Let's call him "Ray." Until recently, "Ray" was a sportswriter for a major metropolitan newspaper. Alas, few metropolitan newspapers can nowadays call themselves "major" - so "Ray" wisely trotted off to the greener pastures of TV. I really hate TV and really love newspapers - but my nostalgic yearnings for the Gray Ladies of my youth won't make today's rags more profitable than the telly, so I can't fault "Ray" for leaving the former for the latter.
This, though, doesn't prevent "Ray" from continuing to stop into the bookshop to buy his papers, so this morning began like most at the store - with Ray collecting the Chron, the Merc - and both versions of the Times that we sell, the Contra Costa Times and that other one.
We often talk sports, because that's what "Ray" writes, so I told him that it was mornings like this one where it paid to be a fan of baseball and not football because the San Francisco Giants won their game in grand fashion yesterday - and with six games left in their season, they are in first place - while football's 49ers might prefer to be at the end of their season, and not the start, because so far they've just sucked.
But the Giants won, and a day never begins more bright - I told "Ray" - than when I open the Sporting Green and read about the latest Giants' victory. Conversely, a Giants' loss can't help but color the day for me in shades of gray.
And I realized "Ray" just stood there on the other side of the counter shaking his head.
"You've got two problems," he said.
"Do tell, 'Ray,' do tell," I said as I returned 6¢ from the five-dollar bill he had given me.
"First," he said, as he folded the papers and tucked them under his arm, "you obviously don't care how you dress–"
And I'll pause here to say a couple of things. First, I'm listening to "Ray" right now as he talks on the radio, and that's just funny - hearing this local luminary dissect the woes of our football teams (we have two, you'd think one of them would be worth a nickel), listening to this luminary who writes like a sarcastic saint while I in turn write about our interaction earlier.
Second, "Ray" is correct. He's more blunt than my fragile ego would like, but "Ray" speaks like he writes - no quarter given, no prisoners taken. And that's why his words are so fun to read, his analysis so entertaining. "Ray" doesn't make up the news, he just reports it - and it's not his fault that I live in Hawaiian shirts. Tommy Bahama is a look I could update if I wanted - but that'd require shopping and measurements and I dislike both.
"Ray" then left me with his other pearl of wisdom. He tossed it my way as he headed out the door onto Park Street. "Second," he said, "don't let your day be affected by the play of millionaires on some field somewhere. They're just playing a game and getting paid way too much while doing it."
And that was so like "Ray." The first remark cutting and brusque, the second containing more insight than I can reasonably accommodate before my third Diet Coke of the morning.
In "Ray's" honor, I'm thinking I'll go for something easy tonight, and there's not much easier than beer. Anchor Steam has a newish brew - Humming Ale. It's one of their seasonals, so it's only available from August to November. It's hoppy and fabulous and I can't think of anything tastier, can't think of a better end to this hot, slings-and-arrows day.