Free Parking (again)

Yes, we did it again this year.

Free parking for the Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

2005 — when we lived in town

2017 

I’ve been feeling old.

And grim.

A day at a spa might have been nice, I suppose, if I was a day-at-the-spa kind of person. Honestly, today I’d be happy with a haircut, but even to get away for that is hard. If I have a spare hour, I choose to go to the gym for the endorphin rush of cardio and weights, not the hair salon.

As it turns out, a day of free parking is better than a day at the spa.

The crowd estimate yesterday was 53,000. That’s quite a few, given Cooperstown’s population is around 2,000.

Parking lots were springing up everywhere. Lawns. Driveways. Fields.

My brother mowed a patch in the field in front of his house and attached the “Free Parking” sign to his mailbox.

2018

Cars slowed while the drivers read the sign. Some then zoomed on past, while others rolled down their windows.

“What’s the story here?” they’d ask.

Sometimes I told them the story — We used to live in town down the road from the induction site and gave away parking on our lawn. When we moved, my brother took up the charge at his house outside of town. It’s a fun thing to do. We love Cooperstown, and we want visitors to have a great time here.

Sometimes I answer, “It’s free parking.”

Yesterday a car pulled up and the driver asked about it. I told them it was free.

“What about the shuttle?” he asked.

“That’s free, too,” I said. “We drive you in our vehicle.”

“What about the $30 parking with a shuttle?” they asked.

“That’s a mile down the road on the left,” I said.

“Okay, thanks. That’s the one we want.” And off they went.

Later on the proprietor of the other parking lot drove up and asked my husband, “Why are you doing this?”

“Because it’s fun,” he answered.

It’s life-giving — to us.

The best part comes when they sit with us after the ceremony in the shade of our trees, drink a soda (free) and eat a hot dog (also free), and tell us a little about themselves.

The mother-son duo from Detroit was my favorite yesterday. She was 80-something, and full of spit and vinegar.

“Park behind Ohio,” I had told them when they pulled in, referring to car with Ohio license plates.

“That’s Michigan always. Behind Ohio,” the woman complained.

Later, she told us about her son that almost made the big leagues.

“Not me,” her son had quickly interjected.

“The scout told me,” she continued, “‘If I was looking for a pitcher today, I would sign him, but I’m looking for a big hitter.’ Then he signed that Charlie.”

She rolled her eyes, remembering the day, while her son rolled his eyes, having heard the story a million times.

I laughed.

And smiled.

And felt life renewed within me.

It is more blessed to give than receive.

It is also better than a day at the spa.

 

Lakefront Park

I clearly remember that morning.

I had tossed and turned all night. My thoughts were a twisting turning knot of turmoil.

Before dawn, I left the house and drove to the lake.

Water soothes me.

If I lived near the ocean, I’m sure I would have been at the beach, digging my toes into the sand. Instead, I was at Lakefront Park in Cooperstown, walking in dew-laden grass, looking out into the heavy fog that rested on the lake.

As the invisible sun rose and lent a little light, I took a few pictures. The lush green of summer was accentuated by the grayness of the fog.

The fog obscured the distance, but it helped me appreciate what was closest to me.

I haven’t forgotten that lesson.

The Sidewalk Taken (or, Sidewalks of Cooperstown)

Warning: This is probably one of the most boring posts ever. I walk around town and take pictures of the sidewalks.


“Now this is a sidewalk,” Bud said to me as we started our walk the other day.

We parked at the Clark Sports Center and headed out on the route I usually go around the perimeter of Cooperstown.

Susquehanna Ave

Susquehanna Ave

The sidewalk on Susquehanna is wide and new. Little kids ride their bikes on it, with plenty of room for mom or dad to walk beside them. The fellow in the distance was on his skateboard. It’s not unusual to see friends walking 3 or 4 abreast on it.

This sidewalk used to look like this:

The other side of Susquehanna

The other side of Susquehanna

On the east side of the street, this sidewalk reminds me of what we used to walk on.

I always turn up Walnut Street. There are shorter ways to get downtown, but when I’m going for a walk, I’m not looking for shortcuts. I’m looking for the long-cuts, to prolong the experience.

Walnut Street

Walnut Street

From Walnut, I turn onto Delaware Street. One of the joys of living in a small town is that so many of the houses also contain memories — friends I went to high school with, kids I’ve coached on swim team. The house represents a person or a family, and I treasure them as I walk past.

Delaware Street

Delaware Street

Delaware to Beaver. Beaver Street is a  direct shot between Rte 28 (aka Chestnut) and the hospital. At the juncture of those two roads, it’s really hopping with two gas stations, Price Chopper (the only grocery store in the village) and the new location for a giant CVS.

Beaver Street

Beaver Street

I take a little jig-jag on Chestnut, quickly turning off it onto West Beaver.

Beaver Street

West Beaver Street

West Beaver kind of turns into Maple Street.

Maple Street continued

Maple Street

At the end of Maple Street, I cross Route 28 again — except now it’s Glen Ave. Oh, the joy of small older villages! Streets  take twists and turns and change names — just because they can.

I have to cut through a parking lot here. In the summer, it’s busy, but the rest of the year only a handful of cars park there.

Credit Union parking lot

Credit Union parking lot

On the other side of the parking lot is the top of Main Street. It’s a nice walk down, but tourists don’t know that. They shell out their $2 per person to ride the trolley, which actually is pretty cheap entertainment. The trolley makes a circuit around Cooperstown, and some trolley drivers give spiels about the village which are often full of alternative facts.

Upper Main

Upper Main

Just past the ugliest office building in the history of beautiful small villages, I turn onto Nelson Ave, a street of beautiful homes. It’s another stretch of homes that I identify with people I know or knew.

Nelson Ave

Nelson Ave

From Nelson, I turn onto Lake Street.

Lake Street

Lake Street

Oh, look!  There’s the Otesaga! That’s where the Hall-of-Famers stay for induction weekend.

I walk a long stretch of Lake Street, all the way to where it ends at the Susquehanna River and River Street.

River Street

River Street

One block on River, and I reach Main Street again — but this is lower Main.

Main Street (going east from River Street)

Main Street (going east from River Street)

The sidewalk ends just after crossing the bridge, but that’s okay. I’m heading to “The Path” — no sidewalk at all, but one of my favorite places to walk.

“The Path”

The Path goes along the river, past where Cooperstown’s hanging tree was in the early 1800s (or so I’m told), past the stone bridge (gosh, it’s lovely), past the Sugar Shack (where I suppose someone used to make maple syrup), past a colorful pile of kayaks and canoes, all the way to Mill Street/Brooklyn Ave.

I choose Brooklyn Ave. We used to live here. It is a wonderful street.

Brooklyn Ave

Brooklyn Ave

The sidewalk doesn’t go all the way down Brooklyn Ave. It ends as I leave the village. The condition of the road changes, too. It’s easy to tell where the demarcation between Village of Cooperstown and Town of Middlefield falls.

I walk all the way to the end, back to Susquehanna Ave, but now I’m at the end of Susquehanna that doesn’t have wide new sidewalks. In fact, it has no sidewalk at all, but that doesn’t stop me from walking along the shoulder, back to the gym, and back to my car.

The road taken by me is usually a sidewalk. I love walking.

I love it even more when my husband can join me.

 

 

Cooperstown Induction Weekend 2014

My brother told me that they’re expecting upwards of 80,000 people in Cooperstown this weekend.  The population here is usually around 2,000.

80,000.

That’s an eight plus four zeros.

As Phil Rizzuto used to say, “HOLY COW!”

If you’re coming because you want to see Bobby Cox, Tom Glavine, Tony La Russa, Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, and Joe Torre all inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, you’re here on the right weekend.

I remember when they used to hold the ceremonies downtown.  The little park next to the Baseball Hall of Fame would be so jam-packed full of people that they would spill out onto Main Street, and Church Street, and Fair Street.

They used to hold the ceremonies on the steps of this building.

They used to hold the ceremonies on the steps of this building.

Back in those days, the Hall of Famers freely roamed the streets wearing a ribbon that marked them as a Hall of Famer.  Autographs were free, and many felt honored to be asked.  Cool Papa Bell won my heart with a smile and a signed strip of paper.

My father saved one of those strips by gluing it into a book.

My father saved one of those strips by gluing it into a book.

A number of years ago, though, they moved the ceremony to a field beside the sports center where I work.  It holds a lot more people.  But 80,000? I guarantee this crowd will spill over Susquehanna Ave and down Brooklyn Ave, where we used to live.

So if you’re here because you want to hear the speeches and see some baseball heroes on a Jumbotron, you’re in the right place.

This year, with 80,000 people making their way to Cooperstown, I want to talk to the ones who are the tag-alongs, who aren’t here because of baseball, but because they heard Cooperstown was a charming quaint little town.

To you I want to say, please don’t judge Cooperstown by this weekend.  The people who make Cooperstown Cooperstown are far out-numbered for these few days.  The quaintness that is Cooperstown will be virtually non-existent  this weekend.

Come back in January, when the air is crisp and cold. Parking will be plentiful on Main Street. The beautiful decorations from Christmas may still be up. You won’t have to wait in line at Stagecoach Coffee to get a cuppa.  The doughnuts will be hot, crisp, and fresh out of the fryer at the bakery.

If you go to the Hall of Fame, you’ll be able to stand in the Hall of Fame gallery and read every word on every plaque.  In fact, it will be so quiet in there, that you’ll feel the need to whisper.

And you’ll see the locals — the ones that are hightailing it out of town even as I write these words — greeting each other on Main Street, because everybody knows everybody.  That’s the blessing of a small town.

If you don’t want to wait until January, pick a small town near you, one with a population under 2,000.  Go sit on a park bench or in the local coffee shop.  Watch the people. They clap each other on the shoulder when they meet. They ask about family — spouses, children, parents, grandkids, even the dog. They laugh and reminisce. They talk shop and they even talk baseball sometimes.

But if you’re a crowds-and-baseball kind of person, come on down. Be part of the 80,000.

A panorama including the stage and the field, both of which will be full on Sunday

A panorama including the stage and the field, both of which will be full on Sunday