Humid country

The mood of a place is dependent on small things, and weather. In San Francisco every single part of the city is informed by fog, by the lack of it or the lack of visibility it brings. Sunshine is a thing of sparse moments and joy, and the changes to workdays and clothing that come with the East Coast’s hundred degree days are hard to imagine, let alone replicate. We move in wide circles, but as I have said before, our bodies have short memories.

San Francisco smells of fruit and tall trees, of wind and buildings built primarily of wood. It smells of the dust from China that blows off the Pacific. Over everything, in the early afternoons of the season that the rest of the country calls summer, it smells like a city, a place where humans have struggled in close proximity for a hundred years.

And then the fog comes in, and the peninsula smells like an island in the ocean, the air filled with water and sand. On Irving, a man walking to dinner in July of two thousand eleven might wear a wool hoodie and jeans. In Brooklyn the same amble to dinner would entail shorts and flip-flops, sunglasses and a t-shirt.

Along Irving the street lights go on at six, their routine unchanged by the lengthening of day, for the fog darkens everything.

Thus in July we flee to the east, and drive windows down across Staten Island. The Verrazano bridge toll has been raised to $13, and the traffic is thick with accidents. The rental car is our fortress, allowing safe passage from state to state, allowing us to grow accustomed to the humidity without carrying our luggage as we do so. The gift of red-eye travel is in these surprising mornings before our new locations awake.

In New Jersey we play frisbee in the back yard, barefoot in the humid air, and sit on the deck in the afternoons, grateful for the quiet hours. After a few days we drive up through Pennsylvania, along roads from my childhood, past the small towns of her grandparents’ history. The gentle hills are green and the air is thick with fresh cut hay, with flies, and with small towns. After the West Coast’s sprawling hours of land without cities, the transition from New Jersey to Pennsylvania to New York takes no planning and happens in a leisurely afternoon.

From the city, if not the house, of my birth, we adventure. We swim in gorges and wander to waterfalls. We sit by the side of the lake and watch the light fade, and set things alight and let them drift into the sky. Further from the ocean the air is less humid, and the long evenings a glorious reminder of what summer usually means. We do not think of San Francisco, or fog, choosing instead to watch lightning bugs in the trees of the back yard, their small flashes miraculous gifts of light.

In New York City later we sit on the concrete of Williamsburg and eat hand-crafted donuts in the shade, Manhattan across the water looking gorgeous in the sunshine. In the evening we crowd into the one room with an air conditioner, this strange piece of equipment everyone in New York has purchased as they grew able in the last decade of employment. In San Francisco no house has these boxes in the windows. Instead we shut the glass against the fog in the evenings and fling it open in the morning to let the wind in.

The evenings in Brooklyn move from park to rooftop to sofa, from large exuberant celebrations of summer to small conversations about the practicalities of shared spaces, and the hours fly quickly. In another two dozen we are back on our coast, back in the weather that is not a season, and back to the courtyard that houses a cat. The vacation has ended, and the memory will fade from our skin, but we have seen New York, and summer, again.

Ubaldo Jimenez

Every year at their time the rumors roll in about deals that will be done, players who are available, and other nonsense. Usually I ignore them, because they’re unreliable and in a month will be forgotten. However, as I’ve recently become something of a Rockies fan, at least when they’re not playing the Cardinals, I have a few thoughts about the man whose name headlines this post.

Ubaldo is one of my favorite Rockies.  He’s also an incredibly talented pitcher. In addition, he is twenty seven years old. That is the key point for today. Any discussion of the Rockies as sellers in the baseball trade market, or at least of sellers where Ubaldo is concerned, depends on age.

Mid-market teams, like the Rockies, are usually understood to be on a build and sell cycle, where they build a core of prospects, try to add veterans around them as the youth movement reaches the Majors, and then trade or allow players to leave as they become too expensive, keeping, if they are lucky, the very best.  Thus, trading Ubaldo would make sense only if he was either about to be too expensive to keep or if the players surrounding him were not yet ready to win at the Major League level.  Neither is true. Ubaldo is only twenty seven, he is signed at a very reasonable salary until 2014, and he is part of the Rockies core group of internally developed prospects, all of whom are of similar age and many of whom, specifically Troy Tulowitski and Carlos Gonzalez, are likewise signed for the next several years.

Consider the following list of current Rockies players developed by the organization, by age and position, beginning with Ubaldo.

Starters:

  • Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP 27
  • Joulys Chacin, RHP 23
  • Jason Hammel, RHP 28
  • Juan Nicasio, RHP 24
  • Jorge De La Rosa, LHP 30 *DL Tommy John*
  • Esmil Rogers, RHP 25 *DL oblique strain*

Position players:

  • Troy Tulowitski, SS 26
  • Carlos Gonzalez, CF/LF 25 *DL wrist strain*
  • Dexter Fowler, CF 24
  • Seth Smith, RF 28
  • Charlie Blackmon, CF/LF/RF 25 *DL broken foot*
  • Chris Iannetta, C 28
  • Jonathan Herrera, 2B 26
  • Ian Stewart, 3B 26
  • Eric Young Jr, 2B/OF 26

Suddenly it becomes clear that, far from being sellers, the Rockies are at the peak of their rebuilding cycle. They should be attempting to win for the next four years with the players they have traded for and cultivated. In fact, adding Ty Wigginton (3B 33) and Mark Ellis (2B 34) were exactly the kind of small acquisitions a mid-market team should be making in a season where most of their home grown talent is between 25 and 28.

The Rockies got horribly unlucky this year when De La Rosa was lost for the season.  Starting pitching, especially at Coors, is a huge challenge for any team. His loss probably means the Rockies do not have enough starters to contend this year, even in the eminently winnable NL West division.  De La Rosa’s injury, however, simply underscores how valuable Ubaldo is to the Rockies, and what a good job they have done with Nicasio, Chacin, Rogers and Jimenez, of building a young rotation from within. Trading any of them would be madness, drastically reducing the remaining members ability to compete given their home field and the state of pitching around the league, where offense is down and many teams have multiple front line starters.

Ubaldo is, along with CarGo and Tulo and Helton (1B 37), the face of the new Rockies. 2011 has turned out far worse than they hoped, but that doesn’t mean the team should give up on winning. They have a young core most teams envy, and a bevy of talented starters on the rise. I’ve really enjoyed watching the Rockies the past few years, and Ubaldo is a big part of why. His smile, his joy in baseball, and his incredible abilities are a pleasure to see, and he most certainly should remain a Rockie through the length of his contract, given the state of the team.

Friends grow

We have known each other now long enough to miss change. In the odd hours of the morning in an Astoria diner the differences between two thousand one and two thousand eleven are difficult to pinpoint. I still open my creamer with my teeth, my companion still orders both pancakes and eggs, orange juice and coffee. We chatter about the events of the day and then wander home to sleep as the sky grows light. We are no longer amazed to be in New York, but to be in New York is still amazing. Like that truth the differences between twenty one and thirty one are from most angles difficult to see.

Sitting on floors these last few weeks, in kitchens on the Vassar campus, in living rooms of Brooklyn, and bedrooms of Santa Monica, I watch the people I have known now almost fifteen years and rejoice. For in the details of their expressions, in the things they known now instead of speculate on, and in the places they have been rather than dreamed of, they are precious to me.

At twenty two I told myself we all needed space, needed time, to develop individually. It was equal parts hope and fear, born of being so new to the world of adults. This past month, traveling through places of old memory and homes of those whose friendships have survived the space they were given, I am glad to be proven right, if not necessarily by myself. In some way we did, do all need time, out on our own with only the world to teach us. We need space in which to grow true, to become the people we would rather be.

Making these changes happen may not require the distance I gave us in my twenties, for the changes are gradual and easily dismissed, or simply unnoticed. More than degrees or jobs the ways people grow are small things of confidence and wisdom and they require patience to see, as well as time to make themselves known. Perhaps then what we need is trust in each other that we are trying to do better, and calm moments on the kitchen floor to become aware of how we have grown.