Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Loser's Blues

Winning and losing, it's how we define our lives. Just getting by may be winning. Or maybe it's just treading water. We measure ourselves in relation to others, our next door neighbor, those we grew up with, folks in other countries. Are we better off than the next guy? Is life a contest, meted out in a series of trials and tests?

In America, we're supposed to pursue happiness. How we go about that is largely determined by the capitalist system. The more money you have, or make, or inherit, the more leverage you have in the game of life. Money can't buy you happiness, but it sure does lighten the burden of existence. In a primitive society, having three goats instead of two, might make you a rich man. It's a relative thing. I'm not sure that owning a goat would ever mean anything to me, whereas if I could catch a plane to Venice, or Tokyo, whenever the spirit moved me, I'm sure that would be a gas. But even monetary freedom can become passé, after a while. The more money you have, the more you have to worry about it, and if you become rich enough, just worrying about the people who are worrying about your money for you, can become a burden. Nursing a fortune can become a full-time job. Whereas what I've always wanted is to exercise my powers at large--to write, to photograph, to design, to--in my favorite phrase--refine my sensibilities and hone my discrimination to an ever finer edge.

Fine cuisine and exquisite liquors and liqueurs are another way to appreciate the best that life has to offer. Eating (and drinking) well is the best revenge against the physical indignities of growing old and eventually dying.

An original cocktail is one way to brighten your afternoon or early evening. Bartenders prefer to mix the drinks they put on the menu, because that involves the least amount of thought and concentration. Mixing new combinations makes them nervous. If drinking cocktails were only a convenience to get some alcohol into your stomach, I don't suppose there's be much excuse for mixing interesting drinks. Just get a can of 7-Up and throw some cheap gin into it, or spike your Coke with Jack Daniels. Bleghch!

I'm sad today about Tim Lincecum, whose magic has evaporated into thin air. The little phenom dubbed "The Freak" has lost his touch, and can't get people out like he used to. Two and a half years after winning his second consecutive Cy Young, his career is in real trouble, and people are starting to talk about removing him from the team's starting rotation. That's a precipitous drop for a kid of his age. Riches to rags. He presently leads the league in losses, and earned runs allowed, and his gaudy ERA (6.19) is depressing. He's lost velocity on his fast ball, and seems unable to control his pitches, especially with men on base, or in clutch situations. His starts have become disasters. One commentator suggested that his career is "in transition"--from a fireballer to control pitcher; unable to overpower hitters, he will have to learn how to spot his pitches, and outsmart them.

Timmy's already rich, with his big new contract. But the more they pay you, the harder it gets to feel good about not earning your keep. It isn't much consolation when fans are booing you, and you're no longer pulling your weight on the field. Barry Zito's career once looked like Lincecum's, turning sour at about the same point (age 28). Today, Zito is just an under-average journeyman, playing out the string as a fifth starter--his career could end at any time, and sooner rather than later. Will Lincecum ever return to his Cy Young form? It seems unlikely, given the statistical trending. The physical and mental qualities that produce superior results seem easy to identify, but difficult to correct when they're no longer working. Does Timmy need to increase his muscle strength, change his flailing wind-up and delivery? Does he need a long vacation?

Anyway, we still have Cain and Bumgarner and Vogelsong, and Casilla coming out of the bullpen. We aren't going into the toilet. But you have to ask yourself, if Lincecum hadn't fallen into this rut, where the team might be today. If he were, say, 8-2 instead of 2-8, we'd certainly have a better record than the Dodgers, and would be running away with the Division title. It would be ironic if it weren't so frustrating, and sad.

Ain't no blue in this drink, unless you drop in a little food coloring. But it is sure to raise your spirits. So raise your glass and salute the guy that you once were, or were hoping to be, or hope to be again. As Scarlett O'Hara says in Gone With the Wind, "tomorrow is another day!"

Proportions as per usual--

2 parts straight rye
1 part campari
1 tblspn simple syrup
orange peel garnish

--shaken and served up in the proper way.

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