Thursday, January 3, 2013

No. 518 – City of Blinding Lights

Performer: U2
Songwriters: Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr.
Original Release: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
Year: 2004
Definitive Version: None

After Torch Lake, I had one more research trip before I was to head to Los Angeles and write my book—to Cooperstown.

Anyone who works on a baseball book should make the trip to the Giamatti library at the Hall of Fame just on general principle. I knew, however, that it would be invaluable in relation to biographical research—certainly at least No. 2 behind the now sadly departed Sporting News archives and its collection of clip files (the fate of which is unknown after Baseball America bought out the once-venerable publication).

In January 2005, I set up my trip. I first made arrangements to visit the Giamatti library itself, which you have to do ahead of time. (You typically can’t just drop in, like at a regular library.) I told the folks there what I was planning and what files I wanted to go through, and they put me on the schedule to visit in February 2005.

Then I needed to secure my place of residence. I didn’t have a lot of money to spend, and my choices were limited by the season. The Hall of Fame and therefore Cooperstown itself doesn’t do much business in the winter. Through a chamber of commerce site, I landed on Countryside Lodging outside of town.

They had the Commissioners’ Suite available. It was a two-bedroom suite with a living room and full kitchen and normally $500 a week. Yikes! In the winter, however, it was half-price. Although that still was slightly more than I had hoped to pay, $250 per week (about $35 per night) wasn’t a bad deal, and I booked a three-week stay.

The start of the month was hectic. I went to Chicago the first weekend to see Laurie, and we had a rather eventful visit, as I’ll recount at a later time. Then, the night before I left Columbus, I watched Casey score the winning goal in overtime to help Upper Arlington advance in the regional tournament.

The next day, I packed up enough clothes for a three-week stay, my computer and two boxes of files as part of my planned workload. On Monday-Friday, I would be at the Archives from the time it opened to the time it closed, but I wanted to maximize my time, so inscribing notes was one thing to work on.

My first stop was Cleveland. To further fill my hours, I decided to stop at the Cleveland library—my card remained valid—and take out several books. I could read them during the evening and weekend and drop them off on my return. A stop-off in Cleveland also would break up the drive.

I called friends and asked about the use of their guest room. It was available, and the rates were right (i.e., free). After a day at the CPL and a night in Little Italy at a great restaurant called La Dolce Vita Bistro, which showed the movie of the same name on the walls in an endless loop, I was on my way.

Typically, I like to drive across New York on U.S. 20. But, given the weather—snow buried New York after a couple heavy January snowstorms—I didn’t want to take any chances on access. It would be the Thruway the whole way, even with the toll. Besides, I wanted to get to Cooperstown as quickly as possible. From Cleveland, that meant about an seven-hour trip.

The drive was one I’ll never forget. Before long, the landscape became an endless pristine white blanket broken only by the black jots of trees, gray of bushes and whatever houses or buildings I passed. As the sun began to set, the sky turned pink and purple, adding to the shivery winter hues.

Occasionally, the snow-covered fields were broken up by hills where the road-builders blasted through rock to cut the highway. Here, the gray slate showed the season in frozen cascades that shimmered in the fading sunlight.

It turned out to be one of the most picturesque drives I ever took, and during a huge chunk of New York, I had on How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Dave made me a CD copy (for archiving purposes, of course) soon after it was released, and I saved it for this drive. I specifically remember this particular song and how even though I was heading to my City of Blinding Light, I was missing Laurie something fierce.

But I kept myself focused on the task ahead. I had a lot of work to do, and … I’m going to Cooperstown to do it. I was lonely, but I was giddy at the same time. This was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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