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When we exited the Hall of Fame, it was from the library exit on the side of the building. There were several vans and an ESPN booth. I was most interested in the Baltimore news vans: WMAR and WJZY. I felt a little nostalgic. I wanted to tell them I was the hometown girl, come home to see Cal, but resisted, knowing that they wouldn’t be the least bit interested in my story and love for Cal and the Orioles.

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Believe it or not, there’s more to Cooperstown than baseball. The town sits at the south end of Lake Otsego and, in addition to being a town of the baseball lovers dreams, it’s also very scenic. The main street is still quaint and has that small town feeling. One can wander down to the lake for a beautiful view of the mountains surrounding the lake. There was a restaurant there with a view, but it was too crowded and we were hungry and parched already, it being nearly 3:30.

We sat in the park for a few minutes to rest our feet and soak in the view. An older man asked if I would trade my Cal t-shirt for his hat. I didn’t even bother looking at his hat, because my answer was immediate and required no thought or consideration, “No way, Honey!” I suppose I might have negotiated if he had an authentic Cal Ripken hat or something, but it turned out to be something uninteresting, like the Cardinals.

There was no shortage of souvenirs in Cooperstown, though, there could have a better selection. There were many Cal t-shirts. Many Gwynn shirts too, but I wasn’t interested in them and didn’t bother looking through the selection.

I survived Hall of Fame weekend, Thanks Cal Cooperstown, in orange, HoF in black with Ripken 8 on the back, blue and white Cooperstown t-shirts. Bats. Baseballs. Baseball cards. Photos. Newspapers, mostly the Baltimore Sun. And of course, stuff for other teams. Whatever.

My pursuit for a souvenir was a bit disappointing. I got three t-shirts, one for my husband, who was sadly lacking anything Cal Ripken, and two for me. I wanted something for my brother, but alas, there wasn’t much to choose from. I really wanted something embroidered and permanent. Something that would never fade or rip, that would last forever. A mug wouldn’t survive the trip home. T-shirts are good though. They’re light-weight and I can proudly sport my love for Cal.

Honestly, what souvenir could satisfactorily capture that *I* was there for Cal’s big day???

A photograph standing beside him perhaps. Otherwise, the t-shirts will have to do.

Instead of going back to the car, we decided to go to the Hall of Fame before the crowds got too wild. Too wild is relative. By now it was about 11ish, and it seemed much later in the day considering how the crowds were swelling in the streets.

We waited in line not an unreasonable amount of time considering the number of people in line. But once inside the building, there was more waiting as the VIPs and members filed in, one after another in a seemingly endless stream, and went ahead of us. Even so, the wait wasn’t bad.

Inside the museum though, I was convinced that fire codes were violated. There were so many people in such a small space. We moved slowly and sluggishly through the rooms, squeezed tightly together. While we usually prefer to read plagues, we became focused on a single goal, seeing as much as possible and escaping the suffocating crowd as quickly as possible. While I would love to have seen more, going leisurely was an impossibility and all I wanted to do was get out.

Still though, I believe I saw most of what I really wanted to see, the All American Girls League (AA…), World Series rings, Orioles cases with the Hall of Famer’s jerseys showcased, Babe Ruth room (albeit very briefly), Cal Ripken’s career corner, and the Hall of Fame plagues. Cal’s corner on the first floor had three walls of career pictures, and a display case with a game scorecard, and other artifacts, that with the mobs of people, shoulder to shoulder, I stopped caring about. Taking a picture required waiting a while so there was enough elbow room to raise the camera to your eye or even a few inches in front of you, and then waiting for whoever else was having their picture taken or lingering too long enjoying the displays to finally get out of the way.

Perhaps my favorite place was the Hall of Plaques. Roomy, breathable, space to walk. And plagues of all the greats. Awesome! Also, at the end of the hall were bathrooms, that were mostly unoccupied and seemingly unknown by the rest of the crowd.

Saturday started early. There was no way I wanted to miss any of the Cooperstown experience. I was so excited to be there and could barely contain my enthusiasm. Since parking in town was hard to come by with record setting crowds, the plan was to arrive early, see what there was to see, and then perhaps squeeze in a brewery tour. I wanted my husband to have a good time too, and as a Brit, baseball is just not his thing.

Here’s how it actually went.

We left the campground around 6:30 am. As I climbed into the tent Friday night, I made sure I had my clothes for Saturday with me. Apart from the moisture from the humidity, my clothes stayed dry despite hours of pouring rain throughout the night. Saturday morning I emerged from the tent dressed and ready to go. I was able to apply eyeshadow, mascara and lipstick quickly from the passenger’s seat.

We arrived in Cooperstown hoping for, but not expecting any parking anywhere within the town center, even though it was only 7 am. Unbelievably, we did find a spot right in town, about four blocks from the Hall of Fame. The streets were already buzzing with activity, with hundreds of people milling about, vendors set up with tables on the streets, selling mostly Cal paraphernalia, but also Tony Gwynn souvenirs and Cooperstown memorabilia. Starving for breakfast, we passed up the bakery displaying donuts and muffins for the Doubleday Cafe, which offered a hot delicious breakfast for a steal of a price. The wait at 7 am was already 20 minutes, and the restaurant was packed with diners already elbow deep in a coffee, pancakes, and scrambled eggs.

When we did get seated, we had a good, hearty breakfast, eggs, whole wheat toast, coffee, potatoes, all for under $12 for two people.

Next, our plan was to wander around Cooperstown to see what the vendors had, then go to the Hall of Fame, see about autographs, etc. Because there’s so much to report, I’ll do it in sections…

I’m here in L.A., some 2500 miles from Charlotte. At least that’s the number of miles of credit I get on my frequent flyer account for this trip. The one thing that convinces me that there’s a god, is *his* utter love of torturing me. For nine months I don’t have to travel, but now, a week before my trip to Cooperstown, I have to be in L.A. I know I should be grateful to have a job, which I am, though I’d be more grateful to be Paris Hilton rich. However, it prevents me from being home, starting my packing for a trip I’ve planned for at least seven months.

 Since we’re camping in the Adirondacks and in Cooperstown that means extra planning with camping gear. Wonderful husband figured out the rough itinerary, but now we have to figure out the specifics, which museums in Montreal, which hikes in the park, etc. I get home Friday. I have to unpack and re-pack Saturday since we leave Sunday. Typical.

 When I stopped at Whole Foods tonight, I knew there was something drawing me into the Borders in the same shopping center. Why did I want to buy another book when I have a large unread stack at home already? I talked myself out of the shopping trip. (The Sur La Table still calls though!) Oh right, now I remember after the store is closed and I’m comfortably clothed in my p.j.s, to buy a copy of Cal’s book for my brother. I love suprising him with Orioles things, Brooks autographs, Cal Ripken bobble heads from the Charlotte Knights. He’s probably sick of all of it, but too polite to tell me.

Honestly, I think I’m the bigger O’s fan. I know for sure that I’m more in love with Cal. Did he have the life-size poster of him hanging in his bedroom? Did he stare at those gorgeous blue eyes last thing before falling asleep and first thing upon waking, for yearrrs? Do you think he considers streaking across the Cooperstown field yelling, “I LOVE YOU CAL!” I’m sure he’s never considered flashing Cal just to make Cal smile.

 I think we’ve established, I am the bigger fan.

 So here I am pretending to care about my job and I’ll have to stay moderately focused this week. I’d rather be home with my wonderful husband preparing for our much anticipated vacation. No worries though, in a flash, this week will be over, as will next weekend, and our vacation. Gone in the blink of an eye. Life is going too fast in all the good parts. There’s so much life left to live and it’s going past so, so fast.

On the plane today I was sitting next to a father and son who had just been in Charlotte for the son’s orientation to his freshman year at UNCC. I looked at the father and thought, “can you believe that you’re already sending your son off to college? how long did you anticipate this moment? how long ago was it that you thought it was far off in the future?” I felt like I was watching a time travel movie, there I was in the middle of this stranger’s story at 50 some years old. Who will be in the middle of my story in my mid-fifties, looking at me wondering if I expected life to go so fast?

I want to savor these moments, finally taste the good part with my husband and our vacations, our time together.

Cooperstown will be a memory in a flash.

I’m starting to get excited now. My wonderful husband turned on the Orioles game and it’s a perfect Sunday activity. The Orioles are winning today, fortunately with a large enough lead that Chicago’s solo homers still leave them two runs behind (5-3).

I called the Hall of Fame again just to make sure I really, really don’t need tickets to the induction ceremony. The security guy told me that fans can start setting up on Saturday afternoon. We can mark our place, just like at Pops in the Park. The field, they promise, is big enough, plenty big enough for all the fans. The big day at the Hall of Fame will be Monday, and we’ll be gone, so that’s that.

Here’s my list: I need to take my Orioles books to be signed by Brooks (BROOKS!!!), Earl and Cal. I need Cal’s book and a copy for my brother. I need the blanket to leave on the field. I need a large cardboard sign that reads “Do not move. I grew up at 3603 Yolando Road. I loved Cal before you knew who he was.” I need markers to write the sign. An umbrella, in case it rains. Rain jacket. Cameras and tripods.

Weather report has the highs currently in the low 70s. I’m going to be cold.

Oh my god. This is going to ROCK!!!

Need timetables too!

There’s a way. It’s true. More success at removing address from mailing lists. All companies these days are limited by their software. Not everyone is savy enough or has sophisticated enough systems to have an “opt-out” of mailing feature. So…one company I called, small, private organization said “unfortunately we don’t have that capability.” I suggested that they erase my street address from the record so that when the label prints, there won’t be anywhere for the catalog to be mailed. They agreed. Woohoo. Eventually, I’m sure everyone will have an electronic delivery only feature, but until then, we have to be innovative.

 All this success is inspiring me to tackle more things on the to-do list. 🙂

One step in preparation for our cross-country trip, however far off it might be, is to reduce the mail that is delivered to the house. Email is okay of course, since hopefully we’ll have Internet access and it isn’t a red flag to any passerby that our house is unoccupied. Reducing mail is also a goal in the hopes that it is actually possible to reduce the clutter and the amount of time we spend shuffling, organizing, reading, recycling, shredding, and filing it. It is an endless cycle!

 Today I made considerable progress towards this end, or so I tell myself. I won’t actually know until I start seeing an empty mailbox most days. For months now, I have been calling catalog companies asking to be removed from mailing lists. Today I had a huge stack of mail that I went through one by one, sometimes calling five numbers until someone agreed to remove me from the mailing list. I’ve found that mentioning I am moving soon and travel a lot helps to get the CSR’s cooperation.

 My goal is to keep at this until I receive everything electronically, except for the three magazines I subscribe to. By the time we actually get to travel, I’ll be so backlogged that I’ll have an entire year worth of reading. Hopefullly not, but at this rate…

Post-woman just drove by. Let’s see how today’s stack looks…

 Dag! Five more pieces, though three of them are for my husband. He’ll probably be happy, he hates not getting any mail. Okay, more phone calls to make!

 

My husband and I have a dream, to quit the corporate world and spend a year (or more) traveling and sight-seeing. Logistically we need to have saved enough money to cover our expenses for a year. That’s a difficult thing and would mean much less shopping for me. I’ll probably have to stay very busy to distract myself from the beautiful apparrel I cannot own. We’ll need to buy a camper, probably a fifth wheel, something big enough to provide a real refrigerator and stove for cooking real meals. We’ll need meds, and emergency meds for the cat.

 Otherwise, we can’t wait. Our next steps now are to make a list of anticipated expenses, needs for being away a year, and a long list of where we want to go. I get dreamy thinking of us being in a camper with a view of a national park outside of our window. Hopping out of bed to make breakfast in beautiful scenic places that we can stay in until we have done every hike and taken every picture we wanted. If we realize this dream, how on earth will we go back to corporate world afterward? Time to be together and laugh. Imagine, time for stories and books on tape during travel, hiking, canoeing, biking, every day, doing whatever we want.

Anyone who wishes to contribute is welcome to provide donations. 🙂

July 2007
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