Saturday, November 30, 2013
What Chemistry Is Doing to Me, Part 1
Last summer I began my quarterly series of injections of Lupron (LOO-prawn), a drug intended to stall the progress of (though not cure) my prostate cancer, which, as readers of this blog know, has defeated both surgery and radiation. The effects of Lupron have been slow to manifest themselves, but I think I've been on it long enough that I can write about them. Yesterday, I started writing about chemistry, and, as you can see from the text below, I sort of got off the subject--as is my custom, I guess. Anyway, I had the eerie feeling as I was telling this story that I'd told it before. Oh well. I know it's in my memoir Schoolboy, but I'm not sure about elsewhere. Anyway, here it is ... and just look at it as a sort of benign introduction to the subject--a subject I will eventually get around to ...
I didn't last long in high school chemistry at tiny Hiram High School (fall of 1960). Our teacher--who will remain nameless--told us the first day that we were going to have a quiz on the periodic table at the end of the week.
I laughed out loud.
Here's why: I'd taken classes in our school's only "science room" for several years, and that chart was right there above the blackboard, all those years. Symbols. Numbers. A goulash of information I saw no use for. Because, you see, I was going to be playing soon for the Cleveland Indians (until they traded me to the Yankees), and I would never have the slightest need for any of this. Well, I did have some need for it: I wanted to go to college (where I knew the Indians' scouts would see and sign me), and colleges required years of science, years of math (not my two best subjects, by the way). So I enrolled in chemistry my junior year.
But ... to have a quiz on that wacky chart in just a few days?!?! Nothing to do but laugh. Which I did.
"Dyer," said the teacher, "that'll be 500 words on why you shouldn't laugh in chemistry."
I laughed again.
I'd never written 500 words about anything. But I was not laughing to ridicule the teacher, by the way, this teacher who was also our part-time baseball coach. I would learn later that spring that he was incapable, during infield drill, of hitting a grounder to the left side. He would try to bounce one to the shortstop and third baseman, but it always went to the right side instead. Finally, he told me (the catcher) to throw grounders to those two guys. So ... how can you respect a guy who can't hit a grounder to short? Still, as I said, my laughter was not to disrespect him; it was a laugh of absolute befuddlement. I knew as I just said, that I could not write 500 words about anything, certainly not about why I shouldn't laugh in chemistry. So I'd laughed again.
"Make it a thousand," said the teacher.
That ended my laughter.
A thousand words? That was like a book, wasn't it? Impossible. But I shut up. What if he said "1500" next? I'd have to run away or something.
That night, at home, in my room, I got a weird idea. I started something like this: I, Danny Dyer, resident of Hiram, which is in Portage County, state of Ohio, country of the United States of America, part of North America and the western hemisphere, which, of course, is part of planet earth, which forms part of the Milky Way galaxy ... And on and on I went in such a vein, all one sentence, all one huge digression (I counted words at the end of each line so I wouldn't write more than 1000 words), ending with this: ... know that it is not right to laugh in chemistry. Exactly 1000 words.
I showed the "essay" to my mom, an English teacher, who fixed a few commas for me, all the while smiling with ... what? Surprise? Pride? Alarm? Who knows?
Next day in chemistry class, I turned in the masterwork. The teacher seemed surprised, I think (I was not known then for completing things on time). Next day he returned it with some sort of comment about my not adhering to the "spirit of the assignment" (or some such), but he didn't as ask me to do it over (whew).
(Was it then that I had one of my first glimmerings that maybe I'd end up being an English teacher? After, of course, my Hall-of-Fame career behind the plate.)
Next day, I dropped chemistry and signed up for advanced math (which presented other problems). And I did not take chemistry at all until I went to Hiram College, where, once again, I did not distinguish myself in the subject. Far from it.
TO BE CONTINUED ...