Friday, July 19, 2013

No. 321 – Cochise

Performer: Audioslave
Songwriters: Chris Cornell, Tim Commerford, Brad Wilk, Tom Morello
Original Release: Audioslave
Year: 2002
Definitive Version: None

When I quit The Dispatch in March 2003, I knew I had to live off my savings. As I mentioned, I’d spent a year building them up and got a boost from Debbie at the last second.

So I did something I’d never done before: I kept track of my spending, so I could see exactly how much I had left. My expenses in Cleveland were minimal, also as I mentioned. (I apologize for all the “as I mentioneds” that are starting to occur, but I’ve outlined most of my life’s structure, and in filling in gaps, I feel as though I’m repeating myself to a certain extent.)

I also got a little creative in terms of financial thinking. As far as I was concerned, I now was a full-time, self-employed baseball writer, so anything I did that was related to that, within reason, could be written off on my taxes as a business expense. That included baseball books I bought or copies I made at the Cleveland Public Library as well as the entire cost of

It also meant I could write off my vacation to Denver in Summer 2003, which meant I could justify the expense of going in the first place. That trip was legit, because I wanted to attend the annual convention for the Society for American Baseball Research. I’d gone to the one in Boston the previous year (story to come), so I wanted to go back to re-establish contacts with publishers and other like-minded baseball researchers that I made the previous year.

I had additional goals: By driving from Cleveland to Denver, I could stop in Kansas City and view microfilm of the Kansas City Star as part of a particular project I began in Columbus in 2002. I also could stop in Wichita to see Andy, who had just moved there to take a job at the Eagle.

I’d hit both of those on the way back from Denver. For the drive out I planned a stop in Dyersville, Iowa, which, of course is the site of the Field of Dreams.

This vacation would be the first solo vacation of more than a weekend that I’d taken since my Cooperstown journey in 1990. I treated it as a business trip, with a little fun thrown in, so I had no hesitation about embarking.

My first day was a long one—driving all the way to iowa. I’d say the less said the better, except that anyone who has driven that stretch knows that there isn’t much to be said anyway. The next day was spent on the set of a movie.

OK, that’s stretching it a bit. Anyone who has been to the Field of Dreams knows it’s a real baseball diamond in the middle of a corn field next to a farmhouse. You might also know that the diamond originally was cut into land that was owned by two farmers, who didn’t get along after their land became famous.

One farmer saw the tourist potential of the place and embraced that. The other initially turned it back into corn crops, so the diamond ended in short left field. Eventually, the second farmer relented and returned the land to its magical baseball state and put up a souvenir shed that wasn’t staffed the day I was there. The other side, however, had parking and a huge souvenir-and-snacks building.

The drive in was interesting. If you never have been, signs lead the way, but you don’t see the field until you’re almost right on top of it. It’s in a bit of a valley, so all you see are light towers until you’re about to turn down the road to the field itself.

I was amazed when I arrived how small everything looked. The house looked smaller and lot closer to the field than I remembered. The field was regulation size, but it felt closed in. On the day I went, which was overcast with a hint of rain, a huge family group apparently secured the diamond, so they were playing. I brought my mitt, but I saw the activity was more organized than I thought it would be, so I didn’t get to play on the actual field.

I hiked around the outfield, noting the funky obligatory shack near left field before I walked into the right-field corn rows to take a few pictures. The only voices I heard were the usual ones in my head. What a bummer.

I wasn’t planning on doing much driving that day, so I had reserved a room in Des Moines, and it’s just as well that I did, because thunderstorms pounded Iowa that day. In fact, I saw on the news that a tornado had been spotted close to a stretch of highway I had driven not an hour before. I remember driving past this massive and very dark cell that was just north of the highway, and I was sure that that was the one that produced the aforementioned tornado.

As I sat in the comfort and relative safety of my Motel 6 (as opposed to being in a Honda on a two-lane road out in the middle of flat, open cornfields), I took a bite into my lunch from Subway—my usual turkey footlong—and felt a big crunch in my mouth. I winced and waited for the inevitable mind-numbing pain, but I didn’t feel any and opened my eyes. Then I pushed a large piece of molar out with my tongue. Oh no!

I immediately called my dentist in Columbus and told him a piece of a tooth broke off. He asked if I was in any pain, and when I said I wasn’t, he said, OK, we’ll get you in for a crown next month. Really? We can wait? As long as I wasn’t in any pain, I was fine for now, but I would need a crown.

I wasn’t happy at the potential expense—a few hundred dollars—but I was relieved that I didn’t have to immediately drive home and flush my trip down the drain. Heaven? No, it was Iowa, and my first solo vacation in 13 years was starting like my last one—inauspiciously.

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