Michael Rosen

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March 2010 Archives

When warmth returns, when the sun is long and the days hold promises of summer, I sense the possibility and glory of baseball. The innocence and beauty inside the game. And yes, the poetry.

Carlos is getting ready. The Frontier League holds TRYOUTS starting May 3 in Avon, Ohio. Carlos will be there with his friend Jeff. I might go. I'm hoping to go. Todd Marlin will be there, too - the Managing Director of the Washington Wild Things. Todd Marlin has been a gentle blessing to us, giving advice, helping point the way. Bobby Valentine introduced us. Others helped. John Howard starting.

Today, March 28, is the day Carlos' dad Carmelo Ayala was murdered. Every March is hard for Carlos. Every March 28 is a place of pain. If you've read What Else But Home, you know this. Wish Carlos well. "..."I'm trying to move forward, I'm trying to better my life. I hope he's proud of me. I'm trying. It just hurts to know how he's missing out of my life and how much he is going to miss..." Carlos sent me a text this morning. Forgive me, Carlos, for sharing a bit of what you wrote.

Carlos is getting ready. The Wild Things have a May 1 team tryout, which Carlos can go to on the way to the Frontier League tryout.

Morgan is Captain of his Brooklyn Friends high school baseball team this year, like Ripton was last year.

Carlos, tossing practice batting to Morgan last week in Tompkins Square !! (where my book starts)

Morgan tossing practice balls to Ripton, who was home visiting on spring break...

and to the absolute poetry of the game...


...today, this morning, started as rainy. I biked up to 54th and Park Avenue, for breakfast with my friend Eric Goldberg. We try to meet each Friday. He gets a coffee, I get a tea, we each get a muffin. The woman who sells newspapers standing on the corner tells me about her week. Last Saturday she went to Philadelphia by bus for $10. Bus companies run special prices sometimes. They don't advertise, she told me. She calls the bus company. She goes there to shop, to save money.

Eric and I spoke about money today. He's a real estate lawyer. Real estate has been sort of down for the past few years, sort of a crisis. I think the country's noticed. I've been an author since September 11. Which is its own challenge. Not without emotional and artistic reward, mind you. And gifts of the soul--the people who email to me, come to my readings.

I told Eric my own fears - paying the bills as I get older in New York. There's an honesty and trust in our friendship.

I walked across the street to buy some birthday cards afterwards, promising the newspaper lady I'd buy one when I got back. I have three friends who have April 1 birthdays. My Dad is one of them.

When I got back to where my bike was locked, where the lady sells newspaper, paid and put away my El Diario (for Morgan to practice Spanish) a man walked by with a coffee in his hand, heading towards this cab...

"Let me buy you a coffee," he said, smiling. "You work hard."

"No, no, you don't have to buy me a coffee," I answered. Shy. Awkward.

"Money doesn't matter," he looked at me, smiling more. His eyes were black.

I looked more closely. He was my age. Heavier set. A slight gray beard. A joyous voice.

"We are born to love, that makes us human." He kept smiling. "People with a lot of money, people trying to protect their money, that makes people do bad things to other people. Let me buy you a coffee."

"I can't have a coffee, I'm getting on my bike. Can I take your picture?" I asked.

"We come into this world naked, and we go out naked. Remember that," he said.

"Can I take your picture?"

"If you let me buy you a muffin."

"Okay," I answered, and watched him walk to the breakfast cart catty-corner to the woman selling newspaper. The skeptic in me kept watching. The man did reach into his pocket, took out his wallet, handed over money for a muffin and walked back to me. He gave me his gift, got into his cab, and this is him...

"Money means nothing," he smiled.

We shook hands. We shook hands again. "Remember, we come into this life naked, we go out naked. Love is the only thing that matters, that makes us happy. That's why we're human." And we shook hands again.

Do angels have to have wings?

I biked down to Grand Central Station, to Posman Books. I wanted to find poetry by Kevin Boyle. I looked up as I walked into the rotunda. Of course I looked up. This is what I saw...

A photograph doesn't due justice to the sense of heaven in that sky. Of heaven, yes. And angels.


& a story, & a question:

when I decided to write What Else But Home, I sold a house I'd built and invested with a friend in Palm Springs, California. He'd moved there for the sun, and to renovate houses. We agreed that he'd buy and renovate a house with the money I'd provide, and we'd split the profit--if there was profit.

He demolished the interior, then died. Suddenly He was 49 years old.

He was a good man, and after his death I learned that a lot of things had gone wrong. I called on a friend to help, a contractor far from Palm Springs, but who had some time and I trusted. He did help, and more things went wrong. A broker I'd come to trust in Palm Springs, a fantastic man named Dan Thompson, suggested a local contractor he'd worked with and trusted. I hired that man, whom I believe tried at first to do a good job, then went bad as the economy hardened. He stole a great deal of money. And Dan says from a few people. That man cut corners. He did half jobs and most poorly. The first rains this year flooded the house--in the desert? Because the driveway the contractor poured sloped towards the back door! The bathroom in the master bedroom was connected only to a box in the rear yard--the sewerage pipe hadn't been connected to the street! On and on.

And, when driveway work first started, a Verizon phone line was apparently cut. Verizon sent a penalty letter, demanding approximately $3500. I'd already paid the contractor for the driveway work. He said, as I pressed, that he'd take care of the Verizon fine. And then he told me it was solved. I didn't receive any more letters.

Only months later, did Dan and I realize that the contractor had turned dishonest.

I was recently contacted by a nice lawyer in California. Mark Pollick. He sent this letter:

I called Mr. Pollick yesterday, and explained my understanding of things. We discussed What Else But Home. I told him the story of trying to finish the Palm Springs house. I told him that the last contractor had always told me that the Verizon line wasn't where it was supposed to be--that's why it was cut. Mr. Pollick told me it didn't matter. I offered to pay 50% of the bill, figuring that I'd already paid the whole price once, to the contractor. Mr. Pollick said Verizon wouldn't accept that offer. I offered to pay 60% of the bill - certain that Verizon's cost couldn't be more than 50%. Mr. Pollick said Verizon wanted 85% of the bill, but he'd call me back after seeing what might be done. He did call today. He told me Verizon would accept $2500, which is roughly 75% of the bill. He's a nice man.

I don't know what's right - 50% seems fair to me, which means I'll be paying 150% of the cost, and Verizon will get its expenses paid, guessing that they are half of what Verizon billed.

What do you think? Write to me, let me know. Please.


I'm going to write fast. I've started this entry twice, misplaced it once and lost it the second time. So...

Paula and Jerry Goldman !! At the soda fountain in Strom's Drug Store on Main Street in downtown McCormick, South Carolina. An original soda fountain. Everybody probably couldn't sit down together there once, but today is today.

That's marble, oak, stained glass...

A family owned drug store still. Jerry told me Strom's still sells on credit, on trust, on being known among ourselves.

And this is an old slave cemetery Paula and other of her neighbors discovered in a little piece of remaining wood near their home. Adjoining a golf course. There are two headstones in this resting place of sixty odd burials. The small stones you can see, these are the markers of lives. No names. No dates of beginnings to ends. No stories told to the future. Except small stones and the indentation of each grave. Paula and others cleared away the fallen trees, they planted flowers beside the head of each grave.


This photo speaks for itself. Paula told me the most thriving business in the African American community over the past decades has been this funeral home. And its owners have been community benefactors. Their children have gone on to good things. That's love.

I read at three adult events, and met with three groups of middle school children in the public school. The community of people "retiring" to McCormick has increased the tax base such to create a series of truly needed new school buildings, a new library - and there is a completely volunteer staffed bookstore on the main street, with 100% donated books, and I learned of the creation of the Children's Home in McCormick, and the arts building where we had lunch...

Students and me! I took some nice photos, but one of the teachers told me not to post any identifying the kids. Jerry sent this...

From the Friends of the Library lunch in The MACK Artisans Building...


and from one of the readings organized for me...

and as if the McCormick people haven't done enough, Paula accompanied me part of the way out of town, stopping in Willington, where Sara Covin Juenquest and others are preserving the history and architecture of another Southern town...

Cyrus McCormick never set foot in McCormick, so I learned from Robert Bentley, but his widow did. And if there's one building I'd covet to live in, it's the Dorn Mill, an old cotton gin along the railroad line. Bob Bentley, a newspaper man, told me of the only Jewish woman he remembers in McCormick from the old days. Mrs. Drucker owned the dress store on Main Street. Bob's mom--I think it was Bob's mom--used to introduce her at community functions as, "This is Mrs. Drucker, a good Christian woman of the Jewish faith." Bob is at bobbent@simpledsl.com

So thank you ! For the unforgettable experience of McCormick, South Carolina. My welcome was warm. The reception of What Else But Home was as good as I could imagine.


I'm in Elon, NC now, waiting for dinner with Ripton. I'm driving to McCormick, South Carolina later tonight. Jerry and Paula Goldman invited me there. I'm meeting with a community of people tomorrow, and the Goldman's book club, and with Friends of the Library on Wednesday.

This is McCormick... the COUNTY.

This is the Goldmans... !
"Paula and Jerry Goldman retired to Savannah Lakes Village in November 1999 after spending 27 years in Oceanside, New York. They have many interests which include golfing, singing, working with children in the McCormick County Public Schools, the McCormick County Democratic Party and belonging to three book clubs. They have three married daughters who live in Westfield, MA, New Orleans, LA and Houston, TX and who, in four years, have produced six grandchildren. The oldest will be five and the youngest will be one at the end of March. Since Paula insists on celebrating each grandchild's birthday in person, we spend quite a bit of time on the road. It must have been serendipity that caused us to visit North Conway, NH last August after visiting our daughter in MA, and we met Michael Rosen at White Birch Books. It just proves what an interesting journey life is!"

I've never been invited to a community as I've been invited here. Thank you, Paula and Jerry, and to the people I will meet. I appreciate your warmth.


"The manager [Bobby Valentine] told the student [Carlos Suarez] he had the physical tools to be a major leaguer. The trick, he added, was to conquer the game in the mind." ~ The New York Times, Corey Kilgannon.

Carlos stopped going to his Queens College classes last semester. We didn't know - yes, if you've read What Else But Home, it's deja vu all over again [that's a baseball term!].

This is Carlos in our kitchen, on his birthday. He's holding a bat. It's hard to see.

He stopped class because he was lost and confused without baseball - he'd used up his eligibility. There's a story there. It doesn't matter here. Enough to say Bobby Valentine told Carlos he had to do well in school, he had to do well in baseball, and that the Mets and Yankees would be watching him. Let's say that some issues got in the way. Let's say that Carlos has learned.

This is Carlos, with his cake and candles...

Bobby Valentine gave Carlos another chance. Another route. A hope. He wrote to Todd Marlin, then general manager of the Bridgeport Bluefish. Todd Marlin arranged for Carlos to try out. He told us before hand that 13 of his players were former Major Leaguers, not to expect much more than an evaluation and if he were up to it, recommendations to other teams in another Independent League. That's exactly what happened. Except it was late July or August, Independent League teams don't play late into autumn - Carlos and I both assumed that Todd Marlin meant to try out this Spring, 2010. But he didn't. He meant then.

It was too late by the time we realized.

Todd Marlin is now managing director of the Washington Wildthings, in Washington, PA. He's an extraordinary man. He's recommended Carlos to try out for Frontier League teams. And we'll figure at least one other league to try out for. We'll write to Todd Marlin again. I know he'll answer.

So Carlos and I took a long LONG sheet of paper. We made a plan, from winter through spring. Tryouts are in early May. Carlos has been running, going to the gym, losing weight, getting stronger, batting and practicing the infield. We figured out how much it was going to cost to pay for the batting cage, to buy bats, batting gloves, comfortable sneakers, gasoline to get to tryouts, tolls, everything we could think of, we made a budget. It is a lot of money. More than we thought. Carlos wrote to three of our friends, asking for help, dividing costs into quarters. Everyone agreed to help Carlos go after this dream. I wont embarrass my friends by mentioning their names, but they are good friends. Mary Spink, from LESPMHA, agreed to be a fiscal sponsor supporting Carlos.

This is a letter from one of our friends. "Dear Carlos, We really believe in you!..." it says. That's friendship.

The Frontier League tryout is early in May.

Follow Carlos here. He's decided he doesn't want to be middle aged, to look back and never have tried for this. He's okay with what happens, as long as he walks through a brick wall to get there - that's John Howard's saying. Apropos. But I'm not saying anything. Much.

It's on the line.



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