Baseball Office, Baseball Offseason

I couldn’t go to work again today.

I wanted to go as I’m eager to return to a schedule that doesn’t involve fourteen hours of television, codeine cough syrup, and reading with cat naps between pages, but the relentless fever that antibiotics just won’t kill is still waging a war on me—so, I’m here again.

The doctor recommended bed-rest specifically, but I ‘ve spent the morning fielding conference calls from my home office since I couldn’t travel the 35 miles to my real one. As you’d imagine, I certainly like being at home better than staring at the slate gray walls, of which decorating is discouraged, in my real one. Add in an hour of Chicago gridlock, and I’d prefer to never leave.

When I moved back to Chicago in June, I was adamant I find a place with at least three bedrooms, one of which could be an office. I’d always wanted my own space that wasn’t a sleeping space, a TV space, a cooking space, or a bathing space. I wanted a sanctuary for writing, creating, and collaborating.

I had an appointment to view the apartment at 9 am, and was told that we’d have to rush to see the unit and they’d have to have a check in-hand at their River North office by 10 am, because another interested couple would be on the clock starting then.

After a five-minute walk through, we rushed out of the building, into the broker’s ailing Honda Accord, and I screamed turn-by-turn directions at the agent, who didn’t look old enough to even have a driver’s license.  I later learned he was an intern, which explained the shitty car, lack of direction, and no sense of urgency about filing paperwork that generates commission fees.

In the bank across from their office, I waited beyond a petite old man in a Member’s Only jacket. He brought in a jar of pennies that he wanted the teller to roll for him. Judging by the neighborhood and her patience with him, he had millions in the bank, which I assume was not always deposited in penny-form, but sometimes was.  I impatiently tapped my foot, looking from side to side. The security guard probably thought I’d planned to rob the place, which did cross my mind if it meant I could have a cashiers’ check before 10 am. That old man was oblivious, though the teller looked sympathetic. He was retired and should have could have rolled his own pennies in his free time, but he probably preferred to spend his Saturday morning running mindless errands like asking a lady that makes $10 an hour to shove currency in paper wrappers or get his suits dry cleaned, even though he hadn’t worked in twenty years.

At 10:03 am the broker called his colleague to inform him that the deposit was collected and that his clients couldn’t have the apartment. I heard an audible swear word and I’m not sure it was the broker or his client, but I like to imagine they were already standing in the kitchen admiring the granite countertops and under-mount lighting, asking which utilities were included, when they were told they couldn’t have it.

This 9′x9′ office costs me roughly $400 per month— big city prices—but as I always told my customers when I worked in sales, “You’re worth it.”

So far, it hasn’t disappointed.

It’s one of the few rooms in the apartment with taupe walls, as I hounded the management company to freshen the paint in other rooms and they chose a green that’s not quite hunter, but not quite sage. It’d probably rank around #35 of list of colors I’d choose myself, but better than taupe that ranks closer to #156.

The floors are wood. Real wood as far as I can tell, but I’d imagine they are the thin-planks suitable for rentals, not the expensive tongue and groove of Brazilians you’d find in million-dollar homes. It’s a small floor plate, but it’s echoes since the ceilings are twelve-feet high*.

*that’s an approximation, but I just looked the wall up and down and imagine I could stack at least 2.5 Altuves.

The desk is too big for the space, but I’m reluctant to give up the large easel-legged monstrosity with patterned glass top. It’s a conversation piece, mostly because it looks more expensive than it is, and I’m sentimentally attached to the dark wood legs. Three years earlier, I tied a three-foot pink leash around the leg, and attached a four-pound puppy with the biggest Muppet eyes you’ve ever seen. Nine hours a day, she’d keep me company. She’d stir, chase her tail, then take a nap at my feet, a pattern she’d repeat several times a day. In the teething months, she decided to chew on the cross bar and the little divots from the most un-ferocious dog’s teeth still remain. She’s older now and even without the leash she still wraps her body around the desk leg in the same way. This desk isn’t going anywhere.

Three weeks ago, I stood on a step stool cursing. I had a level in one hand, a hammer in my back pocket, two screws in my mouth, something called a molly in my left-hand, and a power screwdriver tucked under my armpit.

“Are the shelves crooked, Cee?”

“Fuck you very much, they are straight.”

“They’re crooked, aren’t they?”

“…Yeah, they are.”

Fortunately, the Starting Lineups and Bobbleheads don’t care if their permanently resting place is slightly askew—in fact, Pedro Martinez has been nodding approvingly ever since I placed him there, although sometimes he loses his balance as though he’s been drinking. I won’t fix the shelves because I’ve already done enough damage to the sheet rock, and I’m not sure I could fix them if I tried, honestly.

The wall opposite my desk has a ten-foot bookshelf that’s stuffed with books. Some are baseball, others are textbooks. There’s something called “The Art Book” and a travel guide for Italy, though I’ve never been. Despite my otherwise organized space, the bookshelf houses books in all directions. Vertical, horizontal, diagonal. Spines facing forward revealing their names, spines turned towards the wall, not out of shame, but out of laziness. Top to bottom, bottom to top. Books. Everywhere.

When I had my housewarming party, I wanted this room to be perfect. I’m not alone in my baseball adoration (I don’t like calling it fandom, it’s more than that), so of all 1800 square feet, this is the room that would get the most attention. Friends were impressed, and I was proud. Not only is it a baseball distinctly baseball, it’s a space distinctly Cee.

I’m proud of the room because it’s the most settled I’ve been anywhere since Louisville. Never have I spent so much time meticulously picking artwork, deciding layouts, and choosing positioning. It’s a space that matters given the numbers of hours I spend per week writing. Of all of the rooms here, this one gets the most use.

I always cringed when working with designers who want to create spaces for our clients that are cliche “extensions of their personalities,” but that’s exactly what I’ve done. Perhaps it’s just the fact that I’m older and taking ownership (rentership?) in a space, which I haven’t in six years because of wanderlust.

The room is smart—it’s a high-brow baseball room, if there’s such a thing. It’s not a desperate-fan-clinging-to-the-game; it’s not full of MLB licensed bullshit that’s sold in high volumes to line the already deep pockets of organizations. The prints on the walls are infographics and screen prints created by friends and local artists. There’s a periodic table of sabermetric terms created to raise money for charity and freak injury baseball cards. The Captain, #33, looks over my shoulder while I type this.

The work space is perfect for warm days, there’s a window and a door, but it’s chilly now that the weather has turned and my bare forearms are freezing against the glass-top as I type this—but perhaps that’s just the fever.

I should be in bed, but when I’m home I just want to be in here. I’m resting, albeit vertically, with Ryan Adams albums, hot tea, my laptop, and an advanced copy of a baseball book that’s not out until March. Even though there won’t be any games to watch on the 42” TV since the season is over, I’ll be in here a lot. I have an endless pile of offseason assignments to write in the form of three columns a week, churning content at a rate that can only be achieved with a good editor and endless caffeine.

As always, I wasn’t ready for the season to end. I wanted a few more evenings of rushing home from the suburbs, putting on yoga pants and t-shirt, propping my feet up on the over-sized desk, while watching a game procrastinating on my evening assignments. I just have to remind myself that the offseason is equally as fun, just different.  For once, I’m not sad and miserable for the offseason. There’s a lot of huddling, writing, and reading that can happen in this room until first pitch.