Monday, March 3, 2014

No. 94 – Clouds Race Across the Sky

Performer: Joe Satriani
Songwriter: Joe Satriani
Original Release: Engines of Creation
Year: 2000
Definitive Version: None.

Being in Cooperstown in February 2005 was an incredible time. As I mentioned a long time ago (good ol’ No. 518), I took the New York Thruway across New York, and the drive was almost as amazing as the one I took the first time across U.S. 20 15 years earlier.

I stopped at a Hannaford’s grocery store outside of Oneonta to load up on amenities before turning onto Rt. 28 to reach my destination, Countryside Lodging, (now under a new name) south of town. I got lost for a bit before finding it—it was on a parallel road, Rt. 33, and finally arrived late Sunday night.

The place was perfectly adequate for my purposes. It was a two-bedroom suite, although one of the bedrooms was locked. (I wouldn’t need it anyway.) It had a bathroom, a small kitchen and a large living room that had a sofa, desk and TV. In the back was a bedroom that had two double beds. The floor in the living room was heated, which was a nice touch. The skylight in the bedroom was completely covered by snow, so when I didn’t have a light on, it was almost pitch black.

The ground had been a sheet of snow pretty much after I crossed the New York border, but I’d never seen a more unending tapestry of pristine white as I did outside of Cooperstown. It was almost as though you couldn’t imagine the fields beneath ever not being snow-covered.

I unpacked, setting up the desk and coffee table to be my workspace while putting away my clothes and then packing my suitcase away in the back of my closet. I took enough clothing to last three weeks without having to do laundry, although the innkeepers provided the service once a week.

I had a phone in the living-room area, which was crucial for my dialup Internet service, and in my bedroom. However, I couldn’t call long distance. I tried to call home on my cell to let everyone know I arrived safely. No luck. My suite was built into the side of a hill, and I quickly discovered that the only way I could get a signal was when I went out on the snow-covered front patio. OK, you do what you have to do.

The next morning, my alarm went off early so I could shower up, get breakfast and head into town before the Giamatti library at the Hall of Fame opened to begin my research work. I wanted to go through the library’s catalog of player note cards, which contain detailed records of every professional playerwhen they were signed, when they were traded or released, when they were suspended or served in the military. It’s complete from 1973 back to 1908. I had a lot of work to do, so I had to maximize my time.

I drove into Cooperstown, and, if possible, it looked even more idyllic in the dead of winter than it had the previous times I’d been there, in the fall and the summer. I could have parked across the street from the Hall of Fame, except the street was metered. That wouldn’t do—I didn’t have the time to run out and feed the meter every hour—but the lot next to Doubleday Field was free. I think I can walk the three blocks from there.

I walked into the Hall of Fame building, up to the desk with the security guard who took the admission and told him I had an appointment in the library. He waved me through. He waved me through! I was in the Baseball Hall of Fame, THE Hall of Fame! For free!

For years on BBT, I’d written dismissively about potential Hall of Fame candidates, players who did things in the Majors that I could only dream of, that the only way they’d ever make it into the Hall of Fame was if they paid the $9.50 admission like the rest of us schlubs. Now, here I was, entering the Hall without paying the admission! Happy Valentine’s Day, indeed.

It was a good one, for sure, even though I was alone. When I visited Chicago, the previous weekend, Laurie sent me on my way with a big basket of three types of homemade cookies individually wrapped in red cellophane. I sent her flowers and a story of some smuttishness in subject to commemorate the day. I wasn’t expecting to talk to her that day, but she took matters into her own hands.

Some time in the middle of the night, the phone next to my bed woke at a decibel level that would have made Pete Townshend wince back when he still had his hearing. Deep in sleep, I jolted awake, and for a second, in the pitch black of my bedroom, I didn’t know where I was. Oh … I’m in Cooperstown. Oh yeah … and that’s the phone.

I reached for it. “Hello?”

The voice on the other end said nothing but just began to sing. I was told later it was a showtune called I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby, and it had been featured in The Aviator, which Laurie recently had seen.

It took me a bar or two before I fully realized what was happening, but soon it kicked in: My new girlfriend called me up just to sing to me … on Valentine’s Day … while I’m in Cooperstown. Considering she couldn’t actually be there with me, how does it get any better than that?

I had a huge smile on my face as Laurie continued. I could tell she was a bit nervous when she started, but she reached this point at the chorus or a refrain where I could tell whatever nerves she had were gone. She belted it out now in her best torch singer voice, and I was loving it.

My trip to Cooperstown was off to a rousing start.

(To be continued)

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