One Pack. No Turning Back.
Number of miles driven today: 213
Total miles driven on road trip: 7,196
Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts? Domination Dunkin'. But are there enough days left in its stronghold to stage a complete comeback?
Starbucks' record (# of days Starbucks was more common): 20-12-2
Dunkin' Donuts' record: 12-20-2
Cheapest gas I saw today: $2.71
Number of states visited overall: 20
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: 10 (California, New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island)
Number of nuns waiting for Doc Gooden at a Meet and Greet tonight in Yonkers, NY: 3
Number of nuns still waiting for Doc Gooden: 3
When someone asks you where home is, what do you say?
Doc Gooden grew up in Tampa, Florida, but now resides in the Long Island town of Westbury. He's currently got a full house, with several of his grown kids as roommates and his two youngest kids visiting from Maryland, where they live with their mom.
I spent much of today at the Starbucks a mile down the road from Gooden's home waiting for a call from his agent, Little Doc (Dwight Gooden Jr., his eldest son), telling me that he had returned home and was ready to do our scheduled interview. One coffee with room for cream turned into two, then three; still no Doc. Little Doc provided occasional text updates with vague descriptions of his dad's whereabouts--first he was at the Sprint store getting his phone fixed, then he had food poisoning.
When Little Doc went dark around 4:30 pm, I headed to Yonkers, where I knew Doc Senior and Junior were scheduled for a Meet and Greet fundraising appearance at a swanky restaurant. I found three nuns, dozens of eager fans, and two empty chairs at the head of the room, one for each Gooden.
Doc Gooden was not home. I will detail this whole sad story in the book, but for now know that there was no meeting or greeting in Yonkers tonight.
I, on the other hand, got to go home. Not home home, which would mean a return to the the room I rent in a house in the hills of Oakland, California, but rather Home with a capital H.
Tonight I slept in my childhood bedroom in the house I grew up in. The house, located on a pond in Greenville, Rhode Island has changed a lot since I last lived here. My family has changed even more--my parents got divorced about 7 years ago, my dad got remarried, my mom moved to California, and my sister has "grown up" much more than I have, with a husband, house, and two kids (and a third on the way). Walking down the hallway tonight and turning the corner into the kitchen brought back the feelings of love and laughter that permeated these walls and defined my life here. But the family that dwelled here is gone, the unit disbanded and spread apart by time and the fickle pinwheel of human nature.
I used to think about this and feel sad. Now, I look at it more the way one sees an old movie and feels pangs of nostalgia tinged with melancholy and whimsy. Nothing is static, after all.
Looking around my former bedroom tonight, I realized there is little to indicate it was ever anything but a guest bedroom. The walls are painted a hoary yellow, the bookshelves full of Father's Day gifts from the 1980s. The only surviving relic from my past is a single piece of abysmal artwork hanging on the wall. I have no idea why this C-level product of mandatory junior high art class persists, but there it is, a single slab of glazed ceramic supporting sculptures of three animals: a frog's head bearing a strange resemblance to Ted Kennedy, a snake, and what I had intended to be a fish but ended up more like a fish/dog/Stegosaurus hybrid.
Despite this overhaul in decor, the basics of the room remain the same, with the walls and windows in the same places. As a kid, I spent countless hours squatting in a sea of baseball cards on this bedroom floor. I was a reader rather than a kinesthetic learner, so rather than flip cards like some kids did, I simply sat and scrutinized the statistics on the back. The first time I performed this ritual was 1986, which is why I chose that year for the wax pack of cards that has inspired and sustained this whole adventure.
In 1986, I thought of the players on those baseball cards as immortals. They were not real people like my mom, my dad, or the mailman Joe with his prescription sunglasses and pony tail (that's the second reference I've made to Joe in this blog series in case you're scoring at home). They were the characters on a TV show called "baseball," the action figures I opened up every October 16.
But now, rescued from their gum-embalmed wax casket by this project, these baseball cards have come to life. They are real men, men with whom I have formed relationships, however brief, through the process of this book. The joy of the wax pack has come in the humanizing of heroes, in discovering mortality in the immortals. I have found that the strength of these men lies not in the home runs they hit or the no-hitters they spun, but in their ability to let go of them.
Tonight, I came Home.
For older blog entries, click here.
Day 35: Brooklyn, NY to Greenville, RI, 7.23.15