Monday, August 17, 2009

With Apologies to Tom Petty or Cleveland (and Pittsburgh) Rock!

I like Tom Petty's music. A lot. Not enough to go out and buy all of his albums, or go to one of his concerts or even go to his web site. But I like him enough that I bought his greatest hits CD and if one of those hits come on the radio, I listen. That's not a backhanded compliment because there are hundreds of songs that I own that when they come on the radio, I change to find something better.

So while I am a Petty supporter, this is a long way of saying that his song “The Waiting is the Hardest Part” isn't really true. I love the anticipation of any big event—even more than the event itself. *

* The weird thing about the second half of that title “Cleveland Rocks” is that it's the theme song to the “Drew Carey Show”, which isn't strange in and of itself. Carey is originally from Cleveland and the show is set there. What is strange is that the President of the United States (you may remember them from such mid 90s songs as “Lump” and “Peaches”) are from Seattle. I was always a bit dismayed that Carey didn't get a band from Cleveland to sing about the city. The Presidents (or POTUSA as the hip kids of the 90s called them—ed note: Not true) did a good job, but where was Nine Inch Nails or Pere Ubu or Bone Thungs-N-Harmony? For shame, Drew Carey.

When I was a kid I'd get myself so worked up for Christmas that I'd end up running into my aunt's annual Christmas Eve party and puking all over the place. Then I'd pass out until after midnight when my parents would have to wake me up and drive me home. The thing that made this wait even longer was that I'd be up for the rest of the night wondering about what was under the tree and plotting intricate ways of going downstairs without my parents catching me.

As I've gotten older, this anticipation jones hasn't waned. A few weeks ago I was dying for a vacation, I had been working really hard at work and the endless monotonous string of waking up early, going to bed late-ish, punch-in, punch-out was starting to wear me down. The one thing that was keeping me moving forward was the promise of one whole week off. What we ended up doing is irrelevant, because after it came and went, I was really disappointed bordering on depressed because my vacation was over and I had nothing left to anticipate.

When I got to the office the Monday after vacation I opened my calendar and remembered this week coming up. At the end of this week, myself and two of my friends (Ryan and Andrew) are going on an old-fashioned road trip to Cleveland, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ... or as Aly likes to call it, “Arm Pit Tour '09”.*

* I wonder if Aly knows that there's half a pun in her joke (Pit = Pittsburgh)? I doubt it because she doesn't particularly like puns. But since she's been with me long enough to subliminally make bad jokes. I wonder if that would be grounds for divorce, like if Sara Silverman married Dane Cook and all of a sudden she turned into a really crappy standup. I wonder if a judge would rule in her favor for a subliminal destruction of a career?

Anyway the reason why we're going to these places is because we want to check out the cities' ballparks. I've been to 14 different parks so far and each time I get a chance to see a new one, I transform back into that little kid who was amped up for Christmas day. I'm not sure why I completely geek out over things like this because baseball parks are pretty much the same. There are some uniqueness in the structures and the areas outside of the stadium are different, but there's something more to it and I can't quite place my finger on it.

I think that the bottom line is that I really enjoy travelling and I love baseball. Going to a game in a new city is the best way for someone like me to check out a new city, wade hip-deep into the “real people” of the region and watch a ball game unfold. This week we're seeing the Indians host the Mariners and the Pirates play the Reds. Most of these games are low-stress and the thing that I love about baseball is that there's a good chance of seeing something that you've never seen before.

And since it's 70's Night in Pittsburgh (we're missing the Pirates giving out those old, old-school Pirates pillbox hats by a day) KC and the Sunshine band will be playing a concert after the game. Get down tonight, indeed.

Progressive (nee Jacobs) Field in Cleveland is supposed to be a really nice park. It was one of the first of the retro parks that were built in the early 90s and has a bunch of quirky outfield angles and awesome sight lines. Plus, the Sox have had so many memorable games there, it almost seems like going there would be like visiting a historic sight.

Pittsburgh's PNC Park is the crown jewel of this tour though. A debate rages between AT&T Park in San Francisco and PNC as to which is the best baseball stadium in the United States. I've seen the Giants play in person and it is an awesome stadium, right on the Bay, modern but with a hint of old-timeyness; it really is a tremendous place to catch a game. I want to see how it fairs against Pittsburgh.

Many people have said that PNC Park is the real deal and that the only bad thing is the team that plays there. And that doesn't make a difference to me, as I've always had a special love for the Pirates for some reason. Also Sports Illustrated ran a survey last month about the lowest prices for beers and food, Pittsburgh had both.

The most stressful thing about this trip isn't the long drive—I've been told it could take us 10 hours to get to Cleveland—but the weather. I've been obsessively checking for the week's forecast and it looks like it's going to be the same for both cities: a 40% chance of scattered thunderstorms. I'm trying to buoy my spirits by saying that this means there is less than half a chance of rain. It's going to be “scattered” which I suppose also means that it won't be raining all the time. And perhaps the rain won't start coming down until after the game or way before it.

This is the intrinsic problem when planning a trip based around an outdoor sporting event, but it hasn't dulled my anticipation for Thursday. I'm looking forward to visiting a new city, I'm looking forward to visiting some new parks, I'm looking forward to seeing the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, the Great Lakes Brewery, the Andy Warhol Museum, and eating a Primanti Brother sandwich. I'm looking forward to going to Morton's in each city—Andrew loves Morton's like I love baseball and it's his dream to one day go to every single restaurant.

Hell, I'm even looking forward to the drive out there.

What I'm not looking forward to is next Monday morning, after I come back from the adventure and only have the next few months of work to anticipate. I've literally have been looking forward to this excursion since a cold, January afternoon when I was knee-deep in snow and dreaming about the summer. Now that the day is almost here I want to savor the wait, let it roll around in my brain and let me dream of things to come.

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