Friday, March 25, 2011

Roads Taken and Not

The profound Philip Roth, in The Plot Against America, says this: when we look in the history books, every event seems inevitable, each moment part of an unavoidable momentum. It could have been no other way. But, Roth points out, in the moment, in the past’s present, all is unknown and scary; there’s no knowledge of what happens next. (This isn’t exact, but I don’t feel like looking through the book for it).

Since moving to Cooperstown almost eight years ago, and, in doing so, abdicating a regular job, I’ve had a lot of time to think about life; perhaps too much time. That’s how I spend my days, dwelling on the turns in my life, and, as I reconnect with old friends, thinking on the choices they made that affected the course of my personal history.

Looking back, at choices made, both rewarding and regretful, would I change anything? Would you? There is the Starfleet Prime Directive: no interference, as even the smallest change would affect time’s arrow. (That’s the whole point of Maybe Baby as well). Sure, I wonder what alternate paths could have occurred. Some may have been better, some worse, but all different. (I think often about a career path not taken in early 2000. It involved setting up my own trading group, trading NASDAQ options v. the individual stock options. I took the easy way out and went to work for someone else. I would have cleaned up on my proposed idea. So be it.) The thing is I’m very happy with where I am now and, as a result, every thread in the tapestry must remain in place.

When we came to Cooperstown in June of 2003, our friends and family told us how brave we were. I didn’t see it that way at the time. I do now. Thoughts on how I would make a living, what I would do if my job plans fell through, what such a dramatic move would hold for our entire family, well, I admit I had the blind confidence that it would all work out somehow.

Initially, I did have plans to trade and some ideas on working in conjunction with other trading groups, but I knew deep down my heart wasn’t in it. Once I put trading to bed, I knew I’d never return to it. The “Jeff Katz story” is something still talked about back in the Chicago trading pits among the people who knew me. Most guys I knew wanted to leave that business; few did, and many of those came back later on, somewhat sheepish and embarrassed by their inability to make a go of it elsewhere.

I was determined not to go backward, regardless. What would One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest be if, after the Chief throws the water fountain through the window and runs to freedom, urged on by the whoops of his fellow inmates, he came back a few weeks later? A bit of a letdown, right?

Choosing writing as a possible career came somewhat out of the blue. I always enjoyed the practice, but attempting to make money at it was a ridiculous conceit. It was a challenge I placed before myself: how does one write a book? Can I do it? The Kansas City A’s & The Wrong Half of The Yankees, my only published book (so far) is an interesting, though middle of the pack baseball book. It doesn’t reach the heights of Ball Four, but it’s also much better than the countless crappy sports books that permeate that market. My publisher, Maple Street Press, got me out there and, to my surprise, I found myself on NPR, WFAN and menitoned in The New York Post. It was an important start, a crucial decision that led me to now. Where is now? I can’t say, but, just maybe, I’m on the cusp of something big. Stay tuned. And as to that first book, I sold two copies yesterday to visiting researchers at the Baseball Hall of Fame!

Those other deep thinkers, The English Beat, sang “The only limits we set/what can we get away with?” Picking up and relocating to Cooperstown has resulted in amazing things, things that were inconceivable had I remained in Chicago and worked full-time. Seeing Nate’s growth, a direct result of controlling my own time, or reveling in Robbie’s selection as a Rotary Exchange Student to Brazil, or cheering as Joey won Battle of the Bands, or watching Karen’s Quirky Works Studio jewelry take off, or spending my days translating thoughts into writing, I get the feeling I’ve gotten away with a lot.

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