Sunday, June 24, 2012

Running on Empty-ish

On Friday, I headed east on the New York State Thruway [with its faux, new-age spelling] to Cooperstown to meet Lenny Fraraccio, known in the persona of Gio, the Tampa Bay Rays fan featured in my Baseball's Starry Night chronicle of last year's Game 162s. Gio and his kids and a friend have been making the summer rounds of Major League Baseball games in D.C., Boston, Philadelphia, and God knows where else. This was my inaugural trip driving my 2007 VW Rabbit, purchased last Monday. I have been carless since November 2009, sharing my wife's vehicle as needed.

Even though it was a Friday, approaching lunchtime, Cooperstown's sidewalks and streets were buzzing with tourists, young and old, mostly white. I sought to get my book place in some stories. Not easy. No dice. But I did leave little promotional cards in the Cooperstown Diner and in a bakery featuring canolis, macaroons, and other homemade goodies (upon leaving Cooperstown I bought very good coffee there and two macaroon cookies -- not macarons, which are hip and trendy now).

Gio was as I'd pictured him: energetic, head shaved, stocky, grayish goatee. It was a pleasure to meet his kids, Nic and Isabella, and Gio's friend Almy. All were sporting Rays gear; Almy had a Nats cap with a big W. Nic kept sweetly thanking me for including him in my book. At a pizza joint [thanks for lunch, Gio] Izzy showed us her glove with autographs by maybe one or two dozen players -- and Joe Maddon.

No Giants hats spotted, so no stories along that line. I was wearing a very handsome Game 162 t-shirt featuring an image of Evan Longoria rounding the bases after his second homer. It had been a Rays giveaway and Gio sent me a copy. In fact, Gio gave me a second Game 162 shirt in Cooperstown [thanks].

Before leaving town, I stopped at the Cooperstown, New York, post office to mail a copy of Baseball's Starry Night to former Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee. I had called him the night before and asked him if he'd like a copy. Sure. He gave me his address. No street needed. Just his name and the town and state. He said everyone knows everyone in his little town and the gene pool is about the size of a thimble. I inscribed to book, thanking Bill Lee for helping me with conversation, ideas, and encouragement, adding that the Hall of Fame, across the street, should have a special wing for The Spaceman.

As I headed on Route 28 south, the brownish wooden fence -- the kind you see on horse farms -- to my left, for maybe a mile, bordering cornfields and other green expanses made me smile. This will be a lovely journey. Not finding much to listen to on the radio, I listened to the hum of the motor and the car's AC and the thwack of the tires for long stretches. In Milford, maybe it was New Milford, NY, one home featured a Confederate flag side by side with an American flag on the porch. I kept driving south, picking up 88 to Binghamton, then south on 81 down through Scranton, Wilkes-Barre,  and Harrisburg. By evening, around 8, the rolling hills and farms south of Harrisburg were Midwesternish, with tractor dealers and auctions and barns and miles of infinite shades of green -- Midwesternish but likely hillier and with more contours. My Jackson Browne CD made for a perfect sound track, even if I had enough gas in the car to keep matters safely distinct from "Running on Empty." Cranking up the music real loud kept me awake and animated and satisfied. Staying on 81, I briefly rolled through Maryland and then into ravine-filled and lush West Virginia, soon riddled with Wal-Marts and strip malls on the sides of 81, giving an almost claustrophobic feel, sliding into Virginia, picking up the Nats at Orioles game on a Nats station (Jason Hammel would go on to win, 2-1), with the announcers describing a steady rain and distant lightning. Not for me, though.

After 470 miles or so and darkness and having eaten only a slice of sausage pizza and a bag of chips, I figured it was time to search for a room. I tried to grind on to Strasburg, just for the name, but, no, was getting tired. My first try, in Winchester, Virginia, was futile. Sold out. Get back on 81 south. I found a room at a Courtyard by Marriott, in what I thought was Romney, Virginia. I did not especially want to be staying in a place called Romney, but the given address was Winchester, Virginia, in the Shenandoah area. Check scores. Tim Lincecum has one bad inning. Giants losing 3-1. Sleep.

Saturday I woke up to the delightful news that the San Francisco Giants had rallied for four runs in the ninth inning to overcome the Oakland A's, barely, after giving up a homer in the bottom half, to protect Lincecum from a loss. He has not won since April. Sweet!

At breakfast, off the hotel lobby, I knew I was in the South and that I was a Northerner. Can't explain why or how. Perhaps the volume or the camaraderie of conversation, the bonhomie, the discussions of golf. Maybe just my paranoia.

Back on the road. Down 81 south through Virginia, along the Shenandoah Mountains, down through Roanoke, Blacksburg, lunch in Christiansburg at a very pleasant coffee shop, down through route 77 south, which featured the best vistas: breathtaking panorama of the Blue Ridge Mountains for who knows 100 miles and emergency turnoff for trucks that lose their brakes and gas at $2.99 a gallon and into North Carolina and into Charlotte and after going on the Inner Outer Inner fecking Outer Inner Inner Outer Outer Inner Infinite 485 Loop and not finding my friend Denis's [one N, Irish spelling] house I told him to come and find me at the Food Lion in Huntersville, North Carolina, or I was going to die of insanity.

And then before retiring on a Saturday night in Charlotte, I discover my beloved Giants pull out another Sweet Torture win, reminding me of sweet 2010 and the Year of the World Series.

Sweet. Like southern iced tea.


  1. felt like I was with ya, my man. Great story.

  2. Hey Pawlie,

    Reminds me of driving the backroads of PA and MD when I lived back in the DC area. It was always vaguely disconcerting to me to drive by areas flying the stars and bars, mostly alone, not in concert with Old Glory. Check that. Not vaguely; really disconcerting....



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