One Pack. No Turning Back.
Number of miles driven today: 10
Total miles driven on road trip: 6,912
Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts? Not a Starbucks in sight.
Starbucks' record (# of days Starbucks was more common): 20-10-2
Dunkin' Donuts' record: 10-20-2
Cheapest gas I saw today: $2.93
Number of states visited overall: 18
Number of red states visited overall (as of 2012 presidential election): 10 (Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina)
Number of blue states visited overall: 8 (California, New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York)
Percent accuracy about the stereotype of New Yorkers jaywalking: 100
Number of days on the road before I actually broke down and ate a Dunkin' Donut: 33 (vanilla frosted, with "jimmies" as they call them here)
My age when Doc Gooden won his Cy Young Award: 5
Doc Gooden's age when he won his Cy Young Award: 20
I stood outside Carmine's Pizzeria in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn last night, notebook out, scribbling furiously. I was a few minutes early for a meeting with a baseball writer, Nick Diunte. We planned to interview each other--he's interested in my road trip, and I'm always looking to get more information on the places I visit. The street teemed with the carefree levity that define nights deep in July--school's far from the mind, the sun persists, and everything seems to glow.
"Are you a reporter?"
A woman, probably in her thirties, had parked her stroller and now stood directly in front of me on the sidewalk. I was so absorbed in my notes that I hadn't even noticed her approach.
"Um, no," I said.
She wasn't satisfied.
"So you're just writing stuff down?" Sassy, this one.
She wore a blue t-shirt with tapered sleeves, jeans, and a cute purple hat with a small bill. Her frame was small but her presence big, her dark eyes warm.
"Yup," I replied. I'm usually chattier, but for some reason this woman's ambush threw me. I was tasting my own medicine.
"So what's going on? Did something happen here?"
I could see this tiny woman was not going to give up. I glanced down and noticed her wedding ring, with plenty of karats. Legs flailed in the stroller, looking bigger than one might expect from an infant.
"Well, I'm writing this book about tracking down all the players..." I launched into my Wax Pack elevator pitch, which I've now recited so many times that I should start saying it in Old English or with a French accent or with Yoda syntax just to keep myself entertained.
Her eyes grew big. "That's soooo cool!," she said, instantly taken with the idea.
"Do you love California?" she asked, practically nodding with her question.
"Yeah, I do," I said.
She seemed pleased. "If I wasn't Italian, and if I didn't have all this family I'd move out there," she said.
"Where's your car? Where are you staying?" she asked. I wasn't sure if she was about to offer me a place to crash or if she was just a New Yorker.
"I'm here to do research on a couple of players from here," I explained. "Have you heard of Doc Gooden?"
Dwight "Doc" Gooden won 194 baseball games during a 16-year career, most of them for the New York Mets. He won the Cy Young Award before he could legally have a beer. He owned New York in 1986, the year the Mets won their second world championship. But Gooden's highest highs were commensurate with his lowest lows--his demon came in powderized form.
"It was love at first sniff," he wrote in his moving memoir Doc.
Gooden is also the tenth card in the pack. I'll be driving to Westbury tomorrow, a town further east on Long Island, to interview him.
"Of course I know him!" the woman replied, getting really excited now. "He was on the world championship team. I was just a little kid watching them, and you probably weren't even born yet. All those guys used to live in Port Washington," she said. Then getting a but self-conscious, she added, "You probably already know all this."
"I'm a writer too," she added. "But I haven't been able to write anything for two years." She turned the stroller, finally revealing a boy with long limbs and a sad face. He shook his head side to side when she tried to introduce him. He looked too big for the stroller.
"His grandmother died two days ago. It's been crazy for the past couple years. Some days I'll just burst out crying and he won't know why." She stepped back, putting her hands up as if in protest. "Don't even get me started," she said.
"OK, I won't."
We chatted a bit more about old Mets and creative inspiration, and she wished me well.
I walked into Carmine's and did a few laps around the bar with my notebook closed. The place was a shrine to baseball, particularly the Yankees. Then on the wall across from the bar, I spotted the photo above, a vintage action shot of the Doctor mid-surgery.
It may be 30 years after he stood on top of the Empire State Buillding, but New York has certainly not forgotten Dwight Gooden.
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The Miracle Met
Day 33: Brooklyn, NY, 7.21.15