Spring training never rolled in like a stampede, but by the end of january, a last lap sensation kicked in, that day pitchers and catchers were to report chiseled into my mind, soon an intersquad paradise, a gallop growing louder as opening day neared with first pitches and the world not so heavy anymore, but nothing lasts. April turned to May. A dullness settled in.
Each game suffered a similar temperature drop. Hot hot hot that batting practice crack of the bat echo and fans oooooooohing, ”look at that one go.” The fielders taking the field popping out of the mother earth cannon dugout in perfect geometry, a pyramid as each player finds their place. And after that first pitch, I told myself this was gonna be the year. I was gonna watch every game and keep score and create a Brewers file, but by the second inning, the concrete felt cold and by the third, i calculated how many more innings and approximate time….are we there yet? to the more exciting later inning years of my life?
We only read two Jack Kerouac books in James Liddy’s Beat Literature class – On The Road and Dharma Bums, but that was enough. I wandered, first to Spain, to study and work, then riding Greyhound buses for a year, hitchhiked up the Pacific coast, met travelers from Québec. I’m still in contact with a friend I met in that class. The story To Be Frank in Dreaming .400 is loosely based on that friendship.
So much fades. Maybe everything fades, but I arrived in Québec for the first time in 1995 and never really left. The woman I dedicated Dreaming .400 to is from St. Pascal Québec. We visit her family there, have been for almost 10 years, but only during our most recent visit did we play Kerouac genealogy.
I think the video ”Jack Kérouac is Québécois” did it to us, or to her, to Sarah. She’s French Canadian and hearing Jack speak French Canadian, well, it made her do a double take, in a good way, but wondering why more people here didn’t know about him, in that he’s French Canadian.
We stopped in Saint-Pacôme, birthplace of Jack’s mother – Gabrielle-Ange Lévesque. I said thank you and then in St. Pascal, a few clicks away, we discovered, thanks to the lone employee at the genealogy building that Sarah was baptized in the same St. Pascal Church that Jack Kerouac’s grandparents – Jean Baptiste Kerouac and Clementine Bernier were married….and that Jack’s paternal great-grandfather – Marc Bernier was buried in the cemetery beside that church. Well, I`ll be damned!
We walked on the buried bones and I believed that magical amazing things could happen and felt drunk with destiny, for a little while anyway.
The peaks of La Montagne à Coton sit like lions, welcoming you to St. Pascal. We winded our way to the top, standing on the lookout ledge watchtower like Desolation Peak in Dharma Bums, seeing in all directions, past, present, and future too, all the points of Jack Kerouac’s ancestry, to Saint-Pacôme and to le fleuve St. Laurent angling east to big Atlantic and west to the great lakes all those roads and further south to ”le petit canada” Lowell, Massachusetts where Jack was born and spoke only french the first 6 years of his life and me right now, trying to speak that same french, a top this lookout tower and some things don’t fade.
I went away from baseball for a long while, but in returning, i feel closer than i did to the pennants and scores I once adored.