In His Honor

I’d already been to Chicago twice this year for Split Season:1981 related media, so when Nate started  announcing at the end of July that we would be going back for a week in August, “in honor of his 25th birthday,” I wasn’t quite geared up for another road trip. Plus, I hate leaving Cooperstown in summer, but Nate pronounced it and it was a fait accompli. We were going to Chicago.

Nate had his list of new stores/restaurants whose bathrooms he needed to check out and photograph. These days we justify those as research trips for future drawings. Then there were key eating spots – Il Forno for pizza, Portillo’s for spaghetti and meatballs, Pequod’s for pizza, Walker Brothers for pancakes – and an obligatory driving tour through our old neighborhood in Lincolnshire. Nate and I used to bike for miles, in and out of suburban streets, he on his replica Orange Krate Schwinn, me on my Trek,  and now we have to drive that same path so Nate can see any renovations. He also keeps track of Lincolnshire realtors and knows (of course he does) which houses have sold, which are for sale and what they look like inside. It’s an amazing tour to be on, though a little bit creepy.

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I was particularly worried how Nate would be as we approached our old house. Lately he’s been pretty vocal about when we moved to Cooperstown in 2003. The mildest comment – “Remember when we moved to Cooperstown in June 2003? That was pretty disappointing.” The strongest – “I want to go back in time to early 2003 and blow up our Cooperstown house so we couldn’t move.” So I wasn’t sure how he’d be when we drove by 302 Carlisle Lane.

I kept watching him as we approached the cul-de-sac. He was fine as we slowly made our way around the curve.

“How’re you doing?” I asked.

“Fine,” but he wasn’t. He forced a smile through watery eyes, doing his best to stay brave. These moments allow me the chance to talk about real emotions with Nate. I told him I also get sad about Lincolnshire and that, though I’ve love Cooperstown, I too miss our old house. I also told him that moving to Cooperstown led to his successes – high school and college graduate, professional artist. By this time he’d moved on.

From there we drove north and west to the strip malls he loves and that have propelled him into the art world.

“Ah, so many memories,” he sighed as we entered the Walmart of Vernon Hills, hardly the sight for such nostalgia and romance. The stink coming from the Subway inside the store was oppressive, but Nate was in heaven. They had a new DVD of Disney short films that he had been looking for.

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As we stood in the checkout line, Nate told me, “This DVD and I are loaded with humor and heart.” He had adapted a review quote from the box and put himself into the mix. Regardless of where he got it, I can’t argue with his sentiment.

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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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