Thursday, March 05, 2009

What's A Slump

What’s A Slump

Khuk Khak, Thailand - One day before I realized my dad was my hero, he was explaining what it meant to throw one’s arm out as we were pitching and catching in the back yard.

Just how do you throw your arm out? I wondered, and now I know, what was it?...after tossing that sponge football for Bo’s obsessed dog, ‘White Boy’, up on the rez last summer, and again, just now, throwing into the lake that glass one-hitter that I bought in Bangkok on Khao San Road, and kept for several months before sending it crashing to the floor the other night when my arm stuck to the magazine on which it laid. Contrary to the packaging, you can’t glue glass, permanently, and expect it to hold up under heat.

“You’ve only got so many throws in your arm, and after that, you’re done,” Dad told me, leaving me to wonder all through little league, pony league, and an embarrassing stretch in the military and college, ‘just how many throws do I have remaining?’

Same same tennis elbow. You’ve only got so many serves, and then you’re done.

Same with breathing. You’ve only got so many breaths, and then you’re done.

Same same heart. After so many beats, you’re done.

Well, throwing your arm out, or beating your heart out is different than a slump. Back when dad was already my hero and before I was smart-ass enough to ask, ‘What the fuck’s that?’, I simply asked, ‘What’s a slump, Dad?’ when he was talking there in the back yard about Willie Mays being in a slump.

“A slump is where you just can’t hit the ball,” he said.

“Is that like throwing your arm out?” I asked.

“No,” he replied. “When you throw your arm out, you’re done, but when you’re in a slump, you can come back. It only last for a while. You can come out of a slump.”

He couldn’t tell me how long it lasts, but sure enough, Willie came out of his slump and went on to hit .404 for the season, and I understood what a slump is.

A slump is something bad that you go into and eventually come out of, like a coma, a mountain tunnel, a bad relationship, or a funk. And yes, there can be all kinds of slumps. You know you're out of it when you can hit the ball again, throw a strike again, hit the bucket again, be in the black again, have your stock rise again, be un-depressed again, be in love again, pray to God again, return to the future again, be who you used to be again.

How long do they last? I couldn’t tell you.