Thursday, April 18, 2013

No. 413 – The Loner

Performer: Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Songwriter: Neil Young
Original Release: Neil Young
Year: 1968
Definitive Version: Live Rust, 1979

Of course, this song was part of my senior trip out West in 1982, but it took on more meaning post-Debbie when I was in Cleveland.

I escaped the hospital after my bout with diverticulitis in April 2003. Although they let me go, the doctor made me take an antibiotic just to clean me out, and the pharmacist successfully put the fear of God in me: No drinking with this, not even a little bit. I did, and I had projectile vomiting. OK, thanks for sharing and for the safety tip for the day.

So no wine, but I could go home for Easter dinner. The Easter Bunny left Metamucil capsules in my basket. The Easter Bunny has a sense of humor, but the joke was on me, because the capsules worked—I had one attack in summer 2004 and none since (knocks wood). I had been told for years to use Metamucil to keep things as regular as could be, but I didn’t like the powder. Learning about the capsules, which are way easier to deal with, was a game-changer.

When I got back to Cleveland, I wasn’t able to schedule the colonoscopy the doctor wanted me to have in the hospital. It wasn’t because I was avoiding it. His office wouldn’t let me come or leave by myself. I said I wouldn’t drive; I’d take the bus. They said no, due to liability, even though I explained I didn’t have anyone I knew who lived in the area who could drive me. I ended up scheduling it in Columbus in September when the family would be in town.

Anyway, now that my body was under control again, I settled into my routine. I first concentrated on the microfilm at the Cleveland library. The CPL had (has) everything a baseball fan could ever want on microfilm: a complete run of The Sporting News, a complete run of Sporting Life, a complete run of Baseball Digest, a near-complete run of Baseball magazine. Most of that now is available online, but at the time, if you wanted it, the library was an invaluable resource.

Most of the microfilm was on call: I’d have to make a request at the desk. But unlike the lame New York Public Library, the folks at Cleveland brought an entire collection, and they happily accepted a driver’s licenses in exchange.

The TSN microfilm, however, was on the shelves, and I thought that was amazing. I could just go up the stairs and grab reels from, say, 1894-1896, load them on a viewing machine and get rolling through the box scores.

The microfilm room is impressive. It’s open three stories, about the length of a football field. You walk up narrow stairs that resemble those of a fire escape to the stacks of microfilm, as I mentioned, but I never went up to the third floor. I didn’t know if you could and didn’t chance it. The room has west facing windows, so it was always sunny, and the sun played havoc with the microfilm viewers only during certain times of the year.

That room is where I spent a good chunk of my year in Cleveland. After riding downtown on the Rapid, I’d hike the two blocks to the library and set up shop in the microfilm room. I’d pull over an extra chair for my clamshell iBook, plug in my headphones and play my music. I’d have notepads on the little table to jot notes (unless I was typing them into the computer itself) and my face pressed against the microfilm screen, trying to learn whether Vern Washington played left or right field. (It was right field.)

The microfilm room typically never was too crowded for me to worry about taking up too much equipment. I usually used the same machine, because I needed to be able to focus in tight on the microfilm, so I needed a particular lens. And I never left, unless it was to go to the bathroom just outside the microfilm room. If I ate anything, it was a granola bar in my briefcase. My time was too valuable to bother with lunch; my hunger for knowledge sustained me.

But something was missing. Even though I was fine, the hospital visit shook me up, and it wasn’t really until August that I fully embraced my Cleveland experience.

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