An Early Independence Day

One of the main reasons for moving to Cooperstown was to take advantage of the small-town mindset in its most positive way. The myth is that in tiny Villages like Cooperstown, everyone knows each other and looks out for one another. Turns out that the myth is mostly true. People do know each other and, quite often, keep an eye out for good reasons.

I’ve been thinking about how to get Nate out in the world more on his own. He’s pretty good at home and can take care of himself, but how to set him free? It’s been on my mind lately as he nears college graduation (next year, hopefully) and we turn our attention to his future and the possibilites of a job.

Here’s the experiment: send him down the block to New York Pizzeria to get his lunch. I spoke to Art, the always genial man behind the counter, and wondered what he thought of my plan. He was more than happy to help out and keep watch for Nate. I called Art at 11 AM and told him Nate was heading down, alone, at 11:30.

Five minutes before ETA, I told Nate to get ready to go and reviewed the note I prepared to guide him through:

1 – Walk straight to NYP

2 – Wait on line and order “2 slices of cheese pizza to go”

3 – Pay with cash and wait for your change

4 – Come right home

There were some additional instructions, like “look both ways before crossing the street” and “don’t go to the bathroom.” He ran to the back room, stopping first in the kitchen for a burst of dancing, “knees up Mother Brown” style. Obviously, Nate was  excited at his new adventure.

I walked with him to the front porch and sent him on his way. Nate is not a very active kid, but he tore down the sidewalk, running at top speed. Of course, he didn’t look both ways, or either way, as he crossed the street and, as he approached the pizza place, it looked from my vantage point that he had gone too far. I admit, I was worried and tempted to call him on his cell phone, which he answers with regularity (a nice security blanket for me). I was glad I didn’t; he turned right and opened the door. Seems like NYP is further away watching than walking.

Then, all of a sudden, he was on his way back, pizza in hand, head down. (He didn’t look both ways, or either way, on the return trip).

As he approached the front door, I noticed he’d gotten a bottle of Diet Pepsi Wild Cherry, outside the plan but totally acceptable.  I asked him if he got his change.

“I got four dollars.”

There was no way that was the correct amount. Two slices and a soda are only about five bucks. I questioned him.

“I got a receip-t.” Heavy pronunciation of the “p.”

And he did. Rather than pay in cash, he put lunch on his debit card and handed me the proof for my records. He was independent beyond the plan.

Today is beautifully sunny. It’s the perfect spring setting for a truly groundbreaking event. Now I’ve got my sights set on a Nate trip to Price Chopper for groceries. It’s a little further than today’s jaunt, but I’m hatching a plan to have spies watch him along the way.

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About Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.
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One Response to An Early Independence Day

  1. The report from inside New York Pizzeria is that Nate comported himself well. Nate told Art that he was soon finishing his semester at SUNY-Cobleskill and that this was his first time going to NYP alone.

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