So, I’m back from Durham and still trying to process all of the people I met and places I visited in an action-packed three days. Normally even a long weekend feels like mere moments when I walk back into work the next day, but today at work it actually felt like a week since I’d been there. (That’s a good thing, except for the part where I missed my wife and little boy so much that three days felt like forever.)
The very first thing I did after getting my rental car was drive over to Raleigh to meet the nice folks at Quail Ridge Books & Music. They were the first independent book store to stock The Greatest Show on Dirt, and I definitely wanted to thank them personally. I thanked them financially as well, loading up on a few new books. As fortune would have it, right next door to them in the shopping plaza sits the Go Pack store, so I stocked up on Wolfpack gear for me and my son.
Then it was off to Durham, to visit the Regulator Bookshop, where they’ve sold several copies of the book already and asked me to bring a second batch in. Again, I bought a couple of books (see how this all works out well for the book stores), then I was on my way down Ninth Street and around the corner to the Cosmic Cantina, which hasn’t changed a whit since I moved from Durham in 2001. Okay, the chairs and tables out on the roof were newer, but nothing else.
Friday night I met up with a college buddy, his wife, and a friend of his at the Bulls game at Durham Bulls Athletic Park (a.k.a. the new stadium, even though it opened 17 years ago). Had a great time catching up, while paying next to no attention to what was actually happening on the field. Just happy I didn’t get nailed in the head by a foul ball. Took off during the seventh-inning stretch to meet up with some old friends (and former co-workers with the Bulls) at Satisfaction, where we powered through pizza, beer, and lots of laughs. Was dismayed to see that they had finally painted over the graffiti in the men’s room. It no longer says “King Rice still sucks” on the wall. I was very tempted to find a marker and fix that, but maybe next time. Wound up staying up talking until 3 in the a.m.
Despite the late bedtime, it was up and at ‘em Saturday morning, meeting a friend—and the main reason for the trip, as he was the groom in the wedding I was attending Saturday night—for breakfast. Barely an hour later it was time to meet some friends for lunch (back at Satisfaction), where I was so full I only managed a piece and a half of pizza. Went back to my friend’s house and crashed for a little while, then got all spiffed up for the wedding, where I was reunited with some old friends from Baseball America.
The wedding was at the Museum of Life and Science in north Durham, a really wonderful spot for an outdoor ceremony. We got to tour through the butterfly exhibit and ride on the little train and the weather was absolutely perfect. Left there around 11:15, then went back to my home base and mentioned how hungry I was. Next thing I know, we’re on the way to the Cook Out! up on Hillsborough Road. A cheeseburger, onion rings and a Cheerwine later, my tummy was happy and ready for bed.
Sunday morning started with a post-wedding brunch over at the home of the bride and groom in Durham. At 2:00 I met a writer and photographer for the Technician, the NC State student newspaper, at Durham Athletic Park (the old park) and we talked about my book and the history of the park. We even got a tour of the refurbished clubhouses underneath the stands. From there it was back to the Cosmic Cantina for another quick soft taco and Negra Modelo, then off to the new park for the Bulls game against Charlotte.
I bought a ticket in the second level up behind home plate, but moved out to center field when I tracked down Aaron Schoonmaker from WRALSportsFan.com and sat with him and his wife for the rest of the game. We talked about the book, Durham, bad jobs, good jobs, and all kinds of stuff while the game flew past. Really quick game. Ended in two hours and three minutes, which is almost unheard of. Aaron wrote up a review/story today, which is tremendously positive about the book. (Here I must emphasize that we had never met before Sunday, so I think he actually liked the book that much.)
After the game I made a quick stop at Devine’s, the favorite hangout of the main characters in The Greatest Show on Dirt. I wanted to sit outside on the patio, but it started raining, so instead I watched a little more baseball and had some dinner, then headed back to base camp.
Monday morning it was up and out, back to the airport and back home for a happy reunion with my little guy, and later my wife when she got home from work. As much as I love Durham, I’m very happy to be home again. And next time I go, I hope to take the whole family so I’m not shadowed all weekend by the feeling it would be more fun with them there.