I Almost Prayed in Albuquerque: Bittersweet Symphony

In Summer 2007, I drove from San Diego to Cooperstown for Tony Gwynn’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. This is Part 1 of a nine-part series covering the first day of my journey.

Why, when people in New York hadn’t even returned from their parties yet, would I be getting up at this hour? Why would anyone be getting up at this hour?

Lao-Tzu tells us in the Tao Te Ching that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single footstep.” Mine involved walking from my bed to the kitchen to brew a pot of coffee at 3:30 on a crisp Monday morning in late July.

While the coffee maker transmogrified ground Sumatran beans into something more palatable, I conducted a final check of the items I’d packed the night before — clothes, toiletries, camera, laptop computer, CDs, cell phone, snacks, water, sunscreen. Only now did the absurdity of my journey hit me. I would be driving more than 6000 miles over the next 12 days to watch a ceremony honoring someone I’d never met.

I should have had more sense at my age — or any age, for that matter — but no such luck. After dumping the fresh coffee into a travel mug, I gathered two weeks worth of my life and crammed it into the silver ’02 Saturn that I would come to know as home.

I kissed my overly tolerant wife, Sandra, and said goodbye to the dogs, Toby and Smitty. As I backed out of the garage, “Bittersweet Symphony” by the Verve played on the radio. Not my favorite song, but appropriate to the situation.

While cutting through the quiet suburban pre-dawn toward the freeway, I remembered some lyrics I once wrote. They had been inspired by a trip to Dallas in February 2003 for my grandmother’s 90th birthday:

Four a.m., still dark outside
The air is cool, the city silent
No better time than now to go for a ride.

No better time, indeed. This thought, aided by a generous dose of caffeine, carried me away from San Diego. For the first hour or so, until I reached the mountains, I could pick up local radio stations. I caught some 311 and Tool — good stuff, but a bit aggressive for so early in the morning, so I switched to the jazz station and listened to the cool octave guitar lines of Wes Montgomery. Where I was headed, I would need all the cool I could get.

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2 Responses »

  1. I flew out of Portland the Thursday night before … on a red-eye that got me into JFK early Friday morning. Took the subway into Manhattan (and I wasn’t the only Padre fan on the train :-) , drop’d off my backpack at a hostel, then headed off for a day of walking lower Manhattan … ground zero, Wall St, munching on Sabrett’s and Knish, riding the subway to Brooklyn so that I could walk over the Brooklyn Bridge back into Manhattan, getting to the top of the Empire State Building, and walking down Broadway to Times Square. That day was fun … but *nothing* compared to Saturday at the HOF Museum with 2 of my best friends, and Sunday in the madness of 75,000 people enjoying a HOF induction ceremony.

    Ya, we’d never met Tony Gwynn … but we knew him, didn’t we? Ya, he was worth honoring with our effort to get to Cooperstown. Not many baseball fans gets to see an entire HOF career and make that final pilgrimage to the HOF induction. It was sometime in 1997 or 1998 that I could see that possibility, and promised myself that if Tony did his part, I’d do mine. It was sweet …

  2. Ah, the fine story is starting. Looking forward to the journey.

    LM: That’s awesome. I love walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and still have the picture with the WTC towers still up. No Cooperstown for me, though. :(