“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” a film by John Hughes

It’s pretty amazing how many people don’t finish the game in their 5th inning if you call life a game. This may sound like promotion for Ethelbert Miller’s memoir, but I really think he’s onto something, something not adequately discussed or even acknowledged by the general public.

I mean who’d a thought Michael Jackson (50) and John Hughes (59), both artistic icons of “forever young,” would enter their 5th innings but never leave them. Forever not-so-young?

TV gadget salesman Billy Mays – 50

“Jurassic Park” author and “E.R.” creator, Michael Crichton – 56.

Author, E. Lynn Harris – 54.

For women, it’s the decade that introduces you to those “little procedures.” You savor the meal before an annual check-up, mammogram, pap, sonogram, biopsy, as life may never be the same again pending the results.

Though I’m not in my 5th Inning YET, I’ve always believed in working ahead. In July, I led a discussion of Miller’s 2nd memoir, The 5th Inning. I know nothing about baseball, but we did jump on why the metaphor is so appropriate to analyze that “bridge” decade between adult and old person. “Elder” is a title you earn pending on your stats.

How do you know you’re a winning pitcher in a 5 or 6 + inning game? Your team must be ahead. You cannot be replaced for 5 innings. If you are, and your team’s behind, you are a losing pitcher. If you get to a 7th inning game, the people in the stands break out in song — “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

I have no idea how this game works. I’m just here for the hot dogs and beer. Of course, that can lead to a precarious 5th inning on the health end. Maybe I should learn more about stats. Seems like the digital, internet, Facebook world has given us too much access to stats, your’s, mine, and millions of others.

Below are the questions from our 5th Inning book discussion at Busboys and Poets (the publisher) in July. This is a good segue to announce that I’ll be managing Ethelbert’s E-Notes blog for a few days — “eethelbertmiller1.blogspot.com.” He’ll give a reading of his poems and a speech in Norway. Unlike E-bert, I won’t be Palin watching. I wonder if he’ll be able to see Russia from his hotel window in Norway.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS for THE 5TH INNING, a memoir by E. Ethelbert Miller
by Michon Boston

If this is a memoir about a failure, what is/are the failure(s)? What do you think is the writer’s measure(s) of success? What is your measure of success?

For some, failure teaches valuable lessons or tests one’s strength of character. What lessons have you learned from personal failures? Does the writer offer any lessons to you from his perceived failure(s)?

The writer has a list of things he hasn’t done (maybe wants to) or can’t do (maybe he should). Do you have a list like this and what’s on it? What does this list represent? Failure, aspirations, goals, or priorities?

Why do you think the writer uses baseball as a metaphor vs. basketball which he appears to like as well? In the game someone wins and someone loses and the game is over. What does winning look like? What is losing? When do you know a game is over? What makes the 5th inning crucial and/or special?

Is there a metaphor for your life?

How is the writer affected by the losses in his life – family and friends?

When or what makes you aware that you are immortal?

How do you wish to be remembered after you die? What would your eulogy say? What would your epitaph say?

Are there places where you feel out of place because of your age? Does it matter to have people your age in the room and why? What 3rd spaces have grown with you; what new 3rd spaces do you feel at home?

Love and marriage doesn’t resemble a sit com or romantic comedy in THE 5TH INNING. No pithy punch lines no make up kisses in the last act. Returning back to the metaphor how is marriage or coupled partnerships like a baseball game? What makes you think the writer will “finish out the season”? Do you think the baseball is the right metaphor to describe love, marriage?

Where do you look for love at this point in your life? What kind of love (any kind of relationship) do you believe is available or unattainable to you now?

What role does religion or spirituality play in the writer’s life?

At what point are you a real grown up? What’s the difference between a grown up and an elder if any?