentified as an adorable puppy, Cistulli, as he has done so many times before, crams the poor thing down a garbage disposal.
“The reader could just picture it, over and over and…”
Still dissatisfied (unbelievably), he moved on, to a story – no, a scene – in which 300-game winner Roger Clemens struts into The Persianal Touch Cafe for a couple of chelow kebabs, and afterward, when the owner screams at the ex-pitcher (in subtitled Farsi, and while baring his spray-on abs) regarding the expectation of a free meal on the basis of his 300-win celebrity, Clemens turns to the Greek god of walks, Gemini (a.k.a. “Four Balls”), for help with “walking out without paying.”
Apropos of something, then, the writer ascribed the demise of Rick Aguilera to the Battle of Thermopylae and inserted Drew Butera into “The Ballad of Gregor Blanco,” around which insertion a titillating narrative began to take shape.
The shape was kind of disturbing, though, so the writer moved on.
Yes, yes, yes! The writer could see it now! – maybe because he’d just eaten a lunch of vodkaburgers and Kentucky bourbon stew (now with 50 percent more bourbon and 50 percent less stew): As suggested, Cistulli switches bodies with Mike Moustakas! “No, Moustakas has a dumpy body. What’s up with that? Isn’t he a professional-type athlete? Let’s give Cistulli a body he can be proud of, a body – nay, a physique – at which he can gaze in the mirror while cooing, ‘After a proper courtship and oodles of heartfelt love sonnets, I’d do me.’” Yeah, so he switches bodies with Eric Hosmer and suddenly finds himself facing Madison Bumgarner with little more than a mixed metaphor where the bat should be and a dangling participle – “no, too obvious” – a regular participle where his cup should be.
Meanwhile, Hosmer – a.k.a. Cistulli – is hanging with Eno Sarris in the Royals clubhouse, saying, “Learn, is what you should do with the language of this place.”
The writer sighed. “Fired, were NotGraphs not dying, is what I would be.”
He grabbed a ginsicle – well, a gin-and-tonicsicle – and carried on.
Suddenly, as proposed, a ragtag team of pseudo-baseball writers is banding together – and this is the crucial part: with the support of their readers – to publish things other than graphs on a popular baseball weblog, things, apparently, such as this: In quip-soaked mud the punchlines smolder, shot up, blown apart, destroyed. Beside them the joke shrapnel crackles, sizzles, still hot but soon to be cold, always. Meanwhile, gray smoke is rising from melted laptops and drifting to some unseen oblivion beyond the final choking laugh. Though wounded, Cpl. Jeremy “Blachie” Blachman stumbles to his feet and peers through the smoky chaos. Wiping the nouns from his eyes and the verbs from his ears, he limps across the NotGraphs bunker toward Lt. Patrick “Bukie” Dubuque, whose left arm, like Blachie’s right, has been paralyzed in the Apple attack – laptops stuffed with cherry bombs.
The writer grabbed another ginsicle – well, whiskeysicle – and continued.
Together they stumble to an old Selectric II typewriter, and, with the help of their readers, turn the thing on – not by rubbing its genitals, mind you, for typewriters do not often have genitals, but by plugging it in. Then, inspired by readers – and also by Pfc. John “Paschalie” Paschal, who must figure into this story somehow and who therefore stands to the side, shouting, “No, seriously, you can do it!” – Blachie and Bukie band together, each using his one good arm, to somehow create on the typewriter a gif of such enormous size that it destroys the Apple mainframe.
Satisfied, but not quite content and also not quite unconscious, the writer typed the period and moved down the list – but not before making a delicious moonshine smoothie with a vita-mix infusion and also with a Jagermeister infusion (x 2).
Tomorrow: Part 2
John Paschal is a regular contributor to The Hardball Times and The Hardball Times Baseball Annual.