If Your Heart Never Breaks, You Aren’t Doing It Right

It’s not the memory of her that lingers, it’s the memory of wanting and not having. The years have transformed her into a song character, a reminder of a former life. These are gifts beyond anything I could have imagined.

I was less interested in baseball then. It always hovered at the edge of consciousness, but I had a world to discover, which meant that baseball would wait until after I had exhausted everything else.

Being 20 years old, I almost never exhausted else. Besides, I wasn’t the first to abandon religion (I claim baseball as a religion, just as I claim “irritated” as a political affiliation) for a girl.

Stars and advancing clouds
Wires humming an electrical tune

She liked me because I wanted her in the worst way. I liked her for the opposite reason.

The fog rolled in late at night. All was quiet but for the power lines overhead and the surf — which we’ll get to in a moment.

Baseball? I grew up rooting for the Dodgers and hadn’t yet decided on San Diego as a home. Inasmuch as I had loyalties, they were to my Rotisserie League teams.

My ideal player then was a left-handed hitting outfielder who could hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases. The Kirk Gibson phase had passed by now, so I’m guessing my hero was Von Hayes, although I may have moved on to Andy Van Slyke.

I finally got around to recording the song in late 2003 or early 2004. I was playing guitar every day, doing the cover band thing, but I always had originals swimming through my head, so I bought a little Tascam 4-track to sketch out ideas.

I studied composition informally, leaning heavily on Jimmy Webb’s Tunesmith. I thought I knew how to structure a song and longed to test that theory.

Bluffs above the sea
Rolling, hypnotic waves

The song is called “Del Mar” because that is where we were. Just south of the old train station.

I started writing lines in the early-’90s, when I lived beneath the flight path in a room with hardwood floors, a radiator, and no bed. I’d tried to write a novel about her, but it didn’t fly on account of the fact that I had no clue how to write a novel.

Still, I benefitted from the discipline of working on it. Every night I would crank up Joe Satriani’s Flying in a Blue Dream or J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos and write for an hour or two. I had a lot to say, although most of it turned out to be jibberish.

The only worthwhile material comprised maybe a dozen lines and took as many years to distill. Not the most efficient process. Like making diamonds or solar systems, except that nobody but you cares.

She slipped away like time
She slipped away like time
She slipped away like time
She slipped away, let her go

If the verses are subtlety and nuance — full of rich seventh chords and juicy metaphor — the chorus is a hammer. The progression is driving, as are the words. It’s the musical equivalent of banging your head against a wall, which captures the experience of me trying to figure out what went wrong.

I never solved the puzzle, but eventually realized it didn’t matter. “Let her go” is a reminder to myself (“buy some cheese” also fits but is less appropriate).

I needed that reminder for a surprisingly long time. Now I just see two kids on a cliff staring down at the ocean. She disappears, and so does he…

She is always 20 years old, unbearably beautiful, and elusive. He is awkward and filled with pain, which is a wonderful state to be in at that age, although none of us recognizes it at the time.

Now the connection is lost. There is only a song.

Train tracks and laughter
Pink hat and a smile

We had gone ice skating or done some similarly stupid thing that young men think will impress the objects of their desire. I cannot swear to the pinkness of her hat, but whatever the color, it suited her, as did the laughter.

I love her as much as I love the Dodgers of my youth, which is to say not at all. I love the memories that linger. It’s the same with Gibson, Hayes, and Van Slyke. Wherever life takes me, I cannot forget them.

The beautiful thing is that if you pay attention, these moments will occur again. Just this week I saw Kyle Blanks drive a ball into the beach beyond the right-center field fence at Petco Park. I didn’t know a right-handed batter could do that. I also saw Everth Cabrera show bunt, draw in Chipper Jones at third, then slap a ball past him down the line and race around the bases for a triple.

Be ready. She may laugh. You may smile.

Wind through the pine trees
Whispers forgotten names

These lines didn’t come until I sat down to record. Years of perspective helped. The pine trees were real, as was the wind. After that, it gets fuzzy.

I am back on the precipice of youth, watching two foolish kids, and it fills me with a sense of utter, hopeless impermanence. The tide rolls out, the salt water heals our wounds. The ocean is vast, and we are small.

I write to remember. She is not to be solved, but accepted. I have let her go, and she returns the favor. We visit only in metaphor, sharing again the pain and awkwardness of long ago for a few moments before saying goodbye once more and getting on with life.

On the one hand, that seems like a lot of trouble for three minutes of music. On the other, what else are you gonna do?

* * *

“Del Mar” was part of a project tentatively titled Gets Along Well with Self that probably never will be completed because, frankly, it is easier to plant my ass on the couch and watch TV at the end of the day. Fires burn less brightly than they once did.

There were a dozen or so original songs — most recorded, some forgotten. One of the forgotten pieces centered on Cathy Gale, Honor Blackman’s character in The Avengers:

Everyone remembers Emma
She’s the one they all adore
But it was Cathy Gale who saved the day
Who paved the way for Mrs. Peel

Some things are forgotten for a reason.

There were also a few covers. A punk/industrial version of The Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” got recorded, as did an old Cole Porter song from the ’20s for which no music survives (I recast it as a three-chord rocker). Others remain on the waiting list:

  • Tom Waits, “San Diego Serenade”
  • The Beatles, “Savoy Truffle”
  • mashup of They Might Be Giants’ “Ana Ng” and Alice Cooper’s “Eighteen”
  • blues version of Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time”

Alas, these things require effort. Some other lifetime.

* * *

I am to singing as Martin Short is to swimming. Still, if you are bold enough to venture forward, here is the recorded version of “Del Mar.”

* * *

Modified Box Scores

Here are your boxes (explanation) for the week. I sort of forgot to talk about baseball up at the top, so we’ll have more detailed commentary than usual this time. Enjoy…

Positives: Venable caught whatever Blanks had last week.
Negatives: Blanks forgot to keep some for himself.

Mon, Aug 3 vs Atl
  PA OB TB Tot
Venable 1 1 0 2
Headley 1 0 0 1
Blanks 1 0 1 2
Totals 3 1 1 5
End Eff Pwr Tot
Latos 1 1 0 2

Venable collects three more hits; Cabrera starts but bats eighth and gets only 3 PA. I’ve told you about Blanks’ home run to right-center. Count Tom Krasovic and Paul DePodesta among those who have waxed poetic about Blanks’ power.

Tue, Aug 4 vs Atl
  PA OB TB Tot
Venable 1 1 1 3
Headley 1 1 1 3
Blanks 1 0 0 1
Totals 3 2 2 7

Venable, Headley, and Cabrera (only 3 PA again) combine to go 4-for-9 with two doubles, a triple, a homer, and two walks; everyone else goes 0-for-22 with one walk (by Blanks).

Adrian Gonzalez sits for the first time this season. Those who don’t follow the Padres ask, “Why?” Those who do ask, “What took so long?”

This snaps Adrian’s consecutive games streak, but I couldn’t give you a number because I don’t care. Being in the lineup every day is a meaningless goal that pales in comparison to playing at the highest level possible.

Elsewhere, USD alum Brian Matusz makes his big-league debut for the Orioles against Detroit. We’ve been following Matusz since his freshman year, so congrats to the left-hander. Go Toreros!

Wed, Aug 5 vs Atl
  PA OB TB Tot
Cabrera 1 1 0 2
Venable 1 1 1 3
Headley 1 1 0 2
Blanks 1 0 0 1
Totals 4 3 1 8

Venable knocks his fifth homer in seven games.

Thu, Aug 6 vs Atl
  PA OB TB Tot
Venable 1 0 0 1
Headley 1 1 0 2
Cabrera 1 0 0 1
Totals 3 1 0 4

Our heroes don’t do much, but the Padres notch their 7th win in 10 games. Clayton Richard continues to surprise me with his velocity. He works consistently in the low-90s.

Now that I’ve seen him twice, I’m a little more comfortable making some observations. In both starts, he has worked very quickly and thrown strikes early before losing the plate around the fifth or sixth inning.

I like his confidence on the mound, but I worry about consistency and endurance. His repertoire isn’t deep, and I suspect that he may end up in the bullpen, although he could have a few productive years as a starter before then.

As long as people don’t get carried away in their expectations, they should be pleased with Richard in a John Halama/Scott Schoeneweis kind of way. He’s a cog, but he’s got a legitimate big-league arm.

Tony Gwynn Jr. misreads a fly ball off the bat of David Wright with two out in the first but recovers and makes a leaping catch of what should have been a routine out. Gwynn kicks a grounder in the sixth, takes his eye off the ball trying to come up quickly and make a throw home.

I recognize the value of sticking a guy named “Gwynn” in the lineup. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that he’ll be there more often than not, slapping ground balls to second and weak fly balls to left, and running curious routes in center.

Venable is a better player, and he’d have more value as a center fielder, but the name on the back of his jersey doesn’t tug at the heart strings of San Diegans, which has to be a consideration right now. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of goodwill toward the front office in this town, so decision makers must make concessions to appease the ticket-buying public.

I suggested in the Ducksnorts 2009 Baseball Annual that Venable could have a Gary Matthews Jr. type career, and that still seems about right, although Venable might be a better hitter. As for Gwynn, I’d rather see the best players on the field, but as long as the front office acknowledges internally that his presence is a public relations move and he is not considered a long-term solution, then I’ll just gear myself for some cringeworthy defense and hope that a sexier prospect than Drew Macias (why is the U-T’s most informative article in weeks written by an intern?) is ready for the big leagues sooner rather than later.

Off the field, the Padres trade Chad Gaudin to the Yankees for a PTBNL or cash considerations. The breakup of this year’s rotation continues, and I couldn’t be happier.

Also, manager Bud Black signs a contract extension that will keep him here through 2010. The more I observe the game, the more I come to believe that in-game tactics is an overrated aspect of a manager’s job.

Like his predecessor, Bruce Bochy, Black appears to have a terrific rapport with his players. As someone who has worked with many different bosses, I can’t stress enough what a difference that makes.

Fri, Aug 7 vs NYN
  PA OB TB Tot
Cabrera 1 0 1 2
Headley 1 0 0 1
Blanks 1 0 0 1
Venable 1 1 0 2
Totals 4 1 1 6

Cabrera makes up for strikeouts in each of his first three plate appearances and a costly first-run error with a walk-off grand slam against Francisco Rodriguez, who is a great closer — if a tad more expensive than Mets castoff Heath Bell, who picks up his fourth win of the season.

Before the game, the Padres honor Rickey Henderson. He wears a white suit, and thanks the crowd and the Padres for the opportunity to play in San Diego. Jeff Moorad, Tom Garfinkel, and Tony Gwynn present Rickey with a commissioned piece of art commemorating his breaking the all-time runs scored record and collecting his 3000th hit.

Fans receive a postcard-sized version. It’s great to see Henderson again (first time for me since his days with the Surf Dawgs), although as has been the case all season, I wish more of us were present.

Sat, Aug 8 vs NYN
  PA OB TB Tot
Headley 1 1 0 2
Venable 1 0 0 1
Blanks 1 1 0 2
Cabrera 1 1 0 2
Totals 4 3 0 7
End Eff Pwr Tot
Latos 1 0 1 2

Latos works six strong innings. The only run he allows results from a hanging changeup in the first that Alex Cora (!) launches into the Petco Porch…

If I’m going to rip the Padres for continuing to stick Gwynn in the lineup, it’s only fair that I point out when he plays well. He does in this one, working two walks, knocking a single, and making a terrific running catch in right-center while leaping over a sliding Venable…

I can’t recall ever hearing a crowd boo an umpire like they did Saturday night at Petco Park. In the fifth inning, on a sharp single to right by Gwynn, Cabrera beats the throw home from Jeff Francoeur, slapping the plate as he slides past. It’s a beautiful play, with the only problem being that home plate umpire Lance Barksdale doesn’t see it and calls Cabrera out.

Black, bless him, bolts from the dugout to keep Cabrera away from Barksdale. Black gets tossed, which is the best outcome we can hope for because the Padres skipper lacks authority to eject Barksdale from the game for not paying attention.

I’m being overly harsh. There were two possible outcomes on the play. Barksdale had a 50-50 chance but guessed wrong. If only he’d been standing right next to the play when it happened, he might have had a better chance. Oh wait…

Anyway, we all booed Barksdale the rest of the night. I don’t make a habit of booing, but the guy needed to know that he failed. With luck, the league will review the play and get some answers regarding how he missed such an obvious call.

Barksdale can be thankful that this happened in San Diego, where folks generally won’t be bothered to think about baseball. Fans in other parts of the country might not have been so kind.

The Padres benefitted from a similarly blown call at the plate a night earlier, when Kyle Blanks was erroneously ruled safe by Marvin Hudson. Neither play affected the game’s outcome, and I understand that mistakes happen, but if these umpires cannot perform their job with a certain degree of competence, then why are they out there?

This isn’t the minor leagues. Players and fans deserve a better effort than that.

Sun, Aug 9 vs NYN
  PA OB TB Tot
Cabrera 1 0 0 1
Headley 1 0 0 1
Blanks 1 1 0 2
Totals 3 1 0 4

Tim Stauffer pitches well again; he keeps nudging himself into next year’s plans.

Individual Totals
  8/3-8/9 Since ASB
  PA OB TB Tot B% PA OB TB Tot B%
Blanks 6 2 1 9 .333 18 9 6 33 .455
Venable 6 4 2 12 .500 16 7 5 28 .429
Cabrera 5 2 1 8 .375 23 10 4 37 .378
Headley 7 4 1 12 .417 20 10 2 32 .375
Macias 0 0 0 0 - 2 0 0 2 .000
Totals 24 12 5 41 .415 79 36 17 132 .402
  End Eff Pwr Tot End Eff Pwr Tot
Latos 2 1 1 4 4 2 2 8


Weekly Totals
  Week Since ASB
  G PA OB TB End Eff Pwr Tot T/G G Tot T/G
7/16-7/19 4 12 3 1 0 1 0 17 4.25 4 17 4.25
7/20-7/26 7 21 8 4 1 0 0 34 4.86 11 51 4.64
7/27-8/2 7 22 13 7 1 1 0 44 6.29 18 95 5.28
8/3-8/9 7 24 12 5 2 1 1 45 6.43 25 140 5.60

Progress. Can you dig it?

Tagged as: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

13 Responses »

  1. I’ve been off-line for a while, so perhaps you’ve seen / discussed this review of the new ballpark at Ft Wayne …


  2. If I haven’t mentioned it yet, you are my new hero.

  3. Using compression on those vocals?

  4. Having actually played music with Geoff (once, when he ably sat in during my band’s practice), I will assure you that he is an excellent musician. I will also assure you that as a singer… well, he’s better than he sounded on that mp3 that he courageously posted.

    But mostly, the sucker can write. Thanks for doing this, Geoff. Even if we only get you once a week, we’re all mighty glad to get anything at all. You rule.

  5. #2@DSCopperTop: That is sad, but thank you. :-)

    #3@Melvin Nieves: Probably. All the settings are in a notebook that is buried in some closet. They’re scratch vocals. The idea was to re-record them using my Shure SM58, but I never got around to it because I hate recording vocals.

    #4@Lance Richardson: You are entirely too kind. There is a reason I waited several years before sharing this stuff with anyone.

  6. It should be noted that T Gwynn Jr is leading the team in BA by over 20 points and is #2 in OBP. This probably says more about a light-hitting team that it shows Gwynn to be a good hitter, but still, there is more than the name on his back keeping him on this team. He’s stolen a few bases too.

  7. Drat, Geoff. I reread and reread this article and gosh darned it if it isn’t good every time. And the Padres are lucky to have you wax and wan about them in writing. If only, if only they’d return the love…
    You, my friend, can write and don’t you forget that.
    Sing, maybe not so much. ;) but you can certainly play music.

    Keep on rocking, man.

  8. And how ’bout Venable? On Jul 29 he had 1 home run on the season and was batting .204. In less than 2 weeks he has added 6 more homers and raised his BA to .265. It seems that he’s figured a few things out.

  9. #6@Geoff B:

    I’ve got to agree. While Gwynn isn’t a perfect player by any stretch I find him a little refreshing to watch on this team. He definitely gets up to the plate and makes the pitcher work a little bit, which most guys on the roster have a hard time doing. His speed helps and I see him getting better, which is all you can basically ask from these guys. He’s definitely not one of my problems with this team and in no way does he make me miss Gerut. That’s just me though. I do think that our everyday outfield should be Blanks, Gwynn and Venable. I’m tired of Kouz and think Headley should at least be given a chance at 3rd for a while so we can see if he is a long term option there.

    “She liked me because I wanted her in the worst way. I liked her for the opposite reason”

    Great post Geoff!

  10. #9@KRS1: I agree with you on the outfield, but differ on 3B. I’d keep Kouz and deal Headley. They are hitting about the same and all the “potential” from Headley seems to be just that, and not reality. If he is a better 3B than leftfielder, he is still not going to be better than Kouz on defense (best in the NL this year). With Headley being a couple years younger, he might bring a little more in a trade than Kouz.

  11. Awesome! I’m late to the party, but glad I came. The baseball was interesting, but the songwriting, memory and living was stellar. Nice work, Geoff.

  12. Even in the aftermath of a horrible defeat and in the midst of an awful season, there is reason to smile.

    From SI’s game recap:

    Bell took a ground ball off his right leg earlier in the inning on a comebacker by Mark DeRosa but wouldn’t use that as an excuse.

    ”Yeah, it was throbbing but I blocked it out pretty good,” Bell said. ”I was surprised how big it was when I took my pants off.”

    Is it just me, or is that the greatest quote ever?