Last week my father turned 80. And it’s appropriate that he does so every year as baseball begins. He is an eternal youth who pursued the sport to its professional threshold. A boy of abject poverty whose Horatio Alger trajectory carries with it the hallmarks of the late 20th century's drastic change - that deep longing for a simpler time whiled away with high school friends with names like Digger and Shug, plotting pranks, cherry bombing his old man's car or politely picking up his girlfriend of 60+ years for a date in his 36 Plymouth. The anti-Don Draper.
The time in which he grew into adolescence is forever held in that smoldering post-war, pre-civil rights envelope that marked an apartheid in this country, but for some it defined halcyon. He is part of that some.
Then, this week, as things got real in the major leagues, my sister posted this rare footage (click through the image above) of Duke Ellington and his band that was released by the Smithsonian. It appeared with an article that dissected the uniquely American modalities of expression - baseball and jazz. I was struck how in its silence it tells the story of that age. How no words are really needed. How the medium is both the story and the message. How it all says so much about so much. And yet its very different from my father's story, who may well have been swinging a bat on the same day the Duke, in front of his bus, chased that outside pitch.
Story is funny that way. It's somehow ineffable in its work upon all people and can take nearly any form, any vantage point. Images. Words. Tragic, romantic and lush.