Happy happy

Today I am bringing you good news. Yes, forget that apocalyptic stuff about Trump and the cities flooding and the real possibility of more war, this time with nations that can fight back. Which would probably mean that the internet would become an unlivable minefield of scam artists, Russian bots and media corporations selling everything about our preferences and habits to agents of an Argentinian drug gang.

But we are not worried about that. We are looking on the bright side.

Good thing #1: Spring. It’s spring. Everything that can blossom is blossoming, or thinking about blossoming, or is still deep in its roots waiting for the overwhelming blossom wave to hit. So you can delay, but why would you? The outdoors is literally right outside your door.

I once had a revelation while looking for wildflowers in Death Valley. When we walked in the bright sandy landscape, we did not see any flowers. We’d been told that the season was now past its prime, but there was still good stuff to see.

We were out there seeing like crazy, but we were not seeing much. A lot of rocks (some of them interesting), but not much in the way of flora. Then I saw something on the ground. I peered over, but I was still not seeing it. So I dropped to my knees and got kissing-close to the plant. It was a burst of color, a maze of white flowers, green buds and leaves of gray or jade.


The advantages of looking closely

Then I looked to the side. I was in fact in a garden, a miniature garden teased out by the late winter rains. I saw another, and another, elegant plants forced by the lack of water to stay small. When all you need is a drop of water, you’re going to stay awhile.

So my revelation was this: Look closely, and keep looking closely. That’s probably good advice for anyone doing anything. (It’s real good advice in commercial transactions, where the seller might not be telling you everything. And if you’re the seller, make sure the buyer’s money does not come with a portrait of Edgar Martinez on it. These things happen. It’s a cruel world).

But let’s not ignore big, showy blooms. Some in the plant world think they’re vulgar, but for me, the bolder and naughtier a flower is, the better I like it. Nor should we ignore bunches of flowers that together make a gigantic, sometime overwhelming display of color and fragrance. Hey, wisteria, I’m looking at you.

Good thing #2: Baseball. Yes, I know, a lot of my readers are not into baseball, although I trust none of them have uttered the phrase “Oh, I don’t watch sports” in a tone they might reserve for “Oh, I don’t eat babies.” Sports is no more a moral failure than shopping for another kitchen gadget from High Prices R Us (Lattes Included!).

I seem to have a resentment of which I was not previously aware.

Baseball, like gardens, rewards closer examination. It’s easy to see it as boring. It’s not fast like basketball nor violent like football. Sometimes its rhythms seem soporific. Long stretches without scoring go by. This is also true of soccer, which about 1 billion people play and another 5 billion watch. So slow sports must have aspects that keep people involved.

The closer you get to baseball, the more interesting it gets. A seemingly infinite number of calculations goes into every pitch, sometimes rigidly rigorous numbers-crunching, sometimes hunches, guesses and mistakes. Each decision has a history; each decision will have a future. Its charms are infinite; not even professionals can see them all. Neither can fans, but, oh, the joy in trying.

Or look at it this way. Baseball is a warm-weather game; its slowness in developing matches the lethargy of summer afternoons. There’s time to talk with your friends, get another cold beverage from the cooler, run around aimlessly if that’s your choice. My mother used to fall asleep to baseball broadcasts on the radio. My guess is, that if you’re an American, you have baseball somewhere in your past. It’s what links us together far better than any changeable political allegiances. Even radicals like baseball.


Playing dominoes, listening to baseball. Nothing better.

Not doing it for you? How about the unmatched visual splendor of baseball? Consider the opening act (memorably captured in the first few minutes of “Bull Durham”): You walk through the tunnel or the hallway into a slowly emerging panorama of green, a field that absolutely overwhelms the tiny players moving around on it. That’s prophetic, because every part of the field is in play all the time, far too much to be covered by nine mere mortals. The game seems unplayable when you first hear about it; the continuing miracle is that it actually is playable, by major-leaguers and 9-year-olds alike.

But the green vista, augmented by a beer and a brat as they say in Cincinnati, heightened by the conversation around you, the buzz of pleasure and intense debate, of quotidian concerns and grand theories, makes a summer afternoon or evening an exhilarating experience. Relax. Have another beer. (Don’t have five). Bring sunscreen for the day games. Bring blankets for the night games. (In San Francisco, bring two).

Baseball, like spring, means the days are getting longer and the sun is getting brighter. You can stroll the streets at nine. You can sit on your porch, or someone else’s porch, and talk shit or not-shit, slump and yawn, and declare that this has been the best Sunday ever. And look at the nods of agreement around the circle. And every peaceful, easy feeling is inexpressibly augmented by a home team win. Wouldn’t you say?

Good thing #3: Optimism. We willingly surround ourselves in a miasma of bad news. This hyper-partisanship you hear so much about is a personal commitment to doom and gloom. The remarkable thing is that it’s entirely voluntary. We can feel bad or good; it’s always a choice. Yes, there are rising seas and poverty and refugees and idiotic policies and a rise in nationalism and a loss of privacy and, what else? Coffee makers that break down too much? Whatever.

I know you want to effect social change. I know you want to be a cog in the wheel of the resistance.  But you needn’t be glum about it. Be like the old resistance fighters in this country. Write songs about it and sing them. Publish songbooks on the internet. Have secret meetings, disputatious gatherings that end in a communal meal. Make up creative signs and inspiring chants. Take joy in the work you are doing, because joy will make you live longer. It will make you feel better. And it might even dislodge a cruel tyrant.

During the few years I was a student activist, the thing I remember most was camaraderie. (The possibility of hooking up may have added a bit more excitement to the stew; that’s not a bad thing). I remember fighting for good — in my case, free speech on campus with a minor in ban the bomb — and thinking that maybe change was possible. And lo, change happened.  Look to a better future. Ignore your inner cynic. What has she ever done for you?

Just because the world is filled with assholes doesn’t mean you have to be one too. Tell a joke, dance a dance, overthrow the patriarchy. See? Easy.

spring14928 x 3264

 It doesn’t look that weird until you get up close

Photography by Tracy Johnston

Things I never knew before: Michelle Mizera




43 thoughts on “Happy happy

  1. Re good thing # 1: We live in the Nevada high desert. My wife calls them “belly button flowers” because you have to get on your stomach to see them. The desert is subtle. You have to pay attention.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I had the same experience viewing flowers in Death Valley…at first I was underwhelmed, but when I looked closely, I marveled at the beauty and tenacity of these lovely flowers. Also good advice for the resistance. Thanks for a great column.


    2. Lovely column, Jon. We once did an Outside mag story on a guy who went out to the desert and crawled around on his belly, photographing what he called “Pinhead flowers”–blooms no bigger than the proverbial head of a pin. Magnified, they were astonishing. Happy spring, happy baseball…Karin


  2. baseball has got to be in the DNA of all kids American (and Latino, et al…) it’s the only sport I understand, the only sport I played as a kid in summer camp (it was actually softball. and, well, volleyball, too… and track, swim meets, tennis… but baseball is the one.)
    there is beauty to that diamond. happy to be reminded of it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Bellyflowers: flowers you have to get down on your belly to see….

    I’ve gotten more and more interested in tiny plants and flowers and discovered that the vast majority of these tiny plants are ignored by most guidebooks because they’re considered not worthy of attention. But what could be more elaborate or beautiful than this little monkeyflower? (finger provided for scale)

    And baseball: yes. I coudn’t see the interest until I went to a game, going through the concrete purgtory of parking and entry and stairs etc and then suddenly the green green field, and the slow lovely game. All about the attention you can give it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I found baseball way too late. Not until World Series did I take notice and now realize how much
    I missed for 40 or 50 years. A little doom and gloom there; mixed in with better late than never and question “What else have I missed by closing my eyes to what I have?” Read John Updike poem BASEBALL? Thanks for this I always read your posts.. Carol

    Liked by 2 people

  5. What a TERRIFIC post.

    Yes, in the Diehls’ front and back yards, every tree has started to send our little green buds, or in the case of the Kay-knows-their-Latin-name trees, little pink flowers. I’m rooting for one tree, called fringe in English (a/k/a “Old Man’s Beard”), which celebrated last year’s rains, after years of drought, by showing off a blaze of white blossoms.

    My new, probably resistible, resistance (marketing/merchandising) idea came when I was reading about El Trumpo’s anger at Amazon because the company’s made-it-himself-with-a-Big-Idea (real) billionaire, Mr. Bezos, also owns the Washington Post. The piece mentioned that Bezos has installed in a Post conference room an old-fashioned clothes wringer, to remind everyone of John Mitchell’s famous snarl to Woodward or Bernstein, threatening Kay Graham. The piece went on to mention that Graham then had a little gold wringer made, which she wore on a necklace. Some internet noodling got me to an assertion that Art Buchwald sent her a tiny gold breast for the necklace, and she wore both.

    So: t-shirt. Over left breast, the image of a wringer. Under it the Washington Post logo. On the back, the paper’s new slogan: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”

    Yeah — baseball. Couldn’t (well, wouldn’t) make up what Ohtani’s been doing. Not to mention *that* McCutcheon at-bat/dinger.

    Thanks for the piece!


    Liked by 2 people

  6. And #3 – VISA is no longer requiring signatures when you charge something! Article in NYT today. Thought of you…..



    Liked by 1 person

  7. I just love you and always have, Jon. I got to this point too last week. The real dinosaurs did not die out overnight either…………

    Liked by 2 people

  8. You just described Occupella in your column. May I quote you on our facebook page? https://www.facebook.com/Occupella-223145394427604/ Our songbook on the internet is at occupella.org .

    Nancy I know you want to effect social change. I know you want to be a cog in the wheel of the resistance. But you needn’t be glum about it. Be like the old resistance fighters in this country. Write songs about it and sing them. Publish songbooks on the internet…. Take joy in the work you are doing, because joy will make you live longer. It will make you feel better. And it might even dislodge a cruel tyrant.



  9. Here’s my old morning buddy, Jon Carroll, who wrote for the Chronicle (SF, that is) for so many years. Skim the flowers part if you must, but the baseball and optimism parts are really good reading, just what I needed on John Bolton’s first day.


    Liked by 3 people

  10. Oh, I needed this. Perhaps with the exception of baseball, which I never got. But the garden, the politics, the common sense about our lives. Love all of that. Thank you again. Susie Kepner

    On Mon, Apr 9, 2018 at 12:01 PM, Jon Carroll Prose wrote:

    > joncarrollprose posted: ” Today I am bringing you good news. Yes, forget > that apocalyptic stuff about Trump and the cities flooding and the real > possibility of more war, this time with nations that can fight back. Which > would probably mean that the internet would become an unliva” >

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Great column, Jon. Thanks for the hope today….

    A fan of yours from our days at the Eureka Theater in the 1980s,

    Cam Stoufer

    Liked by 1 person

  12. “ the one constant through all the years has been baseball “, and the rest of that wonderful speech from Field of Dreams. Still true, Jon.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Ah, baseball. Three memories:

    Last day of the 1962 season. The Giants are one game behind the hated Dodgers. A friend calls — “let’s go to the Giants game.” We get there in time to see the start of the 3rd inning. It is the old Candlestick — bleachers in right field and a chain-link fence you can stand next to and be just a few feet from Willie Mays. Impossibly cool! We win, then hang around to listen to the Dodgers lose. Playoffs — which we win — only to lose to the Yankees in 7 games.

    1963, my senior year of high school. Our baseball team has sucked for about a generation. But our basketball and football teams are pretty good — won the league championships and then scoffed at us for believing we could do the same. But we do. Yeah!

    Early 21st century, our Parisian friend Josiane is visiting and we get tickets to the Giants. She is a typical French leftist intellectual, who probably is not even one of the planet’s 6 billion soccer fans. After the S-S Banner, my wife says, “Explain baseball to Josiane.” My mouth opens, makes no sound, then closes again. Finally, I mutter, “Go buy her a hot dog.” Baseball does not explain well. Knowledge is acquired, absorbed slowly and organically. Like enlightenment, there is no shortcut to understanding baseball.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. If you are not already familiar with it, you might enjoy the Bob Newhart routine “Nobody will ever play baseball” in which he portrays someone trying to explain the game. As a young lad following my first baseball season, I remember listening to that 1962 Giants game at my grandpa’s house.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. We once chatted up a couple on the Giants ferry headed to a game. They were visiting from Sweden and had never been to a baseball game. Of course it turned out to be a pitchers’ duel, final score 1-0. Saw them on the ferry back: “Whaja think?” Response: “Is it always this slow?” My husband did point out it was like a soccer score


  14. “It doesn’t look that weird until you get up close” – There’s nothing sexier than a fern frond unfurling its fiddlehead!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Beautiful! We are on a road trip and the yellow mustard and bright green hills are such a sight! We will be in the desert tomorrow and I will remember to “look closely.” THANKS so much, Susan! OOXX JOAN

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Oh Jon! You write of fantastic tiny things, and things that are not tiny but are still hard to see, in a way that makes me realize you have never experienced the joy of scuba diving our world class kelp forests. Could you be enticed? It is eye, and mind, opening.


      1. Good on ya! Now bundle up, go to Monterey, Point Lobos park in particular, dive, and look for more little beautiful things. If that’s a bit much, the breakwater in Monterey is a nice stroll in from a beach.


  17. Hi, just read this post. We do miss Jon Carrol. Thank you. 💕

    Sent from my iPhone



  18. Baseball, dominoes and a ’50’s era four door sedan in the garage. Take it out for a summer ride!


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