Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Andre Nadeau and the Black Dog.

The best baseball player I ever played with was a guy called Andre Nadeau. He was 20 and I was a big 15-year-old when I played in a summer league with him up in New Hampshire.

I was playing catcher in those days, a tribute to my size and to my brick-like hands that prevented me from really excelling in the field. Besides, the team I was on was short a catcher, so they stuck me there. They wanted my bat in the lineup.

Andre was a pitcher and as fast as he was wild. These were the flannel uniform days before radar guns, but I'm sure he threw in the mid-90s. Like a Ryne Duren (look him up) when he did get in the groove and was able to throw the pill over the dish (perhaps during those rare times when he wasn't high) he was all but unhittable.

Andre had come back from Vietnam as a heroin addict. We all suspected it then but no one knew exactly for sure. In any event, he kept to himself, never having a thing to do with anyone on the team, including me, his catcher.

On the rare occasion when I would head out to the hill to calm him down if he was wild, he would merely ignore me or stare into the dirt. More likely, he was apt to tell me to shut the fuck up, an appropriate imprecation to a 15-year-old, especially one who was feeling his oats as I was, playing on a team of college kids.

About midway through the season the manager of the team got wise to Andre's drug use and he was kicked off the team. I think they threatened to call the cops. Guys had been kicked off before, mostly for smoking pot, and I figured that would be the last I'd see of Andre.

But a couple years later in what was then the Wild West of 1970s New York, I saw Andre strung out on a subway platform of the Number 1 line on Broadway and 50th Street. He was long-haired and bearded and wrapped in rags and shrouded in an old green Army blanket he must have gotten from a shelter. He probably smelled like cheap wine and dirt and sweat.

"Andre, man," I said to him.

He didn't recognize me.

That was it. A train had pulled in to the stop and I was on my way to a class I've forgotten up at Columbia and I didn't want to miss it.

That was the last I saw or heard of Andre Nadeau.

Lately, maybe it's some nettlesome vagary at work, maybe it's that I've been bitten by a ferocious Black Dog, I've been thinking about Andre.

About a guy dead to rights at 21 or 22.

Maybe I've been thinking about loneliness and feeling un- or under-appreciated.  You know, I suppose that happens to the best of us. Periods where we feel so estranged and detached from our fellow man that we might as well be shrouded in an old green Army blanket and doped out on the subway.

I resigned from life yesterday.

I was pissed about shit. No need to explain here.

Angry at myself for being in the employment situation I'm in. Again no need to explain.

Angry at the world, really. There's so much to be angry about.

A bunch of people reached out to me over the last 24-hours, my older daughter with her wisdom of the ages, Keith, Andrew, my dear friend Terry in New Zealand, Julian, my soul-mate Rich, and more than a few people I've never even met.

They've made me, at least for now, reconsider my rashness. I've always been rash. Another thing that's hard to be these days. We're supposed to NOT be feeling and emotional. We're supposed to tut tut politely instead of howl at the moon. Tutting good. Howling bad.

So, I'm writing for now.

Cautiously, maybe. I'm not throwing any spears in the direction of anyone. In the words of Fats Waller, "I"m not giving my right name."

I'm writing because writing is what I do and it's who I am.

Writing keeps me sustained if not sane. I need it. I am compelled by it.

So I'm sorry if yesterday I said fuck you and quit. I'm not a quitter. I don't don't have anything to say. And I refuse to let them rip out my tongue.

At least for now, I'll keep trying.

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