Syracuse Diary:

Over the summer I went to Syracuse for baseball games. I decided to stay in Utica, a little under an hour from Syracuse. I have mentioned all of this before in varying degrees of detail.

On the way to Utica from RI, I noticed my car hitching a little bit on the NY Thruway. I was somewhere between Schenectady and New Amsterdam. Wait... not New Amsterdam, but something Dutch-like. It was in the middle of nowhere, let me put it that way.

I stopped at one of those awful service plazas. I checked my oil, which seemed low. I added a quart and started my car. It seemed fine. I headed back out and everything seemed okay. So there.

Once in Utica, we checked into our shabby motel. It seemed to be run by a family. They were all very sweet and very helpful. You know what I do when I stay in a rundown motel? I pretend I'm staying at someone's house. When you look at it that way, it's more charming. The imperfections are just like any you'd find at a normal residence.

And so in order to get to the ballpark, I'd drive about an hour on the back roads from Utica to Syracuse. I was still nervous about my car, so I wanted to stay off the highway. I AM NOT AN AUTOMOTIVE CLUB MEMBER! That is my confession. I am uncomfortable with auto clubs lobbying for more roads in an anti-environmental way. But it was cute, traveling through the small towns and farms.

You know how when you're in a strange city, once you're there a little while, you get a sense of its layout? Not Syracuse. None of it made sense to me. It was a junkyard, a financial district, a waterfront, a shipping zone, and a shopping mall, all with University buildings in the background peeking through. Syracuse sees you, but you really cannot see Syracuse. I spent most of my time there lost, getting on and off the freeway.

The ballpark, which is called Alliance Bank Park or something, is in a non-residential, warehouse-y traintrack area. Right next to a generic mall. The tracks creep around behind the scoreboard... we went up there and collected snail shells and peeked through the wild shrubs at batting practice. It really felt like an invasion of privacy... they were right there!

Okay, wait, I was talking about my car. On the way back home, I opted for the painfully long ride home on route 20 instead of the thruway/Pike. Most of it was okay! And then I hit Albany. The car started hitching and hiccuping. Up into the Berkshires, amid the trees and mossy rocks. Winding. Creeping up hills, trying not to panic. The check engine light comes on. I pull over and turn the car off. Start it again and go, go, go until I see a garage. I stop, wait, the gent suggests another place for a diagnostic check.

But guess what? I kept driving, right by the other garage! All I wanted was to get out of there, get to Springfield at least, out of the woods!

Of course I made it to Springfield, and of course my car finally died there. I had to wait for someone to come get me... someone with an auto club membership. I was in a hospital zone. Bought a paper, found a picnic table where nurses and surgeons probably stepped out to smoke and sat and ate crackers and listened to my tiny radio.

I had to leave my car in Springfield. If you are ever towed away in Springfield, MA, please hope to get Jose. It was a trying day to say the least, but I think I handled it well.

In summation, Utica is a shithole! Talk about a city that just gave up!! At least Buffalo is trying! Stay the hell out of the Berkshires if your car has over 100,000 miles on it!

Oh, and the Syracuse Chiefs are now affiliated with the Washington Nationals. Former WS Champ Tim Foli was just named their new manager. He was on the '79 Pirates. I'll have break down the affiliation changes separately.

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