14 April 2011

151: Bases and Boxes

In the Apple Store on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown I reached the conclusion that I'll never get an iPad. Something about its dimensions just aren't right. And as I held in it my hands--trying to be impressed by its iPad2-ish sleeker design and lighter weight, my fingers and thumbs kept bumping into each other trying to arrive at the right configuration to get a sense of how Randy Wolf was doing out in Pittsburgh.

Prince had knocked in another run tonight and Wolf's throws were landing in the gloves of his teammates--a reality which delighted me. But what commotion just for the simple facts. Trying to plow deeper into mlb.com ran me straight into the app for it, and this only made matters worse. So I gave up. Wishing I had simply heard it all on the radio, I took deep sentimental satisfaction in the score: Milwaukee 4, Pittsburgh 1.

In the meantime, Auds and I walked off our dinner at Martin's Tavern (across from Harry Truman's booth), hopped a cab to the Lincoln Memorial, and mingled with hundreds of tourists and spring break school trips to read the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln's Second Inaugural, two of the crown jewels of American democracy. Auds was moved to tears by what she experienced, filling her young soul with democracy's fragile weight while gaining a grasp of history in the mysteriously lit temple the eternal soul of this great leader.

We descended the steps on a glorious April evening, drawn to Maya Lin's Vietnam Memorial and Audrey thought aloud about the names glowing in the night, our faces and the Mall's other monuments shining forth from the deep blackness, from the lettered graves of Americans. The grass outline guided us deep into the pit until we were buried when we emerged again, on to a level field, pulled up and out by cherry trees in full bloom.

Their redolence was intoxicating and we stood beneath them for a time. The moon's crescent hung above; planes passed overhead; off in the distance cameras flashed and voices drifted around silly vanities and the heavy cloaks of memory and sacrifice.

I remembered reading box scores as a kid. Growing up, we received two papers each day: the Sentinel in the morning and the Journal in the late afternoon. The Sentinel's box scores and game analysis was never as complete as the later coverage and it wasn't until years later, long after the papers merged, that I understood what a guilty pleasure it was to read so much about such a mediocre team. Alas, they were my heroes.

The other heroes we read about in the afternoon paper were those fighting a war in Vietnam. And as the loss of life increased, we'd read the names of dead soldiers, missing soldiers and prisoners of war as they were listed in the Journal's Green Sheet each afternoon.

Box scores for players; death tolls for soldiers. Players making it to first base; some men and women never making it home.

"Fondly do we hope--fervently do we pray--that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away."

Lincoln's words 146 years ago, so soon before his own death, were a prayer indeed, for the end of that scourge of war that continues to haunt us in our day. In our own community we recall those whose lives are still sacrificed in Iraq and Afghanistan, for causes sure to some and clouded to others. The Civil War; the Vietnam War; Iraq and Afghanistan; and everything in between. We keep the numbers; their statistics are a measure of our worth. But like a light that guides us, here, Lincoln's words--a beacon in the night:

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations."

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