Someone asked me the other night about my “style” of writing. He sensed the influence of many different writers, and tried to draw some similarities. I knew all those voices were in the back of my head, so I just grinned and nodded to each name he mentioned.
There was quite a strange collection for someone who considered themselves a “writer” but they all seemed to work for me.
Especially some at the front of the list.
The gentleman interviewing me was Charlie Rose.
I had just been watching him on PBS.
He asked me that question while I was reclined all the way back in my chair, the Ambien was kicking in as the Klonopin from earlier in the evening was fading out, and I was nodding out.
Obviously drifting off towards the REM Empire.
I was glad Charlie asked the question, just righteously pissed I actually had to wake up to answer the question just before he disappeared.
Or turned into Tavis Smiley.
Even after the interview, I had to think about that question.
I always had a particular style, just never gave it much thought.
Glad Charlie brought it up.
Okay, let’s get it out of the way, not in any particular order until I give one to them:
Lenny, Bruce, George Carlin, Pryor, Studs Turkel, Norman Mailer, Thom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, Raoul Duke, The Firesign Theatre, Woody Allen, Ray Davies, Robin Williams, Dennis Miller, Jon Stewart, Nolan Ryan, Springsteen, Zimmerman, Robbie Robertson, Buddy Guy, Edward Albee, Paddy Chayefsky, Robert Altman, John Cassavetes …
and Jean Shephard.
Shep is first. Then Lenny, Uncle Duke and… and… whoever.
There are others’ whose individual works have inspired me, likely influenced me, but those are the guys whose bodies of work shaped the way I chose whatever tool it was I had at hand to put an idea together.
Words, style, voice, tone, pacing.
How, aside from potentially irritating and predictably frustrating, would I describe this style?
I don’t try, I guess. Not that it is some mesmerizingly original, but I can’t find a word or a phrase for it.
Stick with me: you’ll find out I have very few succinct phrases for so many things.
It’s like I’m brought in to close out the final out of the final game of the American League Championship Series. At Fenway. Against the Yankees.
Series tied 3-3. Bottom of the ninth, two outs, bases loaded.
We’re up by one.
The Third Spot in the lineup steps into the batters box as I come out of the pen.
Clean-up hitter on deck, not that it makes a difference. Something’s going to happen in this at bat that will change the whole game.
I’d have an easier time pitching to the Clean Up guy. Usually one of those guys that with nary a noticeable effort can launch one into the next city. Or county. Or Borough.
You have a greater chance he’ll strike out. I remember all sorts of times some linebacker would step to the plate and would strike out three or four or five times for every once he would go yard.
Odds would be in my favor.
But you have a guy like the great Paul Molitor, the late Tony Gwynn, or Chicken Man – Wade Fucking Boggs, the game is close to over and I’m gonna head to the showers especially careful not to drop the soap, A lot of broken bats piled up during the game, and at least one ain’t gonna be a souvenir for an underprivileged kid.
You take a demitasse cup and glue it four feet up of the ground on the fence deep in the right center gap – right where that Fenway wall takes this wild-ass cut – and you tell Boggsie or Paulie or Mattingly or Will the Thrill … “There. On two bounces. Nothing higher than the knees.”
It was yours for the asking.
I seem to remember having some of these guys with contact per centages up about ninety per cent.
Nine out of ten times they swung at a ball, they made contact. Might be a foul. Might be a dribbler back to the pitcher. Might be one that careens into the cheap seats like a beer-seeking missile.
Maybe Boggsie didn’t like the looks of it and just got the tip if the bat in the way to roll it into the on-deck circle?
Them made contact. Never mind a ball or a strike, ’cause that’s immaterial.
If they could hit it, they swung. And the majority of times they hit it, it went just where they needed it to go.
Three guys on, two out… they could take their choice of where they were gonna hit it, and THAT’s the guy that scares me, THAT’s the one I want to pitch around, but I can’t.
Now, pitchers – especially closers – are known pyschos. I have three diagnoses, none of which matches that qualification, but I can be just enough off to go out there and get that job done.
Well, I sure couldn’t now. Maybe back when I was ….
No. Never mind. I only allow myself two hypothetical factors per day-dream, otherwise it crosses over the line into hallucination, and if the FIRST factor is “If I were younger…” then you give up the right to use the second factor.
That holds true especially for Wade Boggs and Reese Witherspoon.
But in my mind I’m one of those guys that gets paid $20,000,000.00 dollars per year for that ONE At Bat. That one Save.
That one last pitch.
But with such money and responsibility comes a certain amount of quirkiness.
I have my routine, and it’s not going to be broken.
My first pitch is from half-way back on the grass in left field. I could theoretically throw one by the guy. Theoretically. It is axiomatic that anything that is not impossible is inevitable, so why not me? Shit… look where I am and what I’ am doing!
If I hang around long enough and the Sawx are ever that fucking desperate, it’s going to happen, right?
Even if I throw it four feet wide of the plate, I sill have six more chances to make that perfect pitch.
So I take the second pitch from the edge of the grass behind the shortstop.
Now I’m just toying with him.
You might strike a guy out with strikes, but you set him up with balls.
And I get him to swing at one in the dirt because it just looks so hittable as compared to the last lame effort.
Count’s even, I got five more chances, which really comes down to five more ways to do it.
Step up to the edge of the grass in front of the shortstop.
Circle change. Pitch comes in almost at chin level. Looks like a fucking beach ball as it approaches, and there’s a perfect swing…
… right before the bottom drops out and the pitch ends up down by his knees.
That’s the only non-theoretical part of all of this: I had a wicked change-up I passed on to my son.
I’m up in the count with as many as four more chances.
Now’s the time to paint the corners. If that joker in front of me is going to hit it, he’s going to hit it where I want him to. But just to play it safe, I’m going to try to keep at least a dozen bristles just inside the line at whatever point it needs to be.
But for the final strike…
… nothing but heat.
A little two-seam / four-seam movement kind of adds a flair to it, but it’s really about blowing it right down the middle.
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