Author’s program note.
When we left the Dolphin Seafood Restaurant that evening in 1981 it was pouring buckets. The car was blocks away; we had no umbrella; not even a newspaper to cover our heads. Within just seconds, we were soaked. Decisive action was necessary… and fast.
Any port in a storm. Dramatis personae.
There are just four people in this tale. First Chris Welsh, major league pitcher. His beautiful girl friend. Me, tale teller. And you, the immediate and ultimate beneficiary of this incident, now part of the literary repertoire and dinner party conversations everywhere. Let’s get down to specifics…
It all started with a phone number and my desire to have my prospects call me any hour of the day or night. Thus, my direct “call me now” message was plastered on everything from my pens, calendars, brochures, ads, proposals to my business cards (unrepentedly flashy with my count’s coronet in real gold; I kid you not) tee-shirts, envelopes, memo pads. Get the picture?
I liked cool cash and needed copious amounts given my (admittedly) lavish tastes. Keeping the telephone red hot with calls from “I want a piece of you and your brain, Dr. Lant,” prospects was an essential part of my international Master Plan. And get this, the more times I put my moniker and phone number on every bloody thing under the sun, the more responses I got…and the richer I got. It was oh so sweet… and even my fiercest competitors were forced to admit, I was one cool dude.
Then one fine day, I got a friendly call from a guy named Chris Welsh. Didn’t know him. But he wafted some salubrious incense in my direction; lathering me with schmaltz sufficient to choke a horse. Of course, I liked him from that very first compliment… for Chris had all the persuasive moves and that all-important gift of the gab; perhaps a Kindred Spirit.
“The Unabashed Self-Promoter’s Guide.”
As it turned out, Chris was in Cambridge for an important family event. He had a few hours to kill and decided to spend them judiciously in what was then my favorite bookstore, Wordsworth, a grand place which allowed me (and the rest of their fiercely loyal clientele) to hang out, find a chair and thoroughly check out a potential purchase, or sit oblivious on the floor, no offense taken if bottom nudged by others immersed in A Book, a thing of telling force and compelling language. It was an incredible place…
… Not least because it stocked my books and placed not merely one order but, over time, many, many more. What’s not to like? In this place of tales, dreams, reveries where the best and most lyric words were to be found all around you, just fingertips away, Chris Welsh found… me! And (never underestimate this key point) he also found my phone number along with this ultra clear, ultra important message: “I am standing by to hear from you RIGHT NOW. Call me and see for yourself.” I meant every single word of this resonant declaration… and Chris, feeling the force and power of my adamant statement, knew it, too.
He told me he was on Brattle Street, at Wordsworth, and had just purchased a handful off my (weighty) tomes. Could he drop by and have me autograph them; a request no real author, no matter how eminent and renowned, can ever resist… because they know the power and importance of people like you… and so do I. Customer regard is essential for success, cannot be duplicated, and is always welcome, always and whenever.
Wordsworth being just a hop, skip and a jump from my crib hard by the Cambridge Common, Welsh was punctual to the second. I liked that too.
Chris Welsh, charmer, purveyor of my first and only signed baseball card.
Before continuing my tale, I need to make what my many friends would regard as a completely superfluous and unnecessary mea culpa: namely that I don’t know a baseball from a grapefruit, even if my (much valued) life depended on it. There, now you know the worst. Excoriate me, condemn, disdain, but remember I could have taken the Fifth… but chose brutal honesty instead.
Chris Welsh and me, Kindred Spirits.
Chris and I got on like a house afire. Born April 14, 1955 his (comparative) youth allowed me to tower over him, big brother like. More to like and more still when he asked to see all my books and bought all the ones he didn’t have. Like I said, what’s not to like?
And then The Big Announcement, namely that Chris Welsh, born in Wilmington, Delaware, was one of the gods of creation, a certified, real baseball player with teams and colleagues who were all household names. Now at this point, our burgeoning kindred spiritship could have crashed and burned. But it didn’t, not by a long shot. Why? Because I never condescend to merit, whatever field it’s in and I have known all my life that my ears are my most important marketing asset. I wanted to learn; he was glad to teach me. And so the only major league baseball lecture of my life commenced.
Dinner at the Dolphin.
Given my complete and utter lack of knowledge and interest in major league or any other kind of baseball, I have to tell you I was proud of myself; my questions practical, short and to the point, the better to camouflage my sad relationship to the Great Republic’s great past time. And so we passed a useful, companionable hour or so. He then invited me to dinner, ordained the cuisine and asked if he could bring the lady of his life along. Of course, for I am of “the more the merrier” school of entertaining.
And so the night progressed, the lobsters just so, the Chardonnay crisp, the conversation witty, sharp, with that necessary dollop of malice the best raconteurs use to turn conversation to a practised art form.
“”I Love A Rainy Night.”
But all good things come to an end… but not always when, how or where we might suppose. Thus I return to that moment of aquatic superfluity along Massachusetts Avenue in a storm that wouldn’t quit. My new friends said they’d drive home as they were, a pair of drowned rats. I wouldn’t hear of it.
And so we walked home, Gene Kelly like, not missing a single puddle. In Harvard Square, we bought pounds of cheap candy, the kind you only share with your very best friends. Thus we arrived chez moi… with a problem.
“Showers washed all my cares away.”
We were all wet, very wet, needing to do something right away. And so each in turn retired to my Roman-style bath, the better to doff their sodden clothes and wrap ourselves like so many enchiladas in big fluffy towels. Thus did our unexpected evening pass in high good humor and too much sugar for all, until it was time for Chris Welsh and his inamorata to get up, dress and depart.
That was when he autographed one of his San Diego Padres baseball cards and handed it to me with a grin and these immortal words: “Five hours ago you were just a name on a book cover, now my girl and I are getting out of your bed”.
All true. And that’s why I shall never ever take an umbrella to any restaurant on a rainy night and why I whistle Eddie Rabbitt’s 1981 tune, “I love a rainy night,” as a kind of incantation summoning serendipity.
“Well, I love a rainy night… You know it makes me feel good.” I hope it always will.
Chris Welsh pitched for the San Diego Padres (1981-1983; Montreal Expos (1983); Texas Rangers (1985-1986); Cincinnati Reds (1986). Known as “The Crafty Left-Hander” because of his distinct style, he has been a sports commentator for the Cincinnati Reds for many years. He remains as charming and affable as ever.
About the author
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is well known internationally as the author of over 1000 articles and over 60 books. He is arguably the most well-known author of his generation. He has touched the lives of millions of people worldwide with his inimitable prose style. To see all of his works go to www.drjeffreylant.com.