Meeting Matt Welch

matt welch We’ve probably all had the experience of knowing a person only through e-mails, letters or phone conversations and so we fill in the blanks of our mental image. We put hair on heads and shape to bodies, often to find the person looks nothing like we imagined. Where we saw tall, we find short. Where we envisioned a chiseled face, we find a chinless wonder. Such are the tricks of the imagination.

In meeting Matt Welch last night, I had already seen his face. His mug is on his blog, and from that I had made certain assumptions about his personality. Every picture may tell a story, but not all pictures tell the truth. Where I looked at that picture of Matt and imagined a jaunty, tough, gritty slinger of hard words and harsh judgments, I found Monday night a man of gentle manners, a civil bearing and a good heart. A thoroughly friendly chap who is as witty and thoughtful as his writing suggests.

Humble and soft spoken, Welch wears his artistic airs without the pretension so common in Southern California. In Buddy Holly horn rims and a simple T-shirt and shorts, Welch is svelte without being awkward. He shows little interest in taking center stage. Few L.A.-based writers can say the same.

Matt and I (along with my wife) attended the A’s vs. Angels showdown in Anaheim. They call it Edison Field now, but it will always be the Big A to me. The game was tense and exciting. My A’s won, which disappointed Welch no end, but the conversation itself was worth MLB’s inflated ticket prices. We glossed over our bios, delved into California and Los Angeles history (subjects we share a passion for), swapped baseball tales and stats, and spun lurid yarns of Ken Layne‘s debaucheries. I learned of Matt’s success as a high school athlete. He learned of my failures. I told him hair-raising stories of drug busts I made as an Air Force cop, and he filled me in on the difficulties of a free-lance writer (somebody really needs to give this man a weekly column at a substantial fee; he is most deserving). All in all, it was thoroughly entertaining.

Books we discussed included Cadillac Desert, Workin’ Man Blues and Campaign of the Century (Matt also gave me a couple of book recommendations — hopefully he’ll post Amazon links to those so I can pick them up, and you can, too).

The game was a fitting cap to a nice vacation in San Diego. I have other tales to share from that trip. Perhaps tomorrow.

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