Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Birthstones and Data Tablets

On my birthday this year, my friend of 38 years Terrence Patrick "Canuck" Canade presented me with the gift of "data." This was not a euphemism for friendly advice, stock tips, or score-settling evidence to break a friendship-straining stalemate. This was the keepsake of categorical rankings. From baseball stats to band composites, categorical listings are not offhand references. They are artifacts of record. They are tablets and they are stone. True, you can sort, filter, and classify this living testiment but gifts of data come wrapped in spreadsheets. They are definitive and fluid.

Our collective musical adventures are unhinged from boundaries of current time and storage space. We need not ever prune or liquidate our musical downloads the way we did our beloved 'bums and less-esteemed CDs. So when Canuck archived our shared compilations of the bygone 00s I looked back over the decade the same way I used to reminisce over every Met game I attended while still in single digits. I listed out the final score, the winning or losing pitcher (depending on whether my team won), and even the attendance totals. Any of these records proved as evocative as any scorecard or newspaper clip.

In truth the most meaningful data to leave Shea was the visiting dugout phone number that Canuck and co-conspiring Bal pilfered after staking out the cleanup crew after an uneventful weeknight game in 1978. Their postgame squatting led to the ultimate intervention of Canuck's Presidential impersonation when press secretary James "Bal" Taylor placed a congratulatory West Wing call to that same dugout number. It was to Pete Rose the night he singled off Craig Swan to break the NL hitting streak record. Rose took the call but later told the media he knew it was a prank because he campaigned in the prior electoral cycle for Gerald Ford. And I thought it was because Canuck sounded more like Dan Ackroyd doing Jimmy Carter. No worksheet holds a candle to that. Curiously it's President Carter who has spoken out for Rose's reinstatement for hall-of-fame eligibility.

Canuck's email inscription that accompanied my data gift reads:

"Sol, thank you for sharing this wealth of tunes with us over the years. On this day when we reflect on aging, we salute you for keeping us musically young."

Today on Canuck's 48th birthday I echo the reverberation. Music springs eternal. It is not an ardent hope but a universal truth that music transcends all gifts. This understanding unhinges us from the finite and the sums of all our parts.

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